A Switch in Time by coalitiongirl
1. Chapter 1 by coalitiongirl
2. Chapter 2 by coalitiongirl
3. Chapter 3 by coalitiongirl
4. Chapter 4 by coalitiongirl
5. Chapter 5 by coalitiongirl
6. Chapter 6 by coalitiongirl
7. Epilogue by coalitiongirl
Chapter 1 by coalitiongirl
I don't think this is going to have very many chapters, but the chapters will probably be longer than I usually write. Also, I know it gets pretty confusing with the Buffy-Buffy situation, so I'll mostly be referring to past!Buffy as past!Buffy when we're in Buffy's point of view. And to everyone else, of course, she's Anya!
It took Buffy roughly five seconds to realize that Willow had screwed up.
It took her another five seconds to realize that Willow hadn’t actually screwed up. She was exactly when she was supposed to be, judging from the counter she was leaning against. She hadn’t seen the Magic Box in nearly five years, since the start of the First’s assault on Sunnydale. So Willow had definitely sent her to the past, and judging from the size of the girl hunched over at the table, it was when Dawn was still young. So she was willing to bet that this was around the beginning of the Glory fiasco.
But it didn’t make sense. Her hands had never looked like that, she noted, inspecting them. And she definitely hadn’t been this large up front, and she still wasn’t this tall. She ducked down, trying to find her proper height.
Dawn looked up, frowning. “What are you doing, Anya?”
Anya was here? Buffy twisted around to try to find the ex-demon. She’d actually missed her more than she would have expected after Sunnydale. There was something very refreshing about someone who never bothered with fabrication or diplomacy. Granted, it had gotten annoying pretty quickly, but Buffy suspected that they could have been more accepting of Anya. She’d probably also have been a valuable resource when she wasn’t babbling about eviscerations and castrating…
“Anya. I’m talking to you. Over here,” Dawn sounded annoyed.
Buffy frowned. “Where?” Then she heard the sound of her voice and sighed.
Yep, Willow had screwed up, alright.
One year after Sunnydale, the Slayers had been at full force, fighting in organized groups against evil that seemed only to get stronger. But they’d been doing well. By the end of the second year, the Slayers had been outed and were world-renowned for their power. By the third year’s close, three-quarters of the Slayers had joined that damned Kennedy and her Watcher in their little Slayer superiority camp, believing themselves above the law because the general populace let them think that.
And four years after Sunnydale, all hell broke loose. Kennedy’s army of Slayers and their slavish followers of both humans and demons had demanded political amnesty that soon led to political representation and eventually, rule over the nations that had conceded. Buffy’s Slayers didn’t agree. Tensions escalated, excuses were made, and full-fledged war broke out between the Slayers.
After Faith and her main two lieutenants had been brutally murdered by their sister Slayers, Buffy had had enough. She’d gone to find Willow, who’d long ago shuttered herself into a neutral coven in the far east, and begged her for help, only to discover that Willow had already anticipated her arrival.
The Potentials had to have been activated to defeat the First Evil, Willow had explained. Buffy had argued with that, pointing out that someone else had saved the day. Someone she didn’t like to think about. It was too painful. But Willow had told her that although he had stopped the Hellmouth from opening, the rise of the Slayers had stopped the First Evil from following them to their next base and attacking them there. They’d tipped the scales; then, they had thought that it was in favor of good, now, Buffy wasn’t so sure.
Anyway, the Potentials had to become Slayers because of the First. And the First had gained power because Buffy had been resurrected. So, Willow had told her, she’d spent months putting together a spell that would send Buffy back in time, to the start of their battle with Glory. Her goal? Not to die.
Of course, that wasn’t going to be helpful now, since Willow had screwed up.
She was in Anya’s body.
Struck by an idea, she peeked into the back room, where she could hear the banging and smashing that usually meant that she’d been training. After all, if she were in Anya’s body, then maybe Anya was in hers.
But the other Buffy just looked up at her with a quizzical look and said, “Hey, Anya. Is something wrong?”
She tried leaving the Magic Box, but then remembered that Anya worked there. Great. Because Buffy’d been so very good at it the one day that she’d worked there. So instead, she replaced items on shelves, groaning at how heavy they were without Slayer power. How was she supposed to save the other Buffy from Glory if she could barely even lift the Sword of Barendan and put it on the shelf?
And where was Anya, anyway? Was she in Buffy’s future body? Was Willow trying to fix this now? The spell had been set to return Buffy exactly one year from now, and Buffy wasn’t ready to botch up Anya’s brief stint as a human during the time allotted to her.
But she might just do that anyway, she realized with a shudder as Xander slipped into the chair next to her. An Anya that didn’t want to have sex with him every moment of every day was going to be a very suspiciously acting Anya, indeed. And Buffy drew the line at Xander-sex.
At least he hadn’t tried to kiss her or anything yet.
“Ah, good.” Giles and the younger Buffy exited the training room together. “You’re here. Where’s Willow?”
Right on cue, Willow walked into the Magic Box. “Hey. Am I late? Did I miss any exposition?”
Giles began droning on about safety procedures concerning the “creature” they’d encountered (read: annoying hellgod with a bad perm), her younger self piping up with additional commentary. Buffy zoned out. She didn’t even remember this conversation the first time around.
How to stop Glory? That was really the main issue. She reviewed the previous events that had led up to Dawn on that tower. Tara’d been brain-sucked, she’d shown Glory the Key, they’d run, Glory had caught up to them…
Buffy frowned. How had that happened? It was a little fuzzy. She remembered Giles getting hurt and Ben coming to help, but then Glory had… Glory had…
Huh. Whatever. It didn’t matter. Glory had gotten to them, grabbed Dawn, and the rest was history with a very bad ending for the acrophobic. So the trick would be to keep Tara from getting hurt, and maybe then Glory wouldn’t be able to activate the Key. Oh! And that Doc guy. Buffy would pull some strings and convince the others to count on her for a plan. How hard could it be?”
“…We’ll need to find her weakness and Buffy will be able to defeat her,” Giles concluded.
Four pairs of eyes turned to her. “Got something to say, Anya?” the other Buffy asked, frowning.
Buffy shrugged. “I just don’t think that this is going to be that easy. It might be a job for all of us.” There. Now’d they’d talk before they acted, and Buffy could steer them right.
Xander patted her on the shoulder. “Ahn, leave the Slaying to the experts, okay?”
“What?” Buffy scowled. “I’m just saying, this thing beat Buffy before. She didn’t have a chance. How do we know that she’ll be able to do anything next time?”
Willow turned to Giles. “I’m going to do some research on humanoid demons now. Anything else I should keep in mind?”
The other Buffy wandered off to train, and Xander engaged Dawn in some inane conversation. Buffy was left at the table, openmouthed.
It was like she didn’t exist at all, for all the attention she’d gotten. They hadn’t even bothered to respond to her argument.
Right. She smacked her head. I’m Anya.
How the hell am I going to convince anyone to listen to me?
“Something’s in here!” younger Buffy called from the next room.
Instinctively, Buffy raced in, searching for a threat.
“Get out of here, Anya!” the other Buffy snapped. “Get Giles!”
Invisible monsters. She remembered this. This was Tara’s spell, when she had thought she was becoming a demon. Just after her first encounter with Glory. Nice timing, Will.
Buffy darted forward, attacking past Buffy’s invisible demon with all her strength. But she miscalculated her own weight and speed and was hit instead. She turned blindly to grab the demon, but it was gone again.
“They’re invisible!” she cried out.
Younger Buffy gave her a look. “Yeah, I got that. Mind leaving the slaying to the experts?”
“Only if you leave the demons to the expert!” Buffy retorted, feeling oddly protective of the body she was inhabiting.
“Anya, now’s really not the time,” past!Buffy jogged into the main shop and madness.
“It’s over there!” Xander was shouting, pointing in one direction.
“How many are there?” Giles asked desperately.
“Shut up!” past!Buffy shut her eyes, trying to concentrate.
And finally, Tara walked in. “Buffy, behind you!” she called, and past!Buffy was able to block an attack.
“Tara, where is it? Can you see it?” past!Buffy demanded.
Buffy breathed a sigh of relief as Tara undid the spell and the demons were defeated.
Mr. Maclay and his entourage came in just as past!Buffy killed the last demon. “What in god’s name is that?”
And then, from the back of the room, Buffy heard a voice that made her freeze.
“Le-ach demon,” Spike informed them. “Fun little buggers. Big with the marrow-sucking.”
After Sunnydale, he’d somehow ended up with Angel. Buffy wasn’t sure of the details. But he’d never contacted her, never said a thing. She didn’t know how, after the year before that, he could have just given up on them. Not after she’d said she loved him.
She supposed her ego had been bruised when Spike hadn’t come to her like the good little lapdog he’d been. That must have been why she’d decided not to go visit him after Andrew had returned from LA and told her everything. That, and a bit of selfishness. There’d been a nasty little part of her that had been relieved that he hadn’t contacted her. She knew that her friends wouldn’t have accepted him, just like before, and she hadn’t been ready for the complications that Spike would bring.
So she’d pushed off seeing him or talking to him every day, up until the moment that she’d gotten word from Giles that Angel had fought some huge battle in LA. Only a few had survived. Spike had not been one of them.
She had half-expected him to be raised from the dead yet again. Nothing had ever stopped Spike before. But he’d never come, not to her, not to Angel. She’d even had Drusilla tracked in a fit of paranoia to be sure that he hadn’t been returned without his soul or learned morals.
Finally, she’d been forced to concede defeat. Spike wasn’t coming back. And then she’d been assailed by recriminations. First, the guilt that she’d been too annoyed by his snub to be honest with him post-Sunnydale. He’d probably died believing that she hadn’t cared about him. Again. Then, the memories of what she’d done wrong, what she could have changed. And her memories slowly shifted in his favor.
First, He spent the past few years trying to kill me became I was the Slayer. We were essentially at war.
Then He tried to rape me! became I emotionally abused him for a full year, bringing him to that explosion.
Finally, He never bothered to contact me, even after I told him I loved him became I made out with Angel two days before he died, and never really told him how much he’d helped me. He’d probably thought that he was doing her a favor by not telling her that he was alive. And then, she would have agreed with him.
With the newfound maturity that came from recognizing her own failings, she’d chosen not to dwell on the mistakes she’d made with Spike. Instead, she’d remembered the good. The way that he’d always given her what she’d needed, the way he’d made her feel alive. The way he’d given her solace and the courage to fight. The way he’d made her laugh, and cry, and love.
Love. She had loved Spike, after all. But she hadn’t realized it until it was too late. And that had hurt more than anything else. She hadn’t spoken about him much after her epiphanies, but she’d measured every man she’d dated against his pedestal. It had ruined a lot of prospective relationships. Hell, it had even ruined her second try at a relationship with a human Angel, post-Shanshu.
“I’m sick of being the third wheel to you and Spike!” he’d exploded. “He’s not coming back, and if you don’t move on, you’re going to be alone forever.”
And she had been, after that. She’d spent almost three years alone and lonely, never moving into an emotional relationship. She’d given up.
But now, she realized with a burst of clarity, she had a second chance. Granted, it wouldn’t be for her. Willow was pretty sure that if she changed the past, her future self would be instantly altered the moment she returned to the future. Another year with Spike would be a dream come true, but then she’d have to cope with life without him.
And besides, she didn’t want him to be in love with Anya.
She beamed. I can do this! All she had to do was push her old self and Spike together into a loving, healthy relationship.
That is, if either of them would listen to her.
Anya was acting weird.
Xander had been getting that sense all night, when she had barely afforded him a glance and tried to get involved in Buffy’s fights. Especially after Tara’s family left and she kept staring at Spike with an odd little smile on her face. But it was the look she normally got when she sensed profit, so that was easily understandable. Spike was always involved in some scheme or another.
What wasn’t understandable was her decision not to have sex that night. Or for a while, if what she said was true.
“I just want to understand how relationships are built without sexual contact,” she insisted. “Our relationship began with sex. I want to make sure that we can pull it off in case you, uh…ever become a vampire and have to be cursed and can’t have sex.”
He shook his head. “I told you, I don’t want to roleplay Buffy and Angel again.”
Her face contorted. “Eww!”
“Hey, you weren’t complaining then!” Xander remembered. “In fact, you said-“
“Let’s-” Anya cut him off, “-Not rehash it, okay?” She looked a little sick. “I just want to try this.”
“If you really loved me, you’d be able to be with me regardless of the lack of sex,” she said swiftly.
“I-“ Xander said, a little dazed. Since when did they talk about love?
“Great!” She smiled winningly. “I’ll take the couch. It’s only fair, since this was my idea.”
And that’s when Xander had known that something was wrong with Anya.
After all, when had she ever put someone else’s comfort before her own?
He had a bad feeling about this. Please don’t let her be pregnant, he prayed, staring at the ceiling. He’d give her some more time, and then speak to Willow.
Hopefully, she was just possessed.
Chapter 2 by coalitiongirl
Buffy Summers was one unhappy girl.
For one thing, she’d recently discovered that her sister was actually a fabrication made by a bunch of monks and sent to her to be protected. For another, she’d been staked the night before with her own weapon by a smelly vampire.
And to make things worse, she was therefore spending the evening with the last person she liked to spend any time with.
