Speaker-to-Customers (speakr2customrs) wrote,

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The Lonely Goatherd

Yesterday I had one of those sudden plot bunny attacks as a result of reading something on rahirah’s journal. This time, she was talking about her preference for fics that are not all-human AUs, and she said I don't like Spike as a Lithuanian goatherder.

Guess what? I’ve written a one-off short story with Spike as a Lithuanian goatherder – but not an all-human AU. This is a canon-compatible fic. Post ‘Not Fade Away’, and it’s by no means a comic romp. It’s not devoid of jokes but there’s a fairly significant angst factor too. I’d like to keep the pairing a surprise – but I will say that it’s het, and not one that I’ve ever done before. In fact, it’s not one that I’ve ever seen anyone else do before. Rating probably just edging out of PG-13 and into R. 7,777 words.

The Lonely Goatherd

The Stag Night tour operators hadn’t discovered The MacTavish yet and it was still possible to get served there with reasonable speed even on a Saturday night. The food was palatable, the beer was good, and the exclusively Scottish selection of tracks on the CD jukebox included offerings from The Rezillos and The Skids. That was why Spike had made it his drinking place of choice while he was in Vilnius, and it was why he was sitting there one night when a red-haired girl walked into the pub.

Spike glanced in her direction by chance and instantly came to attention. Not that she was eye-catching in the usual sense; Lithuanian women had a well-deserved reputation as being among the most beautiful in the world, and the newcomer was dowdy by local standards. Her red hair was unusual among the locals, but there was a small Scottish community in the city and he would have assumed her to be an exiled Scot, or a tourist, had it not been for the ugly woollen hat.

‘Willow!’ Spike thought, and he started to shuffle himself out of the girl’s sight, but then he caught a clearer glimpse of her and relaxed. It wasn’t the witch. This girl was taller. Her face seemed familiar, when he looked more closely, but it definitely wasn’t Willow. Someone he’d crossed paths with in Vilnius over the past few weeks, presumably; he abandoned his attempt to hide, and raised his beer glass to his lips.

He drank, and set the glass down, and then the girl happened to turn and met his eyes directly. He recognised her then. Vi. One of the Potential Slayers he had known in Sunnydale, and not just any Potential, but the one with whom he had had the most interaction. Even so, he had a fleeting moment of hope that she wouldn’t recognise him. His hair was closely clipped to his skull now, and no longer bleached blond, and he’d passed unnoticed in similar encounters before; but Vi’s gaze locked on him, perhaps spotting the flare of recognition in his eyes, and her brow creased briefly and then cleared as she identified him.

“Oh, bollocks!” he muttered. She was heading straight for him and there was no easy avenue of escape.

“Spike?” she greeted. She didn’t sound absolutely certain.

“As nesuprantu,” Spike responded, using up a third of his entire repertoire of Lithuanian phrases by saying ‘I don’t understand’. “How I help you, lady?” He adopted a confused expression and tried to sound as Lithuanian as possible.

“Sorry, I thought you were …” she began, but just as Spike was beginning to think that his stratagem had been successful her gaze locked on his eyebrow. “Spike,” she said with absolute confidence in her tone. “It is you. What are you trying to pull?”

“Don’t suppose you’d take the hint and just sod off,” Spike said, without much hope.

Vi sat down opposite him. “Nope,” she said cheerfully. “Hey. What are you doing in Lithuania? We thought you were dead.”

“Was,” Spike said. “Didn’t stick.” He looked the Slayer up and down, assessing her. “You’ve grown up, Vi.”

“Well, yeah,” Vi replied. “It happens. I’m twenty now.”

“Still got the stupid hat, though.”

“Don’t diss the hat,” she said. “It’s been through a lot. Hey, you’re not wearing the coat.”

“In this weather? I’d sodding boil,” Spike pointed out, and in so saying he revealed more than he had intended.

“That never bothered you in California,” Vi said, and then suddenly she shot out her hand and touched Spike’s forehead. “You’re sweating, Spike. Wow, you’re warm! Is, are you, uh, is there something – oh, hell! Are you, like, alive? Really alive?”

“For my sins, yeah,” Spike admitted. “Don’t want to talk about it. How’d you find me, anyway?”

“Would you believe I just walked in here because it looked a nice place, and they had an ‘English spoken’ sign, and I liked the music that was playing?”

Spike had tuned out the track currently playing on the jukebox as mere elevator muzak. He took a second to identify it; ‘Getaway’, the new single from Texas. “No better taste in music than you have in headwear,” he said critically. “So, if you weren’t looking for me, what’re you doing in Lithuania?”

“I’ll tell if you will,” Vi offered.

“I’m working as a goatherd,” Spike told her. “Now you.”

“Oh, come on, Spike,” Vi said, disbelief evident in her voice. “What are you really doing here? And, the alive thing? How? And why haven’t you been in touch?”

“And just why the fuck should I have been?” Spike demanded with a sudden flare of anger. “You’re not going to try kidding me that you lot cared two hoots whether I was alive or dead. Bugger off and leave me alone.”

