Brother Duncan had never seen The Slayer, but he knew this was her.
She was smaller than he expected, tiny, in fact, and older than the others who stalked the demons.
This was not a girl, not a child. This was a woman. She looked tired, as if she had been traveling for quite some time, as if she'd been - hunting. She was petite and pretty, yet still looked lethal.
There were three clients in line for in-processing, counting the one at the desk. Duncan was assisting a young mother and her children with the forms, they were not printed in Ma’di and his command of African dialects was better than Spike's.
Spike's words caught in his throat when he saw her. The client took the clipboard from him and went to the couch in the lobby to fill out the forms.
The vampire's eyes locked with those of The Slayer, whether their gaze lasted for a split second or for eternity was moot, the impact was absolute, and it was not lost on Duncan.
His first instinct was panic: Slayer, vampire, small-enclosed space...but no, panic quickly gave way to many years of studied observations.
Nothing demony in those looks, he thought, damn dangerous though.
Duncan left Mrs. Abaku to fill out the packet of forms as best she could and stepped over to the desk before it became apparent to anyone that his co-worker had gone catatonic.
Buffy turned to the doors when she saw Spike at the desk. She needed air. She needed to breathe. She'd been holding her breath since she'd started up the steps of the Mission, and seeing...she needed air.
She had been searching, stalking the alleyways and tunnels, looking for him since she had gotten back to California. Dawn had gone on ahead to the Slayer compound, but she'd stayed here, hunting. She started in what was left of the rubble of what was once the L.A. branch of Wolfram and Hart, nearly five weeks ago, and circled out from there. Greater Los Angeles was a big area to cover.
The bartender, last night, at the demon bar, said to try here, at the Mission. The description she had given him wasn't an exact match. It had been over seven years since she'd seen Spike, not that she could forget, he had been burned into her soul, but it was a long time.
Yeah, they do. Things, people...and well, hell, he was sorta disintegrating in a pillar of fire last ime I saw him, she thought.
The thing about thinking, you never know where you're going to go:
Sunnydale: The Hellmouth, seven years, three months ago:
Spike shouts to her, "Go on then!"
She hesitates, shakes her head, "No, you've done enough, you could still..."
"No, you beat them back, now it's time for me to do the clean-up," he said, "Gotta move Lamb. Think it's fair to say school’s out for bloody summer."
"Spike!" she yells.
"I mean it, I gotta do this," he answers.
The beam shot out of the amulet, out of Spike, even brighter.
Hands interlocked in flame.
Her thoughts raced back another year...
"I touch the fire, and it freezes me..."
Then another, she sees the image of the first Slayer through the flames. “You are full of love...it's brighter than the fire...love, give, forgive, risk the pain, it is
Forward again, flames, intertwined fingers, her own voice, "...I love you."
Then his, "…no you don't, but thanks for saying it."
The Hellmouth was imploding, collapsing in on them. She felt the jolt, he pushed away, broke the hold.
God! Air! Breathe!
She tilted her head back and took a deep breath.
The bartender did not recognize Spike from her description, but said there was a demon, maybe a vampire; he wasn't sure, never ordered blood, just bourbon, who worked at the Mission. He was a loner, didn't come to the bar often, had a presence that made the other patrons back off; not so much with the black clothes, or leather coat, British accent though and blonde hair, bleach blonde, parts of it anyway, platinum speckled blonde dredlocks to his shoulders.
Things can change.
Buffy tried to wrap her mind's eye around that, platinum dreds. Couldn't quite do it until she saw him there in the flesh.
God! She needed air.
Spike's eyes followed Buffy as she turned and went out the door. She stood just outside on the landing. Brother Duncan reached for Spike's cigarettes and lighter and put them in front of him on the desk.
"What," Spike said, startled back from elsewhere. He turned toward the monk.
"Go," Duncan said again, nodding after her.
Spike took the cigarettes and the monk's nudge, cracked his neck, and headed for the doors.
The August air just after dark was hot and Buffy felt the only wisp of breeze to pass by in what seemed like forever. Every nerve was twitching and more than a few forgotten muscles were telling her what she'd come here for.
She heard the door open behind her.
"Spike," she asked.
"Buffy," he answered.
She turned...Oh yeah...matty, dredy Spike was hot!
"You look..." they both started.
"...good," Spike said.
"...different,” she chortled,“...and good."
"We need to talk," their voices overlapped on the words.
"Well, that's different," said Spike.
"Yeah," she admitted with a little visible guilt.
"Where do you want to begin, Love?"
"You have a name tag! Staff! Spike!"
"You didn't burn up in a pillar of fire."
"Actually...did...for a while...guess I got...stuck...in the amulet. Next thing I knew, I was standing in the middle of a desk in some bloody evil law firm..."
"You were stuck in the amulet?"
Spike shrugged, "dunno how."
"How long," Buffy asked.
"Two, three weeks...dunno exactly," he answered, "...came back as a ghost, a disembodied spirit, incorporeal..."
The impulse was too strong, Buffy reached out and lightly touched Spike's chest to make sure she was talking to flesh. "Solid through," she whispered.
