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This story is really AU. Both Buffy and Spike will have different backgrounds than in the canon, different experiences that have shaped them. Just a warning in case you wonder 'why the hell would he/she do/say that?' But if you've read one of my other AU stories, you know I always strain to keep the characters in, well, character. ;)
Thank you All4Spike for betaing this!!
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Her fingers were slick with blood.
Thick and slippery as she relaxed her grip to drop the blade she’d been holding. It met the concrete with a clatter, drops of liquid slid down her nails to hit the floor with an almost inaudible…
Drip. Drip. Drip.
Why was she here? Did she… did she kill someone? She couldn’t remember. A shiver crawled up her spine as she glanced down at her hands covered in crimson, flexing her grip to verify the reality of the situation. But this wasn’t right. It wasn’t her.
Unless she’d somehow transformed into a man overnight and everyone had neglected to point it out. Her legs took a step without her consent as though she was a marionette in the hands of someone else. It was as if she was looking at the darkened confines of a small living room through the eyes of another person. This… man.
It had to be a dream. And if it was, what did it say about her?
A heavy masculine sigh whispered past the lips of a body where she was apparently riding shotgun. He stepped over the motionless body lying at his feet as though it was nothing but a nuisance.
That’s what she felt even though Buffy was pretty sure the feeling wasn’t her own. His whole body thrummed from the sheer force of dissatisfaction and restlessness, itching for something… It was like a distant thought hovering on the tip of her tongue. His thoughts ran too fast for her to catch them.
Shielded by the cover of darkness, he stumbled a few times as he maneuvered around the unfamiliar room cluttered with kitsch and too many furnishings. The masculine hands reached out to open the drawers, tossing the items to the floor without a care. There was something he needed. Something he had been seeking for a long time and the mounting frustration made his movements jerkier by a second when he couldn’t find it.
Floorboards in the front hall creaked, the sound of it as loud as a gunshot and the man froze, abandoning the search. His eyes spotted a white wooden door few steps away and he slipped through the dark chasm. It was a small closet filled with damp, sickly sweet smell of mould. As silently as he could, he pulled the door slowly towards him without closing it entirely. She could feel his heart pound. Sweat gathered at the base of his neck and slinked down his spine. Still he took a chance and peered into the gap, glimpsing a brief sight of a man.
He was tall and big, kind of had really stupid hair as well. Walked as though the place belonged to him.
Despite never having seen the man in her life, recognition followed by hatred burned its way through the man’s veins and he clenched his jaw so hard it hurt. The violent images of him shoving the door open, grabbing the fallen blade from the floor and slicing the newcomer’s head clean off filled Buffy’s mind.
Screechy sound sliced through the breathy silence, confusing her.
That was when the shrill buzz of the alarm clock dragged her back from the nightmare.
It took her a while to realize she wasn’t dreaming and as the sunlight streamed through the half-closed blinds to warm her face, the remnants of the dream slithered through her fingers.
They always did.
Buffy rolled over onto her stomach and relished the warm covers as she buried her face in the pillow. If there was anything she hated more than mornings, it was Monday mornings.
“Buffy, are you up yet?” called her father through the door and she replied with an intelligible grunt before tossing the covers back.
“Yes, I’m up,” she replied with a voice still hoarse from sleep.
“I’m going to work. Eat some breakfast before you go, would you?”
Buffy muttered in agreement and tucked the dark blond strand of her hair behind her ear as she trudged to the en-suite bathroom.
An unsettling feeling came over her as she brushed her teeth and it followed her all the way as she showered, dressed and walked to school. There was something she should remember but couldn’t quite work out. When did it start? Few weeks ago? It felt a hell of a lot longer than that.
Buffy knew it had something to do with the freaky dreams that faded away with the daylight and she really hated that nagging feeling. Now she’d be thinking about it the whole day. Again.
The senior year of high school began over a week ago and already she couldn’t wait for it to end. It wasn’t that she desperately looked forward to life after graduation. For her, there was no after. She’d be stuck here in Sunnydale until she was all old and wrinkly. She didn’t have the kind of money to afford a college education and she’d probably end up helping her dad work at the grocery store.
Day after day, after day…
Buffy sighed and adjusted the bag strap over her shoulder. She was not a retail girl. Definitely not much of a people’s person. On the other hand, maybe she should enjoy high school while she was still there because just the thought of such monotony made her want to bang her head against the hardest available surface.
Then again, maybe not. Buffy huffed, and desperately tried to ignore the snickers and not so quiet whispers from a couple of people as she neared the school building.
