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Summary: Buffy doesn't just leave home; she goes one better and leaves Sunnydale. Her journey takes her to New Orleans, where she takes a job from a mysterious man named Beck.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Movies > Rundown, ThecjsplaceFR15952,4817329,51925 Nov 1223 Aug 13Yes

A New Attitude


Summary: Buffy doesn't just leave home; she goes one better and leaves Sunnydale. Her journey takes her to New Orleans, where she takes a job from a mysterious man named Beck. The Scoobies and AI Team race against time to retrieve the only person who can defeat the First. Will they find her and if they do, is she the same Buffy they once knew?

Disclaimer: Joss Whedon owns BtVS/AtS. Universal Studios and Columbia Pictures produced The Rundown.

Pairings: Beck/Buffy

Timeline: The BtVS remains the same with the exception that Faith broke out of jail when the Bringers attacked her in her bunk. She made her way to Sunnydale to try and make amends.

The Angel timeline is drastically different (thus the AU part). No Connor, Beast or Jasmine. Lorne informs Angel his soul became permanent when he returned from Hell. Angel and Cordelia became a couple after Groo left. She's part demon but no higher power crap.

Wesley and Angel have a falling out, which led to Wesley's walk on the wild side with Lilah, but he soon came back into the fold. Fred and Gunn break up over the professor, leading to Fred and Wesley getting together. The Rundown interaction starts post-movie.

Anote: Intentionally mixed Hoodoo and Voodoo for the spells and references. Not meant with disrespect to either belief, for storyline purposes only.

Special Notes: Thanks as always to my two wonderful betas, Becca and Amanda. They keep me sane, and help me put those commas in the right place. Thanks girls you make my stories better, love ya.

Buffy had heard enough, she turned and walked out of her own home without saying a single word. She headed for the mansion where she kept an emergency bag. Angel hadn't crossed her mind in months, not since their disastrous meeting after her friends pulled her from Heaven. It seemed strange it was where she went to gather the things she needed, since she had certainly never received them from the owner. Walking into a place where only bad memories should remain, she felt surprisingly light. She rushed upstairs to grab her things. Closing the door with a loud 'thud', Buffy walked away from her home, her sister, her friends - her life.

She had made a decision while they announced the current situation was her fault. They weren't happy to stop there either. Her friends and the little sister she had literally died for blamed her for everything that had ever gone wrong in their lives.

Buffy decided in that moment she would never allow anyone to make her feel like she had during the Scoobies' attack. Nope. She shook her head as if her physical response to confirm her thoughts. She vowed to never allow someone else to decide how she should live or what she did. It was her life and everyone else could just - Get Bent.

Spike returned from the mission several hours later, only to find the house in utter chaos. He stared at the gathered group as if they had lost their minds.

"The girl saves your life year after year, and you throw her out of her own home?!"

Dawn tried to make him understand although she regretted her own involvement. She still felt Buffy needed taken down a notch or two. Everything would be fine tomorrow, when Buffy realized they were right and would finally listen to them.

"Spike, you weren't here. She's the reason Xander lost his eye and three of the Potentials are dead."

She knew her sister would apologize and everything would return to normal. Dawn had finally made peace with Spike, and didn't want to lose him, not again. She had lost too many people this past year and the blonde vampire seemed to understand her better than anyone else.

"Did you learn anything at the mission?" Giles asked, eyeing the blonde vampire with a hopeful expression.

"Were you expecting me to Rupes, or was it just a way to get me out of the way so you could ambush the Slayer?"

A scarred eyebrow rose in question. He did not intend to tell them what he had learned because it was for Buffy alone to know.

"Of course, I expected you to find something. You weren't here. Buffy was out of control; she has to learn some limits."

Spike snorted then leveled a blazing blue stare at the Watcher.

"You mean like she should've killed Dawn instead of sacrificing herself?"

Dawn looked away embarrassed Spike was reminding her of everything Buffy had done for her.

"Or, I know, she should have killed Willow when she went all Destroy the World."

