Thanks and love to fenwic, cousinjean and georgevna - your insight, perspective, and support are invaluable.
William ran. He ran as if his life depended on it; he was fairly certain that was indeed the case. That man. His face had changed - become a monster’s.
And the woman. Beautiful, entrancing, but somehow terrifying. Inhuman. As though she was a cobra beguiling its prey, or some succubus from an ancient myth. He somehow knew that in her embrace he would have gone joyfully to his destruction.
William dashed down what he believed to be a sewer. It unquestionably smelled as though it were a sewer. He was unsure if the noises he heard were the offspring of his terrified imagination, or if those nightmares made manifest were following him. Whatever their origin, they spurred him to sprint down the dim corridor.
His breath hitched.
“Oh, dear, no. Not now.” He needed to breathe, needed to be able to run. He could feel his lungs tightening, as though iron bands were locking themselves around his chest. He inhaled, and could hear the rattling wheeze. He forced himself to keep moving. Where to go?
Up. Up to the street, where people could see him. Surely whatever was chasing him would not murder him in front of witnesses. He staggered now, gulping for the breaths that rasped in his lungs.
William bent over, his hands propped on his knees. He forced himself to take a series of shallow, panting breaths - anything deeper would start him coughing, would make the tightness in his lungs worse.
As he straightened up, he looked around. There. A ladder in the wall. William climbed it slowly, his breath still laboring. At the top of the ladder was an exit, blocked by a solid metal cover. William tested it with his hand. It didn’t move.
“Oh, please,” he whispered. “Please.” He took another step up the ladder, and put his shoulder against the metal disc. He pushed, and felt the cover move slightly. Encouraged, he pushed harder, feeling the strain in his back and legs. Slowly, ponderously, he raised the cover until it was free of the opening. It slipped to the side and landed, showing about ten inches of the world above the sewer. William pulled himself through the gap until he was sitting on the edge of the hole. He then took a moment to rest, letting his legs dangle into the hole. Cautiously, he took a slightly deeper breath. It was too soon: his breath caught and he began coughing uncontrollably. Minutes passed as he fought to regain control of his breathing.
Suddenly, the woman was there - the one with dark hair and enthralling eyes, the one with bloody hands and bloody lips. She was below him, at the bottom of the ladder, reaching up toward his leg. In a heartbeat she would clutch his ankle. She would pull him back down into the gray murk of the sewer. She would consume him, and he would beg her to.
With a start, William jerked his legs out of the hole. He stood, a continuation of his previous motion, and took a few panicked steps away from the manhole cover.
“Silly. Of course she wasn’t there. You’re merely distressing yourself.” William laughed at himself, a nervous, soundless laugh. He deliberately turned his back to the manhole cover and looked around.
His surroundings were recognizable yet strange. There were streets, and buildings, and people. But the streets weren’t dirt or cobblestone; they were a thick black substance, like hardened tar. Along them moved strange purring carriages with no external means of propulsion. The buildings had signs, labeling themselves as shops of some sort. But though the words on the signs appeared to be English, he only understood every other one. And the people…There were relatively few on the street, but this was perhaps due to it being just after sunrise (How could it be just after sunrise? Minutes ago it was only late evening). They passed by him, not looking at him, as though each was hurrying to some unspoken destination. Their clothing was of alien materials, and in myriad hues, and in a few cases, almost nonexistent.
This wasn’t London. This wasn’t anyplace he knew.
When Buffy had realized that it was going to take longer than “Go, find, kill,” she’d sent Spike back downstairs. There was no way she could comprehend anything more complex without first having a shower. Especially when she’d been awakened at daybreak. Ugh. So not a morning person. She shuffled to the bathroom and stood in the shower and let hot water hit her in the face until it wasn’t hot any more. Then she brushed her teeth and pulled her wet hair back into a ponytail. Feeling slightly more human, she headed back to her room to grab some clothes and toss them on.
Buffy could hear a soft murmuring as she padded downstairs. Dawn and Spike, in the kitchen, discussing something quietly.
“That’s good, Bit. Now, feel around for the pin…”
“What’s the pin?”
“It’s the movey part. You found it?”
Buffy rounded the corner and walked into the kitchen. Spike sat on a stool at the island, leaning in towards her sister. Dawn, still in pajamas, was bent intently over the shackle on his wrist, which rested on the island. She held a straightened paper clip in one hand, and what looked to be a turkey skewer in the other. Both were jammed into the keyhole of the cuff in front of her. Dawn bit her lower lip as she probed with the turkey skewer.
Buffy crossed her arms. “What are you doing?”
Dawn glanced up at Buffy. “It’s so cool! Spike’s teaching me to pick locks!”
“Why?” Buffy asked, a note of warning in her voice.
“Well, can’t do it meself, can I? Left hand’s a little nonfunctional right now.”
“Don’t teach her that. And I’ve got a hacksaw.” Buffy pulled a mug out of the cupboard. She poured herself some coffee, and downed half the mug in one swallow.
There was a click, and the cuff fell open.
“Hey! Hey! I did it!” Dawn was gleeful.
“Good work!” Spike said. “That was - damn, that was quick. Took me hours, my first go at one of those.”
Dawn giggled. “Well, I am ‘The Key’, you know.”
Spike groaned and rolled his eyes at Dawn.
“Ack.” Buffy took another slurp of coffee. “Go get dressed, while I yell at Spike for being a bad influence.”
