Timeline: Season 2(during and after WML2) and later in season 7
Spoilers: AU from Beneath You(7.2) In this world, Buffy takes Spike home
Disclaimer: All ME
"Switch!’ she shouted to Kendra.
Smoothly they switched opponents, putting her into combat with Spike.
"I'd rather be fightin' you anyway!" Spike said with a fierce grin, golden eyes glinting.
There was only breath for one word, not enough to convey all she felt at that moment.
Outwardly grim and determined, but inwardly singing with manic joy, she continued the fight, and when the remembered opportunity came, she threw him across the pews into the wall. She let her body move on it’s own the next few heartbeats, then fought Spike again, throwing the censer at his head and watching him getting buried beneath the church organ.
She turned to Kendra, opening her mouth to—
--a mouthful of cold rain: "Gaah!"
She sank to her knees in the muddy grass, shaking with tension and frustration. She pounded her fist in the squishy turf, sending up little fountains of rain.
"Spike!" she yelled. "Get your undead ass over here! I’m not finished with you!"
She leaned forwards, hands flat on the ground now, panting and heaving with emotion. There was no answer, of course. The evil bloodsucking fiend was probably watching Star Wars DVD’s on Xander's couch right now. She hated him. She hated the powers that be, for giving her only five minutes with him.
Giles’ silly board was set up in the living room again. Five time-switch moments were marked in. Giles and Willow were standing close to it, earnestly discussing something. Buffy walked up to them, wrapping a towel around her wet hair.
"You can add a sixth to that," she said. "About an hour ago, just five minutes."
"Where, or when did you go in the past?"
"Fighting with Kendra, in the church? When Spike had snatched Angel to heal Dru?"
Giles nodded, and started adding it to the board. ‘Wow, Giles, you know the date for that by heart? Impressive."
Giles threw her a look. "Unlike you, I have been thinking about these occurrences, and reading up on events of autumn ’97 in my diaries. You seem incredibly off-hand about this, Buffy."
"Yeah, we might even think you were actually enjoying your little forays into the past," an unexpected voice drawled.
Spike! Her stomach flip-flopped. She hadn’t expected to see him here.
"Glad you could make it, Spike!" Giles said, and taking Spike’s arm drew him towards his schematics.
Xander followed Spike into the room. "Hey, doesn’t the Xan-man get a warm welcome from his girls?"
"Hi Xander," Buffy said, her eyes never leaving Spike. He was looking even better than the last time she’d seen him, in the Bronze, very confident and Spike-like again, hair slicked back. She thought of ruffling it.
"Buffy," Willow said softly in her ear. "Staring!"
Buffy jumped guiltily and squirmed at the amusement in Willow’s eyes. "I was looking at Giles, what did you think?"
"Sure. Giles. I just love to stare at Giles, myself. Sit down for a minute, gonna do your aura."
Buffy sat down on the couch and indulged in more staring, sinking into a dreamy, relaxed state as Willow did her thing with the crystal ball.
A muffled sound from Willow. "Um, Buffy? We’ll do another check in half an hour or so. And could you please think of something boring in the meantime? I don’t think you’ll want to show this to Giles."
"What?" she looked up to Willow, who was holding the crystal ball out for her inspection. It was a whirlpool of swirling red, actually moving as she looked at it.
"It’s all red? Didn’t that mean?"
"Uh-huh," Willow nodded, eyebrows raised. "Go do a crossword puzzle or something. Take a cold shower."
"Oh, Will, this is so embarrassing. Cover it, quick!" Buffy hissed, mindful of enhanced vampire hearing. The vampire in question was running his hands through his hair, as she had been wishing to do, and threw her a dark look. He’d heard, damn him. Now he knew she was a churning cauldron of lust, if his nose hadn’t already informed him. She really, really hated him.
As casually as she could, she sidled up to the little group staring at the time-chart. A perfect excuse to stand very close to a certain ex-lover.
