Stomping on butterflies by Blackoberst
Summary: Spike wins against Angel for the first time in his un-life, but the prize isn't what he expected.
Categories: General Fics Characters: None
Genres: Action, Romance
Warnings: Adult Language, Character Death, Violence
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 16 Completed: Yes Word count: 55221 Read: 911 Published: 12/31/2023 Updated: 02/28/2024

1. His trip back in time began by Blackoberst

2. “Hello, cutie.” by Blackoberst

3. Bugger. by Blackoberst

4. Only time will tell by Blackoberst

5. The bitter version he’d left behind by Blackoberst

6. His newfound plan might be possible yet. by Blackoberst

7. Future would start in earnest by Blackoberst

8. Warmth again by Blackoberst

9. She was magnificent. by Blackoberst

10. Fully stocked bar by Blackoberst

11. Burst out laughing by Blackoberst

12. Grin on his face by Blackoberst

13. Grin on his face by Blackoberst

14. Wouldn’t meet any resistance by Blackoberst

15. Deserted behind them by Blackoberst

16. Happiness by Blackoberst

His trip back in time began by Blackoberst
He’d finally done it. He’d won. He couldn’t really remember ever beating Angel and getting something they’d both wanted.
So this victory was a hundred and twenty some years in the making. A victory after so long that would cause him everlasting sorrow. Didn’t he just feel like the luckiest vamp on the planet?
Just as soon as he drank from the cup.
As he did, though, something didn’t go according to plan. “What the-?”
~~~***~~~
Pain woke him up.
His head was pounding. This must have been one of the worst benders he’d ever been on. Definitely up there with Dru dumping him, Buffy dumping him, Buffy’s swan dive…
That thought jump-started his synapses. He needed to figure out where he was and how he got there. One of the first things he could remember brought a smile to his face. He’d beaten the Poof to the Cup. He frowned. Mountain Dew shouldn’t pack such a punch. “What was in that stuff?”
“My Spike is awake. You’re just not my Spike, are you?”
He could pick that voice out of a crowd. It was the devil whispering in his ear when he made a choice, the soundtrack of some of his pleasant dreams, and the narrator of many of his nightmares. She’d been his everything for more than a century and she was looking intently at him from across what looked like a crappy motel room.
“What’s that, pet?” He needed time to think. Time and some working neurons. If only the marching band of Fyarls would stop stomping around in his brain.
“You’re going to send Princess away.” She made a vague hand gesture. “My black knight, always chasing the light.” She looked at him with such sorrow it made his soul ache.
His soul. He jumped up on the bed in panic and clutched his chest as if that could do something. Nope, still there. The thought of draining an innocent victim physically hurt. So what was he doing in a no-tell with Dru?
“Dru, where’s Angel?”
She hissed, retreated even further, and made herself as small as possible in the far corner. “Bad dog. Speaking out of turn. Daddy is still lost. Lost to us all.” She started to rock back and forth, covered her ears with her hands, and hummed a nursery rhyme to herself.
Spike wasn’t listening to her by then, though. All his attention was taken up by the spotty beat-up television set.
It was set to some local news channel, where a generic presenter blathered on about how the winds had picked up. They were calling it the worst storm of the year.
The year 1996.
He barely made it to the bathroom before he emptied his stomach. By the smell of things his hangover wasn’t booze related. Still, there was a ringing in his ears and he’d got tunnel vision.
Eight years in the past. Either someone was playing the cruelest of tricks on him, or… He had no second option available at the moment, seeing as his brain still refused to work properly.
He stumbled out of the bathroom and looked at Dru through bleary eyes. She was still rocking back and forth slowly, but she looked at him.
“You’re leaving.” Despite looking the picture of a mental patient, she sounded more lucid than he’d ever heard her.
It was more sobering considering it was exactly what he’d thought of doing. Well, closer to ‘the only thing he thought he could do.’ Whatever happened, he wasn’t sure he could stake her. He couldn’t just up and leave, though. Dru on her own was a recipe for a much bigger disaster than… he couldn’t think of something, especially with the mind-numbing pain.
He snarled in frustration and rushed for the door. He almost ripped it open, but for the vampire self-preservation instinct stopping him from burning up like a roman candle.
“Fucking sun!” He wanted to punch through the wall in frustration. But it was the paper-thin wall that separated him from the murderous rays of the sun. So that would be a no. The small bedside table became kindling instead.
“Motes of dust, blood like rust, Sunshine will eat us all up.”
He found himself wondering if her rhymes had always been that grating, or if it was the special hangover and temporal displacement that was making him rethink dusty endings. And why did he sound so much like fucking Angel even in his own head. God, he needed a drink. He also needed to think. If only Dru would stop cackling.
~~~***~~~
The sun had finally set outside. He’d been trapped with Dru in the infernal motel room from the past for more than six hours. At least she’d finally lulled herself to sleep.
Spike used the time to think, plan, rethink, and then start it all again from the top. There was a very problematic first step he had to take care of though, regardless of which future plan he chose, that he just couldn’t go around: what to do with Dru.
He’d accepted he’d been thrown into the past somehow, most likely by that damned Cup. Since it was supposed to mean torment, his first thought was that someone had sentenced him to reliving the previous years as a punishment. He would have to test Novikov’s principle.
He’d read and watched enough Sci-fi in his day to know time travel was a dangerous thing, especially with the whole ‘butterfly effect’ theory, but he decided he would try to make things better anyway. His most fervent hope was that he didn’t end up making it worse. And that brought him back to watching Dru sleep crouched against the wall.
What could he do about her?
He could try and find someone to pawn her off on. Maybe even look for one of her lovers from the first go-around. That would take time and effort, and all the while he’d have to walk a fine line between not killing anyone and making sure his change in status didn’t become public knowledge too soon. They’d smell the soul on him a mile away. Dru probably already knew about it. To say she wouldn’t cooperate would be putting it lightly. To hell with that plan.
He could just up and leave her. The sun was down, so nothing stopped him from walking out, getting in the car—if he remembered correctly it should be right outside in the parking lot—and driving away. She’d find her way. They hadn’t been to Prague yet, so she was up to her full strength. She’d find someone to latch on to soon enough. Or she’d manage on her own, as she had whenever they were broken up. Although the last time, in that future he was going to change, she’d also gone after Buffy.
He could dust her. But would he be able to? She’d been his everything once. Of course since then there’d been a soul, a death, a resurrection, and more recently a time jump. More importantly, there had been Buffy.
There was another option, of course. He looked at Dru’s corner again only to find her looking right back at him.
“My Spike’s thoughts are like ants on a hill. Running left and right, and then all in line. But Princess’ honey is sour for him.” She hissed. “It’s all her fault.”
“Dru.” She hissed at him again, as she clutched Miss Edith to her chest. “You know I’ve changed, yeah?” She vamped out and snapped her teeth at him. Oh, but this was going really well. “There is a demon in Africa. He gives you your heart’s desire if you fulfill his tests.” He got on his knees in front of her, close enough she could see how serious he was, far enough she couldn’t just rip his throat out for what he was about to propose. “He could give you your soul back. Probably make you less barmy as well. Just imagine—”
She attacked him with such fury it caught him by surprise although he was expecting her to resist the idea. She slashed, punched, and kicked at him as if she were berserk. It took him all his skill and strength to simply survive her first onslaught, but eventually he managed to get the upper hand.
He’d always been partial to fists, fangs, and sod all else, and Dru’s attack was too frenzied to stop him for long. He eventually had her trapped under him only to realize he had no stakes. “Dru, listen.”
She bucked and the back of her head hit him in the chin, almost breaking both his hold on her and his jaw. He tried to restrain her better, but she squirmed like an eel. His hand found a splinter from the defunct side-table and he collapsed on top of her dust.
He’d done it. It hurt like hell in that part of him that was the demon, the human part was morning the loss of a former lover, but he’d actually, really, done it. Dru was gone.
He lay there in shock for a long while, trying to get his bearings. Then he started laughing. It sounded crazed even to his own ears.
“If that doesn’t put a shock up Novikov’s ass, I don’t know what will.” He got up, surveyed the room, looked down at the ashes of his maker again, and then left into the night. He needed a lot of booze and then he needed to get to Prague.
~~~***~~~
*Somewhere high up in the Tatra Mountains, Czech Republic*
It had taken him longer than he’d liked, but he’d managed to track the Order of Dagon down, as they hid in plain sight in a Catholic monastery. He was pissed with himself all he could remember about them was the name Dagon and that they were Czech. It meant Buffy had already been Called by the time he made his way up the mountain. He’d wished he could be by her side when that happened, but his mission here was important enough.
After he managed to bluff his way past the gates and into a meeting with the elder monk—Yakov—he made his sales pitch. “I know you have the Key, but I need you to get off your collective asses and make her into Dawn Summers.”
“What did you say?”
Spike relished the old man’s shock. “Look, you blokes have been keeping the Key safe as houses for long enough, but you’ve been in the same place all this time. Glorificus—”
“Do not speak its name.” Yakov looked around in fright. “How do you know this?”
Spike was glad he remembered some of the alternative names for Glory. “I’ve fought the Beast before, and I probably will again. How I know what I know isn’t really the issue here, though. She will find you. Soon. And when she does she’ll lay waste to this place and slaughter everyone. Your best bet is to use your fancy magic rituals and shape the Key into a human.”
Yakov looked at him with disdain. “And let me guess, you wish for us to then turn over this human to you?” He brought out a cross from the folds of his robe. “Your true nature does not escape me, vampire.”
“Guilty as charged, although if you’ll look close enough, you’ll see I have a bloody soul.”
Yakov frowned. “Are you the one they call Angel?”
Spike snarled and swore. “Do I look like a no good ponce with a high forehead and nothing but rats on the menu for decades? No, I’m not the almighty Angelus. The name’s Spike, and I won my soul fair and square, not by raping and munching on gipsy virgins.”
The monk didn’t seem impressed. “Even if what you say is true, I still wouldn’t hand the Key over to the likes of you.”
“Didn’t ask you to do that, did I, mate? I’ve no use for a magicked-up younger sister. Be kind of difficult, seeing as how my parents have been dead for more than a century. No, what I’m asking should be far more up your alley. Send her to the Slayer.”
“Why would a vampire propose we involve the Slayer?” The man narrowed his eyes. “Unless your plan is to attract our foe to her. Is that it? Killing a Slayer through the use of the Beast?” The last word was said in an almost whisper.
Spike wanted to rip his hair out in frustration. “Look, you insufferable git. If I wanted a Slayer dead, I’d just go and do it myself. If you look me up you’ll find I already offed a couple of the birds in my day. Of course, that was before my change of heart, my trip to Africa to get my soul, and my joining the white hats full-freaking-time. What you need to know is that you need to get off your ass, mojo the Key’s energy into a human form and send her to Buffy Summers as her sister.” His yelling got louder and louder as he went on.
Yakov’s face was impassive. “There is something you are not telling me. What do you hide?”
As was the case with most of Spike’s plans, especially those involving Buffy, there was something that wasn’t going well. He could see the monk’s distrust, and he was sure the monks wouldn’t just do what he asked. In fact, by the way Yakov was clutching his cross, Spike thought they might not send Dawn to Buffy even when Glory actually did come. And all of that just because he had to run his big fat mouth.
Time to go to plan B. Since he was rubbish with lies, he’d go for the truth. “Okay, mate. You asked for it. Hope you got some of that communion wine handy, ‘cause it’s gonna be a long story.” He lowered himself in a chair and put his feet up on the monk’s desk. “See, it all started some six years ago, or two years from now, depends on how you look at things. Don’t worry, it’ll make sense by the end, I think.”
***
He told the monk the whole sordid tale, from running over the ‘Welcome to Sunnydale’ sign, to waking up eight years in the past in the same room as his maker, only to be forced to dust her.
Somewhere around Buffy and his destroying a house together a couple of bottles of Tatra tea—the good kind, probably close to the weaker Absinths in strength—found their way to their table and helped soothe the vampire’s frayed nerves.
His story and the two bottles finished at about the same time, leaving Spike with a slight buzz and a pit in his stomach.
“You have been through a lot.” Yakov’s eyes were closed and he was resting his head on the wall behind him.
“Understatement of the fucking century. And I should know.” Spike winked, even though the other man couldn’t see it.
“What I do not understand is why you would wish the Key sent to the Slayer now.” Yakov opened his eyes and straightened up in the chair, although not without some difficulty. “It might attract her even sooner than in your first…” He waived a hand around and wiggled his fingers.
“Don’t you think I know that?” Spike tried to coax a few more drops out of one of the empty bottles. “I could be screwing up things even worse than last time.” He stopped looking down the bottle’s neck to fix the monk with a glare. “I also know magic always has consequences.”
“That is true. Your point?”
“Last time you lot got slaughtered just as you were creating Dawn. Karma may be a bitch, but it couldn’t have worked that fast.” He sneered. “Not on you monks anyway. Instead ended up the slayer’s family paid the price. If I can save Joyce this time— I’ll do and try anything to do that. Having the Bit back sooner would be nice, too. They’re my best girls, see?”
Yakov was silent for a long time. “And if the Beast—”
“I’ll take care of her. That wanker she’s sharing a body with won’t last a fortnight in Sunnyhell, whenever they decide to come to town.”
Yakov slapped his palms on his thighs and got up. “You’ve given me a lot to think about. I believe I know what decision I should make, but I need to tell my brothers, and at the moment I need to rest a while.” He raised his arm when Spike made a move to protest. “You travelled a long way. You may rest as well and leave in the morning after we have a chance to discuss everything.”
Spike swore to himself, but he had to admit the man was right. So he allowed himself to be guided to one of the empty guest rooms and hoped the booze had been strong enough to give him at least a partial night’s good rest.
~~~***~~~
Travelling at night over an ocean in the belly of a plane wasn’t the most comfortable way to go, but to Spike it was going back home. Southern California had become home to him. Actually no, it wasn’t that. He was going to be seeing his girls soon. All of them. And if he was right, he’d finally managed to save the closest thing he’d had to a mum in a century.
He spent the rest of his flight making and remaking plans. It was much better than the nightmares that had plagued him ever since his trip back in time began.
“Hello, cutie.” by Blackoberst
*LA*
“Stupid fucking blundering idiot.”
Spike was running as fast as he could. He’d gone to the first demon bar he’d found and asked about Lothos. Knowing the bastard’s ego was as big as Dracula’s, it only made sense every demon on the West Coast would know what he was up to.
Apparently he’d been dusted as Spike was convincing the monks to put a rush on making Dawn a part of the Slayer’s life. Which meant that Buffy was back from her trip to Vegas and trying to explain to her parents about the things that go bump in the night.
He took a moment to thank all the gods and devils for the many hours spent talking about her past. It had given him a somewhat clear timetable for the period before he’d crashed into her life. Sure, he couldn’t quite remember the order of some of those events, but at least her first big battle and the immediate aftermath was clear in his mind. That’s why he knew he had to hurry even more than before. He might not have been able to spare Buffy from losing her first Watcher, but he could save her from her parents’ overreaction.
*
Unfortunately he hadn’t been fast enough. Hank was already driving Buffy to the sanitarium to ‘rid her of her demons,’ or whatever it was that one of the stupidest men on the planet thought of his daughter’s calling. If Spike ever got his hands on the man that could leave not one, but three Summers women, he’d wring his neck, rip his spleen out and shove it up his ass.
Unfortunately when he’d hurried to go from one end to the other of the city he’d neglected to take his car. Now he was paying for it by having to sprint for bloody ever. Why couldn’t at least one measly little time-changing plan go right when it involved his slayer?
He had to reach the ‘We’re hacks that don’t know our heads from our asses’ Mental Health Center to save Buffy. In the end he managed to arrive there before the supernatural equivalent of a heart attack made his unbeating heart explode. He couldn’t remember running so fast for so long even when he escaped from the Initiative. He stopped right outside the doors to get a grip.
If he simply went in there, ripped Hank’s head off and put the fear of the devil in the good for nothing doctors about to mess with Buffy then she’d either stake him on the spot, or she’d never trust him again. Which wouldn’t be that much different than most of their time together, but it would hurt him too much.
To have her hate him again would break him. It was why he hadn’t run straight to her as soon as he’d become a real boy-vampire again. He’d finally done something right, managed to go out with a more than proverbial bang, and then he’d been brought back. He’d given her life back to her and from what Angel said, she was out there living it up. He couldn’t go and ruin it for her.
That had been the past though. Future. Regardless. What he had to do now was take a breather and figure out how he could get Buffy out of the loony bin without either making her hate him, or getting them both admitted.
He paced up and down the sidewalk trying to think of a solution. He was sure he looked a sight, all disheveled and manic, but his go-to move of going in for a brawl could very well cost him more than he was willing to pay.
He wished he could talk things over with someone. He needed a second opinion. Unfortunately his options were almost non-existent. Demons were out of the question. Buffy’s first Watcher—whatever his name was—had already died. Giles was too far away. Whether or not he’d gotten to Sunnydale yet didn’t matter, it was still not LA. He didn’t have anyone he could trust close—
He stopped in his tracks. The answer was so simple, he slapped his own forehead. He could have saved himself forty-some blocks of running, and made Buffy’s experience with this place even shorter had he thought of it before. He needed to talk to Joyce.
~~~***~~~
The door was mocking him. It was simple, well kept, normal, and closed. Doors tended to stay that way when all you did to try to open them was to glare at them. He knew that. He simply couldn’t do anything else about it.
The answer to all his prayers was just beyond that door. Or at least, it was the next step he needed to take to make everything better. All he had to do was knock on the thing and talk to the woman whose death he was still mourning
In the end the decision of whether to knock, sound the bell, or stand around like an idiot was taken out of his hands. Joyce opened the door and frowned at him. “Can I help you?”
She was a vision. Her maternal instinct was most likely warning her about the predator on the porch after dark while her littlest one was tucked away safely inside. She might have looked calm and composed to the casual observer, but Spike knew her better. The stress of her failing marriage and her daughter’s supposed mental problems had shaken her to the core. By the smell of things she’d resorted to alcohol to dull the pain. In short, she was far removed from the woman he’d come to see as a surrogate mother.
Despite all of that, as soon as Spike saw her he wanted to rush and hug her for all she was worth. He didn’t have an invitation though, so he brought forth all the class and culture of a time gone by. “Mrs. Summers, mind if I come in? I have some information pertaining to your daughter. Daughters, in fact.” He tried to convey without words all that her family meant to him.
She wavered, frowned, and finally took a step back. “Yes, sure, come in. What about them? Is Buffy okay?”
Spike smiled. It felt so right to have an invitation to their house. He’d had it—not counting that bit between his telling Buffy his feelings and taking down Glory—since they’d first partnered up against Angelus to the very end of Sunnydale. Sure, it wasn’t the same house, and it wasn’t even in the same city, but it was still a Summers house. And home is where the heart is.
“Don’t worry about your eldest, J—Mrs. Summers. She’ll be just fine. In fact, I came here to tell you there’s nothing wrong with her brain either. Buffy’s not crazy and she doesn’t belong in that place.”
Joyce narrowed her eyes and her nostrils flared. He’d seen that look on her oldest enough times to be on guard. “Are you the one that put all that nonsense in my daughter’s head? Is that why she burned down her school?” She looked him up and down and he was definitely found wanting. “Are you that Merrick person she mentioned, or someone pretending to be some sort of vampire?” The way she spat out the last word cut Spike up inside.
He needed to start speaking fast, but he found it hard to do past the lump in his throat. She reminded him so much of that first time he’d seen her he almost expected her to have an axe in her hands again. He cleared his throat and gave it a try anyway. “No, my name’s not Merrick. Not nearly stuffy enough for a poncy name like that. Name’s Spike. Well, William, but most everyone calls me Spike.” He could see he wasn’t winning many points so far, so he decided to go all in. “You were right about one thing, though. I am a vampire.” He looked her right in the eye as he brought forth his game-face as slow as he could. To see the detached hostility turn into horrified understanding was difficult, but he knew it had to be done. “Now I’m not gonna hurt even a hair on you or yours’ heads, but all the rest of the bloodsuckers out there aren’t me. Your daughter, the older one, is an honest to god hero, chosen by the Powers that Be to protect this world from the things lurking in the dark.”
“You—your face.”
He morphed back into his human guise “I need you to call that husband of yours and tell him he’s to bring Buffy home. She doesn’t need to spend even one minute more with people too blind to see the truth of what she’s saying.” He maneuvered around her, careful not to spook her even further. He then sat down on the couch in the living room. “While he gets it all straightened out, I’ll be here to answer whatever questions you have. Willing slave and all that. My safe word is ‘Peaches.’” He winked and took a bit of pleasure when the outrage over his last comment snapped her out of her shock.
She went to the phone and dialed a number from a flyer next to it. “This is Joyce Summers, I would like to talk either to my husband, Hank Summers, or to whomever is in charge of admissions.” She listened for a while, then repeated her request. They put her on hold again and she tapped her foot while she shot worried glances Spike’s way.
As for him, he took his time looking around the house Buffy had grown up in. It was nothing to write home about. A typical California house. Normal. He sniffed deep. A mix of Buffy, Dawn, Joyce, and something unfamiliar that must have been Hank. He even smelled like a deadbeat.
A small noise brought his attention to the stairs to the upper level and made him smirk. It seemed Dawn’s first contact with him was written to be the same: her sneaking a peek through the slats of the bannister. She was older than she’d been in the fake memories though. This time she was just one year younger than the slayer. He’d convinced the monks it wasn’t necessary for her to be much younger just so Buffy felt obligated to protect her. The Slayer was hard-wired to protect everyone, and her sister would come first no matter what age she was.
With a Dawn at about the same age as Buffy, the youngest Summers would be more included in the slaying gig and would also understand her sister better. Spike hoped it would prevent a situation like the one that led to Dawn kicking Buffy out of her own house. He’d also get a second chance with the human that had become his best friend for a while, until he’d bollixed it all up.
Joyce’s raised voice brought him out of his revelry. “I don’t care you already signed, un-sign and get our daughter home.” She listened to whatever it was Hank was saying. “I didn’t actually agree, you decided. Well now I decided she’s coming back. I shouldn’t ever have let you take her out of our house until we got to the bottom of this.” Another pause. “Listen, and listen closely. Either you come with Buffy, or you don’t come back at all and I go pick her up.” What made the threat even scarier was Joyce’s even tone. It was the tone known throughout mankind as the ‘do as I say, or you’re in the dog house for life.’ Despite himself Spike felt a bit sorry for the man. “Yes, I would take our daughter out of there, and you can go to your secretary for all I care. I’m sure she’d be able to find some place to put you to bed.” She took her ear off the receiver as Hank lied through his teeth about his affair. “As I said, I don’t care right now. All I care is that you get Buffy safely here. If you don’t do it in an hour, I will, but you won’t be welcome in this house anymore.” She hung up over his loud protestations. Spike was proud of her.
Of course, the adrenalin high had to break at some point, so Joyce’s knees almost gave way. Spike was next to her in a couple of strides. He kept her upright, guided her to the couch, and fixed her a drink. When she got her nerves under control, or as close to it as she could, she pinned him with her gaze.
“You are going to tell me exactly how you know Buffy, and what Dawn has to do with any of this.” She reached over to the open bottle of brandy, raised it, and then put it back down. “After you tell me all that, you’ll answer any and all questions I can think of while I wait for—” She stopped talking and just stared ahead.
“I already told you, I’m your willing slave while we wait.”
She looked at him with a small frown and a glimmer of a question in the depths of her eyes. “And after you tell me what you know about my daughters, you’re going to tell me what you know about me.”
He chuckled. “I always said you were a sharp one.”
She raised an eyebrow at him.
“Okay, see, this is gonna sound strange, and it’s gonna be very bad before it gets better.” He checked the clock above the door. “And if you want the long version, you’re gonna have to wait, ‘cause there’s only so much I can squeeze in less than an hour.”
“Tell me the truth.”
“Okay, Joyce. May I call you Joyce?”
“Something tells me you will anyway, so sure.”
“There’s no easy way of saying this, so here goes. I’m not just a vampire, I’m one of only two vampires with a soul in the world. Well, as far as I know. Apart from that, I’ve recently woken up in a motel room, next to my sire—that’s the vampire that makes you one—eight years before where I was supposed to be.”
That got Joyce’s attention. “So you what, travelled through time?”
“Your guess is as good as mine as to how, but yeah. Time travel’s a new one even for me.”
He spent the next half an hour telling her the story of Spike of Sunnydale – shortened version. He skipped over Dawn being the Key, the more graphic details of Buffy and his failed relationship, including the trigger for his trip to regain his soul, or about the Buffy-bot, but he told her as much as he could. By the end Joyce had tears running down her cheeks, but she’d refused to drink anymore. Spike thought that was a good sign. During one of their hot chocolate talks she’d admitted to crawling into a bottle more than once after the divorce became a real possibility and all the way up to Buffy’s graduation. Perhaps Joyce would cope better this go-around by tapping in to that well of strength he knew she had.
“So you’re here to get Buffy to fall for you instead of this Angel person.”
“No, I’m here— Look, I don’t know how I got back here, or who sent me, but as long as I’m here I’ll try to make things easier for the people I care about. That includes Buffy, Dawn, you, and even those meddling friends of hers.”
“She’s fifteen and in high school.” The warning was clear in her voice.
“I’m not the Poof.” He knew what it was going to look like if he hung around. He also knew he couldn’t leave her to face the coming problems on her own. Joyce was right though: the Buffy of this time was not his Slayer, she was a fifteen year old girl. A girl with a destiny and superpowers, but still just a teenager, not his General-Buffy. “I know she’s not my—I’ll leave her be best I can. I’ll help her, but I know she’s under-aged, yeah? Not gonna try anything to make you want to go at me with an ax.” He snorted. “I’ve gotten pretty decent at pretending I’m just a thing without feelings, so…”
She gasped. “No. I might not know about vampires, witches, and hell-gods, but you don’t sound like someone without feelings.”
“Thank you, Joyce.”
Joyce looked at him with narrowed eyes. “So why did you only show up now? What did you do between waking up in the past and showing up on my doorstep?”
Spike didn’t want to tell her. He couldn’t just saddle her with such knowledge. Especially when Dawn was listening in to everything he said. He didn’t have a problem to the Bit knowing the rest, as his track record of keeping secrets from her was anything but stellar, but this could not be how she found out about her true nature. “I’d answer, but I don’t think what I have to say is appropriate for your younger daughter’s ears.”
“What?” She looked up at the stairs. Spike could hear the gasp and hurried escape as it happened. “I’ll be right back.” She hurried to Dawn’s room and left Spike alone in the living room. Joyce managed to deal with her daughter quickly enough, but she didn’t come back before the sound of a car pulling up in the driveway could be heard.
Hank had made the smart choice after all.
Joyce came down the stairs and headed for the door. Dawn was right behind her, despite her mother’s instruction that she should stay put. Spike also found himself taking a few steps in that direction, but he held himself back. He wanted the family to reunite on their own.
Hank came through the door first, but Dawn plowed right by him to envelop Buffy in a giant hug. Joyce whispered a few words to her husband who shot Spike a hostile look before she joined her daughters in the embrace.
Spike was happy just watching them. He didn’t have time to bask in it though because a pair of hazel eyes pinned him on the spot.
“Mom? What did you do?”
Spike could do nothing except smirk and say “Hello, cutie.”
Bugger. by Blackoberst
She looked so young. It wasn’t the slight baby fat where in the future there would be hardened muscles; nor was it the bouncy hair from frequent trips to the salon which had given way to a permanent messy ponytail; and it wasn’t the small scars that had gathered over the years which now were missing. It was the innocence in her eyes.
When he’d been thrown back in time he’d made plans upon plans about how he could help her, how to make her life easier. He’d thought of all the things he remembered that had hurt her, made her harder, and brought her nightmares. He was going to try to change all of them, if that was possible. He’d just never seen her before it all weighed her down.
Even when he’d first laid eyes on her all those years before, she’d been through enough problems to break a normal person. She’d lost people she’d cared about, had fought for her life every night for more than a year, had been sent to the loony bin by her parents, and had even died once.
He could tell that the stress she’d been under since being Called and losing her first Watcher had already begun to cast its shadow over her. Despite that, she was still an innocent. A young girl no older than the Bit had been when Glory was after her.
Of course he loved her. She was Buffy. She just wasn’t his Buffy. She wasn’t that combination of Slayer, General, den mother, mature woman, and lover who made his heart ache. She wasn’t the Buffy who’d said she loved him—whether he believed she’d said the truth that one time was beside the point. Seeing her look at him without any recognition, wearing a face that was familiar, yet not, he wasn’t sure she ever would be. And just like that he realized he might love her, but he wasn’t in love with her. She was yet another Summers woman – his to protect, but not his everything.
“I asked who you are and what you are doing in my house.”
“Dad, I think you better stand back.” Buffy took a step toward Spike. “What do you want here?”
“I think we should all sit down—”
“Mom, wait, I don’t know what he’s been telling you, but he’s not what you think he is.”
“What’s that?” He’d gotten lost in his thoughts and now he was losing control of the situation. He saw Buffy’s eyes dart around, no doubt searching for something that could become a stake. Just his luck she hadn’t sniffed out Angel’s undead status for weeks the first go-around, yet she figured him out straight away. Must have been the hair-gel fumes and the brooding git’s frequent disappearing acts that left her wondering. He needed to focus. “Truce. Let’s not ruin your mother’s doilies for no reason.” He spread his arms wide. “I’ve got my soul, you’ve got no stake, and we’re on the same side. Why don’t we all just sit down as your mom said and let’s figure things out. Deal?”
Buffy was still wary. He couldn’t really blame her after the kind of day she’d had. Of course, her father was a different issue.
“You can stop talking to my daughter like I’m not here. I don’t know what’s going on, but I think I deserve some answers.” He turned to Joyce. “Who is this man, why is he in my house, why have we gone back on Buffy’s treatment, why is Dawn still up, and in general, what the hell is going on around here?”
There was a shocked silence after Hank’s explosion. Spike would have answered with some choice words, but it wasn’t his place. Whatever happened, the man was still Joyce’s husband and the girls’ father. Just as Buffy wasn’t the hardened warrior, Hank wasn’t the deadbeat who’d left his daughters fend for themselves without even sending child support after their mother died.
“No more shouting. We’re all going to sit down and discuss things.” Joyce’s voice had taken on that special bone-chilling tone again. “And then we’ll let our guest tell his story.” She shot Spike with a meaningful look. “As long as he remembers there are minors present.” The last part was a clear warning to steer clear of more adult topics such as sex, death, and the yearly apocalypse. Or at least that’s what he thought it meant.
Dawn was the first to shrug and walk past Spike to take a seat on the couch. The Bit wasn’t going to miss any chance to be included in the discussion, which only made her that much more similar to his version.
Buffy hurried after her sister and stopped briefly next to Spike to look him up and down. He gave her his brightest smile and a small shrug, then took a seat on a nearby armchair. Buffy got on the couch sitting closest to the vampire in her house, as any good slayer should, no doubt ready to jump between him and her family if he tried anything.
Joyce then sat between her two daughters, which left Hank hovering around the entrance without a purpose. He grumbled something not even Spike could pick up, took off his coat with jerky movements, and then took a seat on an armchair opposite from the other man.
Once they all settled down, nobody was sure who should start. In the end Joyce took it upon herself to break the stalemate. “First of all, Buffy, honey, I’m really sorry about today. We should never have stopped listening to you and sent you to that place. I promise you I’ll never not take you seriously again.”
Buffy was visibly flustered. “Yeah, okay, whatever.”
Spike frowned and leaned forward a bit. For a second there he thought he’d heard Harmony speak. He shook it off and leaned back again.
“Joyce, please. Let’s start with the important question: who is this man?” Hank was glaring daggers.
“Name’s William, but you can call me Spike.”
Hank scrunched his nose as if he’d smelled something bad. “What kind of name is Spike? What is this? First Buffy runs away from home after burning down her school gym with a guy named Pike, now there’s a Spike sitting in my living room. What’s next? Is he moving in with us? Is she moving in with him?”
Spike laughed. He couldn’t help himself. The discussion was just so surreal.
Buffy was glaring daggers at him. “Would you, like, shut up? And Dad, God. I already told you, I wasn’t running away, I was chasing a demon.”
“Here we go again: vampires, demons. I think I should take you right back to the Institute.”
“You don’t take the Slayer to the loony bin.” Spike’s answer to Hank’s idea was said in a growl, but he couldn’t stop it if he tried.
“I should have known, you’re in on this with her. Look—”
“Shut up, Hank. We said we’d let William tell his story without any yelling and all you’ve done is yell.” Joyce had sat up and was giving her husband her best glare.
He ignored it, only proving to Spike he was indeed an idiot. “I just want to know why we’re even talking about all this nonsense.” He huffed. “We need to find a solution to our daughter’s delusions, not bring a punk in our house.”
“May I show them, Joyce?”
She sighed. “Yeah, sure.” She turned to Dawn. “Don’t be afraid, Pumpkin-belly, he’s not going to hurt anyone in this house.”
Dawn’s eyes were as big as saucers. “Okay Mommy.”
“No staking, deal Slayer? Show and tell only.”
“U-huh. But you try anything and it’s, like, the dust-buster for you.”
He chuckled. “Wouldn’t dream of trying anything, love.” He switched into his demon visage and continued to talk, ignoring Dawn’s ‘eeep’ and Hank’s ‘Oh my Gods.’ “Tell me pet, when you explained about your calling to your parents the first time, why didn’t you just raise the couch with them on it, or something to prove your point?” He put his game face away again.
Her eyes widened. “I never thought of that.”
“So Buffy’s like a superhero?” The way Dawn scrunched her face betrayed she wasn’t happy with her reaction. She’d probably intended to say something snooty and with teenage levels of disdain, only to be short-circuited by her hero-worship. Some things never changed, whatever the timeline. “Means she’s an even bigger freak than I thought.” She turned to her sister. “You gonna use those pompoms of yours to stake vampires?” She smirked to herself, no doubt confident she’d been obnoxious enough to make up for her initial slip.
“What kind of trick is this?” Hank looked like a man ready to go to war. “I don’t know what’s going on here, but it has to stop right now. This is my house and I won’t have—”
“Will you just shut up?” Joyce had put an arm around Buffy’s shoulders in a clear sign of support, while her other hand rested on Dawn’s forearm, either to stop the younger sibling from making anymore comments, or to show her she’s included. “I told you to listen and all you do is run your mouth like always. If you can’t see what’s right in front of your eyes, maybe you can hear. Otherwise I don’t know what you want from us anymore.” She narrowed her eyes, got up and dragged her husband by the sleeve into the kitchen.
She then started talking in hushed tones, which meant her daughters didn’t hear her, but Spike had no problem listening in. “Is that it? Ever since you started fucking your secretary I’ve stayed quiet, thinking our daughters need their father.”
“Joyce, it’s not what you think, I was just working late.”
She snorted. “The least you could do would be to man up and admit it. I’m not dumb, or naïve enough to buy that, and you should know it after all these years.”
Hank tried to say something else, but his attempt to dig himself out of the hole he’d dug was too low for Spike to pick up. Regardless, he was cut off by Joyce. “As I said earlier, I don’t care about your midlife crisis right now. What I care about is our daughters. If this is the kind of father you want to be—yelling and ready to put our own daughter away just so you don’t have to deal with her—then maybe I should have kicked you out and sued for a divorce a year ago.” Her voice had gotten quieter, but hadn’t lost any of its power.
“I did what I thought was best for Buffy. She was acting out, destroying property, running away, and doing god knows what. I had to intervene. Do you know how much it cost me to have the charges dropped?”
“I know and I don’t care. Even if our daughter hadn’t been fighting for her life with vampires, she still deserved better than how you—how we treated her. Now I need you to be her father that loves her and support her.”
“Support her in what? Chasing Casper? Maybe she’s not the only one I should be driving to the Institute, maybe you should accompany her.”
There was a long silence after that, then some whispers Spike didn’t make out, and finally Joyce’s voice was clear and loud enough that even the girls must have heard her. “Get out now.”
Spike looked at Buffy and Dawn, now huddled together on the couch and looking as miserable as he’d ever seen them. He wanted to go to them and hug them as tight as possible, to shield them from the end of their parents’ marriage. Only there was nothing that he could do. These girls wouldn’t accept any help from him. He needed to earn back his place with the Summers clan. The idea filled him with both hope and dread.
Joyce’s face was impassive as she made her way back to the living room. Spike had seen her wear that mask enough in the future when she was trying to protect her children from her inner turmoil. It was the face she’d worn in the hospital enough times. Which meant she now saw Hank as a danger on the same level with her possible death. Her two daughters, in contrast, had shrunk in on themselves even further, with Dawn visibly close to tears.
Something dark passed over Hank’s face as he emerged from the door behind his wife. It was the ripple of evil William’s tutor got right before a caning and the memory made all of Spike’s muscles tense in anticipation. “This house is a freak show.”
The snarl building up was impossible to stop. “To have the supernatural stare you straight in the face and still deny it takes some special kind of stupid. Threatening to walk away from these three proves exactly how big of a wanker you are.”
Hank stood up straighter, his face twisted in anger. “I don’t care who you are, but don’t you dare talk to me like that in my own home. I want you to leave now.”
Spike’s body was coiled for a fight, and he could tell Buffy had tensed up as well. He slouched back a bit more in the armchair and tried to exude an air of disinterested confidence. “Can’t mate. Was invited to stay and tell my tale. Wouldn’t do to upset the lady of the house, now would it?”
Hank made to move toward Spike only to be intercepted by Joyce. “I told you to get out.”
“Joyce, can’t you see—”
She glanced at Buffy and Dawn for a moment, then raised her head high and looked her husband in the eye. “All I can see is a man who doesn’t belong in this house anymore. Now leave before you say something we’ll all regret.”
The two stared at each other for a few tense moments, until Hank looked away first. “If I leave, there’s no going back. You know that, right?” He’d lowered his voice, but the anger could still be heard in his tone.
“I do. You still need to go.”
He whirled in place and strode to the entrance. Once there he stopped, grabbed his jacket, and spoke over his shoulder, not even turning to look at his wife and children. “I’ll send for my things soon.” He then walked out and slammed the door shut behind him.
“He’s going to his floozy, isn’t he?” Dawn’s question came like the first thunder of a storm: clear, loud, and shocking in its suddenness.
Joyce all but collapsed on the couch behind her and gathered her daughters in her arms. “Your dad just needs some time to cool down. I’m sure he loves you very much. He’s just angry and confused by everything happening at work and he feels like he’s losing control at home, too.” She kissed Dawn’s temple. “I’m here and I’m not going anywhere, though.”
Spike noticed Joyce neither denied her husband’s infidelity, nor backed down. In fact, she was already behaving like a divorcé. He wanted to shrug it off, since he knew Hank was a non-entity in his girls’ future, but he couldn’t. He’d experienced losing a parent and the hole it left behind, no matter the reasons, or the circumstances, it still hurt to this day. He also knew her father’s leaving paved the way for Buffy’s future abandonment issues. Maybe things would be better with Joyce stepping up to the plate earlier this time, and by keeping Angel—
Crap. His trip to the Tatra Mountains had taken up so much time that the Enormous Forehead had gotten his chance to see Buffy outside her school and fall ass over tit in love with her soul. As if the fact he’d been a complete letch with a penchant for virgins as a human had nothing to do with it.
Angelus described in great detail exactly what he wanted to do to the fifteen year old girl sucking on a lollipop in her cheerleading outfit. He even used Dru to demonstrate some of the more depraved and acrobatic ideas. If Spike hadn’t been stuck in the wheelchair at the time he’d have dusted the sod just to stop him from talking.
He needed to do something about the brooding git who was probably already taking three baths a day to wash off the rat filth while he worked himself up in a self-righteous frenzy. He’s probably already planning his seduction—not that he would ever admit to such a thing.
He’d heard of the first few months of the great Buffy and Angel love story and it read so much like a pedophile’s playbook it made him sick. There would be no mysterious stranger action while Spike was around. It was one of the reasons he’d decided to come right out and say what, who, and from when he was.
Buffy’s voice roused him from his musings. “So are you gonna do with the spillage sometime this century, or are you just going to stay in that la-la land you keep slipping off to?”
Spike smirked at her and got ready to tell the third version of his story in as many weeks. Sure, Joyce and Dawn had heard about his feelings, but that didn’t mean Buffy had to find out. He figured she’d probably learn about them sooner or later, but telling a teenage girl you were in love with the older version might not be the best starting off point. Especially with her being a slayer and he a vampire.
So he told his tale, ignored the sly looks from Dawn, or Joyce’s stern silence, and focused on Buffy’s face. There was a wealth of information to be found there.
She’d started off still clearly upset from her dad’s abrupt departure. Then there was disbelief at his revelation about being from the future, but she settled down to listen to the rest. There was interest, hurt, and betrayal while he told her of their initial meeting and his many unsuccessful attempts on her life. His recollection of how he ended up helping her shocked and angered her, so he hoped she wouldn’t side with the Initiative at all this time. When he got to winning his soul back and all the torment it brought with it—while skipping her death and their doomed relationship—she interrupted him.
“Wait. So what you’re saying is after a century of being a run of the mill vampire—”
“Oi. Master Vampire that offed two of you Chosen birds, don’t you forget. I was an unliving legend.”
She rolled her eyes. “Whatever. You got to this town on the mouth of hell.”
“Hellmouth, yeah. The place is called Sunnydale, and you’ll all be moving there soon enough.”
“What if we just, you know, don’t?” The Bit’s eyes were red from lack of sleep and crying, but she was wide awake and looked as if she were on a sugar high.
“Don’t what? Move to Sunnyhell?”
“Dawn has a point. If we just stay here in LA, or move someplace else, all the things that went wrong there wouldn’t hurt us, would they?” Joyce looked much too happy with the idea for Spike’s liking.
“As much as I wish you could, I don’t think it’s in the cards. If you don’t move there then there’ll be nothing to stop the Master from bleeding the town dry, or the Mayor from devouring the town, or the Initiative’s monster from creating his very own cyborg army.” He locked gazes with Buffy. “You’re the key to stopping the world ending, love.” He focused on Joyce, trying to convince her as best he could. “And even if you run away there are still things out there that spend their entire existence hunting for the Slayer. Lothos was just a sick bugger who preyed on new girls who didn’t come into their strength yet, but there are much more powerful enemies that would hunt you down. If you just run and hide you won’t ever manage to defeat them. Buffy needs experience, practice, a support system, and a reason to fight.” He chanced another look at the young slayer. “And she’ll be brilliant given a chance, trust me.”
“See? There, that’s exactly what I was getting at. You’re not telling me everything. After being the ‘unliving legend,’ and ‘trying to kill me’ for a few years, you’re forced to help me, fine.” The way she was using her fingers for air quotes left Spike wondering if he’d ever seen his Buffy make that gesture. “But why would you just wake up one day and decide to get a soul. What, were they all out of holy water you could have bathed in to hurt yourself?”
“I— Look, I’ll promise I’ll tell you all my darkest, deepest secrets one day, but let’s just say I felt I needed it to make heads or tails of what’s good and bad. When I was soulless I could still tell right from wrong about the big things, the biblical sins. But hell is in the details.” He gazed off into nothingness remembering some of the most spectacular failures of his to understand what he was doing wrong. “I couldn’t risk hurting the ones I lo—cared about anymore, so I decided the only way was to get a soul. Much good it did me.” He went on with a brief account of the fight with the First Evil, his sacrifice and time spent as a ghost.
Buffy regarded him for a few moments once he was done talking. “So why are you here?”
“To help.”
“Yeah, I got that part, but why? Why would you want to go through all that again?”
He cursed on the inside. Leave it to the slayer to cut to the heart of the matter. “First off, I’m still a demon, yeah? Soul gives me a moral compass but it doesn’t stop me from needing my fix of violence. Second of all, I really like watching a game of footsie, especially when Man U is playing, and if one of those pesky apocalypses that I helped stop the first go-round manages to stick, it’s good-bye Leicester Square, so long, ‘Passions.’ You get the point. And last but not least, cow’s blood may taste like crap, but demon blood is downright disgusting, so if I want my meals to not burn me like battery acid, I need to make sure this little ball of sunshine you call Earth doesn’t go completely ars—I mean sideways.” Joyce had still caught the beginning of the expression and was giving him the evil eye while motioning toward Dawn.
Spike knew he’d need to clean up his speech if he didn’t want a repeat performance of ‘Joyce – the ax wielding mother hen.’
“Bull.”
“Buffy.”
“I only said bull, I didn’t continue it.”
“It doesn’t matter, young lady. You won’t be using that kind of language around me, superpowers or not.”
