Things Present – Things Past
By Estepheia and Marcee
Part 45 – Home Sweet Home
She could almost
see the sunlight through her closed lids.
But, she just wasn’t ready to open her eyes yet. Sure, technically, it
was “the next day” and by the laws of nature, she should get up, get dressed, eat
breakfast. But instead, she lay still, not in a leaden
do-I-really-have-to-get-up kind of gloom, but reveling in the warmth and
comfort of her bed. She took a slow deep breath, enjoying the sensation of the
sun kissed morning air passing through her nose and filling her lungs. If anyone were watching, they’d notice a
hint of a smile playing upon her face.
*I love the smell of my room in the morning,* she thought in sudden revelation.
She made a
conscious decision to open her eyes. At first, letting only a thin line of
light filter through her lashes. Bright, but not as harsh as she remembered it.
Then, a little more, until finally she found herself looking contemplatively at
a small crack on the ceiling above her bed.
A true smile came
to the fore. *Home.*
In an energetic
moment of spontaneity, Buffy leapt off the bed and approached her dresser,
where she could inspect her friends’ smiling faces. She traced the photographs
with her fingers, realizing that the resentment she’d felt toward them was gone.
Well, not entirely gone, but mostly. *It’s
good to be back,* she thought, turning the sentiment over in her head and
finding, to her surprise, that it was true. *With
my friends.* She made her way to her closet and opened it with a flourish. *And Vera Wang…Or at least a good
*Oh brave new world that has hot showers in it. And
A/C, a nice house, boots! Lots of boots! And cookie-dough-fudge-mint-chip ice
She was really
getting into this. She fluttered around her room touching things. Appreciating
them in a way she hadn’t in months.
*And Revlon Flesh colored lipstick! And designer
sunglasses! And kisses! And Spike!*
Suddenly, in her
head, she heard the sound effect of tires screeching to a halt.
mumbled to herself. She was toying with the cross necklace she had hanging on
her bedpost, remembering how Spike’s hand had oh-so-accidentally brushed hers
last night. Remembering how he’d kissed her when they were still in the past.
She wistfully touched her hand to her lips. The memory made her heart race and
her stomach flutter in a way that was both scary and exhilarating.
awake!” Dawn bounced through the door she’d just opened. “I thought I heard
you. Wanna come down for breakfast. Willow and Tara made pancakes!”
Like on the stove? Or MADE pancakes, as in abracadabra and poof?” Buffy asked,
a whiff of charred something catching her attention. She wrinkled her nose.
make out while cooking,” Dawn said and headed for the stairs, leaving her
sister to get dressed. “I better go down and keep an eye on those too. Don’t
want them to burn down the house or anything.”
good. No, better than good---breakfast
was pretty darn incredible. Pancakes
tasted better then she ever remembered them: fluffy and warm, drenched in
butter and syrup. Absolutely
delicious. She was smiling inanely at
everyone---her sister, her friends, at Xander and Anya, who had arrived just
before Buffy got downstairs, at Willow and Tara. They all grinned at her in return. Even Giles was as close as he ever came to something as unstuffy
as grinning. It was a whole big grinningpalooza.
“You have no idea
how great it is to be back,” Buffy said. And meant it. “I mean, if I had to deal
with one more person offering me fried lamb chops for breakfast, I think I
might have staked myself.” She shoveled another forkful into her mouth.
“I think I should
be offended,” Giles interjected, sipping his tea to hide his smile.
offensive English things, shouldn’t Spike be here?” Xander wondered aloud and
then marveled at his own words.
at the back door, half expecting a smoking vampire to dash in under his
Buffy bit her
For a brief
moment, Xander was struck by a sudden disconcerting thought. What if Buffy staked him, now that he’s all
chip-free?* It was weird, worrying if Buffy had staked Spike, as opposed to why she hadn’t. But that was before
time-traveling fun and Xander couldn’t really hang on to his belief that a
chipless Spike would turn on them faster than he could say ‘Saschatawan” Which, he supposed, wasn’t very fast.