Dawn hopped down off the stool. “’Kay. Hey, can I keep the cuff?”
“It’s all yours.” Spike waved his hand magnanimously.
“In appreciation of my freedom, oh mighty Key.” Spike and Dawn grinned at each other. They held the grin, smiling at each other for a long moment. Then Dawn walked out of the kitchen, swinging the shackle by its chain. Buffy watched her leave, and then turned to look at Spike.
Buffy continued to glare at him.
“Please. It’s not anything she can’t find out on the Internet,” Spike scoffed. “Plus, learning how to pick locks takes an insane amount of practice. She won’t stick with it long enough to -- Oh, who’m I kidding. Of course, she’ll stick with it. It’s fun.”
Buffy sighed. Spike was incorrigible. And Spike and Dawn together were impossible. Still, he’d been there for Dawn when she - she couldn’t be. According to Giles, they’d kept each other sane. She owed Spike for that. Would probably always owe him.
She walked over to him, setting her mug on the counter. “How’s your shoulder?”
“And your hand?”
“Big baby. Hold on a sec.” Buffy left the kitchen and returned quickly with a massive first aid kit. She rifled through the kit, pulling out rubbing alcohol, gauze, tape, and scissors.
“You have something in there I can use to splint my thumb?”
“How about a splint?” She tossed one to him, and he caught it with his good hand.
The corner of his mouth quirked up. “Hmm, I’d really prefer a splint, if you had one.”
“Or a splint might work.”
“Why not a splint?”
“Okay, now, see, the word has lost all its meaning.” Buffy smiled at him. “Splint. Splint splint splint.”
“You’re right. Completely senseless.” Spike awkwardly tried to wrap his left hand. He fumbled the brace, and it fell to the ground. “Bollocks!”
“Let me do it.” Buffy grabbed the splint off the floor, and held out her hand. Spike made a face at her. But after a moment he placed his injured hand palm up in hers. Buffy swabbed the cuts around his wrist with alcohol, and closed the worst cuts with some butterfly bandages. Then she gently maneuvered the brace around his thumb. As she wrapped his hand in gauze, she glanced up at him. Something was weird about his black T-shirt. It was folding strangely, as though it had been really heavily starched.
“Why is your shirt all stiff like that?”
Spike glanced down. “Oh. Blood.”
“Mine!” Defensive, Spike raised his chin, so Buffy could see the gash on his neck. “Din’t I tell you? I’ve been butchered kosher.”
Buffy stepped closer to examine Spike’s wound. “What the hell? How did this happen?”
“Dru and Darla drained my blood for a spell,” Spike said. “Took a great huge vat of it. I’m all logy.”
“Okay. That’s it. Full story, from the top, please.”
Buffy finished wrapping his hand, taping the bandage carefully, and Spike told her of Drusilla’s ultimatum in the graveyard. Then she poured herself another cup of coffee, as he talked of waking up in the cave. While she used tweezers to pull shards of glass out of his feet, Spike revealed details of the spell cast. He finished with his escape as she repacked the first aid kit and put it away. The only time he paused, the only slight hitch in the narrative, was when he mentioned the man who had appeared as a result of the spell. All he could choke out was that the man had to be found.
Buffy took a moment to consider the story she’d heard.
“So they zapped you with a taser and chained you to a wall?” Buffy asked. When Spike nodded in response, she grinned. “What’s that like?”
“Funny.” Spike winced. “I’m well aware that karma just bit a great big bloody chunk outta my arse. I would point out though, that I didn’t take your boots, or your favorite bloody coat.”
“Nope. Just my cashmere sweater and a few pairs of underwear.”
“Did I mention I’m a few pints low?” Spike asked.
She relented. He did look kind of punch-drunk. “Fine. Give me a few minutes to go do girly things, and I’ll run by the butcher shop. You can sack out here today.”
He looked at her, incredulous at the offer.
Buffy sighed. “Hello? You can’t go home, ‘cause your whackadoo ex-girlfriend knows where you live, and you’re injured. Also, you’re barefoot, so your usually amusing sprint to the sewers, with or without Mr. Blanko, will result in your feet burning off and the new nickname of ‘Stumpy’. Finally, I need to contact you the second I find your mystery guy, right?”
“Then unless you got a phone in your crypt without telling me, you’re easier to reach here. You can - ” Her voice caught. “You can sleep in my room.”
“Thanks,” he said softly.
Great. Now she felt all uncomfortable. “Promise you won’t teach Dawn how to hotwire a car, and we’re even.”
Spike looked at her, mischief again twinkling in his eyes. “Yeh. Well. Little late for that, actually.”
Buffy closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Spike, I swear. The second my little sister gets in any trouble whatsoever, whether or not it’s something she learned from you? You are going to have a serious splinter problem. Cardiac splinters.”
Buffy put her mug in the sink, and started back upstairs. A thought hit her, causing her to turn around in the doorway.
“Oh. So this guy, this what’s-his-name?”
“William? Who is he?”
Spike suddenly couldn’t look at her. His focus darted around the room, as though the way to describe this man was tucked somewhere in a corner of the kitchen. “He’s, he’s - someone from my past.”
“Human. Sort of a relative.” Tension thickened Spike’s words. His voice was deeper, and he seemed to be spitting the words out. “Died in 1880.”
“So he knew you before you were a vamp?” Now, this had some possibilities.
“You could say that, yeh.”