“Yes Mom.” Buffy rolled her eyes and then fixed her gaze on Spike again. “But what you said is still not everything.” She narrowed her eyes. “You didn’t need to come here. From what you told us we were on our way to Sunnydale whether we wanted to or not, and that’s where all the nasties that matter right now are. Also the world didn’t end until you started helping, so you could have taken a couple of years off to…oh, I dunno, whatever the vampire equivalent of suntan is in the moonlight. Moontan? Sit on the beach and drink Margueritas, or just sleep days away, come in at the right time, stop whatever is endangering your precious shows and then go away again. So why are you here?”
Spike sighed. Once, just once could things go his bloody way? Of course not. Well, here goes. “Because I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“Why? I survived just fine the first time, so—”
“No you didn’t you infuriating bint. You died. And not just once, mind, but twice. Thrice if you count the one time with the bullet. And it isn’t just that you die and get brought back to that hellhole, it’s the people you lose on the way, the pain you feel, the heartbreak, the—” his voice cracked and he got up to pace. “There’s a whole boatload of crap waiting in that place and I’m trying to keep you from drowning in it before you even get there.” He looked at her and stopped dead in his tracks.
Her face was a mix between horror, excitement, and something else he couldn’t decipher right then and there. “Me. You’re here for me.” Her brain was probably going a mile a minute, so it wouldn’t be long until she got to— “What were we? In that future of yours that you’re trying to make better, were you and her, me, us… was there an us?”
He never could lie to her for long. “Yeah, pet, there was. Not gonna go into details, but let’s just say me and the future you have a history. Wasn’t all hearts and roses, mind. As I said, spent the first couple of years trying to do her in, on and off. But by the end there, there was something that… there was just something, and let’s leave at that for now.”
“And you got your soul—”
“I said ‘leave it’ slayer. I’ll be outside for a smoke.” He all but fled the house. His hands were trembling when he pulled out the cigarette and he almost couldn’t light it because of the shaking.
He took the first long drag and exhaled a column of smoke in the attempt to calm his nerves.
“Bugger.”
Only time will tell by Blackoberst
*Two weeks later, LA*

One more kick to the ribs, a sweep of the legs, and it was time for the stake to the heart.
“That was pretty good, Slayer. But you’re still dropping your right shoulder before you punch.” He pointed at the new pile of dust with the hand holding his cigarette. “Next time might not be against some poor sod turned in a hurry by a mindless minion. You’ll come up against one of the Master’s favorite pets, and annoying and ritual-minded as they are, they still pack enough brains and experience to turn that tell of yours into their own personal ‘one good day.’ Remember that.”
Buffy snorted and rolled her eyes. It was a combination Spike was getting very closely acquainted with. “As if. And even if we do move to Sunnydale after the divorce finalizes, you said it yourself: I took them on and won the last time. And I so do not drop my shoulder. And even if I did, what are you, the posture Nazi? I thought vampires were all for the mayhem and ‘to hell with all the rules’ anyway.”
Spike couldn’t help thinking that old Rupert was a saint for having survived this version of Buffy. Even the older version of her had provided some epic moments of frustration for the watcher, but nothing could compare to this constant stream of denials, sarcasm, and annoying remarks. “It’s not about rules, or about what happened in a different timeline. This is about you now. Just because I’m here and you were there in the future doesn’t mean this couldn’t be an alternate universe where you die earlier. Or stay dead when the Master kills you. Or simply piss me off enough to end you myself.”
That last bit made her deign to look at him out of the corner of her eye. “You won’t.” More eye-rolls. “And I guess I could do something else with my shoulders. But only because I want to.”
He couldn’t help but smile. He’d take small victories wherever he could get them. “Wouldn’t dream of anything different.” He really needed to get Giles to take over as her watcher. Not that he knew exactly how he got wrangled into the role, but somewhere between having a cuppa with Joyce, talking with Dawn about her history lesson, and trying to teach Buffy some of his signature moves, he’d found himself being just that. Not that he really minded.
They started to walk down one of the many back alleys in the bad part of LA. Well, one of the bad parts which just happened to suffer from an undead infestation. They’d already dusted five fledges and it wasn’t even getting late yet.
Spike wanted to patrol some more, work with Buffy on her attack moves, but instead he stopped walking and took stock. He was doing it all wrong. Just because he was filling in for Rupert didn’t mean he had to also act like him. With all the training and talk about future threats he’d forgotten to cater to Buffy’s teenager side. She hadn’t spent all that time in the Bronze for nothing back in Sunnyhell. She needed entertainment and friends. Since Red and the Whelp were all the way in the other town, she needed to spend some hours with whatever friends she must have had before her move. It was the time to get the Slayer to have fun.
“So pet, I seem to remember Joyce mentioning a party tonight. I can take care of any stragglers around here if you want to go indulge in some teenage fun.”
He saw her shoulders tense. “Nah, that’s fine, we can hang around here a bit more then go home.”
He got in front of her and grabbed her arm. “What’s wrong, Buffy?”
She gave him a look filled with Buffy grade stubbornness. He expected her to deny anything was wrong, storm off, and bottle it up. Instead she huffed and started to kick invisible pebbles. “I don’t wanna go.”
He narrowed his eyes. “They didn’t invite you?”
She turned around and started to stomp down the street. “No, they didn’t. And if I was still me from a few months ago, I wouldn’t invite me either.”
“Why the hell not?”
She flung her hands in the air. “Because it’s the birthday party for my varsity quarterback ex-boyfriend, Jeffrey, who’s dating my used to be best friend and co-head cheerleader, Jennifer. And if that wasn’t sucky on the scale of suck enough, the party’s full of people I used to hang out with and who haven’t called me, or answered any one of my calls since the night I killed Lothos.” She huffed and Spike could all but hear tears in her voice. “I’m just the freak who burned down the school and is running around with pointy sticks.”
He had heard enough. “Stop being daft. You’re not just some silly little girl going through a phase. You’re the Slayer. Didn’t you save all their asses when you killed Lothos? I know people are in deep denial about anything supernatural, but they must have seen you rescue at least some of them.”
She chuckled. “A vampire was about to eat Jen and Jeff while they were having sex, but I saved them.” She sighed. “Doesn’t matter, anyway. I’m not popular anymore, what with the fire, getting expelled, and now the divorce.”
“That’s not your fault.”
She snorted in response.
“Listen to me. The fact that your dad can’t understand what he’s giving up for a bit of slap and tickle is not on you. It’s his brain that’s working all wrong. I have half a mind to rip the bastard in two for putting you through this, but he’s not worth it.”
Her face closed down into a hard mask. “You don’t know anything.”
He raised his scarred eyebrow. “I know enough. First time around he completely disappeared from your life by the time I rolled into town. At your lowest and neediest he still couldn’t be bothered.” He cupped her cheek. “You, your mother, and Nibblet can do so much better than him.”
“You can’t choose family, Spike.”
“You’re right. But that doesn’t mean you can’t chose who you have next to you.”
She gave him a strange look out of the corner of her eye. “Whatever. Let’s see if anymore undead decide to show up for this party and leave my former friends to theirs.” The way she said it would have fooled a lesser vamp, but Spike wasn’t on his first merry-go ride.
He touched her arm and guided her down another street. He kept changing the direction on her for another few turns until he reached his intended destination.
“What are you doing?”
He looked at her and shrugged. “I screwed up. Stick around me long enough and you’ll realize it’s something of a specialty of mine.” He raked the fingers from his left hand through his hair. “I was turning into your bloody Watcher, and that’s not what you need right now.” He pointed at the door of the run-down warehouse in front of them. “This is where you should be. Just one rule – no slaying in there. Well, unless someone attacks you, but I don’t think anyone will be stupid enough to do that.”
She was looking at the place as if it were a smudge on her brand new shoes. “And what is this place?” She frowned and took a step back. “It better not be some weird demon sex dungeon or something.”
He couldn’t figure out if he should laugh or get upset at her words. The idea brought back some good memories, some not so good, and none that really fit with the young girl next to him. He settled on a grunt. “Behind that door is your first taste of what real demons are like. Not the piss-poor excuses for vampires we’ve met until now, not that poncy bugger you offed, and not anything that dead watcher of yours might have told you about.” She scrunched her nose at him so he decided to explain some more. “It’s a demon bar, pet. Not very high end, but not the worst there is, either. It’s about damn time you had some fun on the job.”
“It doesn’t look like fun.”
“It’s not always what’s on the outside that counts, pet. Not everyone is cursed with my good looks, but some people still manage to be all right on the inside.”
She smiled briefly before schooling her features in her patented look of disdain. “Well from what I’ve seen so far demons are gross.”
“You haven’t seen anything yet.” He groaned. “Could you please just bloody trust me on this? We go in for one drink. We leave whenever you decide. But not later than twelve or your mum will have my hide, deal?”
“Okay, sheesh.” She went to the door and tried to get in. A peephole opened in the heavy door and a gravelly voice right out of cliché Hollywood movies asked for the password. She gave Spike an incredulous look and tapped her foot as he gave the code-word to the bouncer. Whoever thought putting old horror movie titles as passwords was a good idea needed a flogging.
They made their way in and he could practically feel her go into Slayer mode. If any demons worth their salt were in there tonight Spike bet they felt it too. He gave the room a quick scan to map any possible threats. A couple of vamps looked itchy in a booth, a Novak sneered and started heading for the back door, and a couple others gave him the stink eye. Nothing they couldn’t handle, but it always paid to get the lay of the land.
He put an arm around her and guided her to the bar. They occupied a couple of stools next to some peaceful demons about ready to piss their pants and ordered some drinks.
“ID?”
Spike snorted. “Chit’s the Slayer and you ask for an ID? I thought this was a reputable demon establishment.” That earned him some snickers from the other patrons within earshot. Even Buffy cracked a smile.
“One beer. Non-negotiable.”
“One rum and coke, you can add an extra ice-cube if your conscience is bothering you.”
Spike locked eyes with the bartender. There was a greenish tint to the man’s corneas, sort of like a cat. Probably some type of half-breed. In the end they both nodded, an agreement reached. Soon the drinks had been served and the bartender was keeping himself busy wiping down the counter and flexing his muscles ever so slightly to emphasize the ‘no violence’ policy written above the booze shelves.
“Tell me a story.” Her voice was perky and her eyes seemed to sparkle a bit. Maybe it was the effect of the missing half of her drink on an empty stomach and without any previous experience. Spike thought she needed to eat more.
“A bit old for ‘three little pigs,’ aren’t you?” He smirked and took a long sip of his whiskey.
She swatted at his shoulder. “You know what I mean. You gave us the short version of your history when we met. Now I want the dirt.”
The request brought him up short. He’d expected she’d ask, sure, but that didn’t mean he had any idea what to tell her. Where to start? What to leave out? What to put emphasis on? He settled for the tried and true and slouched a bit in his seat, playing casually with the rim of the glass in front of him. “So you wanna know about the Big Bad?”
Her eyebrows disappeared under her bangs. “The what now?”
“’S what I was for most of my unlife. The Big Bad Wolf, ready to eat little Slayers right up on their way to their grand-watcher’s.”
She burst out laughing. It was something she’d almost never done back in the other timeline, so even if she was laughing at his expense, he couldn’t find it within himself to get upset. Instead he chuckled along, ignoring some of the patrons’ uneasy stares.
“You really have a thing for wolves, don’t you? You sure you didn’t want to be a werewolf instead of a member of the undead?”
“Nah. Sure, the walking around in the daytime is nice and all, but to completely lose control for a few nights a month is really not my style.”
The way her eyes widened reminded him of the Bit when she was trying to play him. “You mean werewolves are real?”
He frowned. “Sure. You’re sitting in a demon bar and talking to a vampire. Why wouldn’t there be werewolves somewhere out there?”
“Because—” she stopped and scrunched up her face. “What else is out real? Are there ghosts, aliens, or is there a Bigfoot?”
“Seen some ghosts, even a couple of Sasquatch, but I don’t know about aliens. I guess if you consider alternate realities and other dimensions as alien worlds, then sure, they exist. But I’ve never met any little green men. Well, except that one time in Cadiz, but those were just some type of elves.”
“Elves are real? Is Santa real too?”
He couldn’t help but smile. The Bit had asked him the exact same thing when she was hiding at his crypt at some time. “Yeah, but not exactly the Coke version. From what I hear it’s more Grampus than Jolly Saint Nick.” At her blank look he shrugged and elaborated. “More punishment for the wicked than treats for the good.”
She sat back in her seat. “Huh. The more you know.”
They kept talking about types of supernatural creatures he’d encountered and he found himself studying her reactions. Sure she could give Harmony a run for her money from time to time with some comment so vapid it made his ears bleed, but she was also very good at getting to the heart of a matter and she had a killer wit, which reminded him of other times.
Which made the decision he’d come to that much harder. “Pet, there’s something I was thinking about.”
The smile left her face in an instant. “Oh-oh. Nothing good comes after something like that.”
He snorted. “I guess you’ve got a point, but still needs to be said. The thing is I was thinking of going to Sunnydale a couple of weeks ahead of the rest of you lot.” Her face all but crumbled and he felt like a prick. “Not by much, mind you, just by a couple of weeks, once you’re starting to get ready for your move. Thing is I won’t be able to help you out too much with that, and instead I was hoping to get a lay of the land.”
“I thought you said you lived there for years.” Her voice was so cold it cut him to the bone.
“I did, but not in this time. I don’t know how the Master has things set up, or what else might have been lurking around the corner before I stepped foot in there. And I’d be acting as your eyes and ears, the trusty foot soldier back at work.”
“You’re not my soldier.” She sounded a bit offended.
“I know that. But I’m not your Watcher either and I bloody sure ain’t Peaches. I’m better fighting at your side, or doing your bidding than I am ordering you about and teaching you the correct stance in fisticuffs—never was much for Queensbury myself. Anyway, I’d be going out on a scouting mission, not abandoning you.” He touched her hand. “I’d never do that.”
She studied him through narrowed eyes then very slowly drained the last of her drink – more colored melted ice than anything by that point. “You still owe me a story.”
He was thrown by the non-sequitur.
“You still need to tell me about this ‘Angel’ guy that you sometimes call ‘Peaches’ and other such nice names.”
The thought didn’t sit at all well with Spike but he knew that sooner or later he’d have to explain. It seemed a good a time as any, so he started telling her about some of his most noteworthy memories of the Gelled Wonder. By the time his second whiskey was empty and the third bottle of beer was close to emptying as well he’d finally managed to recall his first sighting of the soul-having Angel.
“Thing is, though, that the souled version of the bugger was never that different from his unsouled one. It’s all about what Angelus wants. He talks to you, he does the ‘right thing,’ but in fact he’s making you do exactly what he wants. It always worked for him, especially with the birds. That’s how he’d get them to come willingly to his lair before he started making his ‘art’ with their blood.” He snorted in derision. “Before I was thrown back here I spent some months as a ghost haunting the offices of this big evil law firm he took over.”
“Some good guy.”
“’S what I said. But by the end there…” He shuddered. “He almost had me thinking his becoming CEO of Evil Inc. was a good idea.” He gave her a surreptitious look from under his lashes while she played with her second beer—technically his fifth, but he’d redirected a couple her way. “I knew all his tricks, all the ways he tells you one thing, meaning another, and making you think a third, and despite all that he still had me fooled. Took being thrown eight bloody years in the past to realize it, but he was a git and I was a wanker to listen to him.”
She was smirking at him. “You’re still not telling me the most important thing, though, are you?”
Damn her and her ability to cut through his smoke screen. Say what you want about Buffy Summers, but she sure wasn’t dumb. “You’re right, pet. Thing is Angel was your first love. You were fifteen and a newly minted Slayer, he was two hundred and fifty and the forbidden fruit. You could sell this shit to Hollywood in a heartbeat and all the high school chits would be lapping it up with a spoon.”
“You’re jealous.”
“It’s not a matter of me being jealous or not. Look, I don’t hide that I was in love with my Buffy, but even so, even with you being her, I’m not going to start sniffing around you and playing the night in midnight armor. You deserve better, you deserve more, you deserve to live your life and learn what’s out there, not fall under the thrall of someone who’ll make you grow up faster than you need to. It’s enough your calling is going to weigh you down, give you hell, and fuck you up. If there’s anything I’d wish for it would be one more day for you without the weight of the world on your shoulders.”
She was frowning at him. “So.. what, you don’t think you’re good for me? Don’t I get to choose what and who I want?”
That hurt him. How was it that he always ended up sounding more like Peaches and the Watcher despite his protests? This time travel thing must have done a bigger number on him than he thought. “Of course you do and trust me when I say that if you gave the word, I’d be your willing slave.” He pinned her with his eyes and grabbed her hand in both of his. “But it wouldn’t be fair for either of us. You’d be taking advantage of the feelings I have for someone that’s not you, or better put, you’re not her yet. And I’d be taking advantage of your lack of any options at the moment, and a possible small case of hero worship, since I pulled you out of the loony bin and gave you your first rum and coke and your first beer.” He grinned and she smiled as well. “Not the ideal way to start something that should last, is it? If, or when we ever decide to give it a try, it should be because we actually want it, and we really know each other as we are.” He gave her a small squeeze of her hand. “I don’t want a fling, or a high school romance. I want everything. I also want to give everything, and right now, with all the things that have happened to me in the last… let’s say year, I need some time to figure out what my everything is, too.”
There were tears in her eyes as she smiled and nodded at him. She tried to cover it by draining the last of her beer, but they both knew something big had happened between them. What that would lead to, only time will tell.
The bitter version he’d left behind by Blackoberst
*Sunnydale outskirts, a couple of days later*
The tires screeched, groaned, and squealed, but the hulking car came to a full stop right before smashing into the ‘Welcome to Sunnydale’ sign. Spike opened the driver’s side door and stepped out, lighting up as he did so. He looked at the ugly thing he’d barreled over in the past—his grand entrance from when he was soulless—as he leaned against his car and smoked the rest of his fag. Some of his best memories, some of his worst, and some of his most resounding failures had all happened in this seemingly quiet little burg perched on top of the mouth of hell.
He’d also burned to dust while he brought it down around him.
Spike sniffed, cracked his neck, and flicked his still glowing cigarette butt at the garish sign. He was going to do everything he could so that this go-around, with this new and improved entrance, without grand gestures of mindless vandalism, without the ghosts haunting his every step, without the First tormenting him, and without his maker in the picture, would be the one to mark the start of good things.
First things first, though: he was going to say ‘hi’ to a relative.
~~~***~~~
*Angel’s basement apartment, a short while after that*
The door was flung open after the first couple of bangs on it. Spike’s grand-sire looked more like a pissed off Angelus than he did the broody Angel.
“’Lo there, Peaches. Long time no smell.” He made a point of sniffing. “No matter how long you scrub, you can still smell the rat, though, can’t you?” He ducked the punch headed for his jaw, but found himself in a headlock.
“What are you doing here, Spike?”
“Was in the neighborhood, thought I’d drop by.” A well placed punch, and an even better placed foot and he was free of the other vampire. He was a bit surprised at how easy that had been, but he didn’t dwell on it. “You gonna invite me in, gramps, or do I just barge in like a bog-trotter is used to?”
They snarled at each other for a good minute by Spike’s estimate, until Angel stomped away and sat down on an armchair, leaving the door wide open.
There had been no invitation, but Spike neither needed, nor expected one, so he walked in, closed the door behind him, and took a seat opposite Angel. He made to light up when a growl stopped him.
“Could you not?” Angel made vague gestures toward Spike’s cigarette.
Spike laughed. “Almost forgot. No leather pants, no personality, and an extra heaping of brood means no smoking allowed near his high-foreheadedness.” He made a disgusted face, but put the pack and lighter away.
“Have you come to bow to the Master too?” Angel narrowed his eyes. “Did you and Drusilla receive the call?”
Spike shrugged and talked in a falsely excited tone. “Yeah, sure, you know me: all pomp and circumstance and no play makes Spikey a happy camper.” He waved an arm dismissively. “Using hair gel after a century in the gutter must have burnt out the last of your working neurons. Probably put your nose out of commission, too.” He stood up, arms spread wide at his sides. “Can’t you feel it?”
Angel also stood up and frowned. After a few seconds Spike could see the dawning realization come over him. “You’ve got— but that’s impossible. How—”
He put his hands in his pockets in a fake show of shyness. “Went and proved myself in a bunch of tests and won a lovely prize. Little worse for wear, but it’s one hundred percent, all mine.” He smirked. “And it’s not going anywhere.”
Angel frowned even more, but seemed to dismiss Spike’s last statement. “So it wasn’t a curse?”
“Well, I’m already cursed with good looks and brains, adding a cursed soul would just be cheating.” He winked.
“Why would you do that? Was it because I—”
“Despite what you might think, you’re not the center of anyone’s universe except your own.” Even as he said it, Spike knew it to be a lie. In a very round-about way, his soul had been because of Angel. If Buffy hadn’t bought the line about the soul being the ‘be-all, end-all’ of things to have, he never would‘ve even thought of getting one. Maybe not even after the incident in the bathroom. Of course, he would never own up to such a thing to the vampire in front of him. He’d spent too long trying to crawl from under his shadow to do that.
“So you’re here to what, exactly?”
“Answer asinine questions, apparently.” He smirked. “The reason why I’m in this town is none of your business, but I couldn’t pass up a round of back and forth with my grandpops, could I?”
“I’m starting to wonder, not for the first time, why I didn’t just stake you as soon as Dru dragged you in.”
“Because your unlife would have been so drab and dreary?” He dropped all traces of mirth from his voice. "I came here mostly to warn you."
“O-ho, now I see. What’s the matter? Gone soft since the soul and now you’re scared of a little Hellmouth?” The smile on Angel’s face reminded Spike of Gerard from his human days. A terrible bully and horrible person, it was a service to evolution that ‘Willy the Bloody’ had shoved a railroad spike through his worthless brain cavity before he had a chance to procreate.
“No, you twit. I know the reason you’re out of the gutter and living it up in this…” He made a show of taking the small basement apartment in. “place that I really don’t know how you can afford is a small blond girl.”
Angel’s nostrils flared. “What do you know?”
“More than you could ever imagine, but we won’t talk about that now.” He fixed his grand-sire with his most serious look. “We both know she’s exactly the type the more fun part of you would have gone after.”
“No. She’s so bright and pure and—”
“Special, and with a family that you were going to separate her from, bit by bit. You’d slither your way in every aspect of her life, making her more and more dependent on you, until you’re her entire world and she can’t imagine love without suffering, and life without darkness.”
“You don’t know what you’re saying. She’s the—” Angel paused, eyes a bit wide, as if thinking if it was such a good idea to divulge the possible location of a Slayer to the vampire that made his name killing them, soul or not.
“She’s the Slayer, and she has the potential to be the greatest that ever lived.” He shook himself out of the memories those words had evoked. “And you are going to get her killed.”
“You have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Spike snorted. “I don’t? I’ve seen your handy-work first hand, remember? All those girls you wooed and then destroyed. It wasn’t even that you were a vampire, it was just something you liked.” He hardened his features as much as he could. “And I lived with your crowning achievement for over a century. Drusilla, that bright girl with a shiny future, with parents that loved her, and a strong belief in God. She had a calling, she had a gift, and you took it all from her and twisted it in the worst way. That is what you do, you wanker.” There was spittle flying by the end, but the sheer rage that had built up was overpowering even his soul’s cries for clemency.
Angel looked down. “That was Angelus. I try to atone every day for what he did.”
Spike mimicked one of those buzzers from a game show. “Wrong. It might have worked on some poor bugger who didn’t know his ass from his elbow, but I’ve been there and I’ve done that, mate.” He drew himself up. “I’m the same person I was before I was turned, and the same when I was unsouled, and I’m the same now with my shiny spark. It was me then, now, and always, give or take a conscience.”
“But the soul—”
“Soul, shmoul. I got it thinking it would solve my problems, make me something better, something worthy of—. But you know the only thing this bloody thing ever did for me? It allowed me to burn to a crisp for the woman I love.”
“What’s wrong with Dru?” Angel was getting agitated, which looked strange on him.
“Worried about the homicidal maniac you created?” Despite the hostility, there was still a tremor in Spike’s voice. He hated himself for it just a little, but on the other hand he knew he couldn’t help it. She’d been his everything for so bloody long. “She didn’t take my having a soul a well as she took yours. Was getting ready to go on a rampage and I just couldn’t—” He pinned Angel with his suddenly misty eyes. “She’s gone, man.”
“You? You dusted Drusilla? So much for eternal love, huh?” The fact that he sounded shaken by the news was the only thing that saved Angel from a quick dusting at Spike’s hands. As it was, he chucked it to one more dig against him that he didn’t want to fall for.
“Better than never having been in love, huh ponce?”
“You don’t know me. I’ve changed. I’ve fallen for…”
When no continuation came, Spike decided to do the honors himself. “You what, fell in love with the chit you saw once from afar?” At Angel’s startled look, he smirked and went on. “Yeah, I know more than you, as I said before. But riddle me this, oh great forehead, are you truly, honestly, and really in love with Buffy Summers, or just with the idea that she’ll be your ‘salvation?’ You see, I gave all of this a bit of a think and it added up to her being your favorite prey. Admit it, not to me, not to anyone if you don’t want to, but you, Angelus, are a sexual predator. You were one before you were turned, you excelled at it after the turning, and you’re still one now, even if you cover it with the quest for redemption, and the atonement, and the remorse. You saw a pretty blonde licking a lollipop and it made you hard. As a sexual predator through and through, if it gives you a stiffy, it’s love. Just that your love takes more than it gives, it corrupts, corrodes, and creeps up on the target. You’re going to go after a girl that’s jail-bait in every civilized country in the world and if you keep going you’ll ruin her before she becomes a woman.”
“But she is my salvation. She’ll cleanse the evil from me. Whistler promised it. He works for the Powers, so I think I’ve got the best green light there is. Don’t worry, though, your theory is very entertaining. Now get out.”
“It’s not a theory, mate, it’s fact. Look, I don’t know who told you what, but I bet he told you to help the Slayer and you translated it in your pea-sized excuse for a brain to ‘have.’ Wake up, man. Nobody’s going to send the two hundred and something year old pedophilic vampire to deflower the virgin fifteen year old Slayer and call it star-struck.” Spike felt like kicking something. The look on Angel’s face was all too familiar – he’d made up his mind, and nothing could change that. So he decided to go for broke. “If you don’t leave her alone, and you manage to get in her knickers, the soul goes on a walkabout and it’s ‘hello bloody Angelus.’ The curse that you think makes you the dog’s bollocks can be broken. She can brake it.” Well, actually he was pretty sure it was a lot baser and a lot sicker than that, but Angel could only take that much criticism before he completely shut down and didn’t hear a thing.
“You’re lying. She’s my redemption, not… What’s the matter, Willie, did you catch a whiff of my Slayer and want her all to yourself? Better remember: I don’t like to share.” Angel had drawn himself up in an attempt to become more imposing.
“You know what? Fine, don’t believe me. You could do the smart thing and look up the Kalderash. But knowing you, you’ll just brood some more and convince yourself you’re God’s gift. I don’t care anymore. Come near Buffy with your mind games and all the rest of the shit and I dust you.”
He anticipated the attack, so the dodge was easy to pull off. Also this Angel hadn’t spent the previous few years fighting other demons. In fact the last bit of a scuffle must have been back on the sub with the Jerries.
Spike’s las fight—not bar brawl, nor a quick stalk-and-stake, as there’d been enough of those—had been with the Angel of his time. And he’d won. So he met this shakier, weaker Angel with a whoop and an uppercut. What followed was a good, old-fashioned beating. By the end they were both bruised and bloody, but Angel had definitely received the worst of it. So much so that Spike ended up holding him down, ready to deliver the finishing blow.
He couldn’t do it though. It wasn’t that he felt he owed Angel anything, especially not this version who hadn’t done anything of note to help anyone other than himself. What stayed Spike’s hand was the team Angel had gathered around him in LA, and the good they’d done there. Maybe, just maybe, he could get through the armor-plated forehead of his grand-sire and make him understand his point.
He wasn’t really holding his breath, but he felt he had to try. Maybe the soul did make you more of a sentimental wanker.
“There’s a demon in Africa. You do some trials, he gives you a wish. It’s how I got my soul, so I’m sure he could anchor yours. Or talk to the members of the gipsy tribe who cursed you. Maybe you can convince them to modify the curse and make it so it doesn’t have that happiness clause. I don’t care how, or what, but you have to do something. This is your last chance. Next time you go at me half-cocked, or you start your usual ‘I know what’s best for everyone’ speech, you’re dust.”
With that, he shoved Angel away, uncaring how he landed, and walked out of the apartment. There were still some stops to make.
~~~***~~~
*The Alibi room, later that night*
The kitten poker game was reaching a crescendo. It was down to the final three, with Spike using every advantage he’d gathered over the previous years of observing the same people play over and over, while being a complete enigma to the rest. He’d also managed to keep Clem in the game, with the intention of having him close by as long as possible. The floppy skinned demon was even more of a connection to his past than the rest of Sunnydale, so Spike intended to recreate their friendship as fast as possible.
The shark demon across from him was another issue altogether. He owed a reckoning there, even though the bugger wasn’t technically at fault yet. No matter, sometimes revenge is a balm for the soul.
Two hands later, and Clem was out, leaving only Spike and the literal loan shark at the table. It took two more hands for all the kittens to belong to Spike. As he got up to gather his winnings he noticed a couple of burly vampires he remembered working for his opponent get up.
“Won fair and square, mate. Hope I don’t have to start eating sushi sprinkled with vamp dust, yeah?”
The smile he got in return showed all the other demon’s front teeth. “Of course, what do you take me for? I always make good on my debts.”
“Glad to hear it.” With that he motioned for Clem to come closer. “You can have the whole lot.”
Clem’s eyes lit up. “Whoa, thanks man. Is there anything you need from me in return?”
“Well, I heard you’ve got connections up and down this rat-hole. I’d like to start searching for a place that’s vamp-friendly. No crypts.”
Clem looked a bit askance at the last statement, but shrugged his shoulders and started counting the pot. “So I guess you’re not with the Master, huh?”
Spike snorted. “Not by a long shot, mate.” He looked around at the rest of the bar’s patrons. They all seemed to be minding their own business and nursing their drinks, but any one of them could be an informant. “Just keep it between us though, right?”
“Yeah man, sure, whatever you say.”
~~~***~~~
It was early morning and he was feeling the pull to go to ground and rest. Even after all these years of keeping more human hours than vampire ones, the nights spent hunting his kind and other demons meant he was still mostly nocturnal. He’d tried not to waste any second from the moment he’d stepped foot in Sunnydale, so the hour and a half spent dozing off while he waited around for the other man to come was the only rest he’d allowed himself.
It also gave him a chance to think. During those months spent in Angel’s offices as nothing more than a ghost, he’d learned—perhaps for the first time in his life—to sometimes just sit back and observe, to contemplate, and mostly, to wait. He would still probably choose not to do it given a chance, but he’d found depths of patience he didn’t know he had. He could only hope it would help him not screw everything up.
As his sleep deprived brain was grinding away, his prey finally arrived. Spike watched the other man go about his morning ritual with a bitter smile on his face. He was watching someone about whom he had more than a few bad memories, some of which almost ended in his own dusting.
Still, there was enough good in there, and more importantly, enough potential that Spike had to take the chance. He needed an ally. He also needed someone versed in the supernatural to bounce ideas off of. Hair-gel wonder-boy was out of that picture.
So in the end he gathered his wits and his courage and stalked out of his hiding spot. Watching the other man startle and almost trip over his own feet in an attempt to get to the nearest weapon—the crossbow under the counter made him smirk.
Spike raised his arms in a gesture of peace and stopped a few feet away. “Hullo there Rupert. Got into a bit of a pickle and I need to borrow your ear for a moment.”
Giles was obviously grabbing his crossbow as tight as he could. “And how, pray tell, could I possibly be of assistance. Please keep in mind this is a high school library. Perhaps you are in need of the public library on 3rd?.”
“They also have an active Watcher and former Eghyon worshipper manning the desk?” Spike really enjoyed the shock on the other man’s face.
“How—? Who are you?”
“Well, first of all let me ask you how familiar you are with the butterfly effect.”
“I’ve read a thesis on it when I was in college.”
“Good, ‘cause I think I offed a bloody swarm of them and I’m wondering when the hurricane will hit.” He jumped up enough to sit on a desk without lowering his hands, showing just a bit of his supernatural speed. It was time to tell his story again and hope that Giles—this Giles—would be more inclined to help than the bitter version he’d left behind.
His newfound plan might be possible yet. by Blackoberst
*Early evening, The Espresso Pump*
Spike looked around the coffee shop. Near the back he saw Giles sitting at a table and their gazes locked. Their early morning conversation had been cut short by some students looking for books, which apparently only happened whenever Giles needed some privacy. Spike though maybe it was part of the bad luck from being on top of the Hellmouth, but he didn’t voice his theory.
They’d rescheduled to this place after sundown. Which meant this was Spike’s chance to explain himself and get the man on board with his plans. So he sauntered over and sat down, as casually as possible. “’Lo Rupert.”
“I understand you might be more familiar with me than I am with you, but for the meantime I think I would be more comfortable if you called me Giles.”
Spike raised his scarred eyebrow. “And I understand you might have a pole stuck up your arse, but when one is greeted, one answers before admonishing the other on proper etiquette. Especially when the other might teach one about proper Victorian manners in a way that might make one’s great-grandmother bring out the rod.”
Giles cleared his throat a squirmed in his seat. “Yes, quite, hello to you too.”
In the meantime a waitress had approached so Spike ordered a coffee and a chocolate cake, ignoring Giles’s surprise at his choice. He wasn’t the average vampire, and the faster the other man understood that the better.
“So we were just about getting to the good part, weren’t we?”
Giles hastened to leave his coffee to the side and leafed through the notebook he’d used that morning to write things down in. “By my notes you were returning to Sunnydale to kill the Slayer after your failed trip to Los Angeles.” He adjusted the glasses on his nose. “You didn’t tell me why you were there in the first place, though.”
Spike looked around for a moment, making sure the gesture was caught by Giles. Everything seemed in order, but you never knew. “That’s a story for another time and another place. What I can tell you is that when I got back, full of piss and vinegar, I got caught by some government experiment gone wrong. They went and put a chip in my noggin that shocked me every time I tried to hurt a human.” The next part was going to be tricky, so Spike tried to be as careful as possible with how he phrased things. “Thing is the chip read violence regardless of any rhyme or reason. Every time I so much as bumped into someone on the street by mistake it would zap me. The worse the offense the more powerful the zap.”
The spark of interest he’d dreaded was there in Giles’s eyes as he wrote down his notes. “And did they implement these chips in other vampires or demons?”
“Far as I know they did, but here’s the thing: most of the more violent types—the ones they were after to control—are not that gifted in the brains department. So most of the fledges and demons they tried it on fried their own brains first few hours out of the vivisection with a side of electronic neutering.”
Giles stopped writing. “Vivisection?”
There was enough outrage in the man’s voice to give Spike hope for the future. “Yeah. They didn’t want to waste their precious painkillers on ‘Hostile Sub-Terrestrials.’ Thought of us as some sort of animals only without the Greenpeace seal of protection. The things they did reminded me of the Jerries under Hitler. In fact we later found out the good old US army took whatever documents they could find from the Nazis and decided to run with it.”
“Good Lord.” The expression was accompanied by more furious writing.
“I’ll fill you in on that bit of fun another time. Suffice to say I escaped and found my way at your door asking for sanctuary.”
Giles gasped. “Is that when you became a member of the team?”
Spike laughed. “Nah mate. You chained me up in your bathtub, barely fed me even though I was skin and bones by that point, and kept insisting I was up to something. Didn’t help your Slayer started dating one of the soldier boys and was this close to joining up.”
“I couldn’t possibly have allowed such a thing.” The conviction in Giles’s voice was clear, but to Spike it was still futile.
“You don’t exactly get much of a say when it comes to your charge, though, do you? The older a Slayer gets, the harder it is to dictate what she can and cannot do, and in this particular case, it never actually worked. Isn’t it one of the reasons you gits developed the Cruciamentum?”
“That’s an archaic and barbaric ritual.” His voice was filled with horror and disgust.
“Couldn’t agree with you more. You still had her go through it, though.”
“Impossible.”
“Take it from someone who’s been around a few: never say never.”
Giles stood back in his seat and took off his glasses. He put the end of the temple in his mouth with one hand and used his other to play with the cup of coffee in front of him. Spike would bet all the treasures buried with the Gem of Amara that old Rupert was about to ask one very important question. “I must say I spent some time this afternoon reading the records we have on William the Bloody. It proved to be a very interesting read indeed.” He placed the glasses on the table and pushed the coffee cup aside again, suddenly looking so much more the Ripper. “I need to know exactly why I should trust even one word out of your mouth.”
There it was. Spike had wondered exactly how long he had until the prejudice would start to show its head. Sure, it was nothing as bad as it would be post-Angelus, but Giles was still a Council trained Watcher. And that meant limited to no actual personal contact with the supernatural world—save for his demon worshiping youth.
“Fair enough. We can leave the long version for later.” He took a deep breath and placed both palms on the table, looking straight in Rupert’s eyes. “Thing is, under the bleached hair and leather, past the fangs and the blood, part of me never let go of that git who got turned by Dru in an alley over a century ago. What the books don’t say—because I made sure nobody knew—was that I wasn’t some street thug, but a mild mannered wannabe poet from the Victorian upper middle class.”
“What’s that—”
He made a dismissive gesture with his hand. “Just providing a bit of context: not all fledges are created equal. The thing is I fell in love with my mortal enemy and I used everything I could to make her mine, keep her when she was near, and get her back when she went away.”
“That sounds, ah, intense.” Giles had obviously struggled with finding an appropriate word. Spike knew what he meant, since he’d heard it thrown in his face enough times.
“It was obsessive, ‘s what it was. Took getting the soul back to get me to see how wrong I was sometime.” He breathed deeply. “Didn’t change the fact the love beneath it all was real. At the end though, before it all blew up around me and I found myself here, when we almost thought the First Evil was going to win… We built something there, something lasting, something… I would never betray that. I fucking burned alive for that. ”
“And you are trying to recreate that with the Buffy you found here.”
“Gods no. The Buffy that’s about to move here is fifteen mate. She’s just a child. A child with a bloody destiny, but not much more than that. What I want is to help her survive, grow up into the amazing woman I know she can become, and maybe help her not suffer all the things she’s had to suffer through the first time around. I’m not asking for anything in return.”
Giles was looking at him dispassionately. “That all sounds very compelling, however there is still a glaring lack of proof that this isn’t some scheme by a member of the Order of Aurelius. The same order you yourself said is here now, preparing for the Master’s resurgence.”
Spike felt a pang in his heart. It was going all wrong. Giles would be Giles, only earlier. He’d failed spectacularly. If only he could think of something, anything, that would prove he’s a changed man, worthy of the Watcher’s trust. Problem was, though, that all the things he knew were either going to happen too far into the future to help, or were so general that he could have found them some other way than by interaction with Rupert. Except a few things he’d learned while living with the man that hopefully hadn’t changed that much over time.
“You keep a bottle of 30 year-old Macallan hidden in a secret compartment in your desk, on the left hand side.” He moved in a little closer, whispering across the table. “You keep the really good one in the underwear drawer.” He cocked his head and winked. “Which is not the best idea when your flatmate is a recently chipped vampire with too much time on his hands and a penchant for scotch.”
Giles drew back sharply. “How do you know I didn’t buy those bottles at a later date? Or moved them over time.”
“Well, the first answer would be that you told me you go them with the severance package from the British Museum. Second would be that you got the desk from your Grand-mum, so it came with the secret compartment, and nobody trades up to secreting their liqueur with their pants.”
Giles started to clean his glasses. “Yes, quite.”
Spike stretched his back and slouched back. He’d managed to find the right proof. Who said scotch was bad for you?
~~~***~~~
*Late at night, Giles’s apartment*
Spike woke up from a short nap to find Giles writing furiously in his Watcher’s diary. The sight brought a pang to his heart, but he shrugged it off and went to look for whatever was left of Rupert’s good booze.
After he drained the last two glasses from a bottle of expensive scotch, he presented his host with a glass and took a seat close to him.
Giles barely acknowledged the offer, busy as he was with writing down everything Spike had told him about the world he’d come from. Considering how sleep deprived and drunk Spike had got by the end of his story, and taking in account how much alcohol Giles himself had consumed, the whole thing must have been full of gibberish.
It was time for cooler heads to come together and make sense of it all.
Spike gave a sigh, put his drink aside and went to the kitchen to prepare a proper cuppa. Luckily his memories of the place were good enough to allow him to manoeuvre. Cups in the upper left cupboard, tea—leaves, not bags, never those—in the upper right, teapot in the drawers under the counter, water from the faucet, and everything was ready. He drew strength and peace from the simple act of making the tea. Of course, had it been one of his girls in the other room he’d have made Joyce’s hot chocolate recipe, though he never really managed to get it to taste exactly the same.
Still, delving into the intricacies of time travel called for tea.
“Here you go, Watcher, the perfect drink for our task.”
Giles focused his bloodshot gaze on Spike for the first time since he’d woken up. The watcher clearly needed sleep and lots of it, but wouldn’t be able to rest until he wrote everything he could down. “So you said the Slayer encountered the First once before the final series of confrontations.” He checked his notes. “Yes, at Christmas in two years’ time. Do you remember any details about that encounter?”
Spike made a show of drinking his tea and didn’t speak until Giles caught on and downed half of his drink as well. “Sorry to disappoint, but I was deep in Brazil around that time. Nothing like celebrating the holidays surrounded by half-naked people.”
“Yes, I’m sure to a vampire that is as close to heaven as one can get.”
“Close, mate, pretty darn close. But that’s not what we were discussing now, was it? From what I was told, the Slayer didn’t actually set eyes on the First that time around. In fact it was halfway through the last year there that the First showed itself to the Slayer.” He frowned and sat up. “You think there’s a reason to that? I mean, far as we were told the First could only come through if the Slayer line was weakened, and it took it gathering its bloody harbingers, and gaining strength through the Turok-Han for it to even deign to talk to the Slayer. What if it wasn’t just avoiding her out of some strange superiority complex, but was avoiding her because there’s something unique to her that could possibly hurt the First, even without the Scythe?”
“Good Lord, if that is in fact the case then it would be a real boon.”
“Boon?” Spike snorted. “I didn’t use that term before I was turned, why on Earth would you use it a century later?”
“Well I—”
“If you start saying things like ‘I swear,’ and ‘my word’ I’m out of here until you remove the pole from your arse and the wax from between your ears.” He looked Rupert straight in the eye. “Less Primly MacPriss, more Ripper, got it, mate? Buffy doesn’t need a useless knob, she needs a Watcher.” He made a face. “And none of those Travers approved automatons, either. You’ll need to step up and be a man. I know you have it in you, ‘ve seen you do it, but I need you to get there faster, and you mustn’t forget Buffy comes first. Always. You have her back and she’ll be there, night after night, doing her duty, and stopping any apocalypse. But you have to be there for her.”
Giles was visibly shaken, which was exactly what Spike was going for. He needed to scare all the Council teachings about being away and aloof right out of the git, or risk ending up with the hardened, jaded man who almost had Spike dusted for trying to do what he couldn’t—be the Slayer’s right hand man.
“I’ll do my best.”
“I hope so. I really hope so.” He leaned back in his seat. “Want to go through it all now that I managed to get a bit of kip, or would you rather I do a quick patrol and we start over tomorrow?”
“Patrol? You’re going to go out and kill your kind?”
Spike burst out laughing. “You just finished writing down how I helped save the whole bloody world from the First Evil and his band of merry Uber-vamps, and you’re surprised I’d go out to kill a few fledges for my nightly bit of mayhem? Mate, there’s so much you still need to learn about how vamps work.”
“I must inform you I was properly trained—” Giles stopped talking and took his glasses off to massage his eyes. “My training and information on vampires, and quite possibly other types of demons are not up to par according to you, are they?”
Spike settled for a smirk and a shake of his head.
“And are you going to help me, ah, clarify the incorrect information?”
“I can tell you all I know, and there’s nobody stopping you from writing it in your dream journal there, but if you send any of it back to Merry Old, it’s more likely you’ll get fired and replaced with a newer, more brain-washed version even faster than last time.”
“Good Lord.”