Spike stared fixedly at Giles’ hands, gesturing at the markings on the board. He was acutely aware of Buffy standing there, uncomfortably close. It was impossible to shut off his sense of smell, or his awareness of her body temperature, the rushing of her blood, the rapid beat of her heart. He could hardly miss that she still wanted something of him, but he wasn’t sure of his own feelings about that. Turning back into his old evil self, or even pretending to, was the absolutely last thing he was going to do, in spite of his incredibly pathetic question in the graveyard. His soul was hard-won, and he was bloody well proud of it. She could take it or leave it. But if she kept on standing so close, tantalizing him with her blood-warm presence and mingled smells of newly washed hair and arousal , it was going to be so hard to stick to that resolve.
"I can see no pattern at all," Giles was saying. "The time that lapses in between switches is different, the duration is never the same, the moment of the day it happens…Sometimes the elapsed time is the same in 1997 as in 2002, and sometimes it isn’t. I think this is a dead end. Unfortunately, I have no ideas on where next to take our inquiry."
"Have you heard from Anya yet? No? Pity." Willow shook her head in frustration. "No brilliant ideas from me either."
"Well, Dumbledore and McGonagall, since we know bugger all on the cause of this, let’s look at the effects," Spike said. "As far as I know, whatever Buffy does in 1997, it has no effect on our time. Right? Nobody here remembering anything about Buffy having little time-lapses back then ?"
"No, I certainly don’t," Giles said. "Our Buffy mentioned fighting you in 1997, but would that have been an important memory for you then?"
"A fight with the Slayer? That very, um, special kind of fight? I’d bloody well remember that!"
Giles frowned. "Buffy? What was so special about that fight? You didn’t mention it before!"
Buffy threw Spike an angry look. "Spike knows only what I told him "she said, trying to dismiss the issue. "Just fighting, a new fight, the two of us in a graveyard."
"Another moment where you didn’t stake him," Xander said. He received pointed looks from both Spike and Buffy.
Spike resumed speaking. "What I’m saying is, the only effect we see so far is on Buffy’s aura. Willow?"
Willow nodded. "Its been changing. Less iron will and repressing, more natural emotions."
"Hey! This is me we’re talking about! My emotions! Not group discussion material!"
"Buffy, I’m starting to think that what Spike said might be true. Do you actually want this to stop or not?"
Buffy blushed when all eyes were fixed on her expectantly.
"Of course. No having fun in the past, just proper and joyless slaying in the present."
"A profoundly disturbing statement, Buffy. I’ll take you up on that later. But I do think Spike’s on to something. The only effect we’ve seen is on Buffy herself, her feelings. And that seems to go for both Buffys!"
He became excited and started drawing a new chart. He drew two auras, with two dates above them; then lines connecting these to two more auras.
"By Jove I think I’ve got it! Their auras are mingling! Willow?"
"Our Buffy’s aura is decongesting, returning to normal—"
"Hey! I am normal!" Buffy protested.
"—and past Buffy’s is clogging up, turning brown and depressed."
"Jeez, Will, think of what I, she, went through! Angel will turn into Angelus on the me od 1997!"
"There’s no blame here, Buffy. These things did happen, and we all know that they affected you. How could they not?" Giles said gently.
"Well, hurray, welcome back unclogged Buffy!" Spike said. "But, come on, people, being that cold and hard and focused made her a better warrior. Why is she changing back? Puts her at risk!"
"Hard? Cold?" Buffy said angrily. "Let me tell you, Spike, the only cold, hard thing here is you!"
Willow guffawed. At Buffy’s look she said: "Sorry, Buff, my mind just made these pictures!"
"Thank you, Willow, now we all have to live with that image!" Xander said disgustedly.
Giles’ hand hid his smile. "Focus, children, focus. To recapitulate: We know now what is going on. The remaining question is: Why? The result of Buffy’s wish? The powers that be? Something evil? Is it benevolent or malign?"
"Malign, " Spike said.
"Benevolent, "Willow said. "Buffy needs to get in touch with her inner…"
"Cheerleader?" Xander supplied.
"Fluffy bunny, I was going to say."
"Here endeth the therapy, " Buffy said firmly. "You’re all welcome to stay and hang, but no public discussion of the Buffy-feelings, existent or not. Who’s for popcorn?"
Spike was standing in front of Xander’s washing machine, staring at the inexplicable grayness of his newly washed sheets, when there was loud banging on the door. He hesitated, but decided to answer it. An angry Buffy stormed in, coatless, dressed in a white top. She checked her pace immediately when she spotted him and her mouth dropped.