“Wow. He must be utterly freaked, getting plopped down in Sunnydale.” Buffy thought for a second. “We have to find him before Dru and Darla do?”
“And if we don’t?”
“Well.” Spike thought for a second. “Things could get very ugly.”
Buffy walked along the streets of downtown Sunnydale, humming under her breath. A guy in tweed, with light brown hair and little round glasses. How hard could it be? After all, who wears tweed in Southern California? Giles, on occasion, and … our mystery guest, whoever the heck he was.
So why was it taking so long? At Spike’s oddly urgent pleas, she had cancelled her day’s schedule. She had combed the streets of Sunnydale for, geez, what time was it, anyway? One twenty-four. Great. For almost six hours. Not to mention the fact that Spike was now sacked out on her bed, and that she’d swung by his crypt to pick up a change of clothes for him. Buffy, the Vampire Errand-Runner. Could this day get any weirder?
Don’t think that. You’re just asking for it, Buffy.
Okay, she was going to give this another thirty minutes, and then she was calling in the cavalry. Maybe Willow could cast some locatey spell. Some track-the-guy-from-a-different-time thing. Whatever didn’t involve Buffy trudging around Sunnydale any more in what she’d thought would be comfortable boots.
Whoa. Tweed alert, dead ahead. Buffy took a few steps closer. Yep, this guy definitely fit the profile: tweed, glasses, floppy hair. Oddly familiar. But he wasn’t panicky, or jumpy, or hiding from anyone. He didn’t even look scared, which was kinda weird considering he’d just been zapped from the nineteenth century. Instead, he was scribbling in a little leather book that was propped on his knee in front of him. He looked up, totally engrossed in his thoughts, blind to his surroundings. Then his focus snapped back to the book, and he was writing again.
She walked up to him and tapped him on the shoulder. “Excuse me, but -”
“Oh. Dear. Please.” He stood up abruptly, gesturing towards the bench. “Allow me to offer you a seat, miss.”
“Umm, thanks,” she said, a little bewildered. “I think there’s room for both of us, here.”
He nodded hesitantly. Still, he appeared to be waiting for something. Oh, right, she’d read Pride and Prejudice. It’s one of those ‘girls sit first’ things. Courtesy. Novel concept.
Buffy sat on the bench. After a few awkward half-starts, William followed, perching on the edge as though he could bolt at any second. He turned to look at her, but his gaze darted away. Was he embarrassed about something? Dang, he looked familiar.
“Sir?” What’s with the sir? Swell, now she was stuck in a Jane Austen novel. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Of-of course. It’s a pleasure to be of assistance.” Plummy British accent. Nice.
“Is your name William?”
A look of surprise flashed across his face. It was followed by fear, and then resolution. “Yes. That is, my Christian name is William. How would you -”
“Great. Whew. I’ve been looking for you for hours.” She could tell he was fighting to keep from looking scared again. “Don’t worry. I’m here to help. Card-carrying good guy. Scout’s honor.”
“Wha-- ?” Better. Now he just looked completely baffled.
Duh, Buffy. Slang, pop culture references, not gonna go over with a guy who thinks electricity is newfangled. She started again. “I was sent to look for you, to take you somewhere safe. My name’s Buffy. Buffy Summers.”
“Pleasure to make your acquaintance.” The words came out automatically. “Miss Summers?”
“Please. Buffy. I only get called Miss Summers when I’m in trouble.” She could only be so formal. Plus, well, it was true.
“Miss, would you happen to know…” He stopped, then started again. “This may appear to be an odd question, and I beg your forbearance. I assure you, I am not, in fact, deranged. At least, I don’t believe myself to be.”
“Where-where are we?”
Not an odd question, considering the circumstances. “This is Sunnydale.”
“Ah.” William jotted a note in his journal. “And what, pray tell, is Sunnydale? Is it country, or city, or some other geographic demarcation?”
“Oh. Town. It’s a town in California, in the United States.”
“California? Really?” William looked about himself. “Where are the cowboys? And the hostile natives? And the gold miners? I have heard it told on good authority that the streets in California are well nigh paved with gold.”
“Not a lotta gold-mining around here, actually. Or cowboys.” Buffy considered. “Though we do have a fair number of hostile natives…”
“Oh. Oh.” He looked slightly disappointed - like someone had explained the workings behind a truly amazing magic trick. “I appear to have been misinformed. I have - on more than one occasion - been teased for my gullibility. Here is another sterling example of it.”
Buffy smiled at him. “No, you’re fine. You’re just asking the wrong question.”
“Now I truly am perplexed. What question should I ask?”
“Well, you know where we are. Now ask when we are. When.”
“You can’t be serious. It’s 1880, of course, how could it be…” William trailed off as he considered the alien nature of his surroundings. “Otherwise…”
Break it to him gently. “It looks like you got the all-expenses-paid trip to the year 2001, William.”
“2001? The year of our Lord 2001? Two zero zero one?”
“You got it.”
“I retract what I said earlier. I consider it quite possible that I am, in fact, deranged.” William closed his eyes tightly, and she could see him fighting panic.
“Trust me. You’re not crazy,” Buffy assured him. “The situation you’re in, yeah, that’s seriously loony. But you look to be doing pretty well, actually.”
William bounced in his seat. “Oh. Oh. Pardon me, but I must-” He lifted the book he carried slightly, and gave her a questioning glance.
“Go ahead. Whatever.” Buffy was a little taken aback by this weird burst of enthusiasm.
