You Can Get There From Here
It wasn’t exactly the way he’d meant to make himself known, but he guessed she’d have been shocked to see him no matter what.
As for him? The only shock was being back in Brazil. The rest? It wasn’t as surprising as you’d think, seeing a witch nearly get taken out in battle. Spike had realized long ago that no matter how powerful you were, there was always something stronger, which was why you learned to fight clever… and dirty. That combination had done the trick in this case, which left one rotting demon carcass lying on the beach for the locals to figure out come morning, and one shaken, wounded witch coming to terms with the fact that magic wasn’t invincible.
She asked him to get her home, but he was in no mood for her tongue-stud-Slayer so he carried her back to his hotel instead, offering the easy excuse that it was much closer. If she hadn’t hit her head, she’d have wondered how he could say that when he had no idea where her digs were. As it was, she hadn’t been able to hold onto consciousness for long, so the short walk was a lot more silent than he recalled past time spent with her.
His hotel room – courtesy of Angel’s credit card, not that the cheap bastard had volunteered it – had a stunning view of the ocean – and thick drapes, thank hell come morning – and he stood for a moment, cradling the girl he’d come all this way to see, and wondering why the hell that was anyway as he stared at the moon and the sky and the sea.
Damned if he knew, so he laid her gently on the massive bed and sat watching, waiting for her to wake up.
It didn’t take long. Like Slayers and vampires, witches healed faster than humans.
“Spike?” Her voice sounded unexpectedly young; it took him back to that day when he’d kidnapped her. “You’re not dead?”
Guess that knock on the noggin had taken more out of her than he’d thought. “’Course I’m dead. Vampire, remember?”
“I know. I mean… the amulet. You died.”
What the devil…? “Andrew didn’t tell ya?”
All right. That sniveling little toad was in for it. “Saw him in Los Angeles. Thought for sure he’d given you the news that I’m back.”
Willow’s eyes narrowed. “No, he didn’t. He and I need to have a talk.” Spike almost laughed. Bet the witch was gonna give that boy hell – and a pretty close approximation of the version where Angel had vacationed a few years back at that.
“Yeah, well, I was a ghost for a bit, but I’m a real boy again – or as real as a vampire with a soul can be at any rate.”
She sat up, draping her legs over the side of the bed and positioning herself right beside him. “I’m really glad. Just kinda shocked.” Then her brow furrowed. “Does Buffy know?”
Good question, that. “Don’t right know. Figured she must, but seein’ as you didn’t… Maybe not.” What he said next surprised even himself. “Doesn’t matter much either way.”
Her eyes shot wide and no wonder. Not as if he’d even realized quite how he felt till now, but words came out anyway. “Watchin’ her all happy and carefree there in Rome… I guess she’s got over whatever we had. S’pose I should too.”
“You saw her? In Rome?”
“Yeah. Me and Angel.”
Willow’s eyes grew so wide that he could see the roundness of her eyeballs. “Oh gosh. Buffy never told me… but I’m guessing she didn’t know. Oh no.” She shook her head ruefully. “So you know about…?”
“The Immortal?” he finished for her. “Yeah. Angel and I have known him for awhile.” All the fiends in Hell wouldn’t get him to admit the humiliating details of their last encounter with that creature, but luckily, Willow didn’t ask.
“It’s just a… cookie dough thing,” she hastened to alibi, clearly trying to bandage what she was sure were his wounded feelings.
His feelings weren’t wounded enough to need tending, but that didn’t stop him from laughing. “Angel told me ‘bout that on the plane home. Cookie dough? She compared herself to cookie dough?”
“It was a metaphor!” Willow was kind of adorable, wasn’t she? All indignant as she stood up for her best friend.
Still… “I’m aware it’s a metaphor, pet. It’s just a bloody awful one.” Worse than his poetry ever was, and that was a fact.
“Well… she was distracted by the First and the apocalypse and all. Stuff like that will wreak havoc on anyone’s repartee.”
Okay, he’d grant her that. But getting back to an important issue… “I meant what I said and I’m not gonna try to get back into her life” – or her bed, though he didn’t say that out loud – “Figure she’s earned the right to spread her wings. So have I.”