Vi reached her hand out again, this time taking hold of Spike’s wrist, and he cringed inwardly. She could snap it like a twig if she chose, now that he was a frail human, and that was exactly what he expected. Instead she spoke softly.

“I cared. Me, Rona, Caridad, Shannon, and Midori, we all cared. You taught us. We never thanked you for what you did, maybe we never appreciated it until it was too late, but we missed you then. Remember that night when you taught us to trust our instincts?”

“Remember you prattling on about me hurting your wrist,” Spike said. “Didn’t mean to, you know. Thought I couldn’t really have been hurting you or the chip would’ve gone off. S’pose it must have been starting to go wonky even then.”

“Maybe,” Vi said. “Or maybe I was making too much of it. But anyway, that day in the cavern, I trusted my instincts and, hey, did you see me? Did I rock, or what?”

“Saw a bit of it, pet,” Spike said. “Was a bit otherwise occupied for the end. Did see you kicking a few arses good and proper, though. Quite a spitfire you turned out to be.”

“I’d still have been dead if not for you,” she said, and smiled. “We all would have been.” The smile turned cold. “Come on, Spike, answer the question. Where’ve you been and why didn’t you let us know you were alive?”

“I didn’t think anyone would care, okay? Besides, not like I knew where any of you were.”

“Angel knew how to get in touch with Giles,” Vi pointed out.

“And Giles kicked us in the teeth when we asked for help,” Spike said, almost with a snarl. “Wait a minute. You knew I was with Angel?”

“Not for a long time,” Vi told him. “Last year, when we heard about the big fight in Los Angeles, Andrew came clean about meeting you. Only, it was too late then, or we thought so anyway. From what we heard everybody died.”

Spike could bear it no more and stood up. “Don’t want to talk about it,” he said coldly. “Especially not here.”

“Yeah, guess you’re right,” Vi agreed. “Okay, we’ll go somewhere else. Back to my hotel?”

“You can go where you sodding well like,” Spike said. “I’m going home.” He began to make his way towards the door, slipping through the crowd with sinuous ease.

Vi followed in his wake. “You’re living here?”

“For the time being,” Spike said. “Aren’t your instincts telling you that I want you to sod off and leave me alone?”

“I look after you, English lady,” a local offered. “I have nice home. You come stay night with me, yes?” He put his arm over Vi’s shoulder and tried to pull her to him.

“American, not English,” Vi corrected him. She removed his arm from around her shoulders with just enough force to cause him excruciating pain but no actual injury. “And no, I don’t want to come home with you.”

“Good,” Spike said, “’cos you’re not sodding well invited.”

“I was talking to this guy,” Vi said, with a wave of her hand at the local Lothario who was backing away shaking his arm and cursing in Lithuanian. “Come on, Spike, what’s happened to you is too important not to tell us about. It’s a really big deal. We need to know.”

“Fred’s life was important,” Spike said bitterly. “Same with Charlie, Wes, Angel – hell, even Illyria. Not important enough for you lot to help us, it seems. Tell me, Vi, what part of ‘sod off’ don’t you understand?” He strode off quickly and left the pub.

Vi kept pace behind him. “If I had known I would have been there. We didn’t know anything about it until it was all over.”

“You? You didn’t even bloody know them.”

“I know you, Spike. I’d have been there for you.”

“Well, that’s bloody wonderful. But you weren’t there. Nothing you can do to make up for it now. Except to sod off and leave me alone.” Spike stopped beside a Skoda Octavia and pulled car keys from a pocket. “Bugger off.” He opened the car door and climbed in, slammed the door, and started the engine. Vi stood still on the pavement and watched as he switched on the lights and pulled away. He could see her in the mirror as he drove off, standing watching him until he turned a corner and she vanished from his sight. “Bugger, bugger, bugger,” he muttered. “S’pose I’d better be ready for an invasion of bloody Watchers. Well, hope they like goats.”

- - - - -

There was no invasion of Watchers, but Spike did get a visitor the next day. He was sitting on the top of a fence watching over the goats when he heard the subdued roar of a mid-sized motorcycle engine approaching. Danguole, the largest of the nanny goats, pricked up her ears and trotted over to investigate.

The motorbike pulled to a halt and a helmeted female figure dismounted. She pulled off the helmet and, not unexpectedly, was revealed as Vi. “Hi, Spike,” she greeted him.

“Can’t you take a hint?” Spike grumbled. “How’d you find me?”

“I noticed the car wasn’t a rental,” she told him. “I traced the address from the license plates. And you did say you were herding goats. I thought you were kidding, but, when it turned out the car was owned by a farmer, I guessed that you weren’t.” Danguole leaned over the fence and butted at Vi playfully. She stroked the goat as she turned her attention back to Spike. “So, how come? Spike the Lithuanian goat herder. I’d never have believed it. You trying to hide out?”

“Maybe,” Spike said. “You’re not going to sodding well give up, are you?”

“Nope,” Vi said cheerfully. “You might as well just tell me.”

