Backing Up a Friend


”Oh my God, Sharon, this guy is absolutely gorgeous! I can't wait for you to meet him, really!! I bet his friend is just as good looking – I'm so glad you agreed to come.” Even shivering in the night air, Rachel's grin was huge. Her cheeks were flushed and Sharon wondered just how many drinks she'd consumed since she'd called and begged Sharon to join her at the pub.

“Pull the other one, it's got bells on! I know you, Rachel, you've probably chosen the good looking one for yourself and left me with the absolute minger!” Following her friend into the pub, Sharon had a quick look around. The King's Head wasn't her favourite pub – it could get a bit rough on occasion – but she couldn't let Rachel down. Newly single after being dumped, her friend hadn't sounded quite so cheerful in a while and if it meant Sharon had to put up with an ugly blind date in order to make her friend smile, she could take one for the team. Shrugging off her jacket, she smoothed down her hair. “Where is this Adonis then?”

“He's got us a booth round near the back. He said his friend's a looker and that based on my description of you you're totally his friend's type.”

“Well he's hardly gonna tell you his mate hit every branch on the ugly tree now is he? Fine, fine – get me a vodka and coke while I go to the ladies and then I'll come and meet this gorgeous man of yours.” Rachel looked unsure of herself for a moment and Sharon instantly regretted her sharp tone. “What's he look like again? Just in case you're still at the bar when I come out.”

“You can't miss him. He's not that tall – well, just a bit taller than me actually. He's got blond hair that's kinda slicked back and the most gorgeous blue eyes!! He sounds like he's from London and I think he said he's visiting on business or something.” As quickly as that, Rachel's radiant smile was back and Sharon felt better.

“Short, blond, blue eyes – well that pretty much describes half the blokes in the bar!” They giggled as they had a look round and indeed, the number of blue eyed blond men did make the description sound a bit generic.

“Oh he is nothing like the lot you normally see in here! I bumped into him and HE apologised and bought me a drink – you can't say any of this lot would have done that!” Rachel most obviously had rose tinted glasses on – that and/or beer goggles – so Sharon decided to wait and make up her own mind. Right now, she needed a quick visit to the loo and a chance to check her make up hadn't run while she was out in the rain.

Shooing her friend towards the bar, she made her way through clusters of lads who had obviously come out to watch the footie on the big screen. Yet another reason she didn't like to drink here – there was nothing even vaguely entertaining or attractive about a group of drunken men shouting at a television screen and drowning their sorrows when their team failed to live up to expectations.

A pinch of her bum had her turning and scowling at the grinning idiot who obviously thought that his crooked smile was charming. She hastily reminded herself that she was there to be Rachel's wing-person and not to eviscerate the local wildlife and continued on her way. Any other night and she'd have grabbed his bollocks and turned them into earrings. Sometimes being so short seriously sucked arse because people took one look at her and thought she was going to match her sweet, innocent looking exterior – not in a month of Sundays.....

Her business completed in the bathroom, she washed her hands and checked her hair. She readily admitted it was her one true vanity and had been told on many occasions it was her best feature. A glorious shade rarely seen naturally, she spent a minor fortune getting it cut and treated regularly. It more than made up for skin she personally considered way too pale, although she was grateful to have avoided freckles. Walking back through the pub, she deftly avoided “Mr Smarmy Grin's” wandering hands and worked her way around the bar looking for Rachel and her new Mr Right.

It didn't take long to spot her – in fact, she heard her before she saw her. It made her smile hearing her friend laugh so loudly and freely, and she looked across the table to the man responsible. For once, Rachel hadn't exaggerated. Sharp cheekbones and amazingly pale skin (paler than her own even) almost gleamed beneath the light in the booth. He was saying something else to Rachel, his hands moving in an animated fashion, his eyes practically twinkling with mischief. Bloody hell, if Rachel hadn't spotted him first, Sharon might have gone for him herself. He looked like a real heart-breaker but judging by Rachel's rapt attention, her friend was obviously well smitten and thought it was worth the risk.

As she stepped forward, his gaze snapped to her's and she froze. There was no other way to describe it – she felt like a rabbit being hypnotised by a snake. The man had predator written all over his face and she felt a sudden urge to run and keep on running. The moment was broken when he gave her a small smile and she shook her head at her own fanciful imaginings – predator indeed. The guy couldn't be much taller than her in her heels and was leanly built – hardly the type to be a serial killer.

Plastering a smile to her face, she made her way over.

The friend had a more finely tuned sense of self preservation and Spike made an effort to push more of “William” to the forefront. Easy enough to project and he saw her visibly relax as they were introduced by Rachel.

“So where's your friend?” She took a sip of her drink before asking. He had to admire her direct tone – no passive young lady this one.

