And as I leave, I know that I am leaving my best friend
A friend who taught me right from wrong
And weak from strong
That's a lot to learn
What can I give you in return?

Years passed. How easily that sentence comes out. Years passed. As if that wasn't a significant amount of time. In a way, it wasn't. Every day was pretty much the same after that. Just as monotonous as it would have been back with the Dragons or buried in a box because I didn't have him to keep things interesting. But there was one crucial difference. He was out there somewhere.

The very idea of him was enough some days. Maybe not all days, but I was willing to settle, keeping my eyes and ears alert for news that I was found. That he was found. That our past has caught up with us at last. But so far, that news hadn't come.

I saw him once. I spotted him just once and only once in all those years. He didn't see me. He was preoccupied with the cost of mangoes.

He was with a woman when I saw him and it was she who apparently had a craving for mangoes. He was explaining...well, shouting really, that they didn't have money for mangoes and he would rather spend the cash on some sort of meat product. As soon as I heard his voice I had ducked behind a cart somewhere off in the distance, far enough that he wouldn't notice me unless he was searching but close enough so that I could hear him. Of course, I was curious about the woman.

She was cute. She was almost girl next door looking, with her bright eyes and short haircut, except that she dressed like a hooker.

Look, Spike. Boobs.

She didn't seem like his type at all, but then I realized that I really meant she didn't look at all like me. They were arguing but I decided it didn't sound like a couple arguing. I knew what that sounded like. Spike and I fought more frequently than memory would sometimes admit. Their arguing was just familiar sounding. Routine. But also sort of friendly.

It reminded me a bit of the way he talked to the guys. In fact, it even sounded a bit like Spike and Vicious in simpler times. The sort of gentle ribbing of an opposites attract kind of friendship. It made me happy to hear them. And it also made me happy because their body language indicated they hadn't slept together. Good to know. They were joined eventually by a big, gruff looking man with these warm, tired eyes. He seemed irritated by their conversation. He also seemed to be passing some sort of judgement on the proceedings. Yep. One mango for the girl. She seemed pleased enough with the spoils of her efforts and she strutted on up ahead as the men hung back to buy some fish...though one less then they had originally planned.

So this big guy was the leader. I had to laugh. Spike was never much for leading anyone. But at the same time he was never much for following either. Was that admirable?

Damned if I knew. Damned if I knew anything. But even if our past hunted us down eventually, I knew in my heart that I gave him a few years of freedom. Maybe it wasn't the happy ending we wanted, but it was about as close as we could ever get.

I turned away from him again, but this time there was no need to run. I was older now. Wiser...maybe even mature. A far cry from the girl who introduced herself as Trouble in a seedy bar all those years ago. And I suppose that had to count for something.

Till we meet again, Spike Spiegel.




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