Secrets & Lies


by: Lynn
Continuation of The Chains Series



Buffy was pregnant. It was definite, confirmed by science and a doctor with a no-nonsense manner. Willow had walked home with her in stunned silence and then left to get some much needed sleep. Alone in her room and faced with the reality of her condition, Buffy sat on her bed and stared at the bottle of prenatal vitamins, surrounded by literature from the local Planned Parenthood. The pamphlets were many and varied- nutrition, prenatal testing, fetal development, childbirth classes, adoption...and termination. The last one seemed to glare up at her like a neon sign, touting her right to a "simple, legal procedure," making it sound more like getting your taxes done than getting an abortion.

Concerned about Buffy's health, Willow had insisted on taking her to the clinic instead of just getting a test from the drugstore. The nurse and doctor had been friendly and compassionate throughout the exam, offering tips on dealing with morning sickness. Buffy was dangerously close to dehydration, so the doctor had given her an electrolyte solution and instructed her to drink plenty of water at home. After the exam, a counselor had talked frankly with Buffy about her options. Her options. The abortion pamphlet drew her eye like a beacon and Buffy pulled her knees up to her chest, folding her arms around them.

Terminating the pregnancy would be an easy solution to her impossible situation. No more worries about Spike, Giles, or the baby. The journal entries would be nothing more than a fascinating discovery for the Watcher and she could go on with her life, slaying and returning to school in the fall like nothing had happened. She could let Spike go, chalk it all up to poor judgement on her part. Simple...right?

The familiar hitching in her chest started up again, tears spilling over to run down her face onto her arms. Nothing was simple, especially where her life was concerned. She didn't want to get rid of the baby, didn't want to forget about Spike... She couldn't. She couldn't let go because her heart wouldn't let her.

Her hand slipped down to rub her lower abdomen as she tried to imagine it swelling outward. His child was already growing inside her- tiny, vulnerable- a part of both of them. Buffy recalled Anne's last entry and her concerns about the baby. Concerns about what kind of child she carried. As she looked down at her stomach, Buffy realized that those concerns were hers also. What sort of baby was this? Human? Vampire? Some hybrid, something entirely new...unheard of? Would this pregnancy even progress in the usual fashion?

So many unanswered questions.

Her first thought that morning had been to run to Spike, but now... What would she tell him? 'How' would she tell him? He'd been so violent before...so angry. He hadn't physically hurt her, but she could tell that he'd barely been able to control himself. What if he still felt that way? She was still so weak, what if she couldn't defend herself against him?

Right now, she wanted more than anything to be held and told that everything would be all right. She wanted strong arms around her, a reassuring voice in her ear. She wanted...Giles. The thought made her sit up straight in surprise. She'd been keeping things from him for so long that she'd practically avoided him these last few weeks. There had only been brief meetings at the library and phone calls during her illness. She hadn't wanted to get too close to him in her vulnerable state. She'd been too afraid that she would break down and tell him everything and that he would hate her for it. How ironic that now she had no choice 'but' to tell him. And the funny thing was...she wanted to tell him. Needed to make things right between them, especially now.

The plain truth she'd been avoiding was that she needed Giles- needed his solid strength, his guidance. He was her rock, her constant in an ever-changing world- teacher, friend, father-figure... Her safe haven. How could she have forgotten that? No matter how angry or upset her news might make him, he would never abandon her. Of that she was certain. And Willow was right, he needed to know what was in the journals. It called into question everything that the Council had told them.

Her decision giving her a renewed sense of purpose, Buffy reached for the phone to call Willow. She would need the redhead's calm presence when she told Giles everything, and since Willow had made the discovery in the first place, it only made sense that she be there. Together they would show him the journal entries and then Buffy could tell him about Spike. *Oh God, Spike.*

Was it wrong to tell Giles before telling Spike? Spike was the father of her baby and had the right to know. He was also not speaking to her at the moment and quite possibly contemplating her violent death. Giles was her Watcher and needed to be apprised of anything regarding the Hellmouth and paranormal activity. Her pregnancy certainly fell into the paranormal category. Besides, telling Giles would mean possible answers to her questions and that could only be a good thing, right? Unless the answers were ones she didn't want to hear.

