“I feel the night is on your side/Shadows wait you when you rise/You hold the weight of every moment/Move no distance in your stride/And while you wallow in your wounds/You let the devils draw near/One more mile is all we have/You got nothing to fear…One more mile is all we have/Until the lost become the found…” ~Tom McRae, “One More Mile”
It was the first apocalypse that Buffy had ever been late to. Although she did occasionally let time get away from her, she was generally very punctual, particularly when the fate of the world was at stake.
Although, she didn’t see how she could be at fault, because no one had sent her the memo. As the Slayer, she liked to know these sorts of things, and in the past she’d always had a prophecy, or some Hellgod making threats, or something. This time? She gets a cryptic message from someone who sounds a lot like Spike, telling her that he was probably going to die—again—and he was sorry he didn’t tell her he was alive before.
“Idiot,” Buffy muttered, covering her worry with anger.
Andrew had been there when she’d listened to the message, and upon hearing it, he had immediately blurted out, “He made me promise!”
That, of course, told Buffy that Andrew had known about Spike being back for a while, and it hadn’t taken long to get him to talk. Then she’d made a phone call to Giles, to find out what he knew, only to discover that he had a lot of information that she didn’t.
Buffy hadn’t paid much attention when Giles had told her that Angel was working for Wolfram & Hart. She was still a little embarrassed about the kiss that they’d shared, and Giles had seemed to know what he was talking about. If Angel was now in charge of an evil law firm, Buffy could buy the fact that they shouldn’t have contact with him.
Since Buffy hadn’t planned on having any contact with him, it didn’t bother her a bit.
The fact that Spike was back—well, that was a whole other story, and the fact that Giles had hidden it from her pissed her off considerably. Not to mention the fact that her Watcher, now head of the Council, had caused her to be late to an apocalypse for the first time ever, thus ruining her perfect record.
Now she found herself in L.A., with no clue as to where she was supposed to go. “Damn,” Buffy muttered. By the time she’d gotten Spike’s message, squeezed the information out of Andrew, called Giles, bought her tickets, and traveled to L.A.—too much time had passed. She didn’t know where this big battle had supposedly taken place, although since the world hadn’t ended, Buffy assumed that the good guys had won.
She didn’t even know if Spike was still alive.
Buffy quickly shoved that thought to the back of her mind. Spike would be fine. He was tough.
Hailing one of the waiting cabs, Buffy asked the driver, “Do you know where the Wolfram and Hart offices are?”
“Sure, lady,” the cabbie said, his New York accent at odds with the southern California location. “I can get you there.”
Buffy had packed light, partly because she hadn’t been sure what to expect and partly because there hadn’t been time. She hadn’t wanted to spare any time.
The taxi driver let her off in front of a high-rise office building, and she paid him, heading towards the front doors. Even though the streets and sidewalks were full of people, looking not unlike any other busy city street, the building itself appeared to be deserted. It was almost as though the passing pedestrians didn’t see the marks of destruction visible through the windows, as though the structure itself no longer existed.
The doors were open, and Buffy walked inside, looking around the decimated lobby with a sinking feeling. “Hello?” she called. “Is anybody here?”
“You’ll find nothing but ghosts here.”
She turned to see a woman standing behind her, gray suit immaculate, a thin red line across her throat. “Who are you?” Buffy asked.
“I’d ask you the same thing, but I already know,” the woman replied. “The name is Lilah Morgan. I take it you’re looking for Angel.”
Buffy shook her head. “Actually, I’m looking for Spike, but I’ll take Angel if he’s not available. Have you seen them?”
Lilah shrugged. “Last I heard, they disappeared in the alley behind that old hotel Angel was so fond of. They certainly wouldn’t come back to this place.”
“What happened?” Buffy asked, looking around her.
“They took the legs out from under the Senior Partners,” Lilah said. “I didn’t think it could be done, but it’s going to take them decades to rebuild their power base.”