Willow paled at the memory. Kennedy sent the blonde vampire a hateful look as she wrapped her arms around the visibly shaken witch.

"Maybe she should've fought harder to stay in heaven when they ripped her out, only to come back and have her Watcher scamper off to merry ole leaving her to stand on her own two feet."

He leveled another hard stare at the Watcher, before turning it on the rest of those in the room.

"That's enough," Xander interrupted. "You weren't here, so you can't judge our reactions. Buffy will cool off then come back, and we'll work this out like always."

Spike stared at the Whelp truly gobsmacked. He scanned the room and saw each of Buffy's friends shake their heads in agreement. He couldn't believe those closest to her had totally missed what as happening right in front of them. The blonde vampire had had enough and turned to leave. He stopped in the doorway unable to leave without having the final word.

"You people are priceless; it would serve you right if she never came back. You should all - Get Bent."

A few miles from Sunnydale, a petite blonde boarded a bus headed for New Orleans. She nestled into her seat and closed her eyes, opening them a sliver to see an older woman with a kind face sit next to her. She shifted in her seat and went back to sleep. The woman smiled at the tiny Slayer.

"Yes dear, sleep. You've earned some rest for all your hard work."

The woman, known as Dancing Eagle, had grey weathered eyes, the kind you get from years of understanding. They had the fine lines caressing their corners from an aptitude to smile rather than frown. She wore a long leather skirt and soft knee-high moccasins. Her skin was the deep bronze of her heritage and love of the sun.
Dancing Eagle knew this girl was a great warrior, who was important to the world. She softly chanted while the rest of the bus slept. When she finished, Buffy sighed and a smile crossed her lips.

"Yes, little one rest, grow strong, you'll have to fight again one day. Not tonight though, no not tonight. You rush toward your future in order to confront your past."

Dancing Eagle closed her eyes with a satisfied smile. The bus stopped, causing Buffy to wake. Someone had wrapped a soft Indian blanket around her, and she was resting her head on the shoulder of the woman in the seat next to her. She jerked up quickly looking for any sign of trouble. In her sleep-addled mind, for a second, she was still in Sunnydale. She relaxed when she realized it wasn't a dream; she was on a bus headed away from her old life.

There was a strange feeling of inner peace that reminded her of heaven. No burdens weighed her shoulders down, no one telling her she did everything wrong. She was responsible for her own actions.

"Hello Warrior," Dancing Eagle's soft voice wrapped around Buffy like the blanket still covering her. Her storm-colored eyes watched the young girl who had already seen more than anyone her age should ever see.

"I'm sorry; I must've been more exhausted than I knew. Wait a minute, how did you know what I am?"

Buffy looked at the older woman with the eyes of a Slayer but there weren't any bad vibes coming off her. She actually felt like Tara used to, calming and safe.

"You're a witch." It wasn't a question at all; it was a statement.

"Your eyes and senses are sharp, Warrior. My name is Dancing Eagle and I'm the shaman for my people. I've found it my pleasure to help a true Warrior of the Light. Just know young one, opening yourself to new experience is the best use of your time. Your life has been laid out for you since you were little more than a child, now it's time for you to take control of your own destiny."

Thinking about everything she'd gone through the last few years, she realized her life had been out of her control for a long time and she was constantly running to catch up to it.

"I will. I've decided it's time I find out exactly who and what I am without anyone else's opinion."

"Good child, you should try New Orleans. It's a city where one can start over, just another body in a crowded place. A city whose history may speak to you of times long past."

Dancing Eagle got off the bus in Arizona and wished her the best. She knew her blessing would protect Buffy from intruders until she felt ready to face her past.

Buffy decided to try New Orleans. When she stepped off the bus, she wasn't disappointed. The French Quarter was beautiful with its raised sidewalks and quaint shops. New Orleans had a vibe unlike any other city. Excitement raced along just under the surface like the night before a big party. It carried over to the friendly people who smiled and wished her good day as they passed her on the street.