"I got re...cor...pori...ated..." he paused, trying to figure if that was a real word, deciding it didn't matter, "...a couple of months later."
"I didn't know you, uh," she said drawing back her hand. "It was two years before Andrew...let it slip."
Spike looked into her eyes, "I didn't know what to say, how to..." he sighed, "...explain it. I, uh...I wanted to find you, Buffy...I tried...but I couldn't...literally...kept popping back to Wolfram and bloody Hart. After I re...got my body back, Angel he..." Spike trailed off. He averted his gaze, it was acutely uncomfortable to look at her standing there, so near, after so long; seven years had turned woman-child to woman-grown and it looked good on her, and he thought it might be wiser to avoid the subject of Angel altogether.
"How's Dawnie," he asked as he started down the steps gesturing with a nod for her to follow.
"She's good, finished school in Italy...high school and some college. She's trying for late admission for her masters to U.C. Berkley, Cal State, or Stanford. They might not accept all her credits though," Buffy said as they walked down the steps.
Spike slid up onto the hood of the Mission's old station wagon, as he often did during smoke breaks, and lit up a cigarette.
Buffy looked at the hood of the prehistoric SUV then up to Spike.
"Oh..." he realized that she didn't quite know how to get up there, "...uh, turn around and lean up to it, put your foot on the bumper and push. I'll help." He reached out for her arm. His touch was cool and tingly on her skin.
Gingerly, Buffy tried it, and with the arm up from Spike, slid onto the hood. She did not know what to do with her legs and felt like she was sliding off.
"Windshield makes a good backrest," Spike said, already leaning back on it, one leg dangling off the side.
She looked back over her shoulder at him and almost slid off.
"Just…uh…scooch," he suppressed a chuckle, "...up, Love." He stretched out an arm in assistance once again. Buffy took hold, grabbing just below his elbow...yep, still tingly...and scooched.
"And you," Spike asked once she had gotten up there and stopped slipping.
Buffy glanced at him as if she'd missed something in the conversation with all the sliding and scooching.
"How are you," he clarified, slightly amused by the look on her face.
"Huh, oh, fine. Need to check in with the troops, in person for a change...some issues...get Dawn settled," she paused, "I was looking for..."
"He's not here...Hawaii or Guam, or somewhere," Spike said flicking the cigarette butt into the sewer grate alongside the curb. He turned to stare at the building.
"I wasn't looking for Angel," she said. You really think I'm here looking for Angel... your still a dope!
"Who then," before he got the question all the way out, a tonal 'Rock the Kasbah' was chiming from his back pocket. Spike pulled out the phone and checked the number.
"Gotta get this, Love...sorry," he said, then answered the call.
"Yeah...you need me in there? Uh, yeah...thanks...no, they said 9:15, 9:30, means closer to ten, 10:30...Yeah...five, two adults, three kids...three, five and nine, girl, boy, girl...no...no...yeah...no...and, uh, Rudy and friends are just turning the corner now, the usual, looks like...you sure you don't need me in there? Uh, I dunno yet...no...No! I will take care of that...owe you one...okay, two, thanks...I'll need it. Call me if I'm
not back in by then...thanks...yeah."
"Sorry, Pet, work. You, uh, need a drink," he said, glancing at the vending machine, "...a soda pop?" He was already off the hood of the station wagon and slipping the phone back into his pocket.
Avoidyness can be good, she thought.
"No," he said consolingly, "...not in the machine. Uh, diet coke?"
"Be right back."
She watched him walk over to the vending machines, always a favorite pastime, watching him walk. She tried the dangly leg thing, but the antenna got in the way, so she shifted position. Oh, better view! Don't let him see me watching him on the way back...my turn to stare at the building...how's he get up here so fast?
"I was looking for you, Spike," she said.
Their eyes met, briefly, when he asked, "...why?" He tried, but could not hold the gaze and busied himself with opening his mountain dew bottle.
"Do you really have to ask that," it came out harsher than she had intended and she was instantly sorry that it had. She looked at him being all avoidy again. "Guess maybe you do...I missed you."
He took a drink of the mountain dew like it was one of those single malts that he and Giles were so fond of, as if it would fortify him, then looked at her.
"I love you, Buffy. You know it," he paused, "...always will." Although it seemed like he had more to say, he went back to fussing with the bottle cap, almost losing it.
The silence that followed did not last as long as either anticipated.
"I don't know if...I can...love you. I want to...,” she said. That got his full attention and the look on his face made her smile. "...and...I don't know, maybe I do..." she sighed, "...all I know for sure is," she paused and shook her head, "...I really need to find out."
Spike digested that for a moment. He stopped fussing with the soda bottle and fussed with his cigarette pack instead, getting one out along with his lighter.
"Fair enough, Slayer," he said. He lit the cigarette, "...fair enough."
That was actually a few sections, but they pretty much need to be read in one clip so there they are.
A Note: Duncan was the priest in the Gilroy mission who watched Calab/The First kill all the other bretheren, the one that Andrew was being "bad cop" to Spike's "good cop" with after Giles had sent them both there to get them out of the way back in Sunny D during season seven.