Make that two, she thought with a grimace as Anya approached the table she was sharing with Spike at the Bronze. But Anya was Xander’s girlfriend, and Buffy was trying to be a good friend, so she smiled brightly at the other girl and said, “Hey! What brings you to the Bronze?”
Anya made a face. “Well, I was going to go patrolling with everyone else, but Riley seemed to have it all under control.” She shuddered at Buffy’s boyfriend’s name, and Buffy squashed the urge to get annoyed with her. Xander’s girlfriend, Xander’s girlfriend, Xander’s girlfriend… she chanted to herself. “So what are you doing here?” Anya asked innocently.
Buffy nodded at the second chair at her table, where Spike sat languidly. “He’s going to tell me some things I need to know.”
Anya beamed. “Oh, a date!”
Spike smirked with smug calm. Buffy could only gape at Anya with horror as she prattled on. “I’ve always thought that you two would be good for each other. I mean, it’s not like you’d be happy with normal Riley! And you’ve got all that insecurity about your men leaving you, and Spike loves with his whole heart… He would never let you go.” Anya’s gaze took on a faraway look. “Well, not unless you pushed him away.”
Buffy was inordinately grateful to Spike, who was looking even paler than usual, when he finally stopped Anya. “As much fun as that might be, love, I think you’re getting the wrong idea.”
“Yeah. Much wrongness there,” Buffy said firmly. Only Anya would come up with an idea that ridiculous.
Anya’s face fell, and Buffy wondered at her distress at the situation. “But you’re perfect together!” She looked sheepish. “Fine. I get it. You’re just going to stick with the talkage. I’ll leave you two alone.”
She walked away with a strange spring to her step.
Buffy stared at Spike. Spike stared at Buffy. There was a long silence where neither one would look at the other, and Buffy was suddenly reminded of the awkwardness that had surrounded the first few days after their faux engagement.
Finally, Buffy couldn’t stand the quiet anymore. “So! The Slayers. Let’s hear it.”
Leave it to Anya to ruin a purely business arrangement with her big mouth. Buffy tried to force Anya’s pervasive words out of her mind, reminding herself that it was Anya, and she couldn’t be taken seriously, no matter how insightful she had seemed. But she noticed that Spike was a little less snarky than usual all night, and she herself wasn’t as much with the obnoxious as Spike usually brought out in her.
And by the end of the night, despite Anya’s words about their “date” ringing in her ears, she still didn’t object when Spike walked home with her.
It’s not like I’d ever think of Spike as a prospective boyfriend, she reminded herself. But he’s been staking out my house all the time lately. I’m just saving him a trip.
He did stake out her house, just like she’d expected. She could see him through her mother’s window while her mother broke the news about her planned visit to the hospital.
And later, when it was all too much too handle and she was in tears on her back porch, when Spike approached, she didn’t force him away. It seemed perfectly natural that he would sit down beside her, silently sharing in her anguish and easing the load, just a little.
Buffy wiped the grin off her face as she opened the door to Xander and Anya’s apartment. The night had gone on just as she’d planned. She’d sown some seeds of…something…between past!Buffy and Spike, and then spent the rest of the night training at the Magic Box, figuring out how to work with her skills in Anya’s body.
This shouldn’t have been that hard. Technically, she could just tell her friends who she was and, assuming they believed her, they could work together to stop Glory. But there was still the risk factor.
”I’ve set up the spell so that you’ll be transferred into your past self,” Willow had told her. “It’s the easiest way.”
“Why don’t you just send me back as I am now?” Buffy suggested. “I’m much more fit now. And then past!Buffy won’t lose a year of her life.”
Willow shook her head. “You can’t do that. It creates a temporal paradox. The instant that past!Buffy would be made aware that you were from her future, there would be a temporal collapse that would probably send you right back here, right now. Better that Buffy loses a year than we lose this window of opportunity.”
If she could persuade them not to tell Buffy, she’d be safe. But the odds of them even believing her long enough to help hide the truth were low.
So instead, she spent as much time as possible avoiding her friends.
She hadn’t realized just how hard it was to be Anya. Granted, Anya had gotten high-maintenance and whiny at times, but Buffy was beginning to understand why. Riley ignored her, which was a relief. She just felt awkward and uncertain around her onetime boyfriend. Willow hated her at this point, and that hadn’t improved much over the years. Xander treated her as though she was just a piece of fluff, quieting her whenever she spoke up and acting as if she was incapable of shaping intelligent thoughts. It was disturbing to realize that Xander treated her past self and Willow better than his own girlfriend.
Why did she stay with him? Buffy wondered. She had the nagging feeling that it was because Anya had no one else to go to. Poor, poor Anya…
Now came the hardest part of the night, better known as the Avoid-Physical-Contact-With-Xander dance. She inched the door open, careful not to let it squeak when she entered, and slid inside. Xander was nowhere in sight, but she could hear the shower. Perfect. She curled up on the couch, praying that she’d fall asleep before Xander emerged.
When Xander finally did come out of the shower, she was apparently fast asleep and snoring slightly. He sighed heavily when he saw her and gave her a chaste kiss on the lips, then turned to head for the bedroom. “What did I do?” he mumbled to himself as he vanished into their room.
Buffy, her eyes still tightly shut, bit her lip. She did feel guilty about doing this, but there were some lines she refused to cross.
It was time to plan the next few days.
Spike was awakened by the sound of his crypt door smashing open. “Come in, Slayer,” he called, not bothering to sit up on his sarcophagus to face her.
Instead, he heard the footsteps stop short and Anya’s voice saying interestedly, “Wow. I thought that I would be too weak to pull that off.”
Spike jerked up, mildly perplexed. “What can I do for you, Demon Girl?”
She shook her head. “You’re nice to me. Well, as nice as you are to any of us. Why can’t Xander be that nice?”
Oh, no. Was this Anya’s way of flirting with him? He’d have imagined that foreplay with Anya would consist of, “Do you want to make orgasms together?” or something similar.
Anya plopped down next to him on the sarcophagus. “Whatcha doing?”
“Well, I was sleeping,” Spike informed her. “Any chance you’ll let me get back to that?”
In response, Anya reached out to run her fingers up and down his arm.
“Anya?” Spike tried, a little concerned at the contact.
She didn’t appear to have heard him. She reached his neck and brushed against it with the back of her fingers, inhaling deeply.
“Anya!” Spike snapped his fingers in her face. She gasped, startled. “As flattering as this is, I think you’re getting the wrong idea. I’d love to stick it to the lackbrain, but…” But I’m going for blondes now? But I’m getting fuzzy feelings for your boyfriend’s best friend, and she wouldn’t handle this very well? But as stunning as you are, I’m a little afraid that you’ll get your vengeance demon friends to curse off my testicles?
“But you’re in love with Buffy,” she said absently, running her fingers through his hair.
“What?” Spike’s mouth went dry and he forced a wild laugh. “N-no I’m not! That’s ridiculous!” he said, sounding so absurdly false, he wanted to slap himself.
Anya grinned impishly. “You so are.”
“Am- Okay, enough. I don’t know what delusion you’re suffering these days, but I am most definitely not in love with the Slayer. I might want to shag her silly, yeah. But that doesn’t mean I won’t kill her afterwards!” he said emphatically.
“No, you won’t,” Anya informed him, her hands splaying out and tracing the lines of his chest as though she’d had them memorized.
He swatted her hands away, earning himself a brief shock from the chip. “Much as I know everyone wants to get a hold of my tight, hot bod, would you stop that?”
“Right,” she said, reluctantly pulling her hands away. “Sorry.” But she still kept gazing at him like he was the Holy Grail. “It’s just nice to…to talk to you. Get to know you.”
“So far, all you know is that I’m not in love with Buffy,” Spike reiterated, narrowing his eyes at her. “Why are you here, anyway?”
“Ha!” She pointed at him triumphantly. “You said Buffy, not Slayer! You are in love with her!”
“No, I’m not! That’s obscene, and sick, and wrong, loving a Slayer is. I would never become some sad little puppy-dog hanging on Bu- on the Slayer’s heels, like Angelus.”
Anya sighed. “Look, are you going to keep doing the denial thing, or are you finally going to accept that you’re in love with her so I can help you win her over?”
Spike blinked. “You want me to…”
“Be with Buffy, yes,” Anya said tiredly. “You two are perfect for each other, and the sooner you figure that out, the happier you’ll both be.”
Spike tilted his head, studying the ex-demon. “Why do you even care?”
She looked away then, for the first time since they’d begun the conversation. When she met his gaze again, she was smiling and blunt and looked more like herself than she had for the entire conversation. “Because I believe that the more sex you both have, the happier we’ll all be!” she informed him cheerily. “Now, here’s what you have to do.”
She moved toward the trapdoor leading to the bottom level as though she’d lived in his crypt for years. “How’d you know about that?” he asked suspiciously.
She looked flustered for a moment, but recovered quickly. “I notice things,” she said, her head help high. “No one bothers to listen to me, that’s all.” Spike could only stare. “Now, you’re probably setting up some freaky shrine down there, right?”
Spike frowned. “I wasn’t-“
She waved a hand airily. “Don’t worry about it. Just don’t do it. It’s disturbing and weird and so not the way to make her love you.”
“Then what do you suggest?” Spike snapped.
Anya held up a finger. “No stalking her.” Another finger. “No chaining her up and professing your love.” A third finger. “And no creepy Buffybots!”
“Never mind.” She folded her arms. “What Buffy needs is someone she can count on. Someone she trusts, who also keeps her on her toes. Try sending her flowers or something.” She reconsidered. “Nah, I’d find that creepy, actually. Just… go with her on patrols. Keep her company. But don’t say stupid stuff or nasty things that’ll make her angry.“
Spike stared blankly at Anya. “Have you been sampling Magic Box herbs or something, love?”
She grinned, and rose onto her toes to press her lips against his. “Just follow my directions and you’ll be fine. I’ll work on Buffy.” Then she was gone again, leaving behind a very bemused Spike.
The taste of Spike still a shadow on her lips, Buffy was back at the Magic Box just in time to come face-to-face with Glory. Her eyes widened at the hellgod’s nerve, walking straight into their headquarters to get the supplies meant to take them down.
She bumped into her at full force, succeeding in knocking over Glory’s bags and spilling her wares all over the floor. “Hey!” she said loudly, staring at the wares. “Giles! You can’t sell those together!” She lifted one item, backing away as Glory’s eyes darkened.
“Why not?” Giles asked, frowning.
Buffy froze. Damn. I have no idea. “Because it could make a giant evil animal or something?” she tried. “I, uh… I forget the details.”
Glory tapped her foot impatiently. “I really don’t have time for this,” she decided, and grabbed Buffy, lifting her up by the neck and shaking her until Buffy dropped the amulet that she had been holding. She pushed Giles away when he tried to stop her, then dropped the ineffectually struggling Buffy in a heap on the floor. She was gone before they could make another move.
“That our evil girl?” Buffy suggested.
Giles swallowed. “It appears so.”
She sighed. “I’ll go get Buffy.”
“No!” Willow said quickly. “We can take care of it. Buffy’s got enough on her mind.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Yes, because she’d be totally fine if a giant lion shows up and murders us all.”
Xander came over to put a hand on her shoulder. “Ahn, I think that you should leave this to Buffy’s friends to decide.”
Buffy had had enough of this. “You know what? I’m sick of you always thinking you’re right! It’s up to Buffy. And I think she’d rather make the decision than have it made for her.” She turned sharply, throwing Xander’s hand away from her and stomping out of the Magic Box.
They all watched her go, speechless.
Buffy was furious. Were they really planning on hiding it from her? Now that she thought about it, she remembered that last time around, too, Anya had been the only one who’d tried to tell her anything. The rest had shushed Anya until she’d finally been able to clue Buffy in. If they hadn’t, Glory would have been able to find Dawn much faster, thanks to the transmogrified snake demon she was planning on constructing. And past!Buffy was not equipped to deal with her mother and sister both in that much danger at the same time.
Buffy slowed as she reached the hospital, frowning at the bleached-blond vampire who was carefully avoiding the waning sunlight and speaking to a wary past!Buffy.
“-Just thought I’d see how Joyce was doing, after last night and all,” Spike was saying quietly.
Past!Buffy frowned at him. “What’s your angle?”
“No angle!” Spike said indignantly. From behind them, Buffy smirked. Oh, really? “I like the lady!”
“Oh. Okay, then.” Past!Buffy looked down. “They found something. A tumor. It’s bad.”
Spike’s eyes darkened in concern. “Bugger.”
“Yeah.” Past!Buffy wrapped her arms around herself. “I’m…uh…I’m supposed to wait a few hours.”
“Here?” Spike asked doubtfully. “Seems like all you’ll end up doing is worrying yourself sick.”
Past!Buffy scowled at him. “Well, what am I supposed to do? Throw a party? My mother’s in the hospital! She has a one in three chance that-“ She stopped short, taking in a gasping, shuddering breath.
Spike picked up his hand to put it on her arm, then reconsidered and dropped it. “There’s nothing you can right now, pet,” he said soothingly. “C’mon. Sun’s nearly down. We can go kill some of that stress out of you.”
Past!Buffy laughed raggedly. “Sounds good.”
And it did. But much to Buffy’s regret, she was going to have to change their plans.
