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Shelter
By Colleen

This is my version of Spike returns. It has nothing to do with what we'll get on Wednesday, I can pretty much guarantee. However - it's my story :)



Chapter 1

It was late evening when he finally found the house.  The streets of LA seemed a maze to him, and walking alone, exhausted from his long search, he’d despaired of ever finding it.  He looked down at the white paper in his hand, then up at the number beside the door.  He placed his index finger on the buzzer and pressed.

A burly young man opened the door.  “Can I help you?”

He ran his fingers through long, curly dark hair.  “Yeah, I ... Uh, can I come in?”

“No.”  The door keeper crossed his arms over his chest.  “What do you want?”

He shuffled back and forth, hands in his jeans’ pockets.  “Look, I met this bloke. Evan. Said you could help me. Said I should ask for Anne.”

“Evan?”  The man stepped aside and let him through the door.  “I’ll see if she’s busy.  No guarantees.”  They didn’t get past the front foyer. “Wait here.”

He nodded.  “Thanks.”

Within a few minutes he was back. “Anne’ll see you. Follow me.”

They passed through the living room, where assorted teenagers lounged on the couch, talked, and read.  One had Trainspotting, another a well-worn copy of The Fantastic Four.  He barely had a chance to glance at them before they came to the door of a small office, probably formerly a downstairs bedroom, where the other man tapped on the door.  “Come in, Brian,” said a woman’s voice.

He followed Brian into the office.  She was standing beside her desk. She was tall, blonde and ...

“Don’t tell me. I’m younger than you expected.”

“To be honest, didn’t know what to expect.”  When she held out her hand to him, he took it.  Her grip was surprisingly firm.

“My name’s Anne, as if you didn’t know.  And you’re ...?”

“I wish I knew.”

Her eyebrows raised at that.  “Have a seat, Mr. Whatever.” She gestured to the other man. “You can go.  I’ll call you if I need you.”

Brian nodded, shooting a less than pleased look at the visitor.  “I’ll be right outside.”

She smiled.  “I know you will.”  The door shut, leaving them alone, she sat on the top of her desk.  “Okay, mystery man.  Spill.  Who are you, and what are you doing here?  You’re a little older than the average teen runaway, so I’ll rule that out.”  She pointed to the chair, and he sat.  “If Evan sent you here, that’s one point in your favour.”

“Where should I start, then?”

“At the beginning. How do you know Evan?”  She folded her arms and prepared to listen.

“The beginning.  That’s easy enough.”  He sat straight-backed in the chair, gripping the armrests.  “The beginning was last night, least much as I know of it.  Woke up in a closet, starkers.”

“I don’t get you. Starkers?”

“Naked.”

“Oh.”

“No idea who I was or how I got there.”  His grasp tightened on the arms of the chair, whitening his knuckles.  “Look, I know it sounds crazy ...”

“You don’t have some weird ability to remember trivia, do you?”

The question took him aback. “Not that I know of.”

“Just a TV show I watched a few times.  Evan?”

“Found me in the closet, when I started banging on the door.  He’s a security guard.”

“I know that.  He’s one of our success stories.”  She stood from the desk, looking down at the stranger.  “And he gave you my address?  Just like that?”

“Not quite.  Asked me questions, which I couldn’t answer.  Got me some jeans, this t-shirt.  Told me you might be looking to hire a handy man. Don’t know why he helped me, really.”

“Evan’s a great judge of character.  He must have seen something in you.”  She tapped on the phone receiver.  “I have to call him. Check out your story.”

“‘Course you do.  Wouldn’t have it any other way.”  He folded his hands in his lap, staring at them.  “No reason you should help me.  But I don’t know where to go.”

“S’okay. It’s what we do.”  She put her hand on his shoulder.  “If Evan vouches for you, you can stay. But you have to work.  No slacking.  I’ll get a doctor to check you out. That memory thing’s scary.”

“You’re telling me.”  He looked shyly at her, mouthing a quiet “thank you.”

Her smile was wide and genuine.  “You’re welcome.  But we’ll have to call you something.  I guess ‘English guy’ wouldn’t cut it.”

“I’m English?”  He tilted his head, and she knew he was joking.

She laughed at that.  “I think you figured that much for yourself.” Anne sized him up and down.  “We have to give you a name.  Do you mind if I call you Richie?”

“Richie.”  He rolled the name around in his mouth.  “Yeah. Good as any, I guess.”

“Okay, Richie.  I’ll call Evan, and you can wait in the front room.”

“Anne?  What if ... what if I’m not ... What if I’ve done things ...”

“Hey, Richie,” she opened the door for him, “We’ve all done things.” She stopped for a moment, staring at him.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”  She paused, her hand on the doorknob. “You just seemed really familiar for a second there.  Guess you just look like someone I’ve met before.”

*****

“Hey, Richie. Slow down.”

The man looked up from the bowl.  “Sorry. It’s just ... this tastes so good.”

