Timeline: Season 2(after Halloween) and later in season 7
Spoilers: AU from Beneath You(7.2) In this world, Buffy takes Spike home
Disclaimer: All ME
It’s now or never (6)
She dragged herself to the mirror to check out the damage. She’d never been hurt this bad, to look like this after a night of Slayer healing. I was going to be really hard to hide this from her Mom, or go to school without getting the wrong kind of attention.
After a long, hot shower, and applying a thick layer of make-up, she stood before the mirror again. It wasn’t good by any means, but it would have to do. Buffy could hear her mother in the kitchen, and mentally braced herself for a lecture. She pulled her hair a little more in front of her face and went downstairs.
The kitchen was empty. "Buffy!" her mother called, already half way through the door. "I have to be at the gallery early today, don’t be late for school!"
First thing Buffy did in the mornings nowadays was check where and when she was. Her own new room, good. She moved carefully, not wanting to jostle her rib and arm, when she realized there was no pain and no stiffness. Of course, if she was in her own body, there wouldn’t be. What a way to get out of the boredom of healing. Although the other Buffy might feel differently…
She stretched luxuriously, not wanting to get up yet. What a fight that had been last night. Just that nice edge of actual danger, because it was unchipped Spike, but more like a fantastic workout than a nasty messy life-or-death thing. She thought about asking the present Spike about working out with her. He might not go for it, because of sanity and touching issues, but it was worth a try.
They’d always made a good team, she remembered, certainly before other stuff had clouded up the easy camaraderie when fighting. There were countless instances when he’d been at her side or back, or threw her a weapon, or shouted a warning at just the right moment. She didn’t have to worry about him getting hurt, like the human Scoobies, because he could handle himself.
They should get back to patrolling together on a regular basis, too, now that he was mostly sane. Get used to each other again, get over the uncertainty and guilt she felt nowadays around him. She sighed. It wasn't that hard to think up these plans inside her head, after all, but how to do that in reality, when everything was so awkward, and the house was full of people watching her every move? When Spike didn't trust her at all?
Her thoughts went back to the fight last night, when Spike had her pinned against the crypt wall. She’d nearly gone for it, the thought of being fucked and drained at the same time being almost too great a temptation. She slid a little deeper under the covers. What a way to go…Dreamily she caressed her body and quickly brought herself off. The real Spike had never even vamped out when having sex. She wondered why. He probably was afraid it’d have put her off.
The morning sunshine made the kitchen on Revello Drive a happy place. Rupert Giles was in a state of wonderful contemplation and calm, brought on by the delicate steps of the tea ritual. He hardly felt his hangover as he watched his hand move the teabag up and down in his mug, mesmerized by the slight bobbing motion the bag made before it sank. A perky voice shattered his concentration.
"Hi Giles! Good morning!"
He looked at the girl over the rim of his glasses.
"This must be the Buffy the Younger again, am I right?" He quite liked her, she was by far the more bouncy and upbeat version.
The answering pout made her displeasure clear before she even spoke. "Wrong again! Why can't you guys tell me from the other Buffy? That is so annoying! Did I tell you about the time they didn’t know me from a robot? They should have known I would never…" Her voice trailed off. "Huh. I guess they did know me."
Silently she got juice and yogurt from the fridge. Giles was a little relieved that the perkiness had disappeared, and then got angry at himself for being a grumpy old man, who'd prefer to have his morning cuppa in silence.
Spike started to enter the kitchen, but couldn't reach the fridge due to the sunlight. He threw one look at Buffy, and then asked Giles to hand him a bag of pig's blood.
"See?" Buffy said accusingly around a mouthful of yogurt. "Spike knows. Why can't you?"
Giles patience snapped. "Fine! If you are such great soul mates, what's keeping you apart?" He took his tea mug and his mood out of the kitchen.
Spike moved around the kitchen to the microwave, using a circuitous route to avoid the patches of sun.