It’s just as well, she reflected. Knowing Spike, he’d probably say something terrible and past me would get all mad and totally forget how sweet he’d been beforehand. “Hey, guys,” she said finally, stepping forward to interrupt them. Past!Buffy looked surprised and a little defensive, which Buffy took as a good sign. If past!Buffy felt guilty about having a fuzzy moment with Spike, that probably meant that she was having guilt-inducing feelings. Spike looked embarrassed, but a little relieved that it was her and not a different Scoobie.
“What’s wrong?” past!Buffy asked immediately, seeing the look on her face.
Buffy sighed. “They didn’t want to tell you, but…” She explained about the spell and Glory.
Past!Buffy’s eyes widened. “I’ve got to go.” She tore off, leaving Spike and Buffy staring after her.
“You should meet her at the Magic Box,” Buffy informed Spike. “She may need some help. Would you rather Riley gave her a hand?”
He patted her head and tore off after past!Buffy.
Buffy leaned back against the wall, smiling. This was kind of like a vacation, being able to spend time with the long gone without having to do any of the Slayer work. She wasn’t worried. She believed in her past self.
She peeked in on her sleeping mother for a minute, smiling tearfully at the sight of Joyce, alive and still fairly healthy. Then she headed back to the Magic Box to find out what had happened.
She returned at the same time as past!Buffy and Spike did from slaying the giant snake. Spike was grinning with fierce triumph, past!Buffy was sedate but less distraught. She nodded to Buffy in acknowledgement, and Buffy was surprised at the warmth that ran through her at the recognition. Was I really that charismatic back then? I certainly didn’t think so…
“You’re back! How’d it go?” Willow asked, frowning.
Spike smirked. “All done, no worries.”
“Why did you go?” Riley asked, staring at Spike with intense dislike.
“He was around, that’s all,” past!Buffy said quickly, and Buffy felt a wave of disappointment in her past self. There was no real surprise, of course.
Spike looked wounded, and he slid out of the Magic Box without a word. Buffy moved to go after him, but before she could leave, Xander called, “Anya? You want to go back to the apartment?”
She stared blankly at him. “You do remember we had a fight before I left, right?”
“Oh. We’re still doing that?” Xander blinked.
Buffy sighed. “You know what? I really don’t feel like ‘going back to the apartment’ tonight. I’ll find somewhere else to go.”
She left them all gaping and headed after Spike. I really hope Harmony’s out…
Chapter 3 by coalitiongirl
“What’s your last name?”
“The sun’s barely risen, I’m trying to go to sleep, and that’s what you’re bothering me with?”
“Go away, woman! And stop pouting. That’s not going to work. I’m not some nancy-boy who can’t resist a woman’s pout.”
“I bet you would if it were Buffy’s. And you so are a nancy-boy, William the Bloody awful poet.”
“Oi! Who told you that?”
“Uh…I’ve been around a while. I hear things.”
“If you tell anyone…”
“What’s your last name?”
“Why did I even let you in?”
“Because we outcasts have to stick together. And because you like me. What’s your last name?”
“I do not!”
“Not as much as you like Buffy, though, right?”
“Will you give it a rest?”
“Bugger. I’m never going to get to sleep, am I?”
“Not until you tell me your last name.”
“Bloody- Pratt, alright? It’s Pratt.”
“Ha! Isn’t that some kind of British insult? Pratt the prat!”
“And this is why I don’t share.”
“Aw, Spikey, did I hurt your feelings?”
“Bugger off, Demon Girl.”
“Kay! I’ll be downstairs!”
Spike laid back down on the sarcophagus and wondered how long it would be before he exploded his own mind by killing Anya.
A grin tugged at the edge of his lips. Except…she was kind of cute, wasn’t she? She’d grown up a lot since that party they’d gone to together last year. She reminded him a bit of a mellower Buffy.
Not that he needed another Buffy in his life. One was more than enough.
Willow was a bit nonplussed. “Possessed.”
“You saw her yesterday, Wills! She just…stormed out, just like that! And she didn’t come home last night at all. Who knows what she was doing?” Xander was pacing back and forth in his apartment’s small kitchen area, his fists clenched and his eyes worried.
Willow gave him a sympathetic smile. “Look, I know that Anya isn’t usually the smart one, but yesterday…she might have been right to get Buffy involved. Buffy seemed to think so. I kinda get why she was upset.” She plopped down in one of the chairs. “And let’s be honest. Anya’s kind of high-strung, so this whole overreaction does make some sense.”
“There’s more.” Xander looked pained. “I really didn’t want to bring this up, but…shewon’thavesexwithme.”
Willow squinted at him. “There’s no way you just said what I think you did.”
Xander nodded miserably. “She won’t. She said that it’s all part of some test of love or something, but it’s been days.”
Willow remembered last year, when Anya thought that Xander was breaking up with her because they hadn’t slept together for one night. “Possession, huh? I’ll look into it.”
He smiled gratefully at her. “Thanks. The only other thing I can think of is that she’s having an affair. But Anya wouldn’t be able to keep a secret like that.” He grinned half-heartedly.
“Or it could be something demony. Maybe I’ll go pay Spike a visit, see if he saw her around Willy’s or something last night,” Willow said thoughtfully.
“I hope she’s okay,” Xander muttered, twisting his hands and looking down in sudden shame. “If something happened to her…”
Willow frowned, backtracking on the conversation. “Wait. What was that about a test of love?”
Xander’s stammering kept her busy for a few more minutes, until Willow finally gave up and headed for Spike’s. It wasn’t really on the way to where she was going next, but she was a little worried for Xander’s sake, and maybe even a teensy bit for Anya’s, too. She might not like the ex-demon much, but she didn’t want her dead in some alley. And it wasn’t like Buffy and Dawn and Mrs. Summers were going anywhere.
She knocked tentatively on the crypt door. There was a muffled giggle, and a distinct female voice called, “Come in!” Willow shook her head in an attempt to clear out her ears. Because there was no way that Anya was hanging out with Spike, was there?
“No! Don’t come in!” Spike grumbled as Willow pushed the door open. “This isn’t a hotel, contrary to what this one thinks.” The two current residents were sitting side-by-side on the couch, watching what looked like a soap opera on the grainy screen.
Anya pouted. “Don’t you like me?”
Willow just stared, amazed. Was this what she thought it was? Were both their guesses correct? Anya was having an affair with Spike!
“No,” he grumbled, finally looking up. “Good. It’s the witch. I beg of you, get rid of her!”
Or maybe not.
“Anya, did you sleep here last night?” Willow asked finally.
She grinned. “Hey, Wills! I’ve been harassing Spike all morning! He taught me all about Passions!”
“The soap opera.”
She bobbed her head up and down energetically.
“She keeps trying to molest me,” Spike griped. “Send her back to the droopy boy, or she might not make it out of here.”
Anya actually looked hurt. “Do you really hate me that much?” She looked down, suddenly no longer bouncy, but utterly desolate.
“Don’t cry!” Spike said hastily. “I don’ want to see that.”
She glanced up at him with sudden hope. “You like me?”
“I don’t hate you, love,” he said grudgingly. “You’ve gotten much better. But maybe you could respect the personal space?”
Willow watched, amazed, as Spike attempted to assuage Anya’s fears. This is worse than I thought. Somehow, Spike’s gotten her under his charms.
Anya beamed, reaching to embrace him. Then she remembered herself and let her hands drop, her face falling a bit as she did.
“You can molest me a little,” Spike conceded, smiling reluctantly, and she laughed and threw her arms around him.
“Okay, um, I don’t mean to intrude, but Anya? Xander’s kind of worried, and-“
“Let him be worried,” Anya sighed. “Maybe he’ll learn something. Like to appreciate what you’ve got when you have it.”
“So now you’re running to Spike?” Willow asked doubtfully.
Anya shrugged. “Wouldn’t be the first time,” she muttered.
Willow sighed. “Fine. I’ll tell Xander you’re here.”
“You will not!” Spike jerked up, outraged. “That idiot’ll stake me before this stupid bint can tell him that nothing happened!”
Anya was nodding decisively. “He’s right. Xander can’t know.”
Willow’s eyes narrowed. She’d always had a soft spot for Spike, but nothing close to that for Anya. In fact, she was pretty sure that Little Miss Destroying-men’s-lives-for-the-past-millennium-ask-me-how was going to be the thing that finally broke Xander, and it looked like she was starting now. “Why? Is there something you’re hiding?”
Anya jumped up and moved toward Willow, meeting her eyes pleadingly. “Will, I’d never do that! I wouldn’t hurt Xander! He’s my best--- boyfriend!”
Willow suppressed a shudder at hearing her nickname from the other girl’s mouth, as though they were friends. And the rest of it wasn’t a pleasure to hear, either. “Well, you seem to be doing a good job of it now. He’s at home, wondering what he did wrong, while you’re palling around with Spike. And now you want to keep it from him? Let me tell you, keeping secrets from significant others? Not the best move in a relationship.”
Anya sighed, folding. “I promise that nothing happened between me and Spike.” Behind her, Spike nodded vigorously. “I just needed a place to go, and he’s the only one who doesn’t treat me like I’m nothing.”
Willow sighed. How did she end up in the position of insecure ex-demon shrink? “Anya, we don’t think you’re nothing. Just…we’ve been doing this a long time. We know each other pretty well, and last night, we thought that Buffy didn’t need the stress. She’s got a lot going on.”
Anya shook her head. “You know, I’ve been hanging out with you guys for a year now. Don’t you think I’ve picked something up besides Xander’s occasionally disturbing male habits?”
Willow shrugged helplessly. “Look, Xander’s kind of worried. I said I’d help find you, but if you don’t want me to tell him where we were, then you’ve got to come back home.”
Anya scowled. “Fine. I’ll go back with you.”
“Oh, I have to go see Buffy first,” Willow remembered. She lifted her bag, a rather garish white one with smiley faces covering it. “Want to come?” Inwardly, she winced at the idea of spending the whole afternoon with Anya. Outwardly, she smiled brightly.
Anya opened her mouth, then shut it, a look of sudden interest on her face. “Gifts,” she said finally. “For the Summerses?”
Willow nodded, pulling out the beer helmet she’d bought to show Anya. “See? You fill it up, and-“
“I’ll be back at Xander’s soon,” Anya cut her off. “Don’t worry about it.” She cast a sidelong glance at Spike. “I just need to take care of some stuff first.”
“You do that.” Willow left the crypt, relieved that she’d dodged the Anya-bullet.
At least she knew one thing. Anya wasn’t possessed or anything of the sort. She’d just developed a backbone. Who woulda thunk it?
Spike leaned back against his tree, wondering what his cue was to enter the Slayer’s house.
Anya had warned him the last time he’d seen her yesterday about this, but she’d insisted that he find the right time and words. As though he were some kind of superhero, instead of a sometimes-crass vampire who spent half the time with his foot in his mouth around Buffy.
But Anya had insisted.
“I think tomorrow’s when Buffy’s Mom goes home for the day. And there’s gonna be a de- She’s going to need some help. Support. So wait for your cue, make sure to say the right things, and back her up if she needs it.”
That woman… He grinned to himself. He didn’t know what had possessed Anya to play matchmaker, but she was quite the taskmaster. She’d even gone into his bedroom and found all the clothing he’d already stolen from Buffy and yelled at him to get rid of it. Except for one moderately hideous pink thing he’d actually thought was Harmony’s. With that, she’d stalked around the crypt, muttering something incomprehensible about robots, he thought, and then grabbed his lighter from his back pocket and set it up in flames. Then she’d started driving orders into him even more furiously. He now knew Buffy’s favorite colors, movies, activities, stakes…
He did wonder how Anya had picked up on all that, but was quickly distracted when she’d begged him for a place to stay. And there was an invariable soft spot for the ex-demon. After all, he knew what it was like to suddenly be thrust into the human world. And Harris was definitely not the best one to shack up with after something like that. Plus, he was starting to genuinely like Anya. She was good to him, she really seemed to understand him…even the touchy-feelyness that she’d been exhibiting lately wasn’t as bad as he’d pretended it was. He craved touch as much as she did.
For a moment, he’d considered taking her up on the offer she’d been projecting almost subconsciously and sleeping with her. But no, as much as he liked her, she wasn’t Buffy. And he’d never get Buffy if Anya didn’t help.
He moved to the other girl who’d been occupying his thoughts with a smile. Okay, he wanted to shag her to the ground. But was Anya right? Was he really in love with her? That night after the Bronze, seeing her cry on her back porch… he’d hurt with her, wanted to save her from the pain. It was a feeling he’d never felt as a vampire, not even with Dru, who was more about him inflicting pain than sparing her it. There’d been something so vulnerable about the Slayer that night, something that had brought out the Victorian man in him and ensured that instead of goading her, he’d tried to comfort her.
She was his equal, he realized. And not just in strength. He was the darkness with some light hidden within, though he’d never admit it, and she was goodness personified but with that edge of darkness. They would complement each other so well, be so perfect together…
Well, as long as I can help her reevaluate her taste in music, he thought wryly, hearing salsa music coming from the kitchen.
Wait a minute… He frowned. Underneath the music and the sound of washing dishes, his vampire hearing was picking up…sobs? Her sobs, wracking her body, taking over…
He ached. And before he knew what he was doing, he pushed open the front door and moved swiftly into the kitchen.