Buffy moaned. What was she going to do? She needed both men desperately, but who should she turn to first? If only things weren't so horribly messed up with Spike. She would run to him in a second, if she could be certain that he wouldn't lose control, if she could be sure that she could handle him in her current state. But she couldn't. And she was too weak, both physically and mentally. She needed to find her self-respect again before she faced him.

Giles, then? She could almost feel his tweed-covered arms around her, comforting her as he had when she'd killed Angel. Buffy laughed. Who was she kidding? He was going to blow a gasket, big time. And she deserved it for lying to him all this time. She should have been upfront with him from the start. Maybe if she had... It was too late to wonder about what might have been. She needed to focus on the here and now, focus on coming clean with Giles...and healing. It was time.

Buffy picked up the phone and called Willow, asking the redhead if she would accompany her to the library. She sighed with relief when the other girl said yes, and that she'd call Giles to tell him that they were coming. They agreed to meet at Willow's house in an hour and Buffy hung up the phone feeling stronger than she had in days. She was going to try to pick up the shattered pieces of her life, starting with the secrets she'd kept from her Watcher. Then she would do whatever she could to salvage her relationship with Spike. One step at a time...


**************


Giles sat in the library, waiting impatiently for the girls to arrive. He was intensely curious about what Willow had found in the journals, but relieved to know the reason why she'd left so suddenly that morning. It still baffled him that she hadn't just woken him and shown him the entries right then, but he figured that she'd had her reasons, and he would see for himself soon enough.

What was she thinking...feeling...after last night? It was going to be odd trying to face Willow with Buffy right there. He fervently wished that they could have met privately first, to get past that "morning after" awkwardness. He had no idea how much tension there would be when they saw each other again, and Buffy could be quite observant when she wanted to be. He would just have to hope that the Slayer was preoccupied, or that things would go more smoothly than expected.

Giles hadn't been able to stop thinking about the night before. Thinking about the rosy glow of Willow's skin, the liquid green eyes that had been filled with such trust... Thinking about how tight and hot she'd felt around him. She had done the impossible; helped to banish Jenny's ghost from his bed. Replaced the pain of loss with the pleasure of fulfillment... Given him back some of the desire to take hold of his life, instead of letting it slip away, bit by bit.

One innocent young girl had done all that.

She wasn't innocent any longer, thanks to him. He could never give back what he'd taken- although it was probably safe to say that Oz's death had done more to rob her of her innocence than he had. And she 'had' given herself willingly...begged him, practically- not that it made what he had done excusable. Not by a long shot.

Giles was in the process of massaging his temples when a sound at the door made him look up. A smile lit his face and he stood, slipping his glasses on as Buffy and Willow walked toward him. "Buffy, it's good to see," his smile faltered, "...you." He felt as if blinders had been taken off and her appearance suddenly shocked him. Had she looked this way before? This thin, this drawn? He felt a brief flicker of surprise as she unhesitatingly walked into his arms- surprise that quickly turned to joy as he enfolded her in a warm embrace.

"Hey, Giles," Buffy said softly, as his arms wrapped around her. Over her head, he shot Willow a look of alarm, questioning her with his eyes. Willow answered with a sympathetic half-smile and slight shake of her head.

Buffy hugged Giles tightly, wanting to cherish these few precious minutes before she told him the truth and everything blew apart. She burrowed into his chest, breathing in the familiar, comforting scent of tweed and aftershave that was purely Giles. In that moment she knew that no matter how Giles reacted to her news, she had been right to come to him. She hadn't realized just how much she'd needed to feel this connection between them again.

Still looking at Willow, Giles asked the question that had been plaguing him all morning. "A- And you, Willow? How are you?" His eyes searched hers for any sign of distress and finding none, some of the tension drained from his body.

"I'm fine, Giles." She met his gaze unflinchingly. "Really."

He nodded once and then turned his attention back to the Slayer in his arms. "This place hasn't been the same without you," he murmured. "Too dreadfully quiet."

"I'll bet." Buffy pulled away and mustered a teasing grin. "Isn't Xander keeping things interesting enough for you?"

"Xander is," he answered softly, "most assuredly, not you."

Buffy blushed and looked away, feeling a stab of guilt for the secrets that she'd kept from him. She never should have waited this long, never should have doubted that their bond would get them through any rough patches in their relationship. It had been horribly wrong of her not to have trusted him from the start.