Her eyes bored into his, searching for truth. It was disconcerting, but he didn’t drop his gaze. Soul or no, he was still a demon and no witch was going to stare him down. In fact… “See anything you like?”
She blushed. Again, he found himself thinking she wasn’t half fetching. Too bad she was batting for the other team. Come to think of it, she hadn’t mentioned her girl. Maybe he should. “Need to call your Slayer? What was her name again – Nixon?” Couldn’t resist having a bit of fun.
“Kennedy.” But she didn’t seem nearly as put out by his raillery at her mattress toy’s expense as she had been about the cookie dough nonsense and that seemed telling.
“Trouble in paradise?”
“Define trouble. Better yet, define paradise.”
Well, looked like he put his foot in it this time. “Sorry.”
With a heavy sigh she shook her head. “Don’t be. It was all my fault. I should have known better than to leap into something so soon after Tara…” She paused but instead of elaborating, she just repeated, “After Tara.”
He got it. Not like she really needed to offer up the details. “Sometimes hiding from it seems like the best way to deal with pain.”
To his surprise, she laid her head against his shoulder and sighed again, soft and resigned this time. “It never works though, does it?”
“’Fraid not.” He chuckled and it took him a moment to realize that he was stroking her hair.
“How’d you know I was here?”
He shrugged. “Andrew said this is where you and your girl were shacked up. Figured you’d come back from the astral plane by now.” He closed his eyes tight, not wanting to think about Fred.
What she said next though – that was a gut punch. “Astral plane? Who said I was in the astral plane?” She was sitting up straight now, looking at him as if he was a bit tetched.
This put a whole new spin on his grief. Just when he’d been adjusting and accepting that nothing could possibly have been done. “Angel called Giles to help get a hold of you and… He said you were off in the astral plane and no one could reach you.” And you know? Now that he said it out loud, that explanation sounded even stupider than Buffy’s cookie dough speech. How in everlasting hell had they all fallen for it?
He could almost swear Willow’s eyes went black for a moment, but she took a deep breath and said, “I heard you guys had some kind of battle in L.A., but Giles told me it was no big deal. Looks like you did okay without me at least.”
Yeah. Sure. They’d done just great. If you didn’t count Fred being evicted from her own body by Blue, Wesley and Gunn bein’ dead, and Lorne bidding them a permanent farewell.
Should he just let it go? Let her think that everything was hunky dory? But then he looked into those eyes again. She deserved to know the truth.
Besides, maybe she’d go off the rails again and flay Rupert Giles. Spike would buy tickets to see that. “It wasn’t the battle we wanted your help with, though come to think of it, we coulda used ya. It was Fred.”
“Fred? Is she okay?”
The look on her face… buggering hell! She cared, didn’t she? Must have known Fred. Great. He hadn’t thought it would hurt her like this; he might have kept his mouth shut.
There was nothing to be done now, however, except tell the truth. He decided fast and harsh was the right way – get it over with. “She’s gone. Her soul was hollowed out of her by some god-king named Illyria who’s now living in her body.”
Maybe the way he’d done it was best, but it didn’t feel like it when he saw the anguish in Willow’s eyes. “She’s… gone? How long?”
“Since before the battle.”
She was up on her feet now, pacing. “Do – there has to be something I can do. Something. There has to be something…” Back and forth and saying the same thing over and over: “I have to do something.”
It was making him dizzy, all that pacing, and at any rate, it was painful, watching her tear herself up. He went to her, pulling her into his arms. “There’s nothing you can do. Probably never was.”
“You don’t know that,” she wailed as she struggled briefly. His heart broke when her struggles ceased and sobbing took their place. “You don’t know.”
She collapsed and he kept on holding her as he guided them back to the bed. “Not your fault, love. It’s not a bit your fault.” The tears kept flowing and he was pretty sure she hadn’t heard a single word. Didn’t much matter anyway; not like she’d believe him. “Illyria was a bit of all right in battle,” he offered, giving her the same explanation he’d been using to comfort himself, to make himself believe that maybe Fred had been sacrificed for the greater good. One of these days it’d work on one of them, wouldn’t it?