“Yeah, well not if you choke to death on it.”  The carrot-topped boy grinned.  “I remember what it was like, when I first got here. Real food after trash can cuisine.  No comparison.”

“Don’t remember that. The streets, I mean.”  Richie stopped to lick the gravy from his spoon.  “This really is bloody good.”  He smiled back at Glen.  “Can’t describe it, really.  It’s not just that I’m hungry.”

“You should be hungry after all that work you did on the roof this afternoon.”  Karen lay a hand on his shoulder.  “I’d be so scared up there, and you just hammer away like you don’t care.  Aren’t you afraid of falling?”

“Guess not,” he shrugged.

“So, if you’re not hungry,” Glen interjected, “why do you eat like that?  I mean, it is good stew, but ...”

“It’s like ...”  He thought a moment.  “It’s like I haven’t really tasted anything in a hundred years.  Does that make sense?”

“Naw.”  Natalie ladled out a generous bowlful for the newcomer who arrived at the table. “It’s my cooking.”

The thin young girl sat as far as she could from the others, her spoon shaking as she picked it up.  Without a word, she dipped into the stew and raised a taste to her mouth.

“Don’t be scared, pet,” Richie told her.  “We’re all friends here.”

The girl nodded.  “M ... Mary,” she said, with hesitation.

“Welcome, Mary.  I’m Richie, new myself of late.”  He pointed around the table.  “Red here’s Glen.  Watch him; he’s a bit of a joker.  Karen’s just sitting down, aren’t you luv?  She loves to hover.  Regular mother hen.  And Nat’s our cook du jour.”

The dark-haired girl smiled, but she didn’t make eye contact.  “Hi.” Tears filled her eyes.  She dropped the spoon on the floor and began to sob.

Richie picked up the spoon and gestured to Karen, who knelt down beside the newcomer.  “You want to go up to your room, Mary?”

Mary nodded, and let Karen lead her out of the kitchen.

“Bolloxed that up, didn’t I?”  Richie’s eyes burned with frustration. “Poor kid.”

“No,” a voice from the door stated. “You didn’t.”  Anne was leaning against the doorframe, her arms folded across her chest.  “You’re the first person she’s spoken to since she got here.”  She pointed to the stove.  “Nat?  Give Richie another bowl.”

*****

He was painting the backyard fence when the young girl sat down on the lawn, watching him.  “Feeling any better, luv?” he asked, but she looked down at the grass and started plucking at it.

“Never you mind.”  He bent down and dipped his brush in the paint. “Nice to have the company.”  From the corner of his eye he could see her staring intently at him again.  “Want to help?  I’ve got another brush, if you’re so inclined.”

She just shook her head and watched him work.

“Fine. If you want me to have all the fun.”  He flashed a grin at her, then turned back to the fence.  After fifteen minutes of silence, Mary stood up, took the other brush from beside the bucket and tentatively dunked the bristles in the paint.  He didn’t comment, just let her start to work beside him, her strokes even.  Together, the extra set of hands made light work and they soon finished.  He stood back to survey the finished result.  “Good job.  You’ve got a nice, even hand.”

“Th... thank you,” she stuttered, shyly meeting his eyes before she turned and ran back into the old house.

“And once again, you get her to talk. Good job yourself.”

He spun around to see Anne leaning against the back wall, her arms crossed, a smile on her face.  “I think maybe we’ll just have to keep you.”

“Yeah?”  He sealed the can with the lid, picked up the brushes, and headed towards the tool shed.  “Gotta wash these out before the paint hardens.”

She followed after him.  “Really.  You were great with her.  I don’t know who you were before, but I think you’ve worked with kids.  Teens, maybe. Maybe you have sisters.”

“It’s no big deal.”  He turned on the hose and ran the bristles under the stream of water.  “She just helped me paint a fence.”  Satisfied that the brushes were clean, he put them on the shelf.  “Sisters? Really?”   He turned to face Anne.  “I wish to hell I could remember.”

“I know this is hard for you.”  She put her hand on his arm, leaving it there when he didn’t pull back.  “But whoever you were, here and now you can make a difference with these kids.”

He searched her face.  “I wouldn’t know where to start.”

She placed the hand on his chest.  “Start here.  Your instincts seem pretty good so far.”  She looked into his eyes, realizing how very blue they were.  “Anyway.”  She stepped back and took a breath.  “The basement needs cleaning.  Grab a few of the kids and get them to help.”

He snapped a salute and clicked the heels of his running shoes.  “Aye, aye, captain.”  But his eyes were soft and his smile warm. “And thanks for the vote of confidence.”



Chapter 2

"And you are ..."

"Ranna."  The tall girl pushed a strand of her variegated green and black hair from her eyes. "Do we have to do this?"

"I don't know. You want to eat?"  He picked up a dirty cushion from the floor and handed it to her.  "Put this by the stairs.  We'll give it a good thumping outside and see if it bears keeping."