She took a deep breath. "Giles, I-" Her voice caught and for a moment she didn't think she'd be able to start. Didn't really know 'where' to start.

"What is it? What did you find in the journals, Willow?" The look on Buffy's face frightened him- he'd never seen her so pale.

Willow stepped forward, handing the translated pages to the Watcher. "These are the entries that I translated last night. They shed some light on the proof we've been searching for...you know, proof that the soul doesn't leave when a person becomes a vampire." At his startled glance, she continued. "Read them first, I don't want to say anymore until you do."

Giles took the pages and sat back down at the table. Several minutes later, he looked up with a perplexed frown. "This is all very interesting, to be sure, but history and vampire lore have shown us that it's not possible for vampires to procreate. If it were, there would some sort of- of evidence to corroborate Anne's story." He shook his head. "It's quite possible that this is nothing more than the vivid imagination of an unstable girl."

"It's not." Buffy's quiet statement echoed in the large room.

"Buffy...the hypothesis that the soul contains s-some sort of 'spark'- the-the essence of life, if you will- is worthy of considerable research and debate, but even so...there still is no discernible proof. Without having translated the rest of the journals, we cannot even be sure that Anne was truly pregnant."

"She was...I know she was." Wringing her hands, Buffy began to pace as she tried to gather her courage for what she had to say.

"Buffy, we're talking about five hundred years in the past. There's no way for you- for any of us- to know that..." Giles said, worry for her evident in his expression.

She turned to face him and the bleak look in her eyes stunned him. "Yes, Giles...there is. I- I know that Anne is pregnant because," her voice dropped to a whisper, "because I am, too."


***************


Buffy. Pregnant. His Slayer, 'his' responsibility had become a statistic- another pregnant teenager. Where in the bloody hell had he been? How had this happened... Who? Giles shook his head, certain that it was all a mistake. And what did her being pregnant have to do with a Slayer who'd existed several centuries ago?

He opened his mouth to speak and had to force the words out past the lump in his throat. "Are you certain?" At her nod, he continued. "I- I don't understand. Y-Your...condition...now...in the present... What does this have to do with Anne?" Just saying it out loud sent a stabbing pain through his heart. How could he not have realized that she'd been seeing someone? How could he have been so blind?

"I- I've been having dreams...about Anne and Guillaume. In French. I could feel everything that she felt... In the dreams, I'm her." Buffy could see the pain in his face and it made her want to turn and run from the room before she told him the rest of it.

"And you neglected to tell me this? Something that could have aided us in our research?" He could feel an anger rising at having been kept in the dark about her dreams. "Are the dreams prophetic? Can you tell?" he asked through gritted teeth.

"I- I'm not sure. They feel so real...but they're all in the past, not the future."

Willow watched as Giles stood and began to pace. She could see the tightening of his jaw and knew that his anger was barely being kept in check. And the worst is yet to come, she thought desolately, frightened for them both.

"I see," Giles said, running his hand through his hair. "And why do you believe that your- your pregnancy is somehow related to Anne's? How is your condition proof of hers?"

Buffy blinked back tears. How could she tell him? He was already filled with anger; she could feel it coming off of him in waves. She took a deep breath, stumbling over the words. "I- the baby- it...it's Spike's," she whispered, not daring to look at him.

Giles' head jerked around suddenly to face her. "Spike! Were you attacked? Did he hurt you?" He would kill the vampire with his bare hands- slowly, painfully.

"NO! Giles, it wasn't like that. Spike and I...we were...together." She looked up hesitantly. "For over two months." Buffy felt Willow come up and take her hand, giving it a squeeze. She looked at the redhead gratefully and then ventured a glance at the Watcher's stricken face.

Giles couldn't feel his limbs. He couldn't feel anything...in fact, he was certain that he'd had some sort of brain embolism, that he would wake up in the hospital only to discover that this had all been a horrible nightmare...an hallucination. That was the only logical explanation for what was happening. None of it was real...

It couldn't be.

The seconds dragged on with no response from the Watcher. Buffy stared at him, frightened by the blank look in his eyes. "Giles? Say something...please..." she begged. When his narrowed gaze found her, she shrank back from the barely contained fury that she saw there.

