Timeline: Season 2 (Lie to me) and later in season 7
Spoilers: AU from Beneath You(7.2)
Disclaimer: All ME
Another one bites the dust (7)
"Which one of you is it? Still Past Buffy? It’s getting harder to tell."
"Yeah..." She sat down on top of the steps, leaned her chin on her hand and watched him put clothes in a small bag, check the dryer impatiently, and start pacing.
"Are you packing up? Leaving?"
"Don’t want to overstay my welcome, pet. I can take care of myself again, so I will. Don’t want to be dependent on charity. Found a job, and a flat mate, so I’m moving out." Spike leaned against the dryer with arms crossed, settling in for a chat.
"Huh. A vampire with a job. Never thought I’d hear that. Angel doesn’t have a job!"
"How does he pay for his rent, and his fancy clothes, then?" he inquired.
She seemed taken aback. "I don’t know! I never thought about that. I’ll have to ask him someday."
Spike grunted. "Humph. How’s your lot getting on with finding out about the time switch? Not much happening here."
"Miss Calendar did a kind of aura-thingy with me. My aura is getting darker, but she doesn’t know why. And there was other stuff to deal with." She fell silent.
Spike looked at her searchingly. "Monster of the week? Difficult to slay?"
"It was you again," she said in measured tones. "And obviously I didn’t kill you. But you killed a friend of mine, you know."
Spike frowned, trying to remember.
"The Vampire Fan Club? The boy, Ford, who sold me out? The one you turned?"
"O yeah, that prat. Sorry. A promise is a promise, but I was mightily relieved you staked him. Didn’t like him one bit. You call that a friend?"
"He was desperate, dying from a tumor!" Buffy defended Ford half-heartedly.
"Knew he tasted funny. Ew!"
She laughed. "Are you turning into Valley girl?"
He smiled at her and rubbed his hand through his hair. ‘Next thing you know I’ll be sporting a sun tan, and rollerblading it over the tombstones. Ah, the bloody thing’s done." He retrieved his black load of clothes from the dryer, stuffed it in the bag, zipped it up and went to the stairs after a last look around.
At the front door he paused. "Don’t suppose I’ll be seeing you around anymore. It was fun getting to know you. Bye, then." He left.
Slowly Buffy went upstairs to her mother’s room, feeling kind of flat and listless. Nobody home again. She didn’t think her Mom lived here anymore. The future friends weren’t exactly telling her stuff. She could see their point, but it was still starting to wig her. Oh well. Better heat up some food and have a slay.
Slowly Buffy walked through the swinging doors into the library. Not finding anybody, she went into Giles’ study.
He looked up with smile. "Hello Buffy, I was hoping…Oh. This is the other Buffy I presume?"
She sat down on his desk, swinging her legs. "You sound less than happy about it! No clues yet?"
"No, not exactly. We’ve been pretty busy with other stuff as well, as you probably still remember."
"You know, Giles, " Buffy said thoughtfully, "nobody in the future remembers these time-switches happening in 1997. You have an explanation?"
Giles pushed away the book he was perusing and looked at her seriously over his glasses. "No. No, I haven’t. That is odd! Perhaps there’s more than one possible future. Perhaps you two are switching not between linearly progressing time, but between two parallel universes?"
"Yeah, right, whatever. Stopping it would be more my concern, actually."
"Buffy, " Giles started in a serious voice. "I’ve been wanting to talk to you. Quite frankly, I’ve been worried about the behavior you’ve displayed so far."
Buffy let out a choked laugh. "Sorry Giles. But you do remember I’m twenty-one, don’t you? Not really interested in fatherly lectures here!."
"Obviously I don’t know what the future me has been telling you, but there are reasons for my worry. There is literature about Slayers going, well, wild, you know. You seem very bent on doing things your way, you’ve been rude to your friends, and Joyce called me to ask what was up with you."
"Hmm. Are you ready to hear future stuff? You didn’t seem to want to before, Marty McFly and so forth?"
Giles took off his glasses and started polishing them. Buffy observed this with a fond smile. "I miss that, you know. Us talking things over, you polishing your glasses if things get emotional or shocking…"
He looked up sharply. "You miss it? Why don’t we do that anymore? I’ll always be your Watcher!"
"Is that so? Well, not to put too fine a point to it, you’ve been fired by the Council of Watchers, left me twice, once if you count the time you thought I was dead…And, I was, actually, dead. That fills your need for information?"
Giles stared at her open-mouthed, even forgetting the spectacles.
Buffy went on relentlessly. "I’ve had to be tough and self-reliant. How about this? I had to send my boyfriend to hell to prevent the world ending, I had to die to save the world ending, my best friend tried to end the world…. Need more?"
"For God’s sake. Buffy, that is …I have no words for that."
Giles got up and started pacing in the small confines of his office. "Well, you are a Slayer, this is a Hellmouth, but if I had any inkling that thing would get this bad…Right. This is the inkling."
"I don’t actually know what an inkling is, Giles, but there was nothing you could have done. Well, maybe you could have stayed, and taught Willow to control her magic more, but…"
"What? Willow? Magic? You know, I will admit right now that I was completely wrong. I was not ready to hear anything about the future. I’m asking you never to say anything about it again. Ever." Giles gestured emphatically with his hands, a thing she’d hardly ever noticed him doing.