With distaste, she took the object from his hands and turned around. "Yuck."

They cleaned their way towards the far basement wall.  Slowly the room took on a semblance of order.  They moved aside some boxes to reveal a battered old cot.  "Richie?  You okay?"

"Hm?"  He stared at the cot without moving.

"Richie?"  Glen placed a hand on his shoulder.  "Something wrong?"

"What?"  He shook his head, quickly, shaking out the cobwebs.  "No, nothing. It was just ... for a moment ... Nothing.  Help me move this out of the way and fold it up."  The two men pushed it aside.  "Shit."

"What is it?"  Little Penny strained to look over Glen's shoulder.

"It's a nest."

"Nest?"  Glen looked down at the pile of used hypodermics.

"No. Not nest.  Stash. Whatever."  He looked towards Ranna, and gestured towards the corner.  "Hand me that broom and dustpan.  None of you lot touch these things."  He took the broom from Ranna and carefully brushed the needles onto the pan.

*****

"Tell Angel I'm not interested."  She looked out the window of her office, into the back yard.  Wind brushed the patch of grass into little waves.  She wondered if the air were as cool as it looked.   As cool as her voice.

"Hey, babycakes. Don't shoot me; I'm only the messenger."

She spun around to face the green-skinned demon.  "I know, Lorne.  I'm sorry."  She lay a hand on his sapphire-clad arm.  "You've been a good friend. You both have."

"I sense a but."

She smiled, just a bit.  "But ... you've all made your choice. And I will not have anything to do with Wolfram and Hart. End of story."

"Trust me. Things have changed."

"I know."  Her lips tightened as her hand pulled away. "That's what I'm afraid of."

Her shoulders tensed at the rap at her office door.  "I'm busy," she called.

"Need to talk to you, luv."

She sighed and opened the door.  He stood with the dustpan in his hand. "Found these in the basement. Thought you should know."

"Damn."  She looked towards Lorne.  "I need to deal with this.  Tell Angel I'm sorry, but I can't see him.  And I certainly can't accept his help."

Lorne nodded. "Understood. I think you're making a mistake, but you're a big girl and it's your mistake."  He kissed her on the cheek. "Later, sweetness."

He smiled at the other man.  "Hey."

"Richie, Lorne. Lorne, Richie."

"Sorry. I'd shake hands, but ..." He looked down at the pan in his hand.

"No prob.  Nice to meet you."  Lorne mouthed towards Anne, "Cute."

With slightly reddened cheeks she answered, "Goodbye, Lorne."

When he was gone, she held out the wastebasket.  "Dump them in here."

He did as asked.  "I reckon they've been there a while.  Found them under the cot, behind a lot of clutter."

"Still ..."  Her breath hitched in her throat.  "I try so hard.  I really want to help these kids."

He was surprised to see the tears welling in her eyes.  "You do help. You know you do."  He held out his arms.  "Come ‘ere."  She leaned into him, and he embraced her.

She cried into his shoulder. "I feel stupid. I try to be strong."

"You are strong."  He stroked her back.  "Takes a strong woman to know when to share the burden."

She pulled back, and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. "Thanks."

He smiled.  "Anytime."

*****

There was a pile of work on his massive desk, but his chair faced the opposite direction.  He leaned back, hands folded behind his head, smiling peacefully as the sun beamed down onto his skin.  He sometimes thought he could sit here forever.

"Angel?"

He spun around at the sound of his friend's voice.  "Lorne. How did it go?"  Folding his hands in front of the computer he never used, he gazed up at the demon.

"No go."  Lorne perched on the edge of the desk.  "Says she doesn't want any help from Wolfram and Hart.  By which she now means you."

He pressed his thumbs together, pursing his lips.  "She'll have trouble.  The community association wants her out of there."

"She knows that."

"She needs a lawyer."

"She knows that too."  Lorne leaned in closer. "But face it, sugarlump. She doesn't want you."  He swung off the desk.  "Besides.  She's got other things on her mind.  Our Anne has a new fellow in her life."

"Really?"  Angel kept his voice even.  "Who?"

"Some fellow she's got working at the shelter.  Cute as a button.  And my, oh my, but I believe she has a thing for him."

"You always think that.  Anyone ever tell you you're a bit of a romantic?"  He picked up his letter opener and started working on his fingernails.  "Tell me more about him."

"Not much to tell.  But, she was humming when I got there.  And you know me ... It's all in the music."  He raised his eyebrows.  "Our Annie girl's in wuv."

"I want to meet him."  He flipped the opener back onto the desk and stood up.  "She's got enough trouble without getting involved with some loser."

"Yep."  Lorne headed out the door.  "Mr. Overprotective Detective strikes again."

"That's Mr. Lawyer now," Angel called to him.

Lorne threw back over his shoulder, "Doesn't rhyme."

*****

"Drugs and stuff?  Really?"  Natalie lay right on the edge of her bed, whispering to Ranna in the one beside her.