“Thank you.” With that, William opened his book, and wrote busily with a stub of a pencil. Buffy waited a few minutes, watching as he continued to scribble. Eventually she ran out of patience.
“With the writing?”
He looked over at her, a shy, sweet smile lighting up his features. Then, meeting her gaze, he flushed and looked away.
“You see, I was a little… oh, what’s the word? Overwhelmed? Inundated? By this whole experience. This place-it is so alien. Yet there is just enough that is recognizable around me, which makes it even more disconcerting. I therefore made the decision to behave, well, as Gulliver would -“
“Gulliver’s Travels?” Buffy asked.
“Yes! Yes! Precisely! You’ve read it?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Saw the miniseries.”
A look of incomprehension passed across his face, but then he continued his explanation. “Well, then, I thought I would do as Gulliver did, and commit my impressions of this unfamiliar realm to paper.” He looked down for a second. “It was either this, or curl up into a little ball in a blind panic.”
“All this is a little much, huh?”
“Precisely. But I’m finding the imposition of distance -- by means of the rational framework of the attempt to describe my surroundings -- is remarkably successful at distracting me from the terror.”
“Oh. Good.” Yeesh. This guy could out-Giles Giles with the vocab.
“It appears we have answered the salient questions of when and where.” William closed his journal, gripping it tightly in his hands. “Now, may I ask, why? Why am I here? How do I get home?”
“Good questions,” Buffy said. “I don’t exactly know. But we’ll figure it out, I promise. If it helps, I know how you got here.”
“That would be most helpful, yes.” There was that shy smile again.
“Well, we think that Drusilla - umm, the woman from the cave? With the dark hair and absolutely no sanity?”
“Ah. Yes. I remember,” William said, his voice taking on a distant quality. “It was as though she had cast a spell over me.”
“She did cast a spell,” Buffy replied. “That’s what brought you here. That other blond lady, and I use the term loosely, was helping her.”
“And the fellow? The one with the white hair? And the face…” William shuddered.
“Good guy. Well, comparatively. He’s the one who asked me to find you.”
“But his face!” William’s breathing started to speed up; Buffy could see him working to maintain control. “His face became a monster’s. And he screamed at me. Chased me.”
“Don’t worry. He can’t hurt you. Like - can’t. He just wants to make sure you get back where you belong.” She could tell that William was unconvinced. Great. “Tell you what. Let’s get you to Giles, and I’ll explain on the way.”
She stood up. William instinctively followed her to his feet, but when she took a step he didn’t follow. She could tell that he wanted to go with her, that he wanted to trust her, but was still a little frightened.
“Come on,” she wheedled. “I’ll throw in lunch…”
He looked at her blankly.
“Lunch? Luncheon? Food?”
“Luncheon? Miss, I am at your service. You may direct me in all endeavors.” Under his breath he added, “In lieu of anything else remotely resembling a viable option.”
Oh. Oh no. That look on his face now- that tight little half-smile. She knew that look. Buffy grabbed William’s arm, and turned him to face her. From straight on it was easier to see. Blue eyes, lethal cheekbones. Hell, suddenly it was obvious. Spike’s relative? Hah. This was Spike. Spike when he was human.
“Oh, God.” Buffy worked hard to keep herself from laughing, and utterly failed.
“Have I- ” He was wounded by her laughter, uncomfortable and vulnerable. “Have I done something to amuse you?”
“No, no, I’m sorry, I’m not laughing at you.” Buffy waved her hand at William, trying simultaneously to regain control of herself and apologize. He looked so hurt. “I’m laughing at Spike.”
“This is going to take so much explaining. Okay, let’s start at the top,” Buffy said, as they began to walk away. “Do you know what a vampire is?”
“A vampire? Oh! Oh-do you mean? Such as the character from the work by Byron?” The enthusiasm was back in William’s voice. “Or, well, Polidari, actually, but I somehow prefer to think it was Byron’s.”
“Well, Buffy, it kind of makes sense,” Willow said, as she stared at William. “Vampire me was pretty different from me me. And not just the slutty factor.”
Buffy looked over at William. He was writing in his journal again, this time while sitting at the round table in the Magic Shop. Buffy, Giles, Willow, Anya and Xander were gathered around the counter, quietly discussing the situation.
“It gets even weirder. He’s really nice. Shy, polite. He doesn’t have any American money, and he was still horrified when I paid for his burger.” Buffy shook her head in amazement. “He even calls me ‘Miss Buffy’. He’s, like, the anti-Spike. Bizarro Spike.”
“It’s a pretty big difference, no arguments there,” Willow said. “Even his accent is different - he’s all Giles-y.”
“Caught that, did you?” Buffy looked from Willow to Giles. “So what do you think? Can you send him back?”
“I have some preliminary ideas.” Giles patted a pile of books. “One of these should tell us the specifics of that spell.”
“And once we know that,” Willow added, as she took one of the books, “it’s pretty easy to reverse it.”
Xander was still giggling. Had been giggling for over an hour. He would get himself under control, see William, and collapse into giggles again.
“Oh, man. I am so gonna ride Spike for this. Humiliations, galore!”
“Xander! You will not.” Buffy glared at him.
“And what possible reason on God’s green earth could stop me?”
“One, Spike is totally freaked out about this. Two, William is really nice. And I think he’s sensitive to teasing. Three…” Buffy wracked her brains trying to think of a three.