"You're alive!" she gasped.
"Um, no, not really, but if you mean, not dusted, true. Why?"
"I killed you! I dropped an organ on you!"
Spike’s eyes darkened. "You dropped many many organs on me, and you may always drop any organ… Oh. That organ. Bloody hell! Do you know how many months I had to spend in a wheelchair, and watch…" He paused. ‘Don’t know why I’m getting angry, really. For a moment I thought it was the other Buffy, all righteous anger and a never-ending desire to kick my arse."
She stared at him for long moments, but then her anger visibly deflated.
"Just so you know, nobody touches my boyfriend! I’m gonna kill you next time!"
"Been there, done that. That what you came to tell me? And while you’re here, how come my sheets have turned gray? I thought washing was supposed to make them whiter!"
"My guess would be you washed them at the same time with some of your black clothes? Duh! Even I know that, and Mom does my washing."
"So how do I…?"
Impatiently she grabbed the sheets and thrust them back in the machine, and added a big helping of powder and extra bleach. "Big lesson of the normal world: Keep the white and the black apart, or everything will turn gray."
"Thus spake Buffy. Why are you here?"
"I have a message for Giles, from the other Giles. It’s about an amulet we found on the demon I killed, that might be a Justice Demon. He said to tell this Giles it’s in his Abyssinian Box. Dawn thought he and Xander might be checking out a house Giles is thinking of buying."
‘Why not just call them on the cell phone?"
Giles and Xander weren’t going to be back for at least an hour. Buffy chose to stay and wait, watching a movie with Spike.
They were eating popcorn that she had made, and she watched him munch away more than half of it.
"How do vampire bowels work? I thought you could only digest blood?" Twenty questions again.
"You want details, pet? Nah, nothing works anymore. No digestion, no heartbeat, nothing. I’m an animated corpse, remember?"
"Ew. Can I feel your chest for the heartbeat?"
"I don’t have a heartbeat. And why don’t you ask Angel?"
"I can’t, too scary! We haven’t really, you know…" She looked at him pleadingly. "I’m a Vampire Slayer, but I never have a chance to really study one, they always turn into dust."
Spike snorted. "I wonder how! Sorry pet, don’t feel much like being your test subject."
Needless to say, a minute later he was leaning backwards against the couch, shirt hiked up, and little Slayer hands were on his chest trying to locate his heart.
"It’s not as if you usually have a lot of trouble locating vampire’s hearts," he complained. He put his hands behind his head and stared at the ceiling.
"Shut up, I’m concentrating."
He was just wondering at the wicked gleam he thought he’d seen in her eye, when her hands stilled. It took him a moment to catch on. He turned his head down and looked in to the eyes of his Slayer. Her hands became amazingly hot all of a sudden and his whole body shivered in instant arousal.
"What exactly were you two doing?" the older Buffy said with dangerous calm. Why were her hands still on his body?
His mouth was so dry, he could hardly speak. "Vampire anatomy lesson, love." Bugger. Shouldn’t call her that. "Slayer."
"Huh. Glad you lost the nail polish. And what’s with the dishwater hands?" She picked up his left hand. His chest moved in a deep breath of relief when her hands left his skin. The place where they had lain felt the chill of their absence.
Buffy’s eyes widened. "No more bartending, huh? Welcome to the joy of earning your living." She made no move to sit further away from him. She also went on looking at him, and it kept him right on the edge of discomfort.
"So," she started abruptly, "What do you think of the younger me?"
"Nothing like you," he could answer honestly. "Very young, very much in love with Angel." Hasn’t died twice. Hasn’t had to kill her lover. Still has her mum.
"Are you falling in love with her?" Suspicion in her voice. She couldn’t be jealous, now could she?
"What? Of course not!" Spike exploded. "She’s just a child. I’m not interested in children. Why would you think that?"
"It just seems that every time I come back, I find you two snuggled on a couch. What would you think?"
He spread his hands, searching for an explanation. "Just getting friendly. We’re both outsiders here, you know? She can’t relate to the Scoobies, they’re all too grown up, she doesn’t know Dawn too well, who else would she talk to?"