"Needles, anyway. Couldn't see much."  Ranna stretched out, putting her hands under her head.  "Boy, I'd love a hit."

"Shh.  Don't let Anne hear that.  She's trying to keep the place clean."  Nat propped up on one elbow.  "Wonder whose it was."

"Get to sleep," Karen said irritably.  "So I can."

"We would," Nat shot back, "but your snoring would only keep us up anyway."

"I don't snore."

A shriek from the corner silenced them.  Karen jumped up and went to Mary's bed. She wasn't in it.  At the sound of a second cry she found her, crouched beside the bed next to the wall.

"What's with the freak?" Ranna asked.

"Mary?  Honey?"  Karen tried to touch her shoulder, but that only caused a further keening.  "Nat, get Anne."

"I'm here."  Anne stood in the doorway of the girls' room, wearing only a thin nightgown.  She knocked on the door across the hall, and Glen opened.   "Get Richie for me."

He was there in a moment, into the room, kneeling beside the young girl.  "Mary?  Wake up, luv.  Only friends here.  Bad dream?"

The young girl nodded, then threw herself against his chest, trembling. "All gonna die. All gonna die ..."

Gently, he patted her back.  "Nobody here dying tonight, pet.  All's well.  Shhhh."

"M ... monsters.  Teeth."

He looked up and caught Anne's eyes.  Her expression was troubled, but she stepped beside him.  "Mary, honey?  You want to talk?"

The girl shook her head and climbed back on her bed.  "Go."

"You call me if you need me."  Anne leaned over and whispered in Karen's ear, "Get me if there's any trouble."

Karen nodded.  "Okay, guys. Show's over. Let's get back to sleep."  She gave a pointed look to Ranna.  "Even you."

He gave Mary's hand a squeeze, and she grabbed it.  "Thank you."  For a moment he thought she wasn't going to let go, but with a sigh she dropped his hand and curled under the covers.

Anne met him in the hall. "Thanks again.  There's something about you."

But his eyes were on her forearm.  "I'm thinking this Richie of yours was more than an acquaintance."

She looked down at the tattoo and covered it with her other hand. "Yeah, he was."  Realizing the gesture was pointless, she showed him the name engraved in the half heart.  "Well, I'm awake.  How would you like to talk over a coffee?"

"Make it a cup of tea, and you're on."

*****

He gazed intently at her as she handed him the cup.  "So. Richie.  The original, I mean."

"Yeah."  She sat on the chair beside him, curling one leg under her body. She picked up her coffee, warming her hands on the hot china.  "He was my boyfriend.  He died."

"I see."  His voice was soft, his eyes never leaving her face.  "And to make a short story long?"

"We lived together on the streets.  I was a runaway.  We both were." She bit her lower lip, trying to consider what to tell him.  "I'd been through some pretty weird shit in Sunnydale, that's where I'm from, and it freaked me out more than I thought.  I came here to LA, met Richie, hung out with him.  We got close."  She lifted her arm and flashed the tattoo.  "Really close.  He died, and this girl I'd sort of known from home helped me out.  Gave me her job when she went back.  But waitressing wasn't going to cut it for me.  I saw a lot of pain on the streets. So I started this place."

"Must have been hard on a waitress' tips."

"Yeah.  But I came into some money.  Call it a mysterious benefactor, whether they knew it or not.  And I had a friend who was helping me." She took a sip of the coffee.  "He's not an option anymore."

"That green bloke who was here earlier?" he asked.

"Nope. Friend of his."

"Boyfriend?"

She choked on her coffee, laughing as it dribbled down her chin.  He picked up a napkin from the table and dabbed at the liquid.  Her eyes met his and held them, as her face grew warm. "Definitely not my boyfriend," she whispered.

His lips joined to hers in a gentle, tender kiss.  After a moment, she pulled away.  "Wait a minute."

He drew back.  "Sorry.  I shouldn't have."

"No, you really should've. That's not it."  Her expression was puzzled. "You didn't think it was strange, that Lorne was green?  That he had horns?"

"Not really.  Ugly suit, but no."  He tried to share in her revelation. "Should it bother me?"

"Mary's dream, nightmare, whatever.  Monsters and teeth.  Does that you remind you of anything?"

He thought for a moment.  "Vampires?"

"Would it seem odd if I told you that Richie died from old age after being a slave in a hell dimension?"  Her heart was racing.

He took her hand in his.  "Sounds horrible. Poor pet."

She was up off her chair, pacing around the kitchen.  "Don't you see? Most people don't believe in those things, or see them but just ignore them. Make excuses.  You have no memory of anything, but these bizarro things don't wig you out at all."

"Wig?"

She threw her arms around him, almost spilling his tea.  "Richie, maybe you don't have memories, but something happened to you that you haven't forgotten, either. This stuff must have been a part of your life before."

He shrugged under her grasp. "Maybe. But I don't see how it helps."