Willow didn’t look up from her book as she said, “Three, I’ll show everyone that picture of you from my thirteenth birthday party.”
Xander’s face dropped. “You wouldn’t.”
“Man. You suck all the joy out of life.” He glared at Willow. “Joy sucker.”
“So, what did you tell him?” Anya asked. “About the whole he-gets-turned-into-a-vampire-and-his-crazy-ex-girlfriend-brought-him-here thing?”
“Basically, that. Plus, the Cliff’s Notes of vampire lore, and some quick Slayer stuff,” Buffy added. “The weird thing was trying to explain how Spike could be a vampire and still be a good - well, goodish - guy.”
Xander giggled again. It was getting a little old. “You mean, you didn’t tell him that Spike’s in loooove with you? That the power of loooove drew him from his evil ways?”
“Umm, I kind of fudged that part, actually.”
“What did you tell him?” Giles asked.
“I didn’t,” Buffy said. “I did the ‘it’s a long story’ buck-and-shuffle.”
Willow shook her head. “Buffy…”
“What? You explain a microchip implant to a guy who has no concept of computers.” She sighed. “Okay, I totally wussed. How do you tell a guy that in a hundred years he’ll fall in love with you and completely renounce a life-type-thing of evil? And not sound like a cheesy romance novel? And not come across as even more self-involved than usual?”
Nobody could answer her. Giles did the thing where he started to talk a couple of times, but no actual sound came out. The rest of the group didn’t even try that hard. Buffy sighed, and grabbed a book off the stack. She plopped down in a chair across from William and opened the book. A History of Temporal Magics. Should be a real page-turner. She should’ve gotten one with pictures.
Hours passed. Tara had shown up, and pitched right in. Xander and Willow had moved over to the table, and Giles sat on the stairs. William was still perched on the edge of his seat. He had finished writing, so Buffy gave him her poetry textbook from last term - somehow, it had gotten left at the Magic Shop. When she looked up fifteen minutes later his lips were moving. He was silently mouthing the words of the poems he read, and his eyes shone with tears. Buffy couldn’t help but sneak glances at him as she worked. Spike worked so hard to guard his feelings. She could still see them, but it was like light coming through a shuttered window. With William, the shutters were torn down and the curtains drawn back, and his emotions shone through with a purity that was almost painful.
Willow looked up. “Hey, I think I found something.”
Buffy started. Crap, she had been staring. It would’ve been embarrassing if anyone had noticed. Fortunately, most of the gang had been working diligently. Anya was totaling receipts and Xander was… Xander was napping, his head nestled in his folded arms.
Buffy shot an evil look at Willow, and lifted her book about four feet off the table. Willow leaned over and touched William on the shoulder, breaking his reverie. He turned an inquisitive glance to her. When she pointed at Buffy, he smiled, but then quickly shifted his gaze to Xander. Buffy waited until she had everyone’s attention, and dropped the book. It banged onto the table, the report echoing through the room.
Xander jerked back, his chair tipping him over and dumping him on the floor. “No, honey, please, I didn’t mean it…”
Buffy snorted. A second later, everyone was laughing. Even Tara let out a quiet giggle. Only William remained silent. Xander took a second to figure out what had happened, and then he was laughing too. He got to his feet and took a quick bow. “Thanks, thanks, I’ll be here all week. Try the veal.”
William stared at Xander.
“What?” Xander asked, puzzled. “Did I land in something?”
“You-you don’t mind their laughter? That you were made the butt of a joke?”
“Hey. I fell asleep. I earned it.”
“Physical comedy is quite amusing,” Anya said, beaming at her fiancé. “As Xander frequently reminds us.”
“Could you teach me how to do that?” William asked, still focused on Xander. “Not falling off a chair; I’m inept enough as it is, I believe I could manage that one. But the - the not minding. The not being upset in the face of ridicule. I can’t help but find it devastating.”
“It’s not ridicule,” Buffy assured him. “It’s never ridicule.”
“Yeah,” Willow chimed in. “We love Xander. And that - that was just some gentle teasing.”
“And some hard landing,” Xander said. “Nah, really, if they didn’t tease, I’d think they were mad at me.”
“Ah. Humor as reinforcement of the bonds of camaraderie. I see.” Buffy didn’t think he looked reassured. If anything, he looked even more heartbroken.
“Hey.” She walked over and leaned against the table in front of William. “Are you okay? We didn’t upset you, did we?”
William looked up at her. Then he gulped, and his gaze darted away. He stared intently at the books as he shook his head. “I am quite well, I assure you. Thank you for your concern.”
Buffy wrinkled her nose. “William? Why won’t you look at me?”
“You keep looking away when I talk to you. Your hands, the table, anywhere but me.”
Willow cleared her throat. “Buffy, from his perspective, the way we’re dressed? We probably look like hookers.”
“Oh. Yeah,” Buffy grimaced as she considered her halter-top and snug-fitting pants. “Is that the problem?”
William remained looking at his hands. “I’m afraid I don’t understand the terminology, Miss - Buffy.”
“A hooker. Prostitute? Lady of the evening?”
If possible, William had blushed even redder. “Oh. No, no. That isn’t the case, I assure you.”
“Well, that’s a relief.”
“Prostitutes usually wear more clothing.” William now had his handkerchief out, and was assiduously cleaning his glasses. “Though, conversely, their hygiene appears to be abysmal. So I assure you, I was never under the misapprehension…Not-not, mind you, that I have ever had any encounters with such creatures, I’ve merely observed them - on street corners, or from a carriage, or…” William’s face was scarlet.
