The birds were singing and the sun was shining. People made love in words and glances and embraces down below in the Parisian streets. Ringing sounds of laughter, snippets of songs and the low hums of pleasant conversation drifted up and into Buffy’s window, trying to draw her out.
Instead she slept, huddled beneath the silky comforter, head resting on the pillow. She got up once or twice to pee, or order food she wasn’t really hungry for, just to keep her friends from worrying - too much, anyway.
Her friends had noticed as she sank lower into depression after the fall of Sunnydale. They had crowded around her at first, making her the center of everything. But after the first few weeks they began to drift away. The tight group of Scoobies had broken from the confines of Sunnydale, and were fighting evil across the globe.
Nowadays, Faith called from Cleveland to share stories of slaying and her wild, passionate affair with Wood. Dawn and Andrew had left for Italy soon after arriving in Paris – Dawn for school, and Andrew as head of a small group of Slayers-in-Training. But they called nearly everyday to let her know they were happy and fighting the good fight. Giles and Willow were in England, rebuilding the Council and communicating with short e-mails and late-night phone calls. Xander had stuck around, but there was some pretty new Slayer he’d started to fall for… which left Buffy pretty much alone in the city of love.
Not that there hadn’t been other men.
She’d been here a year already, first arriving wide-eyed and ready for shopping and dancing beneath the Eiffel tower, like in some sappy Meg Ryan movie. There were men – plenty of them – that she brought back to her room, men that helped her forget with their French accents and sensual love.
And then there had been a flash of white, once at a late-night club. A head bobbed across her line of sight, and her heart had seized up for a moment before she raced through the crowd of warm-bodied dancing, thriving people.
But it wasn’t him, just some punkish girl with bleached hair and bits of silver piercing her ears and nose and lips and eyebrows. Buffy turned and fled. After that there were no more men, just lonely nights and days in bed, thinking of him.
The knocking at the door was getting very annoying Buffy decided as it roused her from sleep. Couldn’t a girl mope around in peace anymore? Moping was better than a self-induced coma, anyway. So she trudged her way through the half-lifted veils of sleep to wrench open the door and growl in her annoyed-Buffy voice. There was a smiling man in the French-style postage service uniform of dull brown, holding a clipboard for her signature. He spoke a few words in French, which Buffy didn’t understand, and then a form to sign which Buffy didn’t understand, either. He then handed her a sealed envelope, which she hastily snatched away.
She shut the door in the man’s face, staring at the crisp, white envelope in her hand as she walked blindly to the little white desk. Sitting in the padded chair, she felt around for the silver letter opener – something she’d rarely used, but which seemed appropriate - and slid it along the crease.
Inside was an airline ticket. A one-way to L.A., which she tossed aside in favor of the cream colored paper inside. It was folded in half, her name written in an ornate style with rich, black ink. It was in handwriting she didn’t recognize, and she paused before unfolding it.
Come to Sunnydale.
Three words, written in the same style as her name on the outside, gave no clues as to the writer. For a moment, a flash of warning crossed her mind. It could be a trap, she thought, trying to lure her back there, all alone, and finish her off.
But then, none of her enemies had ever bought a ticket, and written her name so prettily.
She would go, she decided. Just to see.
She’d finally made herself comfortable driving, after years of refusing to learn, so she rented a sleek, silver convertible for the trip north. Arriving in L.A., she’d half expected Angel to meet her. But then, she hadn’t told him she was coming – hadn’t told anyone, simply changed her voicemail to say that she was out and about on personal business, and that she was fine.
She left L.A. as the sun was setting, fighting through the slow traffic that steadily moved north until she broke through and was cruising along at seventy miles an hour with no headlights before or behind her. It wasn’t a long drive – only an hour – yet her heart raced and the time seemed to draw itself out into days as she drove through the warm, May night. Almost exactly a year since she’d left. Almost exactly a year since she’d left behind dead friends and family. Almost a year since she’d left him in that Hellmouth to burn up and dust.
But no - it wasn’t him calling her. He was dead, after all. She’d felt his ghost clinging to her skin all those nights in Paris when she dreamt it was him in her bed, and between her thighs with his arms holding her close and murmuring such lovely proclamations into her ear.
She pulled up to the edge of the massive crater, now filled up with water and sparkling in the half-light of the moon. There was no one around for miles, yet she felt….something - a presence. Stepping out of the convertible, she left her keys on the seat and walked up to the edge of the lake where her town had once stood.
Spike was here. His essence was all around her, whispering to her. She could feel him, now, she thought. How his arms went around her that last night in the basement. How his cool breath tickled her neck when he whispered to her. How she got that tingle at the back of her neck when he was around, that was so singular, like his kiss and his voice and his arms; so unique and identifiable.
Her eyes snapped open, and she turned on the spot.
Not him, it’s not him.
Oh, but it was - right down to the hair and the jacket and the soft smile he shared only with her. It was his stance and his arms and his eyes and his mouth and his voice calling her forward.
She broke then, just broke and collapsed in the dirt and felt the tears burning hot down her cheeks as she reached her arms out like a sad, lost child.
And then he was scooping her up, holding her tight to his chest and running his hand through her hair and whispering “Shh, luv, s’alright. I’m here. I’m here.”
“You were gone,” she croaked, burying her head in the crook of his neck. “You were gone and it was too hard without you, and now you’re back and you didn’t believe me!” The last phrase was a screech, and he winced as she batted him on the arm in her hysteria. He smiled at her, pulled away a bit. She looked up at him with watery eyes and wiped them hastily on her sleeve.
“I love you, you stupid, arrogant, pig-headed vampire!”
But it was okay then, because he was suddenly kissing her, and holding her close, and her arms were around his shoulders and everything was okay.
Spike was okay. Spike was alive.
And she loved him.