“Oh, bloody hell,” Spike growled. “All right. I need papers. Identity documents. Don’t want to use the ones I got from Wolfram and sodding Hart. Dunno who or what might track me down through them. Got some others, but they’re not all that good. Can get by in a place like this, but they wouldn’t cut the mustard back home, or in the States. The bloke who owns this farm can get me the best there is, short of the real thing, but he charges top dollar for them. More than I could afford straight out. So, I’m working off part of the price. Looking after his goats for a few weeks while he goes off doing some other stuff. When he comes back I get my papers and I’m sorted.”

“Hey!” Vi protested. Danguole had fished her woolly hat from her pocket and was munching on it contentedly. “My hat! Give it back!” She retrieved the hat, with a struggle, and held it up with a horrified expression on her face. A large section was missing.

Spike felt an unaccustomed sensation spreading through him. He almost didn’t recognise it at first, it had been so long since he had felt the emotion, but then he gave into it. “So much for not dissing the hat,” he grinned, and burst into open laughter.

“My hat!” Vi wailed again, and then a grin started to creep across her face. “The Ubervamps couldn’t touch this, but a goat got it good,” she said, and joined Spike in laughter.

“Goats are sneakier than those buggers,” Spike said. He leaped lightly down from the fence. “Might as well bin it, love. Not that it’s any big loss. Never suited you.”

“Guess not,” Vi conceded. “Just, it was mine, you know? From before Sunnydale went bye-bye. I don’t have all that much left from then.”

“And I’ve got nothing,” Spike said, his moment of mirth evaporating. “Nothing and no-one.”

“Not true, Spike,” Vi said. “You have me. And you could have more.”

“Thanks, but, a bunch of kids that I knew for a few of the worst months of my whole life and unlife? Not really what I was thinking of.”

“We’re not kids any more, Spike,” Vi told him. Her lips were set tight and she glared at him. “Look, you’re making it very plain that you don’t care about us at all. I thought maybe you did, but no. Did you give a damn about anybody but Buffy?”

“Sorry,” Spike mumbled. “I didn’t mean it like that. Did care. Wanted to protect you all, leastways until you turned on Buffy and kicked her out of her own bloody house, and you came through for her later. She forgave you, not my place to hold the grudge. Just, never knew you all that well. Not the same.”

“Willow mourned you,” Vi told him. “We put up a headstone for you, right alongside the ones for Amanda and Cho-Ahn and Molly and Anya and the others, and Willow put a pile of stones on yours first of all of them.”

“Red mourned for me?” Spike said incredulously. “Never thought she gave a toss for me, not after she stabbed me in the back over bringing Buffy back. Know she never got on with Anya, but still …” He shook his head. “Bet the whelp didn’t give a monkey’s. Or the Nibblet.”

“Xander and Dawn? Well, yeah, Xander was mainly thinking of Anya, but he said some words for you,” Vi said. “Dawn – she was pretty much a basket case over you. Cried you a river.”

“Nah,” Spike said, continuing to shake his head. “Got to be having me on. She was just waiting her chance to set me on fire.”

“Talk about the glass being half empty,” Vi said. “Believe it. You were missed. Hey, if you had come back to us you’d have seen Giles doing the biggest grovelling ‘I was wrong’ speech in all of history. Look, I was there, I saw it. God, what happened to you? You weren’t such a depressed loser in Sunnydale.”

“I saw all my friends die,” Spike said coldly. “I was a vampire with super-powers and then I woke up after the battle and I was a puny human git with nothing. Kind of hard to be full of the party spirit after that.”

“You saw some of your friends die,” Vi corrected him. “Not all. You have one right here. If you’ll have me, that is.”

Spike stared at her for a long moment. “Looks like I’m not going to be able to get rid of you, so, okay. Know anything about goats?”

They tended the goats for the rest of the afternoon in relative silence, speaking only about matters appertaining to the livestock. It wasn’t until they broke off for a meal that Spike brought up the past once more.

“What about Buffy?” he asked. “How was she? After, that is.”

“She was happy,” Vi told him. “She said you were in Heaven. Redeemed, completed, and she was happy for you.”

“Ha bloody ha,” Spike said mirthlessly. “Heaven. That’s a good one. I was slipping into Hell. Would have gone there, too, if it hadn’t been for Fred. That’s Buffy, believing what she wants to believe. So, how’d she end up with the sodding Immortal?”

“The Immortal?” Vi said, frowning. “Who? Oh, yeah, that guy in Rome. That was just a fling. Rebound guy from you, I guess. She’s dating a soccer player now. Pretty serious, I think. Talking about getting engaged.”

“What, Buffy’s going to be a Footballer’s Wife? Well, s’pose she’s got the right bloody stupid name for it,” Spike said, the forced smile on his face a frozen caricature of a genuine smile. “’S one way of getting that sodding normal life she was always so bloody set on.”

“She doesn’t know you’re alive,” Vi reminded him. “You could get her back, I’m sure of it. I mean, soccer guy’s pretty hot, but he isn’t you.”

