Timeline: Season 2(after School Hard) and later in season 7
Spoilers: AU from Beneath You(7.2) In this world, Buffy takes Spike home
Disclaimer: All ME.
Because sheís got personality (3)
"Hi!, " she said perkily to its inhabitant. The poor guy had been lying supine on his cot, arm over his face, shoulders heaving.
She toned down the perkiness. "Hey, I thought, we're home alone now, we could keep each other company. Watch TV, do our nails? I have black polish?"
He lifted his face to her. He looked so different from the guy she'd been fighting a couple of weeks ago, she'd almost think vampires could age. He looked at least ten years older, and completely zoned out to boot.
"You know, I think Xander was being totally mean to you. He's always snarking at Angel too, and it's so unfair, I mean, you guys have souls now, you deserve to be treated better! After all, you're not the same person now as when you had no soul, so they shouldn't be taking things out on you, that you never even did!"
She was on her way upstairs again. Her voice floated down the stairs. "I can't wait to see the shows of the future!"
Spike sat up and stared up at the stairway. So this was the chit Angel had been besotted with. He was stunned by her complete acceptance of his souled and therefore 'good' status. It made him even more jealous of old Peaches. He'd gotten to bask in the sunny, warm glow of love from this little cheerleader. Not that he felt she was really the same person as his girl. His love was a dark warrior, a woman, tempered in hotter fires than this sweet thing.
He knew, in theory, what had happened to her over the past few years, but he had never fully appreciated how major and how deep the changes were. Bloody hell, things like that were bound to change a person, but it was more than just hard battle, and her mum dying that had forged his Buffy. Something to do with the nature of the Slayer, he wagered. Something dark welling up from their souls, the more so the longer they survived, the more they killed. Probably the reason not many of them did, risks of combat apart. It must be bloody hard to feel yourself change into the very thing you fought against. He imagined every soldier could say a thing or two about that. He remembered a cousin returning from the Crimea War, never was his old self again.
Spike decided to go join the girl in front of the telly. He sort of liked her chatter, and, to be honest, the lack of judgment was very refreshing. The Scoobies were doing their best - well, occasionally - to treat him better, but they were uneasy around him. They knew too much, and couldn't forget, let alone forgive, what he'd tried to do to them.
Buffy patted the couch to indicate where Spike should sit. She handed him the black nail polish. She was busy doing her toe nails, her tiny pink toes charmingly separated by brighter pink dividers. A show he didnít know was on.
"You have nice feet, for a man," she remarked. "Do you paint them, usually?"
"Um, no, pet, I don't. Just the fingernails. Havenít done that in a while though." He was starting to appreciate her more and more. She wasnít at all like Dawn, insecure and moody. This was your typical alpha girl, used to popularity and making other people feel good.
He caught her peeping at him when he was doing his left hand. "So, " she started on a more serious tone, "how did you get your soul? Gypsy curse?"
"No, love, went and got one on purpose. Trials an' all."
Her eyes widened at that. Ton of make up she was wearing, he noticed. Must have been the fashion in her day.
"On purpose? I didnít know you could! Why?"
Still straight to the heart of the matter, as always. What to answer now?
"Hurt the woman I loved, you know. Felt so ashamed, knew I had to change if I wanted her to ever love me back." Funny he could say that to her, without choking up, or drowning in the voices.
"Wow! That is so romantic! And does she love you now?" She looked at him with anticipation, clearly expecting the answer to be affirmative.
"Um, no. Donít think she ever will. She canít forget what I did. To her, her friends, and, you know, all these people in my past." He drew a shaky breath. "I do get that. Still hurts, though."
She patted his thigh consolingly. "I think that is really unfair. I'm involved with a guy, well, Angel, so I can't speak from experience, but if someone did something major like that for me, it would sure make an impression. Maybe she'll come around? Bring her flowers or something, ask her on a really nice date?"
Spike looked down at his freshly lacquered nails. "Um, no. She made it pretty clear she wonít ever think of me that way. Doesnít want me around, except when she needs me toÖ help her." Bugger. His big mouth would get him in trouble, as usual. She hadnít noticed his near slip-up.
He looked at the telly. Better watch, instead of talk, and be in danger of saying too much. The screen was showing a tragic scene of fate-tossed lovers, being torn apart by circumstancesÖ Tears welled up in his eyes, and he started to cry silently.