“Basically, it’s as though you’re sittin’ there starkers.” Spike sauntered in, and leaned against a bookshelf. He took a deep drag off his cigarette. “Or like you’re all frolicking around in little silk teddies. Crotchless silk teddies.”
Buffy blushed beet red, and glanced at Willow. Willow looked even redder than William. In fact, Anya was the only woman in the room who wasn’t turning twelve shades of scarlet.
“There. Now you’ve got it. That’s why he’s havin’ problems with the direct eye contact. It’s all a question of putting yourself in the right mindset.” Spike cocked his head slightly, and leered at them. “I’m already there.”
“Okay,” Willow said. “I’m gonna go put on a sweater. Or a parka. Whichever.”
The corner of Spike’s mouth quirked as he watched Willow flee with Tara into the back room. He looked different, Buffy thought. It was probably just that the clothes she found weren’t his usual blacks - it was harder to look badass in gray cargo pants and a brown leather car coat. Or maybe it was that she was trying to reconcile the vampire she knew with the man she had met today. All afternoon she had worked to see something of Spike in William. Now was she trying to do the reverse?
Her focus shifted to William. Since Spike’s entrance, William had been staring at him. At this man who shared his face, yet was unrecognizable. She could tell that he didn’t know what to feel. One instant he seemed to be horrified, the next his face beamed with surprised delight. And the next, he just seemed bewildered.
“So, Slayer,” Spike drawled, “I see you found him. And couldn’t wait to show him off to the rest of your buddies. Do they know all the sordid details?”
Giles looked at him. “Buffy told us the basics. Drusilla and Darla cast a spell, and brought you - human you - here to the present.”
“Plus they stole my coat. I can forgive being tied up and tortured. Hell, I’ve done it before. But those bitches took my duster, and for that they must pay.” Spike took a long last pull off his cigarette. Then he took another out of his coat pocket, and used the butt of his old to light the new.
“Yes, well-” Giles paused, slightly distracted by the edge he heard in Spike’s voice. “Realizing the gravity of the situation, Buffy enlisted us to search for a way to reverse the spell.”
“Have you? Found one?”
“Willow may have found something,” Buffy said. “Course, we’d know for sure if you hadn’t scared her off in search of layers.”
Spike just stared at her. His gaze was confrontational, unrepentant. She could see the hurt in his eyes, and his struggle to mask the hurt with anger.
Giles broke what was becoming an uncomfortable silence. “Maybe we should introduce you two. William, this is Spike, your vampire counterpart from the future.” A pained expression flitted across his face. “I just used the phrase ‘vampire counterpart from the future’. Splendid.”
“So. William.” Spike said the name as though it was a vulgar insult. “What’ve they told you?”
William continued to stare at Spike. Then he started, and slowly answered the question. “They said… they said that I became a vampire. I didn’t know such things existed. Didn’t quite believe it, really, until I saw you again. I…”
“Yeh. Peachy. Deal with it. What else?”
Buffy broke in. “Not much. Just that you help us good guys now. I wasn’t sure what you wanted us to- ”
“Okay, Billy, here’s the long and short of it. I can only fight demons. Can’t bite. Can’t hurt people. I’m the vamp equivalent of a steer. Neutered for public safety. My metaphorical balls lopped off and stuck in some Initiative jar.” Spike was now almost shouting. “Not to worry! The actual plumbing is in perfect working order. Gets chuff-all for use, though. As I’m madly in love with a bird who’s doing really well if she can tolerate my presence. Familiar with that ‘un, William? History bloody repeats itself!”
Buffy’d had enough. “’Scuse us a second.”
She grabbed Spike and dragged him into the front of the shop. “Spike. Shut up. Shut. Up. I know you’re just acting like a jerk because you’re all vulnerable and embarrassed, but shut up.”
His eyes were bitter. “Know me so well, do you, Slayer?”
“I don’t want to have to kick your ass. That’s all I’m saying.”
“Don’t feel sorry for me,” he growled, looking away from her. “Ever consider that just makes it worse?”
“Please. I don’t feel sorry for you,” Buffy said. “You’ve already got that covered, for one. And besides, I kind of like him.”
“I do. I’m a little freaked out, since, as doppelgangers go, you two couldn’t be more different. But I think he’s sweet. And he’s been really brave, considering.”
“Brave? He’s a weak, pathetic little toff who’s got his head so far in the clouds it’s buried in his arse. I know. I was him.”
“Hello? He just got dragged one hundred years into the future, and it hasn’t turned him into a gibbering loony. To me, that shows some serious guts.” She smiled at Spike. “Hey! Something you have in common.”
Spike relaxed a little. “There, now, see, you just gave me a compliment. Proof positive you’re feeling sorry for me.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Look, nobody is going to give you a hard time about this, and nobody is going to give him a hard time about this. Not even Xander. On pain of abject humiliation. So, let’s make a deal. You agree to be on your best behavior, especially towards William.”
“And in return?” Oh, yeah, he was back. He just touched his tongue to his upper teeth.
“I help you find your girlfriend and we pound her ass.” She smiled sweetly.
He looked at her for a long moment. “Deal. You were gonna do it anyway, mind you, but deal. You’ve gotta promise that we’ll get my coat back, though. Or you owe me a new bloody duster.”