She didn’t hear him approach, too absorbed in the dishes and the water and the tears. Absent-mindedly, he picked up a towel and the last plate she’d put on the drying rack and wiped it off.
She handed him the next, then jumped when she realized that he was there. Her mouth formed words, but they didn’t come out, the fear of breaking down too strong.
He saw the red-rimmed eyes and melted, reaching out his thumb to brush away some of the tears. And weary, despairing, and utterly lost, she collapsed into his arms because she needed someone to hold her up.
He stood there with her for what seemed like forever, his arms wrapped around her and hers stiff at her sides. He was holding her up at this moment, he realized. This wasn’t sexual at all. Even his body seemed to recognize it. This was the Slayer at her most vulnerable, and she was trusting him, just a little. And so, when her hands finally curled around him to clutch at his back, his heart alone warmed.
And he finally conceded that Anya was right. He was in love with her.
Of course, his epiphany was interrupted.
They both jumped, and Buffy raced upstairs to Dawn, not looking back to him once. He shook his head to clear it. That must be Anya’s cue. He followed his love up the steps.
The demon was fairly easy to kill. It grappled with Buffy and Spike stabbed at it desperately, killing it with a few good strikes of a kitchen knife.
She threw the demon off her and used his outstretched hand to pull herself up. She didn’t let go once she was standing, her eyes meeting his uncertainly. His thumb traced circles on the back of her hand soothingly as they gazed at each other. Something was happening, and Spike didn’t dare to quantify it just yet.
Then a team of black-clad army types crashed into the house, led by Riley Finn, of course, and Buffy dropped his hand and ran upstairs to her mother and sister.
A look passed between Spike and Finn, and then Spike turned and left the house. He’d won this round. Rubbing it in would only undo everything he’d just built with Buffy.
Anya would be proud,he mused. There’s no way I said anything stupid.
Buffy rolled over, avoiding Xander’s questing arm. This was not pleasant, and sharing a bed with Xander wasn’t her first choice of ways to celebrate her mother’s healthy operation. But Dawn was sleeping on the couch, and there was no need for her to see the one healthy heterosexual relationship she was exposed to falling apart.
Speaking of which…
Sometime soon, she was pretty sure that Riley was going to leave. She couldn’t remember exactly when, but she’d have to speak to Spike about it beforehand. No need for him to ruin his chances with past!Buffy by breaking them up.
Xander’s arm snaked out again, pulling her closer to him and the hardness she could feel near her rear. She tried to squirm away, bemoaning her lost Slayer strength. Lucky past!Buffy.
Past!Buffy, who thought that her mother was going to be okay. Buffy sighed, staring at the ceiling. There were some things that couldn’t be changed, and she knew that her mother’s death was one of them. Maybe there were steps that could be taken to prolong it or fight it, but one thing she’d learned was that natural deaths should not be undone. What had happened would happen again, no matter what. And destiny was the one thing a Slayer couldn’t fight.
What she really regretted was how little time she’d been able to spend with her mother this time around. After all, why would Anya want to hang out with Joyce Summers?
A rapping at the front door jolted her out of her reverie, and she headed swiftly to the door, praying that Dawn wasn’t going to wake up. She pulled it open.
“Spike? What are you doing here?”
His eyes were glittering with glee. “Need to talk to you.”
She pulled the door shut behind her to join him in the hallway. “Spike, it’s nearly one AM. What is so important that-“
“Trulls!” Spike said triumphantly.
“Huh?” But she’d already realized what he was talking about. Of course! She’d just been thinking about it, too.
“The Soldier Boy!” Spike said impatiently. “Followed him out of Buffy’s room to a vampire bitehouse. He’s been getting suckjobs from them. Regularly, from the sound of things.” He beamed. “I just need to tell the Slayer, and-“
Buffy whapped him on the head.
“Oi! What was that for?” he protested.
Buffy narrowed her eyes at him. “This will make Buffy: A, happy, or B, sad.”
He sighed, defeated. “Sad.” His eyes lit up. “Or maybe mad!”
“At you, mad,” Buffy warned him. “Not if you’re so happy about it. Try to sympathize a little, sheesh!”
“Right.” He gave her a hangdog expression. “Sorry. But what do I do? How do I tell her?”
Buffy considered. There was no good way to hear that kind of news. But seeing it, like she did last time? Was that the way to do it? Definitely not. Maybe if Spike just sat her down and told her the truth…?
It was time for her to stop coaching him on what to say, not if they were going to have a relationship that lasted past her leaving the time period. This was going to be up to Spike. “Talk to her. Be sensitive.”
“That’s it. That’s all you’re going to tell me?” he asked, annoyed.
Buffy put a hand on his arm. “You want her to fall for you, not me, right?”
“Wouldn’t mind either,” he leered, and she laughed. “But yeah. I get it. Thanks, love.” He kissed her cheek briefly. “Have a good night.”
And he was off.
Buffy pressed her hand to her cheek and smiled.
Limbs entangled, her hot body clinging to his cool one, skilled fingers on her as soft lips enveloped hers…She looked into blue, twinkling eyes as she reached heights she’d never thought she could, her hands clutching at his platinum blond hair…
Buffy woke with a start. “Riley?” she asked groggily, guilt from her dream overwhelming her. Well, it wasn’t like she could help the fact that Spike was so gorgeous, or that he’d recently been so…nice. It wasn’t like she was cheating by dreaming about him while she was lying in Riley’s arms… Except she wasn’t. In Riley’s arms, that is. Where was Riley?
“It’s me,” Spike said, and she jerked up, flushing and wrapping her blanket around her even more tightly. Of all the people to show up in her bedroom… “Need to talk to you.”
“Now?” she asked disbelievingly.
He squinted. “Are you naked under there?”
“Get out,” she said quickly, reddening even more.
“I’m serious! About the talking part, I mean,” he amended. His eyes shifted. “Well, and the naked part, but I don’t think you-“
“Spike,” she growled. If I ever needed a reason to stop having these dreams about him…
He looked contrite. “Right. Sorry, I’m doing this all wrong. I’ll just…” he gestured vaguely at the door. “Wait in the kitchen or something.”
Or not. “Right,” she echoed. “I’ll be down in a minute.”
She dressed quickly, wondering what was so important and if she’d have to uninvite the damn vampire again.
He held out a glass of water to her when she entered the kitchen and she took it warily, wondering why he was being so thoughtful. “Okay. What’s going on?”
He looked at her earnestly. “I just want you to know, I’m not telling you this to make you miserable or depressed. You’ve got enough stress in your life now, but you need to know this.”
“Spike… What did you do?”
“Last night…” He took her empty glass from her hand and set it on the table, their fingers brushing slightly and sending a jolt of electricity through her. “I happened to be in the area-“
“You mean you were staking out my house again,” Buffy interrupted. “Really, what’s up with that? Is it some kind of predator thing?”
Spike gave her a look. “I saw Riley leaving.”
Buffy felt a chill at his words. Had he ever called Riley by his first name? This was serious. And where was Riley now? The last time he’d disappeared… “But we got rid of that Initiative chip thing that controlled him with Adam. You don’t think-“
But Spike was shaking his head. “It wasn’t against his will. I followed him to one of those places, where vampires give suckjobs…”
Buffy leaned heavily against the counter. “Suckjobs.”
Spike nodded. “Humans, they get a rush from the bite. Some of them get addicted. Vamps in these places get paid to bite ‘em.” He moved closer, his eyes dark. “Soldier Boy was looking for some darkness.”
Buffy shoved him. “Get out.”
Spike looked completely perplexed. “But it’s true! I could show you, if that’s what you want. It’s just-“
“Get out!” she snapped, punching him hard in the face.
He reeled backwards, his eyes flashing. “If you can’t handle the truth, then fine. But don’t say I didn’t warn you!” Clutching his bloody nose, he fled the house, leaving Buffy still leaning against the counter, feeling drained.
It was impossible. Riley wouldn’t have done anything like that. The bites on his arm were from a nasty accident on patrol, just like he said. He couldn’t have. He was the normal one! Spike was just trying to break them up, like he’d done to the group last year. He just wanted in her pants or something. That made a lot more sense than…
When Riley finally came home and she confronted him about it, he turned it back on her, making her feel guilty. She’d been wrong. He needed her to need him, and she’d been lacking in her duties as a girlfriend. At this rate, she was going to lose him. And soon, if he was really planning on rejoining Special Ops.
She lay alone in her bed for the rest of a sleepless night.
When morning came, she headed for the Magic Box for information. She needed to take down this vamp nest on her own. And she really didn’t want to go to Spike and tell him he’d been right.
“Hi.” The Magic Box was empty. Only Anya stood behind the counter, watching her expectantly as though she’d been waiting for her.
“Where’s Giles?” Buffy demanded. She didn’t have time for Anya now.
Anya shook her head. “They’re not here. I had them all leave.” She took a deep breath. “Buffy, I know what happened. Spike told me.”
“Oh, great!” she fumed. “Not only does he have to ruin my relationship, but he has to tell everyone else about it, too! ‘Hey, everybody, check out Buffy who can’t keep a man!’” Shaking with rage, she headed for the door.
“No one else knows. He told me beforehand,” Anya said softly. “He didn’t know how to tell you. He wanted advice.”
“So he went to you?” Buffy asked dubiously.
“Well, it’s not like he was going to chat with Xander about it,” she said, rolling her eyes.
Buffy shook her head. “Anya, I don’t have time for this. Do you know where this bitehouse is?”
She looked away. “I do. But Buffy…”
“Tell me!” Buffy insisted. What was Anya being so difficult?
“Is this really what you want?” Anya asked. “To kill the harmless vampires, live happily ever after with Riley?”
“It’s what I do! Slayer, remember?” She felt the sudden urge to punch something. Maybe she should train before she left. Or go beat up Spike or something. Why did he have to tell her this?
“Listen to me!” Anya snapped, annoyed. “Is it really so impossible?”
Buffy tuned back to Anya. “What?”
“Look, I’m just going to say this, and you’re not going to like it. Riley’s a jerk.”
“No, he isn’t. It’s my fault. I made him feel unwanted. I kept him at a distance and didn’t let him in,” Buffy retorted, feeling her eyes tear up.
“Stop. Now,” Anya ordered. “You’ve been going through a really tough time. Your mother, Dawn… You needed someone. He just didn’t step up to the plate, and now he’s trying to make you feel guilty about it.“
“Yeah, I did,” Buffy admitted. “I needed someone. But I spent a lot more time crying with my worst enemy than with my boyfriend!”
Anya smiled wisely. “Well, then maybe you need to reevaluate your choice in enemy, and your choice in boyfriend!” she said triumphantly.
“Are you still on this?” Buffy demanded, shaking her head. “Spike and I aren’t dating. Or anywhere close to dating. Or even friends.”
Anya shrugged. “It just seems like you two would be good together. That’s all. But that’s not what this is about. This is Riley making you feel like you’re the villain. He’s been basically cheating on you, and then he turns it all back on you? If he can’t handle his own insecurities, then maybe he’s not what you need.”
She left the Magic Box, the rage gone and in its place a dwindling despair. She’d lost Riley. Maybe it wasn’t her fault, but she was still going to have to say goodbye to another boyfriend.
Unbidden, her feet led her to Restfield, to Spike’s crypt’s…open door? Worry for him made her speed up, and peer inside before charging in.
Riley was there.
Surprised, she watched as Spike and Riley drank together like old friends, their voices too low for her to hear until she inched closer.
“-the lucky guy,” she heard Riley finish. He didn’t sound happy about it.
“Come on in, Slayer,” Spike offered, rising from his armchair to give her a seat.
He doubled over in pain when he stood, and she rushed to him. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing too dire. Just the big boys tussling,” he managed, sinking back down into the chair.
“But the chip-!”
“Or maybe not,” Riley murmured, staring at them, and she whirled on him.
“What did you do?” she demanded.
He sighed. “What does it matter? It’s Spike.”
Spike settled back, watching them sharply.
“So, what, it’s okay to hurt him because he’s defenseless?” She conveniently forgot her own violence toward him the night before. Please. He probably took it as foreplay. “What did you do to him?”
“Why do you care?” Riley demanded. “You beat him up for information all the time. He’s just a thing. A vampire. He doesn’t matter.”
“Like your little vamp hos don’t matter?” she snapped. “They might be demons, but that doesn’t make it okay to use them for your own purposes. I don’t believe this.”
“So you’re choosing Spike over me?” Riley asked disbelievingly.
“That’s not what this is!” Buffy said, exasperated. “This is about you, and me, and how we’re just not good together! Not if you have to go somewhere else to feel needed. If you can’t take me as I am, then don’t take me at all!”
“Fine,” Riley said finally. “I get it.”
“You really don’t,” Buffy muttered, turning away. She heard him get up and walk to the door.
“Buffy,” he said finally. “I’m leaving at midnight. If we can’t work this out…”
“You are unbelievable,” Buffy said incredulously. “You’re giving me an ultimatum?”
Riley sighed. “No, I’m not.”
“Yes, you are! You expect me to get over it now or you’re gone!” She paced back and forth, avoiding Spike’s eyes and not turning to face Riley’s.
“I’m leaving, Buffy. Unless you give me a reason to stay…” He waited expectantly.
She refused to look back until he finally walked out, defeated.
“Wanker,” Spike spoke at last.