“Yea, where is
he?” Dawn asked. “He just disappeared last night.”
and pretended the pancakes on her plate required her full attention. “He… uh…
had things to take care of, I guess. Although, he said he’d come over tonight.”
When didja talk to him?” Dawn wanted to know.
“Last night, when
I was…patrolling. Actually, he said we should all meet here at nine. See?
Message passed on,” Buffy said, blushing at the memory of the hand-holding and
the awkward talk last night.
happens at nine?” Anya wondered out loud.
When Xander and
Anya arrived at Revello Drive again, shortly before nine, the first thing they
noticed were wisps of blue smoke drifting up from the front yard. Leaning
against his customary tree, smoking, Spike was looking his normal self again:
hair plastered back and dressed in his usual black clothes and his obligatory
duster. The only things out of place were the two six-packs of Sam Adams at his
feet - unusual because, in Xander’s eyes, Spike was the biggest mooch he’d ever
Xander greeted him. Instead of going right inside, the couple hesitated,
conferred and then approached the vampire warily.
Spike nodded, sounding almost cordial, but then a suggestive leer formed on his
lips. “You two look like you didn’t get much sleep last night. Worn out are
just like to know,” Xander smirked back. “How’s the-” he gestured at Spike’s
chest. “You did get shot, right?”
too,” Spike pointed out, not one to miss an opportunity to brag about his
injuries in a suitably manly fashion. “Got a friend that dug the bullet out,”
he continued with a no-big-deal gesture, although it had hurt like hell.
“Why aren’t you inside?”
“Don’t think the
no-smoking ban’s been lifted. Besides, I--”
“Thank you for
saving my Xander,” Anya blurted out, her tasteful and well-rehearsed thank-you
speech suddenly forgotten. She wondered if it might be inappropriate to hug the
vampire. She certainly felt like pulling him, the entire world, everything -
but mostly Xander - into a big bear hug.
dropped his cigarette and ground it out underneath his boot, forestalling grand
gestures of gratitude that might be forthcoming. “’S nothing,” he muttered.
“Keep my promises, don’t I?”
anything I can do to repay-“ Anya pressed, still bubbling with relief.
“How ‘bout a seat
far away from Harris’s folks when you guys tie the knot.” He picked up his beer
and headed for the porch. “Come on, let’s go inside.”
He was stopped in
his tracks by a high pitched squeal. “Xander! You told him?” Anya exclaimed.
“You told Spike about our engagement?”
“Yeah. Why, was
that wrong?” Xander asked nervously, ready to do a quick back-pedal.
“Of course not,
you dolt,” she shrieked and hung around his neck, kissing him with abandon.
“Talked about it all the time, Harris did,”
Spike lied smoothly. “Wedding here, wedding there. Never shut his gob for a
If looks could
stake… Even in his beleaguered state Xander managed a good glare at the
smirking vampire, while stoically wrapping his arms around Anya in an attempt
to steady her over-giddy embrace. Evidently the emotional tsunami had to be
ridden out until its energy was spent.
mouthed silently and with a mischievous grin continued for Anya’s ears: “Even asked
me to be his best man, he did.”
withdrew her head to look at her flustered fiancé. “Didn’t you say you were
going to ask Willow to stand in for all the male DVD-watching-and beer-drinking
friends you never really had?”
“Did I say that?”
Xander said, embarrassed.
did,” Anya told him, nodding sagely, still not entirely on firm ground when
required to recognize a rhetorical question.
“Beer? I can chug
it down with the best of them,” Spike volunteered. “If that’s what’s required.”
is looking good in our wedding photographs,” Anya corrected him sternly. She
appraised Spike like a butcher taxes cattle, then nodded decisively. “Yes, I’m
sure Spike will look better in a tuxedo than Willow.”
Xander affected a
“I’m not wearing
a bleedin’ tuxedo.”
* * *
It was Tara who
opened the door, smiling in that shy but welcoming way of hers. “Buffy and
Willow are still upstairs,” she told them and stepped back invitingly. “But I’m
sure they’ll be down any minute now.”