“I could use some new boots…”
“Don’t push it.” Buffy made a fist, and tapped him on the chest with it. It wasn’t a punch - more her way of affirming their bizarre friendship. But Spike understood the intent of the gesture, and grinned. She tilted her head towards the back of the room, asking nonverbally if he was ready to return. He waved his arm - ladies first - and followed her to the table.
Willow and Tara had returned from the back room. Tara was now wearing her coat; and Willow had donned one of Giles’ sweaters. She was swimming in it, but the redness in her cheeks had faded.
Spike looked down at his shoe, which he was digging through the floorboard. “Sorry, all. Got a little worked up. Oughtn’t to have taken it out on you.”
Of all people, Xander spoke up. “It’s okay, Spike. Having your ex in town can make you a little crazy. Especially your ex.”
Spike gave a half-hearted smile. “She does have a way of making things more exciting.”
Buffy turned to Willow. “So, you found something?”
Willow nodded. “You remember the spell where Xander got split in two last year?”
“Nope,” Spike said.
“Oh. Well. He did.” Willow was a little thrown, but quickly regained her enthusiasm. “But, see, his natural state was to be one person. Same here with William, I think. His natural state is to be in 1880. But there’s some sort of mystical anchor holding him here, like a pushpin holding a stretched rubber band.”
Spike nodded slowly. “So we find the mystical pushpin -”
“Mystical pushpin?” Xander broke in. “Hey Giles? Isn’t that the name of an album you have?”
Spike continued. “We find it, and we pull it out, and…”
“Snap.” Buffy finished the thought.
After a moment, Anya broke the silence. “So what’s the anchor? And where do we start looking?”
Tara said, “Well, from what Buffy said earlier, the spell had some pretty standard elements - um, the candles, and the blood and stuff? And then there are elements specific to the spell, like the mirrors.”
“The only thing that stands out as a personal item is that pair of glasses you mentioned. So we think that’s the anchor,” Willow added. She then turned to Spike. “What did they look like, by the way?”
Spike pointed to the glasses perched on William’s nose. “Like those. Only a hundred-odd years older.”
“So Drusilla must’ve gotten hold of your spectacles. Or she kept them for all those years,” Tara said. “That’s either incredibly romantic, or kinda creepy.”
“Or it’s both,” Xander said.
“Don’t suppose we can just smash those puppies and call it a night?” Spike asked. When Willow shook her head, he added, “Nah, of course not. That would be too damn easy. I could go take a peek in the cave, see if they’re still there.”
“Great. ‘Cause, the second I get the specs, we’re ready to go.” Willow smiled, but then looked chagrined. “Without them, I have no clue how to do this.”
“Whoa. Willow. Problem.” Xander waved a hand in the air. “We break the spell, William snaps back to- eighteen whenever, sorry, I wasn’t paying attention then-but he could change the past. He could go back, corner the stock market or something.”
“Like I gave a rat’s ass about the stock market after I was turned,” Spike muttered.
“What did you care about?” Willow asked.
Spike looked at her, with a face that said, “You cannot be that bloody stupid.”
“Oh. Yeah. Killing things. Duh.”
“The point is,” Xander said, “I’ve seen way too many episodes of Star Trek not to know that this could be really bad. We could totally mess up the world somehow. We have to consider the possibilities.”
Anya looked up. “Maybe the world would be better if we left it this way. Spike did kill people for over a hundred years. That wouldn’t happen now.”
“Ooh, now we get to play ‘Let’s Justify My Existence’. Joy.” Spike pointed with his cigarette. “Can we do Xander next?”
There was a moment of silence. Spike sighed, and started ticking points off on his fingers. “Killed the Annoying One. Helped fight Angelus. Saved your asses in the Initiative, against my better judgment. Patrolled almost every night for the past- ”
“No,” Buffy said. “Spike, you don’t have to do that. You’re one of us now. And we’re going to help fix this. Period. End of statement.”
“I agree,” Willow said. “What’s done is done. And we need to keep it that way. Or make sure it has happened that way. Or-”
Anya broke in. “Time paradoxes. Guaranteed to mess with your grammar.” She looked over at Spike. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have suggested wiping out your existence. I’ve done that before - negating existences? It’s never pleasant, and usually quite messy.”
“No big,” Spike replied. “Was a fair point.”
“But-” William paused, and searched for a name. “Alexander, he does have a valid concern. Knowledge will affect my behavior, in both subtle and obvious ways. And those changes in behavior may have significant consequences.”
“Giles?” Buffy asked. “What about that? Doesn’t sending him back change the past? What if it does make everything really bad?”
“Well, of course, we can’t be certain of the temporal ramifications,” Giles replied. “But it would seem to me that the damage has already been done. Our aim should be to return things to the way they were - to make events adhere as closely as possible to their original course.”
Buffy looked at him skeptically. “So we’re just going to put him back and hope nobody notices he got moved?”
He looked at her with that bemused smile on his face, the one she loved to get out of him. “Precisely.”
Buffy made the decision. “Okay. Here’s how we’ll play it. Spike, Tara and I will go into the sewers to look for the spectacles. Giles, Xander, Anya, Willow, you’ll take William to my house. Darla and Dru are likely to come after him, so be ready. You get there, you stay inside.”
“Barrier spell?” Willow asked.
“I’m thinking yeah,” Buffy nodded. “They may be uninvited vamps, but they can throw stuff. Also, Dawn’s home, and those girls aren’t above a little kidnapping, so keep her safe. When we’re done, we’ll meet up with you there. Questions?”