“He's on his way. Got delayed with some business which is how I came to meet this lovely young lady, and to be honest he doesn't like the wet'n'windy much. He's originally from the States – much more used to damned near constant sunshine.”

“Oh yeah, which part? I went to New York for my holidays last year and it was fab.”

“Southern California – little place called Sunnydale.”

“Bloody hell, wasn't that the little town that sank or something?!”

“Yeah, yeah, I read about it. No idea what happened – some kind of massive sink hole or something, wasn't it? Wasn't that years ago – he must have only been a boy.”

“Yeah something like that. We missed it as we'd already moved on but it was a bit of a big deal. Lost some people there.”

“Oh how awful – I'm so sorry.” The diminutive brunette put her hand on his arm sympathetically and Spike smiled 'sadly' into her hazel eyes.

“Yeah, lost my stepfather Liam – he got caught up underground when it all happened. Burnt up so couldn't even identify the body.”

“Oh my God, that's just horrendous!” Now both girls were looking at him with sad eyes, obviously deeply touched.

“Gotta move on though. We weren't close – had a bit of a falling out over some jewellery and hadn't spoken in a while. Then had a bit of a barney over a girl and I went off to Africa for a bit. Came back in time to get Xander and then we let wanderlust be our guide. Been all over the place.”


“Yeah, sorry, that's what I call Alex. He'll be here soon – in fact, I'll just pop out and see if he's in sight. He still gets lost when he's out and about on his own.” With a gentle smile to both ladies, Spike got up from the table and headed for the door. It surprised him how much talking about Angel had upset him, although he guessed losing your Sire hurt whether you were on the outs or not. He'd heard the story of how Angel had burned up closing the Hellmouth from Andrew before he'd eaten him and he supposed the old git dusted doing what he loved most – being a martyr.

A quick look back to the table and he could see the girls were deep in conversation. With a bit of concentration, he could hear some of what they were saying above the general hubbub of the pub, enough to know that Rachel was definitely hooked and doing a great job convincing Sharon to give Xander a chance. He gave Sharon the once over, smiling to himself. She couldn't have been more perfect if he had hand-picked her himself and was almost guaranteed to make Xander happy. The other man really disliked the cold weather but put up with it and restrictions on his favourite choice of prey so that Spike could finish his business. Tonight was in the way of a farewell to Blighty and a thank you to Xander at the same time. This had all the makings of being a perfect final evening.

Xander – or Alex as he insisted they call him – wasn't conventionally handsome. Faded tan, shaggy hair in need of a cut and an eye patch of all things – but she had never been one for conforming to stereotypical views of what constituted good looks. Conformity was just another word for being a sheep and no one who knew her had ever likened Sharon to a sheep. And he was funny – he had a sharp tongue and the two men obviously knew each other very well judging by the remarks that flew back and forth. It was proving to be a very entertaining evening and she was glad she had answered Rachel's call and come out.

She was pretty sure Alex liked her too – he had given her hair an admiring look when he had first come to the table with Will, then asked the question she was well used to answering “is that your real colour?” She couldn't even feel insulted the way he asked it – he was obviously enamoured. Charming indeed to get under her skin so quickly. And it made such a lovely change to get talking to a bloke that wanted to listen to her rather than hear the sound of his own voice. It was a complete no-brainer when Will asked if she and Rachel fancied going into town for dinner, and she didn't even mind the suggestion to walk to a taxi rank in the rain as it would make an excellent excuse to snuggle close to Alex. Rachel had definitely fallen under Will's spell and had giggled for ages when Will joked about her and Alex being separated at birth. It was true though – Rachel and Alex both had darkish complexions, black hair and hazel eyes – Rachel could definitely pass for his very short sister if you didn't know any better.

She smiled up at Alex as he helped her into her mac and she absent-mindedly noticed how incredibly white his teeth were but also how pronounced his canines seemed. She guessed it was true what they said about the American obsession with dentists and teeth, but Alex was a fine example of what teeth could look like with a little care and attention. For a moment she faltered – it almost seemed like his smile didn't meet his eyes, like there was nothing behind them but was distracted by Rachel and Will heading out of the door. It must have been her imagination – her friends were always telling her she was too suspicious minded.

The night air was chilly but at least the rain had stopped falling and the wind had died down. They walked for about five minutes in silence with Will and Rachel were a little way ahead, still chattering away and she started to feel a little shy. After all, Alex hadn't actually asked her out – this was more along the lines of a blind date for both of them and maybe he was just being polite and that was why his smile hadn't made it to his eyes?

“You know, we don't have to go along – I mean, if you'd rather - “

“No, no, this is – unless you're trying to let me down gently?”

“Oh my, no! I mean -” and there went that damnable blush, heating her cheeks even in the cold night air.