"I'm not sure either. But it's the first clue we've had."  She let go of him and picked up her coffee, carrying it to the sink.  "I'll never sleep if I finish this.  I'm heading up to bed."

He raised an eyebrow.

"See you in the morning."



Chapter 3

"Would you like a glass of water?"  Anne sat in a chair across from Mary, smiling in what she hoped was her most reassuring way.

The young girl shook her head.  She held her hands in her lap, picking at her right thumbnail, staring intently at her fingers.  She seemed to be about to speak, then closed her mouth tight and bit her upper lip.

"Would it help if Richie were here?"

The nod was slight, the expression the same.  Anne walked to her office door and let him in.  He knelt down in front of Mary.  "Hello, luv. Feel like talking about it?"

Her breath caught in her throat, but without speaking, she shook her head again.  Her eyes were wide now.

"Whatever happened to you, Mary, we'll believe you.  Something happened, didn't it?"  He looked up at her with tender blue eyes, and she nodded.   "Something very bad?"  She repeated the gesture.

"They killed them," she whispered.  "I ran away."

"Vampires?" Anne asked gently.

Her nod was more deliberate.  "Mom and Dad.  Tommy.  I got out when they were killing them.  I got out ..."  She sniffed back tears, her eyes blinking, but her cheeks were wet.  "I should have stopped them.  But there aren't such things."  She looked up at Anne, eyes wide.  "Did I do it? Was it my fault?  Am I making it all up?  It can't be real."

"Yes, sweetie."  Anne handed her a tissue.  "Yes, it can.  I've seen them.  Whatever happened, it wasn't your fault.  Vampires are killers. Vicious killers.  You couldn't have stopped it."

"No," he said.  "You couldn't. Vicious they are."  But his forehead furrowed, frustrated by a memory he couldn't reach.

*****

"No.  NO!"  He tossed on the sofa, screaming into the afternoon.  "Kill you. No. Kill me.  Buffy, go!"

"Richie."  Brian's voice was softer than anyone would have expected. "Hey, pal."  He held the other man by the shoulders, trying to wake him gently.  "Richie. Wake up."

"Evil.  Everywhere.  Blood.  Oh, god, the blood."  He gasped for air. "Burning. I'm burning.  Help me."

Brian looked at Ranna, her arms crossed as she stared at the older man in the throes of a nightmare.  "Geez, what is it? Something in the water?"

"Just get Anne, okay?"

The girl sauntered out into the back yard. "Hey, Anne.  Your handyman's gone nutso."

Anne dropped the end of the badminton net and hurried through the back door into the living room.  "What's wrong?" she asked Brian.

"Poor guy's freaking out."  He stepped aside as Anne knelt beside the sofa.  "Richie?  Shhh.  It's okay."  She stroked the hair from his eyes and he calmed.  "Wake up, okay? Please?"

His eyes started open as his hand clapped to his forehead.  He rubbed the skin and felt his eyebrows, seeming incredulous.  His hand went to his mouth, investigating the tips of his teeth. "Nothing," he sighed. He looked at the woman beside him.  "Anne?"

She took his hand and squeezed it. "I'm here.  That must have been a hell of a nap." She cupped his cheek with her other hand and looked into his eyes.  "What happened?"

"I don't know."  He smiled with embarrassment and pushed himself to a seated position.  "Guess I was tired, what with last night's interruption and the yardwork this morning.  What did I do?"

"You said some pretty scary stuff."  Brian stood behind Anne, still watching him.  "Blood and death stuff.  Care to share?"

"I don't remember."  He ran his fingers through his curls.  "Wait.  No, that's crazy."

"What?"  Anne sat beside him on the couch.  "Did you remember something?"

"No."  He tried to concentrate.  "Yeah.  I dreamt I was a vampire."

*****

Anne took the girl's hand at the top of the stairs.  "I'm glad you called her.  You're going to be okay."

Mary trembled in her grasp.  "She won't believe me."

"That's okay."  Anne gave her a comforting squeeze.  "I do. And you can call me any time you need to talk."

Slowly they descended the staircase, finally meeting the middle-aged woman at the bottom.  Looking at her, Mary lost all composure, and ran into her arms.  "Auntie Chris."  She hugged her tight, tears flowing down her cheeks.

"My poor girl.  What you've been through."  Christine Reynolds kissed her niece's forehead, and looked towards Anne.  "Thank you for taking care of her.  We were so frightened.  Didn't know what to think.  After my sister ... after what happened ..."

Anne lay a hand on the older woman's shoulder.  "We were just glad to help."  She smiled at Mary.  "You ready to go, honey?"

Mary's eyes darted around the room.  "Where's Richie?  I want to say goodbye."

"Right here, luv."  He came out of the shadows.  "Didn't want to interrupt the reunion."

Christine turned to him. "You're the young man who helped my Mary, aren't you?  Miss Steele told me.  Thank you both, so much."