“Bloody buggering hell indeed.” Spike winked and slapped his thighs. “And with that bit of interesting news, I’ll be off to do a bit of active reconnaissance. Don’t wait up, but do leave the door unlocked, will you? Don’t have my own digs yet and I’d rather not spend the night somewhere under the Master’s control.”
“The same Master that is your Great—”
“Old Batface isn’t a great anything, except perhaps windbag. The bugger is stuck in the Hellmouth like a cork pushed down in a bottle, but it doesn’t mean he’s powerless, or that his followers are completely useless. I need to find out exactly how things are set up so I can help Buffy, seeing as how last time around it was all over before I blew into town.”
“Indeed. You’ll be able to spend the night here, of course, and tomorrow we shall continue our discussion.”
“Ta, Rupert.” Spike grabbed the duster from next to the door on his way out. Some poor bugger was about to have a very bad night.
~~~***~~~
*Later, in one of Sunnydale’s cemeteries*
Spike had done his rounds, found his snitch and beaten the information he needed out of him, followed by a swift dusting, of course. He was doing just one more sweep before going back to the watcher’s when he found himself next to a strange mausoleum. It looked more like a pyramid, and that reminded him of something, only he couldn’t quite figure out what it was.
When the door opened and he found himself face to face with an old crone he suddenly remembered. “You’re the Guardian, aren’t you?”
The woman smiled, although it looked rather bitter. “Yes I am. I know who you are too, William.”
The statement gave Spike pause. If he remembered correctly the Slayer had said the woman was full of some primal energy—white magic and the like. Of course that demented priest had managed to gut her, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t have some tricks up her sleeve. And for her to know him meant she knew of the two slayers under his belt. What if she wanted revenge? “Changed vamp here, got me a case of the soul something frightful. All white hats in my closet.”
The smile on the Guardian’s face turned more genuine at that. “I know who, what, and from where you are. But you better come in, so we can discuss this better.” She gave a furtive look around the rest of the cemetery.
Spike followed her inside at a loss for words, but with renewed hope in his heart. Ever since he’d been dropped in the past he’d wondered why that happened. Maybe she had some answers. At the very least, she was the first person he’d met who hadn’t needed any convincing. He hadn’t realized how difficult it had been on him until right that very moment. “Why am I here?”
“To talk, silly.” She must have interpreted his expression correctly as the representation of murderous thoughts, so she dropped the jokes. “I have some powers that allow me to monitor the Slayer line. Recently something unheard of has happened that allowed me to see where you came from. In general I can only see things related to slayers, but for some reason my scrying showed me what you went through. Well, a Powers representative also tipped me off.”
“Bugger. I was afraid those wankers had something to do with all of this.”
“I’m afraid they’re the ones to blame for transporting you here.”
Spike sighed and went to light up a cigarette, only to be stopped by a raised eyebrow from the woman. He sighed again. Visiting goody-goody people was putting a real dampener on his smoking. “So what did the ‘Powers that love to screw with you’ want with yours truly?”
“I don’t know.”
Spike wanted to rip something to shreds.
“I’m not a representative of the Powers, or anything of the sort, and the only thing their messenger told me was that they brought you here to mend some things that had gone wrong in your timeline.” She seemed to be weighing how to say what was next. “Your consciousness was copied and put into the body of the Spike from this universe, soul and all. That was only possible since the potential for this Spike to become the same as you was the greatest, so all the Powers did was to, well, speed up time in a way.”
Spike’s mind was a whirlwind of H. G. Welles, Doctor Who, and other such sources of information on time travel. “So what’s that mean for the universe I left?”
She looked uncomfortable. “I’m not sure, but from what Trish said there’s still a you there, still doing anything you were going to do.”
“But why?” It was all he could do not to stomp his foot like an upset child.
“I don’t know. All I know is that you’re supposed to fix something. What exactly that is…”
“Yeah, great, brilliant. Any other useless information to tell me? Is Angelus a wanker?”
“Look young man, you know who and what I am, so I’ve already told you more than I should have been able to. The real question is: what are you going to do?”
“Well first I’m gonna find me one of those Powers wankers and have myself a real good day. They’ve been yanking my bloody chain for too long, but this last bit, the putting me in what, another universe? That takes the fucking cake. And they didn’t even have the balls to say it to my face.” He kicked at a wall. “Argh.” He panted and tried to calm down. He wanted a smoke. Not even the months spent in LA as a ghost made him crave a cigarette this much.
“You know that’s not what I meant.” She sounded so maternal it made Spike’s teeth hurt, like having too much candy. “What is your plan for what’s to come?”
Spike looked at her as if she’d suddenly gone insane. “What do you think I’ll do?” He ran his hands through his hair in frustration. “I’ma help Buffy, that’s what. You’re tuned in to Slayer TV, yeah? Well you should have noticed me doing something different, maybe something smarter, and definitely faster. I’m in this for the long haul. ‘S just— would’ve been nice to be asked, or for someone to have waited for me on the other side: hey mate, we bollixed up your life again, but don’t worry, here’s what we’ve done, now enjoy. Instead I’ve been going at this alone for weeks.”
She touched his arm in a gentle way. “You don’t have to be alone.” She let out a puff of air. “The last time around the people helping the Slayer all hated you, for one reason or another. In this universe, in this time, they are mostly blank pages, ready to be written upon. You have the opportunity to do things right, to help and be helped, and make them your friends. The mother and sister will help you, the watcher has potential, and…” She cleared her throat and drew herself up. “I am here. I am the last of my line, but perhaps now, at the twilight of the guardians, we’ll finally manage to fulfil our duty. And then I can rest.” Her voice cracked at the end.
Spike was almost overcome with the urge to hug her, but kept himself back. He didn’t quite do hugs, so he settled for patting her hand. At the same time his mind was working a mile a minute. Of course, she was right. He hadn’t given much thought to the rest of the Scoobies. Sure, they existed and odds were Buffy would become their friend again, but other than that he hadn’t planned anything for them. Well, other than ‘keep them alive.’ So the idea they could become his friends was a sobering one. It also sounded exciting.
He’d already started changing the dynamic of his relationship with the watcher, more out of necessity than anything else, so at least it was possible.
Could he do it? Could he and the Scoobies become mates? It had been close there at the tail end of Sunnydale. There had been ups and downs, but overall he’d felt more included than ever. Well, except that summer that he refused to think about. But maybe if he managed to get to them before the prejudice, before Angelus, and without the baggage of broken bottles and broken hearts, then it could be done.
There were others to consider as well. Where was Tara at this point in time? He couldn’t remember when she’d said her mother had passed, so he couldn’t remember if she’d still be at her home—not that he knew where that would be—or if she’d already taken off to wherever she went before Sunnydale.
What about Anyanka? Would his presence influence the Whelp enough to not bugger things up with the Cheerleader, so would the Vengeance demon not be summoned? There were so many things to take into account, so many possible outcomes. He felt somewhat like Paul Atreides. But would his choices be better?
He’d already had some rock-solid self-imposed rules about what he’d do. Among the first was ‘no digging in Sunnydale until the Master is gone.’ Sure, there was a great deal of treasure buried under the city, with the Gem of Amara and the Scythe just the top of the pile. There were all kinds or rare items, a whole treasure trove, a haunted colonial mission, and many other things to be found, but while the Master was still underneath them all no heavy machinery could be used without tipping off half the bloody Order of Aurelius. The last thing he needed was for someone like Darla or Luke wearing Amara’s ring and funnelling blood to the old fucker.
What other things could he play around with? Here he thought he’d at least made some sort of a plan, but as usual, most of his thoughts revolved around the Slayer and her family, so the rest of the picture was somewhat blurry around the edges. The Guardian’s words had brought things in perspective, but he now had even more questions. Which reminded him of something he’d been meaning to ask. “By the way to nothing, what’s your name?”
She laughed. “Abigail, but you can call me Abbie.”
“Well then Abbie, I have a question for you: would you meet with Buffy’s watcher? He’s not exactly made from the same mould as the rest of the wankers you’ve been hiding away from and I think he’d be willing to hear you with an open mind.”
She grew silent for a long time. “I will think about it. Even if what you say is true, what I saw wasn’t all that flattering, and I don’t think the time has come for me to reveal myself yet. Perhaps at a later date.” She took a step back. “Until then you may come talk to me once in a while, if you so desire. And please, bring Buffy with you.” The smile lighting up her face was bright and warm. “I’d love to meet her in person.”
He smiled back. “I’ll do that. But in return I need you to tell me how to find some people. A couple might be in different dimensions than ours. Can your mojo do something about that?”
“I think I know who you might mean, but I cannot help you. What you need is a witch, or a mage. Preferably a powerful one.”
He swore. If only Red was up to snuff, or if there was a single conjurer out there he could trust not to double-cross him. Then again, maybe there was. Rupert wasn’t exactly powerful, but he had connections, and if need be, he could channel. His newfound plan might be possible yet.
Future would start in earnest by Blackoberst
*Shortly after New Year’s, random bar outside LA*
Spike downed his drink and let himself enjoy the burn all the way down his throat. He’d been running all over the US for the past month and he hadn’t allowed himself the luxury of getting out-of-his-mind, blind drunk, so he had taken a decision to slow down for this one day, drink away his troubles, and pick it all up again the next morning.
And what a day that would be. The Summers family was moving to Sunnydale. It was all coming together and he was terrified. In fact his hand was trembling when it brought up the next shot up to his mouth. He allowed the alcohol to spread through his body, the warmth of it helping dull the aches and trembles.
His pager beeped. Someone was trying to get a hold of him, but for tonight he didn’t want to care. He’d done all he could for now, so, as far as he was concerned, he was free to do as he damn well pleased.
~~~***~~~
*The Magic Box, almost a month before*
Spike was spending his time waiting for Ms. Calendar to arrive by cataloguing all the differences he could detect between this year’s version of the store and the one he was more familiar with. It was clear that Giles and Anya had set up the shop much better than the current owner. And there should be a lot more books. Instead of having three rows of different herbal tea variants—none of which would do a lick of good as either tea, or magic components—there could have been a library as Rupert set up, filled with books on the dark arts, demons, and history.
Spike had expected different from the clan that managed to do the almost impossible and cursed Angelus with a soul. Speaking of which they didn’t even seem to have an Orb of Thessulah anywhere in the shop. Which meant there hadn’t really been a backup plan in place for Angel’s going Mr. Hyde.
It reminded him of the many, many times the Scoobies barely scraped by with their happy-go-lucky attitude towards being prepared. Apart from the Watcher none of them gave much serious thought to what could be hiding behind the next corner. That’s not to say he was any different, as he preferred to live his life from minute to minute, without anything resembling a long term plan. At least, anymore of a plan than ‘do whatever to please the girl.’
Yet another thing that had to change.
He was so lost in his thoughts he almost missed the shopkeeper creeping up behind him. “What can I help you with, Sir?” At least Spike knew the guy’s Eastern European accent wasn’t fake, unlike half of the merchandise.
Spike snorted and leaned against a gaudy display case with counterfeit voodoo dolls. “See, I have this hypothetical for you. There’s this really sadistic bastard, does this really stupid thing and gets put into a gimp suit. The people who did this nice thing play the voyeur for the next century or so. Unfortunately along come some wankers who like to mess things up and start loosening the ties keeping his suit on. So my question would be this: imagine you’re one of those Peeping Toms and you have the gimp becoming Ol’ Sadistic Forehead again. What do you do?”
The guy’s face was priceless, and reminded Spike he still had no idea what his name was. Not that he cared all that much. He’d barely remembered the name of the computer teacher until he’d checked the class schedules.
“Who are you and what do you want?” The guy was taking tentative steps backward, his left hand sliding behind him to what must have been some kind of weapon. He got points in Spike’s book for that. At least he wasn’t a complete wanker.
“Why don’t we wait for your cousin to show up and, in the meantime, I’ll tell you some stories from the good old days.” He was sure their tribe must have boogieman stories about the evil vampire they cursed and why that was necessary, but they couldn’t have known even a thousandth of all the vile crimes the Forehead had performed for centuries. By the end of his tales from the crypt the shopkeeper was more than willing to help Spike find a way to find Angel’s curse and maybe improve it, making his soul permanent.
As bad as Angel was, Angelus was an even bigger threat. And if Buffy and Angel were really ‘meant to be,’ at least she wouldn’t be scarred for life by it. Well, more than anyone would be scarred by being around the Great Gel Helmet for too long. Spike felt like dry heaving just thinking about it.
~~~***~~~
*Middle of nowhere, Nebraska, a couple of week later*
The sounds from the cabin were definitely not those of a happy family. The father yelled at the mother, the son at the daughter, and the father at everyone all over again. Even the dog outside was barking up a storm, although that could have been his way of announcing there was a vampire on the premises.
All of a sudden a great noise came from the woods nearby, complete with broken branches and howling. The men in the cabin hurried out with their shotguns, took the dog with them and went to check up on the threat to their livestock.
Spike waited a few minutes and strolled to the now-quiet door. He knew the demons he’d hired would lead the two men on a merry chase for at least an hour, so he’d have time to say his peace. He could only hope he managed to be convincing.
As soon as he knocked on the door a woman answered it. She was thin, gaunt even, with dark circles under her bloodshot eyes, and a pale complexion that almost gave Spike a run for his money. Despite all of that one could still tell she must have been a looker in her day. She also bore a strong resemblance to Tara, down to the quiet calm she exuded. Once upon a time someone like that would have set his teeth on edge.
She eyed him up and down. “Yes, may I help you?”
He put on his most charming smile. “Mrs. McClay, it’s an honor to finally meet you. I’ve heard a lot of great things. May I come in? There are some matters to discuss about your health coverage.”
She frowned and wavered. After a few seconds she took a step back and opened the door wider. “My husband handles these things, but please come in. He should be back soon.”
Spike managed not to grin at that. If everything went according to plan he would be on the way back to Sunnydale by the time the men returned.
He’d barely made two steps inside the house when he spotted her.
Tara.
The pang he felt was so powerful he almost bent over. He’d always had a soft spot for the shy good witch, but seeing her, or at least the younger version, brought up all the feelings of loss he hadn’t been able to process back in Sunnydale since he was newly souled and the First was looming over everything.
He hadn’t mourned her, and she was one of the few humans he knew who deserved his tears—excluding his long list of victims, of course.
She was hidden half behind a support beam, her whole body betraying her discomfort at having a strange man in her parental home. What’s more Spike’s knowledge of her allowed him to realize the exact moment she read his aura and discovered his true form.
Bugger.
He was sure one day, someday, one of his plans would actually go, well, according to plan. He bet there was some rule about probabilities that dictated it. But the way things were going, he’d be better off playing roulette blindfolded in one of the most crooked casinos in the world. He had too much on his mind to try to remember which one that was.
As it was, there was only one card he had to play. It was time to tell his story again. Truth be told, he was getting tired of hearing himself tell it. At least he was almost done introducing himself to this universe. The rest of the world could just go bugger itself and learn of his future actions, never mind his past.
***
Spike got up to leave, since he was sure the males of the clan would be coming home soon. He couldn’t really complain, as he’d managed to achieve his main goal.
“I’ll take Tara tomorrow to the town hall to help her start her emancipation. I’ll talk to Jolene to keep it between us until the time is right. Then she’ll be free to move to Sunnydale.” Mrs. McClay was white as a sheet, but Spike was impressed by how well she’d taken the news of her impending death. Just as Spike had thought she’d react, her maternal instinct took over and recognized he was trying to help her daughter have a better life than what her father would allow her to have.
“I promise the Guardian, Jenny, and Giles will teach Glinda magic the right way. There are people there that will love her as their own. I’ve seen it.” He squeezed the woman’s hand. “She’ll be happy, and I give my word I’ll protect her ‘til I’m dust.”
“I believe you. Maybe I shouldn’t, but I do.” She looked over at Tara. “I just want what’s best for you.”
Tara hadn’t stopped crying silently since midway through Spike’s story, when she’d found out the circumstance that had led her to Sunnydale. She just nodded and threw herself into her mother’s arms.
Spike’s heart broke for them, but he took solace in the knowledge he’d done all he could to make their last days together really mean something.
And Tara would be free of her toxic family that much earlier.
He wiped his eyes and left without saying anything else. He’d done all he could here so it was time to go home.
~~~***~~~
*Shortly after New Year’s, random bar outside LA*
Another sound from his pager. Spike downed the remaining beer in his bottle, growled in displeasure, and checked the screen. For a moment his mind went to his memories of the future. He’d need a cell phone as soon as possible, but for that he needed more resources than the few well placed bets and poker winnings had netted him. He blinked and shook his head to clear it. He was supposed to call Giles. ‘999’ it said. That meant emergency for a Brit.
Spike grumbled once more and went to the public payphone. He really wanted a cell phone now. As soon as someone picked up at the other end Spike barked in the receiver. “What? I’m on a bloody one-day vacation, and as far as I know this year’s Apocalypse won’t be until May, or something.” He frowned. “Or was it June? Anyway, it’s half a year away, so what the fuck is the problem?”
He could imagine Giles clean his glasses with disapproval etched on his features. “I’m really sorry to disturb your alcohol intake, but—”
“Well, a merry freaking new year’s to you too.”
“Yes, I’m sure.” Giles cleared his throat. “The- the thing is I have come across a text mentioning a series of prophecies in the Pergamum Codex.”
Spike snorted. “Is that how you’ve been spending your new year’s Rupert? You couldn’t have asked the Gipsy bird out for a round of drinks?” His answer was a series of splutters. “At least you could’ve gotten piss drunk while thinking of Merry ‘Ol. The rot in that book is what got the Sl— you know what? It doesn’t matter now. We’re months away from anything to worry about, and the way I’m thinking, we’ll be rid of old Bat-face long before that.”
“That is good to hear. However the real reason I contacted you was to let you know what my research has turned up regarding the Powers and their representatives.”
Spike’s ears perked up at that. He really wanted to have a word with those wankers. It wasn’t that he wasn’t happy he had a chance to make Buffy’s life better, easier, and safer. He hated being used with a passion, though.
“There are some so-called Oracles that can be contacted via a portal underneath a post office. I haven’t been able to find out exactly which one yet. There does, however, appear to be some sort of sacrifice requirement.”
“I’m sworn off the virgin bloodletting gig.”
Giles chuckled. “I’m quite confident the representatives of the Powers that Be will not be asking for anything so… barbaric.”
Spike grunted. From his perspective he wasn’t so sure about that. Then again this year’s Giles knew nothing about the sacrifices being a White Hat entailed. All the girls, the friends, and the innocent bystanders that had died because of something or other that the almighty Powers dictated.
Still, a simple chat shouldn’t cost more than a rib or so. Although… those ribs could be dangerous enough, if you believed the book of Genesis.
“Don’t worry about it, mate. I’ll find it, now that I know what it is I’m looking for.” There was a whisper of a memory about that somewhere in the shadows of his mind. Maybe with one less drink he would have been able to listen in, to remember what he sort of knew. He shrugged, although Giles couldn’t see him. It would have to wait until tomorrow.
Giles’s tone changed, turning almost pedantic. It was the tone he took with the Scoobies many times during their research parties. “I have spent the better part of the week after Boxer’s Day to find out all I could on this matter as you said you wanted a method to contact them before Buffy moves to Sunnydale.” A tone of Ripper broke through. “So may I once again excuse my interruption of your libations, but this is more important than whatever it is you’re wallowing in. Now sober up, beat up whatever demons you need to, and find out where the Oracles are. Do it so you can get this out of your system and come back to aid my Slayer.”
Spike smirked. “Consider it done, mate.” He ended the phone call and rolled his shoulders. There was work to be done until morning. “Happy new year, indeed.”
~~~***~~~
*Oracles’ plane of existence*
“Have you brought a gift?” The woman Oracle asked.
“A gift? Of course, why not?” He threw a bag at the Oracle’s feet. “Inside are all of Dru’s dolls. She always said they whispered the future to her, so I figured ‘birds of a feather’ and all that.”
The male looked down his nose at the bag while the female waved her hand and nodded. The bag floated away down the hallway behind the beings.
“We accept your thoughtful gift. What is it you wish to know about your future?”
Spike fought to keep his snort in. His future? Were they pulling his leg? Still, he didn’t want to end up a frog, or a snail, or some other slimy thing, so he kept his opinion to himself. There was a question he was dying to ask about the future, though. “Will the copy of me left in the other universe make it okay?” What he wanted to ask was much more specific, but he lacked the courage to do it.
The male frowned. “Don’t waste our time asking for things we care noting about. If that is all you want to know, you may leave now.”
“I think I’m owed an answer about that, mate.”
“The journey will be hard, but the answer to the question you wanted to ask is yes.” The female had tilted her head, which gave Spike the impression of a bird of prey watching its target. The owl to his mouse.
Her answer, though. His stomach filled with butterflies at the implication. Could it really be? Buffy and him? He closed his eyes and shook his head. Now was not the time to dwell on parallel future might-have-beens. He still had questions to ask and his time was running out. “Why did the Powers bring me here, now? What do they want from me?”
“You already know that. The Guardian was instructed to answer that question. You are wasting our time.” Spike was willing to bet the male would have checked his watch, had he been wearing one.
“You lot stole mine, so call it tit for tat and answer the bloody question, please.” His temper was rising and he was very close to letting his mouth run wild.
“You were needed to correct some events, you were tested, and you were retrieved. What more do you wish to know?” The female had straightened her head and looked at him with disdain.
Spike had had enough. “You know what? You’re right. This is all a waste of time. You can’t tell me anything I want to know and I just realized I don’t want to know what you could tell me about the Powers’ plans for me. I’ll just go do what I think is right and I’m sure your bosses will let me know if I fuck things up. Probably do it mid-Apocalypse, but I don’t bloody care anymore.” He raised his arm and pointed at the Oracles. “You lot could have done this right, talked to me when you yanked me from one reality and shoved me in another. You decided to let me go about things best as I could, so that’s what I’ll do. Don’t come crying to me if I don’t follow your guidelines, because spoiler alert, you gave me none.”
“Insolent maggot.” The male flicked the fingers from his right hand and Spike flew back through the portal that had brought him to their realm.
He decided he deserved the pain. He should have known the ‘Powers that Love to Screw you Over’ would be useless and cryptic on top of that. He spat some blood on the ground. Tomorrow his new future would start in earnest.
Warmth again by Blackoberst
*1630 Rovelo Drive, Sunnydale, first week of January*
Spike jumped out of the rent-a-van carrying the last of the Summers clan’s belongings. He waited for Clem to close and lock the doors. “You know where the van needs to get to, right?”
“Sure, man. I’ll get it there and my cousin will drive me back, no worries.” Clem looked once from Spike to the house and leaned in a bit, his voice dropping to a whisper. “The Slayer’s just like you said she’d be.” He shrugged and scratched the back of his neck. “Now I feel sort of silly ‘cause I believed all those boogey-man stories about her.”
Spike smirked. “Buffy’s special, mate. Don’t knock a good gore story featuring some avenging Slayer easily. Right bloodthirsty chits, the lot of them.” He motioned with his head to the house. “That one in there, with the boy-band T-shirt and the pigtails? I’ve seen her go at it with a whole nest of vamps after she’d just offed a rampaging Fyarl.” His smirk turned into a warm smile. “She’s gonna be the best ever.” With a frown he noticed Clem’s frightened eyes. “She’s not gonna rip your head off as soon as she see you just ‘cause you’re a demon. And she sure won’t slay you if you don’t eat your vegetables, or stay up too late, like mums tell their pups.” He winked at his friend. He’d come clean about his history and the fact that Clem was such a TV fanatic meant once Spike started explaining about what had happened to him the other demon immediately drew parallels to Sci-Fi stories, taking it all in stride.
“You know better.” He started saying something, shook his head, and then tried again. “I still think her skin’s too tight, but I guess that’s your problem, not mine.”
“I told you, it’s not like that with her. Not now.”
“Yeah, I know.” Clem shrugged. “Just thinking out loud.” With that the subject was dropped. “I’ll let you know when I get back.” A last wave of the hand and Clem hopped in the van’s cab and drove off.
Spike shifted the weight he was carrying in his arms just as the door of the house opened.
“Is Clem gone?” Joyce was dressed in faded jeans and a checkered shirt, with a scarf keeping her hair in place. As she stood there, bathed in light from behind, on the porch of her house in Sunnydale, Spike felt a pang in his chest.
The way she looked at him now wasn’t very different than his last memory of her from before. He’d recently been un-invited from the Slayer’s house after the whole Dru debacle, but Joyce and Dawn had stowed away in his crypt to hide from Glory. After Buffy had taken them back home, he’d shown up just to check on them and Joyce had opened the door to thank him for his hospitality. She’d even apologized for not inviting him in. Oh, how he’d missed her after.
He could only hope his deal with the monks worked and she didn’t have to pay the price for Dawn’s life. He’d still be watching her like a hawk, though. He’d get her to have regular check-ups. “Yeah, he went to return the truck.”
“That’s too bad. I was hoping I could thank him again for all his help.”
Spike shrugged and made his way to the door. “He’ll be back. Promised he’d help with the gallery, too, so you’ll get your chance.”
Joyce pinned him with one of those stares mothers were so good at. “I don’t know what I would have done without your help.”
“You’d’ve been okay, trust me. You got by well enough the last time?”
She raised an eyebrow. “Still, thank you, Spike.”
He mumbled “you’re welcome” and hurried past her inside the house. Damn Summers women and making him a nervous git.
He deposited the box next to the rest near the middle of the living room. Dawn and Buffy were busy unpacking, sorting things, and laughing at some knickknack or other. Joyce went and joined them, picking up some old photos and setting them on a nearby table.
Spike took a deep breath. The house still smelled faintly of the previous owners and of dust, but the newer smells were starting to spread out. His girls’ perfumes and unique smells were slowly making this place their own. Making it smell like home.
Spike was sure the smile on his face was as stupid as could be, but he found he really couldn’t be bothered to care.
“You gonna help, or just stay there looking like the cat that ate the canary.” Dawn frowned. “You didn’t actually eat a canary, right? I mean, drinking pig, or cow, or whatever it is you drink is bad enough. Don’t kill the pretty animals too, okay?”
“Dunno, love. If I find that bloody Tweety bird, I’ll ring its neck and drink it dry, but other than that I think I’ll keep to mammals.”
Buffy wiped at her sweaty forehead with the back of her hand. “Hey! Why would you kill Tweety?”
“’Cause she’s a bloody meddling know-it-all and a cat-tease. Poor Sylvester didn’t deserve half the shit that scheming yellow menace put him through.”
Buffy looked as if she was about to say something, but got cut off by Dawn. “He swore.”
Joyce didn’t even look up from the box she was going through. “He did and I’m sure he’s so sorry he won’t do it again. As for you, young lady, nobody likes a tattle-tale.”
Dawn huffed and poked her tongue at Spike. He smirked and poked his own tongue right back.
“Could you two stop with the being stupid and help out?” Buffy was trying and failing to look stern, and Spike felt warmth fill up his soul. His unlife was good.
He slapped and rubbed his hands together. “So what can the Big Bad do for his favorite pulsers?”
He was hit in the face with a dirty rag. “Dust and vacuum.” Buffy raised an eyebrow and fake-pouted. “Or is that disrespectful for your species?”
“Ha ha. Yes, vampires turn to dust, I know. You are so witty that I was wounded to the depths of my sensibilities.” He still went to follow her instructions. It was good to be home.
Which was exactly what this was for him now, since Joyce had offered the basement for him to use until he found a permanent residence. Certainly a big step up from Rupert’s couch.
~~~***~~~
*later that day, early evening*
There was a knock at the door and Dawn went to answer it. Spike stopped hammering in nails for the family photos to try and figure out who it was.
“Good evening. Ah. Ms. Summers, my name is—”
“Stop being a blundering git and get in here, watcher. You’re letting the sun in.”
Joyce came in from the kitchen just as Giles was making his way in the living room.
“Joyce, may I present Rupert Giles, watcher extraordinaire and librarian at your daughter’s school. Giles, this is Joyce Summers, the mother of Dawn whom you’ve already met.” At his words Dawn gave a small curtsy. Spike didn’t have time to say anything about it as he spied Buffy making her way downstairs. “And coming now is Buffy Summers, the elder daughter, and Slayer.”
Giles’s cheeks were flushed, but he took Joyce’s hand and inclined, before he did the same with Buffy. “I’m honored to meet all of you. I wanted to introduce myself and offer my services.” He looked over at Spike. “I also have your duffel in my car, since I understand you will be moving in here.” The raised eyebrow was a challenge, although bringing Spike’s belongings was a nice touch.
“Yes, I managed to convince William to stay with us until he finds a place of his own. Thank you for putting him up for as long as you did.” The same challenging tone Giles had used was present in Joyce’s voice. She was making sure he knew Spike was not an unwelcome guest, and in fact it was Rupert who would have to beg for favor.
“Of course.” Giles shuffled a bit in place, the stares of all of the Summers women a daunting thing to resist as Spike could well attest.
“Please, take a seat and tell us more about your duty and intentions. I’m looking forward to hearing how you’ll help my daughter survive her calling.”
Giles drew himself up straighter. “By doing everything I can.” He kept replying to Joyce while looking at Buffy. “I am fluent in several languages, including some dead ones, I have extensive combat knowledge, am familiar with various types of demons, their habits, and their weaknesses, and I will make it my mission to have you become the longest lived Slayer in history.”
Buffy swallowed hard, then spoke for the first time. “Did you know him? Merrick?”
Giles was visibly flustered by the question. “We met several times, but I wouldn’t call him more than a casual acquaintance. We were never what you might call friends.”
She nodded once, while her lower lip trembled slightly a couple of times. “So you’ll have my back, no matter what?”
Giles stole a glance at Spike, drew himself up as straight as he could once more, and answered in a tone filled with confidence. “It is my honor and privilege to pledge myself to you. Whatever you need, I’ll try to help to the best of my abilities.”
Buffy drew a deep, shuddering breath, then let it go with a sigh. She then smiled and hugged Giles. “Welcome to the family.”
Joyce and Dawn joined in, making a very embarrassed Brit the center of a Summers group hug. Spike couldn’t help smiling.
~~~***~~~
*A few days later*
Buffy and Spike were walking side by side from her house to the Bronze. It was a trip Spike could have done blindfolded, but for her it was the first time experiencing the be-all, end-all of teenage entertainment in the city on the Hellmouth.
“Willow is going to be there with Xander and Jesse.” She gave him a sideways glance. “Were they there last time, too?”
Spike shrugged. “I’m not clear on the details, but you and them hit it right off in my time. Don’t see why that would be any different.”
She made a face. “And what about Cordelia? She reminds me of the girls I used to know in Hemery.”
“She’s not the nicest of people, no, but don’t write her off just yet. She’s got depths to her. And spunk.” He grumbled under his breath. “Unlike Harmony.”
“What’s that?”
“Nothing. Just remembering something unimportant.”
She gave him that look of hers that showed she wasn’t really buying it, but she’d let it slide. She tended to be generous like that about once a day. “So you’re moving out soon, huh?”
The apparent non-sequitur threw Spike for a second. Of course she couldn’t let many things slide at once. She was Buffy, after all. “Yeah. Found me a nice apartment with Clem’s help. Just need to add extra thick curtains, sign a couple of papers, and I’ll be out of your hair.”
She wasn’t looking at him at all, instead keeping her eyes trained on the road straight ahead. “You didn’t have to leave on my account.”
His heart warmed, but he knew he shouldn’t look too much into it. “I know, and thank you for that. It’s just like I told you, though. Gotta figure out how to be my own man for a bit. Staying in a house with three women doesn’t really help with that.” He paused before he couldn’t help adding. “I’ll always be available, just from a few blocks further. You and your sister don’t need an old vamp cramping your style anyway.”
She gave him a smile. “Dawn was really pissed Mom didn’t let her go out tonight.”
“Yeah, well, there’s gonna be other nights for her to ‘Get her Bronze on’—your words, not mine—but if I remember correctly there’s gonna be too much action for her tonight.”
Her face was set in stone. “Darla, right?”
“Yeah, the diseased old whore herself. Luke and the rest of the Aurelians too, though, so no heroics, understood?”
She gave him a look of fake innocence. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“Right.”
They walked in companionable silence for a couple of blocks, until Spike put a hand out to stop her. “We’ve got company.”
She got in a fighting stance in an instant, a stake materializing in her hand seemingly out of thin air. “Vamp?”
He all but growled when he recognized the signature of the vibes he was getting. “Yeah. Angel.”
Buffy relaxed slightly, but the stake didn’t leave her hand.
Angel seemed surprised when he saw them. He took a couple of seconds to draw himself up to his full height and take a determined step towards Buffy. “I know what you’re thinking, but don’t worry. I don’t bite.”
Spike snickered and Buffy shrugged. “You couldn’t even if you tried.”
Angel was going for casual. “Truth is, I thought you’d be taller. Or bigger, muscles and all that. You’re pretty spry, though.”
Spike was clenching his jaws together. Was the guy serious? He was trying to confuse her, then came the insult to make her doubt herself. Then he would find a common interest, say something cryptic to get her thinking about him, and the game would be afoot. After he’d told the fucker not to try and seduce her.
Buffy raised an eyebrow and cocked a hip. “I bet you’re a real hit at speed dating. Who are you and what do you want?”
“Same thing you do”
“Okay, and what do I want?”
Spike could almost see Angel cover himself up in his imaginary hero mantle. “To kill them, to kill them all.”
“So let me get this straight. You—who I’ve never seen before in my life—come to me, the Slayer, trigger my vamp warning, and tell me you want to kill ‘them’ all. Could you give me any reason you shouldn’t be blowing in the wind around, oh, say, now?”
Spike snorted and Angel threw him a dark look. “What have you been telling her, Willie?”
“Hey there, tall, dark, and foreboding. You still didn’t answer me and look!” She tapped the back of the hand holding the stake. “The train to Dustville is almost here.”
Angel gave her one of his patented ‘poor child, you are so lost without me’ looks. ”You don’t need to worry about me. You should worry about the Harvest.”
“Okay, whatever.” She narrowed her eyes and pursed her lips slightly. “We’re on our way to the Bronze to have some fun and keep an eye out for vamps. Wanna join?”
Angel looked first at Buffy, then at Spike. “There is great evil in this town.”
Spike would have laughed out loud at the truism, but the look on Buffy’s face kept him back. She was taking the big lug seriously.
Was this it? Was this the start of the great Buffy and Angel love story? Would he be able to sit back and watch it unfold?
“Spike can’t help you like I can. I can show you how to defeat them.” Angel had taken another step, bringing him even closer to Buffy. He then threw a small black jewelry box at her. “This will help you, it will keep you safe.”
She opened it to reveal a necklace with a cross. One Spike had seen around her neck much too many times in his past. His heart was breaking again.
“More than, for example, this?” She said it while holding up the cross pendant her mother had given her for Christmas. “Or maybe more than this?” She wiggled the stake she’d been holding. It was the stake Spike had given her, which had been imbued with silver inserts, and be-spelled for extra resistance. It was, at least in Spike’s opinion, the ultimate stake. “Who did you say we were taking down, again?”
Angel was frowning. “I told you, there’s a great evil—”
“Yeah, great evil, got it. A name, place, and how to kill it?”
“You’re not ready for that. You need to train.”
“Okay, you can help me with whatever Giles and Spike can’t. In the meantime, though, we have a sitch at the Bronze. A vamp named Darla. Thoughts?”
“You should stay away from her.”
“Nope, not on the menu. So unless you have anything else to waste my time with, I’ll be on my way to, you know, do my job.”
“Buffy, trust me, I’m a friend—” Angel made to grab her shoulder, but she shrugged him off and brought up her stake.
She also pinned him with her best stare. “Are you gonna help me take down Darla?”
Angel flinched. “You aren’t ready, listen to me—”
“No, you listen to me. I’m the Slayer. My job is to protect the innocents. Right now there are some kids, some people from my own school, that are gonna be vamp treats if I don’t do something about it. Your solution of running, hiding, and preparing for who knows what isn’t much with the helping. So unless you come with me to stake them, as you said you wanted to, you are useless to me. And just so you know, I really don’t need more friends like you.”
“You can’t take on Darla.”
“Says who?”
“I do. Look, I am the Power’s Champion. I—”
“A-huh. ‘I am the Champion.’ ‘I know better.’ ‘I’ll teach you, but until then go home and sleep,’ Not being really with the helpful there, stranger. You couldn’t even tell me your name, although you obviously know mine.”
“It’s not important now.”
“Yeah, okay, bye.” She stomped away without a backward glance. “You coming Spike?”
“Right behind you, Buffy.” Spike’s heart was soaring. She hadn’t bought in to the git’s song and dance. Maybe there was a chance things could turn out different. In the meantime, though. “Oi, Peaches. Seen any gypsies or warlocks while I was gone?”
Angel stopped from his attempt at melting into the shadows. “That’s none of your business.”
“Oh, but it very much is my business, mate. I thought I was pretty clear last time, but okay, don’t let anyone say I’m not a magnanimous bloke. One last chance. If I see you around and you still haven’t even started getting that curse of yours under control, you and me? We’re gonna have words. Got that?” He didn’t wait for a response and hurried after the slayer.
Once Spike caught up to Buffy she put away the stake she was still holding. “So, that was Angel?” At Spike’s answering nod she frowned. “I thought he was going to be… different. Not so tall, not so overbearing, just not so. What exactly is his damage?”
“He just thinks he’s the dog’s bollocks and everything he says is gospel.”
Buffy looked at Spike out of the corner of her eye. “You know how this all turns out, but you don’t sound like him.”
“Yeah, well, I’ve been wrong enough times to know I’m full of crap. Just doing my best here, yeah?”
“I know. Thank you, Spike.”
His heart filled with warmth again.
She was magnificent. by Blackoberst
*Somewhere in the back alleys of Sunnydale*
It was just Spike’s luck that Angel had to be extra dense and waste so much time on the way to the Bronze. By the time Buffy and Spike got to the club and he managed to get a beer and coke, vampires were already dragging away… Joey, Jeremy, Jake? Some unimportant name like that. Willow had also managed to get kidnapped, leaving Xander as the odd man out, running alongside Buffy to help his friends. Maybe the other guy’s death in Spike’s old timeline had transferred some sort of mystical curse on Xander, making him the monster magnet he would be in the future. Maybe not, since Xander managed to trip on his own feet.
Spike bent down and helped Xander up one-handed.
“Whoah, dude. How much do you work out?”
For some reason Spike thought Xander understood the whole ‘vampires are real’ thing by then. Damn Sunnydale blinders. “No, mate. I’m a vampire.”
Xander stopped dead in his tracks. “Wait, what? Who of the what, now?”
Spike sighed. “I’m a vampire. Don’t worry, I won’t rip your throat out or anything, though. I’m reformed.”
Xander’s eyes were still wide as saucers.
Buffy huffed, stomped her way to Xander and turned him so he would look at her. “Xander, focus. Willow and Jesse are in danger. Spike is here to help get them back. Can we just not right now?”
Xander shook his head. “Yeah. Right. Sure. Let’s go.”
They ran as fast as they could, with Xander trying his best to keep up and Spike stopping from time to time to sniff the trail. Soon enough they reached a mausoleum in one of Sunnydale’s many cemeteries. Willow and What’s-his-name were in the process of being herded away to become vamp snacks. Spike recognized one of the vampires right away—Darla.
Buffy spoke up first. “Well, this is nice. A little bare, but a dash of paint, a few throw pillows – call it home.”
“Who the hell are you?” Despite her question, Darla’s eyes jumped to Spike before she was done talking. She frowned and waved a hand in the air. “Actually, you know what? I don’t care. William did you bring these pathetic beings as a tribute for the Master?”
Spike laughed darkly. “’Lo there, Great-Grandma. Long time no annoyance, huh?” He leaned against a wall and lit up a cigarette, ignoring Xander’s shocked gasp at the family connection. “When exactly was the last time you heard about me bringing a tribute for anyone? You and dear Bat-face can just go and choke on each other’s dust for all I care.”
“Come on, Jesse, lean on me.” Xander tried to get his friend to stand up, but Spike could tell from his heartbeat that the boy had lost a lot of blood.
“You were always such an annoyance. Just because some imbeciles are singing your praises doesn’t mean I don’t remember when you crawled out of your grave and started being a thorn in my side.” Darla cocked her head. “Maybe it’s time I put you out of my misery.”
The other vampire with Darla had tried in the meantime to sneak up on Buffy, but she staked him without even batting an eye. “I’m sure you have lotsa history to run over, and as fascinating as all of this isn’t, let’s get done with the family reunions, and start with the kicking of the ass.”
“Really, who are you? Don’t you have any respect for your elders?”
Buffy snorted. “If growing up means getting stuck wearing a Catholic School-girl uniform forever, then count me out. And your friend, asthma attack over there, what was his damage? He looked like something the ‘80’s barfed out.”
“He was young. And stupid.” Darla was trying to look cool and calm, but Spike knew her enough to realize she’d been thrown by the events.
“Xander, go.” Buffy issued her order like a natural born leader.
“Don’t go far.” Darla lashed out, but her attack was too slow for Buffy, who blocked it.
Xander was just about to drag his shell-shocked friends with him, but Spike stopped him. “If I were you I wouldn’t go out there without either me or Buffy. This looks like the gathering point before the main nest, so more minions are gonna show up sooner or later.”
Xander looked unsure. “You would know.” It was probably supposed to be an insult, but having heard and survived much worse, Spike barely registered it.
“Yeah, I would. Now stand back and let us deal with this. We’ll have you home in no time.” Spike tilted his head toward the still-bleeding Jesse. “Might wanna do something about that bite, otherwise he’ll be dead before the fight is over.”
Spike lost interest in what Xander decided to do when he saw someone pick Buffy by the neck and holding her up like a rag doll. “I don’t care who you are.” Buffy flew to the other end of the mausoleum, hitting the wall face-first. The newcomer—Luke—turned to Darla, who was looking a lot worse for wear, and was struggling to get up off the floor. “You were supposed to be bringing an offering for the Master. We’re almost at Harvest and you dally with this child?”
Spike wanted to kick himself. Of course the walking tree was here. And he was talking about that same Harvest Angel was prattling on about. If only Spike could remember why that was so important from what he knew of Buffy’s early times in Sunnydale.
Darla looked frightened for a second. “We had someone. But they came and… she killed Thomas… Luke, she’s strong.”
Luke laughed. “A pathetic gathering. Go round up the offerings while I take care of your… pests.”
Spike saw Buffy crawl back to her feet and smirked. “Long time no smell, Luke. Or should I call you Angelus Beta?”
“You insolent Childe. You dare talk to me this way? I, who am destined to be the vessel for the Harvest? I shall be the conduit for the rising of the Master. This filthy pestilence called humanity will finally be erased from this planet once he is free!” The way Luke talked, Spike could almost taste the fanaticism.
Darla was eyeing the three teenagers huddled in a corner while Buffy took a step forward. “I was wondering what all the Harvest mumbo-jumbo was about. Thank you for being a generic Bond villain.” She tried a combination of kicks on Luke, but he dodged. She used one of Spike’s trick maneuvers and the blow struck true, rocking the giant back on his feet.
Unfortunately he didn’t stay there. “You are strong.” He slammed her back with a powerful hit. “I’m stronger.” He went to hit her again, but Spike had had enough.
He went in, using a stake to hamstring Luke. It wouldn’t have been much use for the killing blow this early in the fight anyway. Not with a demon as old as Luke. Spike received a backhand that had him seeing stars for his trouble.
“You cannot defeat me, traitor. I am destined. I am foretold.”
“You are dust.” Buffy rammed her stake in Luke, but he had just enough time to move to the side, making her miss his heart.
Luke roared in pain.
Darla tried to go for Xander, but Spike clotheslined her, then he tried to use his back-up stake to dust her. She was faster than him, though, and she jumped out of the way, her blouse and shoulder torn and bloodied. “I’ll make you die slow for this.”
Spike grinned manically. “I’ve survived both better and worse than you. And let’s face it, you never even came close to your precious Angelus. Look where torture got him.”
A crash distracted Spike and by the time he was ready for Darla’s counter-attack she was nowhere to be found. “Bitch.”
Another crash reminded him of the more serious matter at hand. Luke, despite the two stakes still lodged in his flesh, gave Buffy a real run for her money. It reminded Spike yet again she really did need to train more, even if that thought brought up Angel’s warnings and he just hated agreeing with the ponce.
Buffy was trying to keep the tomb between her and Luke, while not letting him get too close to her friends.
“You’re wasting my time.” Luke ripped the stake from his calf and crushed it in his fist.
Buffy panted. “Hey, I had other plans, too, okay?”
Luke shoved the top of the tomb at her, but she leapt over it and hit him with both her legs dead-center. She pulled out her back-up stake and tried to use it, but Luke grabbed it and splintered it in his fist.
“You think you can stop me? Stop us? You have no idea what you’re dealing with.” He grabbed her and threw her on the ground again. Then he started reciting while he hit her. “And like a plague of boils, the race of Man covered the earth. But on the third day of the newest light will come over the Harvest…”
Spike leapt from his position and yanked the stake from Luke’s shoulder. “You were always interested in the wrong bloody literature, mate. Try more Keats, less Nest.” He then brought down the stake, found his mark, and dusted Luke. “Good riddance, wanker.”
Buffy looked slightly dazed, but she accepted Spike’s hand up and smiled when he gave her back her stake. “Guess the Harvest’s gonna be a no-go, huh?”