"I can do that for you, " Buffy said curtly. "Just ask."
She reached for the blood, poured it in a mug and put it in the microwave. She checked him over. He was wearing his neutral Spike-face, which usually meant he was doing okay. She tried to remember what had made her so happy when she woke up, wishing to recapture the feeling. But dreaming of Fighting With Vampires, acceptable, dreaming of Sex With Vampires, not so acceptable…
The microwave pinged. Buffy took out the mug and went over to Spike to hand it to him. She looked up at him while she was doing that, and her gaze became snared in the blueness of his eyes. Without looking away she put the mug on the counter and stepped closer. She heard Spike inhale-- always a sign of emotion with him.
"Spike?" Buffy asked. "Can we talk?"
"Here?" Although the kitchen was empty at the moment, everywhere the sound of voices and footsteps could be heard. Revello Central rush hour traffic.
"No, tonight, on patrol? You are coming?"
"Okay, great. See you then." Buffy left the kitchen in a hurry, late for work as usual. Spike’s breath left his lungs in a long drawn-out sigh.
Buffy and Spike had finished their third graveyard that evening. Vamp activity medium, humidity high.
"Are you gonna tell me or not?" Spike finally asked.
Buffy threw him an irritated look. "I really hate it when you’re being all perceptive."
This rated bunching of the jaw muscles, and a sigh.
"Well, spill already! You’ve been bad, obviously. Better ‘fess up. What did you do that you’re so shy about telling me?"
"Well, when I met your former self the first time…" Buffy hesitated.
"And how was that embarrassing? Did you mack on him, or what?"
One look at her face was enough to confirm his worst fears.
"Are you insane? What were you bloody thinking of? Were you actually planning on changing history? For God’s sake, Buffy!"
"I was bored, and the Scoobies were mean to me…"
"Great excuse, absolutely sodding brilliant! That Spike is not me! Not a chipped, souled, sorry excuse for a vampire. Remember I hated you! Went to great lengths to try and kill you, and if you’d played a prank like that there’s no telling what I might have done. Be very careful next time, alright? No more practical jokes on real vampires!" Spike started to walk faster and faster.
"Next time? Ew! Promise. And, um, Spike?"
"I also met Angel… and I kissed him, too." She knew this wouldn’t be received well either, but she had to tell someone.
"Bloody hell! You wanted to do a comparison study or something?" Spike suddenly stopped, nearly sending her crashing into a gravestone. "Did he notice you weren’t his Buffy?"
"What? Angel? No way…he didn’t even guess anything was different. Spike, you know Angel: mysterious silence, face that doesn’t move…" Buffy looked at Spike’s shuttered look, far too intent on the turf. "You’re jealous!"
"Surprising, innit?" Spike started searching his pockets for the cigarettes he didn’t smoke anymore. "Bollocks! " he roared, and kicked an offensive gravestone so hard it shattered. When he turned his face to Buffy again, she could see he was starting to lose it.
"Why are you telling me all this, Buffy?" He sounded near tears. "Why don’t you confide in your friends?"
"I have to tell someone, Spike! And it’s way too embarrassing to tell anyone else. At least you won’t be shocked and horrified and give me lectures. You’re not so judgy."
"Yeah, right, I have no feelings to hurt, is that it?" he asked bitterly.
"Spike! I didn’t mean that. I meant…you’ve seen me at my worst, this will hardly surprise you."
"Surprise me? You know bloody well I love you, and then you go and tell me all kinds of nasty little secrets, which intimately involve you and other guys. Very sensitive!"
Spike advanced on Buffy and stood shouting in her face. Buffy didn’t give an inch and shouted back, arms akimbo: "What other guys? What are you talking about! My ex, who broke up with me, which you’ve known about forever, and you yourself?"
"Yea, right, the former me! You got one whiff of the sexy, evil, dead, soulless sod and you’re all over him! And the bleeding idiot who took your gibes seriously and got a soul for you gets left in the cold!"