"She's a good kid."  He took Mary's hand in his.  "You mind your auntie, now.  She'll take good care of you."

"I'll miss you, Richie."

"You too, pet."

*****

"So, you really want to do this?"  Anne proceeded him down the stairs.

"Think it's for the best."  He stopped as they reached the basement floor.  "Don't really belong with the young ones.  They're friendly enough, an' all, but I think I'm cramping their style."

"I think you're being silly, but whatever you want."  She pointed to a Japanese screen.  "That should give you a little privacy.  I hope the laundry doesn't bother you.  They promised not to do it when you're asleep."

"More afraid of disturbing their sleep, really.  What with my little nightmare in the living room."  He took her hand.  "I just want to thank you for giving me this space. Taking me in. Everything."

She led him to the screen.  "It's not the Hilton, but hopefully it's home."

When she pulled the screen aside, his jaw dropped.  "What a beautiful bed. Antique, isn't it? Where's the cot?"

"Can't have you sleeping on a stinky old cot."

"But this."  He sat on the edge of the bed.  "You didn't go and spend money on this, did you?"

"No.  It was in storage.  Came with the house. The guys helped me set it up while you were at the hardware store."  She sat down beside him. "Like it?"

"Love it."

"I thought you might."  She ran her hand across the comforter.  "You need privacy."  Cupped his cheek with her hand.  "We need privacy."

"Anne?"

She undid the top button of his shirt.  "I hope you feel what I feel."

"Anne."  He took her in his arms and kissed her, as they fell back onto his bed.

*****

Brian opened the front door to the insistent knocking.  "Look, I told you she doesn't want to see you.  And knocking isn't going to do any more than ringing the bell did, except to piss me off."

Angel gave him an angry glare.  "Look.  You know and I know that you couldn't take me in a fight.  But I don't want to fight.  I just need to see Anne."

"And she doesn't need to see you."

Angel's eyes flashed yellow.  "I can help her.  You want the neighbourhood association to shut this place down?  Because I don't."

"It's okay, Brian." He stepped away from the door, and a woman's hand opened it wide.

Angel took a step forward, then paused at the threshold.

"Oh, for goodness' sake, I didn't disinvite you. Come in."  Anne crossed her arms and stood in the vestibule.  "What do you want?"

"I want to help you.  I know you don't trust Wolfram and Hart, but things have changed."  He looked towards the living room, but she didn't move.

"Things have changed.  You went to bed with the enemy.  You are Wolfram and Hart."  She sighed.  "I don't think there's anything else to say."

"But you need a lawyer."

"I have a lawyer."  Anne stared him in the eyes.  "I have a legitimate lawyer who is going to see that we don't have to move.  Aunt of one of my kids arranged it.  She was very grateful we're here.  So you can relax, stop worrying, and leave."

"I do worry. You're a friend. An old friend.  How do I know this lawyer is any good?"

"Good being the operative word.  We'll be fine."  She gestured towards the door. "If that's everything ..."

"Lorne says you brought some guy into the house.  Not a kid.  What do you know about him?"

Her teeth and fists clenched.  "I know it's none of your business.  I know you aren't jealous, so this is what?  Control freak Angel?"

"Like I said," he kept his voice even, "I worry about you."

"Stop. Worrying."  Her voice grew louder. "It's not. Your. Concern."

"Problem, love?"  He came into the foyer, and put an arm around her shoulder.  "You want this bloke to leave?"

Angel stared.  "You're dead."

Anne's voice dropped fifty degrees.  "If you're going to make threats ..."

"No."  The vampire's eyes narrowed. "He's dead. I mean, I heard he was dead."

"You know me."  He let go of Anne and stepped to the taller man.  "You know who I am. I can see it.  Please.  Who am I?"

"Who are ..."  Angel took a closer look at the other man.  His hair was darker and curly, like it was when Dru first brought him home.  But his skin was tanned.  And his heart was beating.  "I thought ... I'm not sure ..."

"Angel?"  Anne's heart was in her throat.  "If you know Richie ..."

"Richie?  No."  He almost said Spike, but that seemed wrong too. "William.  I think his name is William."

"How do you know him? Angel.  Angel?"  But the vampire had ducked out the door and into the night.

"William."  He put his arms around Anne and pulled her close, smiling. "I'm William."

*****

"She called again, you know."  Wes sat on the edge of his boss' desk. "Very insistent."

"Well, now she knows how it feels."  Angel shifted the papers into a straight pile. Again.

"So, why don't you talk to her?"

"And say what?"  Angel dropped the papers on the desk, not noticing them scatter.  He stood and walked over to the window.  "Tell her that her boyfriend and I used to slaughter the innocent together?  Tell her that if he gets his memory back he'll drop her like a hot potato and start sniffing after my ex again?  Who, I now know, would let him."  He pushed back the blind and looked down onto the street.  "If it is Spike.  Maybe some long lost descendant, though I'd bet the farm human William hadn't gotten any."

"He looks like Spike, though."