Buffy raised her eyebrows. "Your wish is my command. So the lecture about my behavior is also scrapped?"
Giles sat down again and rubbed his face and temples. "I think you would be wise to listen to it, Buffy. Regardless of what happened to you, it’s what I know about Slayers. It might be of value to you."
"Okay. I’ll listen. I’ll tell you when I’ve heard it before."
"Slayers are rigorously trained and kept on a short leash to prevent from happening what I see in you right now Buffy: Extreme self-reliance, giving in to the darker aspects of your nature, enjoyment of the kill for example…
"You might also call that growing up, self-knowledge….Didn’t Henry Ford say ‘Know thyself’?"
Giles gave a short bark of laughter. "Em, no, that was, um, someone else. Never mind."
"I mean, Giles, " and Buffy started pacing herself, "what works for a sixteen year old isn’t necessarily right for a twenty-one year old. I mean, I try to shield Dawn as much as I can from stuff, I accept that you didn’t tell all to the younger me. That doesn’t mean you can keep that mentor-pupil kind of relationship going indefinitely. I’m an adult, I have to make my own living, take care of my little sister, make my own decisions."
She sat down again, leaning forward to give emphasis to her words.
"Being a Slayer is pretty hard by itself, if I denied who I was that would make it even harder. The dark is part of me, whether I like it or not. And I didn’t, I don’t. But it’s killing me to pretend. Did you see the aura reading Ms. Calendar did of me? Too much repression and it might kill the fount of Slayerness! I have to feed that part of me, or die, and I have to have normal relationships or I’ll just be a killing machine."
"I’m…I’m impressed, Buffy, You’ve obviously given this a great deal of thought. " Giles stared at this serious, talky Buffy with amazement. Given what she’d told him he understood her impatience with her erstwhile Scoobies a bit better. It must be galling to attend classes and deal with people you basically thought of as children.
"Too much credit, Giles. I only just started thinking about this, actually. Because of this time travel thing and the differences in our auras, and some really disturbing dreams lately…"
Giles nodded. This Slayer was more interesting than he’d imagined, more of an equal, a challenge.
"Speaking of relationships, Buffy, I noticed you seemed a bit uneasy around Angel. Anything amiss with you two?"
"Weren’t you listening, Giles? I had to kill a boyfriend, I said. Or, well, send him to hell. Who but?"
"Oh dear. How upsetting. Well, to be completely honest, I never quite liked the idea of you with a vampire boyfriend, soul or not!" This initiated a bout of cleaning the glasses again.
"You shouldn’t have said that, Giles," Buffy said with ghost of a smile. "You know how that goes in movies, the thing you wish to avoid, always happens."
"You mean? Another one? I don’t want to know, I think. Or…perhaps I can prevent it?" He looked pretty upset.
"Don’t go there, Giles. Never works. Besides, it’s my love life, my mistakes to make!"
"It’s hard to stop thinking of that, Buffy. My god. A vampire. And, since Angel is the only souled vampire in the world…" He shook his head.
Buffy patted his hand. "Hey, look at it this way, you won’t be bored. I’ve gotta go to class now, don’t wanna ruin this Buffy’s reputation any further…"
"Buffy, there was one other thing…! "
She was gone already, only the soft sigh of the swinging doors evidence of her passing. Giles put the talisman back in his pocket, staring after her. He felt quite helpless.
When Buffy returned from patrol, the house was lit up like a Christmas tree. Eagerly she skipped up the steps and went in. People! Better the wrong people than nobody at all.
"Hi guys," she called out. "I’m back! "
Xander poked his head around the door to the living room. "Hi Buffy. Which Buffy?"
Xander went back in, and she heard him saying: "We’re in luck, this is teen Buffy."
She followed his voice in, finding the whole gang present, including Dawn, and a woman she didn’t know. Spike wasn’t there.
Giles took the lead. "Glad to see you, um, Buffy, this is Anya, she used to be a vengeance demon. We’ve asked her here to help us determine what is causing your time dislocation."
"You put things so well, Giles! " Anya said with a stretchy smile, that made Buffy slightly uncomfortable. She could believe the woman had been a demon, there was something off about her. It made Xander and Giles twitchy, too, she noticed.
Anya got straight to the point, while Buffy attacked the popcorn, and Willow started on a low-voiced chant or something, peering into a crystal ball. Buffy had imagined that to be more Magica Duck than a thing real life witches did. The new Willow did resemble Magica a little, actually.
"So, Strange Buffy from another time, you made a wish to a vengeance demon?" Anya said to her.
"I did not! I told everyone here that I did not!"
Anya looked at Giles. "Giles! Tell her she must tell the truth!"
"We know that you know a lot about all kinds of demons, ‘ Giles said soothingly. "What other kind of creature could have caused something like this?"
"I did kill a kind of veiny, unknown demon; it was wearing a pretty necklace, and I took that to the other Giles." Buffy offered.
"You killed it? How did you kill it?"