Xander and Anya
walked inside without much ado and headed for the living room to greet Giles.
Spike hesitated, and when he finally stepped over the threshold, it was with
“’S just… It’s
three years since the last time I was in here like this,” Spike blurted out. “I
mean, without the chip.”
Tara had never
heard that particular story and silently resolved to ask Willow about it. Not
one for great speeches, she nervously twirled a strand of hair between her
fingers. “Spike, I just wanted to tell you… I’m glad you accepted Mr. Giles’s…
our offer. If you ever need someone to, you know, just talk…” Tara smiled
lopsidedly. “Are you hungry? Cause there’s fresh blood in the fridge.”
“Thanks, ducks,” Spike
said, feeling strangely touched. “Maybe later. Lemme just go put these away.”
He gestured at the beer, and made a hasty beeline for the kitchen, before he
could make a fool out of himself.
In the living
room, Xander soon excused himself and followed Spike into the kitchen, just as
Anya asked Giles: “Why can’t anyone tell us what’s going on?”
“Can I ask you
something?” Xander asked, when he
stepped into the kitchen.
“What is it?”
Spike mumbled almost unintelligibly, while chewing on a cold slice of pizza. He
was rummaging around in the fridge and rearranging the groceries to make room
for the beer.
Charles said to me, in the past, got me thinking. Spike, has Buffy ever talked
to you about what happened when she died? Where she went?”
The way Spike
suddenly stilled, the 6-pack frozen halfway to the shelf, answered that
“So it’s true?”
Spike tossed the
half eaten piece of pizza back into its box, closed the fridge and slowly
turned around, his face blank. “What is?”
“She didn’t go to
hell? She went-up there?” Xander couldn’t even bring himself to say the other h-word. “And we dragged her out of
and looked away.
on. “So, what’d she do? Come right out and tell you?”
tried to end the conversation.
“Come on! I need
to know. I mean, did we?”
“She never wanted you to find out,” he admitted.
Willow’s voice sounded from the door. Her face was pale. All the exhilaration she’d
felt at getting Buffy back again suddenly tasted like ashes in her mouth.
“Oh god,” was all
Xander could say. He clapped his hand over his mouth in shock. Until now he
hadn’t really believed it, not really, not deep down where it counted. “Oh
god,” he stammered again.
Spike was saved
from having to answer by the chime of the doorbell.
“That would be
tonight’s guest,” Giles could be heard and moments later he was opening the
“Mr. Giles. Good
evening,” the newcomer said.
I’m glad you could make it. Please, do come in. We’ve been expecting you.”
* * *
“Buffy. I mean,
your great-- I dunno, great-great grandfather? Whatever. He and I were friends,
so it feels kinda weird if you call me that. Just call me Buffy.”
“Very well then,
Buffy. So, you’re telling me that you switched bodies with a girl in the past
and then wrote the letter which I delivered to Mr. Giles here, a few days ago?”
Charlie Willoughby asked. “Frankly, it sounds like an episode of Quantum Leap.”
But then his eyes darted nervously at Mr. Spike, who’d been staring at him with
unsettling intensity throughout, silent but fidgety. Reminded of the man’s lack
of a reflection and superhuman strength, Charlie’s skepticism collapsed like a
house of cards. “But I believe you. Actually, my grandfather used to tell me
stories… Did you really meet my great-great-grandfather?”
said. “A real cutie. I mean, not that I, you know, took notice or anything.”
Spike suddenly said. “Tried to kill me, not that I blame him.”
“Yeah, I kind of
wonder what became of him,” Xander babbled. He was slowly recovering from the
shock of hearing Spike validate what Charles Willoughby the Victorian had told
him about Buffy. Not so with Willow. She was pale and unusually quiet, which
her friends attributed to the strain of yesterday’s spell-casting. Only Tara
seemed to sense that something was the matter and stayed at her side.
“I want to know
what happened to Maeve!” Anya declared eagerly. “Does it even say in the
nothing. She’d been quiet throughout Buffy’s (slightly edited) account of her
time in the past.