Spike grabbed Buffy’s shoulders and gave her a shake.
"Spike, stop the dramatics! Why are we arguing? I don’t want a fight with you, I just wanted to talk things over with you and get some ideas on what to do!" Buffy tried to sound reasonable.
Spike turned away from her, so she couldn’t see his face. "I don’t wanna fight you either, Buffy. But you expecting me to act like a neutral advisor on this —that’s just too bloody much to ask a bloke."
"You’re not giving up on me, Spike! You’re the one who always goes on, who never gives up! Don’t go all wussy on me!"
He flapped his hand tiredly. "Yeah. Go on. I’m sure there is more."
Buffy took another deep breath. "I met you – former you – again. We had a huge fight. I almost lost. I’d guess you don’t remember that one either?"
Spike shook his head, still not looking at her. "You should talk about this with your watcher. It’s pretty strange that nobody remembers these events from 1997. I can’t guess what it means." He was silent for a moment. "And how come you almost lost? Never happened in my recollection!"
"Um, okay. This is kinda hard to tell."
Spike balled his fists in fury and hurt and nearly stomped his foot. "Worse than macking? Don’t tell me you shagged him?!"
"No! Well- almost. Only he would have drained my blood at the same time, and I didn’t want to die yet." Buffy didn’t dare look up.
"I don’t know what to say, Buffy." The passion had left his voice. "Do you have any idea why you’re doing this?"
"Well. I’ve been thinking." Buffy advanced on Spike and put her arms around him. He went rigid with surprise, and stared at her wild-eyed.
"I’ve got a proposal for you."
"What? Proposal?" Spike said. His tone was carefully distant, his upper body still stiff as a board in her arms.
"Okay, this is hard for me, so just shut up and listen." She stood on tiptoe and kissed his cold reluctant lips. "Spike, I’ve realized I liked you better without the soul. So, why don’t we make love, you can have a moment of perfect happiness, lose the soul, and we can have fun together."
During this speech Spike’s expression had changed from disbelieving to anguished. He wrenched himself loose from her.
He sat down heavily on a tombstone. He couldn’t believe his ears. She wanted him. Even if only for ’fun’. But. Without the soul. The hope that had flared up for one searing moment at the words ‘make love’ died down to ashes again.
"Buffy. This was no gypsy curse. I thought you knew. The soul is permanent. I earned it in fair trial. Happiness is not going to make it go away."
"Oh," Buffy said in a small voice.
Tears formed in her yes. She stared ahead sightlessly.
"Okay," she swallowed, "That was it. You slay on, I want to be alone."
‘Buffy--" His voice stopped her. "—is the souled me so awful then? If I’d be the vamp I was again, would there be hope?"
She looked at his hopeful, totally vulnerable face, and it was hard to say no.
"I don’t know. You’re no fun right now. Okay, you're not insane anymore, which is a plus, but I mean, where is the rowdy, fun-loving, snarky, kick-ass guy I knew? You don’t smoke, you don’t drink, don’t swear, you just sit on the couch and mope. What’s to love?"
She walked away without waiting for an answer, hugging herself closely. What had she done? This had not been the plan. She’d been going to say something about teamwork and regular slaying and working out together. She knew this impulsive spontaneous emotion thing was not her, what had made her do it? Fine. Fine! This had been a bad judgment call, but nobody would have to know, no harm done. To her. She felt an unfamiliar pang of regret at the memory of Spike’s face. Buffy strikes again.
She’d turned back without realizing it. Clearly she was going to apologize. Spike was still sitting where she’d left him, his head in his hands. She flinched at the bitterness in his eyes when he spotted her.
Buffy felt again that stomach-dropping sense of loss she’d been getting lately, since meeting Spike the original version, and realizing he was the version she liked best. She didn’t want him to be weak and needy like this, she liked him cocky and sexy, trading blows or insults or caresses. How she wished she could travel back in time one year, instead of six. That past would see some changes! But right now all she could do was try to change the present. She sat down next to her dejected ex-lover.