"I put a stake in its heart, as usual." The popcorn was gone, and Buffy started on the Doritos someone had thoughtfully provided.
"That wouldn’t kill a vengeance demon!"
"Besides, Buffy hasn’t wished vengeance upon anyone. But, Anya, there are other kinds of wishes that may be granted, aren’t there?"
"Sure, vengeance was my thing, and Hallie’s, but most of us prefer "Justice Demon". I know some of our kind actually work for other powers, righting wrongs that were accidentally created, not just scorned women or abused children."
"I may have bitched and complained a little about having to move the corpse all by myself, and having to slay all alone most of the time, but I wouldn’t call that wishing!" Buffy said defensively.
"Could be. Unfortunately Buffy killed that demon, even though it was probably harmless, and so we will never know" Anya said blithely.
"But you just said they couldn’t be killed that easily!"
"True. I was just being bitchy about demons killed indiscriminately." Anya admitted readily. Buffy threw her a dark look.
Giles took charge again. "Alright. Buffy, when you switch back you must check out if the corpse is still there. Anya, could you find out something through your contact?"
"It’s going to be hard, Giles, it’s been six years. And I’m not exactly popular with the vengeance in-crowd anymore, remember? But I’ll try."
Giles nodded his thanks to Anya, and turned to Willow. "Willow, what are the results of the aura spell?"
"Much lighter than our Buffy’s, but showing encroaching darkness. Buffy, did you manage to do one in your time?"
"Yeah, Miss Calendar did it for me, but she didn’t use a crystal ball! She just…" Literally everyone flinched. Ouch! She’d done it again. Broached an apparently taboo subject, and there were so many of those, she couldn’t imagine these people having a relaxed conversation ever again!.
Buffy paused, while the other shifted and sighed and scratched, and grabbed snacks, before resuming speaking again. "Okay, the person who helped me with the spell told me the same. Almost normal, growing darkness. It’s a pity we never did one before all this started!" She got up and stretched. "I’m gonna shower. See you guys later, or actually, rather not of course, but hey. And by the way, Dawn, Spike moved out. Pity, huh? He was good company."
She knew she was leaving them confused and irritated, but then that was just how she felt. Damn their superiority and future knowledge and those oh so tender spots on countless subjects. She’d totally had it with them.
Buffy returned to 2002 in the shower. She’d never realized before how disconcerting it could be to be totally drenched all of a sudden, especially if you had just been putting a bite in your mouth at the dinner table. She contemplated the reverse process for a moment, and hoped her other self hadn’t choked on that mouthful.
She dressed and went down, feeling peppy and up for a slay. The house was silent. Dawn’s room upstairs had been empty. She frowned for a moment. Well, Dawn was sixteen, she could hardly sit around waiting for her older sister to return from the past to ask for a permission. She opened the basement door and called down ‘Spike! You coming with on patrol?" It was dark in the basement, but she knew he didn’t always put a light on when she would have. She switched it on and bounced down the stairs. The basement was empty, the cot neatly stripped of covers, his little stack of clothing nowhere visible. She checked the washer and the dryer. The dryer yielded one shrunken black sock.
Buffy sat down heavily on the cot. Spike had moved out? Without telling her, without asking….well, her permission? She couldn’t explain the desolate feeling that washed over her. It was quickly replaced by anger and outrage. How dare he! It was ungrateful, and rude, and she had kind of counted on him staying.
And where would he go? Back to his old crypt, or moved in with Clem? The school again? And more importantly, why? She was pretty certain it had been their last disastrous patrol together. Her proposal hadn’t exactly been tactful, looking back on it, and then to have it interrupted by a time switch…not of the good. And she had probably made it worse by being completely embarrassed about it and avoiding him completely after that.
Buffy felt a sudden well of grief rise up inside her, and she tried to stall it by taking deep breaths and walking up and down. The sobbing could not be stopped, however, and she cried with the wrenching, strangled sounds of one who doesn’t cry often.
Slowly she cried herself out. She went upstairs and checked herself out in the bathroom mirror, sloshing cold water on her face. Shades of thirty in that reflection. She stuck out her tongue at it and decided it was great for frightening vampires and demons, and she was going to patrol anyway. She certainly was Emoting Buffy lately, it was a good thing nobody was around to notice.
When Buffy was checking the mail before leaving, she accidentally opened and read a letter for Willow. It said: "Dear Ms. Rosenberg, we are happy to inform you that your application for a dorm room has come through. You will be in …" . Buffy nearly tore the letter when she put it back in the envelope. Willow was moving out too? Willow must have applied for a room immediately upon coming back, CU administration didn’t move that fast. Why hadn’t Willow told her? Was she being kept out of the loop? She was the one who had unquestioningly provided shelter for the two miscreants, didn’t they owe her some consideration? Why was everyone leaving her?
Buffy did go on patrol, but once having arrived in her favorite graveyard, she couldn’t find the energy to actually go and look for evil activity. Listlessly, she dusted the one vamp with balls enough to taunt her, but the various emotions crashing through her the last few hours left her numb and tired. Soon she was home again, and cuddled up around Mr. Gordo.
Continued in Only the lonely (8)