“Neither am I,” Spike said despondently. “What the fuck have I got to offer her now that I’m human, and pretty close to being broke?”

“Seen yourself in a mirror lately?” Vi said.

“Well, yeah,” Spike said. “I can do that now. Human. Walk in the sun, cast a reflection. Could wear a crucifix if I wanted.”

“And you haven’t noticed anything about yourself?” Vi shook her head. “You need serious help. More than just me. Look, Spike, come on back to London with me. We can get you all the ID you’ll need. Get you a job. And, well, I think you need some sort of counselling.”

“Sod that for a game of soldiers,” Spike said gruffly. “Think I’ve told you enough about my situation. Your turn. What are you really doing in Lithuania?”

“Helping you look after the goats,” Vi replied. “I guess I’m here for you. Althanea, she’s with the Coven in Cornwall who’ve been helping us out with the magic side of things, she told me to come. She said there was a lost one here who needed to be brought home. I thought it must be a Slayer we’d missed, there’s still the odd one turning up, but I guess it was you that she meant.”

“Lost. Yeah. ‘For I have been a lost and lonely sailor on your sea. Run aground by trusting signals you were sending me’,” Spike quoted from a Big Country song. “I’m probably about as lost as you can get without starting off on a flight from Australia and crashing onto an island full of sodding polar bears. Thing is, I haven’t got a home to go to.”

“You could have one,” Vi said. “Come back with me.”

“Can’t. Promised Ridas I’d stay and take care of the goats until he gets back from his travels,” Spike said.

“Not alone.” Vi set her jaw determinedly. “I’m not trained on the people side of things. Fighting’s my thing. I’m smart enough to see that you’re just falling apart here by yourself. I’m moving in.”

“Suit yourself,” Spike shrugged. “Not like I can stop you. We’ll need to stock up with a bit more food and stuff. You got luggage at your hotel?”

“Yeah. Gonna give me a hand bringing it over?”

“Might as well,” Spike shrugged. “I’ve got permission to use Ridas’ car as long as I pay for the petrol – the gas. I’ll run you over as soon as we’ve got the goats settled for the night, okay?”

“Great. A working holiday on a Lithuanian goat farm. Just what I wanted.”

“Nobody’s forcing you to stay,” Spike reminded her.

“Your enthusiasm is overwhelming,” Vi said, deadpan. “Thanks for making me feel so welcome.”

“You want me to be enthusiastic, you milk the bloody goats at the crack of dawn tomorrow.”

- - - - -

Spike put up with Vi’s presence grudgingly at first, but after a couple of days her persistence began to get through to him. He told her about his time with Angel at Wolfram and Hart, about the Shanshu Prophecy and his fight with Angel over the fake Cup of Perpetual Torment, and about the final desperate battle from which he had emerged as the sole survivor and transformed into – in his words – a pitiful human.

She told him about the new Watchers’ Council, and its own battle against a renegade faction who were using robots in lieu of Slayers and whose plans extended to more than just protecting humanity against demons and vampires. She passed on personal gossip about the people he knew, and recognised from the way he talked that a deep hurt had worked its way into him at a level that she didn’t think that she could reach. She hoped that he would accept her suggestion and return to England with her once the farm owner returned.

“So, how many Slayers are there these days?” Spike asked.

“Not as many as we thought there might be,” Vi told him. “I guess the First Evil had been pretty busy with the stabbings. We have one hundred and ninety two signed up. There are a few others that we know of who haven’t joined, either because they turned us down or because we haven’t managed to get to them. One of the new stars on the women’s tennis circuit is a Slayer. She thinks making millions is more important than protecting the world. We’re pretty sure that there are two hidden away in China being trained up for the Beijing Olympics. There’ll be some records falling there, you bet. And, this is a bad one, there’s one running a Mafiya outfit in Siberia. Pretty well owns the town of Nefteyugansk. Kills anyone who crosses her.”

“So Red’s spell wasn’t all sweetness and light, then. Told her there’s always consequences.”

“Yeah, you’re right there, but the alternative was all of us dying, so I’m pretty glad she did it,” Vi said.

“Not knocking it as an overall plan, but it’s a shame she couldn’t have done it just for you lot in Sunnydale,” Spike said.

“Maybe it was an all or nothing deal,” Vi speculated. “Magic’s not my thing. I’m pretty much just a fighter.”

“Same here,” said Spike. “Used to be, anyway. These days I s’pose I haven’t really got a thing, ‘part from some rusty Latin and Greek, pretty good Portuguese and French, and enough of a few other European languages to get by. Oh, and a few demon languages, not that I’d dare get close enough to most demons to speak to them these days.”

“And you think you haven’t anything we’d value you for? You could be a lot of help to us, Spike.”

“What, you think I could be a Watcher? Don’t talk bloody daft.”

“What’s so wrong with that idea? I think you’d be great.”

“Load of bollocks,” Spike muttered. “Come on, time to move the goats to the south pasture.”

