DISCLAIMER: We know they're Joss', right? Which really is a shame, because most of the time, we're so much nicer to them than he was.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Waiting to meet with the Immortal, Buffy went exploring his house and found a room full of clocks. After touching one, she fell unconscious and woke up in Spike's cemetery. She was attacked by demon hybrids like the ones Adam had created, only to be rescued by Spike...

* * *

Chapter Two

It was a moment out of time, frozen in mutual disbelief as Slayer and vampire regarded each other. How many times had she seen him in this moonlight, under these stars? Too many to count and not enough because never had he seemed like he did now.

Shadows hollowed his cheeks, his face more gaunt than she remembered. The scar in his brow was bisected by another that disappeared into his hairline, but the longer waves hid most of it from anybody who wasn’t looking for the imperfection. He had grown his hair out, she realized, roots dark with the tips still bleached bone white. It wasn’t the only change. His duster was gone as well, replaced with a softer brown leather that she didn’t recognize. The worst, though, was the wary fear that suddenly sprang to his eyes.

Buffy could take a lot of changes, even in her subconscious, but Spike being afraid of her was not one of them.

“Spike…” she murmured, taking a step forward.

He immediately countered with a step away, his normally fluid movements clumsy and awkward. “A trick,” she heard him mutter. “Just a trick.”

She didn’t have time to press. The iron bars at their side rattled as the quartet of demon half-breeds began scaling the wall to get to Buffy and Spike.

“Run!” she said, leaping forward to grab Spike by the collar. She pulled him in the direction of downtown, hoping that the signs of civilization would keep their pursuers at bay. The tug against her grip made her look back in alarm, but at the first furious glance from her, Spike seemed to acquiesce to Buffy’s lead, his footsteps pounding as furiously as hers.

They ran for several blocks, but as Main Street loomed in front of them, Spike suddenly tore free, veering to the left and toward the remains of the high school. Buffy barely had time to skid to a halt, checking behind her to see how far back the half-breeds were, before racing after him, calling out his name in a vain attempt to get him to stop.

She tackled him on the grass across the street from the school. The instant she had him pinned, however, Spike stopped struggling.

“Just do it,” he growled. Pressed facedown, his cheek scraped against the damp ground as he spoke, and she could see the electric fire of anger flashing in his eyes. “Don’t know how they brought you back, don’t know why. But I guess it doesn’t really matter, though, now does it? So do it, Slayer. Know you want to. Put us both out of our misery.”

His words stung, but even more than that, the contempt in his voice seared past her thundering pulse to make her face flame in confusion. This was worse than the hallucinations she’d had when she’d thought she was in a mental institution. At least then, she had flashes of her real life, glimpses of her friends and family and the vampire who loved her to help remember that it didn’t have to be that way. Whatever nightmare her head had created for her this time with her blackout didn’t even allow that reprieve.

Loosening her hold on the back of his neck, Buffy sat back onto his hips, the familiar lines of his body between her thighs producing an all-too intimate response. Spike didn’t move, but after a full minute of her continued stillness, he shifted enough to glance at her over his shoulder.

“What’s this about then?” he asked, his tone neutral.

“You’re not fighting me.” It was the most obvious of the differences – beyond him being alive – that left her head awhirl. “Why aren’t you fighting me?”

Spike snorted. “And get a blinding headache for the trouble? How bloody stupid do you think I am?”

Headache. From the chip.

But Spike hadn’t had the chip when he’d died.

Slowly, Buffy slid back off his body, careful not to hurt him as she stood up. The moment most of her weight was gone, Spike slithered out of her reach, rolling across the grass before leaping to his feet. His eyes were still blazing as he stared at her, but she didn’t say a word to stop him as he began to back away.

“Don’t know what your game is--,” he started.

“No game.”

Her simple assertion brought him to a halt. Reaching for the stake she had tucked back into her waistband when they’d started running, she held his gaze while she tossed it aside. Though the darkness swallowed it, Spike still glanced in its direction, turning back to her with brows drawn thick in confusion.