“I was rather
hoping Mr. Willoughby might shed some light on those questions. If you please?”
Charlie picked up
his suitcase and took out a little bundle. “I have here,” he said, almost
reverently, “letters that have been in the possession of my family for almost
120 years. Passed on through five generations, their purpose always something
of a family mystery.” He cut the string that held them together.
Mr. Giles, Miss Jenkins, ” he handed each of them a sealed envelope. “And Mr.
Spike, here’s yours.”
“Just Spike.” He
took the thick envelope and fingered the paper, but made no move to open it
Anya, who didn’t
get letters any more often than Spike did, knew no such restraints. She tore
the envelope open with a happy squeal, quickly scanned the letter and then
waved it possessively. “Maeve wrote me a letter,” she said happily.
“What did she
say?” Dawn asked.
“I believe this
letter here is for general consumption,” Giles interjected hastily, waving his
own missive about. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Maeve’s communication to Anya
were of a more… private nature. Here, let me read this one out loud. It’s meant
for all of us.” He adjusted his glasses and cleared his throat:
My dear friends,
I hope I am allowed to call you my friends, even
though I spent less than a week in your midst. I would like you to know that I
have often thought of you and the many things I’ve learned from you. For a
while it was like living in an enchanted kingdom, and no matter how short my
stay was, I was able to hold on to some of the magic even after my return.
I have friends now, good friends who are dear to my
heart and who have often saved me from peril. Needless to say, the Council does
not approve, but it’s the mission that counts, not the Council.
You are all in my heart
“It’s kind of
creepy knowing that she’s been dead for over a century, isn’t it?” Anya said
into the silence.
snapped at her bluntness.
true.” Her lower lip wobbled slightly, the way it had the day when Mrs. Summers
had died. “Yesterday she was here and today she’s dead and I know it happened
more than a hundred years ago. I wish…” she stopped herself, looking disgusted,
then threw her hands in the air. “Well it sucks!”
Xander slung his
arm around her waist. “Yea, it does.”
“Totally. It was
weird, with her being in Buffy’s body and all, but I miss her. I would have
liked to meet the real her,” Dawn said wistfully.
“Dawnie, I think
we all would have liked that,” Tara agreed.
belong here, though.” Giles said, polishing his glasses with abandon. “It’s all
for the best.”
“I guess the body
swap was a bit like a vacation,” Willow said haltingly. “You know, like an
excursion or field trip, all educational. You go and find out stuff but in the
end you’re just glad to be back home, no matter how interesting the trip is.”
“A vacation? You
call fighting Angelus and that black-eyed Watcher a vacation?” Buffy asked,
dryly. “Okay, maybe it was. A little. I got to see England - albeit a stuffy
and totally outdated version. Yay! Met interesting people…” She glanced at
Spike and found him watching her, looking totally smitten. He snapped out of
his reverie and quickly composed his features into a more cocky expression, but
he didn’t look away. Just arched his brow, causing the Slayer’s heart to beat
faintly. While her friends continued to talk about Maeve, she tore open the
envelope and began to read.
As you can see, you are not the only one who is able
to send letters through time. All I had to do was to leave instructions that
mine should get delivered a few days after the first. I’m writing to you
because it occurred to me that you might like to know what happened here, after
I am still true to our calling, but I am no longer
alone. Charles, George and Mr. Crawford’s sister Victoria have been at my side,
lending me their friendship, understanding and occasionally a hand. They have
shared my burden willingly, not because they were chosen by some inexplicable
fate, but because they chose me as a friend, just like your friends chose you.
I am grateful that I did not have to go through this alone, like so many other
Slayers before us.
George is studying Theology and will become a
clergyman. With some people, the confrontation with evil undermines their
faith, with others the opposite is true. I am certain he will make a fine
Charles has been asked to join the Council. I believe
he will accept, if only to spark change from within.