- - - - -

Spike’s mood gradually lightened over the next few days. They fell into a routine of going into Vilnius for a couple of drinks at The MacTavish most evenings. Vi’s knowledge of Scottish music expanded as the CD jukebox went through its stock. Deacon Blue’s ‘Real Gone Kid’ became a particular favourite of hers, along with the silky smooth Texas songs, but she also learned to appreciate the thoughtful rock of Idlewild, Big Country, and Runrig, and even to like the sheer power and drive of Spike’s punk favourites The Skids. One night she prevailed upon Spike to go as far as to get up and dance with her, although not quite to the extent of slow dancing to ‘Say What You Want’.

The next day, at the farm, she broached the subject of his fighting skills. She’d observed Spike handling the dominant billy-goat Evaldas, a mass of recalcitrant muscle and horn they’d renamed ‘Evil Das’ because of his perverse nature, and she knew that Spike in human form was still a strong and fit individual.

“You were a good teacher, Spike,” she reminded him. “You knew your stuff. It wasn’t just the super strength thing. If it had been just that then Buffy would have trashed you. I bet you still have all the moves. It doesn’t seem logical that you’d lose your experience just because you turned human.”

“What use are the moves without the strength?” he asked glumly. “Yeah, I could probably deck any bloke my own size, even a fair bit bigger unless he really knew his stuff, but against a vampire I’d be lunch.”

“Or not. I mean, Xander managed all right, didn’t he? And we coped with a vampire or two before we got the powers. But mainly I was thinking of you as a teacher.”

“Forget it, Grasshopper. I’d be no use with a Slayer.”

“I wouldn’t say that,” Vi said. She grabbed him suddenly. “Trust your instincts. What do your instincts tell you to do?”

“I – I –” Spike said hesitantly, and then he seized her in a grasp of his own, pulled her to him, and pressed his lips to hers. Her mouth opened eagerly, meeting the probe of his tongue with her own, and her grip tightened on his shoulders. Her eyes closed in sheer bliss.

After twenty seconds of what was, to Vi, absolute heaven Spike suddenly pulled his lips away and fought to free himself from her grasp. “Get off!” he spluttered.

Vi released him and stood blinking in shock.

“Sorry. God, I’m sorry,” Spike gasped.

“Spike – was I – wasn’t I any good?” Vi asked plaintively. She felt the prick of tears behind her eyelids.

“What? No, ‘course you were good. Bloody brilliant kisser. But I’m taking advantage of you.”

“Like hell!” Vi snapped. “Maybe I’m taking advantage of you. Don’t be so damn British. I’m twenty, Spike, not a kid in High School.”

“I’m still taking advantage of you,” Spike mumbled. “Not like you’d be wanting that if there was anyone else here apart from me and the goats.”

“Oh yeah? I’ve wanted to kiss you ever since the day you hurt my wrist,” Vi revealed. “I was jealous as hell of Buffy. Except for you being a vampire, that was pretty much of a downer, and it helped me keep the feelings squashed.” Her moment of fire died down, and she lowered her head sadly. “I’m sorry. Yeah, it was me that was taking advantage of you. You’ve been alone a long time. I wasn’t thinking straight.”

“I know,” Spike said. “Forget about it. Look, I think it would be best if you just got out of here. Bugger off before we do something we’ll regret. I don’t need a lover.”

“But you need a friend,” Vi responded.

“Yeah,” Spike mumbled. “S’pose I do. Thanks for what you’ve done for me. Still think you ought to go back to a hotel, pet. Best if we’re not stuck out here together.”

“Maybe you’re right,” Vi said, her usual inexorable persistence deserting her. She had indeed been taking advantage of Spike’s loneliness and isolation. How else could this devastatingly handsome, clever, caring and flat out heroic guy have seen anything in a long skinny beanpole like her?

“Best you go straight away,” Spike said. “Get your stuff. I’ll lock the goats up and get the car.” He wanted to act quickly to remove temptation. There could be no future in any relationship between them, he knew. What did he have to offer this amazing girl? Vi was fiery, strong-willed, caring, graceful, and had the best pair of legs that he’d seen in a hundred and twenty five years. She deserved far more than just an ordinary bloke with no prospects.

- - - - -

Spike moped around the farm for the next few days. He hadn’t minded being alone before Vi’s arrival, but now that she was gone the isolation was almost unbearable. At night he’d get the keys for the car, and stand up to go off to Vilnius and The MacTavish, but then his nerve would desert him at the thought of seeing Vi and he’d sit down again and put on the TV, or Ridas’ pirated DVDs of ‘Lost’ and ‘Veronica Mars’ and ‘Desperate Housewives’.

He’d go to bed alone, and wake from dreams in which he ran hot kisses up those fabulous legs from the shapely ankles up to the paradise that waited at the very top. And then he’d lie awake, trying to summon up images of Buffy, but they seemed pale and unsubstantial compared to his thoughts of the vibrant girl with the quirky smile and the indomitable spirit who had somehow taken over his heart without him noticing.