Someone behind her said the popular nickname a handful of the class mates affectionately called her then covered it with a mock cough.
Buffy ground her teeth as she turned on her heel. The mantra ran through her mind. Do not punch him, do not punch him. She so didn’t need to be sent to the principal’s office for violent behaviour again. Because detention? Not as much fun as advertised.
She stopped and said, “And look at you… picking on someone half your size. How very manly.”
Okay, so she wasn’t a poster child for self-control. So what?
“I bet you’d like to know how manly I really am. Too bad I would never touch someone as ugly as you.”
How could he miss the biting sarcasm in her tone boggled Buffy’s mind. And what was up with his leech of a girlfriend glaring daggers at her? Like Buffy would willingly go within hundred feet of a misogynistic narcissist like Parker Abrams, especially after he’d made it his hobby to torment her? Besides, the amount of cheap cologne he used had her shuddering in disgust even if it weren’t for the fact he was a grade A asshole.
“What? No witty repartee?” Buffy asked.
He stared at her dumbly.
She rolled her eyes. “Okay then.”
She turned around, dismissing them both as she continued on her way even though she could hear Parker’s girlfriend whining. The urge to strike back in any way she could was almost too much to resist. For a moment Buffy wished they’d follow her so she could slap him across that smug, girlish face. It would have been worth the detention.
Buffy rummaged through the faded old leather bag slung over her shoulder until she found her phone. She quickened her steps when she saw the school bell was about to ring in two minutes.
The insults didn’t get to her much anymore. Not like they used to when she was younger. For a moment she traced the rough texture of the jagged scars on her face. One on her cheek, the other bisecting her lips and trailing down her chin.
Buffy shook herself out of the stupor as she gathered the books from her locker and hurried to class.
The little bell rang as she pushed the door open and entered the grocery store. Immediately, she spotted her father behind the counter and she sauntered over to greet him.
“Hi, pumpkin. How was school?”
Buffy shrugged, dropping her bag to the floor. “Same old, same old.”
He glanced at her and shook his head. “Did you steal my shirt again?”
She patted the lapel of the black and red checkered flannel shirt, grinning. “Yup. Though I prefer the term borrowed. Besides, it’s not like you wear it… much.”
“I know what you’re going to say, okay? Buffy Anne, you should dress more like a girl and blah blah.”
“I have no authority here,” he said and Buffy couldn’t help but smirk.
She wasn’t really a girly girl and he knew it. Probably blamed that on the lack of a feminine role model in her life. Not that they ever talked about that big elephant in the room. The elephant being her mother who was a forbidden topic for more than one reason.
“But it’s comfortable,” she argued and looked down at her faded black jeans and scuffed heavy boots.
“I’m giving up.”
“You always say that.”
He reached over and ruffled her long wavy hair. “You know I wouldn’t have you any other way. At least I know I don’t have to worry. You can look after yourself.”
“Who needs to play with dolls when you can learn how to fight instead?”
Dad gazed at her with grey eyes so different from hers and there was regret in them she rarely got to see. “You know, sometimes I wish… never mind.”
Buffy opened her mouth to question him when the bell chimed to announce arrival of a customer.
“Did you eat lunch?” Dad asked her to change the topic and she nodded even though she skipped it to avoid unpleasant snickering. Buffy wasn’t sure what she hated more, people who gawked openly or those that shot her barely concealed looks of pity when they thought she wasn’t looking. Her and Dad moved to Sunnydale a few years ago to start a new life from scratch and escape the bad memories. Except memories had a habit of following you whether you wanted them to or not. And people were the same everywhere.
“I’m feeling a bit hungry though,” she said. “Mind if I take something?”
“No, go on and take whatever you want.”
Buffy smiled and headed into the back where pastries were. If there was one thing that could improve her mood, it was something sweet that would probably eventually rot her teeth. Well, it wasn’t as though she had to worry about that for a while, so she grabbed a chocolate glazed donut and took a huge bite. It felt incredible hitting her empty stomach.
Someone cleared their throat behind her, making her turn around.
“Excuse me, Miss. Are you Hank’s daughter?” asked an elderly lady that the whole town accused of being a bit of a lunatic. Kids called her Old Hag but Buffy recalled her name was Mrs. Baum.
Buffy wiped my mouth with the back of her hand before nodding. “Yup, that would be me.”
She wondered what the woman wanted from her.