Spike looked around the area his Great-grand-sire had disappeared to. “I wouldn’t count my chickens before they’re hatched, pet. Unfortunately Darla escaped, so who knows what’ll happen next.”
As if on cue three vampires burst in through the mausoleum door. Spike and Buffy exchanged a look of determination, while Xander whimpered and Willow let out a soft cry.
Buffy attacked the first vampire, while Spike threw himself at the other two. Without a stake, he was somewhat at a disadvantage, but as he’d always stated, he always had his weapons with. By the time Buffy dusted her opponent, one of Spike’s vampires was out cold, while the other had just made a very bad move, allowing Spike to grab him in a choke-hold.
Of course, due to the lack of breathing, the choke-hold’s effectiveness was reduced, but it did allow Spike to subdue his opponent as he ever so slowly ripped his head from his shoulders.
In mere moments the only thing left was dust, as Buffy staked the knocked-out vampire while she kept her eyes trained on Spike.
“Ewwww. That’s the grossest and most awesome thing I’ve seen in my life. So wow, but also ewwww.” Xander was a lot paler than at the beginning of the chase.
Spike could see he was on the receiving end of a look he was unaccustomed to. The look he’d only seen others give Buffy when she saved their worthless hides. The future carpenter was getting a bit of hero worship for the Big Bad. Oh, the irony.
“You guys okay?” Buffy rushed to her friends and checked them for wounds.
“You better take your friend to a hospital. He’s not gonna make it for long.” Spike stepped next to Buffy. “I’ll help you carry him. This way we can be there in no time at all.”
She looked at him with unfocused eyes. Perhaps a short check-up for contusions on the Slayer wouldn’t be a bad idea. “You know where the hospital is?”
“Of course. Follow me.”
“We’re coming with.” Willow seemed more composed than Xander, despite her wide open eyes full of fear.
“Of course you are. You’d be a couple of tasty morsels in the middle of a cemetery if we leave you here. No man left behind, and all that rot. Come on.”
They made their way out of the mausoleum and to the hospital as fast as they could.
Animal attack. One of many in a town such as Sunnydale. The nurses didn’t even bat an eye.
~~~***~~~
*The high school library, next day*
Spike came up through the back entrance of the library. As he came closer he could hear the Scoobies discuss the previous night’s events.
“Okay, this is where I have a problem. See, because we're talking about vampires. We're having a talk with vampires in it.” Xander, ever the one to bring to light the obvious. Some things hadn’t changed much with time, although others sure had.
“Right, mate, of course we are.”
Xander jumped in his seat, startled. “Vampires shouldn’t be real.”
“Neither should hell-gods, ghosts, werewolves, witches, the First Evil, and vengeance demons. Yet they are all out there and, trust me, you’ll get to meet more than your fair share of them, living on the Hellmouth. Question is what’re you gonna do about it? Pretend you don’t notice, or help Buffy fight the darkness?”
“Yes, that is the point I was making, however I had planned on giving a bit of perspective.”
“You’re a vampire.” Willow was looking straight at Spike, her ‘resolve face’ to the fore.
“I am.”
“You helped us against other vampires.”
“I did.”
“Why?”
Spike’s eyes darted over to Buffy, who was watching the interaction with a small smile on her face. “I’m not your usual vampire. Never was one, and I’m even more… different now.” He looked at Giles. “Did you get to explain about demons, slayers, and all that rot?”
“I was just getting to that.”
“So vampires are demons?” Xander had calmed down and was sizing Spike up and down.
“The books tell the last demon to leave this reality fed off a human, mixed their blood. He was a human form possessed, infected by the demon's soul. He bit another, and another, and so they walk the Earth, feeding... Killing some, mixing their blood with others to make more of their kind. Waiting for the animals to die out, and the old ones to return.”
“Oi, not all of us want the old buggers coming around. As a matter of fact, apart from the Aurelians and a couple of others, most vampire clans are content with a bit of blood, mayhem, and good, old fashioned, world domination. It’s the really deranged fuckers with dust for brains who want to bring Hell on Earth. The Master is one such idiot, true, but he’s a special kind of moron.” Spike had already had several talks with Giles about his views on demons, but he needed to make sure the prejudice the Scoobies had developed in his past wouldn’t be there in the future. Of course, Buffy had evolved in leaps and bounds, considering how long it had taken her the first time around to accept Clem, for example.
Giles explained a few types of demons and their involvement with the world, as well as what a Hellmouth was, finally coming to the Slayer.
“And that would be a what?” Xander was full of questions, which pleased Spike.
“For as long as there have been vampires, there's been the Slayer. One girl in all the world, a Chosen One.” Giles had taken his pedantic tone.
Buffy mock-whispered to the other two teenagers. “He loves doing this part.”
“Alright. The Slayer hunts vampires, Buffy is a Slayer, don't tell anyone. Well, I think that's all the vampire information you need for now.” Giles was looking at Willow and Xander as a teacher looks at his students when he’s getting ready to give a test.
Xander raised a finger. “Except for one thing: how do you kill them?”
“Stake to the heart equals dust.” Buffy made a staking gesture.
Spike decided to expand on the lesson. “Pushing them out in the sun, setting them on fire, and beheading works just as well.”
“What about the crosses, garlic, and the holy water thing?” Willow was her usual inquisitive self.
“We’re more allergic to garlic than anything else, though I find it gives food just the right amount of spice. Crosses and other religious symbols burn, just as holy water does. There are a hundred and one ways to hurt a vampire, but there are even more ways for them to hurt you.”
“Like they hurt Jesse.” Willow was pensive.
“Right. How is the boy?” Spike had never met him in the past, so if he survived it would be one of the first persons he could be a hundred percent sure he saved.
“He’s lost a lot of blood, but he’ll make it. He even gets to miss school for about a week, so he’s probably better off than I am right now.” Spike could tell Xander was still worried about his friend.
“I just hope we managed to stop the Harvest, whatever that was.” Buffy was playing with her stake at the table.
“I’ve been researching that. It is supposed to be a ritual that would syphon the blood from a demonic vessel to the Master, who would then be able to open the gates of Hell.” Giles turned another page in the ancient tome he was consulting.
“Great. So an Apocalypse. I just wish I knew where Darla went. My guess is wherever she went is where they’re getting ready.” Buffy’s bottom lip stuck out in a pout.
“They’re in the tunnels.” It seemed obvious to Spike.
“Yeah, that’s right. There’s a whole mess of tunnels for electricity, water, and sewage.”
“Good ol’ Sunnyhell is built on top of a Hellmouth. Since the beginning there have been tunnels, caves, sewers, and the like for demons to get closer to the source of power. Hell, how do you think I was able to come here in broad daylight?” Spike frowned. “This reminds me. Watcher, didn’t I tell you we shouldn’t meet up here?”
“Why?” Willow had been more subdued than Spike remembered. Maybe she needed to spend some more time with Buffy to open up.
“’Cause there’s an open invitation to any and all to come in? ‘Cause you’re literally on top of the Hellmouth?” He accompanied his words by pointing down.
“Wait. You mean that as in ‘the whole town is built on it?’ Or do you mean…?” Xander was looking around as if he expected the earth to open up and swallow him whole. Not that far from the truth, if you were to ask Spike.
“I mean under the floor of the library there’s the actual Mouth of Hell. There’s a seal on it and everything.”
“Good God.” Giles was cleaning his glasses with more force than necessary.
“I was sure I mentioned it. Ah, well. Consider yourselves warned. So if I were you, I’d find someplace else to have your Scooby meetings.”
“Scooby?” Willow looked lost.
“Yeah. Scooby-Doo and his gang. Fighting ghosts and all kinds of demons while still in their teens. Sounds like you lot, doesn’t it? You’re the Scoobies.”
“I like it.” Of course Xander would. Spike was almost sure he’d been the one to come up with the name the first time around.
“We could meet up at my house.” Buffy was holding her hand up. “My Mom won’t mind, and we’ll be safe there.”
“But I won’t have the necessary tools for research there…”
“Since I’ve moved out of the basement, I’m sure you can convince Joyce to store some of your precious tomes there.”
“Wait, hold up. You were living in Buffy’s basement?” Xander ignored the idea of research in favor of what he deemed more important information. Some things didn’t change.
“Yeah, until I could find my own place. Joyce was nice enough to take me off of Rupert’s hands.”
Willow was shaking her head slightly. “You really aren’t a normal vampire, are you?”
Spike grinned. “Not by a long shot.”
“What about this Harvest?” Xander looked determined.
“The Harvest will probably still go ahead, even if we dusted Luke. Bat-face isn’t going to let such a chance go by without trying anything, and he has other lackeys wound up and ready to go.”
“So we need to be careful.” Giles was reaching for another tome.
“It’s tonight, and it’s probably gonna be at the Bronze.” When everyone looked startled, Spike just shrugged his shoulders. “Luke said it himself, ‘third night of newest light,’ which is tonight’s new moon. As for the place. Well, is there any place other than the Bronze where you can find easy targets to suck the blood from?”
Everyone around the table shrugged and nodded.
It felt good for the Scoobies to listen to the Big Bad.
~~~***~~~
*The Bronze, that evening*
By the time Spike got to the Bronze, the rest of the Scoobies were already there, and Buffy was getting ready to break in through an upstairs window, while the rest went around the back.
“If we work together we can huff, puff, and blow them all down.”
“Spike.” There was relief in Buffy’s voice, and he couldn’t help but give her a warm smile.
The two of them managed to kick the main entrance open on the second attempt. Once they were in they made quick work of the two vampires protecting the door and went in the Bronze, while the Scoobies started helping the people trapped inside to escape.
On the stage, where bands usually played, a vampire was holding Cordelia up by the throat. He had a three pointed star painted on his forehead which marked him as the Harvest’s vessel.
“Bloody Colin. Figures of all the sorry excuses for a vampire in this Order he’d be the one to be picked.”
“Why not Darla?” Buffy had just staked her third vampire in as many minutes.
“She’s better at being in the back… or on her back. Being the Vessel is too much responsibility for her.”
“It also gives me more time to do this.” Darla’s attack went wide, her fist giving Spike a glancing blow to his shoulder. She was old and powerful, so even that almost hit hurt like a bitch, but he shrugged it off.
“Buffy, save the Cheerleader. I’ll take care of family business on this end.”
“Oh, Slayer, please. Don’t leave on my account. I’d love to have you for dinner.” Darla was vamped out and snapped her teeth at Buffy.
“We both know your precious sire wouldn’t let you even wet your teeth in the slayer’s neck. He wants her all to his hideous self.”
“You know nothing, Willie.”
Spike’s smirk grew wider. “You’d be surprised what I know, Great-Grannie.”
She charged him again, but he managed to trip her and cold-clock her in the back of the head. The move would have knocked out most vamps, but Darla was no wilting flower. She kicked her feet back and caught Spike in the chin.
Two more Aurelians jumped to help her, only to find themselves dusted by a double-wielding Spike.
“God, you were always such a disappointment.” Darla punched him in the kidneys, making him lose his grip on one of the stakes, and stumble a few steps backward. She looked behind her when Colin cried out, as he was dusted by Buffy. “You stupid meddlers. Do you have any idea what you’ve done?”
Spike had recovered and moved in behind her. “Yeah, we do.” He staked her through the back, spitting on her dust for god measure. He raised his eyes to take stock.
Buffy was dusting the last remaining minion dumb enough not to escape with the others after they’d lost their leaders. The Scoobies had gotten everyone out. The Harvest was over.
Buffy was standing in the middle of the club, her eyes darting to all the darkened corners. She’d never looked more the slayer than she did at that moment. She was magnificent.
Fully stocked bar by Blackoberst
*One of Sunnydale’s alleys, next evening*
He should have seen the punch coming. Roses were red, the Powers were dicks, and Angel was upset at him. The constants of Spike’s unlife carried over in every timeline.
“What did you do?” Angel slammed him against the wall. “You dared? You come to my town, try to keep me from my Slayer, and now you do that?” He was yelling, spittle flying out from between his clenched teeth. It was the most Angelus Spike had seen him in a long time.
Spike vamped out and tried to push Angel off him, but couldn’t. “That’s such a load of shit, you wanker. This isn’t your town, Darla had to die, and Buffy is not your anything.” He used his legs to kick back at the wall he was being held up against and head-butted Angel, breaking his nose in the process. “I told you to get help. I asked you to stay away from her. Instead you’re being an even bigger dick than normal.”
Angel was holding a hand to his face, but he sucker-punched Spike in the gut. “You can’t order me around, Spike. I’m this close to reminding you what the order is in our family.”
Spike burst out laughing, even though it hurt. “Family? We’re as close to being a family as the Carpenter’s parents.”
“Who?”
“The Whelp. Xander.”
“What are you talking about?”
Spike swore and started pacing. “This is what’s wrong with you. You say Buffy’s yours as if she could be possessed by anyone, and you know bugger all about her. Do you even know her favorite color? What band she’s into this month? What’s the name of her sister, even? You know nothing.” The hand gesture he used to accompany his words with made his ribs hurt, but he didn’t care. He got right into his elder’s personal space and spit his next words at him. “Buffy is so much more than you can even begin to understand. You don’t deserve her. Hell, I don’t deserve her, but at least I did my best to try to. I told you what you need to do. I explained it to you. I all but drew you a fucking diagram, but instead you’re still throwing your weight around and acting like you’re God’s gift. You’re not. Go fix your goddamn soul.”
He should have known better. Trying to tell Angel he was wrong about anything was bound to be as big of a success as running headfirst into a wall in hopes of fixing its paintjob.
So he really should have seen the punch coming this time. What was it about Angel and his sucker-punches? Spike spat some blood on the ground. Bloody Neanderthal. Enough was enough. Spike brought out a stake.
Angel took a step back, but brought out his own stake. The two started circling each other.
“What are you planning on doing with that stick, boy?”
“What I promised, you gel-drenched numbskull. I’m going to put you out of her misery.”
“Foolish little Willie. You can’t possibly think you could take me.”
“Oh, I can. Let me show you how.” He lunged forward, but turned around at the last moment and swept Angel’s legs out from under him.
Before anything else could happen, though, five minions from the Order of Aurelius rushed them. “Get the traitor.”
Spike let Angel go and dusted the first vampire to come in range. The fight was short and brutal. The two souled vampires tore through their opponents in no time.
“Don’t dust the last wanker. I wanna know who they were trying to get.”
Angel grunted and incapacitated his opponent almost casually by breaking his spine. “You idiot. They’re coming for you. I haven’t done anything against the Order for at least a couple of weeks, but you. You just had to ruin the Harvest and dust his two favorite childer in the process. Do you really think Nest would let that go?”
Spike couldn’t help but grin at that. If the Master was busy gunning for him, he wasn’t doing anything against Buffy. That way she’d be able to work her way up to taking the old bastard out before he even realized what was happening. She’d also get some quality ‘Buffy’ time.
Angel shook his head and staked the vampire at his feet whose cries of pain had gone unnoticed and ignored in the jaded little town. He then took his opportunity to get lost in the darkness around them.
Spike wanted to go after him, but decided it could wait for the moment. He had a Master to lead on a wild goose chase.
~~~***~~~
*Spike’s apartment, a week later*
Spike was busy hammering away. He’d gotten a place in a demon-friendly building thanks to Clem’s connections.
Jenny was leaning against the back of the living room couch, ready to pass him the painting of a sunrise at the beach while Giles was in the kitchen boiling water for tea. “When you asked me to help you set up your apartment I’m not sure what I imagined, but this wasn’t it.” She accompanied her words with a sweeping gesture to the rest of the place.
Spike smirked and leaned against the wall. He’d gone minimalistic and modern. A few good games of poker, some bets on some long-shots he’d remembered had won, and he’d found himself with enough funds to not have to rely on the city dump for his furniture.
His biggest investments were the TV and the fridge, for obvious reasons. The crypt and more high-priced items would have to wait until after the Master was taken care of. That’s when he was going to go after the Gem.
Giles walked in with a tray of tea and that signalled the time for a break. Jenny all but skipped her way to the couch to drink from her cup. She was more than interested in the company as well, as far as Spike could tell.
“I have given some thought and I believe the bookcase should be against the back wall here.” Giles pointed to the exact place Spike had considered as well.
“You realize what he really needs there is a desk with a computer on it. All the books will be scanned and available on the internet at some point, so why not get a head-start on that?”
Giles almost did a sacrilege and spit out his tea. “Good God. Where did that preposterous idea come from?”
“Spike said his funds are tight. Why spend money on useless shelves, when he could be ahead of the curve and get a ticket to the future.”
She’d all but begged for him to tell her what computers and the internet would be like in the future, but Spike was far from a fountain of knowledge on the subject. The Fred from the other reality would have been a much better person to ask. Or Andrew. Regardless, his every new revelation had only made Jenny’s eyes grow bigger, until she was all but squealing like a schoolgirl. She’d been butting heads on the subject with Giles ever since.
“You’re an insufferable woman.”
“And you’re a relic of a time gone by. You’re about as contemporary as the dinosaurs.”
Spike smiled at the exchange. Even without his knowledge of their future relationship and the importance the teacher would have for the watcher, it was obvious there was a well of passion in every exchange. He wondered for a moment if anyone had seen any of the arguments between Buffy and himself before her second death and thought of passion. Actually, Dawn had. Tara had possibly sensed something too. It didn’t really matter now. He was pulled out of his memories by Giles’s voice.
“Well?”
Crap. He’d tuned their discussion out and they’d been asking him something. “What’s that?”
“I wanted you to tell her that precious tomes and scrolls couldn’t possibly be of use on the internet, for every conspiracy theorist to find.”
That gave Spike pause. “Actually that’s not quite true. When the First’s minions torched the Council of Wankers most of their library was lost. If they would have been less anal about knowledge we could have managed to salvage something. Not that most of their go-to books aren’t useless drivel filled with garbage written by narrow-minded bigots on the Council’s payroll.”
Giles’s face had lost most of its color. “Bloody hell.”
“See? He agrees with me.” Jenny’s grin was a mile wide.
“Yes and no. There are a lot of people and organizations out there that should never see the names of some of the more important books, let alone have access to them. The things they could do with that would be… apocalyptic.” He pointed at Giles. “Just imagine That Rayne fellow with an arcane book of magic.” He nodded at the gloating Jenny next. “Or the Master with Angelus’s curse.”
Jenny had paled almost as much as Giles.
“So scanning them, sure. Putting them on the internet for everyone to see? No, not in a million years.”
“There has to be a middle.”
“There is.” He frowned. “Or will be. I’m not sure the tech was invented yet.” The idea was worth a thought.
Spike let the discussion flow around him while he sipped his tea. His earlier thoughts had reminded him of Fred. She was in Pylea as a slave now. He really hoped he could do something about that. The Master would have to die first. That way Buffy wouldn’t die.
His cup almost fell from his grasp when his mind made another leap. No death for Buffy meant no Kendra as the Slayer. No Kendra and no Dru meant no Faith. If she didn’t get out of her former life… He shuddered. She’d be lucky to end up someone’s dinner if that was the case. He wanted to curse himself. Everything he did ended up collapsing more dominoes and hurting the people he cared about.
Well, cared was a bit too strong a word to use for Faith. He understood her, though.
Consequences sucked. Thinking about them sucked even more. What sucked the most was that he felt compelled to do something about it.
At least Faith was only a continent away. Fred was in another dimension.
~~~***~~~
*Almost a month later*
Jesse McNally was alive because of Spike. He was also quickly becoming the front-runner for ‘first person to die by Spike’s hand’ post First Evil.
Seeing Jesse and Xander reminded Spike of the day Toth used his wand to make two Xanders. In this case, though, Jesse was the jerk version.
For one, he was drooling all over Cordelia every time she was within a block of him. The real issue though was how he was with Dawn.
It wasn’t that he insulted her, it was that he ignored her. Although he was a card-carrying Scooby, and although all the Scooby meetings were taking place at the Summers house, he seemed completely ignorant of Dawn’s existence.
Dawn was all too aware of his existence, though. The girl had a serious crush on him.
Which is why Spike was tempted to rip his throat out and beat some sense into him with it. Not that he wanted Dawn dating Jesse. Or anyone for that matter. But if she decided to fancy someone, that someone had better count his lucky stars for the privilege.
His Bit deserved to be cherished.
“Could we, you know, speed this up?” Buffy was tapping her stake on her thigh.
“The problem is that we can’t treat this lightly. A violent and disturbing prophecy is about to be fulfilled.”
“The Order of Aurelius.” Buffy pinned Spike with a venomous gaze. “Your family is really cramping my style.”
He shrugged. “It’s what they do.”
Giles flipped some pages in one of the tomes he’d stashed in the basement. “I've looked at the writings of Aurelius himself, and he, prophesied that the brethren of his order would come to the Master and bring him the Anointed.”
Willow fidgeted. “Who’s that?”
“An annoying little prick not even wet around the fangs. I dusted him and took over almost as soon as I first came into town. Well, back when I was evil. If I remember correctly, he’s the one who leads Buffy to the Master to die.”
“Crap.” Buffy had heard all the stories before, more than once, so she wasn’t fazed by the mention of her death. “So when does he get here?”
Giles had an expression on his face that had Spike sitting up. “From what is written here, he will rise from the ashes of the Five on the evening of the thousandth day after the Advent of Septus”
Buffy flipped a hand. “Well, we’ll be ready whenever it is.”
“Which is tonight.”
“Tonight, okay… Not okay. It can’t be tonight.”
“And why’s that, love?”
Willow coughed lightly. “She has a date.”
“Oh, is it that Owen dude?” Jesse jumped from his seat and snatched a bag of chips.
Spike felt a nasty jolt in his chest.
Buffy blushed. “Well, what do you want from me? Cute guy. Teenager. Post-pubescent fantasies.”
The others kept talking about the Anointed. Spike put in his two cents from time to time, telling them all he could remember of the child-vampire. His mind was a hundred miles away though.
As soon as the rest went to do their things for the night, he thanked Joyce for the hospitality, and went out to clear his head.
As usual for him, that meant bashing a few heads in at the Alibi Room followed by patrolling a few of the most frequented cemeteries.
*
The cemeteries had been a bust. The Aurelians must have been holed up somewhere trying hard to find a way to turn a ten-year old. Useless bunch of wankers. They couldn’t even turn up so he could get his self-prescribed dose of violence?
A scream pierced the air. Spike grinned.
There was a fledge trying to rip a woman’s throat out. He would have drained her already, but he was too busy trying to feel her up at the same time. Spike wanted to take his time and enjoy the kill, but the woman was going to bleed to death soon.
He body-slammed the fledge, smashed him head-first into a wall a couple of times, then ripped his head off. That would have to do.
He picked the unconscious woman up and rushed to the hospital.
He’d started to memorize the sign-in questionnaire. For some reason he didn’t remember taking as many half-dead people to be handled by professionals in the other Sunnydale.
He was trying to remember what they used to do with the victims when Glory was breathing down their necks when someone cleared their throat right above him.
“Wot?” He made sure his voice sounded extra threatening.
“That’s the fourth one you brought in a month.” The voice was a bit rough and tired. “Lemme guess: animal attack, neck wound, and heavy blood loss, right?”
Spike squinted under the fluorescent lighting. A nurse was talking to him. He didn’t really care to find out more than that, so all he noticed were her scrubs. They were teal and barely showed the fact that a woman was talking to him. The bonnet and the mask were not helping. Spike decided to ignore her and get back to the questionnaire. ‘Describe your relationship with the patient.’
“I just checked in on the latest rescue. Her blouse was ripped open. Dinner and a show?”
The comment was strange enough to warrant a second look. Still no luck. Vampire vision wasn’t Superman’s. Damn Andrew for putting that idea in his head.
“I know you didn’t almost drain them, so that rules out your conscience acting up. Although why a vampire would listen to his conscience would be weird in the first place.”
Spike sat up and looked around. Nobody seemed to pay any attention to their discussion. “What did you say?”
“Ah, he speaks.” She tilted her head to the side. “I was just wondering why you do what you do.”
Spike felt even more uncomfortable under her scrutiny.
She sat down next to him and took off her mask. She wasn’t what he expected. She must have been around Joyce’s age, with darker skin, and green eyes.
“I’m pretty sure you’re a vampire. So why save people?”
Spike was thrown by her question, so he answered on auto-pilot. “Why do you?”
She grinned. “It’s my job.”
“So then why’d you chose a job that involves saving people?”
She wasn’t grinning anymore. “I liked the challenge.” Her body language had become almost hostile. There was a story there. One she didn’t want to share.
“For me it was a girl.” He wasn’t looking at her anymore. Instead he focused on the half-filled sheet of paper he was still holding. “Loved her more than unlife. Still do.”
Her hand on his arm was unexpected. “Is she…”
How could he answer that? “She’s happy somewhere else. There’s nothing I can, or want to do about it.”
She didn’t say anything for a time. “What about the girl you were here with a couple of times?”
Spike’s mouth twisted in a bitter smile. “She’s busy tonight. Big date. Some guy she goes to school with.” It hurt, even though she wasn’t the Buffy he was in love with. Even though it was exactly what he’d told her to do. Whomever came up with the ‘if you love it, let it go’ philosophy should be drawn and quartered.
When she squeezed his arm he was startled out of his dark thoughts. “You need a coffee. Come on.”
He let her drag him to the hospital cafeteria, where she bought him a decent cup of Joe. He talked, she listened. It was therapeutic to talk to her. A complete stranger, unconnected to anyone or anything from his previous life.
Even though he’d introduced himself over and over, this time he felt free.
~~~***~~~
*Restfield cemetery, the next night*
A little boy darted from tombstone to tombstone. He looked around him every couple of steps as if he expected the shadows to take shape and swallow him whole.
Spike’s smile turned into a shark’s grin. His prey had found him. Buffy, the Scoobies, and her date were running all around the town trying to track down some turned criminal, convinced he was the Anointed One. Despite his protest, Spike had been largely ignored in planning tonight’s activities. He’d had enough of the hospital the previous night, so he decided to patrol his favorite old haunt. The Fates were smiling down on him as he spotted the walking child.
“Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum, I smell the blood of a nice, ripe, young bum.”
Collin took a couple of steps back, visibly startled by Spike’s sudden appearance in his path. “Who are you?”
“Your end-game.”
Collin frowned and gave him an appraising look. “You’re not the Master.”
Spike chuckled darkly. “O-ho. I am a Master, and soon I’ll be the only Master in this hell-hole. But you’re right. I’m not the one you’re looking for.” He took a menacing step forward. “Doesn’t much matter, though. All your worries are about to end.”
“I demand you take me to the Master.”
Spike dropped to a knee, making sure the move brought him even closer to Collin. “As far as I know you’re supposed to be some sort of trail-blazing vamp, here to show the Slayer the way to her death. Why don’t you show the Master the way to his, instead?” He moved so fast that Collin’s face didn’t even manage to show his shock before he was dust.
Spike rose from his fake submissive position. He didn’t put much stock in prophecy, but taking out a piece of one sure felt good. Almost good enough to make him forget about Buffy’s date.
Almost, but not enough. What if he’d changed things enough that she actually made it work with the pup? What if she went through her ‘normal must be enough’ period a few years sooner than Riley?
What if he got so blindingly drunk he stopped caring for the night? He nodded to himself. “Capital idea, old chap.” He gave his crypt an ironic salute and headed for his apartment and its fully stocked bar.
Burst out laughing by Blackoberst
*Spike’s apartment, a couple of weeks later*
Spike woke up and tried to blink away the slight hangover plaguing him. He gave up soon enough and went to the kitchen to warm up his breakfast. Or lunch. It was closer to lunch.
Once he drank his blood he went to the bathroom to freshen up before facing the day ahead.
~~~***~~~
*Sunnydale High library, an hour later*
Spike creeped up behind Giles. When he got within ten feet the other man greeted him without looking up from his journal. “Stop trying to catch me off-guard, Spike.”
“Now, why would I do that? If I manage to surprise you it’ll prove you need more training. If I don’t, it’s because I’ve been keeping you on your toes. Win-win.”
Giles grunted and flipped a two finger salute. Spike couldn’t have been more proud of him.
“Anything to mention about last night’s patrol?”
“Nothing special. A couple of fledges and a random demon trying to cause mayhem. Not even a peep from our resident relic.” Spike jumped and sat on the library table.
Giles glared at Spike over the bridge of his glasses. “I’m sure the Master will make his presence known soon enough. We need only be prepared.” He made a note and closed the book. “How is Buffy’s progress?”
Spike preened. “She’s good. She’s almost as good as when I first met her, and that was about eight months from now.”
“That’s…”
“Good enough to take down the Master, if it comes to that.”
Giles took off his glasses. “She needs to end his tyranny.”
“If she doesn’t go down there he can’t come out. We’re taking his minions out left and right every night. He’ll be just another has-been in no time.”
“Will his followers ever stop? Will they cease taking lives, or turning more to bolster their ranks?”
Spike sighed. “No. I know, you’re right.” He took a deep breath. “It’s her choice when she wants to go after him. The best I can do is help her as much as I can.”
“As do we all.”
Spike jumped off the table. “I’m off then. Places to be, demons to kill…”
“Before you go, there’s a new substitute teacher starting today.”
Spike grinned. “Is that your way of asking for my help?”
Giles placed his glasses back on his face. “I would be in your debt if you were to utilize your vetting procedure.”
“How indebted?”
Giles winced. “A bottle of Jack.”
“Make it two and we’ll share. There’s a match on in a couple of nights and I didn’t get to watch it.”
“I guess I could force myself to agree.”
“The sacrifices one makes in the interest of keeping the innocents safe. So do we have a deal?”
“Yes, it’s done. Now could you please go sniff around Mrs. Armstrong?”
“Just because I could sniff out a body swapped teen and a praying mantis—”
“Oh, Watcher, how you wound me. Am I just an overgrown nose to you?”
“Yes. Unfortunately you’re a nose with fangs, so your usefulness is almost nil.”
“Whereas a small-town librarian in a high school where the students are more interested in staying alive than studying is the most productive of employment opportunities.”
They smirked at each other, each confident there was no malice behind the jibes. If anyone would have told Spike his closest human friend would turn out to be none other than Giles, he would have dusted from laughter no farther than a year before. The truth couldn’t be denied though.
“Will you wait to say ‘hi’ to the kids?”
Spike’s jaw muscle twitched. “Nah, mate. I’ll catch up with you all at Joyce’s.” He nodded once. “I’ll either try to make sure Mrs. Armstrong won’t try to snack on the student population. If there’s anything to report I’ll let you know.” He sauntered out of the library without another word.
*
He could see her at the other end of the hallway. She leaned against a wall and a Riley carbon copy hovered over her in an intimate way. She giggled at whatever it was the lug told her. Spike scowled and strode the other way. The newest drool-sac talking to Buffy was the fifth potential boyfriend she decided to give a shot to since moving to Sunnydale. She probably spent more time dating than she did studying, despite the adults’ best attempts. Then again that must have been true for most of the student population.
Spike wasn’t watching where he walked, so he plowed right into someone. He lucked out and it turned out he’d managed to get his nose up close and personal with the target of his search. An even better stroke of luck? Mrs. Armstrong was just a run of the mill human.
His mission accomplished, Spike hurried to get out of the school.
The chosen escape route happened to take him past the men’s bathroom on the ground floor and, as he passed by it, he caught Buffy’s name being spoken. His interest piqued, he listened in.
“I’m telling you, she’s gagging for it.”
“No way, man. Summers? I thought she was some sort of Ice Queen Bitch, or something.”
“Nope. I hear that’s why she got thrown out of her old school. She was sleeping with some old dude and tried to cover it up by torching the place.”
“And you really went all the way with her?”
“She was so easy. Screamer, too.”
Spike didn’t listen anymore. Before he’d realized he’d moved, he had the teen—some sort of football player judging by his letterman jacket and size—about a foot off the floor by the throat. “Didn’t your mother teach you not to spread false rumors?”
The jock’s eyes bulged out of his eye sockets and he was trying to pry Spike’s fingers from his neck.
“What the fuck?” One of the jock’s friends made to intervene, but a quick punch to his solar plexus left him gasping for breath on the floor.
“Well? What do you have to say for yourself?” Spike fought his demon for control, but he found he didn’t care that much if he won. He did loosen his hold on the kid’s throat and put him down so he could breathe. He only did that to hear what the piece of shit had to say for himself, not out of any show of mercy.
“If she didn’t want people talking, she shouldn’t have dated half the class.” Another of the brain trust had found his voice.
“She can date the whole bloody school if she wants to. You all know what this wanker said is bullshit, though. So take it the fuck back before I wipe the floors with your entrails.”
“Yeah, okay, whatever. She didn’t even give me a kiss goodnight. Please let me go.”
Spike studied their faces. A bunch of scared little boys trying to make themselves feel like men by putting others down. Bullies. He had a special spot in his hate for them. He let out just enough of the demon to make his eyes shine an unholy glow. “If I hear you talking anymore shit about Buffy, or anyone else, for that matter, or if, God forbid, I hear you were picking on any other kid, I’ll put the fear of the devil in you.” He let his voice drop down to a demonic growl. “Understood?”
The smell of urine got more potent as a couple of the guys lost control of their bladders. The other three were shaking in fear, but they all managed to nod in agreement.
He pushed the initial jock so hard he heard his head bounce off the bathroom wall. With a final sneer at the rest of them, he stalked out of the school.
~~~***~~~
*Alibi Room, a couple of hours later*
The cards weren’t cooperating. He couldn’t stop seething about what those snot-faced nobodies said about Buffy, so he couldn’t give the game of poker his usual attention. The result? He was down a full litter of kittens to afternoon players. He folded his cards with a disgusted growl. Time to cut his losses for the day. In the long run it would be a good thing, as it broke up a pretty impressive winning streak. Now the suspicions about his cheating would at least be put on the back burner.
Once he’d gotten back to the main hall he signaled Willie to get him a beer. It was too early yet for the stronger stuff.
He saw a familiar face enter, but it took him a few moments to connect the person to the name. The police woman took out a notepad and started questioning a couple of bar-goers, but he’d caught her sly glance his way.
Two things worked against the would-be assassin. Number one was that no self-respecting member of the Sunnyhell PD would be caught dead in Willie’s bar. They sure wouldn’t come in an official capacity to interrogate those who they were busy pretending didn’t exist. Number two was even simpler. He’d remembered her. Nest had hired the Order of Taraka and sent them after him. Spike had been wondering when the old bat would strike next. This qualified as another example of ‘be careful what you wish for.’
At least he’d get to work out all his pent-up rage.
“Could you answer a few routine questions for me?”
Spike’s fought back a full-blown grin. “I’m a very private person. Any chance we could go somewhere more out of the way for this?”
He could see on her face how much she liked the idea. She probably planned on killing him as soon as they stepped out of sight.
Unbeknownst to her, she’d been promoted to head of the list of humans Spike didn’t care if he killed. Quite a feat, considering she was up against people such as Warren, Caleb, Maggie Walsh, Mayor Wilkins, and Ben. The others could wait, though. Patrice was the clear and present danger.
As soon as he stepped out in the alley behind the Alibi Room, Patrice made her move. Spike ducked the first swipe of a knife, and caught her other arm when she tried to redirect. He didn’t manage to break it since she started bouncing off the walls and contorting her body in ways that would have made a Carnie jealous.
Spike gave a whoop and went full in. Despite being human, Patrice was so good she managed to hold her own against Spike. In fact, some of her moves would have put Buffy to shame. The thought brought a sneer to Spike’s lips. He was still upset about earlier, so he used his anger to increase his damage.
He demolished her defenses systematically. By the end, Patrice lay bleeding from about twenty places, and at least two of her limbs were useless. Spike had had enough, so he grabbed her neck and twisted. He didn’t feed on her. It would have crossed a line he hoped he wouldn’t have to cross anytime soon.
Also, Sunnydale was full of various creatures more than happy to take care of human bodies full of blood. He turned and strode out of the alley without another thought to his fallen foe. There were bound to be more assassins out there.
~~~***~~~
*Summers house, later that evening*
All the Scoobies were assembled in the living room. Joyce and Jenny were bringing waters and hot beverages for everyone. The two women had bonded since the meetings had started taking place in the former’s home, and the latter had joined the Scoobies full-time due to Spike’s influence. Well, that and her increasingly close relationship with Giles.
“The Master hired the Order of Taraka to take me out.” Spike threw the ring he’d taken off Patrice’s body on the table in front of Giles.
“Good God. They’re famous as ruthless assassins. They never stop until their target is dead.”
“They also stop if the patron is dead, or calls it off. I don’t really think the last one is going to happen.”
Giles spoke as he skimmed the pages describing the Order’s members. “Any idea why you’re his target now?”
“I did dust the Anointed One while the rest of you were playing ‘Ignore the Future Guy.’ At least Nest knows I’m a threat.” Spike tried to keep the annoyance out of his voice, but it proved hard. He thought he’d made headway with the Scoobies, only to have them ignore him. Just as they had so many times in the other world.
Giles looked him straight in the eyes. “I’m sorry for doubting you. I thought my calculations were correct, and when you told me there were some slight differences from your world, combined with your spotty knowledge about what went on around Sunnydale …”
“Let’s not forget you didn’t remember the Harvest.” Jesse spoke without taking his eyes off the comic book he was reading.
“Jesse.” Dawn’s outrage rang loud and clear. Spike smiled, thinking not even her crush could override her instinct to protect him.
“He remembered enough and did enough to save you, so put a sock in it.” Xander’s brows were drawn together. “Still, even Yoda wasn’t right all the time.” He offered with a shrug toward Spike.
“Yeah, I get it. You hoped you didn’t have to rely on good ol’ Spike’s memories for survival.” He was still upset, but tried to shove the feeling down. It wouldn’t help anyone for him to hold old grudges.
“Let’s not forget any change you make means more changes down the line.” Willow sounded more confident than she did when she first met Buffy. She was still miles away from where Spike would have to start worrying about power-trips, though.
“Well, it’s done. I know some things will change and might not happen at all, it’s just… some things don’t change.” His words held more venom than he wanted, but he couldn’t help it. Being ignored about the Anointed reminded him of less happy times. The fact he’d started to count the Scoobies among his friends only made it hurt more.
Joyce put a hand on his shoulder. “You did your best. Thank you.”
He let her words and the hot chocolate warm, and soothe him.
~~~***~~~
*One of Sunnydale’s many cemeteries*
Buffy was practicing her high kicks under Spike’s supervision.
“If you try to combine that move with a crouch and a sweep of the legs you’ll have your opponent on the ground in no time.”
She did as he asked and they grinned at each other. Buffy moved closer to Spike, her face losing any sign of mirth. “I know you were right.”
Spike clenched his jaw and gave a curt nod.
She put her hand on his arm. “You’ve been right about everything. It’s just… When someone tells you you’re going to die, come back, and then do it all over again…” She shuddered. “I wanted Giles to be right. Actually, no. I wanted him to be wrong, but I wanted you to be wrong too. I just wanted a night off.” She gave a half-shrug. “I wanted to be a girl on a date with a boy. Most of all, I didn’t want to think of death. My death. Does that make sense?”
His heart ached for her. Of course she’d be shaken by what he’d been telling her. He’d been so busy being proud by how far she’d gotten so fast both in her training, and in her stance on demons, that he hadn’t seen her fears creeping up. This Buffy didn’t have a death wish. She did have an overwhelming thirst for life. Everyone feels invincible when they’re young, and despite the superpowers, she’d found out she was far from that.
“God, Buffy, I’m a berk. I’m sorry—”
She raised her hand from his arm to his shoulder. “You were wonderful. Like Mom said, you did your best. I owe you. A lot.”
“You don’t owe me anything.”
“I know what you did at school with those jerk-heads.” He flinched, but she gently squeezed his shoulder in support. “You have my back even when I’m a bitch to you. Thank you. Even if I was more than capable of taking care of those guys by myself.” She finally lowered her hand, but her smile more than made up for the loss of contact.
He ducked his head a bit. “I know. I don’t want to fight your battles. They just got me so mad I acted before I could think.”
“I know. It’s okay.”
She lingered in front of him for another second, then did a running kick to a fledge that had been crawling toward them. Spike stood there watching her with a small smile on his face. He didn’t care they hadn’t listened to him anymore. Buffy saw him. That was enough.
*
Patrol had been slow. Apart from the vampire there were only two more encounters, and they’d been ridiculously easy. Spike and Buffy were both bored.
The sound of fighting brought a smile on his face and he took off at a run. What he saw when he got closer didn’t make him happy at all.
Angel was fighting a tall enemy with long hair, a scar on the side of his face, and some very good moves. Another member of the Order of Taraka that Spike had hired once upon a time. “Bugger.”
Spike decided not to intervene and help Angel on account of too many cooks in the kitchen being a bad thing. That, and he didn’t feel like helping him just then.
Not that Buffy and Angel needed him. They tag-teamed the Taraka member whose name Spike couldn’t remember for a million bucks. A couple of hits later, and Buffy broke its neck.
She shook her hand and blew air on a scraped knuckle. “What the hell was that guy?”
Angel bent down and studied the dead man’s ring. “A member of the Order of Taraka.” His eyes widened. “We need to get Buffy somewhere safe.”
“Calm down over-reaction action. The Teriaki guys are after Spike, not me.”
Angel did a visible double-take. “Why?”
“Dusted the Anointed One. Nest took offense.” Spike shrugged as if he didn’t much care.
Angel didn’t move a muscle. He didn’t comment at all. It was so unlike him it make Spike nervous.
“So any idea if there are more of these guys out there?” Buffy popped her gum after she asked. Spike frowned trying to remember when she’d started chewing the gum in the first place. He was pretty sure she hadn’t had any when they were training.
“The Order of Taraka are renowned assassin. They—”
“We heard the history lesson from the watcher. The lady asked if there were any others out there that you know of.”
Angel scowled. “I didn’t see any.” He rose to his full height and Spike could imagine a cape flowing in the gentle breeze behind him. “I will help you get to safety There’s no reason to endanger Buffy while the Tarakas are after you.”
“What?” Spike and Buffy spoke at the same time.
Angel raised a hand and spoke only to Buffy. “Spike and me can hold off the Tarakas. You don’t need to be caught in the cross-fire. Some of them use guns, and last I checked slayers weren’t immune.”
Spike really wanted to tell Angel off, but unfortunately the big lug had a point.
“As if. These guys are after Spike and I’ll show them exactly why it’s a bad idea to mess with what’s mine.” Her voice was steady, her face harsh, and her body coiled to strike.
Spike was at a loss for words. Angel nodded and said something about helping, or keeping an eye out, or something else Spike couldn’t really focus on. All he could see was her: the Valkyrie. The Master would be sorry.
~~~***~~~
*Guardian’s lair*
“You didn’t tell me why you wanted to see the Oracles, and I haven’t asked so far. But let’s not forget, I’m a nosy old lady, so tell me.”
Spike laughed at Abigail’s self-description. Ever since their first contact he’d made it a point to pass by her place at least a couple of times a week and over time they’d become friends. Friends, apparently, who couldn’t be kept in the dark for too long.
“I wanted to know what the future brings.”
She scoffed and raised both her eyebrows. “Which one? The one you’re building, or the one you left behind?”
Spike cursed inside his mind. Of course she’d know exactly what to ask. She was even worse than Giles. He couldn’t wait for the watcher to do enough for his slayer to be allowed to meet Abbie. Spike could bet a year’s worth of smokes the two would get along like a house on fire.
She cleared her throat to signal he hadn’t answered her question yet.
He sighed. “Both, I guess.”
“I knew that much. What did you find out?”
“The… me that got left behind gets the girl.” He still didn’t know how he felt about it. There was a Spike that got his Buffy. The thought made him feel good inside.
It should have been him. The Powers had cheated him out of it.
He decided not to think about it anymore. It would drive him round the bend.
Abbie nodded once, as if she expected nothing less. Spike appreciated she didn’t comment in any way. Maybe she could read the conflict in his eyes.
“What about you?”
“Me? I’m… just as clueless. The Oracles wouldn’t even tell me why I’m here. They just said I should ‘fix’ things. So I decided ‘fuck it’ and I’ll do whatever I feel like.”
“You knew this before you talked to them.” Her eyes narrowed. “You must have known they wouldn’t help. If they wanted you to know your purpose, they would have told you straight off. So why go there?”
Spike threw his hands in the air. “All right, you infuriating woman. I went there to find out if they made a mistake.”
“What?”
“I wanted to make sure they got the right souled vampire, the right champion, the right anything.” He hung his head in defeat.
Abbie hugged him lightly. “You should never think you’re not worthy. You are a true champion. You fought against everything and everyone, including yourself, to save the girl, and the world. Others who were prophesized have done a lot less.”
He raised his gaze to meet with hers, letting her see the tears in his eyes. “What if I’m not good enough? What if—”
“You’re the one they chose because you would, and already did do, everything you could to be worthy.”
“But I screw everything up.” He snorted in self-derision. “I couldn’t even sacrifice myself right.”
“Was your sacrifice lessened by the fact that you came back?”
“Well…”
“Was Buffy’s sacrifice for Dawn lessened by Willow bringing her back?”
He gasped. “Of course not. But she’s Heaven’s chosen, I’m just—”
“The one vampire in all of history to ask for his soul back.”
Spike could see she believed in him. If only he had such belief in himself. “I’m not even sure who I am anymore.”
“Then find out. You’re an immortal vampire thrown into the past. You have all the time in the world to figure out what makes you you.”
He snorted and wiped his eyes. “Somehow I spent a century without worrying about it. Now I feel as if I’m running late.”
“You’ll never accomplish anything if you don’t put the first foot forward.”
Spike smiled at that. “Sounds like something my Mum would say.”
“Sounds like a smart woman. No wonder she had such a son.”
“Why, Abbie, are you flirting with me?”
She let go of him and burst out laughing. “Had we met when we were both young…”
“I would have written you some bad poetry and you would have run screaming.”
“Probably. Good thing I decided to live in a tomb instead.”
Spike pointed at his chest. “Crypt.”
She pretended to think it through. “You’re right. On paper we should be dynamite together.”
“I’m sure it would have been easier for me.”
“Oh, no. I can be a bitch too, sometimes.”
They both burst out laughing.
Grin on his face by Blackoberst
I never want to lose
What I have finally found
Delerium – Euphoria (Firefly)