"What would you like me to say? That I'm happy for you? That your lack of respect for me, for my position as Watcher, and your utter disregard for your sacred duty is perfectly acceptable?" His voice was low, controlled...ominously quiet. "Well, I'm sorry to say that I'm not happy for you, and it's not acceptable. Any of it."

"Giles- "

Giles slammed his hand down on the table. "No, Buffy! This is not happening again- I won't allow it!"

Willow spoke up. "Giles, it's already done. We can't change that."

He glared at Willow. "You knew about this? And you didn't see fit to tell me?"

Willow bristled. "It wasn't my place."

Giles turned away, removing his glasses and pinching the bridge of his nose. "How could this have happened?" he asked. "What could possibly have possessed you, Buffy, to become involved with Spike?"

"I didn't plan on it... He came to me and offered to help...help kill Angel. The rest just... happened. Neither of us expected it to go that far."

"But it did, didn't it? And you kept this from me...lied to me...for weeks...months." He turned back to face her, his expression one of pain and betrayal. "I don't know who you are anymore."

"Giles, please... I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," Buffy sobbed. "I wanted to tell you, but I was afraid. I didn't even understand myself what was happening, and then when it got serious..." She looked at him with shimmering eyes. "I- I didn't want you to hate me."

"You have so little faith in me...so little trust? Dammit, you should have come to me immediately, when Spike first approached you!"

"I didn't think, Giles! I just wanted Angel gone before anyone else got hurt...or killed. Spike had a plan to take him out... I never thought it would end up like this."

"No, obviously you didn't think at all," Giles muttered in disgust, putting his glasses back on. "Instead you had sex with a demon and to hell with the consequences! Does the safety of all that you hold dear mean so very little to you? Your friends' safety, your mother's?"

"No, of course not! But Spike's changed, he's different than he used to be. He even saved me from Drusilla...he sacrificed her for me. He isn't just a demon, Giles." Her hand went to her stomach. "He has to have a soul, doesn't he? In order for this to have happened?"

Giles closed his eyes against the image of her...with Spike. William the Bloody. "He's a vicious killer. Nothing more, nothing less."

"I don't believe that. I love him, Giles."

Love. She loved Spike. Would the nightmare never end? His voice cracked like a whip. "Well, you have to believe it! Need I remind you of what happened the last time you decided that you were in love with a vampire? Have you forgotten Jenny...or Oz?"

Buffy raised her tear stained face to look him squarely in the eye. "Of course I haven't forgotten. I live with their deaths on my conscience every day of my life. But Spike didn't kill them and I won't let you blame him for something he didn't do." She reached for her purse. "I think I should go."

"NO! Buffy, wait..." Willow placed a hand on Buffy's arm. "Let me talk to Giles for a minute, okay?" Buffy hesitated, then nodded. She turned without a word and went into his office to give them privacy.

Giles paced agitatedly, still vibrating with anger at the thought of Buffy lying to him for all those weeks. "I don't know what you hope to accomplish, but it won't work. She lied to me, Willow. She shut me out of her life and now she expects to waltz in here and dump all this in my lap? I don't bloody think so!"

"Giles, will you stop and think for a minute? She was afraid of how you'd react, afraid of disappointing you. She knew that you'd be angry...upset."

"Well, she was right! I'm bloody well furious!"

"Giles, listen to me! The journals, her dreams...there's something more going on here. Anne, Guillaume- Anne is Buffy's middle name and Guillaume is French for William."

He looked at her in surprise. "What are you saying?"

Willow let out an exasperated breath. "I'm saying that maybe Buffy didn't have a choice. She told me that they tried to stay away from each other and couldn't. That when they're apart, she can't stand it. Giles, what if history is repeating itself?"

He struggled to remain calm and think rationally. What Willow said had merit and if there were supernatural reasons for what had already transpired... "If what you are saying is true...then we must finish translating the journals...so that we can be prepared for whatever occurs." Her face brightened and he held up a hand before she could say anything. "That doesn't excuse Buffy's lying to me, Willow. She broke our trust, and I'm not sure that I can forgive her for that."