The bus driver told her about a clean but reasonably priced hotel a few blocks from the heart of the Quarter. Buffy knew she'd have to get a job soon, but for now, she just wanted to learn the city. Its energy was contagious. The sights and sounds were like nothing she had ever experienced before.

For the first time in months, she didn't feel tired. It never dawned on her to wonder why thoughts of her family and friends didn't enter her mind. Since waking up on her seat mate's shoulder, Sunnydale and everything associated with it were a distant and not so pleasant memory.

She wandered along the raised cobblestone sidewalks of the French Quarter, walked down the famous Bourbon Street, stopping along the way to watch the street performers and artists. Seeing a shop with shrunken heads in the window, she couldn't stop her smile or the temptation of walking inside to look around. She went inside to take a closer look at the strange treasures.

A beautiful black woman with café au lait skin, wearing tribal print clothing greeted her at the door.

"Ah child, come in, come in. Look over what we have to offer."

"Thank you."

Buffy gave her a bright smile. Something about the woman told her she was more than a shopkeeper. Looking down the aisles of merchandise, a necklace caught her eye. She couldn't stop herself from reaching out to touch it.

A soft voice came from behind her. "Only a special person would feel the pull of the stone."

She turned to see a tiny old woman with coal black eyes, which seemed to hold the knowledge of the universe in their depths.

"Who are you? I didn't even hear you behind me."

"I be Momma Laveaux, a Voodoo priestess descended from our Queen Marie."

Momma looked at the tiny child who carried everything she'd seen and done in her large green eyes. She watched Buffy spin around to grab the arm of a large teenager.

"That isn't yours." Her voice turned deep and dangerous, while her hand tightened on a beefy arm.

"What's it to you?"

Swinging stringy hair out of his eyes, he had thought the blonde would keep the old woman busy while he snatched jewelry from the shelf. He stole several necklaces, rings and bracelets, before Buffy had caught him. She noticed he had taken everything around the necklace, almost as if he didn't see it lying there.

"Just call me a concerned citizen, now leave on your own or I'll help you."

"Don't make me laugh. What could you do to me?"

His chest puffed out while he glared down at her. It was the last straw. For the last few months, Buffy had choked down people doubting her and challenging everything she did. She wasn't about to take it for one more minute. Her hand tightened on the would-be thief's arm.

"I thought I would do this."

She used his own hand to smack him in the face.

"Then maybe this."

Pulling his arm with a hard jerk, she caused his feet to fly out from under him.

"Now for my dismount."

She grabbed the other arm then proceeded to drag the cussing teen from the shop.

"Let go of me, you bitch. You'll pay for this."

He struggled but couldn't get away from the tiny blonde.

"Yeah, yeah, I know you're gonna kick my ass. Make me scream for you to stop, yada, yada, yada."

She pulled hard on both arms, sending the boy in a heap out onto the sidewalk. He got up with all the dignity he could muster. When he attempted to enter the shop again, her eyebrow rose in challenge as she leaned against the doorframe without a care in the world. A crowd was starting to gather and the teen decided to leave, before someone called the police.

Momma watched with curiosity but no surprise.

"Come to the back child, let me feed you. We have étouffée and there's plenty for you. Looks like someone needs to fatten you up. Momma's going to take care of you right proper child."

They talked for hours. When Buffy left, the necklace lay firmly around her neck. A center stone of deep green jade surrounded by peridot hung on a long chain of braided silver, which left the amulet resting against her heart.

The necklace had a strange effect on her. She felt for the first time since she returned from Heaven that she once again fit in her own skin. Momma had the same effect on her as Dancing Eagle, sending out a sense of peace and safety that surrounded her. Her step was light and carefree as she walked back to her hotel.

Beck looked around his new restaurant with pride. The dream that he had for the longest time was about to become reality. The menu was set, and they nearly had a full staff. Taking the recipes he'd collected over the years, he had added his own special twist to create a mixed bag from touches of the Caribbean, fine French sauces down to the rich creamy gravies of the South.