*Spike’s apartment, a couple of hours later*
Spike and Buffy burst through the door. After they made out like the teenager she was in the hospital’s parking lot, he mentioned the missing Tara and the started their search for her. Soon enough Buffy had suggested going back to the only place the young girl they were looking for was familiar with in Sunnydale: Spike’s place.
They found Tara curled up on the couch, the smell of her tears heavy in the air. As soon as Spike knelt next to her he had an armful of sobbing young witch. Buffy hovered over them until Spike moved to the couch. She then took over comforting Tara while he went to the kitchen to get everyone tea.
The movements were automatic. He’d made the drink so many times he only realized he’d ended up making hot chocolate when it was time to throw in the little marshmallows. He chuckled to himself, shrugged, and took the tray with the drinks with him.
He didn’t get far. As soon as he stepped into the small hallway connecting the kitchen to the living room he caught a snippet of the conversation between the two girls and couldn’t help but listen in.
“As soon as the nightmare stopped, I called my Dad.” Tara’s stuttering was nowhere to be heard, something Spike thought would take months to achieve. It never ceases to amaze him how much inner strength she had in her.
“The guy who was telling you you’re a demon. The guy who—”
“Yeah. I know. But didn’t your father ever say something like that to you? Something so bad, so…”
“Yeah, actually he did. Almost locked me up in an insane asylum when I told him I was the Slayer.” The pain was obvious in Buffy’s voice, but it was clear she’d gotten a lot better with it.
“So you get it. They’re so…gah, but we still love them.”
“Yeah.”
After a short pause Tara picked up the thread. “So I called him.”
“And?”
“I—I told him I knew the family legend was full of lies, and that I never wanted to hear from him again.”
“Wow. That’s like, a big step. You sure about it?”
“I am.” Spike could hear a smile in Tara’s voice.
“Double wow. Go you.”
“Yeah.” There was a brief pause. Spike almost made his way in when Tara spoke again. “Go you, too.”
“It’s new. I’m all with the butterflies, and stuff.”
“Are… Are you sure?”
“His nightmare was him hurting me. Mine was me losing him. When the nightmares forced me to kiss Angel… The look in Spike’s eyes… God, it tore right through me. That’s when I knew. When Angelus threw me in my grave, while he was piling dirt on top of me… I knew I wanted to be with Spike.”
His hands were shaking. The hot chocolate wasn’t so hot anymore, so he stumbled back into the kitchen to freshen it up. He almost hyperventilated while his hands were busy with the drinks, which was a very strange feeling for a vampire.
She loved him. Buffy loved him, Spike. Buffy loved Spike. He couldn’t wrap his mind around it.
He made his way back to the girls and listened to them talk as if they were two long lost friends. Which, for him, they were. His heart soared. He was home.
*
There was a knock on the door. Spike didn’t expect company, so he raised an eyebrow at Tara. She shrugged and shook her head. Since the nightmares had come to life and transformed her into a demon being taken back by either her family, or the army, she had been more jumpy, but Spike was sure she would bounce back from it even stronger than ever. Proof positive being how she went to answer the door without his prompting.
“Hello. I’m looking for Sp—William?”
Spike hurried to open the door wider. “Joyce, come in.” He gestured to his soon-to-be landlord. “I was going to introduce Tara to everybody at one of the Scooby meetings. Uh. This is Tara. She lost her mother recently, and I managed to persuade her to move to Sunnydale to study magic.”
Joyce looked stricken. “You poor girl. I’m sorry for your loss. If you need anything you can count on me, okay?”
“Th-thank you.”
Before Spike had a chance to say anything, though, he was pinned by Joyce’s ‘mother bear’ stare. “We need to have a chat.”
Spike knew exactly what the tone of voice was for. “I know. I’ll not hurt your eldest, I can promise you that.”
“Oh, I know you won’t. ‘Cause you wouldn’t have been brought back by whomever it was just so you could hurt her. Also, you know if you do, I’ll make you really sorry.”
Spike gulped. “Now, now. No need to bring out the axes now, is there?”
“There better not be.” She sighed and took a seat in an armchair. “Look, I like you. You know that.” Spike nodded. “Buffy’s so young, though. She doesn’t know what she wants. And she’s human. She deserves to walk in the sun, have children, and grow old with someone.”
He sighed and took a seat on the couch while Tara retreated to her room to let them talk in peace. “We’ve had this talk before, Joyce. She’s not a simple human. She’s so much more than that.”
“I don’t care about that, she’s still my baby.”
“She’s the Slayer first and foremost. The whole world is full of people she takes care of. In a way, you’re all her children. That kind of responsibility ages you fast. She may be sixteen, but she’s already lived a lifetime as a Slayer.” He struck the arm of the couch with his fist. “I’ll make sure she lives a lot longer than that.”
“But she needs someone—”
“She needs someone who’ll love her for who she is, all of who she is, not just the coed, or the woman, or the slayer, or the damsel in distress delusion, or anything of the sort. In my time she already tried with a bunch of wankers who couldn’t see her for what she was.” He raised an eyebrow. “And don’t think you know better than her who she should be with. She’s smart enough to make her own choices.”
“She’s still a child.”
“And I won’t be touching her until she’s a woman. I’m not Angelus, I can keep it in my pants for a couple of years. The only thing I need is to be next to her, to have her smile at me, and to love her.”
She seemed taken aback at that. “But—” She frowned and narrowed her eyes. “She needs to finish school.”
“Of course she bloody well does. College, too. The only reason William wasn’t a complete waste of space back in his day, was because he went to college.” He took a deep breath and leaned forward. “There’s a trinket buried under this town. Holy Grail for vamps it is. Would mean I could walk in the sun with her. I could give her a life out of the dark. She deserves it.”
Joyce lay back in the armchair. “Well… good. As long as we understand each other.”
“I think we do.”
She smirked. “Dawn is thrilled.”
He grinned. “The Bit always did have good taste.”
Joyce grunted in reply.
“So, how bad were the nightmares?”
Her eyes got big. “Can we not talk about that?”
“Fair enough.” He pointed to the bar behind him. “Drink?”
“Yes, please.”
*
Someone was pounding on his door. “My, my, aren’t I the popular chap today?”
Tara came back out of her room. “Want me to get it?”
“No, pet, but stick around. I have a feeling there will be more introductions to be made.” He went to the door, opened it, turned around, and waived Giles in.
“I came as soon as I heard. Is it true?”
Spike sighed. “Yes it’s true. I’m terribly handsome and a true devil in bed.”
“Do you think I’m joking?”
“No. I’m not joking, either. It really is a burden being as gifted as I.” He had to grin at the outraged expression on Giles’s face.
“Stop it.” Giles paced around the room. “I should have known better than to trust a—a vampire.”
“Really. Tell me how you really feel.” Spike couldn’t stop his hurt feelings to carry through in his voice.
Giles stared at him, then seemed to deflate and took a seat—in the same armchair Joyce had used earlier. He wiped his face with his right palm. “That’s not how I really feel. It should be. All my Council training is telling me you’re a terrible choice for my slayer. And yet… ” He sighed a deep, bone-weary sigh. “What I really feel… I just want to make sure… Bloody hell, man, I don’t know what I’m doing here. All I know is my sl—Buffy told me you two have started dating and I wanted to say… Please take care of her.”
There was a knot in Spike’s throat. He’d dreamed of hearing something like that for so long. “Of course I will. Until I’m dust.”
Giles nodded.
Spike collapsed on the couch, his strength seeped by the emotional roller-coaster.
Tara’s voice broke the silence. “Should I make you some tea?”