Willow looked up at him with eyes that seemed to penetrate his very soul. "Aren't there things that you've kept hidden? Things that you wished you'd done differently? She needs you, Giles...more now than ever before. You don't know everything that's happened, everything she's gone through. These last two months have been hard on her, and lying to you was the worst of it. She hated every minute of it."

The many things he wished he'd done differently were too numerous to mention. His past was filled with so much darkness, so much regret. And the girl standing before him was another reminder of how impulsively he'd acted just less than twenty-four hours ago. His expression softened somewhat as he stared down at her. "Be that as it may, I can't just pretend that everything is fine."

"No one is asking you to. But Buffy is scared...and alone. She and Spike broke up a couple of weeks ago, he doesn't even know about the baby."

Giles sighed. "What a bloody mess." He ran his hand through his hair in frustration. "All right, I'll talk to her again. Would you go and get her please?"

Willow smiled and patted his arm. "Thank you, Giles. The important thing now is helping Buffy get through this. We don't know anything about a vampire/human hybrid, or how dangerous this pregnancy might be. There's a lot to think about." She turned and left him standing there, feeling numb from the emotional onslaught. His thoughts were jumbled as he waited for Buffy to come out of the office.

Inside the room, Buffy had cried silent tears while waiting for Willow to retrieve her. She was afraid that what she'd done had damaged her relationship with Giles beyond repair. The look in his eyes- the anger, the disappointment...the hurt. It was entirely possible that she'd lost him for good, and that he'd ask to be removed as her Watcher. She'd never felt so utterly alone in her life.

Her heart leaped into her throat when Willow appeared at the door and beckoned for her to rejoin them. She walked hesitantly over to Giles, sitting down at the table when he motioned toward one of the chairs.

Giles took the seat opposite her and regarded her for a long moment before speaking. His face and voice were stern, reproachful. "I cannot begin to understand why you felt it necessary to lie to me, Buffy. The lack of respect and trust that you've shown me hurts more than I can possibly say." He took a deep breath. "What's done is done, however, and the only thing we can do is move on from here. I am your Watcher...and I will continue to perform my duties as I see fit. Willow and I will complete the translations and try to research your...condition...as best we can."

Buffy sighed with relief. "Thank you, Giles. I'm sorry for lying to you...I never intended to hurt you." For the first time in days, she felt hopeful. Her Watcher was staying; he was still going to help her. Things were far from fine and he was still very angry, but they could get past that. She would work at rebuilding his trust in her and they would get back what they'd had before. All that mattered now was that they were still together, still a team.

Giles cleared his throat. "Yes, well. Willow tells me that you and Spike are no longer seeing each other? Perhaps that's for the best, all things considered. You can move on with your life. You needn't ever tell him about the baby."

Buffy looked at him in shock. "I can't keep this from him. I'm telling him about the baby and his soul...tomorrow."

"I don't think that's wise-" he began, but Buffy cut him off. "I'm telling him, Giles," she said firmly. "He has a right to know."

In Giles' eyes, Spike had no rights at all after touching his Slayer, but seeing the steely resolve in her eyes, he relented. "It's your decision. But I cannot condone this- this relationship, Buffy. I won't."

Buffy stood. "I don't expect you to. But I love him and that's not going to change." She turned to Willow. "I'm going home, Will. Are you coming?"

Willow shook her head. "No, I need to talk to Giles...and I want to look at the journals again. You go on. Get some rest."

Buffy nodded. "I'll call you before I leave for the mansion tomorrow." She glanced at Giles. "Goodbye, Giles." She turned and left without waiting for a reply, her step a bit more brisk than it had been when she'd arrived.

"Goodbye, Buffy," Giles said softly as she disappeared through the doors. His eyes found Willow's and they shared a sigh, their concern for the Slayer overriding any awkwardness that might have lingered from the night before.

Forcing himself to focus on the research ahead, Giles clapped his hands together. "Right, then. We have quite a lot of work to do, don't we? What do you say we get started?" He stood up to gather together the books that they would need.

Willow stopped him with a hand on his arm. "It's going to be all right, Giles. Things will get better, now that everything is out in the open."

He looked down at the young girl who'd suddenly matured years in only a matter of days. "I wish that I could believe that, Willow. I really do..."