She rounded on him, ready to rip at him. But he just shook his head sadly. “If you were mine, pet, I’d never let you go.”
She met his eyes then, saw the raw honesty in them and looked down. “Let’s get you cleaned up,” she said finally, lifting his shirt to find the wound Riley had left.
He was silent for most of the time, for which Buffy was grateful.
“Take care of yourself,” she murmured before she left.
“Same to you,” he whispered, raising his fingers in farewell. “Ta, love.”
She went home then, and spent the rest of the day catching up on the sleep she’d lost the night before. Dawn had slept at Janice’s, thankfully, so it was just her, and she slept better than she had in a long time.
When she next woke up, it was twenty minutes to midnight.
She rolled over and went back to sleep.
Chapter 4 by coalitiongirl
Lots of dialogue here snagged from the Buffyverse Dialogue Database: a few lines from Into the Woods, Triangle, and Checkpoint, and lots and lots from Blood Ties. I’ve altered them to great degrees when it suited me. :D
“Anya? Can we talk?”
Buffy blinked sleepily at Xander from where he was standing over the couch, looking troubled. “Sure.” She sat up, shifting to the far end of the couch so that Xander would have lots of space.
Xander took the seat, staring over at her uncomfortably. “I don’t think I’ve ever made it clear, and maybe that’s why this is going on…but I’m in love with you. Powerfully, painfully in love. The things you do… the way you think ... the way you move ... I get excited every time I'm about to see you. You make me feel like I've never felt before in my life. Like a man. And it’s killing me that you don’t want to be around me anymore, but I’m going to respect it, because I love you and I want you to understand that.” He shrugged uneasily. “I just thought you might want to know.”
Buffy started tearing up. This Xander she could believe was good to Anya. This Xander made her understand why he had proposed. And this Xander- dammit !- didn’t make her feel better about the way that she’d treated Spike in comparison to him.
Also, was that you make me feel like a man stuff in the guy handbook? Because she’d been all flattered when Spike had said it to her, but if was just a standard thing, like telling a girl she looked beautiful when she was hideous, then she was going to have to reevaluate the whole day before Glory, and-
But enough about Buffy. This was Anya’s moment.
“Why?” she asked finally.
He frowned at her, puzzled. “I told you. Because-“
“No, if you really love h- me, why do act like you’re ashamed of me all the time? You ignore me in public, or make me stop saying whatever it is I try to say…”
He looked down. “Because I’m an idiot.” He turned to gaze at her, his eyes wide in apology. “Because there’s something about the Scoobies…we need each others’ approval. Desperately. And I brought you into the group, and I’m so afraid that they’re not going to be okay with it…”
“That’s stupid,” Buffy said. She meant it. He was saying everything that she would say a year later. Did everyone feel that way? Was Willow just as scared about Tara, and Xander about Anya, as I was about Spike? Come to think of it, Willow kept Tara a secret for almost half a year of college… We all dealt with it differently. Willow tried to keep her relationship with Tara from us. Xander tried to keep the quirkier sides of Anya’s personality from us. And I tried to keep Spike from everyone, period.
The words came to her then, as she finally understood. “You’re all so worried about each other’s approval that you screw up all the other relationships you might have. Sometimes it works out anyway, sometimes it doesn’t. But if you stopped focusing on how much they might disapprove and what someone else could bring to the group, you’d all be a lot happier. Look at me. I’m what? A thousand years old?”
“Eleven hundred and twenty two,” Xander corrected with a frown. “Don’t you-“
“Yeah, whatever.” Buffy waved it off. “Thing is, I’ve been around for a long time. I know stuff. Lots of stuff. But no one will listen to me when I tell them, because you won’t listen to me and they take their cues from that.”
Xander didn’t say anything, waiting for her to continue.
“Or Tara.” Buffy was on a roll. “She’s really sweet and a good listener. But Willow shuts her off from the group so we just see her as Willow’s sidekick and not her own person. Or Spike-“
“Whoa.” Xander held up a hand. “I draw the line at Spike. Spike is not our friend.”
“Fair enough,” Buffy conceded. She didn’t even dare imagine that Xander and Spike would get along. Ever.
“But you’re right,” Xander agreed. “You really are. And I’m going to try…” He swallowed. “I think you were right when you said that we shouldn’t have sex for a while, and try to restart our relationship. But since then, you’ve been avoiding me.”
“Oh.” Buffy blinked. “You noticed.”
He smiled fondly at her. “Yeah.”
“What do you want?” she asked with trepidation. Maybe, if she absolutely had to, she could kiss him. Once. No tongue. He was practically her brother, for god’s sake!
But his answer surprised her. “I want us to be friends.”
“I want to hang out together, not to do coupley things, but just to spend time together, getting to know each other the right way. We can watch old movies on the couch and bother Buffy on patrol and I’ll come visit the Magic Box just to say hello.” He patted the couch. “And I can sleep on the couch sometimes, too. We can hold off the boyfriend-girlfriend stuff for a week or two.”
Buffy smirked, inwardly sighing with relief at the new, temporary reprieve. “You do know that you’re the girl in this relationship, right?”
“Hey. I have no male friends. What did you expect?” He grinned, bending over to kiss her on the nose. She panicked and turned so he hit the cheek, and he backed away. “Right. Just friends.”
“Treat me like you treat Buffy!” Buffy said brightly.
He laughed. “I’ll try. But I still am a red-blooded male… I just want us to work out.”
And then she felt a pang of jealousy, not the first of the night.
For the first time in her life, she was wondering, why couldn’t I have been more like Xander?
“So you’ll all be alright taking care of the shop while I’m away?” Giles asked worriedly.
“Absolutely,” Willow assured him. “Right?” She looked expectantly at the others.
“Maybe we should let Anya take charge, guys,” Xander suggested. “She is the most experienced one here, and we’ve all seen how good she is at selling stuff.” They beamed at each other, and Buffy couldn’t help but envy the two of them. Their relationship was so perfect, and she’d just sent another man out of town…
Willow scowled. “Really, Xander?” she asked sarcastically. “Anya in charge?”
“Although,” Anya said, smiling at Willow, “I’d appreciate some help, of course. And you are the witchy one! Well, one of the witchy ones,” she added hastily, nodding to Tara, “And whichever witchy one wants to be the witchy one who…”
Buffy hid a smirk. Anya was spending way too much time with them. Now she’d picked up the babbling.
“I think Willow will be fine,” Tara interjected, smiling softly.
“Yeah.” Willow looked distinctly befuddled at how things had turned out. “I guess I’ll come by between classes. Usually I use that time to copy over my class notes with a system of different colored pens ... but it's been pointed out to me that that's, you know, insane.”
Tara smirked. Well, as much as Tara could ever smirk. “I said ‘quirky.’”
“Anya?” Buffy said tentatively. “Could I talk to you for a minute?”
Anya looked startled. “Sure.” She followed Buffy into the training room.
“I just wanted to thank you,” Buffy said, shifting uncomfortably. “For…you know. If you hadn’t spoken to me, I probably would have chased Riley down and forced him to stay here. And I’m not sure that that would have been the best choice.”
Anya smothered a laugh. “Yeah, good thing Xander wasn’t the one to talk to you. I’m pretty sure he had a man-crush of his own on Riley.”
Buffy laughed, more out of surprise that Anya had made a joke than anything. “He totally did!” She lowered her voice. “You know, if you two weren’t so close, I’d have thought that Xander was-“
“The gay one?” Anya finished. “Completely.” They shared another chuckle, and Buffy was startled at the kinship she suddenly felt with Anya. Maybe they could be friends, after all…
“But how are you? Really?” Anya asked, serious again.
Buffy sighed. “I don’t know. I’m not going to say that it doesn’t hurt, but…it’s not like when Angel left. I think I didn’t really love him. He was a rebound, in the end. Just a really, really long rebound.”
She turned to see Anya gazing at her with compassion and understanding, and her eyes widened worriedly. “But you and Xander are fine, right? You’re my happy ending couple!”
Anya averted her eyes, and Buffy felt a sudden surge of panic. “Right?”
“Right,” Anya said, smiling, and Buffy breathed a sigh of relief. As long as Xander and Anya were okay, everything else was, too.
After that, her day seemed to get better and better. Her mother was up and about for a few minutes, she and Dawn were getting along, and then, long after dark, she had an unexpected visit that left her far happier than it should have.
“Spike?” she asked curiously, squinting out her window at the little orange light his cigarette made from under the tree.
The light went out. She grinned. “I’ve already seen you there, you know.”
“Right,” he said, defeated. “Uh…”
“Oh, tonight you’re worried about coming into my room?” Buffy snarked. “Didn’t stop you a few days ago.”
He was in front of her in a moment, smirking triumphantly. “I’m going to take that as a blanket invitation.”
“Watch yourself,” she said, poking him in the chest. That was Spike, always testing his limits… and as unsure as she was about him these days, it was nice to know that there was something that hadn’t changed.
Wait. What was that in his hand, tucked behind him where she couldn’t see it? “What is that?” she demanded, trying to peer around him.
He pulled it out from concealment and held out the box of chocolates.
Oh. Wow. She was not going to think about what this meant.
“I…uh…I had a whole speech practiced to give with it, but I kept getting angry and beating up the mannequin, so I think it’s best if I just don’t say anything. Well, except that I’m sorry about Riley. Well, not about him. He was an idiot. But that it didn’t work out.”
She smiled as he stumbled over the words. “You practiced your speech on a mannequin?”
“Well, I couldn’t exactly try it with Harm,” he grumbled.
She grinned broadly. “I think it’s cute.”
“Oi!” he said, outraged. “Or…okay.” He held out the chocolates, looking at her expectantly, and she took them, tentatively.
“I don’t think anyone’s ever given me chocolate before,” she admitted, setting them down. They were a bit bedraggled, but it was the thought that counted, right? And she was touched, in spite of the little alarm inside her head blaring VAMPIRE! VAMPIRE! STAY AWAY! “Thank you,” she said, almost shyly.
He ducked his head. “Yeah.”
“So, you’re still with Harmony?” The words escaped from her mouth before she could stop them.
His eyes glinted with something she couldn’t help but recognize. Hope. Stop leading on the evil vampire! “Not really. She’s just…hard to shake, yeah? But I can get rid of her in a second.”
“Um.” Buffy looked away. It was suddenly far too stuffy in the room, far too cramped. She needed to escape. “I’ve got to… I’m really tired,” she said suddenly.
He backed away instantly. “Right. Sorry.”
But as he turned away, she whispered, “Thank you.”
He inclined his head in a nod and climbed out the window.
And when she checked, the orange flame still smoldered under the tree.
It had not been the best of weeks for Buffy. First, there was the whole friends thing with Xander, which had sounded good in theory, but if he tried to kiss her one more time, she was going to give up the whole plan and just break up with him. Then Willow had started a spell at the Magic Box, completely disregarding her, and she’d gotten annoyed on Anya’s behalf and they’d fought. Then the troll. This time, too, they managed to get a hold of his hammer, and Buffy made a mental note not to forget about it when it came to Glory. And now the Council had come to Sunnydale. Fantastic. As if she needed more Watchers around.
Right now, though, she was sitting cross-legged on Spike’s sarcophagus, listening to him rant about past!Buffy.
“And I thought we were getting along alright! She took the chocolates, fine enough, and she thanked me! Twice!”
“Wait, wait, wait,” Buffy interrupted. “You gave her chocolates?”
Spike shrugged self-consciously. “I wanted to cheer her up after the Soldier Boy left.”
“You don’t even need me anymore,” Buffy marveled. If he’d given me chocolates the first time around…
Oh, who am I kidding? I would have burned them. Probably in front of him, too.
Spike shot her a grin. “I still like having you around.” He resumed his pacing. “Anyway, I stake a vampire for the bint, yeah? She could’ve at least been grateful! But no, then she starts yelling at me, so I start yelling at her, and by the end, I just want to tear her throat out!” He frowned. “Well, and shag her to the floor, but that goes without saying.”
Buffy shook her head. “Maybe she just had a bad day.” She couldn’t remember what would have prompted past!Buffy to get irritated with Spike. God knew it had happened enough times for all of them to blur in her head.
“Well, she didn’t have to take it out on me! I’m not her sodding punching bag!” Spike insisted, agitated.
“Not yet,” Buffy muttered.
Sharp vampire hearing picked it up. “What’s that, pet?” Spike asked, a note of warning in his voice.
Thankfully, she was interrupted by the door crashing open and the sudden flash of sunlight that hit Spike. Instinctively, she tackled the vampire to block him from the deadly light and ended up on top of him. “Sorry,” she breathed, gazing into sharp blue eyes.
He reached up to brush the hair out of her face. “Not a problem,” he murmured.
“Oh,” said a voice from above them. They jerked apart, startled. “I…didn’t realize you were here, Anya,” past!Buffy said awkwardly.
Spike looked chagrined, then seemed to remember that he was angry with her. “Right. The Slayer.” He stood up, thumbs tucked into his jeans, feigning nonchalance. “For a second there, I was worried.”
Buffy watched past!Buffy’s face carefully. Her eyes were fixed on Spike, but Buffy could still see a hint of…jealousy? Perfect. And it had been lucky that she’d interrupted them, too. Buffy had been a split second from crashing her lips into his. And if “Anya” and Spike had kissed…everything would have changed.