“Excuse me?” Giles seemed surprised there was another person in the flat, even though she’d been standing next to the door the whole time.
“Giles, this is my friend, Tara. She’s an aspiring witch who will be moving in with me and joining our little troop of merry do-gooders.”
Giles stood up. “I am pleased to make your acquaintance.”
Tara nodded and ducked her head. “Um, yeah. Tea?”
Spike chuckled. “I think the Watcher here will need something stronger.”
Giles flushed. “Isn’t it a tad early in the day for libations?”
“Oi. What did we say about you being a stuffy git?”
Giles opened his mouth as if to reply, closed it, and smirked. “Got a pint?”
“Atta boy.”
*
Giles left to pick Jenny up from school, Tara went back to setting up her room, and Spike dozed off in front of the TV. There was another knock at the door that woke him up.
“Will nobody respect the fact that I’m a vampire, and I need my beauty sleep?” Spike grumbled out loud while he went to see who it was going to be this time.
As soon as he opened, the younger members of the Scoobies came in, and started talking all at once.
Spike tried, but failed to understand anything in the chaos, so he raised his voice. “One at the time. You’ll blow out my eardrums.”
In the ensuing silence Jesse and Amy sat down—very closely together—on the couch, Xander let himself fall in an armchair, while Willow took the other one—the more popular one, at least for the day.
Spike sighed and took a chair from the dining room table. “What’s this invasion all about?”
Willow was the first to speak up. “You and Buffy.”
“What of it?”
“Well, she told us that you guys… That you and her… that, uh…”
“You and the Buffynator—right on.” Jesse grinned and gave a double thumbs up.
Spike sighed. “You lot here to stage an intervention?”
Xander frowned. “No. Why? Were we supposed to?”
Spike chuckled. “You’d be surprised.” He shook his head free of unhappy memories. “So if you’re not here to warn me off, then…”
Amy grinned. “We’re here to make sure you don’t screw the pooch.”
Spike blinked. “What?”
Willow blushed, but put on her resolve face. “You’re our friend, and she’s our friend. We really don’t want to have to choose if you ever split up. So, what’s your ‘A’ game?”
“Uh. I guess I was thinking we’d, uh, patrol together?”
Tara came out of her room to join the discussion. “You’re kidding.” She stopped short when she saw everyone was staring at her. She ducked her head and stammered. “He-hello.”
“Gang, this is Tara. She needed a place to stay away from her family, and so she’ll be my roommate for a while.”
“Dude. Not cool. A roommate of the female persuasion while you’re dating the Buffster?” Xander shrugged. “Not that I don’t get wanting to be where the family isn’t, but still.”
“Buffy knows Tara, you berk. And even if she didn’t, things between Tara and me aren’t like that.”
Jesse was nodding while looking Tara up and down. Amy scowled and punched him in the thigh, which made him about-face and focus on Spike. That earned Amy a grin from the vampire. “That’s what they all say, man.”
“W—we’re just fr-friends.”
“Of course you are. There is nothing wrong with having friends. Even friends of a different gender. Just like I have friends that are not with the being female. But that doesn’t mean there is any problem there. Not that there couldn’t be attraction between different members of the same group. I mean, Spike and Buffy are friends, but now they’re more, and that’s why we’re here. To help Spike with Buffy. Just—”
“Red, breathe.”
Willow followed his advice, drawing a big, gulping breath in.
Spike looked at Tara. “Funny as all this is, maybe we should tell them why they shouldn’t worry?”
Her eyes were wide as saucers.
“It’s up to you, but I would vote for.”
She visibly gulped and nodded once. “I… I don’t like Spike that way. I—in fact, he’s a bit too… male for me.” She ducked her head and watched the Scoobies’ reaction through her bangs.
“Wait. Wait. I’m missing something.” Xander looked around. “Is she saying what I think she’s saying? Pinch me.” He shoved an arm towards Jesse. “I think I’m dreaming.”
Jesse had turned to look at Tara again. “Right on, new girl. We should compare notes. I have the low-down on every girl that would go down. If you know what I mean.” His comment earned him a sharp elbow to the ribs from Amy and her shuffling to the other end of the couch.
Spike decided he liked the girl. He only hoped getting her training this early on would keep her from going to places like Rack’s and turning into a rat. Not that he remembered how she’d gotten trapped as a rodent in the first place.
Willow had turned as red as her hair. “I, uh, that’s great. I’ll just be over here, chewing on my foot.”
Spike thought he saw Tara grin, but couldn’t be sure because of the hair she was hiding behind. For a moment he wondered if the two girls would end up dating this time, with the way he’d changed things. He decided playing matchmaker for the witches wasn’t in his job description and that he’d let the chips fall where they may. Perhaps fate would step in. Maybe they’d find happiness elsewhere. Part of him hoped they’d find each other.
Having been lost in his thoughts, he was surprised to see everyone focused on him again. “What?”
“Duh, we still have to make sure you don’t blow it.” Amy shot a venomous glare Jesse’s way, which made its recipient wince.
“Right. Getting back on track.” Xander shook his head. “Patrol, man? That the best you can do? What’s next, homework?”
Spike chocked. He had thought about helping Buffy with her studies. His face must have betrayed his panic, because Xander’s jaw dropped.
“Oh my God, dude. You were thinking homework. Did you learn nothing? Where’s the suave seductive vampire thing?” His eyes grew large. “I mean that’s what they say in books. Not that I’d ever think of vamps as suave… or seductive. Nasty bloodsuckers. Present company excluded, of course.” He sighed. “I think I’ll be joining Willow for her foot meal. Don’t mind me.”
Spike collapsed in the chair he’d pulled closer earlier. He raised pleading eyes to the room “Help?”
Willow grinned. “That’s why we’re here, silly. Haven’t you been listening?”
“Oh, thank bloody fuck.”
“I think you should take her out to the movies, or a club, or both.” Tara leaned against the wall as she came up with her suggestion.
Amy nodded feverishly. “Yeah. And maybe do something about your wardrobe. I mean black on black with black is, like, so not in.”
“In… what?” Xander’s eyebrows were as high as they could go.
“In fashion, duh. I swear, it’s like talking to a wall.” She eyed Jesse’s mismatching outfit. “A badly dressed wall, who’d better shape up if it wants to do any parking.”
Jesse and Spike exchanged horrified looks. “But, I—”
“I’m not changing my look for Buffy. She should like me for who I am, not for my clothes.”
“Really?” Tara had raised an eyebrow in challenge.
Spike deflated. “Bloody, buggering, fucking hell. Just… tell me what I should do and I’ll do it.”
The three girls gave him toothy grins.
He was scared. During the following crash-course in teenage dating in the ‘90’s, one thought hit him out of nowhere.
Buffy had been systematically telling the most important people in her life about their brand new relationship. There was no hiding, no shame, and no put-downs. He spent the rest of the afternoon with a stupid grin on his face.