“You’re not real,” she said, her voice a hushed whisper in the silent night. “This is all a fantasy. I’ve hit my head and I happen to miss you so all this is is Buffy’s brain trying to make things better.”

His sudden bark of laughter made her jump. “Better?” Incredulity made it seem like he was shouting. With a wide sweep of his arms, Spike surveyed the eerie peace of the town around them. “You call this better? Must’ve been some blow, little girl, to make you think this kind of hell could be better.”

“You’re alive. That already makes it better.”

For a long minute, he stared at her, searching for…something. Buffy didn’t know what. When he finally moved, it was to drop his arms and shake his head.

“Someone’s told you the story wrong,” he said. “You’re the one that’s been dead. Goin’ on four years now.”

He said it with such conviction that it was Buffy’s turn to be taken aback. For the first time since waking up, she was beginning to wonder if maybe her assumption this wasn’t real was a mistake. Why would she create such a world where she was dead, Spike was alive, and Sunnydale still stood? Maybe that room full of clocks wasn’t as innocent as it looked, though that had been a generous thought from the start.

“Spike!”

The female voice came to them seconds before a figure came flying from the shadows, arms thrown around his neck in a desperate hug. Spike held her back, though his embrace was much gentler than the one she bestowed, as if he was afraid of hurting the young woman. His eyes jumped to Buffy, but she was too absorbed by the new arrival to fully note the wariness with which he regarded her.

Long blonde hair hung loose down the woman’s back, and her curvy form was mostly hidden in a baggy sweatshirt and cargo pants. Though her face was buried in Spike’s shoulder, Buffy didn’t need to see it to recognize the form or voice.

“Tara?” she asked, taking a step forward.

Though Tara twisted to see who was addressing her, Spike held her to the side so that he stood between the two women. It didn’t take more than a second for Buffy to recognize the protective stance, and her eyes widened slowly as it dawned her that he was trying to protect Tara from her.

“Back off, Slayer,” he warned. “Might hurt like a bitch, but I’d take it and more to give her time to get away from your likes.”

“You think I’d…hurt Tara? What kind of monster do you think I am?”

“You’re the one who’s back from the dead,” came the cryptic response. “You tell me.”

She understood what this was now. A world where everyone and everything she’d ever loved and lost came back to haunt her. If she walked to her house and found her mother in the kitchen, Buffy was sure she would lose it.

“Spike…don’t.” The soft-spoken words surprised both Slayer and vampire, and they watched as Tara extricated herself from his arms to take a step toward Buffy. “You’re…” But the label or name or whatever she was going to say remained unspoken as she took a few more hesitant steps closer.

Spike stopped her with his fingers curled around her wrist. “She was at the cemetery where those gits were chasing you,” he said. “She’s got to be working for them somehow.”

Indignation made Buffy’s temper flare. “They were chasing me, too, you know,” she argued. “But it’s nice to know at least your selective memory is the same here.”

“She’s not.” Tara’s voice was low but firm. The attention she had fixed on Buffy made her skin prickle. “She’s lost.”

“OK, time out,” Buffy said. “One, I’m not lost. I know I’m in Sunnydale, which is just a world of wrong because it should be buried under a mile of dirt. And two…” She stopped, considering her words for a moment. “OK, I don’t have a two, but I’m sure it won’t take me long to come up with one, the way you guys are acting.”

“See?” Spike said to Tara, jabbing a finger at Buffy. “There’s a screw loose in there. Whoever did this brought her back wrong. Know you want to save all the little puppies, luv, but this one’s only goin’ to bite the hand that helps her. I say we let this one go.”

Hearing echoes of the words he’d uttered to her in that alley, right before their relationship had gone to hell, made Buffy’s audibly gasp, drawing Spike’s curious attention back to her. His piercing gaze swept over her again, lingering on the cut that still bled on her brow before moving downward, over her breasts and hips. The reaction he garnered was not one she wanted, but when it came to Spike and those hungry eyes, Buffy’s was a learned reaction.