"Sounds like Spike. Looks like William."  He turned to stare at Wes. "Buffy told me what happened.  When she left, he was starting to burn. The whole town caved in on top of him.  How could it possibly be Spike?"

"There is the prophesy. Shanshu."

"Right."  Angel walked back to the window.  "And he had a soul.  Vampire with a soul, champion of the apocalypse."

"Which you believe should have been you."

"It was my amulet."  Spinning on his heels, he turned to Wes again.  "I should have worn it.  I should have been the one to become human."

"If he did."

Angel nodded.  "If he did.  Could all be a big coincidence.  Some guy who looks just like him.  But I tell you Wes, I swear it was Spike.  I swear he's alive."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

They both turned to see her.  Her face was drained of all colour.  Her eyes wide with shock.

"Oh, god," Angel said.  "Buffy."



Chapter 4

She ran all the way to the address Angel had given her.  He tried to tell her what had happened, but all she'd asked was "Where is he?" and taken off.  He was back. Spike was back.

And he hadn't tried to contact her.  She slowed her pace.  It made sense.  Where would he have looked for her?  Sunnydale was gone.

What if he were hurt?  What if ...

What if she recognized the tall girl with the bag of groceries, walking towards the house from the other direction.

"Buffy!"  The girl rushed towards her.  "What are you doing here?  It's so good to see you."

"Lily?"  Buffy stopped in front of the building.  "You're still in LA."

"Yep."  She pointed towards the house.  "This is my place.  But it's Anne now.  Just like your nametag."

"You took my name. I'm flattered.  Better than a mushroom."  Buffy looked at the house.  "This is your place?  I'm guessing you aren't still a waitress."

"I run a teen shelter.  Don't look so surprised.  You inspired me."  She started up the walkway.  "Come inside."

Buffy followed her.  "Actually, I'm looking for someone."

"A kid?  We don't have anyone here from Sunnydale, I'm pretty sure." She kicked at the door with her toe.  "I forgot my key."

"Not a kid ..."

He opened the door.  She looked up into his blue eyes.  His hair was dark, longer than it had been when he got back from Africa, without the blond tips.  She wanted to throw herself at him, bury herself in him. Tell him he was so wrong about the last thing he'd said to her.

He looked right past her, taking the bag from Anne's arms.  "I wish you'd told me you were going shopping, sweetheart.  Would have carried those for you."

"They aren't that heavy."  Anne looked around, saw that none of the residents were watching, then kissed him gently.  Smiled.  "Buffy, this is William."

"Hi."  He reached out his hand to her, shaking it.  "Nice to meet you."

"Buffy's the friend I told you about.  The one who helped me out when Richie died."

Buffy's hand was limp in his.

"Then I'm even more happy to meet you."  He put his arm around Anne's shoulder.  "Thanks for keeping my girl safe.  Means more to me than you can know."

Anne looked at Buffy with concern.  "You okay?"

"I'm fine.  It's just ... It's a little hot today."

"You look like you're going to faint.  Come in and I'll get you a cold drink.  We'll talk."

"No ... I have to go."  Buffy looked at him one last time.  "I don't think my friend is here after all."

"You sure?"  William cocked his head to the side.  "Look like you need to sit down."

She wasn't sure she could answer.  Wasn't sure if there was air left in her body.  "I'm sure," she said quietly, turned and walked away.

*****

They were in bed, his arm draped across her chest, when he started screaming.  She rolled him over, trying to hold him still, cooing his name calmly.  His eyes stared open, but he wasn't awake.  They flitted back and forth, watching images she couldn't imagine.  He started babbling, incoherent words she couldn't follow, except for an occasional name.  Dru.  Buffy.  Angelus.

When he did wake up, he shot straight up in the bed, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, holding his head in his hand.  Moaning.

She wrapped herself around him.  "William?  Darling?  What happened?"

"I remember."   He turned his head and looked at her.  "My name is Spike."

"No," she laughed, a nervous laugh.  "That can't be.  Spike was a vampire.  He killed Billie Fordam.  Almost killed me, but Buffy saved us."  She pushed the hair back from his forehead. "I must have mentioned it to you."

"No.  I remember everything.  Over a hundred years of everything.  My name was William, once.  But I'm Spike.  I knew Angel.  Know him. That's why he recognized me."

"But you aren't a vampire," she insisted.  She took his hands between hers.  "You're warm and alive."

"Something happened to me.  Something with that amulet.  I don't know."

"You can't be Spike."  She was growing angry. "Spike was a killer.  He was dangerous.  Stop this."

He bent over the edge of the bed and picked up his pants.  "I have to go."

"Where?"

He picked his shirt off the end of the bed.  "I have to see Buffy."

*****

A tall, thin young woman answered the apartment door.  "Is Buffy here?" Spike asked.  "Angel said she stayed here last night."