"She picks the insane undead to have girly chats with?"
"So glad you’re back with the witty repartee. I’ll just go hide my sorry and insane self in my closet, then."
He stalked off.
Buffy stared after him, mildly surprised at his snarky reply. It was a long time since he’d given as good as he’d got. Kind of heartening. Hey! Why was she in Xander’s apartment?
She crossed the hallway in two strides, and poked her head around the door of Spike’s room.
"Spike? Why am I here?"
"Bloody hell! Can’t you knock?" Spike’s black T-shirt was lying on the bed, and he was undoing the buttons on a black sports shirt he was holding. Why was he looking so damn good to her? She sat down on his bed.
"Sorry for A: not knocking and B: inappropriate witty repartee."
He looked at her for a few heartbeats, weighing this, then nodded and said: "Okay, apology accepted."
"So, why no more bartending? Didn’t you like it, or did you get fired?"
He sat down on the other end of the bed. "I never realized how bloody hard it is to do the same thing for eight hours straight. Lost my temper, got kicked out."
Buffy nodded in sympathy. "Remember the Double Meat? Deep empathy here. But isn’t dish washing way, way worse?"
"Maybe. No customers to say the wrong thing to. But I’m looking for something else, of course. Tried night watchman, but they wouldn’t hire me. People do seem to notice I’m not your regular bloke."
She moved closer to him. He froze in the midst of pulling on his shirt, looking at her warily. She watched her hand rise and smooth out a tousled platinum curl. Spike’s eyes seemed black, all huge pupils, and she felt his chest move up and down rapidly. Buffy swallowed. She crawled onto his thigh.
Her eyes traveled slowly over his face, and her fingers followed their path. His dark, mobile eyebrows, his blue blue eyes with their thick lashes, that fluttered under her fingertips, that imperial Roman nose, the soft lips, the only soft looking thing in that face of hard planes. Her lips went where her hands had gone, gently touching his lush mouth, her eyes still looking at him. Her heart hammered against her ribcage, her fingers trembled with restraint. Spike sat stock still. She ached to throw him on the bed and fuck him thoroughly, but she owed him more than just that. His heartbreaking words on being ‘flesh’ still resonated in her head.
Her hands went to his chest, parting the panels of his black shirt. She felt a slight hitch in the smoothly rising and falling of the chest under her hands, and while keeping her eyes locked onto his, she slowly buttoned the shirt up, starting from the bottom.
"We were having a conversation," she said softly into his neck. "We wouldn’t want to get sidetracked."
His smile was like the sun coming out, she felt it warming her skin where its light fell on her. "What does this mean, Buffy?" he asked equally softly.
"I don’t know yet. Something." They sat there, staring mesmerized at each other’s smile
The moment was shattered when the sound of a key turning in a lock was heard. Buffy jerked away from Spike’s lap, and stood by the door in one leap. Spike was there before her and gripped her arm hard.
"Buffy!" he said from between clenched teeth, "Choose. The whole deal or nothing. No more sneaking."
She stood looking up at the cold fury in his face like a deer caught in headlights, panting with fear and the urge to flee. "I can’t…not yet…let me go!"
Spike let her loose and stood looking at her with his arms crossed before his chest. "Go away if you’re so afraid," he said, mocking her harshly. "Good to know I can still make the Slayer quake in her stylish boots!"
Buffy couldn’t move from indecision and kept staring at this new angry Spike. He slid his thumbs inside the waistband of his jeans, fingers pointing at his crotch.
"You like me like this, don’t you, Buffy? The bad boy, all swagger and sex. But the softer feelings, those are the ones that scare you." He curled his lip at her and turned away. "Scoot, Slayer. Not ready for all of me yet."
Buffy slipped quietly into the hallway. Xander and Giles could be hear talking in the living room. She went into the bathroom to check her appearance, and was shocked at her wild flushed look. Cold water and Xander’s comb made some improvement. After a last deep breath, she smoothed her hair and walked into the living room.
"Hi guys," she said cheerily.
"Hey Buffster, whatcha doing here?" Xander asked, preoccupied.
"The other Buffy must have come here for some reason," Buffy said with a shrug, and left quickly.
Continued in As time goes by (10)