*************


************ Spike wandered restlessly through the mansion, waiting anxiously for the sun to go down. He was uneasy...had been ever since the redhead had shown up and told him about the Slayer's illness. Despite his attempts to distance himself worry had gnawed at his gut for hours afterward, making him feel some bloody modern-day Prometheus- bound by his inability to just swallow his pride and go to her, see for himself that she was all right.

For the past week he'd stalked the streets of Sunnydale, fruitlessly searching for some sign of her on patrol. There was nothing, not even her scent lingering in the cemeteries. The Watcher and that whelp- the one with a constant hard-on for the Slayer- patrolled in her stead, crashing through the undergrowth like a herd of elephants. Spike watched them from a distance, shaking his head at their near incompetence. The Watcher certainly had the balls for the job, but he lacked the stealth required to sneak up on unsuspecting prey. Neither one of them ever gave any indication that they were aware of his presence and the thought occurred to him that they were fortunate he wasn't in a killing mood. Any other demon would have taken them out in a heartbeat, leaving only pieces for the Slayer to find.

The Slayer. As each day without her passed, he found himself wanting her more. And hating himself for it. She occupied his every waking thought, invaded his dreams...basically drove him fucking mad, day in and day out. He willingly fell into a narcoleptic state during daylight hours, sleeping straight through until nearly sunset, always waking with her name on his lips. Always certain that he could hear her voice in his ear, smell her scent on his skin. Always wanting to slip right back into the void, where her welcoming heat beckoned. Needing to feel her again...

The excess sleep made him groggy, turning him into little more than a zombie during his nighttime wanderings. His thoughts were muddled...disjointed; he was unable to concentrate on anything except his obsession, while his body thrummed with its usual restless energy. Hunting was an interesting enterprise- running his prey down effortlessly in a burst of speed, then becoming distracted as the Slayer's face filled his vision. He was barely able to focus long enough to slake his thirst, instinct driving him more than any real intent to feed.

Bloody fucking miserable excuse for a vampire.

He ended up at the corner of her street time and time again, part of him wanting to just walk right up to her house and demand to see her. Make her face him, make her listen to him...until he remembered that 'he' was the one to chase 'her' away. Remembered that he'd taunted her, ignoring her apologies, her pleas for forgiveness. Remembered how he'd screamed at her to get out, screamed at her to shut the fuck up.

Why would she ever want to see him again? She most likely believed that he hated her, and possibly hated him, as well. He bloody well couldn't blame her, really. He'd acted like a complete shit. A total prick.

He'd acted like Angelus.

Disgusted with himself, Spike whirled and punched the wall, listening to the satisfying crack as the knuckles of his right hand shattered. The pain felt good- almost cathartic. He'd fucked up the best thing that had ever happened to him, so why shouldn't he fuck up his hand as well? At least he'd had the presence of mind not to lead with his left. He could manage without his weaker hand for awhile, and it would heal soon enough anyway. Everything broken healed, eventually.

Everything except his heart.

Spike snorted in disbelief. He was bloody pathetic, wasn't he? Worse than Angel, all soul-having. Worse than Byron and Shelley and the rest of those bleedin' fops- whining and brooding about "fountains mingling with the rivers" and "moonbeams kissing the sea." That had been Shelley...the romantic sap. Byron had been more Spike's style- all dark and cynical- curling his lip at the world, much like Spike himself often did. Byron had been a sick fuck, though, he mused. Tosser would have made a bloody good vampire.

Angelus had been sorely tempted. They had made the Byron's acquaintance in Switzerland and Spike's obsessed Sire had followed the poet to the Mediterranean. Byron had been beautiful, arrogant, cruel- all of the things that Angelus himself had been- not to mention an enthusiastic indulger in the perversions of the flesh. His lovers, of both sexes, had been too numerous to count, and hundreds had claimed to be the inspiration of his works long after his death. Only Angelus had known for certain that he was the subject of several epics, having wormed his way into Byron's confidence...and his bed.

Spike had been fearful of losing his place as his Sire's favorite, too young and inexperienced to be out on his own. Night after night he'd stewed with hatred and jealousy as his Sire had left him behind to court the charming poet. He'd felt a profound relief when Angelus had come to the realization that Byron was 'too' charismatic, and had far too much potential. A Sire's fledglings were to be nothing more than a reflection of their master, and Angelus had never liked being overshadowed. He'd taken Spike and returned to London, leaving Byron to his fated early and untimely death. And Angelus hadn't been moved to create another childe for years afterward. Not until Drusilla...