“Come here.” Here was an alleyway and it was testament to how much of a nice bloke Alex seemed to be that she didn't even experience a twinge of concern. They meandered in a ways, Alex's arm wrapped gently around her shoulders, and as they came to a stop like the gentleman he had obviously been brought up to be, he used his body to protect her from the chill wind blowing through. He pressed her gently into the wall, stepping close, his hands resting behind her near her shoulders.

“I love your hair – it's like watching flames dance and flicker with the way it changes colour in the light. Don't get to see this shade naturally very often at all.” Alex was even closer, his hand twirling a lock of her hair around his fingers as he spoke quietly almost directly into her ear. “Spike knew exactly what he was doing when he said I would love meeting you.” It had to be her imagination that he inhaled deeply at the side of her cheek when the blood rushed to her face again, and who was Spike? Her gaze flicked away to the mouth of the alleyway which suddenly seemed a lot further away than she had originally thought.

“Er – we should go if we're going to catch up with Will and Rachel.”

“Did I tell you about my friend? I say friend but she was pretty much the sister I never had. Loved her so much – she was with me when I lost my eye, blamed herself for not being fast enough. Of course, she didn't exactly take to the new me after Spike came back from Africa.”

“Alex, I think we should go if we're not going to lose Will and - “

“Ssh, ssh, I'm talking. When Spike came back from Africa, he was a completely new man. Or rather an old man. He went to get himself back he said and he did it with a vengeance. Out with the chip and back to the guy I met back in High School - “

“Alex - “ When had he got so close that she couldn't even slide along the wall away from him?

“Funny thing was when he came back he didn't want Buffy any more. No, he kinda lost interest in her about the time he was fighting for his life in a nasty little cave in Africa.”

“You're hurting me – Alex - “

“That's probably what Willow couldn't forgive him for. She's such a romantic at heart – wanted a happily ever after for all of us. I can't quite figure out which upset her the most – him falling out of love with Buffy or changing me?”

“Please - “ The hand in her hair had tightened and her face was pressed against the wall as she tried desperately to pull away. It seemed like the whole weight of his body was holding her in place and it was little consolation that he didn't seem aroused – she might have been better able to understand what was going on if he had been, maybe understood it more than the barely restrained violence practically vibrating from him.

“But she more than served her purpose. She did the biggest spell of her life, helped save the happy meals by creating all those slayers at once. Probably helped save the world at least as much as Deadboy.”

“Please, I don't understand – please let me go - “

“Shut up and listen then! I was explaining to you why Spike thought you'd be perfect so pay attention. You're my present you see. Because she didn't last very long and I was more than a bit disappointed. Partly my own fault although Spike did say thirst can take you by surprise when you're newly turned. Blood-lust takes over and you lose control and suddenly there's no time left to play because your toy's gone all floppy and there's no fight left. You'd think with that flaming hair and all that magic she'd have put up a hell of a fight. But no – and I was so disappointed. So Spike picked you for me because of this” a tug at her hair, “and because from the moment he heard about you from your friend he figured you'd give me a decent fight. What do you say Sharon, you gong to put up a decent fight? It's my last night in England – Spike managed to sort out that whole nasty slayer line business – so are you going to make it special for me?”

She'd make it bloody special all right. She didn't bother answering, simply lifting her knee sharply and catching him square in the groin. His cry and instinctive jerking away gave her just enough space to stagger out from under his weight and kicking off her heels she sprinted towards the entrance to the alleyway. She didn't make the mistake of looking behind her or screaming, just put everything she had into running towards the street as fast as she could, determined to head towards lights and people so she could get this bastard caught and put away.

A shadow broke away from the wall and she veered away from it, stumbling over a lump on the ground. She thudded down onto the gravel, the street looking so near but yet so far. The weak lamplight illuminated the lump on the ground just enough for her to see Sharon's sightless hazel eyes staring back at her, the dark puddle beneath her head matting her hair obviously blood. She scrambled away from the body and dragged herself to her feet, ignoring the sting of gravel in her palms and on the soles of her feet as she lurched forward. The street lights were close, oh so close -

“And our headline for this evening's news. The police are apparently baffled by a murder that happened in the West Midlands this last weekend. The pattern matches a series of murders that occurred over twenty years ago that were never solved. Dubbed the Pre-Raphaelite Killer by the press because all of his victims were red-headed women, the killer was believed to have left the UK when the murders stopped for such a long period of time. However, a source confirms that this latest atrocity matches the pattern quite eerily and experts are wondering if a copy-cat has taken over where the original killer left off. If you saw either of these women pictured – Sharon McCrory or Rachel Kilgannon – at any point in time over this weekend, the authorities are asking that you contact the number that is scrolling across the bottom of the screen now ….”

The End