He knew the one area not to touch was the traditional Creole and local Cajun synonymous with New Orleans. The city had an over abundance of those type restaurants. He wanted to give the lavish city something new. It had to have reasonable portions and prices on the upper side, though not outrageous without getting too far off the beaten path as to scare away the customers. It was a place to impress a first date or celebrate your fiftieth wedding anniversary.

He had a presence that demanded attention while remaining approachable, which was exactly what New Orleans looked for in its newest possible up and coming celebs. He stood over six feet tall, with sun-darkened skin that spoke of his Hawaiian heritage, a strong jaw line, high cheekbones, and a mouth that looked good smiling, showing off the single dimple in his right cheek. He wore his dark hair short in a style that suited him by bringing focus to his sparkling dark eyes. Muscles showed through his tailor made suit and on another man, it could have looked strange but he wore the clothes with the ease of a model.

"What the hell do I do with these?"

Travis, his 'partner', walked in carrying an armload of flowers as if they were poisonous.

"Well you could propose but I don't think he'll accept." A soft voice quipped from behind them.

They turned to see a petite blonde with large hazel eyes, tanned golden skin and a mouth that would make any man's mouth water. Her lips were plump pink and turned up into a beautiful smile.

"Can I help you?" Travis and Beck spoke at the same time.

They looked at each other, and Beck raised an eyebrow challenging Travis, who ignored the much larger man as usual. He checked the raised eyebrow and raised his buddy a wink, before moving toward the beautiful blonde. She tried hard not to giggle as the younger, slender man strutted forward. He was cute even if he was obviously a smart ass. His light blue eyes showed creases at the edges from the perpetual smile he wore. His friend was much larger but the shaggy blonde had a stringy kind of strength that reminded her of Spike.

She admitted she missed her ex-lover's friendship. The last year had dramatically changed their relationship. She had finally decided to stop running from her memories, accept her past and the part she had played in coming to the place she was now. Spike was her friend. It was for the best they didn't return to the relationship they had before, but create a new one, a stronger one. She knew he still loved her and she admitted in her own way she loved him too. They just weren't good together as a couple. The attempted rape proved it.

Buffy realized she was falling into a dark place. She was afraid she'd let her baser instincts take over every part of her life if she didn't change.

He was angry at first, but the further away from Sunnydale he got, the more he realized he needed to make some changes too. Spike couldn't make what he did disappear, but he could ensure it never happened again. He went on a quest to do whatever he had to in order to make that happen.

Buffy realized that was what she meant to do here in New Orleans. What happened in Sunnydale shouldn't have gone that far, whether she could have stopped it long ago by changing something within her was what she needed to know. All she knew was she couldn't go back to the way things were, and did not intend to continue feeling the way she had since her return. Something had to change, and right now, she was too hurt, too angry, to fix anything but herself.

"What brings you here Miss and how did you get in? We won't be opening for a few more days."

"I know. A friend told me you might still need a waitress. I have experience and could use the job."

Beck looked at the tiny blonde and knew she was hiding something. His history as a "collector" taught him how to read even the smallest nuances of body language. This woman had a past she wanted to leave behind. He understood how that felt and decided to help her, the way he wished someone would've helped him. He didn't regret his past, not really. But, he'd rather not have seen some of the things he had.

"We're still setting things up, but if you want to help, it'd make it go faster. I'll interview you as we work. If I think that you'll fit in with the current staff, I'll give you the job. If not then I'll pay you for your time spent. Sound fair to you?"

"Sure, where do you want me to start?"

"You could give me your name."

He gave her a slow sexy smile.

Travis watched the sparks fly between his reserved friend and the gorgeous blonde.

Oh well. He mentally shrugged. New Orleans was full of pretty women.

"My name's Buffy Summers." She put her hand out for him to shake. "You must be Beck and that'd make you, Travis."

"You mentioned a friend told you about the restaurant. What's their name?"