She followed Spike’s gaze to where her mother and Dawn stood hesitantly at the door.
Oh god, Mommy… She felt heaven, so close again after so long. Her mother was there, standing, whole if not healthy…
Spike’s voice broke her out of her reverie. “So what’s with the family outing?”
“I need your help.” Past!Buffy had started out sounding confident, but then her eyes had flickered to Buffy in the middle and she was suddenly uncertain. Buffy stayed quiet, meeting past!Buffy’s gaze evenly.
“Great. I need your cash,” Spike retorted, still stung from the night before.
“I’m serious.” Now there was a hint of fear in past!Buffy’s voice. Buffy remembered the visit from Glory that had her really trusting Spike for the first time and shuddered. “You have to look after them.”
From the moment Spike had seen past!Buffy’s fear, though, he’d been sold, and Buffy knew it. “Alright, then.” Then he was welcoming Dawn and her mom into the crypt, and Buffy smothered a smile. This would be the start of a great friendship for the three, she knew. If she’d suspected it back then, she might’ve taken her chances with Glory.
Past!Buffy said her goodbyes to her mother, then moved to Spike. “Thank you,” she said finally, and brushed her lips against his cheek. He gaped at her, stunned, and she gave him a sad smile.
Buffy followed her out the door. “Headed to the Magic Box?”
“I’m late,” past!Buffy muttered, avoiding her gaze. “The Council’s at the Magic Box, waiting.”
“Oh.” Buffy searched for something else to say, and came up blank.
“Um…you and Spike…do you hang out a lot?” Past!Buffy was clearly doing her best to sound casual.
Buffy shrugged. “Sometimes,” she said offhandedly. “We’ve got some stuff in common. Being demons and all.”
“Is…is Xander okay with it?”
Buffy smirked. “Like I’m going to tell Xander that I’m friends with his worst enemy? I think not.” She finally took pity on her younger self. “Besides, it’s not like there’s anything for him to have to be okay with. We’re friends, that’s all.”
“You seemed kind of cozy back there,” past!Buffy pointed out almost accusingly.
Buffy raised an eyebrow at the girl. “Trust me. There’s only one girl Spike’s interested in right now.”
Then they were attacked, and their conversation was never finished.
Buffy watched as past!Buffy defeated the soldiers and headed on toward the magic shop rapidly, her breathing slowing and her posture relaxing as she moved, regaining the confidence that she’d been swiftly losing over the past few days.
Buffy felt a surge of almost sisterly pride in her past self. She was going to be fine.
Stupid birthday, Buffy thought, waiting for the awkward silence after Dawn had given her gift to abate. Something always goes wrong.
Still, as her birthdays went, this wasn’t so bad. Dawn was suspicious, but that was natural. Everyone was acting strange around her now, but they’d get used to it, just like Buffy did. Although it was still unnerving sometimes. Like now, with Dawn giving her a memento of something that had never happened.
A knock at the door jolted them all, and her mother, Willow, and Xander all raced for the door at once, grateful for the reprieve.
“I wonder who’s here?” Giles said. “It’s rather late at night for a call, don’t you think?”
There was a sudden commotion from the door, and Buffy jumped up to check it out. What she saw didn’t please her at all. “Spike. What are you doing here?”
“I’ve been wondering the same thing,” Xander growled.
“’ve got a birthday present!” Spike protested, and her stomach flipped. Stop that! she admonished it. “I jus’ want to give it to Buffy.”
“Oh, we are not falling for this,” Xander snapped. “Buffy doesn’t want your severed arms or stolen smokes, Spike. Get out of here.”
She could feel all their glances burning into her, waiting for her cue. Xander, waiting for her to kick Spike to the curb. Anya, waiting for her to let Spike in. Her mother, waiting to see how she’d react to the vampire who’d given her shelter a few days before. Giles, waiting for her to assure him that there were no vampires in her life. And Spike, waiting for her to defend him…or at least let him join them. She felt a surge of annoyance. Why was he doing this to her? She had far too much on her mind than to worry about a vampire with some twisted sort of romantic interest in her.
She turned deliberately, heading back toward the couch with her presents. She only caught sight of Spike’s betrayed glance for a second, but it was enough to make her irritable with guilt.
Typical. Buffy Birthdays never end well.
“You are not doing this,” Anya hissed from beside her, disappointment and anger mixing on her face and making Buffy feel like dirt.
“Not letting the evil vampire celebrate my birthday with my family?” Buffy asked nonchalantly, feeling some spiteful satisfaction at the way Xander was watching Anya with suspicion. She deserved that, anyway, the way that she and Spike had been acting the one time she’d seen them alone together. Ha! She wasn’t jealous, just protective over Xander. Right. “I’m pretty sure I am.”
Anya glared at her. “Don’t you dare treat him like your dirty little secret!” she snapped in a low whisper.
“There is no secret!” Buffy hissed back. “And if there were, it wouldn’t be your business! This has nothing to do with you!”
“You have no idea,” Anya muttered.
What the heck was that supposed to mean?
“Something you want to share with the rest of the class?” Willow asked from where the rest of her companions were watching them argue, worried.
Anya gave them a bright smile. “Nothing! Buffy and I just need to have a little chat.” She pulled Buffy toward the kitchen.
Buffy yanked her arm out of Anya’s grasp. “What is wrong with you?” she demanded. “Can’t you just get this ridiculous delusion out of your mind? Spike and I are not, and will never be, together!”
“So, what? You’re just going to count on him when it suits you, and ignore him the rest of the time?” Anya’s eyes were dark with anger. “You’re just going to pretend that he’s just your enemy? What happens when you start sleeping together? You’ll keep that a secret, too?”
“I told you, I wouldn’t sleep with Spike! Ever!” Buffy insisted.
Anya gave her a knowing look. “Uh-huh. And you’re not attracted to him at all.”
Buffy flushed. “That’s so not the point. And you’re one to talk, with the visiting him, and the straddling…”
“You’re jealous,” Anya accused.
Buffy’s jaw dropped. “I am not!”
“You are. And you’re so embarrassed about having feelings for Spike that you’re just going to drive him away.” Anya had hit a nerve, and she knew it. “The man comes to give you a present, and you won’t even let him in the house. Keep treating him like this, and he’ll be out of town before you sleep with him.”
Buffy had had enough. Anya had crossed one too many lines. “Shut up or get out,” she said through clenched teeth. “I’m going back to my party.”
As she passed the back door, she saw a shock of white hair through the window. Spike had been on the back porch. Great. She heard Anya open the door and say in a low voice, “I’m sorry. I tried.”
“What an idiot,” Xander was saying bitterly. “As if he could try to buy his way into the group. He’ll never be one of us.”
Buffy sank back onto the couch wearily. “Don’t. Just…don’t.”
And the night only worsened as it went on.
By the next morning, Buffy was furious. Of course. It wasn’t enough that Spike had to crash her party, but now he had to destroy Dawn’s life, too?
She burst into his crypt, jaw set with barely restrained anger.
He looked up from where he was sitting on a coffin, polishing his nails. “Morning, sunshine. If you've come around for eggs or sausage, I'm fresh out.”
She grabbed the lid of the coffin and yanked it out from under him.
He poked his head out from inside the coffin. “Hey, careful! These are wet.”
She slid the lid back at him, pinning him against the opposite side of the coffin. “How could you let her find out like that? From books and papers? You hate me that much?”
Spike wasn’t taking her bait today, though. “I was just along for the ride. Not like I knew she was mystical glowy key thing. Nobody keeps me in the bloody loop, do they?” His eyes glared out at her, daring her to disagree.
Buffy gritted her teeth. It was Spike’s fault. She was sure of that. “You could have stopped her.”
“Oh, yeah, here it comes.” Spike threw up his hands. “Something goes wrong in your life, blame Spike. Newsflash, Blondie-“ He heaved the lid off of himself, tossing it aside. “If kid sis wants to grab a midnight stroll, she'll find a way sooner or later. I just thought she'd be safer with Big Bad looking over her shoulder.” He stalked closer and closer as they spoke, and Buffy felt a frisson of lust pass through her at the look on his face. What? No! Stupid attraction, acting up now…
“You didn't think you could keep the truth from her forever, did you?” Spike demanded. They were practically nose-to-nose now. “Maybe if you had been more honest with her in the first place, you wouldn't be trying to make yourself feel better with a round of Kick The Spike!”
She smashed her lips against his, surprising even herself with the passion and need behind the kiss. He was still, frozen in shock and wonder for an instant, and then responded, pulling her closer, molding his lips against hers, parting her lips to slip his tongue into her mouth and do battle with her own. She stumbled backward with the force of the kiss, and he followed, backing her up against the wall of his crypt.
“Buffy,” Spike gasped against her lips. “Can I…?”
In response, she kissed him harder, reaching her arms around his head to pull him even closer until they were practically fused together, lost in each other and the overwhelming need.
They parted, and Buffy sucked in a ragged breath. “Oh, god, Spike…” He kissed her sweetly on the lips, his eyes shining.
Then it hit her, and her face screwed up in horror. “Oh, god. Spike!”
He regarded her sudden change of mood warily. “That’s me.”
“I cannot believe I just…” She pulled away from him, panicked. “I just…”
She turned tail and raced out of the crypt, wiping off her mouth as she ran.
Spike was at a loss. Where had he gone wrong? She’d initiated the kiss, seemed more than okay with the passion and energy, and then bolted. How did that make sense? Buffy took the term “hot and cold” to a new extreme. Now, she was avoiding him even as she barked out orders to find Dawn.
“Anya. Will you stay here in case she shows up? Xander, Giles, you guys take the center of town. Willow, Tara, west side. I'll get the east side.”
“I’ll come with you,” Spike offered, stepping forward as the others piled out.
“Like hell you will,” she hissed, darting a glance back at Anya’s very observant, steady gaze. “I can’t talk to you right now.”
“So we’re pretending it never happened?” Spike demanded.
Anya’s head hit the counter with a loud thunk. “Here we go again,” she muttered.
Buffy turned, directing her ire at a new victim. “Don’t you have somewhere to be?”
“Right here, in case Dawn shows up,” Anya retorted. “Don’t you have somewhere to be?”
Spike flashed her a grin before he followed Buffy out. “So we’re pretending like it never happened?” he repeated. He’d been dreaming of that moment for months now, of taking Buffy, all spur of the moment-like… It had been everything he’d dreamed of, all passion and fire, and it wasn’t the sort of thing a man gave up, especially when he was in love with the chit. It had come as a shock when she’d deviated from the script and ran from him.
Although to be fair, his daydreams usually didn’t get that far.
“Yes,” she said firmly, eyes facing forward.
“Fine,” he muttered. It wasn’t fine, but at least he’d been able to speak to Anya for a few seconds before the rest of the Scoobies had shown up at the Magic Box, and she’d clued him in.
“Buffy might be…difficult,” she’d warned him. “Just go with it. Trust me, once she starts with you, she’s not going to be able to stop. Let her come to you.”
So he was going to drop it. For now. But Anya had better know what she was doing. Spike wasn’t exactly the poster boy for patience.
“Dawn! Dawn!” Buffy called as they entered an empty playground.
“Yeah, that should do it,” Spike said sarcastically. He wasn’t feeling quite so charitable toward her anymore.
“Shut up,” Buffy snapped.
Spike rolled his eyes. “The nibblet scampered off to get away from you. She hears you bellowing, she's going to pack it in the opposite direction. Can't say I blame her,” he added, feeling particularly caustic.
Buffy stopped, staring at the ground. “You were right.” Spike stared at her in astonishment. Was this actually the Slayer apologizing to him? What was next? Was she going to admit that she wanted him? “This is my fault. I should have told her.” She looked devastated, and he couldn’t help but put a comforting hand on her arm.
“Look, she probably would have skipped off anyway, even if she never found out. She's not just a blob of energy, she's also a fourteen-year-old hormone bomb.” He sighed. “Which one's screwing her up more right now, spin the bloody wheel.” She managed a sardonic smile, and he shrugged. “You'll find her, just in the nick of time, that's what you hero types do.”
She turned to look into his eyes searchingly, pleading with him voicelessly to make it right. “You’ll find her,” he said firmly.
Her lips quivered slightly. “And then what?” she murmured finally.
Spike had no answer for her.
Buffy was going to explode from the tension.
No one had found Dawn yet. And something had changed from the last time, too. Past!Buffy was supposed to check the hospital and make sure that nothing else had happened to Dawn. They were supposed to find Dawn there.
But instead, when past!Buffy had suggested the hospital, Spike had said, “Just call them. We’ve got no time to lose.”
And she had. Dawn hadn’t been brought in, of course. So they wouldn’t know that Glory was there, threatening her little sister.
Dawn wasn’t going to survive if she didn’t say anything. This was the tower all over again.
And she couldn’t change that decision.
“Buffy,” she said quietly, and the arguing Scoobies all turned to her. “She’s at the hospital. She wasn’t brought in, but she’s in one of the labs there.”
Past!Buffy’s eyes narrowed. “How do you know?”
She could have lied, made up some ridiculous excuse that would have made no sense and had them even more suspicious of her. But Dawn’s life was at stake, and everything depended on them hurrying there. The only solution was being honest. Well, as honest as she could be without failing her mission.
She took a deep breath. “I’m Anya, from seven years in the future.”