One day after your departure, following the
unexpected and brutal murder of his son Richard, Director Hartford suffered a
second stroke from which he never recovered. He remained paralyzed and mute for
several months until one night he slipped quietly away, taking his secrets -
and ours - with him to his grave.
Director Bateley never fully regained his voice. But
he still works for the Council. He often visits on some pretext to see
Elisabeth. She calls him “Uncle Horatio”.
Who is Elisabeth, you ask. She is one of the infants you
saved, when you fought against Angelus. Edward adopted her. You will be pleased
to know that baby Elizabeth has grown into a strong and willful five-year-old.
Only two days ago she announced her intention to become a police officer and
was greatly disappointed when she was told that women are not allowed to join
the police. She then set about to cut off all her lovely curls to pass herself
off as a boy but was stopped in time by the maid. Needless to say, we all dote
As for the Council, well, they tried to relieve
Edward from his duties but thanks to Director Bateley’s support and my
steadfast refusal to accept a new Watcher, the Council relented. I do not
expect their journals to speak kindly of me, when I am gone. I believe the
words ‘scandalous conduct’ will be used. To use one of your metaphors: Colour
One of the deepest regrets of my life is that you and
I did not get the chance to get to know each other, but ‘walking a mile in your
shoes’ and finding the footprints you have left here, in my time, makes me feel
like we are close friends.
Buffy lowered her
letter, her face guarded, giving nothing away.
Spike had fully
intended to open his envelope in private, once he was back in his crypt, but
now impatience and curiosity got the better of him. His parcel consisted of a
single folded piece of stationary and another thick envelope. His letter was
much shorter. It simply read:
Thank you for teaching me how to dance.
I thought you might like to have these.
In love and friendship,
When he opened
the envelope a handful of faded photographs slid into his hand, the topmost
picture been taken only months before his death. It showed his mother sitting
in a high-backed chair like Queen Victoria herself, the old family dog lying at
her feet, with William and Victoria standing behind her in their Sunday best.
In those days one wasn’t supposed to smile in family pictures, posterity being
too serious a matter for levity, but the picture exuded a tangible domestic
He shuffled it to
the bottom of the pile. The next picture showed Victoria and Charles Willoughby
on their wedding day, both looking incredibly young and radiantly happy. Spike
scanned the rest of the pictures quickly and a genuine smile slipped past his
guard. Then he carefully returned them to the envelope. However, when he looked
up he found the humans watching him. For a second he was embarrassed, but then
he affected a scowl and gave in to their openly curious faces.
“Pictures,” he found
himself explaining. “Maeve, she sent me photos. Of my Mum and my sis.” He
hesitated, but since his past wasn’t exactly a secret anymore he shrugged and
added: “ Wanna have a look?”
seated on the counter, looking thoughtful, still holding her letter. But the
others - Charlie included - crowded around Spike as he passed the photographs
around. Everyone was talking at the same time.
“You had a Mom?”
- “Oh, your sister looks just like you, except for the fact that she’s a girl, of
course, and really pretty. Um, I mean, not that you’re ugly or anything, but
you’re a guy, and, you know… gay. I mean, I am. Um, shutting up now.” - “She
sent you pictures of your Mom?” -“Look at that dress!” - “Is that you? With
those glasses?” - “I think he looks kinda cute…” *Dawn, of course.* - “What was her name?” - “She’s pretty.” -
“They…they look like a nice family, Spike, thank you.” - “Does that mean we’re
their questions. But he kept glancing at Buffy. She looked at her letter again
and read the postscript.
I was told you developed a certain interest for Mr.
Crawford while you were here. I was going to send you his picture, but decided
against it. I do not think you will need it. It is not wise to dwell on the
past. And we Slayers, who have so little time on earth, have every reason to
seize the day.
Buffy lowered the
letter. Spike was studying her intently, his head slightly tilted. She had seen
William hold his head just so. She smiled, slid down the counter and walked
over to join her friends.
(but wait! There will be an epilogue!)
Continued in Epilogue
Many thanks to
LadyCat and Mikelesq who beta’d this and provided suggestions and