Beck tried to think who it could be, but he had met so many people since he came to New Orleans.

"Momma Laveaux told me you needed help and that I was just the person for the job. She's a hoot and makes great étouffée."

"She gave you some of her étouffée. You must've done something special for her to ask you to eat with her. Momma told me she puts a piece of her spirit in everything she makes."

He had met the famous woman at the market, where she introduced him to the best venders. He had walked her home and unloaded her groceries. Momma told him his life would change soon, and he'd find his future when he least expected it.

Buffy took the flowers from Travis. "Do you have some Sprite and a deep bucket? These will stay fresh and last longer if you put them in the freezer with some Sprite in the water. How deep are the vases?"

He pointed to a row of shallow bowls with floating candles sitting in the bottom. They only needed the water added. She walked over to inspect the bowels while both men inspected her. They liked what they saw. The low-rise jeans fit her like a second skin following the curve of her rear all the way down to her calves then gently flared to cover her three-inch heeled boots.

"It's going to take more flowers to keep these looking nice. The tops are the only part that'll work with the floating candles. They'll look pretty but you'll have to throw them out every night. Did you think about smaller bowls with just the candles? You could have a few fresh flower arrangements around that should last at least a week if you change the water every day."

She cocked her head to the side trying to see where the flowers would look the best. Buffy liked the clean simple elegance of the restaurant. The tables were far enough apart to give each customer a feeling of privacy. The bold colors of black and white with splashes of red accents gave it a crisp clean look.

"Where did you learn about flowers?" Beck asked while he watched her expressive face.

Lost in thought, she didn't hear him approach. "My mom," her eyes momentarily clouded with sadness, "she owned an art gallery before she died."

He saw the sadness behind her large hazel eyes before she quickly replaced it with a bright sunny smile, and understood a piece of her psyche in that brief moment. This woman kept her heart inside, only allowing others to see it in small doses. He wondered who the real Buffy Summers was, and found himself wanting to meet her.

She felt his dark eyes watching her as if he could see through her skin to what she held deep inside. This man reminded her of the way Angel used to look at her, as if he saw her, not just the outside but also the whole package. Buffy wasn't ready to let anyone into her life, so she did what came natural to her. She buried her feelings even deeper as she finished creating the arrangement, weaving roses, carnations and lilies together into an intricate design. He watched her nimble fingers turn a bunch of flowers into a simple yet beautiful masterpiece.

"Would you consider taking the hostess position? I haven't found anyone for it yet and you have an eye for detail that would be a great asset."

He watched her mull over his offer.

"How much does it pay? I'm staying at a hotel right now but need to look for something more permanent soon."

"I can pay you $500 a week to start, with a raise guaranteed if we do well."

He put out his hand for Buffy to shake. She looked at the man in front of her. There was a sense of honor about him she hadn't felt in a long time. It reminded her of the way Angel was when they first met. The thought of her ex-lover caused her eyes to close for the briefest of moments.

"Sounds good to me. Are there uniforms? Please, tell me no stripes with dorky hats," she said with a soft whine.

Travis laughed, liking the tiny blonde. He especially liked the way she got to Beck without even trying.

"No, just a black skirt and white dress shirt will be fine."

Buffy thought it sounded boring but it was definitely as step up from the Doublemeat uniform.

"I can handle that for now," she warned. "Maybe later I can talk you into something jazzier. If we are through here, I have some shopping to do. Oh, yeah, Momma said to come and see her about folding something or other."

She shrugged her shoulders then left as silently as she had entered.

"Can I just say wow and ahooga?" Travis gave Beck a wolfish grin. "She'll have them lining up around the block. Man all that blonde golden goodness in a tight little package."

Beck frowned at his friend's words. He wasn't sure why the idea of other men ogling Buffy didn't sit well with him. He didn't stop to look any deeper into why the beautiful blonde called to a part he thought dead. All he knew was he wanted to make the pain he saw buried deep in her eyes go away.