"Oh, you must be Spike."  The girl held out her hand.  "Fred.  I work with Angel.  You're the guy that used to be a vampire, but now he isn't, and you must be so confused.  I mean, I would be, if it were me.  I had to live in another dimension for a long time, and it's so disorienting, isn't it, being brought back?"

"Is Buffy here?" he asked again.  "Can I see her?"

The woman blushed.  "Oh, where are my manners?  Come on in.  She's in the bedroom, and I'll go get her.  It's just - I'm met vampires before, but not used to be vampires.  Sit down here and I'll go get her."  She walked down the hall and knocked on the bedroom door.  "Buffy," she called, "There's someone here to see you."

Buffy opened the door.  "Tell Angel I'm not in the mood right now."

"It's not Angel.  It's Spike."

Buffy ran her fingers through her hair as she headed towards the living room.  He stood up when he saw her.

"Buffy."  He put his arms out and she hugged him.  "It's so good to see you.  I'm so glad you got out okay."

"You're alive."  She put her hand on his chest and felt the heart beat. "I mean, really alive.  How?"

"I don't know.  Don't remember anything between the Hellmouth and waking up here in LA.  Didn't even remember who I was until last night."  He smiled down at her.  "You look good, pet."

"You've been staying with Lily?"  She stepped back.  "Anne, I mean."

"Yeah, she took me in.  Takes in all kinds of strays.  She's amazing, really.  Not much older than those kids herself, and she helps them.  We had this one girl, Mary.  Poor little thing could barely speak when she got there.  Gonna be okay now, I reckon.”  He realized she'd looked away.  "Sorry.  Rambling on.  How've you been?"

"Fine."  She shook her head.  "This is a miracle. You know that, right? We all thought you were dead.  I thought you were dead."

"Maybe I was.  Got no explanation, 'cept that shiny bauble you gave me."  He took her hand.  "In any case, I'm alive now."

"Yeah.  You are.  And you look happy.  Yesterday, you looked happy."

"This'll sound strange, what with my past, but I really seem to fit in there. At the shelter.  With those kids."

She squeezed his hand, then let it go.  "With Anne."  She studied him, trying to hold on to the memory of his face.  "I'm glad for you."

He rested a hand on her shoulder.  "Buffy, I wouldn't hurt you for the world.  You mean far too much to me for that.  What you said, just before you left.  When I told you to go."

She reached her hand to cover his.  "You were right.  I didn't really mean it.  I was just trying to make you feel better."

He let out a breath that sounded too much to her ears like relief. "That's good, then.  You'll always be with me," he took her hand and held it over his chest.  "Here."

"Me too."  She smiled her brightest smile.  "I came here look for a girl.  The coven said she was in LA, and she needs some help.  She's a Slayer, and she didn't know what hit her.  Did you know Angel isn't even a detective anymore?  He's like a lawyer or something."  She turned aside, not daring to look at him.  "I called Giles, and now they say she isn't even here anymore.  So I'm leaving in the morning."  She sat on the couch.  "It was great to see you.  We'll keep in touch.  I know where you live, right?"

"And you?"

"Wherever these girls take me."  She looked down at her hands.  "I guess we sort of have the same job. Helping kids."

"Yeah.  Who'd a thought."

Fred opened the bedroom door and stepped out.  "I'm really sorry to interrupt, but I just have to use the little girl's room."

"That's okay, pet.  Just going."  He tipped Buffy's chin up with his forefinger. "You need anything, luv. Anytime.  I'll be there."  Kissed her forehead and let himself out the door.

"Buffy?  You okay?"  Fred looked with dismay as Buffy collapsed in tears.  She sat on the couch beside her and took her in her arms.  "What happened?"

"Life," Buffy sniffed, her head buried in Fred's shoulder.  "Just life."

*****

Brian was standing at the door when he got home.  "What the hell did you do to her?"

"Who?"  Spike readied himself to duck.

"Anne.  She's been crying since you left."

"Anne?"  Spike pushed past the taller man.  "Anne?" he called.  "I'm back."

"I see."  Her face was set.  "You find Buffy?  You come back to get your things?"

"What?"  He looked at Brian. "Do you mind?"

Anne gestured to the big man, and he left the foyer.  "I put two and two together. The way she looked at you.  The way you ran out of here when you got your memory back.  She's your girlfriend, right?"

"I won't lie to you."  He reached for her, but she pulled back.  "I did love her, for a long time.  And we were ... intimate.  But whatever Buffy was to me, she was never my girlfriend."

Anne bit her lower lip, raising her eyes to meet his.  "Then why?"

"I had to see her.  Let her know I remembered. What she must have thought yesterday..."  He could see the pain on Anne's face.  "What you must have thought."  He took her hand. "Come with me."

She let him lead her into the living room.  "What are you doing?"

"Hey, guys."  An assortment of heads turned his way.  "I'm in love with Anne.  That okay with you lot"

Karen beamed, Nat grinned, Glen gave him a thumbs up, and Ranna shrugged.  "Whatever."