“Oh, don’t look so wary, dear. I don’t bite,” Mrs. Baum said and leaned against the wooden cane clutched in her hand as she hobbled over to Buffy, long pink skirt swishing around her bony ankles. “Can you tell me where the ginger roots are?”
“No problemo.” Buffy walked over to the vegetables section and heard her follow behind. She took one that eerily resembled a distorted baby and handed it over to the older woman with a polite smile.
Sparks of electricity tingled up her arm when their fingers brushed. Definitely not sexy tingles. These were more of the creepy variety. Because… ew much?
She found Mrs. Baum staring at her and for a moment she thought the woman’s eyes flashed white. It must have been a trick of light but Buffy dropped her hand nonetheless.
“As I thought,” the elderly woman croaked out, still looking at her. Buffy fought the urge to break the gaze because it felt as though the woman was seeing much more than she was willing to share. Mrs. Baum leaned in and whispered, “You think you know what’s coming. You cannot imagine.”
Buffy frowned and took a step away from her. Doom-y much? “Umm… okay. I’ll… take that into consideration. I guess. Anyway, can I help you with anything else?”
Mrs. Baum’s lips parted to reveal rotten teeth as she grinned. Maybe Buffy should reconsider eating too much candy after all.
“No. There’s nothing you can do.”
Then she left, and Buffy stared after her for a few seconds before Dad called her name, effectively startling her out of the musings.
“Buffy? You can go if you want. Mondays are always slow so you can go do your thing. I’ll see you later tonight.”
“Are you sure? Becaus—”
“I’m sure. Now go before I change my mind.”
Well, when he put it that way… “Okay. See you,” she said and walked over to kiss him on the cheek before snatching her bag and striding out of the store.
Grey clouds rolled across the sky to block out the sun but it was still warm enough to be outside without a jacket. She walked across the town to reach her favorite spot which took her barely ten minutes. Sunnydale was a small town. With its two thousand citizens and unstable wifi signal, it was practically a hole. A true mockery of a modern world.
They didn’t even have a mall.
Not that she’d go there. Because, big crowds? Kind of not her thing. Still the lack of anonymity tended to get on her nerves. Sometimes she felt as if the town would swallow her until she became one of the irritating middle aged women striving for gossip, eager to swap pie recipes. She’d rather get hit by a bus before that happened.
Buffy walked into the woods, occasionally brushing off a stray branch that tried to smack her in the face and soon she was stepping out into a small clearing. It was funny how her legs would memorise the routes she walked daily even when her mind was preoccupied.
Only good thing about small towns? People were ridiculously superstitious.
The vines blanketing the brick walls of the abandoned mansion before her often reminded Buffy of the house from Anne of Green Gables. The weeds twined around the neglected rose bushes, and the unkempt grass brushed her calves as she walked towards the house. It was obvious nobody had stepped in it for over a decade, which was one of the reasons she often came here.
However, the majority of the town believed it was haunted because allegedly, people had died here. Violently.
There was no such thing as ghosts. She was here almost every day and not once had she seen anything suspicious. Good for her though. Who else but her would hang out at a haunted place? Especially one that was near to the local cemetery?
Buffy climbed a tree she had claimed as hers and straddled its thick branch, leaning her back against the bark before she pulled a small notebook and pencil out of her bag. This was what she really loved doing and sometimes as she drew, she imagined what it would be like to travel around the world and paint strangers.
Buffy chewed on the tip of the pencil and squashed the images that only reminded her of what she couldn’t have. No use to dwell. She was so a no-dwell girl. Positive thinking only.
She tried to empty her mind and concentrate on the sound of pencil skidding across paper. Sketching often took her different ways, depending on her mood and this time the picture started to resemble a human hand. It was a male hand and for some strange reason, it struck her as familiar even though Buffy was sure she’d never seen it before. It wasn’t like she went around socialising with guys.
Just call me Buffy, the social leper.
Swinging her legs back and forth as they hung in the air; she rested against the rough bark and closed her eyes. Just for a second.
Not too long after, she drifted to sleep.
The unfamiliar surroundings barely registered as did the fact she was a sitting duck in the man’s head again. He was running now and Buffy felt like she had hopped on a train barreling down towards an unknown destination.
He was younger though, his steps shorter as he pushed his way through the sea of people littering the sunlit street. They were loud and several of them yelled at him for elbowing them, but he didn’t care. His heart was hammering in his chest and the back of his neck tingled with that crawly feeling of being followed.
He rounded the corner and quickened his steps, nearly tripping as he glanced over his shoulder.