The Scoobies weren't sure what to do, Buffy didn't return they way they thought. Finally, after three days, they went searching for her. The SiTs grouched about it and Kennedy complained the loudest.

"Why do we care where she is? We told her to leave; we didn't need her bossing us around. Faith's the leader now; everyone voted that was the way it should be."

"Do you ever shut up?" Faith glared at the dark haired teen. "B has to be somewhere," she said as she continued in her search. "We need to be sure she's okay. I didn't ask to be the leader, but all of you decided, so shut up and do as you're told."

The other SiTs jumped to obey, including Kennedy, who continued to grumble, but joined Willow in the search.

Dawn refused to leave her room. She immediately felt bad about what she said to Buffy. She didn't know why she did it. It felt good at the time to have the power, the deciding vote, for once. Only after she saw her sister's face change did Dawn realize what she had done. The last remaining light faded from Buffy's eyes, then went out. She knew her sister loved her, but couldn't help resenting the long periods of time Buffy had left her alone. With the potentials here, and having even more people to share Buffy with, Dawn had finally snapped.

"Dawnie, you have to remember Buffy loves you. She tried her best to be a good parent to you, but that wasn't her job. All I thought about was keeping my girls together. I knew she would keep you safe. I just didn't think much about the other things you both needed. I'm sorry sweetheart."

There floating beside her bed in flowing white robes was Joyce Summers. She looked so beautiful it brought tears to Dawn's eyes.

"Mommy, is it really you? No. You're the First just trying to make me feel even worse than I already do."

"No, pumpkinbelly it's me. I don't have much time. You just need to know I love you. You're my little girl but now it's time to grow up and stop blaming Buffy because you miss me. I'm sorry I can't be with you, Dawn but it isn't your sister's fault. You need to remember she misses me too, and she lost me twice." She looked at her mother's spirit confused. "Think about it. You're a smart girl, it'll come to you."

Joyce gave her youngest daughter a soft smile then disappeared.

Dawn got off the bed and went into the eerily empty bathroom to wash her face. She looked in the mirror and didn't like what she saw. In that moment of clarity, she realized she needed to make some changes. It was time to grow up, just as her Mom had said. Buffy wasn't responsible for everything that had happened in her life. With that thought in mind, she decided to go to the one person who might know how to find her sister - Spike.

The First paced in its underground lair. Never in its wildest imaginations would it have believed the Slayer would leave the Hellmouth. There had to be a way to ensure her return. Without the Slayer, the First's plan couldn't succeed.

It continued to wear its Buffy mask, but that was where the similarities stopped. Waves of evil surrounded the F.E. This case called for a subtle attack; otherwise, the Slayer might never return.

An evil grin spread across 'her' face as it disappeared from the underground lair. It watched Willow, still able to feel the evil that had permanently marked the witch's soul.

Doyle appeared in Angel's hotel room.

"Angel, me boyo, wake up, the Slayer needs you."

The souled vampire jumped from his bed in a single bound. He looked around then his jaw dropped in wonder.

"Doyle, is it really you?"

The half-Brachen demon smiled at his friend. His blue eyes filled with a strange light that went unnoticed by Angel.

"Hello Angel. The PTB want you to know they're proud of you. They sent me to tell you the Slayer needs you. Go to Sunnydale. Find out what's happening. Good luck, me boyo."

"Doyle! Come back here! What's wrong with Buffy?" Angel screamed at the top of his lungs.

Gunn and Wesley ran into the room with a battle-axe and sword, respectively, gripped in their hands. They stood back-to-back, ready to fend off whatever new evil had invaded their home.

"Angel, are you okay? Where are they?" The street fighter only saw the vampire standing in the room staring at the ceiling.

"I have to go to Sunnydale. Doyle came to tell me Buffy's in trouble." With those cryptic words, he disappeared from the room.

"I really hate it when he does that."

The two men nodded in agreement.