Buffy took a deep breath. “Where’s this hotel?”
“Look up Angel Investigations in the phone book,” Lilah suggested. “It’s easy enough to find.”
Lilah was gone in the next moment, leaving Buffy to wonder if she was merely a ghost, doomed to haunt the building forever, or if she was something else altogether. Buffy left the building immediately, resisting the urge to shake the dust off her feet. There was something about that place that really gave her the wiggins.
Buffy found a phone booth, complete with phone book, within short order. As had been suggested, Angel Investigations was still listed in the yellow pages. After a moment’s hesitation, Buffy ripped the page out, because she didn’t have anything to write on anyway.
In the interest of time, Buffy decided to take a taxi to the hotel, rather than trying to figure out the mass transportation route. She just wanted to find Spike, to make sure he was okay. If Angel was in one piece, that would be nice, too, but her concern was mainly for Spike.
When the taxi pulled up in front of the large building, Buffy paid the driver, wondering how many times she’d have to run through the drill. There was no way she could afford many more cab rides, but she hated to waste time when she could be looking.
The hotel appeared empty, with no sign of life. The dust lay thick over the floor and furniture, and it was plain that no one had been there in a very long time.
“Crap,” Buffy muttered. “Now what? Stupid, idiotic vampire.” She set her backpack down on the floor, and her eyes were caught by footprints in the dust. Buffy smiled. “Now we’re getting somewhere.”
Leaving her bag where she’d left it, Buffy followed the footprints across the marble floor of the lobby to a wooden door. Frowning, she opened it, realizing that the handle was crusted with dried blood. After only a moment’s hesitation, she followed the stairs down, the dim lighting requiring her to be careful about where she stepped. She could just see the intermittent bloody handprints on the wall, and on the handrail, and Buffy swallowed hard. “Hello?”
Silence met her, and she descended the rest of the way, looking around the basement with dismay. She could see the remains of training equipment, a large, steel cage, and other detritus of past occupants. “Spike?” Buffy called, trying again. “It’s me.”
A sound came from the corner, and she took a few hesitant steps in that direction. The black-clad figure came stumbling out, clutching a sword. “Buffy? That really you?”
Buffy could see immediately that he was thoroughly trashed; she didn’t think he’d looked this bad when Glory got done with him. “Yeah, it’s really me,” she replied, taking a step forward.
He wavered. “You’re not the First?”
In response, she strode forward, grasping his hand. “It’s me.”
“Oh.” The long sigh was one of such relief it nearly brought her to tears.
Buffy drew his arm over her shoulders, taking some of his weight. “Let’s get you out of here.”
“Can’t,” Spike replied. “They’re waiting for me to come out.”
“There’s no one out there,” Buffy assured him, wondering if Spike hadn’t gone just a little bit crazy again. “I promise.” With her free hand, she took the sword from him, planning on laying it down, at least until she could get him upstairs.
“No, keep it,” Spike managed to get out between gritted teeth, fighting the pain. “If they come—”
“Okay,” Buffy said, willing to humor him in this, at least. “Come on. We’ve got some stairs, but we’ll make it. I’ve got you.”
Spike made a sound that was somewhere between a laugh and a moan. “Yeah. Guess you do.”
“I got your message,” Buffy said. “That’s why I’m here.” She decided not to say anything about him being stupid for not calling her earlier; that could wait until he was better.
“Angel didn’t make it,” Spike informed her.
“I didn’t come for Angel,” Buffy said evenly. “I came for you.”
Spike turned to look at her through eyes that were nearly swollen shut. “You’re not real,” he said seriously. “I realize that.”
Buffy sighed, helping him up the last of the stairs and steering him over to the dusty couch in the center of the lobby. “Sit tight,” she ordered him. “I’ve got to figure out if we’ve got running water. Otherwise, we’re going to have to go somewhere else.”
Spike clutched at her hand. “No,” he gasped out. “Please, stay. This is the best dream I’ve had yet.”
