"Memories may fade in the shadows behind me
But therell be the dream
That will always remind me - a dream that
I'll be forever comparing him to.
He may be king, but hell never be you."
~On a Clear Day You Can See Forever
"I'm moving on right this second." Spike fidgeted where he sat on the edge of Angel's desk. "What about you?"
"I have a girlfriend. I've already moved on."
"Yeah." A beat. "You gonna go see her now?"
Angel nodded. "Right after I deliver the head."
"Romantic night out, then," Spike observed. "With a bit of head, and then" Spike took the hint off of Angel's glower. "Right. Moving on now."
He got some smokes because Buffy's lungs weren't around to care and moved himself on to an Irish demon pub. Claiming a stool at the far end of the bar, Spike demanded and got a 116.4 proof, $113-dollar bottle of Connemara single malt and charged it on the Wolfram & Hart company card he'd lifted from Harmony's desk. The whiskey was the first thing he'd really allowed himself to savor since he'd gotten his soul and lost his chip. Most people even demons would have cut it with plenty water. Spike wasn't most people or demons.
He didn't want to get drunk, he wanted to get numb. But not too numb, as he was musing his options for moving on - out of Los Angeles certainly. Where? He didnt know where. Hence the not getting drunk and musing. [Nova Scotia maybe. Get a little cabin in the woods, talk to the eagles and the spruce, get my head on straight.] Be alone really alone for the first time in his unlife.
[Not going back to the Continent,] he mused, licking the rim of the shotglass and resisting the urge to go into game-face to bite through the glass in total frustration. [Nothing there, nobody to go back for. And sod all, I wish somebody would tell me what's the point of saving the bloody world and coming back from the dead if I can 't get the girl?]
Spike knew he'd had enough Connemara when he felt himself starting to get weepy rather than cranky, and that was never a good thing. With his vampire metabolism it wouldn't last, and then he'd be able to take out his mood on whatever nasty was looking for trouble in LA's finest downtown alleys.
Taking out a cigarette, he placed it between his lips and checked his pockets for a lighter he already knew wasn't there. [Lost in Sunnydale,] he realized. [Gave it to Kennedy to light Willow's wicks during that last ritual.]
[Do they still make gold-tipped fags?] he wondered, his brain idling onward. That sort of booty had seemed the height of decadence after he'd been turned; William had pinched a cigarette case full of them off of a supper-corpse in 1881, and he'd learned to smoke with real gold between his lips. Now, those sorts of fags seemed merely.... [Antique,] Spike thought, [like me. World's moved on like it always does. Buffy's moved on like we knew she always would. So bugger all, what's left?]
A hand with a lighter appeared in his peripheral vision, and Spike recognized the singular sound of a Zippo being activated. He caught the scent of Obsession and another subtle but oh-so-familiar smell as he lit his cigarette and the hand flipped closed the lighter, only to place it beside his bottle of whiskey.
"Diet Coke, please?" she told the bartender - an irritated Blashik demon with lizard eyes, two-inch fangs and poisonous claws.
"Of all the demon pubs in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine," Spike murmured. Dropping the lighter into his coat pocket, he turned and saw the slayer of his dreams struggling with the bar stool beside him.
"You couldn't pick a booth?" She sighed. "I've never been able to climb up onto these things with any grace."
Standing up, Spike set his arms at her waist and settled her easily on the stool in question. The slayer's jaw tightened as she waved away his cigarette smoke, but she refrained from decking the vampire. [That's a promising sign,] he thought, reclaiming his own stool and putting out the cigarette before she had to ask.
"So. It's you," he said, turning so that he didn't have to take his eyes off of her.
"It's me," she agreed, turning so that her knees touched his.
"You're" Spike shook his head, trying to clear it.
"Me Buffy," she said affably, "you Spike." Her hazel eyes were as warm as her hands which were moving swiftly beneath the duster and up over his chest. "You alive."
Her fingers moved on to curl around the back of his neck, and then she was leaning toward him and tipping her stool until it overbalanced. Her lips were on his as his hands snatched her close, rescuing her from the ignominious fate of being dumped on the dirty floor while her barstool fell back with a thump.
Somehow she was straddling his waist and had her legs locked around him. Somehow, she was kissing his mouth, his nose, his cheekbones. Nuzzling his ear, she bit his earlobe and whispered, "I knew you'd catch me."
"You're here," he breathed, daring to let his hands stroke up and down her back. She felt so familiar, so right in his embrace. "But... how?"
"I could ask the same of you Blondie Bear."
He summoned a smirk. "Harmony. You've been talking to Harmony."
"No, I've been *listening* to Harmony. I delivered a bowling bag full of some demon's head to Wolfram and Hart bright and early this morning when Little Miss Screechy Vamp informed me that Angel and her Blondie Bear were in Italy, and wasn't that too bad for me." Buffy wrinkled her nose. "She's still as charming and vapid as she was in high school. Did you follow her and Angel to LA after the hellmouth collapsed?"