Then one night there was a pounding at the door. He rose, shouted “hang on, hang on, I’m coming”, hastily pulled on some clothes, and made his way to the door. Ridas arriving back unexpectedly? Surely he’d have a key. Vi? Perhaps. Most likely it was someone from some neighbouring farm with some emergency, or perhaps the police after Ridas for one of his dodgy deals. He didn’t make the mistake of shouting “come in”, just in case of vampires, although he didn’t really expect it to be anything like that, and he made a point of donning shoes before he opened the door cautiously.

There were three hulking figures outside. Too big to be human, unless the WWE were touring Lithuania and he’d missed the advertising, and he began to slam the door shut again; but a huge fist smashed against the door and threw it open despite his resistance.

“Spike,” a triumphant voice boomed. “We find you. Now we rich, huh? Where is girl? We have merry sport with her before we kill you and take your head.”

“Fucking great,” Spike growled. “Troll bounty-hunters.” He lashed out with a kick that made no impression on the massive creature and then leaped away towards the kitchen. There were blades there that might just give him a slender chance of survival in combat against the monsters. The leading troll charged after him and bludgeoned him to the ground.

- - - - -

Vi moped around Vilnius for a few days. She phoned in a report to Giles at the Council, managed to persuade him not to come himself or to send anyone else, and promised that she would indeed bring Spike back to London once the goat farmer returned. She called Rona and spent far too long gossiping on the phone, being urged by her friend to go back to the farm and grab that hot ex-vampire and show him what he was missing out on. She didn’t take Rona’s advice, however. She did go along to The MacTavish on the first couple of nights, but there was no sign of Spike and it just depressed her and after a while she relocated to The Pub, the most popular venue in Vilnius. That only made her feel worse, however; the dance floor was packed with scantily-clad blondes with perfect figures and classically beautiful faces, and Vi sat alone and played with the ends of her hair and felt miserable.

Back in the hotel room she lay in bed and dreamed of a lithe and slim-hipped man with startlingly blue eyes. She fantasised about running her hands over the six-pack abdomen that she’d glimpsed a few times in Sunnydale, and about him running his hands over her and squeezing her the way that he’d squeezed the goats’ udders. Well, perhaps not exactly like that.

Then one night she awoke with a feeling of impending dread. She rose and dressed hurriedly as she tried to pinpoint the source of the feeling. ‘Spike’, she thought. ‘I have to get to Spike’. She had no weapons with her; it couldn’t be helped, there was nothing that she could do about it now. Her hands would have to be enough for whatever danger lay ahead; there was ample wood at the farm with which to improvise stakes if necessary. She fumbled for her woollen hat, remembered the fate that had befallen the garment, cursed, and left the hotel.

- - - - -

The trolls were in no hurry to dispose of Spike. They were angry that there was no sign of the girl, and that they had missed out on the possibilities of amusement that she could have provided, and so they found a substitute source of fun in bashing Spike around. They dragged him from the house, no doubt feeling claustrophobic in the human-sized dwelling, and took him into one of the goat pens. There they formed a circle, or at least a triangle, around him, and merrily thumped him from one to another. He struck back, of course, but completely without effect on the hulking creatures.

“Weak, puny, human,” they taunted him. “You no vampire any more, Spike. How come you no vampire? Is good thing for us. You weak now. Not dust when kill you. It easy to take head back to Wolfram and Hart. They give us gold and US dollars.” Every phrase was punctuated by another bone-jarring punch; however Spike had found that Vi had been entirely correct in her belief that his skills would have carried over into his human form, and he was managing to ride the blows with the experience gained in ten thousand street fights and had managed to survive the first ten minutes with no worse than bruises and a bloody nose. It couldn’t last for ever, of course, and as he tired, and the trolls began to tire of their game, the blows landed with more and more punishing force. Before long he’d go down and stay down, and he knew that then the boots would start going in and his bones would start breaking. After that it would only be a question of how long they kicked him before they grew bored and removed his head.

- - - - -

Vi stopped the motorbike a mile from the farm and jogged the rest of the way to preserve the advantage of surprise. She came into sight of the goat pen and stopped to size up the situation. Her lips drew back from her teeth in a snarl as she saw the trolls playing their brutal game with her man.

Yes, her man; and to hell with anyone who tried to take him from her. Starting with the trolls.

- - - - -

Spike slipped and went down to one knee. He tried to dodge the punch that he knew was coming, but the troll laughed and grabbed him by the head. It drew back a massive fist for a solid blow at a captive target and Spike braced himself for the impact.

A shadowy shape flew through the air and hit the troll. The huge hand holding Spike’s head lost its grip and the troll staggered backwards. The attacker landed and Spike could make out that it was a slim female form. A long leg lashed out in a whirling kick and the next troll took the impact full in the face. It was lifted from its feet and hurled backwards through the air. It crashed against the fence and shattered the wooden bars.