Buffy touched his bruised and lacerated face. “This isn’t a dream, Spike. I’ll prove it to you.”
“How?” he asked.
She smiled. “Go to sleep. I’ll wake you when it gets dark.”
“You don’t sleep when you’re dreaming.”
“Exactly.” Buffy knelt next to the couch, stroking any part of him that wasn’t so bruised her touch would do more harm than good. After a few minutes, his eyes drifted shut, and Buffy touched his lips with her own.
It was déjà vu all over again, finding Spike crazy in a basement, but Buffy wasn’t leaving him down there this time.
Spike opened his eyes to find worried green eyes on him. “Buffy?”
“That would be me,” she said with an uncertain smile. “How are you feeling?”
He blinked. She was still there. Spike reached out and touched her cheek. “You’re here,” he marveled.
“I am.” She scowled at him. “Did you really think I’d let you get away with leaving that lame message on my answering machine? I mean, seriously. When have I ever missed an apocalypse?”
Spike was still trying to process the fact that she was in front of him. “What happened?”
“I was kind of hoping you could tell me,” Buffy replied, her face softening. “I got here as soon as I could, then I went straight to Wolfram and Hart, but there wasn’t anybody there except for some really creepy chick. She suggested I come here, and I followed your footprints and your blood to the basement. What were you doing down there?”
“Hidin’, I think,” Spike said, pushing himself up weakly. “Bloody hell.” His head was spinning, and he still couldn’t quite believe that he was safe. “There was a horde of demons out there, an’ now—”
“They’re gone; I checked,” Buffy assured him. “This place doesn’t have any kind of hot water or electricity, Spike. We need to get you somewhere safe. I already called and booked a hotel room for us.”
Spike hesitated. “Illyria, an’ Gunn—they were—” He glanced out towards the back. Why couldn’t he remember anything? Except for watching Angel buy it; that had been indelibly burned on his memory.
“I looked all around the hotel,” Buffy said. “There’s no one out there.” Her eyes were filled with sorrow. “There wasn’t anything left.”
Spike knew immediately what she was talking about. “There wouldn’t have been,” he said softly. “Was nearly flooding the night we were out there.”
She nodded. “Yeah, I figured. I just had to check. Come on.” Buffy helped him stand, wrapping one strong arm around his waist. “The taxi is waiting.”
Spike went, still trying to remember what had happened. He didn’t think he’d slept since well before he had gone on his mission. Once he’d known that they were all probably going to die, sleep had been rather low on his list of priorities. Even calling Buffy had come a distant second to his poetry reading.
In the end, Spike had called her because he’d wanted her to know that he was fighting the good fight still, no matter what Giles and the newly-reconstituted Council had told her. If he went down—again—Spike didn’t want to think that his third ending was any less worthy than his second.
He could remember that much, remember standing in the alley in the rain, watching the horde coming towards them, knowing that he was going to die once again. Knowing that there wasn’t a chance in hell that any of them, except perhaps for Illyria, had a prayer of making it.
After that, his memories came in bits and pieces, flashes of rain, alley, and blood that made no sense. The only explanation that Spike could come up with was that he’d somehow managed to drag himself into the hotel, waiting for the next wave of demons.
But the next wave had apparently never come.
“Come on.” Buffy’s quiet words pulled him out of his thoughts, and Spike managed to get out of the car, wavering a little bit. He was going to need a lot more blood, and a lot more sleep, before he was in any shape to be fighting again. Whatever had happened in the end, he certainly bore the marks of it on his body.
Spike only wished he remembered the events a little more clearly.
“Ta, luv,” he grunted as she finally sat him down on the only bed in the room. Spike didn’t think he’d hurt this badly when the First got done with him.
“We’re going to have to talk about why you didn’t call, Spike,” Buffy said quietly, “but that can wait until after you’ve recovered some.”
“I need to go pick up blood for you.”