Euphoria (Firefly) lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
Grin on his face by Blackoberst
I never want to lose
What I have finally found
Delerium – Euphoria (Firefly)

*Spike’s apartment, a couple of hours later*
Spike and Buffy burst through the door. After they made out like the teenager she was in the hospital’s parking lot, he mentioned the missing Tara and the started their search for her. Soon enough Buffy had suggested going back to the only place the young girl they were looking for was familiar with in Sunnydale: Spike’s place.
They found Tara curled up on the couch, the smell of her tears heavy in the air. As soon as Spike knelt next to her he had an armful of sobbing young witch. Buffy hovered over them until Spike moved to the couch. She then took over comforting Tara while he went to the kitchen to get everyone tea.
The movements were automatic. He’d made the drink so many times he only realized he’d ended up making hot chocolate when it was time to throw in the little marshmallows. He chuckled to himself, shrugged, and took the tray with the drinks with him.
He didn’t get far. As soon as he stepped into the small hallway connecting the kitchen to the living room he caught a snippet of the conversation between the two girls and couldn’t help but listen in.
“As soon as the nightmare stopped, I called my Dad.” Tara’s stuttering was nowhere to be heard, something Spike thought would take months to achieve. It never ceases to amaze him how much inner strength she had in her.
“The guy who was telling you you’re a demon. The guy who—”
“Yeah. I know. But didn’t your father ever say something like that to you? Something so bad, so…”
“Yeah, actually he did. Almost locked me up in an insane asylum when I told him I was the Slayer.” The pain was obvious in Buffy’s voice, but it was clear she’d gotten a lot better with it.
“So you get it. They’re so…gah, but we still love them.”
“Yeah.”
After a short pause Tara picked up the thread. “So I called him.”
“And?”
“I—I told him I knew the family legend was full of lies, and that I never wanted to hear from him again.”
“Wow. That’s like, a big step. You sure about it?”
“I am.” Spike could hear a smile in Tara’s voice.
“Double wow. Go you.”
“Yeah.” There was a brief pause. Spike almost made his way in when Tara spoke again. “Go you, too.”
“It’s new. I’m all with the butterflies, and stuff.”
“Are… Are you sure?”
“His nightmare was him hurting me. Mine was me losing him. When the nightmares forced me to kiss Angel… The look in Spike’s eyes… God, it tore right through me. That’s when I knew. When Angelus threw me in my grave, while he was piling dirt on top of me… I knew I wanted to be with Spike.”
His hands were shaking. The hot chocolate wasn’t so hot anymore, so he stumbled back into the kitchen to freshen it up. He almost hyperventilated while his hands were busy with the drinks, which was a very strange feeling for a vampire.
She loved him. Buffy loved him, Spike. Buffy loved Spike. He couldn’t wrap his mind around it.
He made his way back to the girls and listened to them talk as if they were two long lost friends. Which, for him, they were. His heart soared. He was home.
*
There was a knock on the door. Spike didn’t expect company, so he raised an eyebrow at Tara. She shrugged and shook her head. Since the nightmares had come to life and transformed her into a demon being taken back by either her family, or the army, she had been more jumpy, but Spike was sure she would bounce back from it even stronger than ever. Proof positive being how she went to answer the door without his prompting.
“Hello. I’m looking for Sp—William?”
Spike hurried to open the door wider. “Joyce, come in.” He gestured to his soon-to-be landlord. “I was going to introduce Tara to everybody at one of the Scooby meetings. Uh. This is Tara. She lost her mother recently, and I managed to persuade her to move to Sunnydale to study magic.”
Joyce looked stricken. “You poor girl. I’m sorry for your loss. If you need anything you can count on me, okay?”
“Th-thank you.”
Before Spike had a chance to say anything, though, he was pinned by Joyce’s ‘mother bear’ stare. “We need to have a chat.”
Spike knew exactly what the tone of voice was for. “I know. I’ll not hurt your eldest, I can promise you that.”
“Oh, I know you won’t. ‘Cause you wouldn’t have been brought back by whomever it was just so you could hurt her. Also, you know if you do, I’ll make you really sorry.”
Spike gulped. “Now, now. No need to bring out the axes now, is there?”
“There better not be.” She sighed and took a seat in an armchair. “Look, I like you. You know that.” Spike nodded. “Buffy’s so young, though. She doesn’t know what she wants. And she’s human. She deserves to walk in the sun, have children, and grow old with someone.”
He sighed and took a seat on the couch while Tara retreated to her room to let them talk in peace. “We’ve had this talk before, Joyce. She’s not a simple human. She’s so much more than that.”
“I don’t care about that, she’s still my baby.”
“She’s the Slayer first and foremost. The whole world is full of people she takes care of. In a way, you’re all her children. That kind of responsibility ages you fast. She may be sixteen, but she’s already lived a lifetime as a Slayer.” He struck the arm of the couch with his fist. “I’ll make sure she lives a lot longer than that.”
“But she needs someone—”
“She needs someone who’ll love her for who she is, all of who she is, not just the coed, or the woman, or the slayer, or the damsel in distress delusion, or anything of the sort. In my time she already tried with a bunch of wankers who couldn’t see her for what she was.” He raised an eyebrow. “And don’t think you know better than her who she should be with. She’s smart enough to make her own choices.”
“She’s still a child.”
“And I won’t be touching her until she’s a woman. I’m not Angelus, I can keep it in my pants for a couple of years. The only thing I need is to be next to her, to have her smile at me, and to love her.”
She seemed taken aback at that. “But—” She frowned and narrowed her eyes. “She needs to finish school.”
“Of course she bloody well does. College, too. The only reason William wasn’t a complete waste of space back in his day, was because he went to college.” He took a deep breath and leaned forward. “There’s a trinket buried under this town. Holy Grail for vamps it is. Would mean I could walk in the sun with her. I could give her a life out of the dark. She deserves it.”
Joyce lay back in the armchair. “Well… good. As long as we understand each other.”
“I think we do.”
She smirked. “Dawn is thrilled.”
He grinned. “The Bit always did have good taste.”
Joyce grunted in reply.
“So, how bad were the nightmares?”
Her eyes got big. “Can we not talk about that?”
“Fair enough.” He pointed to the bar behind him. “Drink?”
“Yes, please.”
*
Someone was pounding on his door. “My, my, aren’t I the popular chap today?”
Tara came back out of her room. “Want me to get it?”
“No, pet, but stick around. I have a feeling there will be more introductions to be made.” He went to the door, opened it, turned around, and waived Giles in.
“I came as soon as I heard. Is it true?”
Spike sighed. “Yes it’s true. I’m terribly handsome and a true devil in bed.”
“Do you think I’m joking?”
“No. I’m not joking, either. It really is a burden being as gifted as I.” He had to grin at the outraged expression on Giles’s face.
“Stop it.” Giles paced around the room. “I should have known better than to trust a—a vampire.”
“Really. Tell me how you really feel.” Spike couldn’t stop his hurt feelings to carry through in his voice.
Giles stared at him, then seemed to deflate and took a seat—in the same armchair Joyce had used earlier. He wiped his face with his right palm. “That’s not how I really feel. It should be. All my Council training is telling me you’re a terrible choice for my slayer. And yet… ” He sighed a deep, bone-weary sigh. “What I really feel… I just want to make sure… Bloody hell, man, I don’t know what I’m doing here. All I know is my sl—Buffy told me you two have started dating and I wanted to say… Please take care of her.”
There was a knot in Spike’s throat. He’d dreamed of hearing something like that for so long. “Of course I will. Until I’m dust.”
Giles nodded.
Spike collapsed on the couch, his strength seeped by the emotional roller-coaster.
Tara’s voice broke the silence. “Should I make you some tea?”

“Excuse me?” Giles seemed surprised there was another person in the flat, even though she’d been standing next to the door the whole time.
“Giles, this is my friend, Tara. She’s an aspiring witch who will be moving in with me and joining our little troop of merry do-gooders.”
Giles stood up. “I am pleased to make your acquaintance.”
Tara nodded and ducked her head. “Um, yeah. Tea?”
Spike chuckled. “I think the Watcher here will need something stronger.”
Giles flushed. “Isn’t it a tad early in the day for libations?”
“Oi. What did we say about you being a stuffy git?”
Giles opened his mouth as if to reply, closed it, and smirked. “Got a pint?”
“Atta boy.”
*
Giles left to pick Jenny up from school, Tara went back to setting up her room, and Spike dozed off in front of the TV. There was another knock at the door that woke him up.
“Will nobody respect the fact that I’m a vampire, and I need my beauty sleep?” Spike grumbled out loud while he went to see who it was going to be this time.
As soon as he opened, the younger members of the Scoobies came in, and started talking all at once.
Spike tried, but failed to understand anything in the chaos, so he raised his voice. “One at the time. You’ll blow out my eardrums.”
In the ensuing silence Jesse and Amy sat down—very closely together—on the couch, Xander let himself fall in an armchair, while Willow took the other one—the more popular one, at least for the day.
Spike sighed and took a chair from the dining room table. “What’s this invasion all about?”
Willow was the first to speak up. “You and Buffy.”
“What of it?”
“Well, she told us that you guys… That you and her… that, uh…”
“You and the Buffynator—right on.” Jesse grinned and gave a double thumbs up.
Spike sighed. “You lot here to stage an intervention?”
Xander frowned. “No. Why? Were we supposed to?”
Spike chuckled. “You’d be surprised.” He shook his head free of unhappy memories. “So if you’re not here to warn me off, then…”
Amy grinned. “We’re here to make sure you don’t screw the pooch.”
Spike blinked. “What?”
Willow blushed, but put on her resolve face. “You’re our friend, and she’s our friend. We really don’t want to have to choose if you ever split up. So, what’s your ‘A’ game?”
“Uh. I guess I was thinking we’d, uh, patrol together?”
Tara came out of her room to join the discussion. “You’re kidding.” She stopped short when she saw everyone was staring at her. She ducked her head and stammered. “He-hello.”
“Gang, this is Tara. She needed a place to stay away from her family, and so she’ll be my roommate for a while.”
“Dude. Not cool. A roommate of the female persuasion while you’re dating the Buffster?” Xander shrugged. “Not that I don’t get wanting to be where the family isn’t, but still.”
“Buffy knows Tara, you berk. And even if she didn’t, things between Tara and me aren’t like that.”
Jesse was nodding while looking Tara up and down. Amy scowled and punched him in the thigh, which made him about-face and focus on Spike. That earned Amy a grin from the vampire. “That’s what they all say, man.”
“W—we’re just fr-friends.”
“Of course you are. There is nothing wrong with having friends. Even friends of a different gender. Just like I have friends that are not with the being female. But that doesn’t mean there is any problem there. Not that there couldn’t be attraction between different members of the same group. I mean, Spike and Buffy are friends, but now they’re more, and that’s why we’re here. To help Spike with Buffy. Just—”
“Red, breathe.”
Willow followed his advice, drawing a big, gulping breath in.
Spike looked at Tara. “Funny as all this is, maybe we should tell them why they shouldn’t worry?”
Her eyes were wide as saucers.
“It’s up to you, but I would vote for.”
She visibly gulped and nodded once. “I… I don’t like Spike that way. I—in fact, he’s a bit too… male for me.” She ducked her head and watched the Scoobies’ reaction through her bangs.
“Wait. Wait. I’m missing something.” Xander looked around. “Is she saying what I think she’s saying? Pinch me.” He shoved an arm towards Jesse. “I think I’m dreaming.”
Jesse had turned to look at Tara again. “Right on, new girl. We should compare notes. I have the low-down on every girl that would go down. If you know what I mean.” His comment earned him a sharp elbow to the ribs from Amy and her shuffling to the other end of the couch.
Spike decided he liked the girl. He only hoped getting her training this early on would keep her from going to places like Rack’s and turning into a rat. Not that he remembered how she’d gotten trapped as a rodent in the first place.
Willow had turned as red as her hair. “I, uh, that’s great. I’ll just be over here, chewing on my foot.”
Spike thought he saw Tara grin, but couldn’t be sure because of the hair she was hiding behind. For a moment he wondered if the two girls would end up dating this time, with the way he’d changed things. He decided playing matchmaker for the witches wasn’t in his job description and that he’d let the chips fall where they may. Perhaps fate would step in. Maybe they’d find happiness elsewhere. Part of him hoped they’d find each other.
Having been lost in his thoughts, he was surprised to see everyone focused on him again. “What?”
“Duh, we still have to make sure you don’t blow it.” Amy shot a venomous glare Jesse’s way, which made its recipient wince.
“Right. Getting back on track.” Xander shook his head. “Patrol, man? That the best you can do? What’s next, homework?”
Spike chocked. He had thought about helping Buffy with her studies. His face must have betrayed his panic, because Xander’s jaw dropped.
“Oh my God, dude. You were thinking homework. Did you learn nothing? Where’s the suave seductive vampire thing?” His eyes grew large. “I mean that’s what they say in books. Not that I’d ever think of vamps as suave… or seductive. Nasty bloodsuckers. Present company excluded, of course.” He sighed. “I think I’ll be joining Willow for her foot meal. Don’t mind me.”
Spike collapsed in the chair he’d pulled closer earlier. He raised pleading eyes to the room “Help?”
Willow grinned. “That’s why we’re here, silly. Haven’t you been listening?”
“Oh, thank bloody fuck.”
“I think you should take her out to the movies, or a club, or both.” Tara leaned against the wall as she came up with her suggestion.
Amy nodded feverishly. “Yeah. And maybe do something about your wardrobe. I mean black on black with black is, like, so not in.”
“In… what?” Xander’s eyebrows were as high as they could go.
“In fashion, duh. I swear, it’s like talking to a wall.” She eyed Jesse’s mismatching outfit. “A badly dressed wall, who’d better shape up if it wants to do any parking.”
Jesse and Spike exchanged horrified looks. “But, I—”
“I’m not changing my look for Buffy. She should like me for who I am, not for my clothes.”
“Really?” Tara had raised an eyebrow in challenge.
Spike deflated. “Bloody, buggering, fucking hell. Just… tell me what I should do and I’ll do it.”
The three girls gave him toothy grins.
He was scared. During the following crash-course in teenage dating in the ‘90’s, one thought hit him out of nowhere.
Buffy had been systematically telling the most important people in her life about their brand new relationship. There was no hiding, no shame, and no put-downs. He spent the rest of the afternoon with a stupid grin on his face.

Euphoria (Firefly) lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
Wouldn’t meet any resistance by Blackoberst
This is dangerous,
Open up your head feel the shell shock!
This is dangerous,
I walk through mindfields so watch your head rock!
The Prodigy – Mindfields