He heard her repress a little sigh of exasperation. Too weepy for her, apparently. He couldnít blame her. Knew he couldnít be much fun to be around right now. Or ever again.
She put an arm on his shoulder, and patted him again, on his hair this time. "Youíll get over her. In time. She doesn't sound like a nice girl to me, I'm sure you can find someone better. UmÖshe a vamp, too?"
This only aggravated Spikeís weeping. The irony of it! He felt her twitch, and give a little hiccup. Then suddenly she started crying as well, and scooted away from him.
He looked at her, and saw her stricken face, and the horror with which she was looking at him. He knew this was the real current Buffy again. What had happened to return her? Heíd felt nothing, no magic, just a twitch and there she was.
"It's you again," he said in resignation. He tried to stop the blubbering, and started to get up. Back to the basement for him, it was.
The now current Buffy was still staring at him at him with that look in her face, and crying in earnest now, red eyes, nose starting to run.
"I saw Mom! "she sobbed. " And she looked so wonderful, and she held me, and I missed that so much! And I told her that I loved her , and she knew, and it made me feel soÖ" Huge, shuddering sobs.
He tentatively sat down again and with only the tops of his fingers, sitting well away from her, he tried a little pat, to let her know he cared. To his immense surprise and gratification she leaned into him and cried noisily on his shoulder. He didnít dare really hold her, but made soft shushing noises.
"Ssh, pet, ssh, 'course she knew you loved her. Mothers always know. And now you've gotten to tell her. Isnít that amazing? You're bloody lucky, you are, to get a chance like that. You can treasure the memory for ever, love."
Her sobbing grew less. She held on to him tighter though, her arms around him. His own crying had stopped, the present needing his attention more than the past right now. He started to become uneasy in her tight embrace. He was afraid to hurt the girl. Mustnít hurt her. Mustnít get so close. She'd punish him if he overstepped his bounds. He started to pant and struggle a little, but her grip was so firm.
Buffy slowly became aware of Spike's agitation. She lifted her head, saw the fear in his eyes, and felt his small, uncoordinated movements to get away from her. She released him. She registered the relief on his face as he scooted away to the other end of the couch.
Ouch. She didnít like how that felt. To see him so wary of her, so afraid. So different from the cocky swaggering Spike she'd seen mere hours ago. She could hardly have missed the change in him since he'd come back with the soul, of course, but now she had brand-new memories to compare the Spike of last year to, and there was a definite difference. Too bad she couldnít say: Lose the soul, Spike, I like you better without. Or: how about a moment of perfect happiness, lover? She couldnít believe heíd gone the way of Angel. Another ex who couldnít ever have sex again. Great.
"Sorry, Spike, " she said stiffly. "I didn't mean to get in you personal space. I know you donít like to be touched."
Abruptly she got up. Everything that had happened today seemed aimed for maximum discomfort. She really didnít want to deal right now. She felt her face splitting in huge yawn. Time to get some sleep, she didnít care if it was day here. She got up from the couch and left the room, leaving Spike to Sesame Street.
When Willow returned from class, she was greeted by a silent house. She peeked into the living room. The TV was on with the sound turned off. A sleeping Spike could be seen on the sofa. She still thought Buffy should have made a different decision. What kind of message was she giving the poor guy, letting him stay at her house? It probably gave him some hope he still had a chance with Buffy, which she certainly was denying. On the other hand, Buffy floating on the Egyptian river was nothing newÖThey would just have to figure it out themselves.
She went upstairs. Through the open door of her bedroom she could see Buffy, fast asleep, lying fully dressed on the bed, hair still in curlers. Willow figured she'd get some sleep herself. Being almost normal, attentive and punctual Willow was very tiring.
Buffy woke up. The first thing she did was check if she was in her own room. Good. Once was enough. She heard people moving about and talking downstairs, and didnít feel like facing them yet. She pondered on what had happened that day. It had been nice to see her friends Ďbeforeí, but she had to admit they all seemed incredibly young and pretty clueless. Though Giles had been impressive, almost Ripperish. And Spike. She turned over and put her head deeply into her pillow to think about Spike from the past. She just had to think of him standing there in his duster, weaving his cigarette circles in the air, to get all turned on. How could she ever have let that stupid vampire stay in her basement? He could probably smell her arousal from three floors away. Why did the thought of Spikeís former self make her all giddy and unhappy? Kind of pointless to be interested in someone from the past?