She was gone a moment later, leaving Spike to lay down on the bed, briefly considering and then discarding the idea of undressing. He really hadn’t thought that he would make it. Spike wondered what Buffy was doing in L.A., whether she’d come to find him because he was a comrade in arms and she felt responsible, or because there was a little more there.
He wasn’t looking forward to explaining his long silence, perhaps because he wasn’t sure he understood it himself.
Spike closed his eyes, going back in his memory to the alley, where he’d stood with Angel, Charles, and Illyria with the demon army heading straight for them. Angel, who had faced down the dragon and been killed. Charles, who had fallen moments after they’d closed with the enemy.
He remembered fighting demons, watching the bodies pile up. Illyria had been at his side, taking down her fair share of the enemy. And then—
Then, his memory stopped, and the next thing he could recall was hiding in the basement, half-mad with pain and exhaustion and hunger. The short nap he’d caught at the hotel, after Buffy had shown up, had taken the edge off. Once he got a few more hours of sleep, and fed properly, he’d be back to normal.
If only he could remember.
Spike had drifted off to sleep again when the sound of the door opening awakened him. “Buffy?”
“Yeah, it’s me,” she replied. “Don’t get up.”
He pushed himself up on his elbows, frowning. “You got blood?”
“I got it.” She sat on the edge of the bed and opened the paper sack she carried.
Spike took the tub of blood she handed him and began to drink, not even pausing until he’d drained the container. “Thanks.”
“I have another,” she said. “Do you want it now, or would you rather wait?”
“I’ll take it now,” Spike replied. “Don’t remember the last time I ate. I’m not sure how long I was down there.”
“Do you have a thing for basements?” Buffy asked with a smile.
He shook his head. “Not really. Just seems to be convenient is all.”
She handed him the second tub. “You want to tell me why you waited until right before you thought you were going to die—again—before you called me?”
Spike started drinking his blood, using the opportunity to avoid answering her question.
“I’m not going to let you avoid this conversation, you know. That’s usually my job.”
Spike had to fight a smirk at that. When he’d finished the tub, he said, “Don’t I know it.”
“You showed up alone,” Spike countered, not ready to discuss his reasons for waiting. “Figured you’d come with an army of Slayers.”
Buffy sighed and rolled her eyes. “Spike, come on.”
“Well?” he pressed, repeating her earlier question.
She gave him a dirty look, but finally gave in. “It took time for me to get what I needed to fly to L.A. How long do you think it would take me to collect a bunch of girls?”
He gave her a wry grin, somewhat twisted by his still-bruised face. “Point.”
“I answered your question; now you answer mine,” Buffy insisted. “Why didn’t you call me sooner, Spike?”
Spike looked away, studying the rather nondescript painting on the wall. “Dunno, really.”
“Look at me.” Her voice was gentle, too gentle to resist. “Spike…”
He met her eyes briefly. “I honestly don’t know, luv. I meant to. Soon as I was solid again, I set off, and then—”
“You didn’t believe me.”
“What I said in the Hellmouth,” Buffy clarified. “You didn’t think I meant what I said.”
Spike could hear the hurt in her voice. “I knew you meant it,” he finally replied. “It was just that I didn’t know how you meant it. We were friends at the end, right?”
“Yes, of course,” Buffy said, so quickly that Spike couldn’t doubt her word.
He shrugged. “So I didn’t know how you meant it, an’ I couldn’t bear…” Spike took a deep, unneeded breath. “I love you, Buffy. I never stopped. An’ after you said those words, to know that I couldn’t have you—it hurt too much. Thought you’d move on. Far as you knew, I was dead. Figured it would be easier.” He met her wide eyes. “An’ you did move on, yeah?”
“What?” she asked. “Moved on?”
She gaped at him. “What the hell are you talking about? You don’t ‘move on’ from what we had, Spike. It just hurts less after a while.”
He blinked. “Huh?”