His nostrils flared. When his head shot up so that his gaze could lock with hers, it took all of her control not to noticeably squeeze her thighs together to stem the flood of desire seeing him like that brought on. Had he really been dead for almost a year now?

Tara was oblivious to what was crackling between the pair. “Why were you running?” she asked, directing the question to Buffy. “Did you escape?”

It was a curious interrogation, but thankfully, the first answer was an easy one. “No,” Buffy replied. “I’m not even sure what I’m doing here. One minute I’m in Rome, and the next…” She snapped her fingers. She was tempted to click her heels together, too, but that was probably taking the want to go home theme a little too far.

“You tryin’ to tell us that you haven’t been dead these past four years?” Spike shot out.

“Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m trying to tell you. I. Didn’t. Die.” A thought occurred to her. “Well, except for the jump from the tower, but that was three years ago, and I was only dead for a few months before Willow brought me back---.”

“Willow?” Tara had gone pale at the mention of the witch.

Spike smirked. “There’s the hole in your story, Slayer. Adam’s boys should’ve prepped you a tad better, I think.”

It was the mention of an enemy long gone that made Buffy pause as much as Spike’s smug tone. “What do you mean?”

“I mean…” She had forgotten how much she could dislike his superior than thou attitude when he believed he was right. “…you weren’t the only one to die when you decided to Custer with Adam. Took the witch and the boy with you when you went down.” His eyes gleamed. “Unless they’ve decided to bring them back, too, in which case I’ll be the first to say, the lot of you can just sod off.”

* * *

They were oblivious to the boy still sitting on the couch, too wrapped up in memories of Darla and Drusilla basking in Immortal afterglow while images of Buffy began to juxtapose over them. “I can’t believe she’d shag the bugger,” Spike muttered, shaking his head.

“Maybe there’s no shagging.” Angel looked to Andrew, hopefully. “There’s no shagging, right? They’re just…cuddling?”

Andrew half-shrugged, obviously reluctant to answer. “Cuddling, with kissing, and then they usually go in her bedroom and shut the door and we don’t see them again until...” He stopped when he realized neither vampire looked very happy with his explanation.

Spike sank into a chair. “They’re shagging.”

“Not tonight, though,” Andrew hastened to add. “Tonight they’re dancing. Buffy was meeting The Immortal at his place and then they were going out. She said not to wait up for her.”

Angel snapped back to attention. “His place? How long ago did she leave?”

“Awhile. But she wasn’t supposed to meet him until…” He looked at the clock on the VCR. “Now.”

Angel turned a calculating smile to Spike. “Feel like storming the castle?”

It was the best suggestion Spike had heard since they’d got off the plane. “And then some,” he replied, hopping back to his feet.

Andrew trailed after them as they headed for the door. “You came all the way to Rome to stop Buffy from dating The Immortal? Spike, you do know she doesn’t even know you’re alive, right?”

Both vampires stopped. It hadn’t occurred to Spike that Andrew might actually keep his word about keeping his undead state a secret. He had simply assumed that Buffy was pissed off for keeping her out of the loop and was biding her time before showing up to chew him out. If she didn’t know, what would showing up on her doorstep now, all jealousy ablazing, do to her?

Apparently, Angel had been stopped by a different thought.

“We should probably pick up the Capo’s head first,” he mused. “I think that’s even on the way.”

“Can I come with you?” Andrew asked, his face brightening.

“No,” Angel and Spike answered simultaneously.

They began walking down the hall, newfound purpose in their steps.

“Since Buffy doesn’t know you’re alive, maybe you should stay in the car. Let me take care of The Immortal.”

“Like bloody hell I will. ‘Sides, you couldn’t take him on your own a century ago. What makes you think you can do it now?”

“I’ve matured.”

Spike snorted. “Sounds like a fancy word for ‘got old’ to me.”

Their arguing continued as they disappeared down the stairs, their voices taking much longer to fade away.

 

To be continued in Chapter 3