"Hell, no. Got sent here in that gaudy bauble Angel gave you."
"Angel opened the mail packet, the amulet we used to stop the apocalypse fell out, and I went backwards."
"Reconstituted, de-fried, got better - whatever you want to call it. Sort of. Came back as a ghost, all transparent and no-touchy-feely-like. Every time I tried to leave this fair city of Angel's, I got yanked back to Wolfram and Hart."
Her strong slayer hands were sliding over his chest, and lower. She grinned as she felt up his crotch, and Spike sucked in a breath. "You're solid now."
"You keep that up, pet, you're gonna find out just how solid I can be."
"I'm just making sure that all of you is... intact. You're not a ghost now. That's definitely of the good."
"That's because somebody sent a box of flash to me care of Wolfram and Hart. Harmony opened it for me and I don't know why, don't know how, but it brighted all over me and then I couldn't walk through walls any more. Not complaining, mind you. And what about you? How did you get here?"
"On a plane."
"Very cute, Slayer. Last time I saw you, you were dancing with the Immortal. Probably as a prelude to snogging with him on some couch."
"The Immortal does not snog. He lavishes and ravishes. And is that jealousy I hear coming from my favorite vampire? The one who claimed he no longer dreams of a crypt for two with a white picket fence? The one who said I had to go on living, so one of us was living? The one who"
Spike growled. "I get the picture, Slayer."
"I'm not finished. The one who went all noble sacrificy on me not six months ago, returned from the dead undead whatever and didn't bother to tell me?" Her fingers were tracing Spike's jaw and throat, which sent bolts of desire shooting through him.
Shivering, he ventured, "You're mad at me."
"A little, but I'm too happy that you're not ashes to be really mad at you." She hung off of his neck. "Are you really jealous of the Immortal?"
"Yeah, as a matter of fact, I am. He and Angelus and me, we go way back a hundred years or so. He's good at taking things away from your ex and me."
"Darla from Angelus and Dru from me. Your bloody Immortal shagged both of them. Concurrently, I might add. Hung Angelus and me up in chains in a barn and oh, yeah, he took Rome itself, too. Told us to go away and never come back. Sodding wanker."
"But you did come back," said Buffy, listening calmly to the vampire's diatribe. "To Rome."
"Had to. Angel had a guy watching you"
"You heard me. Was keeping tabs on you. Making sure you were safe."
"Angel had somebody following me?"
"Well, yeah. How's a bloke supposed to keep tabs on you if he don't follow you?"
Buffy chewed her lip. "If it's the guy I think it was, I thought he was a stalker. I beat him up in the market the other day."
"That's the one." Spike beamed. "He called Angel after he woke up out of surgery."
"He's lucky he didn't wake up in the morgue. Weirdo."
"He was trying to watch over you, pet."
"Angel and his goons are so not the ones I want watching over me. I liked it much better when you had my back."
"Really. Not to mention when you had other parts of me." Shifting on his lap, Buffy cleared the bar behind her. "I think your legs are going numb, so why don't I sit up here?"
Once more Spike set his hands at her waist, this time to lift her onto the bar.
"Do you think I was lying when I said that I love you, down there in the hellmouth?" Buffy asked, her expression solemn.
"Not lying. What I thought was that you were either not thinking straight, were trying to give me a good going-away pressie, or in that moment you were overwhelmed by the illuminated state of my sorry old soul. There's love, and then there's being in love, pet. All I wanted was to"
She silenced him with a finger on his lips. "Give me the world? You did that, Spike. Everything I needed, everything I thought I wanted. The brass ring, the million-dollar lottery, a bright future right there in my hands. But I had to let go of your hand. I had to leave you there and go on living after you were gone."
"That's how it works, pet. The evil vampire dusts in the dark, and the righteous Slayer goes out into the light to find happiness in the arms of the Immortal."
She snorted. "Duncan MacLeod so did not make me happy."
"Huh. Then he's losing his touch, because he absolutely besotted Darla and Dru."
Buffy shook her head. "He's not you."
"Some would say that's definitely to his advantage."
"Some would be wrong, at least where I'm concerned." Her fingers played with his when he settled his hands on her knees. "I felt the two of you come into the club, you know? Hello... Slayer senses when vampires are around? I saw you and Angel fighting those men, too. It was hard to miss you especially, with your hair glowing under the lights like you were some beautiful seraphim. Duncan took off after the guy with the bowling bag while I tried to reach you across that crowded dance floor. I wasn't in time, you both left, and then"
"We went home. The Immortal, me, and that donkey-eared demon with the bowling bag. Duncan and donkey-demon were nattering on in Italian, and I was too stunned to realize that you weren't dead and were in Rome. We got to Duncan's villa, he wrote the donkey-demon a check, and I did what was expected of me."
"Which was?" Spike's voice was dangerously low.
"I slipped into a comfy nothing and was waiting with champagne and strawberries in the Immortal's bed."
Spike's eyes narrowed. "Why are you telling me this, pet?"