Chapter 5 by coalitiongirl
One more chapter and an epilogue to go!
Dawn had been comforted and sent to bed, her mother sitting with her until she fell asleep. Glory had been teleported elsewhere, although Buffy knew from the last time that she’d be back soon with no damage done.
The rest of those involved were all seated around the Magic Box. No one spoke, but Buffy saw them all darting surreptitious glances at her, wondering if it were true. If she were really who she claimed she was.
Past!Buffy spoke finally, shattering the tense silence. “So. Anya, you’re…”
“Future Anya,” Buffy confirmed. “I was sent back in time by-“
“No.” Giles cut her off. “It’s best if we’re not told too much, regardless of whether or not these things may come to pass again. Believing that you know your destiny can often force it to occur again, regardless of the change in situation.”
Buffy smiled gratefully at him. “Yeah, I guess so. But you may as well know why I came back, if we have to change it no matter what.”
“I can’t believe that we didn’t figure it out before,” Willow marveled. “I mean, you’ve been acting really different lately. Xander even thought that you were possessed.” She frowned suddenly. “Which, I guess you kind of are. By yourself. Weird.”
Buffy glanced at Xander. He hadn’t said a word since her revelation, just stared at her unblinkingly with burning brown eyes. She couldn’t read him at all. “Yeah. I guess.”
“What was your mission?” Spike asked from his corner. He, too, had been staring at her, but with a sharp gaze that knew far too much. Buffy looked away quickly. Spike she was most worried about. If he put two and two together and realized that she was Buffy…
“Glory! To stop her,” Buffy blurted out, disoriented from Spike’s steady gaze.
“You mean we don’t?” past!Buffy asked dubiously. “Shouldn’t you be…I don’t know, dead then?”
Buffy smirked. You have no idea. “No, you do beat Glory. Problem is, Buffy, you die in the process.”
Willow gasped, her eyes wide, and clutched Tara’s hand. Spike flinched visibly. Giles took off his glasses and rubbed at them furiously with a handkerchief.
Past!Buffy met her gaze evenly. “That’s all?”
Buffy stared at her former self, and Spike’s words from the now not-so-distant past reverberated through her mind.
“Death is on your heels, baby, and sooner or later it's going to catch you. And part of you wants it. Not only to stop the fear and uncertainty, but because you're just a little bit in love with it… Every Slayer has a death wish…”
Past!Buffy wasn’t afraid of dying, not as long as it was for a good reason. And although she didn’t beg for it, like she would in a year, she wasn’t averse to the idea. The idea sent chills through Buffy’s body. Not again…
“No,” she said firmly. “You don’t stay dead. It throws the balances between good and evil out of whack, and the First Evil gains power. The only way to defeat it was to balance good again, this time by activating a boatload of Slayers.”
“Activating multiple Slayers at once?” Giles was pulling out his journal, writing furiously. “That’s quite unprecedented. How-?”
“You don’t need to know that,” Buffy reproached him gently, and he nodded reluctantly. She continued. “The mass Slayer thing is a disaster. Once they realize that they’re strong enough to be in control, some go a little power-crazy. War breaks out, and Slayers kill Slayers. It’s anarchy.”
“So your job is to stop it all from happening by keeping Buffy alive,” Tara concluded.
“Or making sure I stay dead,” past!Buffy said quietly.
Buffy clenched her jaw, shuddering at the paradox that keeping herself dead would create. “We’re keeping you alive. Period.”
“I quite agree,” Giles said hastily, setting the journal down. “Is there any information you might have concerning Glory? How she was defeated last time, any weaknesses she might have?”
Buffy shook her head frustratedly. “That’s the thing. I know that there’s something I’m missing, something that just doesn’t make sense about the whole Glory battle, but I can’t grasp it. I mean, there are no gaps in my memory, but there are some things that just don’t make sense. Like…”
Glory being killed by Giles? Could that have actually happened? Or her sudden appearance when we were running away? And how did she get to Dawn tonight, anyway? Why would she have been in the hospital?
“Something’s missing,” she finished wearily.
“A spell,” Willow suggested. “Maybe we can lift it, and…”
“Not if you were sent back by magic, too,” Tara objected. “That might invalidate both spells.”
Giles sighed. “Is there anything else?”
“Oh! The troll hammer!” Buffy remembered. “And that Dagon’s Sphere. Both were able to hurt Glory. And there was the Buffybot-“
“Buffybot?” Spike repeated, his eyebrows raised. Right. She’d mentioned it to him before.
“There was a guy who makes robots. We had him make one of m-Buffy. As a decoy!” she added hastily, not meeting Spike’s eyes.
“Sounds kind of creepy,” Willow said, making a face. “Like some kind of-“
“Don’t even say it,” past!Buffy said in disgust.
Buffy nodded in full agreement. “You can decide if it’s worth it. It was a huge part of what saved the day, though.”
“Then we’ll have to look into it,” Giles agreed, making a note in his journal. “I think that’s enough for now. I’ll do some more research on Glory, and any spells she may have cast to protect herself.”
“Yeah, I’m going to turn in, too,” Willow yawned. “I’ve got an early class tomorrow.” Past!Buffy left almost immediately, too, followed by Spike.
Soon, only Xander was left in the shop with her as she locked up. “Do you mind if I still stay with you?” she asked shyly. “I know that I’m not your Anya, but…”
He stared blankly at her, finally speaking for the first time. “We’re not together in the future, are we.” It wasn’t a question.
She looked away. “How do you figure?”
“How do I figure?” he asked incredulously. “You won’t even kiss me anymore! It doesn’t take a genius to put two and two together.”
“Yeah, I guess.” Xander opened the car door for her, gesturing for her to climb in. “But it doesn’t…”
He sat next to her, his eyes earnest. “Tell me what I did. Did I ruin it? Can I…can I make it right?”
Buffy’s heart broke for him there, remembering the loneliness that had followed the Hellmouth’s closing for Xander. He’d dated a Slayer or two, a Watcher, even Dawn for a brief period of time, but he’d finally settled for an ordinary girl whom he’d married three years after Sunnydale and never told the truth about what really happened after dark. She’d been killed by a Golshak demon two months later.
We’re not made for normal, Xander and I. We’re made to love what’s long gone, and never to move on properly. This chance that I’ve been given for happiness? It’s Xander’s chance, too.
“You left me at the altar,” Buffy said finally. “You were so afraid of becoming your father that you threw away any chance you had of becoming a better father than he was.”
“Oh, god,” Xander breathed. “I didn’t. I wouldn’t.”
“Yeah,” she said gently. “You would. You tried to date me afterwards, said that you wanted to keep up the relationship. But you’d hurt me too much.”
“But now I know!” He turned to her, his eyes shining with sudden hope. “I can stop it, right? Make things right!” He took her hand suddenly, worry apparent on his face. “Are you happy?”
“What?” she asked blankly.
“Are you happy without me?” He looked away. “I mean, you’re clearly not dying to be with me now. And if you have a better life...”
Buffy smiled at him fondly. “Don’t be a martyr. I guarantee you, if you treat Anya the way you’re treating me now, if you respect her and don’t reject her, you’ll both be happy together. Far happier than you are in the future.”
“We are,” he corrected, squeezing her hand.
She squeezed back. “I want you to save it for your Anya, okay? This isn’t where I belong.”
“And where do you belong?” he asked softly.
She gazed out the window contemplatively. “In a better future.”
Buffy spun around, clutching her robe closed tightly. “What the hell, Spike?”
He smirked, his eyes drinking in her form hungrily. “Sorry, didn’t realize you were busy.”
“Sure,” she growled, forcing down the lusty feelings that were bubbling up at the sight of Spike in her bedroom. Right after her shower. While she was naked. Gah. “You know, if you knocked at the front door instead of climbing through my window, we wouldn’t have these problems!”
“Oh, but that wouldn’t be nearly as interesting,” he leered, and she felt a full body flush coming on.
She threw her towel at him half-heartedly. “Go away.”
“What do you think about Anya’s revelation?” he asked, changing the subject abruptly.
She sighed and sat down on her bed, tying the belt of the robe closed and crossing her legs. “I don’t know. I guess it makes sense, even if it sounds ridiculous. It would be easier if she were just some malicious demon or something, but she only told us to save Dawn. So I’m inclined to believe her. How about you?” she asked curiously. “You two have been all buddy-buddy lately.”
“Yeah, that’s probably just since she’s been Future Anya, I’d wager.” Spike leaned against the bed’s headboard. “We must be close in the future or something.”
“She’s in love with you,” Buffy said, sounding annoyed despite herself. “Obviously.”
He cocked his head thoughtfully. “Yeah, seems like it.”
“And now she doesn’t have to be with Xander. So why don’t you go wait for her to come on to you in your crypt?” It came out snippier than she’d intended.
Spike shrugged. “Don’t think she wants to, or she would have already.” He leered at her lasciviously, running his tongue over his front teeth. “Besides, I like this much better.”
Buffy felt her old insecurities rising at that. “Oh, great. Well, the consolation prize isn’t interested!” she snapped, getting up to leave the room.
Quick as lightning, Spike was in front of her, shutting the bedroom door firmly. “I don’t believe you,” he murmured, reaching out to place a hand on her cheek.
She stared at him, motionless, refusing to allow herself to think about what was happening. If she thought about it, she’d probably run.
He cupped her face in his hand, stroking tendrils of damp hair with the tips of his fingers. “’Was going to wait for you to come to me, pet. But you know me.”
“Couldn’t even wait for Saturday to kill me,” she managed, as he traced the contours of her lips, slipping a finger into her mouth. She swirled her tongue around it obediently, sucking it in deeper. He let out a gasp, and a thrill passed through her at his reaction. Don’t think, don’t think, don’t think, she chanted mentally.
He guided her backward until she was bent over on her bed, Spike hovering on top of her. She pulled him down for a kiss, sighing when his lips fixed onto her throat instead. Figures that the vampire would go for the neck, she thought dreamily. Then he rose upward, his lips meeting hers in a soul-drowning kiss, so intense and all-encompassing that she was lost in moments, falling into an endless pool of Spike, and nothing but him. She was gone.
Then he had to ruin it all.
“Love you,” he gasped, rolling over onto his side and pulling her against him. “Love you so much, Buffy.”
She shoved him away, horrified. “What??” she demanded, tightening the sash on her robe. “No! You can’t!” Lust after her, fine. Kiss her, not so fine. But love her? The mother of all not-fine-ness! “You don’t have a soul! You’re not-“
“I’m in love with you,” he repeated, reaching for her.
She darted out of his grasp. “I can’t do this,” she said, pacing. “I can’t believe I just did this! What if Dawn heard, or Mom!”
Spike frowned, cocking his ear and focusing. “They’re both fast asleep.”
“I let you near my neck!” Buffy continued, ignoring him. “A soulless, evil vampire! What kind of Slayer am I? They’ll have to warn all the new Slayers, ‘Don’t be like Buffy the Vampire Boinker.’ Oh, god, I’m terrible at this! How could I?”
“Do you need a diagram?” Spike asked sarcastically, watching her warily.
Buffy turned on him. “And you!” She stabbed a finger at him angrily. “You’re not in love with me. You’re just obsessed! You’re nothing! Just an evil, soulless-“
“Stop that,” Spike growled, crossing the room to grab her by the shoulders and shake her. “You loved it just as much as I did, and we both know it!” He yanked her to him, latched his mouth onto hers and she batted at him half-heartedly before she kissed him back with ardor.
Soon, they were back on the bed, lips locked like they hadn’t been together in years.
“Love you,” Spike whispered, kissing a trail up the arch of her cheekbone.
“Don’t,” she squirmed, but he held her down firmly and she relaxed again.
“Love you,” he growled, nipping at her lips. “Love you!”
“Shut up.” She clapped a hand onto his mouth, focusing instead on a particularly delectable spot of forehead.
“Mmph- Love you!” he rumbled, kissing her hand gently.
“Stop saying it,” she said as he finally rolled away from her, both of them sated with kisses for the moment. “I don’t want to hear that.”
“’S what made Captain Cardboard leave, huh?” Spike sighed, and she jerked away, outraged.
“How dare you!”
Judging from his eyes, he seemed to sense that he’d crossed a line, but his mouth charged on. “You won’t accept love from anyone but Tall, Dark, and Broody. Soldier Boy knew it, too. That’s why you-”
“You bastard!” Buffy hissed at him. He could be so stupid sometimes. Just when she had finally warmed up to him, he started spewing this crap? What the hell?
Spike’s eyes widened as he finally realized that she was genuinely angry. “Wait, Buffy…”
She couldn’t stay in the room with him anymore. “I really don’t want to see you right now.” She rose, heading for the door. This time, he didn’t stop her. “I’ll be back in five minutes. Get up and get out.”
“I’m sorry,” he called out plaintively.
She pretended she didn’t hear him, her body and heart aching at the sound of his voice.
Life didn’t change much after her revelation, Buffy discovered. Xander treated her the same way as he had beforehand, with the mixture of respect and love that was becoming customary with them. He slipped every now and then, but now Buffy was able to call him on it and warn him not to speak like that to Anya. Giles and Willow regarded her with fascination, like she was a puzzle to be solved, but at least Willow wasn’t picking fights with her anymore. It seemed like she’d finally recognized that if Anya were working with them in the future, she was probably okay, after all.