Buffy went downstairs, eyes still gritty and with a pounding headache, and found the whole gang already assembled in the living room. Even Spike was there, looking relatively normal. She wished heíd hurry up and get better. She didnít regret carting him home after the church incident, but it was a grind looking after an insane ex-lover who happened to be undead. Getting blood from the butcherís, washing his one pair of jeansÖThank God Dawn loved bleaching his hair, she would really have drawn the line there.
"Hi, itís, me, the real me, "she said listlessly, and waved a hand in perfunctory greeting. She sat down, huddling deeply in the cowl-neck of the biggest sweater she owned.
"Yeah, we got that it must be the current you, Buffy, the other you was a lot more cheery!" Dawn said snidely.
"Whoa, Dawnie, give it a rest! " Xander said protectively.
"So, you met the me from 1997? I thought you would have. Iím just feeling a little jet-lagged, I spent a whole day and evening there, and when I came back it was still afternoon! Very weird. And also,
Iíve had a really bad day. I met not only Angel, but also Spike and my Mom, so you can imagine it was all pretty gut-churny stuff!"
This effectively shut Dawn up. Finally Willow broke the silence. "Wow, Buffy, I canít even begin to imagine how you must feel now!"
Try seeing Oz, Tara and Warren all in one day! Buffy only just managed to bite back the comment.
"Well, Buffy, Giles said, "please tell us what happened to you, so we can find out what caused this.
Buffy told all Ė well, leaving out the vampire teasing, and not leaving out the frustrations of dealing with the 1997 gang. And she didnít mention meeting Joyce, wanting to spare Dawnís feelings.
"The old you was so patronizing, Giles, more like Wesley was than the now you. Didnít believe a word I said, sent me out on patrol like a little girlÖ not repeat-worthy!"
"You were only sixteen- not surprising youíre rather more dominant now."
Willow said thoughtfully: "Both Buffies said the initial switch happened here in the house; perhaps thereís some kind of energy trail I can scry for."
"You need me for that , Will? " Buffy asked. "I wanna clear my head with some nice fresh air and violence." She couldnít stand their concerned looks. Almost like coming back form the grave.
"Yes, of course I need you for that, Buffy, you seem to be the center of the spell. Hey, you didnít happen to utter a wish to a certain vengeance demon?"
"Come on, I know better than that. Besides, if thatís it, itís more like Iím being the one whoís being venged upon, right?"
Willow busied herself preparing for the spell.
"Okay, Will, have your Wiccan way with me!" Buffy sat cross-legged in a circle of candles, with an outer ring of greenish kitchen herbs. Willow sat outside the circle, ready to intone the magic words and catch Buffy's aura in the crystal ball. Buffy couldn't understand a word Willow was saying, and grew more and more drowsy. Suddenly the drowsiness vanished, and Buffy found herself still in the circle, but the candles were dowsed and the herbs gone.
"We done already?"
"Already?" Willow groused. "I've been chanting for over an hour!"
"Well? What did you find out? Who's doing a mojo on me?" Buffy peered over Willowís shoulder at the ball, in the depths of which a complex play of colors could be seen.
"This is really weird -- look Giles, Buffy's aura is intact. No outside influence visible, no leakage, nothing."
Giles took off his glasses and peered at the shiny object. "Most peculiar."
"Why is my aura so murky brown? What does that say about me? Is that the right color?" Buffy wanted to know.
Giles and Willow exchanged a glance.
"It does tell us some things about your state of mind. You have a very strong will, you completely control your emotions and your body. Look at these tiny blue streaks, spirit, and the little orangey flecks, creativity. There is no red sexuality visible at all.
In a balanced aura, there would be more of these colors, and mixes of the primary colors, and they would be more intermingled. This means that you are repressing your emotional and physical impulses, and making them subject to your will, your rational mind." Willow explained.
"And that would be wrong why?"
"Repressing parts of yourself in never healthy. You should try and integrate them, ideally. Also, I would assume that your Slayer Powers are certainly not only those of the mind; therefore this repression could mean a regression of you powers, or lack of growth."