“Into the valley,” Vi sang, hurtling towards the remaining troll and unleashing a barrage of punches, “Something something. Indecipherable words that I can’t understand, Why can’t they speak plain English in Scotland …” The troll roared and swung a retaliatory punch. Vi did the splits, dropping well under the clumsy blow, and punched upwards into its groin. The troll’s roar rose three octaves and it staggered away clutching the affected parts with both hands. Vi bounced to her feet and turned to meet a renewed attack from the first troll. “Come on, come on, let’s see your style …”

Spike dodged past the troll who had fallen against the fence and broken it. He looked around for a weapon, and saw a pitchfork, but before he could act a troll had snatched up the tool and raised it for use against Vi. Spike turned away and sprinted towards the farm buildings.

Vi saw him run and a pang of bitter disappointment shot through her. Spike was running away? Sensible, perhaps, as he was outclassed by the trolls, but it didn’t seem in character for her big damn hero. She had no time to dwell on the thought, as two trolls fell upon her with fists and a pitchfork, and she had to concentrate entirely upon the fight.

Spike reached his goal; the stall in which Evaldas the billy-goat was shut up for the night. “Hope you’re awake, you vicious old bugger,” he muttered. A loud snort answered him. “Come on, then, Evil Das,” Spike urged as he opened the stall door. “Get those bloody trolls. Traditional enemies, right?”

One hundred and eighty five pounds of muscle and horn trotted out of the stall. Evaldas lifted his impressively bearded and horned head, sniffed the air, and uttered a deep and menacing bleat. His hoof scraped at the ground, he lowered his head, and he charged.

- - - - -

Vi was hard pressed. The trolls still hadn’t laid a finger on her, and she’d hit them over and over again, but they seemed to have an amazing capacity to soak up punishment and, as she was without a weapon that would enable her to land a finishing blow, they just kept on picking themselves up and returning to the fight. One of them was now wielding a pitchfork, and one a balk of wood from the broken fence, and avoiding the blows from three directions at once was becoming more and more difficult.

Then a hairy shape thundered into the pen and crashed into the leg of the pitchfork-wielding troll. There was a sickening ‘crack’ and the troll toppled to the ground. “My leg, my leg,” it cried in agony.

Evaldas backed off, whirled around, and charged again. His horns thudded home against the temple of the prone troll. There was another cracking noise and the troll convulsed and went limp.

One of the other trolls, the one with the piece of wood, roared in berserk fury and made to attack the goat. Vi snatched up the discarded pitchfork and thrust viciously. The tines bit deep into the troll’s back and its roar turned into a scream of pain. Vi withdrew the pitchfork and thrust again. The troll fell to the ground and lay still.

Evaldas charged the last troll. Vi hit it across the back of the neck with the butt of the pitchfork and sent it stumbling forward into the goat’s charge. The troll was knocked from its feet and Vi pinned it to the earth with the pitchfork. Evaldas butted the helpless troll again and again until there was no more movement from any of the monsters, and the satisfied goat stopped its attacks and stood stamping and snorting beside its defeated foes. Vi wiped her brow. “Spike!” she called. “Spike?”

“Here, love,” Spike answered, emerging from the darkness. “You okay?”

“Sure thing,” she replied. “Thanks to Evil Das. Smart move, Spike. Are you okay?”

“Been better,” Spike said, “but it’s just cuts and bruises. You turned up in the nick of time. Were you singing The Skids?”

“Trying to,” Vi said. “I don’t know enough of the words. It just has that vibe, you know? Fighting music, and, well, it reminds me of you.”

“S’pose you haven’t heard ‘London Calling’,” Spike said. “Fair enough, Real Gone Kid.”

Vi laughed. “Let’s have a look at those cuts and bruises,” she said. She turned serious as she examined him. “We’d better get those cleaned up. Come on, let’s get inside.”

“Best get the evil old goat back into his stall,” Spike said. “Dunno what mischief he’d get up to if we leave him out. Wouldn’t be a wool hat or a troll safe.”

“It was Danguole who ate my hat, and I don’t care about trolls,” Vi said, “but I guess you’re right. Come on, Evil, you’ve had your fun for the night. Back to your stall.”

- - - - -

“I should have been here,” Vi said, as she bathed Spike’s injuries. “You shouldn’t have been here all alone.”

“We agreed it was for the best,” Spike said.

“No, Spike, you pushed for it,” she contradicted him. “I gave in to you, but I shouldn’t have done. I was just miserable in the hotel.”

“You were miserable without me?”

“Damn right. Like the world didn’t have any colour in it.” She rested her fingertips on his jaw and gently turned his head towards her. “You felt it when we kissed. I know you did. This is right, Spike.” She pressed her lips to his.

Spike resisted for a moment but then gave in and kissed back fiercely. It was a full minute before they broke apart. “No,” he said weakly. “This is wrong. What the hell have I got to offer you?”

“A heart as big as the world, Spike,” she said. “I want you. And, I know that I’m not pretty, but I think that you want me anyway.”

“Not pretty?” Spike said incredulously. “You’re bloody gorgeous, pet. Supermodels would kill for those legs.”

“Thanks. Shame about the rest of me, huh?”

“No bloody way,” Spike told her. “You’re beautiful. Talk about a heart as big as the world; that’s you that you’re talking about, pet, not me. I dunno what you see in me, pet, honest. You’re too good for me.”