"Move over a little, Spike. I wanna sit down next to you, not nearly fall off." He looked up with fuzzy eyes and furrowed forehead. Buffy reached out a hand and stroked the furrows.
Spike flinched away from her hand and jumped off the tomb.
"Don’t bloody play with me!" he yelled in her face.
Buffy stood up the better to yell back, when suddenly she felt a little dizzy and had to close her eyes.
Buffy opened her eyes to a Spike, standing close. Very close. She stepped back hastily and looked at his ravaged face.
"Hey, it’s me, version 1.0. Were you guys fighting?"
Spike pressed his lips together and shook his head , hands pressed against his temples. "This is seriously starting to piss me off! He said between clenched teeth. "It’s not about you, I sort of like you, even, but this bloody getting interrupted in the middle of a bloody conversation is bloody off-putting!"
She kept staring at him. "Conversation, huh? Why is there lipstick on your face?"
"Yeah, well…" he trailed off. He could probably see she didn’t really need his answer. "Sorry about that. Didn’t really wanna know that, did you?"
"You’ve said it. Squicks me out, too, you know, even though you’ve gotten to be a pal, sort of. I’m in love with Angel, which was hard enough to accept, but to even think of dating a second vampire…What is that girl thinking of?"
"Yeah, dating, right, she must be insane." He laughed humorlessly. "Have no fear, I don’t think she will be ‘dating’ me in the future."
They started walking in the direction of Buffy’s house.
"You two break up?" she asked, breaking the silence.
"Yeah, we did, sometime ago in fact. This was kind of a not-getting-together-again fight, " Spike answered morosely.
"Huh. So Angel and I are not gonna last?"
"Six years is a long time, pet. You even remember what you were doing six years ago?"
Buffy ruminated on that for a while. "Okay. Good point. I was a happy little girl in LA, playing with my dolls and dreaming of being a professional ice skater. Okay. You know if the vampire brother of that kid ever got taken care of?"
"Yeah, it’s done."
They walked the rest of the way home in silence, both of them wrapped up in their private thoughts.
Xander looked up in surprise. Spike never addressed him directly, and certainly not by his given name.
"You ever think of taking a roommate, to help pay the rent? Must be steep, doing it on your own."
"Yeah? "Xander asked. "So? What's it to you? Not thinking of applying for the position, I hope?"
"Actually, yes, I was."
Xander gaped. "You must be kidding! I hate you. You hate me!"
"Let me put it this way: I wouldn't have to worry about anyone finding out I'm a vampire, because you already know. I'd be out all evening; you’d be out all day; we'd never have to meet. And I'd be out of Buffy's house, one less worry for you!"
"Huh! As if I worry. As if Buffy would ever! "He paused. "Okay, say I agree: how were you thinking of paying? Doesn’t the soul keep you from stealing?"
"I have a job. Working nights. Money would be no big problem, blood is cheap after all."
Xander burst out laughing. "Ha ha! A vampire with a job! That's a real step down for you, eh Spike? Ha!"
Spike bore his outburst with seeming stoicism, although a muscle alongside his jaw jumped. This made Xander suspicious.
"Who are you and what have you done with the real Spike?"
Spike crossed his arms and waited. Xander rubbed his chin, considering his options. Against: Spike's disgusting presence. Horrible personality. Atrocious feeding habits, leading to blood in fridge. Leaving bleach stains in the bathroom. For: extra money. Removing temptation from Buffy. Removing a bad influence away from Dawn. Removing a bad influence away from Willow. Spike having stopped smoking.
"Okay, " Xander said after a very long silence. "I'll do it. On the following conditions:… "A very long list followed. He concluded with "… and if Anya comes back, you clear out the very same day."
They concluded their negotiations with an awkward but manly handshake. Xander promised an extra key, and Spike promised to be there the next evening.
Continued in Another one bites the dust (7)