There was nobody there looking particularly suspicious. Still she could tell he felt as though he was prey being chased by a lion and no matter how fast he ran, it was going to leap up and pounce. People looked at him strangely as he ran past them and Buffy thought he might have been embarrassed if it weren’t for the panic expanding in his chest. This all felt so excruciatingly real.
The crowd was thinning the nearer he got to the sanctuary she sensed was at his fingertips. The boy ducked into an alley, sprinting down an uneven pavement until he saw a row of Victorian houses sitting in the distance. Familiarity washed over him the nearer he got to the front door of one of them.
He could make it. He knew it, and for a moment the hope flared up, thick and bittersweet. The shirt stuck to his back under the heavy coat as the sweat dripped down his spine. He gasped for breath and his lungs burned, but the survival instinct was stronger.
The door was within a short distance and a burst of adrenaline shot through his veins and now he knew. He was going to make it. He would be safe.
Just as he fished the keys out of his coat pocket, blinding pain erupted in his lower back as the pursuer kicked him, and he crashed head first into the concrete. His keys flew out of his hand and skidded out of his reach. Pinpricks of black eclipsed the boy’s vision, a hot, sticky torrent of blood pouring from his nose and trickling into his mouth. It tasted like pennies. If Buffy could gag, she would have.
Before she could make sense of what was happening, a cool hand encircled his neck and lifted him up as effortlessly as though he was a rag doll. His vision was blurry and Buffy only saw the vague shape of a man through the broken lenses of the boy’s glasses when the man spun him roughly around. The sudden motion made the boy even dizzier and he struggled to remain conscious.
“Gotcha,” the man said in a rough, cold voice.
Then pain unlike anything she’d ever felt erupted where his neck met his shoulder as the man tore into his vulnerable flesh. He screamed and everything went black.
With a gasp, Buffy started awake and almost fell from the branch. The notebook wasn’t that lucky and she watched it tumble to the ground as she clutched at the bark, the rough texture digging into her palms.
“Crap,” she muttered and squeezed her eyes shut for a second to calm down her rampant emotions, trying to recall the dream she’d had.
No luck there.
Distracted, she climbed down from the tree and bent down to retrieve her sketch book. With an annoyed sigh Buffy glanced up at the sky just in time for a single rain drop to hit her square in the forehead.
Great, it was starting to rain.
The clouds had gathered together, dark and ominous. She quickened her pace as she walked out of the small forest and strode down the empty street. The heavens opened and sheets of rain soaked her within seconds. She tried to blink the water out of her eyes and winced at the feel of soaked clothes glued to her skin.
Out of nowhere, cold hands of uneasiness caressed her spine. Buffy stopped in her tracks, frowning. Nobody was around, probably already couch potato-ing it at their homes, dry and watching crappy reality TV shows. She glanced across the road with defeat.
Then she spotted him and for a moment she thought it was a hallucination.
He was the most… bizarre man she’d ever seen. Unsettling her for a reason she couldn’t quite pinpoint. Kind of looked like he might have walked out of jail, too. Goosebumps erupted on her skin. Was it from the chill? She wasn’t so sure.
He was leaning casually against a lamp post, eyes closed, one of his legs bent at the knee where he’d propped his foot against the pole. The water pelting down on him didn’t seem to affect him at all. Nothing seemed to touch him.
Buffy realised she was staring but couldn’t tear her eyes away as he ran his hand through his soaked hair, ignoring the unpleasant weather and instead looking as though he was bathing in a non-existent sunshine. The wet, unnaturally white strands curled around his ears, somehow softening the razor sharpness of his cheekbones.
His skin was a bit pale, stark against the blackness of his coat and tight, soaked through jeans. He seemed so out of place she wanted to laugh. She wanted to, but she could barely breathe and her eyes shifted back to his face. There was something about him…
A shock of electricity zinged along her nerve endings when he caught her gaze. He arched one dark, thick eyebrow, the corner of his full lips curling up in a smirk and she felt heat rushing into her cheeks. He’d noticed her staring at him. She almost tripped over her own feet even though she was standing still.
He was just a stranger, for God’s sake. So why did a mere look throw her emotions out of whack?
Buffy forced herself to look away and hurried— but definitely not ran—down the street, suddenly frantic to escape. The rich sound of his laughter echoed in her ears all the way home.
Chapter End Notes:
If you made it to the end, congratulations you just won a buttload of money! Nah, I'm lying. ;) Still, please let me know if you fancy reading more of this? That would be pretty cool of you.
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