Spike shook off his morbid thoughts of the past and tended to his hand, ripping a piece of his tee-shirt off for a bandage. He carelessly wrapped it and retrieved a bottle from the liquor cabinet, his first of the day. He'd cut down his consumption in the two weeks since he'd driven the Slayer out of his home. Now he only drank enough to leave him in a pleasant fog, instead of the "falling down drunk" state he'd so fervently sought out after the wolf's death.

The only problem with being semi-sober was that the mansion seemed all too empty, his footsteps echoing on the marble floors as he paced each day away. There was no one to talk to, no one to slap around. Sometimes, Spike thought that he'd even tolerate having Darius back, just to hear the sound of another voice. Of course, as soon as Darius opened his mouth he'd have to kill the wanker all over again, and he would be right back to where he had started...

Alone.

The sun began to slip behind the horizon and his body tensed in anticipation of leaving the sprawling house that felt more like a mausoleum. He was anxious to be out under the moonlight, in the dark where he belonged. Sating his hunger, if not his lust for death and violence. He couldn't even scare up a good fight, for fuck's sake, due to the lack of demons currently residing in Sunnydale. That would all change though, once word got out that the Slayer was incapacitated and the Hellmouth was up for grabs. Legions of undead would descend upon this wretched hole like flies on rotted meat, he thought with irritation. And him not even capable of mastering his own unlife, much less a clan of new minions.

He wondered if tonight would be the night he found the Slayer. If he would suddenly turn a corner and find her waiting for him, beautiful and deadly, stake in hand. He could picture her standing in the cemetery, blonde hair falling around her face, the way she'd looked in the alley outside the Bronze, that first night he'd ever laid eyes on her. A small part of him had known even then, even as the words "I kill you" had left his lips, that he'd never see it through. And from then on, his efforts to destroy her had been half-assed, at best. Half-assed because even as enemies, he hadn't wanted an unlife without her in it.

As night approached, Spike went to his room and changed his shirt, then grabbed his duster from the chair by the bed. He drained the bottle he'd been drinking from and left the room, his thoughts centered on hunting for food and searching for the Slayer. Maybe he'd drive out of town this time, get away from Sunnydale and forget about 'her' for awhile. *Yeah, right. That'll happen.* The only way she would ever leave his mind is if someone put a stake through his heart. Until then, he was doomed to wander the streets night after night, hoping against hope that he'd see her again.

Several nights ago, long after midnight, he'd made a surprising discovery- the redhead, Willow, out walking...alone. He'd followed at a discreet distance, curious to see what she was up to all by herself. The first few nights, she only wandered restlessly, stopping occasionally to pick a flower, or pluck a leaf off a tree. Every time she went out, Spike picked up her scent and shadowed her, unsure whether to admire her guts, or curse her stupidity for daring to go out alone after dark. He kept watch over her, his only link to the Slayer, making sure that nothing, human or otherwise, bothered her.

Knowing that the redhead was out alone only reinforced his worry about the Slayer. He knew that she would never allow those close to her to put themselves in danger- especially after what had happened to the wolf. How ill was she? Was she bedridden? In the hospital? It was becoming harder and harder to keep from approaching Willow and demanding answers. He'd nearly done it last night, but she'd taken off at a run and hadn't stopped until she'd reached the Watcher's flat.

Curious, that. Considering the lateness of the hour, he'd expected the Watcher to just drive the girl home, but after waiting nearly an hour for her to reappear, he'd given up and gone home to the mansion. Perhaps she'd decided to stay and the Watcher had put her up on the couch. Or perhaps... Spike shook his head. The Watcher and the redhead? Unlikely, but he'd seen stranger things in the last two hundred years. Most of them he'd done himself.

As he left the mansion, Spike couldn't help the sense of foreboding that came over him. The feeling that something was coming...something unexpected. Would he see the Slayer tonight? Would he put an end to the longing that was threatening to drive him mad and finally be able to stop brooding like his fucking Sire?

He wanted the Slayer back... Bloody fucking needed her, to his utter mortification. The real question was, did she still want him?

*************

Continued