"Not to torture you, I promise. The story gets better, you'll have to trust me. We ate and we drank, there was kissage and other things and then - at a really bad time - I screamed your name."
Spike arched an eyebrow and stared at her. "You're not serious."
"It's hardly surprising. I mean, when we first met in that alley behind the Bronze and you told me your name, you had the most arrogant look on your face. One that said, 'Remember my name, because you're going to be screaming it later.' Little did I know...." She gave him a mischievous smile.
"Are you blushing?"
"No. Yes." She raised her chin. "I'm not ashamed of what I feel for you. Not any more. Life and unlife is too short for both of us. We can't waste this miraculous return of yours."
He stole a kiss. She let him. "What did the Immortal doafter you screamed?"
"Nothing much beyond leaping out of bed and glowering at me. I got the impression that hadn't ever happened to him before. He told me to get dressed. I knew it was over, and I wasn't sorry. I'm sorry that I hurt him because he's never done anything bad to me, but he I had you to worry about then. I haven't been able to get you out of my mind or my heart since that last battle. I let Duncan try to distract me. It didnt work, obviously. I'm going to send flowers and a sorry-card to him later."
Spike shook his head. "Insult to injury, love."
"No, he likes flowers. Not sure he'll like the black roses I have planned, though. Do you think white would be better?"
"I got dressed and thought he'd send me home. Instead, he told me that you and Angel were in Rome to retrieve Mr. Head-in-the-Bag. Duncan was sending it to Los Angeles, did I want to go with it?"
"He was actually gracious about losing you?"
"The Immortal is very perceptive. I was hurting and sad when we met, he tried to make it better, it's not his fault I wasn't all receptive girl. The last thing he said to me was, 'I didn't know you were in love with a dead man.'"
Spike sucked in a breath.
"Like I said, perceptive." Buffy's fingers were in his hair again. "Duncan told me that I should find you and love you and congratulate you on taking back what's yours. He said that's 'Something Angelus has never managed to do.'"
Spike tilted his head and regarded her. "*Are* you mine, Buffy?"
"I am definitely your girl. I meant it when I said that I love you, stupid vampire. I was just scared to admit it before that, had lousy timing, and really left it too late."
"You did say we'd talk when the crisis was over."
"Am I not talking now? Am I not being talky girl all over you, even though we're in a so-not-private bar with strange demons hanging on our every word?"
"They're ignoring us, pet."
"They could have superhearing and be pretending to ignore us."
"They're not and yes, we're talking. So you meant it, and you're mine?"
"Didn't I just say so? As for belonging to you " She gnawed her lip again. "I'm afraid it's a distinct possibility."
"A possibility? What the bloody hell does that mean?"
"Hey, give me a break. I've only recently survived an apocalypse where I watched my boyfriend burn upso not my favorite thing to doand I realized that I love you when there was no hope of loving you. Yesterday morning I abandoned one of the nicest, sexiest, richest men in the world to fly ten hours in hopes of finding you. I'm jetlagged and shaking so hard inside because I'm terrified you'll push me away, and all I really want to do is ask if we can find an abandoned house somewhere so that we can pick up where we left off with the bed snugglies and the holding and the talking."
"That's the most I've ever heard you say at one time."
"Not so. You were there for my horrible rambling speeches to the Potentials. I want to do what you said I had to do, SpikeI want to go on living--but I want to do it with you. So I'm all agreeable to the belonging thing. I've never had anyone want me to belong to them."
"You've never had a vampire who loves you as much as I do." More than a glint of possessiveness was in the blue eyes holding hers.
She caressed his face again, obviously loving that he was there and that she could. "If I let you in, you'll take a mile, won't you?"
"I'll take your whole damn life, Slayer." He nibbled her fingers. "You know that."
"It's so not a problem." Her fingers traced his lips. "Every time the Immortal touched me, I'd pretend it was you. I've hurt you so badly in the past"
"We've hurt each other, love. No matter what else happens between us, I think we've both learned how not to do that."
"So what do you say? A vampire and a girl like me?"
Rather than answer her directly, Spike got to his feet and kissed her gently. Pulling back, he smirked. "Yeah, I think you've got potential."
"You know, you're a good kisser?" Buffy mused. "The perfect pressure, not too much spit, and just the right touch of arrogance? I could dance with you all night."
"Then lets get on with it, shall we?" Picking her up, he set her on her feet. Retrieving his bottle of whiskey, Spike slipped it inside his duster pocket. He then took Buffy's hand and turned toward the door, only to be confronted with a pub full of demons staring at them. "Um... Guess they were listening after all."
"It's about time," growled the bartender behind them. "Too much talking and not enough drinking. You, Slayer. You take your vampire by the heart, you've already got him by short hairs. And you... Spike, is it? ... You take your slayer somewhere else and drive your stake home. Don't be coming back anytime soon, or we'll have to kill the both of you."
"Right. No problem," said the vampire, heading for the door with Buffy in tow.
"But I didn't get to finish my Coke," the slayer said plaintively.
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