"Oh. Should I do something about it?"
"Well, " Willow started carefully, after another look at Giles, who waved her ahead with a nod, "you could try giving in to the needs of your body more. Like, not caring about a diet, or schedules, just eat and sleep what and whenever it feels most comfortable. And still keep your job, of course."
"Like, giving in to the craving of eating your slice of pizza?"
"Like giving in to the craving of eating unclaimed slices of pizza!" Willow said, hastily snatching her veggie slice away from the nimble slayer fingers.
"Okay. Check. Eat like a pig all the time. How about emotions?"
Giles fielded this one. "Try showing them more, and care less about appropriateness and keeping a stiff upper lipÖ"
"Giles, Iím not the English person here!"
"O, right. Hmm. I should say, let it out! Vent your anger, cry those tears, laugh out loud, mash a cup or something when youíre frustrated. Tell people what you think of them." She loved Giles in explanatory mode, all flushed and serious
"And you think that I donít?"
"I, I do think youíve been bottling things up, yes. Remember not telling us you were in Heaven, and how much more painful it was when it came out?"
"But Giles, if I gave in to every emotion I felt, Iíd just be a soggy little heap of pointless feelings all the time, like.Ö"
"Um, you know, Spike." She refused to look over to where Spike was sitting.
"Yes, well, Spikeís avery good example of someone who is the complete opposite of you. What Spike needs to do, and has been learning in my opinion, is to govern and curb his emotions and wants. What you could learn from him, is being in touch with your emotions, and expressing them. Heís also shown a quite impressive insight in the emotions of others."
"Learn from Spike? Ew! How to get in touch with your inner Bloodsucker?"
"Now, Buffy, restrain yourself. No need to insult defenseless beings."
That was maybe worse than Buffy ignoring and insulting him. Defenseless being his arse! On second thoughts, no. Heíd been through that with the chip, he could do it again. And he was still a vampire, after all, if not currently at peak performance. No, her ignoring him, speaking about him as if he wasnít in the room was definitely worse.
Was it his imagination or had she left out more than meeting Joyce? He wondered about her meeting the old Spike. He was sure her heartbeat had sped up when she was glossing over that bit. And as usual her so-called bloody useless friends didnít notice a thing.
The results of her aura scan, for example! He didnít need an aura scan to diagnose her as a victim of repression and denial! What they didnít think about was it might be vital to her survival to be like that. What would happen to her if she became all open and spontaneous and touchy-feely? Werenít emotional vulnerability and vulnerability in combat always linked somehow?
"Spike? You sane enough for some slayage tonight?"
"Jeez, Tact Girl much?" Dawn said, totally ready to defend Spike again, as if nothing had ever happened to cause a rift between them.
"Fine by me, " Spike answered from his corner and stood up to go.
"Can I come too, Buffy? You havenít been training with me for days! " Dawn wheedled.
"No, Dawn, " Buffy answered, without looking at her sister. "Iím in a cranky Slayer tonight, donít wanna hurt your feelings." She looked at Spike when she said that, but he didnít react. In her head she could almost hear him say "Whereas my feelingsÖ" Why didnít he answer? And why was she trying to get a raise out of him?
"So, Slayer, " Spike said, when they were walking down Revello, "You wanted to talk to me? You said you met the old me?"
"Yeah, saw him talking to some minions, and then we had mini-truce and a conversation."
"I donít remember that happening! You?"
"No, it was all new. I just wanted to check with you, in case you did remember. I hope I didnít change history."
"As long as you didnít do anything out of character, or told him things he didnít know before?"
Buffy felt herself blushing. Thank god it was dark.
"Care to tell me why the temperature of your facial skin is rising, Slayer?"
"Why are you blushing?" Spike elaborated.
Buffy bit her lip. She would like to confess her, in hindsight, pretty silly behavior, but she thought it might be a little much to stomach, especially for Spike.
"The details are not important, Spike. I know I should have stayed out of his way, because of the not changing of history, but I guess I wasnít thinking clearly." She felt his eyes on her face. He probably knew that she was hiding something, being Percepto Guy and all, but as long as she didnít say exactly what, heíd never guess."
"Come on, Spike, letís go check out the graveyards."
Continued in Such a night (4)