“Let me decide that for myself, okay?” Vi kissed him again. “I want a man who knows when to let loose the goats.”

“Cry havoc, and let slip the goats of war,” Spike said. “Or do you mean you want a bloke who gets horny? No problem about that when you’re around, pet.” He kissed her again, and his hands explored her body.

This time it was Vi who broke the embrace. “Want you,” she panted, “but we can’t. I don’t have any, you know, protection. Unless you have?”

“Bugger!” Spike exclaimed. “That’s something I never bloody thought of. Wasn’t a problem when I was a vampire, y’know?”

“And you haven’t done it since?” Vi said incredulously. “You’ve been human for, what, nearly a year and a half?”

“Wasn’t anyone I wanted to do it with,” Spike said. “Not the sort of bloke to just do it for the sake of it. Well, except for with Harmony, but I learned my bloody lesson from that disaster.”

Vi snuggled into him. “That’s so good to hear. It’s the same for me. It’s why I never have.”

“What, never?”

“No, never. I want you to be the first. Only, not with the chance of getting pregnant straight off, okay?”

“Wow,” Spike said. “You’re really serious about me? You’re sure, pet?”

“I’m sure. Apart from being scared to death you’ll dump me the second you meet up with Buffy again,” Vi confessed.

“Won’t happen,” Spike assured her. “Buffy needs a bit of monster in her man. I’d be no good to her now. Anyway, it never felt like this with her. Wouldn’t change a thing, pet. Won’t leave you. Never.” He kissed her neck, and then dropped to his knees. He bent low and kissed her ankle. “There’s plenty of things we can do without protection, love,” he told her. “Been dreaming of doing this.” He kissed her calf, and began to work his way up her leg, his fingers moving ahead of his lips, guiding her skirt out of the way of his head, and then clearing a path for his lips to reach their ultimate goal as Vi shuddered and gasped and clasped at his close-cropped hair with her hands. “Gonna make it good for you, my girl. Cherish you.” And then his mouth became too occupied for any more words, and there was silence except for Vi’s moans and incoherent words of love.

- - - - -

Ridas came back four days later. He telephoned to announce his impending arrival, and Spike and Vi went together to collect the Lithuanian from the airport. The big, moustached, farmer came out of the Arrivals lounge to join Spike and he looked curiously at the Englishman’s companion.

“My girl Vi,” Spike introduced her. “She came and joined me at the farm. Hope that’s okay with you.”

“Of course, of course, my friend,” Ridas assured him. “Laba diena, Vi. Greetings. She is much beautiful, Spike. She glows. And you, too, you are much happy now, I can see. You look younger. More, how you say, alive.”

“Feel more alive,” Spike said. “Almost like the past year I haven’t really been living at all. Vi brought me out of it.”

“Good, good,” Ridas smiled. “I have got your papers. You can return to England now, if you wish; they will pass any inspection. Is my farm in good shape? Are the goats all right? I hope Evaldas did not give you too much trouble.”

Vi laughed.

“Yeah, everything’s fine,” Spike said. “We had to mend one of your fences, but it’s all shipshape now. And, speaking of Evaldas, the cantankerous old bugger did me a right good turn. Ever hear the tale of the Three Billy Goats Gruff?”

- - - - -

They went out to The MacTavish one last time before they flew to England. Giles had promised Spike a warm reception; although there had been a time when that would have caused Spike considerable trepidation he was pretty sure now that the reception that he'd receive would indeed be warm rather than hot. Willow was flying in from Rio de Janeiro specifically to see Spike, Vi told him, very much to his surprise. There was no similar message from Buffy.

Vi managed to get Spike up on the dance floor to Franz Ferdinand, overcoming his objections to the ‘over-hyped bleeding Scottish answer to the sodding White Stripes’, and to keep him up for a long smoochy embrace to Texas’ ‘Say What You Want’.

“I’m so glad that I came in here that first night,” she told him, nuzzling into him and holding him tight. “I wonder if it was just chance, or if Althanea somehow gave me a nudge. Hey, you were all kinds of prickly then. Good thing I kept pushing, huh?”

“Damn right,” Spike agreed. “Love you, Kid.”

“You love me?” Vi said.

“Well, yeah. Haven’t I told you?”

“Nope. Oh, Spike, I love you too.”

There were no more words for a couple of minutes, until they remembered where they were and broke apart before they got to the point where they would risk being thrown out of the pub. “So I get to bring the lost one home, like Althanea said,” Vi murmured in his ear. “Bring him home and keep him, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Spike agreed. “I’m all yours, Kid. Yours, and not lost and lonely any more. I’m done with being the lonely goatherd.”

“Good thing too,” Vi told him. “Because I can live with punk, no problem, but no way could I put up with yodelling.”

Sequel: 'How Do They Rise Up'

The characters in this story do not belong to me, but are being used for amusement only and all rights remain with Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, the writers of the original episodes, and the TV and production companies responsible for the original television shows. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER ©2002 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer trademark is used without express permission from Fox.

Tags: fic, lonelygoatherd
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