Since Spike’s dusting of Angel—he still hadn’t made peace with himself for that—the attacks on Buffy, and even more so Spike, were only getting harder to defeat. It was time to practice a different tactic: ‘the best defense is a good offense’. If they managed to take the Master out, the Aurelians would be left reeling and leaderless, while the Tarakans would consider the contract forfeit and stop their assassination attempts; easy as pie.
Putting the idea into a plan, and better yet into practice proved... problematic.
“You aren’t going down there, and that’s final.” Spike glared at Buffy.
“Seriously? I’m the Slayer, moron. When there’s a guy to kill called ‘The Master’ who wants to feed all of humanity to ancient demons, they call me.” Buffy accompanied her words with air quotes to accompany their target’s title.
“If you go down there he’ll have within his grasp the one thing he needs to get out. Didn’t you lot learn this yet? It’s all about the blood. Your blood can break him out of his box. And I’ll be twice damned if I let you become his midnight snack.”
Buffy scoffed. “As if. He won’t know what hit him.”
“He killed you the first time, you infuriating bint. Won’t you just bloody listen for once in your life? You mustn’t go down there.”
“Well, that may be true, but if you think I’m letting my boyfriend go against the Order of Taraka, the Order of Aurelius, and the Master on his own, then you’re dumber than he is.”
“He who?”
“My boyfriend. Who is you.”
“Ah, pet…” Every time she called him her boyfriend his whole spine got all tingly.
“I know what I said, and I meant it.” Her voice had lost its edge, and her eyes were downright sultry.
“Buffy.” The sound of Giles’s voice reminded Spike of where they were: in Buffy’s house, and not alone. In fact, all the Scoobies—including Tara, Martha, and even Cordelia—were gathered to discuss the next step that needed to be taken.
“Giles, tell him I have to go.”
“You’ll do no such thing, Rupert. My daughter will listen to her boyfriend and stay home.” Joyce was glaring daggers at the watcher.
“But Mom.”
“Really, Mrs Summers? ‘Listen to her boyfriend?’ Way to give in to the patriarchy.” Willow turned beet red when everyone turned to look at her. “I’ll just be here, all with the feminism.” Tara gave her a warm smile.
Buffy, on the other hand, fixed her mother with a hard stare. “Willow has a point. Way to have my back, Mom.”
“My job is to keep you safe. So yeah, I’m doing my job.”
“And my job is slaying vampires, so I need to go down there and do just that.”
Xander raised his hand. “I vote the person filled with all the blood the Master needs to get free doesn’t go to, you know, his lair. I mean that’s just horror movie rule number one.”
Jesse frowned and tilted his head. “I thought the first rule was that the pretty girl with the big tits ends up topless, running through the woods.”
Amy wacked him upside the head. “Neanderthal.”
Spike chuckled. “And a bloody brilliant rule that is, but the Wh—Xander has a point.”
“There are no points. He just agreed with you, like always, so of course you liked his idea. Which is your idea. But it’s stupid, because the Master won’t get my blood, because I’ll stake him.” Buffy hit her open palm with her fist in a staking gesture.
“It’s not that easy, love. He is old, powerful, has minions, and has thrall.” He stopped counting off his fingers and made a fist. “And he already killed you in my old world. He’s not doing it here, too.”
Buffy’s face settled into her ‘I’m the Slayer, I get my way’ mask, then she scrunched her nose, and put her palm on his cheek. “In that world, in that time, I didn’t have backup, I didn’t have a heads-up, and I didn’t have you.”
Spike swore softly, even as his heart filled with warmth. “You’re playing dirty, Buffy. Know I can’t say ‘no’ to you when you look at me like that.”
She perked up and grinned. “Really? Can I also ask for a new pair of thigh-high boots?”
The twinkle in her eye let him know she was just joking, so the words didn’t hurt.
“Can I get a new boots too?” Cordelia butted in the discussion with her usual tact.
Spike ignored the cheerleader, and answered his girl instead. “You can have new shoes, you can even get a new skirt to go with them, but you’re not coming to the Master’s lair, pet.”
Her playful grin froze on her face. “I’m not?” She tilted her head. “Why’s that? Just because you said so?”
He almost answered. Almost. A tiny part of his brain piped up and made him take stock. Buffy’s posture and the way she had him pinned with her gaze could only mean one thing. He’d fucked up, and was a sentence, or perhaps just a word away from a broken nose. He should have known she would never stay on the sideline in such a fight. With a deep sigh, Spike gave up any hope of winning this almost-fight. “No, I know I can’t stop you. Wish I could. But you’re right. You’re the Slayer, and you’re Buffy. Of course you’ll want to face danger head-on.” He took a step closer to her and took her hands in his. “Just promise me you’ll be careful. Don’t look the bastard in the eyes, don’t listen to what he’s prattling on about, and always expect a trap. I’ll be right there to watch your back, but—” He cleared his throat. “Just don’t die, okay love?”
She nodded. “I’ll be fine, Spike. I don’t care what happened to the other me, but I know the Master won’t get me this time. We’ll get him, instead.”
Spike hoped she was right.
~~~***~~~
*in the tunnels near the high school, later that day*
Margret stepped quietly around the small alcove where the Scooby mini-coven would cast its spells, blessing the site, and asking for the Gods’ favor. To Spike’s complete lack of surprise Tara had been a perfect fit with the other girls, her better relationship with her mother and with magic balancing out both Willow, and Amy’s personal experiences. The three girls were sat in a triangle, getting ready to perform a series of protection spells. One of them was supposed to protect Buffy from the Master’s thrall, while the other two would help them get through his minions.
Spike hoped it would go better than Willow’s spellcasting from his old world. He needed this to work. Of course, if it didn’t he’d just have to hope a century living with Dru taught him enough tricks to keep the old Bat out of Buffy’s mind.
The bottom line was simple: Buffy would not die on his watch.
Margret stopped what she was doing and put the candle she held on the ground, in the last empty point of a pentagram she’d drawn with chalk. “We’re ready to begin. Give us five minutes and the spells should be in place.” She took her place opposite Jenny. The two women would be the conduits, while the three girls would do the actual spellcasting. Giles, Xander, and Jesse were standing guard, armed with stakes, holy water squirt guns, and short swords. The tight quarters wouldn’t be well suited for crossbows, so they hadn’t brought any. Cordelia had refused to go anywhere near any sewers, so she had gone home.
Spike knew Giles was also armed with a handgun, which he’d kept secret from most of the group, but that he’d thought a good idea, given that some members of the Order of Taraka were human, or close enough to it. Spike gave the watcher a tight nod. “Nothing gets through, right?”
The answering nod was just as curt. “She comes back.”
“With my dust, if need be.”
Buffy cuffed him on the back of his head. “She is right here, and we’re both coming back.” She grabbed his hand and started dragging him along the tunnel.
*
It was easy to get into the Master’s lair. Spike tried to remember if when he was still evil he’d been that careless. He always made sure someone was on hand to take care of Dru if she had one of her episodes, but other than that… Had he ever posted a guard? Probably not. So maybe it was an ‘evil’ thing to do? You’re the worst out there, so you don’t care enough to protect yourself, confident nobody would be crazy enough to come a-knocking.
Guards or not, though, the muffling spell the witches had cast over them helped.
Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. He chuckled to himself while he twisted the neck of the lone vamp still awake. The next room was filled with sleeping fledglings. He and Buffy moved through them as stealthily as possible, leaving dust piles in their wake. Thank God for stupid fledges too young to lose their vamp faces even in their sleep, and too dumb to wake up when half were already dusted. The Aurelians sure weren’t what a force to be reckoned with as they’d once been. It was downright pathetic.
“Wha—?”
Spike put one hand over the mouth of the vampire who’d woken up, while with the other he staked her. He raised his head to confirm Buffy had just staked the last of the sleeping morons. Their gazes locked. God, he loved her: the silent killer, just as alluring as the punning fighter who always looked as if she was putting on a show for an unseen audience.
Are you all right? He thought at her, thanks to the second spell—a modified version of the one the ‘old’ Willow had used during the fight with Glory, powered by Amy this time.
Yes. I’m even better because I’m winning. I totally got more vamps than you. She poked her tongue out at him.
He chuckled, the sound absent because of the first spell.
They moved forward, ever deeper into the warrens the Aurelians had dug around the buried church the Master was stuck in. The trip was short and void of any other encounters with the Master’s minions. All too soon they were entering the vaulted structure housing one of the most notorious vampires ever.
“You’re early.” The Master stood on a dais at the end of the room, next to what had once been the altar. Ugly bugger. He was even more deformed than Spike had imagined from Darla and Dru’s descriptions. Angelus had really hit the nail on the head when he’d called him Old Batface that one time during an epic bout of drinking. He’d always denied saying it, but Spike made it his business to remember anything Peaches was ashamed of.
Buffy moved forward and gave a shrug. Tara’s muffling spell was still in effect, so she couldn’t have punned even if she wanted to. Spike was sure she wanted to.
As if to answer his unspoken thought, he heard her voice in his head. I never do what’s expected. Spike taught me that. Plus, you know, early bird, worm. Though you look more like something the worms already ate. Ewww.
I don’t think he can hear you, love.
I don’t care. He’ll be dust soon anyway. But you can hear me, and this is some of my best stuff here. So you better enjoy, mister. She glared briefly at him.
He put his hands up. Always. Love to hear what comes out of that mouth of yours. Or brain, in this case.
Nice save.
“As… touching… as all this silent discussion is, I do believe you’re being rude to me, your host.” The MAster took one step closer to the edge. “Would you like to share with the class?”
Spike noticed his eyes. He was completely focused on Buffy, his body swaying softly. Like one of those fakirs and their cobras. Like Dru.
He screamed inside his head. He’s trying to thrall you.
I know. I think Willow’s spell is holding up. I don’t feel any different.
You wouldn’t, that’s the whole trick. If you knew you were being tricked, it wouldn’t really be useful, now would it? Just be careful, okay?
She smiled at him. Always.
“You know, there is a prophecy: The Anointed One was supposed to lead you here.” The Master gave Spike an once-over. “Not exactly my first choice, but at least you’re family, William.” One moment he was in plain sight, and the next he’d merged with the shadows.
Look out, pet.
Where is he?
“The prophecy says you’d come to stop me and die.” There was a dark chuckle that reverberated around the room. “Prophecies are tricky things, though. They never tell you the whole story.”
Spike heard a faint sound and realized they were being flanked. He used every ounce of self-control he had not to turn that way, instead doing his best to appear to still be looking around wildly. He thought about warning Buffy, but something in what the Master had said earlier gave him pause. What if he was strong enough to read their thoughts, at least the ‘projected’ ones? He couldn’t risk it. He tightened his grip on his stake, though.
The voice was back, the echo making it impossible to figure out its source. “You see, Slayer. Had you not come here, I couldn’t be free. It’s your blood that frees me.” The Master appeared on Buffy’s left, his hand going for her throat.
Buffy, duck.
She did, shooting her hand out and embedding her stake in the master’s leg. Spike followed up her attack with his own, thrusting his stake in the Master’s throat. He’d been aiming for the bastard’s chest, but the old fucker could move really fast when he wanted to.
It was too little, too late. Buffy rose from the ground, her stake finding its mark on the way up.
I don’t believe in prophecies. I make my own destiny.
The Master dissolved to dust, leaving his bones behind.
Good job, Buffy.
The smile that light up her face was worth a million bucks. We did it. He’s dead and I’m not. Woohoo.
Still need to get rid of his bones. When she made a disgusted face, he sent her his laugh. Don’t worry, let the dead man worry about dead bones, yeah?
Oh, thank God. Just… let’s get out of here soon, okay boyfriend mine?
A swarm of butterflies took flight when she called him that. Anything you want, love.
Okay, you do whatever you need to do here, I’ll go back to the girls to let them know they can stop with the chanting. She gave him a quick peck on his lips and started to make her way back.
Spike frowned. He ducked down, grabbed some random small bones, stuffed them in his pocket, and hurried after Buffy. Something tells me we shouldn’t split up until we’re out of here. We’ll come for the rest of the bones later.
You scared, Spike?
He didn’t get a chance to answer. A couple of assassins from the Order of Taraka were coming right for them. The male had a heavy chain fashioned into a lasso, while the female had a trident in her hands.
Spike reached inside his jacket, found the charm there and crumbled it in his fist, breaking the spells the girls had cast on him. “The Master is dead, your contract is void.” He took another step forward and slashed his hand through the air. “You’re done here. Leave and don’t ever come back.”
The two Tarakans looked at each other. “Only the Master of Sunnydale can break the contract,” said the female.
“Forfeiting the half price given in advance,” the male hastened to add.
“I am the next in line to the Order of Aurelius, and I am the most powerful vampire in town. I am the Master of Sunnydale, and I’m telling you to get the fuck out of here. Now.”
“As you wish.” They dropped their defensive stances, turned, and left.
Buffy stepped up next to him. “Good riddance.” She looked at him out of the corner of her eye. “Is what you said true? Are you the new Master in town?”
Spike exhaled and let his shoulders sag. “I don’t know. I guess it is. Haven’t given it much thought before I said it, but… yeah.”
“Were you the Master before? In your old world?” Her face was closed off.
“I was, for a while. Then you… the other you, broke my back and that was that. I never actually took the title again, even if I think I was the de facto Master those last few years, at least.” He shrugged. “Why?”
“Just curious.” She looked down the corridor. “Were any of those… Did we just stake all your minions?”
He frowned. “I don’t want minions. Don’t need them, either. And even if I did, those pathetic excuses for undead wouldn’t have made the cut.” He gazed into her eyes. “What’s this all about?”
She shrugged, but didn’t look away. “I was just wondering if you didn’t miss it, or something. I don’t know, it’s stupid.”
“Buffy, the one thing you need to know about me is that I’m Love’s Bitch. I love you, so I’d never choose, or want, anything that would mean losing you. Got that?”
She was quiet for a few moments, looking deep into his eyes, as if she was searching for something. Finally she smirked. “So if you’re the Master, does that make me the Mistress?”
He burst out laughing, then kissed her, trying to convey every ounce of passion he had for her. “You can be the bloody queen if you want. Now let’s get out of here. Ripper is probably halfway ready to come to the rescue.”
“Ohmygod. I totally forgot about the gang. Let’s go.” She set off running back the way they’d come.
Spike followed, hoping they wouldn’t meet any resistance.

Mindfields lyrics copyright © EMI Music Publishing, BMG Rights Management US, LLC
Deserted behind them by Blackoberst
Hazing clouds rain on my head
Empty thoughts fill my ears
Find my shade by the moon light
Why my thoughts aren't so clear
Demons dreaming
Breathe in, breathe in
I'm coming back again
Godsmack - Voodoo

He slept for two days. Well, not the whole forty-eight hours, but close enough. He woke up once in a while, laughed, cried, and drank a pint of blood, then he went back to sleep. Rinse and repeat. Since the Master was dealt with, all his stress and guilt over Angel and everything else he’d changed caught up to him.
Once he was completely awake, he laughed until his belly ached, cried until he had no more tears, drank until he was full, sat down, and took stock.
As far as he was concerned, things were looking up. Of course, he hadn’t been able to stop some of the events from taking place, but at least he’d managed to limit their impact. The bug lady, the hyenas, and even the perverted little puppet’s demon target barely had time to show their heads and were taken care of. Others, such as the Order of Taraka played a much bigger role, and a lot earlier than in his world. Still, the Scoobies were larger, more united, and more open-minded than ever, so he could safely call it all a win.
In fact, he realized with a start it had been almost a year since he’d landed in this universe, and he felt good about it. Most important of all, he was Buffy’s boyfriend. He was sure he would get to the point when that thought wouldn’t immediately cause his lips to curl up into a smile, but that day was still a long ways away.
His eyes got big and he dropped his smile when his wandering mind stumbled upon a realization. When he thought of ‘his’ Scoobies, he’s stopped thinking about the ones he’d left behind, their place being taken by these… younger ones. When the hell had that happened?
His pensive mood was disturbed by Tara’s return from school. She’d enrolled—with Jenny’s help, and thanks to Principal Flutie’s laid-back style of management—in Sunnydale High, and was beginning to make the Hellmouth town her home. When she saw him she stopped, frowned, and sat next to him. “You okay?”
Spike smiled at her. “Was just thinking, pet. It’s been almost a year since I was… put here.”
“A—and?”
His smile turned into a genuine grin. “And I have it better than I ever did.”
She smiled and patted his hand. “I think… you deserve it.” She blushed and lowered her gaze.
“Thanks. I’m kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop.” He looked up to the ceiling in panic. “That’s not a challenge, okay?” The last thing he needed was for the Powers to screw things up for him.
He had a long list of things still left to do: get the Gem for him, the Scythe for Buffy, the Amara Treasure for everyone, and go after the rest of the group. He knew Gunn was probably starting up his gang days, but he could take care of himself. Wesley was still busy trying to be a model Watcher, and all-around useless human being at this point. Anyanka was happy being a vengeance demon, and Spike wasn’t entirely sure he should change that. He’d have to see how Xander shaped up.
Those were the easy decisions, though. From here on things got murky. Would Oz start dating Willow this time around? Perhaps Spike should warn him about... hmm. He didn’t remember exactly how it was the kid became a werewolf.
He needed to go get Faith. If what he got from what she’d let slip about her past was true, she was stashed away in some foster home. A foster home where the man of the house perved on her almost as much as the other teenage boys sharing the same roof. Sometime soon she’d run away and try to get by on the street. He couldn’t just let her get lost in that world.
There was also the problem with Fred. Poor, smart, trapped-in-another-dimension Fred. The trip there needed some research, time, and allies. Even if she was probably worse off at the moment than Faith, she’d survive. So she could wait a while as he put things in motion.
He blinked away his thoughts to find Tara looking at him. “I don’t know what’s going on, but you’re not really thinking happy thoughts.”
He got ready to reply, possibly with something rude, when he decided to change tactics. He liked how Tara had become so assertive as opposed to how he remembered her being when they’d first met in the ‘other’ world. Maybe if he included her in his plans, she’d open up even more. “I was thinking of some people who need my help.”
“Who?”
“There’s this girl, Faith. She acts all tough and street-wise, but inside she’d fragile. In my old world she got Called and it changed her destiny. It gave her a destiny. Here, since Buffy didn’t die fighting Old Batface, Rogue won’t have that chance. I… I feel responsible, so I’d like to help her… Like I helped you.”
Tara ducked her head. “Can I h—help?”
“I was just thinking I’d want you to come with. I’m not sure where in Boston she is now, so it might take a few days.”
Tara frowned. “And is Buffy coming too?”
“Don’t know. I’ll have to ask her and Joyce.”
“Maybe Wi—Willow can help.” Ad his raised eyebrow she blushed. “With the foster home. She’s good with computers so may—maybe…”
He snapped his fingers. “You’re right. I bet Red could find out where she’s supposed to be at. Good idea, Glinda.”
Tara nodded her head and hurried to her room.
~~~***~~~
*near the Master’s former lair*
Spike strode into the warrens with confidence. As opposed to his previous entrance, this time he wanted to make as much noise as possible. Taking the crown is loud business, after all.
Soon enough he reached the vaulted room the Master had been trapped in. All of the remaining members of the Order of Aurelius were gathered there, listening to one of them preach the return of the Master.
“He’s not coming back.” Spike threw a stake through the heart of the undead zealot to accompany his words.
Shouts of ‘traitor,’ ‘slayer’s slave,’ and ‘walking dust’ could be heard from several of the vampires. Spike made a mental note of all the more hostile-looking of the bunch.
“Quiet.” His voice boomed and reverberated along the chamber walls. “I’m here to tell you the past is done, and it’s time for a little less ritual, and a bit more fun.”
A vampire with a Neanderthal’s forehead stepped forward. “Who are you to think you can give the orders here?” Spike narrowed his eyes. The big lug seemed familiar, but he couldn’t quite place him.
“I’m the oldest, and toughest vampire around here, that’s who.”
The other vamp snorted. “I was at the Crucifixion, so I got you beat.”
The boast triggered a memory in Spike’s mind. It was the same minion he’d used as bait for Buffy the first time he’d laid eyes on her in the other world. “If every vampire that claims to have been at the Crucifixion was actually there, it would have been bigger than Woodstock. I should know: I was actually at Woodstock. Fed on a flower person and watched my hand move for hours.” He used the diversion he’d created with his play-acting to stake the boasting Neanderthal. Putting on his most fearsome facial expression, he issued his claim. “I, William the Bloody, childe of Drusilla the Mad, scion of the Order of Aurelius, declare I am the new Master of Sunnydale. Obey me, challenge me, or be gone from my dominion.”
His words were met with silence at first. Some of the vampires—Dalton among them, much to Spike’s delight—lowered their heads in obvious deference to his claim. Most of the ones Spike had already marked as threats were urging each other on to challenge him. Spike readied himself by retrieving another stake from his coat pocket and the machete from his hip holster.
Battle was joined. He staked two vampires, decapitated another, and left two more crawling on the floor with missing limbs even before the non-combatants made room in the middle of the chamber. With the first wave taken care of, he concentrated on the remaining five challengers, now looking a lot less confident in their chances.
A series of kicks, leaps, and some swipes of his machete, and he’d rendered all his opponents either dust, or unable to fight, leaving just the ones who’d submitted to his rule unharmed. He was about to shout his victory when from the corner of his eye he noticed movement. He ducked in time to avoid the wild swing with one of his own discarded stakes by a vamp who’d snuck up on him. A red blur flew into action and ripped the offender’s head off before Spike had time to regain his footing.
“Thanks, pet.”
The leather-clad vampire bowed her head. “He was attacking my Master.” Despite the words and the subservient position, Spike could detect a vibrant and independent creature.
He made a mental note to see what she was capable of as a minion. He would need a worthy second in command. He surveyed the remaining vampires—some had slithered away while the fighting took place. He had a good couple dozen vampires to lord over, some of them old acquaintances, like Dalton. Time to set them straight. “Listen up. I’m not hardly what the bloody Bat was, nor am I like any other Master vamp out there. One of the things that sets me apart is who my consort is. As at least some of you know, I’m talking about the Slayer.” He didn’t give anyone the chance to comment and forged on. “That means my minions are as much hers as they are mine. It also means you lot will be bagging it, or you’re dust. Anyone got a problem with that, you’re free to leave, but this is your last chance. Do I make myself clear?”
Most of the minions started nodding their heads frantically, while a few left, mumbling about ‘whipped’ Masters asking for impossible things. Spike thought twenty was a good enough number, so he didn’t mind the losses. Better to have a few loyal followers than a lot of disgruntled would-be back-stabbers.
After the remaining minions had gathered in front of him to swear their fealty Buffy made her entrance the same way Spike had, and took her place next to him, just as they’d discussed before he went there. She looked the part, but more importantly, she played the part. Head held high, back straight, looking over the minions as a queen looks at her subjects. She met the stare of the few who’d raised their heads from their bowed positions and made them lower their heads one by one.
“Hi there. I’m Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. You heard what your Master said: you bag it, or you’re dust.”
The redhead who’d fought for Spike spoke up. “No exceptions? Not even ‘catch and release?’”
Buffy pretended to think it over. In fact, the terms and conditions had been ironed out at the Scooby meeting earlier that evening. “No, I don’t think ‘catch and release is a good idea.” Before any of the minions had a chance to even think about mumbling, Buffy went in for the kill. “I’m thinking ‘catch and turn in’ is better. You can drink from criminals, as long as you leave them on the police station’s doorstep.” She pinned the vamps that seemed much too happy at the thought with her best ‘Slayer’ glare. “Alive.”
The minions tripped over themselves trying to reassure Buffy they would abide by her rules. It was funny watching twenty game-faced minions all but cross their hearts and hope to die in front of the Slayer.
“All right, you miscreants. It’s time you got out from these tunnels, and started unliving in the town above. There’s an abandoned factory with our name on it, and it’s not going to fix itself up.”
“But, Boss, what about our stuff?”
Spike gave the guy who’d spoken a once-over. That particular minion wouldn’t win any brainiac contests. “There’s no mob with pitchforks and torches battering down the doors. Take your time, take whatever you need, and then trot along, like Santa’s good little helpers.” He gave them the address of the factory and tried his best to ignore whatever they were going to do.
While the vampires were milling about, trying to find whatever meager belongings they had, Buffy brought out a hammer and handed it to Spike. “You promised me something last time we were here, remember?”
“Consider it done.” He bashed and ground the Master’s bones into dust, and then collected it in a Ziploc bag for Giles to sprinkle over a river later. Once he was done he let his eyes roam once more over the cavernous chamber. He found himself wondering, once more, about his times as an evil vampire. Sure, his minions were on their way to the same factory he’d called home once upon a time, but it still felt different. He already had plans to upgrade it, transform it into someplace livable. He had thoughts about jobs for the crew, methods of getting blood delivered, and other such details. Back in the day his thought process concerning minions was ‘dust whichever one is most useless.’
He’d known the time spent around Buffy and the Scoobies had changed him, even before the soul, but reliving this year, bathed in blood as it had been the first time, really put things in perspective. He shivered from head to toe. Thank everything unholy for the bloody chip; without it he possibly never would have ended up where he was now.
He pulled out of his introspection to find Buffy giving him a puzzled look. “Just thinking about what to do next, love.”
“I think your fist order of business would be to take your Mistress out on the town. Otherwise she just might sick the minions on you.”
He gave a hearty laugh and offered her his elbow. “That’s an offer I can’t refuse, my Lady.”
They walked back to the tunnels side by side, trailing the scrambling minions, and leaving the Master’s lair deserted behind them.

Godsmack – Voodoo lyrics copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group
Happiness by Blackoberst
A goddess on a mountain top
Was burning like a silver flame
The summit of beauty and love
And Venus was her name.
Shocking Blue - Venus

*A couple of weeks before summer break, Spike’s apartment*
The front door opening and closing rose Spike from his slumber. It took him a couple of seconds to get his bearings, but when he did, he concluded it was the time Tara usually came back from school.
He washed himself, put some clean clothes on, and then went out to talk to his landlord. “How was school today, ducks?”
“I-it was g-good.”
There was a slight tremor in her voice and her heart rate had picked up. Spike’s face darkened. “What happened?”
She flinched, then went about fixing herself a sandwich. “There were a couple of boys. They were…”
Spike listened to Tara’s account with growing anger. Two steroid pumping jocks had let their hormones get the best of them, made a move on Glinda, and called her names for not falling over herself to please them. Some of the things they said had really struck a chord. “Who were they?”
Tara smirked. “Slayer bait one, and witch experiment two.”
He took a moment to imagine all the ways that must have gone down. He almost felt sorry for the morons. Almost. It ticked him off that there were kids in that school who didn’t know not to mess with any member of the Scoobies, but the whole ‘secret identity’ of the whole group all but insured such events would continue. Spike had to have faith his friends—and that’s exactly what they all were, even ‘numbskull’ Jesse, and ‘you’re all beneath me’ Cordelia—would be able to take care of themselves.
Of course, the group was only going to get larger. He’d already noticed Oz in the hallways a couple of times, and he knew the quiet teen would be a great fit, even if he didn’t become a werewolf in this universe. Another potential ‘recruit’ was busy trying to be invisible to everyone—Jonathan. Spike still didn’t know how or if to approach Andrew, but he was sure of one thing, at least: Warren needed to be muzzled fast. During Spike’s ’introspective’ period, while being tortured by the First, and then during a couple of chats with post-black-eyes Willow, the truth had become clear: the boy was a sociopath with too much brains to be ignored. Whereas Spike had killed and maimed because that’s what his demon and his vampire family requested, and while Willow did what she did from a deep rooted desire to ‘fix’ things so that nobody she cared about hurt in any way, Warren’s path to crime was based solely on his desires.
He wanted money, fame, and female slaves. In short, everything the Scoobies couldn’t and wouldn’t offer him, even if they recruited him. For now Spike had Warren put under close watch through various methods. Once he slipped up and did something evil—as Spike was sure he would—he’d be just another statistic.
That was all in the future, though. Time to focus on the present. “Pet, everything set for Boston?”
“Yes. Willow found the house and even hacked into the… Well, she looked around somewhere and got her history.” She looked down. “The things she… she had it rough.”
“I know. That’s why we need to get her out of there. And that’s why you need to be with me. I hope, between the two of us, we can get through to her.”
Tara put her hand on Spike’s. “I’m sure we will. We have tickets for two weeks from now.”
“Willow again?”
“Joyce. She’s coming with.”
“Ah.”
Nothing more needed to be said on the subject. Faith would have her family soon.
~~~***~~~
*The factory, later that evening*
The sound of power tools was deafening. A hodge-podge group of vampires, demons, and humans was busy tearing down walls, building partitions, installing surveillance and utilities, strengthening supports, and transforming the old factory into a modern day headquarters for the discriminate Master of Sunnydale.
Spike made his way through the construction gangs until he reached the nerve center, exchanging pleasantries with the workers as he progressed.
“If we don’t have cables there, we won’t be able to put in the sockets where we need them to plug in the computers in the main office space.” Dalton was pointing to the floor plan that had been changed at least twelve times in the past few weeks since work had started.
“If we put the cables where you want them we won’t be able to anchor the weapons rack in the armory.” Penny waved her hands over another part of the floor plan to emphasize her point.
Dalton frowned and didn’t speak for a few moments. He then drew some lines with a pencil. “If we break the wall here, put in some cable channels through there, and dig up the floors through this part, it’ll take us longer, be more expensive, but we can still have both working electrical plugs, and weapon racks.”
Penny’s face broke out in a victorious grin for a second, before she schooled her features into a frown. “Glad that’s finally settled. Now let’s talk furniture.”
It was a perfect moment to step into the discussion. “Make sure the chairs are the most comfortable things you can find. The rest is just details.” Spike took a look at the table filled with papers and writing utensils to gauge what other progress had been made. Things were looking up.
“So if I say we should get full metal desks, that’d be okay?” Penny had one eyebrow raised in challenge. Normally a minion would be punished for such insolence, but Spike had grown fond of her outspoken nature.
“Fuck. Now that you mention it, you better run all furniture by the missus, otherwise she’ll have all our hides.”
“I already sent the Slayer a couple of ideas and she said she’d get back to me.”
Spike and Dalton shared a look. “Well then, seems you have that well in hand. I’ll just talk to Dalton over here about what books to get.”
Spike spent the next hour playing referee to the two highest ranked minions in his nest, directing the rest of the workers, and dealing with delivery issues. Such were the joys of being a Master.
*
There was a strange hush that fell over the factory. A moving bubble of silence. To a human, or an untrained ear it wasn’t even there, but Spike knew better. Despite the past weeks, and despite her title of Mistress, Buffy’s primary title was still Slayer. So whenever the Slayer walked into his compound the assorted demons and vampires working for him paused in their work, before remembering she was not there for them, and getting back to their tasks.
It was that lull that gave her away and made Spike’s heart leap in his chest. He was so focused on extending his senses in search for her it took him a few moments to realize Penny had been speaking before Buffy entered the factory. She looked at him now with a knowing smirk on her face. Spike scowled at her. “You best not forget your place, Ginger. I may not be the usual type of tyrant, but I’m still your boss.
“Of course, Master. Should I repeat what I was saying, or will the rest of it have to wait until tomorrow?”
He snarled at her. It wasn’t an expression of his anger, it was more a reminder that she should show more respect. Before he could dwell on that, though, Buffy entered the room and all his thoughts centered on her.
No matter how many times he saw her, she always managed to take his unneeded breath away.
***
“What are we doing here, baby?”
“Take a few more steps, you’ll know.”
“What do you me—? What is that?” She frowned, but kept going, her gaze going straight to the place Spike expected her to look at. “That is… mine.”
“Right you are, love.” He took a step forward and pointed at the scythe. “That there is the most powerful weapon in the Slayer’s arsenal bar one – yourself. All you need to do is make with the King Arthur bit and it’s yours.”
Buffy nodded absentmindedly, grabbed the handle, and wrenched the scythe from the rock. “Wow. This is… just wow.”
“In the other world we only found this little pretty near the very end.” He shook his head. “I can only imagine what it could have done had we had it on time… Maybe Glory wouldn’t have…” He sighed. “Anyway, having it now should help you deal with anything coming to this hellhole.”
She looked at him sideways, her attention still clearly on her new favorite weapon. “And what about you?”
He smirked and feigned shyness. “Well, mine’s not so much a weapon, as it’s the near perfect defense.” He held up his left hand, showing her his new adornment. “This here is the Gem of Amara. Most scholars and vamps haven’t even heard of it, the rest think it’s just a fairy tale. Makes the wearer invulnerable to the sun, holy water, crosses, and even staking. I should know, tried them all in the other world.” He chuckled. “Not fool-proof though. Apparently it only takes one pissed off slayer to rip it off your finger and it’s bye-bye Precious.”
“Really?”
“Yup, really. Don’t worry, got a better plan this time.” He removed the ring from his finger, raised his T-shirt, and placed the gem on his belly. “See, I thought about it. The thing with the Gem is that it conserves the body to the state it is in when you put it on. You have a scar? You’ll still have a scar. Missing limb? Still going to miss it.” He clucked his tongue a couple of times. “The problem is a bleeding wound will still bleed, so I can’t cut a hole and squish it in hoping it will close. Swallowing it might work, But I don’t wanna risk it since others might figure that one out and try to rip through my stomach to get it.”
“So your plan is to do a striptease?”
He grinned. “You complaining?”
She blushed. “No, just checking.”
“My plan is you’re going to use the Scythe to slice into my abdomen and I’ll push it in. Since the Gem will be touching me at all times, the wound will close right up, trapping it inside me where it will be safe and sound.”
She jerked back. “You’re kidding me.”
“Not even a little bit.”
“Won’t it hurt?”
He shrugged. “Might sting a bit at first, yeah, but it’s worth it.” He reached for her with the hand that wasn’t holding the Gem pressed to his abs. “Don’t worry, kitten, everything will be just fine.”
She frowned, nodded, and got into a fighting stance. “You ready?”
“As I’ll ever be.”
The pain was sharp as the blade sliced him open, in essence gutting him. He pushed it out of his mind as he pressed the ring inside. Then Buffy withdrew her weapon and the wound closed, the Gem doing its job and quelling the pain as it restored him. It was done. He was so happy he leaped at Buffy and captured her mouth with his, giving her a long, passionate kiss. By the time they stopped trying to devour each other they were both panting.
“Spike?”
“Yeah?”
“I love you.”
He’d be thrice damned if an angel choir didn’t start singing ‘Hallelujah’ that moment inside his brain. “God, baby, I love you so much.”
“You do?”
He drew back a little so as to look her straight in the eye. “Of course I do. Why wouldn’t I?”
“Because you might not love me for me, but me for the other me that will never be, see?”
Only Buffy could make that kind of leap, but that only made him love her more. “I love you. I’m in love with you. It has nothing to do with what was, is, or will have been in the other world, with another us. I, Spike, love you, Buffy.” His cheeks hurt a little from how wide his smile was, but he couldn’t be bothered to care.
“Well, I’m in love with you, too, just so you know.”
“You just made me a very happy vamp.”
Her smile was coy and naughty at the same time. “Well, you make me a very happy slayer, so I guess that’s only fair.”
“Well, if you liked this so much, wait ‘til I tell you what’s behind door number two: the Gem comes with a chamber full of pretties we can sell off and never want for money again.” He pretended to be rethinking. “Well, not quite, since forever is a long time and I’ve seen you shop, but we should be okay for at least a century.”
“Seriously?”
“Would I lie to you?”
She stopped smiling, placed a hand on his cheek, and leaned in. “No, I don’t think you would.” She kissed him, all soft and sweet. His heart all but beat with happiness.

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