Willow was still a sodden wreck, and he was still wishing she’d flay Rupert, so that day didn’t look to be today, or even tomorrow. “I’m sorry.” Liquid eyes poured anguish into his. “Can you tell Angel that I would have helped? Please?” Then her expression grew desperate. “You believe me, don’t you? That I would have saved her? I would have. No one told me. I was right here and no one told me. No one told me.” She collapsed again and he tightened his arms around her.
“I believe you.” She heard that, because her arms wound around him and she clung, embracing the absolution he offered.
It was a few minutes before her cries dwindled to hiccupping bursts and then stopped, but she was under control at last. She said nothing, though, seeming unwilling to let go. He didn’t want to let go either.
Maybe another topic would be best. “So – you and that Slayer chit are done. Why’d ya stay in Brazil?”
She looked up at him again, seeming confused for a moment, before she said, “Kennedy went off to Santiago with another Slayer so it wasn’t like I was gonna run into her or anything. I figured I’d stay here until I knew where I wanted to go.” Confusion was still there and she came back with a question of her own. “Why were you looking for me? Were you mad?” She looked scared for a moment, but then resigned, even accepting of the idea that he might be looking for revenge.
He hugged her. “Nothing like that. Always knew you’d have done what you could, even when I swallowed that astral plane bollocks. I just… don’t right know, do I? Just had a hankerin’ to see ya.” He remembered the kidnapping and his escape from the Initiative. “You always have been the one I end up finding when everything goes to shite.”
To his surprise, she chuckled. “At least this time you didn’t kidnap me.” She paused and added, “Thanks, by the way. For helping me out with that demon on the beach. None of the books I borrowed from… well, none of the books mentioned that Revlaks are impervious to magic.”
“Don’t mention it. Kinda liked being the one to save the day.” If Angel boasted one more time about slaying that pipsqueak of a dragon… “Beats hanging around with Count Chocula and betting on which hair gel he’s using today.”
This time he got a giggle. Nice that someone else enjoyed a bit of sport at his sire’s expense. Which made him think. “’Course, it’d be more fun if I had someone to bet with.” Yeah, he was inviting her back to L.A. with him, back to the agency he was supposed to be helping rebuild when he’d suddenly decided to take an unauthorized vacation… and back to the vampire who was going to pitch a fit when he saw his credit card bill. “L.A.’s not so bad now that we’ve cleaned it up. You said yourself you were trying to figure out where to go. Maybe I’m your answer.”
“Won’t he… will he understand?”
He planted a kiss on the top of her head ignoring the little flutter he felt when she cuddled close in response. “I’ll make sure he does.”
With a suddenness he realized was so typical of her, she let go and stood up. “Okay. I should get my computer and stuff from my apartment.”
“I’ll book the flight.” Private jet, of course, for safety’s sake, and after all, might as well live it up one last time since Captain Tightwad would be just as furious either way.
Just as she reached the door, she turned around. “You know, there might still be a way. I’m still Research Girl. Between that and my magic…”
He went to her and pulled her into another hug as he said nothing, just tried desperately not to hope. A moment later, she was gone with a promise to be right back.
The flight was easily booked and he packed his own things in a trice, surprised to hear her knock at the door just as he finished. She shrugged. “I lived five minutes away.”
“You ready?” he asked, surprised by her meager luggage. One bag? Made sense for him, but…
It was clear she could tell what he was thinking. “I don’t need much anymore.” And wasn’t that a loaded statement.
He let it go, taking her hand and leading her to the window. He’d been about to say something silly about bidding farewell to Brazil, but he didn’t. Instead, he allowed himself to enjoy the way she was leaning her head against his shoulder again. Maybe there could never be anything but friendship between them, but even if that was all it was, it was… neat.
“Let’s go. We’ve got a plane to catch.”
She smiled at him as they left the room; her hand stayed in his all the way to the cab.
Funny how going back felt like a fresh start somehow.