Angel rushed to Sunnydale, heading straight for Buffy's house to bang on the door while he screamed her name at the top of his lungs. The door flew open and an angry dark-haired girl stood there glaring at him. He saw a hand pull her away before she could do or say anything. He started forward when Faith stepped into view, giving him a welcoming grin.

"Come on in Big A. B isn't here. In fact, I was just about to call to see if she was with you."

Angel wasn't sure what Faith was doing here. Last he knew, she was still in jail working for her redemption.

"What do you mean? Why isn't Buffy here? Why don't you know where she is?"

Before Faith could explain about the Bringers, and her escape from prison, Kennedy jumped into the conversation - again.

"She's not the leader anymore. We voted her out and Faith in. At least, she won't get us killed," the angry dark haired girl spoke out, giving him a hard stare.

"Who the hell are all these people? What gave any of you the right to vote? You can't make her stop being what she is."

The more he asked the more confused he got.

"Look, Dead Boy, you weren't here. Buffy was out of control. We had to make her see that, so we voted for Faith to take over."

Xander still didn't like the vampire, and didn't particularly care for him showing up, after all these years, to try and tell them how to deal with Buffy, as if he was an expert.

He stared at them as if he hadn't heard them correctly. Yes, he knew Faith was a good fighter, but she wasn't exactly a people person and didn't really play well with others. As far as he knew, she didn't have any leadership experience, not to mention she just came from years of incarceration. He wasn't even sure how she had gotten here, but that was a conversation for later. These people had obviously lost their minds, since when had they decided the two Slayers were suddenly interchangeable.

"Where's Giles?"

The Watcher stepped forward looking much older than he remembered. His eyes showing the doubt and fear he hid from the others.

"The Powers sent me a message that Buffy's in trouble. Why's the town so deserted?"

"I would've thought you'd have heard what was happening here from your connections in LA. The First is back and attempting to destroy the Slayer Line. The Watchers Council's gone and these girls are the last remaining Potentials."

He swept a hand out to encompass the girls that filled the room then waited to see how Angel would react to the news.

"WHAT!" He roared at them, causing the girls to shrink back and Faith to step forward. "You mean to tell me Buffy's out there alone while the First Evil is loose? What's happened to you people? I never thought I'd see the day you'd turn your backs on her. No wonder the Powers power sent me here."

"That's rich coming from you, Peaches."

Spike stood leaning against the dining room doorframe, having come in the back door in time to hear the last part of Angel's speech. He lit a cigarette, taking a deep drag before he continued.

"What's the matter? Jealous these wankers are pushing in on your territory. You the only one allowed that privilege?"

"SPIKE! What are you doing here?" He turned to look at Giles and the Scoobies for answers. What is happening here? Has everyone gone crazy? "What's he doing here?"

No one answered him. There wasn't a single volunteer crazy enough to explain the blonde vampire and Buffy's relationship to the large, angry vampire. Angel turned back to his grandchilde happy to have a target for his frustration.

"My relationship with Buffy is none of your business, and it isn't the issue at the moment; finding Buffy is."

The bleached blonde vampire's bark of laughter stopped his grand sire's tirade.

"Don't you wonder why she didn't call to ask for your help, you big poof? She didn't want you here, so go back to LA where you belong."

Dawn pushed through the crowd to stand beside Spike. She glared at Angel who had always caused her sister to cry.

"Go away, Angel, we'll find Buffy. We don't need your help."

Retreating as if she had physically struck him, he had always thought the teenager had a soft spot for him.

"Can't do that. The Powers decide where I'm needed and they say it's here."

"Angel." Willow stepped up to him, placing her hand on his arm as she gave him a sad smile. "We've searched everywhere for her. Buffy isn't in Sunnydale. Maybe it's best if you went back to LA in case she shows up there. Ask your contacts to see if they can help find her."

"Promise you, the Slayer won't turn up till she wants to be found. You gits created this mess, now you can bloody well live with it. Thought you could handle everything on your own? So start handling."

Spinning on his heels, Spike started walking away, wondering why he let the Bit talk him into coming back here.