There were none.
“Now this? This is a truly mind-blowing stench. I thought the smell in the other tunnel was bad, but no. You’ve really outdone yourself here.” Buffy tried not to gag as she moved through the sewer.
Tara picked her way carefully along the tunnel. “Remind me again why I got to go with the stinky group?”
“You’re the one who can tell if the spectacles are the anchor,” Buffy said. “Spike knows where we’re going - sort of - and I’m here to punch things.”
“And we all get to complain about the smell,” Tara added. “We’re multitasking.”
Spike shone his flashlight on the far wall. He thought they were close, but then he’d thought they were close twenty minutes ago. Mind you, he wasn’t about to tell the Slayer and her dry-clean-only pants that they were taking the scenic route. He’d already had his ass kicked once in the last twenty-four hours; he didn’t need it to happen again.
“What do you think, Spike?” Buffy asked. “Stinkier here, or back there five minutes ago?”
“You don’t see me breathing, do you?” Spike replied. “There’s a reason for that.”
They walked down the tunnel, scanning the walls with flashlights. “There,” Spike said. “I think it’s up here on the left.”
“You think?” There was a note of warning in Buffy’s voice.
“Well, wasn’t planning a return visit, so I held up on the bread crumbs.”
Spike ducked into the side passage. A few moments later, he poked his head back out.
“This is it. Shoe check.” He shone his flashlight on Buffy’s thick boots, and then checked out Tara’s flats.
“Shoe check? Is this some weird fetish thing, Spike?” Buffy teased.
He smirked at her. “That, and it looks like somebody had a bit of a tantrum. The mirrors are broke, and there are glass bits all over the floor. You should be good. Tara, step careful.”
The three moved carefully into the room. The glass reflected the beams from their flashlights, making the light play along the walls and ceiling like they were standing on a disco ball. From the debris left in the room, Buffy could imagine the events of the night before: the lone shackle hanging from the wall, the empty frames of mirrors, the pedestal covered in soot and char.
Tara sighed. “I don’t sense anything. And the anchor would have a strong residual aura. I don’t think it’s here.”
“Great,” Buffy said. “Still, we should check to make sure.”
They spent long minutes searching the room, running the flashlights in a search pattern along the floor and walls. The spectacles were gone.
Giles maneuvered his BMW through the darkened streets of Sunnydale. Willow sat beside him, and Anya was tucked between William and Xander in the back seat.
William’s face was equal parts delight and terror. Giles was only going thirty or so miles an hour, which to his other passengers was a little cautious. To William, they were rocketing along at an uncontrollable speed; he was certain that at any moment they would topple over, or barrel into something. Willow had carefully belted a strap around his waist to keep him in the vehicle, else he might’ve flipped out the back at one of the sudden accelerations. It was marvelous.
Xander looked over at William, and grinned. “You look like you’re on the Goliath. Roller coaster. At Magic Mountain. Something that will take way too long to explain, so I’m just gonna shut up now.”
“It goes so fast!” William exclaimed.
“Trust me, we’d be going faster if anyone else was driving.”
“I heard that, Xander,” Giles said.
“How does this carriage function?” William asked. “With no horses, or external means of propulsion, what provides the impetus? Is it more magic?”
Willow turned around as best she could. “Actually, magic is kind of uncommon in our world. That hasn’t changed much since 1880 - people still pretty much don’t believe it exists. This car runs on an internal combustion engine, powered by a petroleum derivative called gasoline. The combustion of the gasoline drives a series of pistons, which provide the force to rotate the wheels on an axle.”
William smiled at her. “I’m forever indebted. Oh. Would you be willing to expound on this information once we reach our destination? I must commit this experience to paper.”
“Happy to help,” she replied. Turning back around, she noticed the puzzled expressions on her friends’ faces. “What? I can’t have varied interests?”
Giles smiled as he turned onto Revello Drive.
“Ooh! Hey! William!” Xander turned around to face him. “We have to order pizza. You haven’t lived ‘til you’ve had deep-dish pepperoni and mushroom.”
“I…I look forward to that.” William looked slightly stunned. “Whatever that may be.”
“We must get Canadian bacon and pineapple, too,” Anya added.
“Pesto vegetarian,” Willow said.
Everyone but William looked at Giles.
“What? I’m aware it’s a contradiction in terms. I like it. I’ll have you know, in Denmark they put creamed corn on pizza.”
“Yes, well, they are sick and wrong,” Xander said. “In America, we eat pepperoni and mushroom.”
“Hear, hear!” William said. At everyone’s surprised glances he added quietly, “Please. Nobody likes creamed corn.”
Everyone in the car was laughing again. This time, William joined in.
The SUV was barely used anymore, and Buffy had parked it in the garage. So Giles pulled into the driveway. The instant the motor died, two figures appeared in front of the car. The headlights lit them perfectly. Even with their demonic visages, Giles instantly recognized them. Darla and Drusilla. Giles swore, and Xander grabbed for the axe at his feet.
Darla took a step forward, closer to the car. “I think you have something that belongs to us. We’ve come to collect it.”
Willow touched Giles’ sleeve. “Giles?” She pointed over his shoulder. At the side of the car, more shapes became visible out of the darkness.
“I see them.” More figures appeared on the right side of the car, and behind them. Giles estimated about twenty vampires, counting Darla and Drusilla.
They were surrounded.
Continued in Part Three