“You stupid, idiotic vampire!” Buffy burst out. “Have I ever, ever lied to you about my feelings?”
Spike considered that for a moment. “You didn’t lie to me when you said you felt nothin’ for me?”
She deflated abruptly. “Okay, yes, I lied, but I didn’t love you right then, and that’s what you wanted.”
Spike shrugged. “An’ I wanted you to say it at the end. They were your last words to a dying man, Buffy.”
“That doesn’t mean that they weren’t true.”
Spike shook his head. “You don’t mean it.”
“Do not make me kick your ass,” she warned him. “I loved you. I still love you. Do you think I’d fly halfway around the world to save you if I didn’t?”
“You’d do it for one of your friends,” Spike stubbornly insisted, not yet ready to believe her. How could he believe her? It was too much to ask of him.
Buffy stared at him. “Stand up.”
Eyeing her warily, he did as she asked. “Buffy, what—”
“Shut up, Spike,” she ordered. “If you don’t believe what I’m saying, then I’m just going to have to show you.”
He shook his head. “Buffy—”
“Just be quiet.” Her voice was gentle now. “Okay? Can you not talk for a while? Because words aren’t getting us anywhere.” Buffy pushed his duster off of his shoulders. “There are a lot of things I’d do for my friends; you’re right about that. But we aren’t friends. You were right about that, too. When you love someone enough, you can’t be friends, because it doesn’t work. It hurts too much if they don’t feel the same way, or if they don’t call you after they come back from the dead.”
She pulled his t-shirt over his head. “I don’t have sex with my friends, Spike. I don’t ask my friends to hold me while I sleep. And I don’t shower with my friends, which is what we’re going to do right now.”
Spike swallowed hard as she touched his cheek. “Capisce?”
“Yeah,” he managed. “Got it.”
“How are you feeling?” she asked him, much later. Buffy had been afraid that she’d need to use all her wiles to convince Spike that she still loved him, because she had spoken the truth.
She hadn’t moved on; it had just started to hurt less.
“Much better,” he allowed, rolling his head to meet her eyes. “Thanks to you.”
She smiled. He looked a lot better after sleep, blood, and some TLC. “Just call me Florence Nightingale.”
Spike smirked. “Florence had nothing on you, pet.”
“What do you want to do next?” Buffy asked. “We could probably stay here for at least another day if you want.”
“Who’s payin’ for the room?” Spike asked, concern in his eyes. “I have to be honest, Buffy. I don’t have any money to speak of, and—”
Buffy snorted. “Are you kidding me? I called Giles and told him that if the Council didn’t pick up the tab, I’d walk. He’s the entire reason I was late anyway.”
“Thought you were blaming that on me,” Spike said.
Buffy shook her head. “You had reasonable doubts. I still think you were being thick-headed, but that goes without saying.”
Spike gave her a dirty look. “Hey, now.”
She just smirked. “Teasing. Anyway, when Andrew spilled the beans, I called Giles, and he admitted that he knew you were back. I informed him that he could pay for your recovery, since you probably wouldn’t have been hurt quite so badly if you’d had an army of Slayers at your back.”
“That’s true enough,” Spike allowed. His eyes darkened with grief. “It shouldn’t have gone down that way. The others—”
Buffy met his lips with hers, offering him the only comfort she could. “I know. I’m sorry, Spike.”
“Not your fault.” He sighed. “I really thought the boy would have told you.”
“Andrew worships the ground you walk on,” Buffy pointed out. “The only reason he told Giles was because he felt it was his duty as a Watcher. Giles didn’t have an excuse.”
She noted that Spike didn’t argue with her there. “Yeah, well, glad you got my message anyway.”
“So am I.” Buffy raised an eyebrow. “Do you believe me now?”
“I believe you.” Spike’s eyes were warm, and Buffy thought that she could see his soul once more. “I love you.”
Buffy just smiled. “I know you do.”
She was grateful to have found him.