"I'm not through talking to you, boy!" Angel roared at his wayward grandchilde.

He pulled away from Willow as he went after the smaller man, grabbing him by the arm to swing him around, only to get a fist to the face. He found himself on the floor looking up in shock.

"I'm not your boy. I may have been Angelus' once, but never yours. Shove off, Peaches, you're not worth the time it'd take to knock some sense into that huge head of yours. You'd think with one that large, there'd be some type of grey cells snapping."

Angel launched himself at Spike. What he didn't realize after fighting by Buffy's side for the last three years, Spike wasn't a vamp anyone wanted to mess with. A look of pure glee crossed his face when he met the much larger vampire with a foot to the head. Spike continued the kick into a spin, which had him following through with the other foot. He stood over the downed vampire, who was shaking his head in an effort to stop the ringing in his ears.

"Go back to LA. Redeem your soul, act human for your friends and boff the cheerleader. Oh, yeah, don't forget to mope and feel sorry for yourself. You're such a stupid wanker. How come when Buffy needed you, you never showed up? Forgive me, you showed up one time when the Irishman got a vision. What about when she fought Adam, or Glory? Or when she came back from Heaven and was hurting so bad? You're a pathetic excuse of a sire, and I withdraw any fealty to you and your line."

Angel slowly got to his feet, unsure what to make of the events and information. Spike had never beaten him in a fight before - ever.

"She always knew I was only a phone call away. All she had to do was ask, and I would've helped."

Spike snorted as he lit another cigarette. "Right, you say you're soul mates, hell Peaches, you may have marked her but you never knew her."

"I know Buffy better than anyone else," Angel shot back, daring his childe to deny his long history with the blonde Slayer.

"Right. Could ya feel her when she's hurt? Where did the Slayer go when you went to hell?"

"LA, what does that have to do with anything? Just spit it out, Spike. I'm tired and have to start looking for Buffy. She's in danger." His eyes turned amber as his face started to morph into his demon.

The blonde vampire looked at Angel and understood everything. It was clear as day that Angel was exactly like Angelus. He treated Buffy the same way he used to treat Dru, as a possession, to pick up or cast aside depending on his mood. Angel still saw her as the wide-eyed innocent he'd left; left, so she could have a normal life. He had no idea of the woman she'd become, or the sacrifices she'd made.

To Angel, Buffy would always need him to ride in to save the day...only to ride out again. But not before, he relit the eternal flame of first love, leaving her in a perpetual state of limbo. His frustration lay more in the fact she wasn't here waiting for him to play her part. Sure, Angel cared about her, but more as an iconic touchstone than as Buffy the person. She was his insurance policy in case everything went to pot with his wonder life in LA. Spike simply turned and walked away before he dusted the idiot.

Angel ran after him, grabbing his sleeve to spin him about. It pushed the Slayer of Slayers almost to the point of no return. He vamped out as his hand shot out to grab the souled vampire by the throat. Angel's eyes widened when for the first time he felt a shiver of fear. The look on Spike's face reminded him of Buffy's when she fought Angelus.

"Don't ever touch me again. I'm not yours to demand anything from. Since you can't seem to figure anything out on your own then I will tell you a few home truths. One of the Slayer's greatest strengths is her ability to see what lies underneath. Do you really think she stayed in LA for all those months and made no friends? Do you really think the PTB would send you someone to guide you after you left the person they sent you to protect? Buffy asked Whistler to find a way to help you, and he sent the Irishman. Even if you didn't care, whether she was safe or not, she cared about you. That's all I've got to say to you. Now, leave her and her town alone. They drove her away, and you helped, so don't come back here all worried. Go crawl into the bed you made with the cheerleader."

He threw Angel across the street, straight into a lamppost, and continued walking back to the house he had taken over after Buffy left. Dawn had only found him by chance when he went to his crypt to retrieve some of his things. He wasn't going to help the others, but would watch after the Niblet to make sure the stupid Scoobies didn't get her killed.
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