The problems started when the train full of corpses came into town, and past!Buffy came to visit the Magic Box.
“So,” she said, climbing up onto the Magic Box counter. “A train full of corpses came into town today. Loads of neck trauma.”
“Mm-hm,” Buffy said noncommittally. She knew this one, but had the feeling that it might go differently this time. From what she’d been able to glean, past!Buffy and Spike had already stumbled into their post-Glory relationship. Past!Buffy had been avoiding Spike lately, and thusly avoiding Buffy, too, since she’d somehow become their only cheerleader. Spike wouldn’t even confess to what had happened. She’d gone to his crypt twice to visit and been treated to equal mumblings about how much he’d messed up and much of a stupid bint her past self was. Not to mention the breaking of many objects during his barely audible rants. Buffy considered herself the expert in all things Spike and Buffy, and was pretty sure that the facts equaled up to Romantic Encounter Followed By Botched Conversation. Pretty much a classic.
Oh, well. Maybe Drusilla’s arrival would speed things up.
“And?” past!Buffy said expectantly. “Is it connected to Glory? Or is it something else entirely?”
Buffy shook her head. “I can’t give you all the answers. What would be the point?”
Past!Buffy shrugged. “Well, I find out anyway, right? So you might as well tell me, and then I can beat whatever did it. Why does it matter how I found out?”
Buffy sighed. “Let me put it like this.” She considered her younger self for a moment. “Say I’d been sent back to when you were first called, with the mission to help you defeat Glory. But because I’d know what was going on, I’d take care of Darla early. And the Master. And stop Angelus from breaking free, or Spike and Drusilla from putting together the Judge. Then I’d keep the Mayor from ascending, the Initiative from showing up, Adam from…”
“I get it,” past!Buffy cut her off. “You’d fight my battles for me.”
“You wouldn’t be very strong like that, not hardened by dying or Angelus or even Faith’s betrayal. You’d be a Slayer who only gets by because of her friends.”
“But this is different,” past!Buffy protested. “I lose this time. And you’re here to keep that from happening. So anything that happens until then is just window dressing for the real fight.”
Buffy thought of Dru, of Warren, of the thousand tiny things that would happen from then until past!Buffy’s time of death. “No, it’s really not. It’s better if you learn these things as they happen, the way that they happen.” She circled the counter to check the prices for Ketarlar wings.
Past!Buffy followed her, waiting until she was still to force her to meet the other girl’s eyes. “So there’s nothing vital that I should really know beforehand?”
Joyce Summers, stretched out on the couch, her unseeing eyes glazed over in death… “No. Nothing.”
Spike had had enough of the caginess, of the hiding, of the damned girl running from him every time she sensed him. “Wait!” he growled, taking advantage of the one-exit mausoleum the Slayer had ventured into the moment she’d caught sight of him to corner her at last.
She sighed audibly before turning away from him. “Fine. Talk.”
He glared at her back. “You can’t just pretend there’s nothing between us because I made one stupid comment!”
“There’s nothing between us,” she retorted. “We kissed. Fine. But it meant nothing.”
“It meant everything!” he said, genuinely shocked at her comment. He’d felt something intense that day both times they’d been together. He just knew that she had, too. “I love you, Buffy!”
“Stop saying that!” she snapped. She finally turned, her expression irritated and impatient. “Look, I was on edge about the whole Dawn situation. That’s why…it…happened. But it won’t happen again. I can’t be with you.” She moved around him, to the mausoleum door.
“Can’t or won’t?” Spike challenged, following her out of the cemetery and toward the Bronze. “You’re not the type of girl to just make out with any random wanker from the street. Well, except that one time,” he amended, remembering the idiot from his day in the sun.
It didn’t occur to him until after she’d punched him in the nose that dredging up that particular humiliation wasn’t such a good idea.
Inwardly, Buffy was fuming. Inwardly, she was tearing off Spike’s limbs piece by piece and setting them on fire. Inwardly, she was taking a hose of holy water to his body. Really deep inwardly, she was lost in his embrace somewhere in the Bronze bathrooms, but she was resisting that particular impulse easily. I don’t need to avoid him when he makes it so easy to hate him when we’re around each other, she noted wryly.
She pretended that he wasn’t still following her and took a seat with her friends. Xander was doing a night job, so it was just Willow, Tara, and the as-always-inscrutable Anya, future edition. Who was keeping things from her. And had already figured out far too much about her relationship with Spike. And was in love with Spike. Not that that bothered her at all.
“All done with patrol?” Willow asked cheerily.
Buffy nodded, sinking down next to her with relief. Spike wouldn’t come over to them, would he?
Oh, crap. Yes, he would.
But instead of talking to her, he took Anya’s hand and pulled her to the dance floor, holding her close and murmuring in her ear.
Buffy glared at them, stung. So now I’m not worth the bother? She discarded her prior anger at Spike in favor of the much simpler jealousy.
Spike rocked back and forth, Anya light in his arms. “You don’t mind, do you, kitten?”
“You mean making Buffy jealous?” Anya asked, sighing a little at his closeness. “Not in the least bit. Whatever keeps you two at it is whatever I’ll do.”
Unbidden, his lips rested against her neck for a moment before he reminded himself that he was interested in Buffy, not Anya, and letting his feelings get out of hand for this girl would cause far too much trouble. Particularly because this was a temporary gig for her, and he didn’t want to lose the girl to Harris when present!Anya returned.
Well, that, and she didn’t make him crazy the way Buffy did. He envisioned a future where he and Buffy could grow into the relationship that he and Anya had now, a relationship where they were comfortable and content with each other…plus passion. Lots and lots of it.
He wondered what kissing Anya would be like.
“Oh, no, Mister,” Anya said reproachfully, as though she’d known what was on his mind. “I know what you’re thinking, and it’s not gonna happen.”
“Why the bloody hell not?” Spike demanded. “We seem to get along fine. You can actually stand the sight of me, and I’d bet all my kittens that if we were together, you wouldn’t kick me out when you got scared!”
Anya looked trapped. “I can’t answer that,” she said at last.
“Why n-“ He froze. That wanker from the hospital, the one who had helped Buffy out when she’d been preoccupied with her mum’s illness, was talking to her. And dancing with her. And she was smiling at what he was saying.
“Although that’s one answer,” Anya commented, looking at his tightened jaw as he watched his beloved dancing with someone else.
He barely heard her, his eyes fixed on Buffy. She shook her hair out of her face in a move that would have had Venus herself in throes of envy, and her eyes caught his. For a moment, she looked vulnerable, contrite, even. Then she looked away again, accepting the paper that her partner handed to her.
Spike let go of Anya in mid-sway and stormed out of the Bronze.
Buffy pulled herself to her feet, rubbing her arm where she’d fallen when Spike had dropped her. Yeesh. Remind me never to get between a lovesick vampire and the girl determined to make him jealous. Especially when I’m in such a breakable body.
She glanced back at past!Buffy, noting with some satisfaction that the other girl was staring after Spike in consternation. Good. At least Spike’s clumsy attempt at making past!Buffy jealous had worked, too. Because there was no way she was going to put up with being so close to Spike and not being with him if he and past!Buffy didn’t work out their issues.
She headed for the exit, intending to catch up with her vampire and letting him vent to her, when she felt a hand on her arm.
“Wait, Anya? Can we talk?” past!Buffy pleaded. “I just…I need to know some stuff.”
“I’m not giving away the future,” Buffy informed her. There was a perverse little part of her that was enjoying watching her past self squirm. Well, that was also the part that had gotten the whole self-loathing thing down pat. So maybe she shouldn’t feed it.
“I know.” Past!Buffy looked down. “But why?” she burst out. “Why are you so interested in getting Spike and me together, when you so clearly want him, too? What happened to us that you’re speeding up our relationship so much?”
Moderately surprised that she’d caught that, Buffy could only shrug noncommittally. “That’s not something you have to worry about.” But here was her one last chance to try to make things work properly, and past!Buffy was actually asking her for advice. “But maybe you should try to figure out why your relationship is something so important that this whole time, I’ve been risking giving myself away trying to make sure it works out.”
Past!Buffy surprised her again, searching her face beseechingly. “So it’s okay? In the future…it’s the right thing?”
Buffy smiled at that, feeling reassured that she’d made a difference. “The fact that you want it to be okay says enough.” She squeezed past!Buffy’s hand and headed out the door.
Spike was probably in his crypt by then, smashing everything in sight and cursing past!Buffy’s name. Which is always fun. She hurried there, the euphoria from the promise of a relationship between past!Buffy and Spike making her speed pick up and her smile stretch wider.
She shoved open the crypt door. “Spike?”
She poked her head down to the basement. “Come on, Spike, I know you’re here!” But he probably wasn’t, she realized. Not when he could get himself drunk and forget all his pain. She should have gone to Willy’s first.
She turned to go, frowning when she realized that the crypt door was closed. Had she shut it? She didn’t think so. Maybe it was the wind.
Or maybe it was Drusilla, who was approaching swiftly with a taser in her hand.
The last time she’d seen Drusilla, they’d been deep in the Middle East, in a dark little nook in Jerusalem. She’d been searching for Spike, sure that he was once again killing his way across the globe with his ex. And somehow, she’d come out of that meeting feeling as though she was the villain.
“You burned him,” Dru had accused in a dreamy voice, dropping the teenaged student she’d been draining. “He tasted sunshine and embraced it, and now my Spike is all burned away. Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.”
Back then, she’d practically staked Dru just for calling their shared vampire lover- well, the other one- “hers.” Because Spike was Buffy’s, dammit! But after their encounter, she’d realized that the crazy vampiress had had a far healthier relationship with Spike than Buffy ever had.
She hadn’t been so jealous of Dru since she’d found out who was warming Angelus’s bed in Sunnydale, and that time, the vampire hadn’t even had the man.
Dru hadn’t changed since the last time they’d met. Her eyes still sparked with insanity, she still wove her way back and forth like a drunk as she moved, and she still knew Buffy.
“The lamb has changed,” she noted casually, raising the taser as Buffy reached for her stake. “It is wiser now. Mamma sheep, mamma sheep, why do you cry?”
Then the electric bolt from the taser hit Buffy, and her weak human body lost consciousness immediately.
Spike was worried.
Granted, Anya had never said that she’d meet him later, but he’d thought it was a given that when he blew up about something Buffy-related, she’d come looking for him at his crypt and pester him until he told her exactly what was bothering him. He’d even liked it, to some extent. The bint could be annoying, but at least she seemed to genuinely care.
But when he’d awakened from his drunken stupor somewhere around sunset the next day, he’d realized that Anya hadn’t been waiting for him when he’d returned. She hadn’t woken him in the middle of the day to yell at him for being an ass, or even (though it had previously occurred only once and somehow embarrassed him more than her) crawled into bed next to his nude body while he’d slept. When he focused, he could smell her faint smell below the overpowering stench of alcohol, as well as the hint of a familiar scent he couldn’t quite place but niggled annoyingly at the back of his mind. So she’d been there. But she’d left before seeing him, which was most uncharacteristic.
So yeah, he was worried about the girl. She never seemed to realize that she wasn’t a powerful demon anymore, and put herself in far too many dangerous situations for his liking. He’d told her before not to visit him alone at night, and she’d laughed it off. And now his residence might have gotten her in trouble. Or worse, she might have gone to see him at Willy’s and been kidnapped by some hideous demon while he’d been too drunk to notice.
He cursed, yanking on a pair of pants. He had to check up on his girl, even if it meant that he’d have to go into the very depths of hell to see her.
“Go away,” Xander said flatly when he opened the door and saw Spike there.
“I need to talk to Future Girl,” Spike informed him. “Been some problems with my magic shop tab. ‘ve gotta work them out with her.”
“So talk to Giles,” Xander said impatiently, and Spike could smell the fear on him. Fear for Anya, or fear for himself?
“Where is she?” he demanded. “What have you done with her?”
Xander slammed the door shut.
Spike smirked humorlessly. If he weren’t so concerned, he’d really have enjoyed the next part.
“XANDER!” he howled. “XANDER HARRIS, OPEN THAT DOOR RIGHT NOW!”
Excellent. “YOU SAID YOU LOVED ME!” Spike cried out. “YOU SAID THAT I WAS THE BEST YOU EVER HAD. YOU SWORE YOU DIDN’T HAVE A GIRLFRIEND!”
“Shut the hell up, Spike!” Xander shouted from behind the door. Down the hall, a few people were opening doors and peering out.
“THERE’S NO WAY YOU’RE STRAIGHT, NOT IF YOU’RE WILLING TO PAY ME EVERY TIME! I NEVER-“
The door slammed open, nearly clocking him in the jaw. “She’s not here. Go away.” Slam.
“Bugger,” Spike muttered.
Buffy woke with a start. “Spike?” she said without thinking.
“Dreaming of me, were you?” he asked, shifting from foot to foot impatiently. His words had no bite to them, his leer was empty.
She stared at him, wide-eyed. “What are you doing here?” He hadn’t come to her room since the night they’d slept together.
He shrugged. “Blanket invitation, remember?”
She sighed, sitting up and mentally cursing the fact that she was wearing her Yummy Sushi pajamas on the day that her current…interest, if you could call him that…decided to come visit. “What’s wrong?”
“Missing?” Buffy frowned. “She didn’t show up for work today, but Willow said that she was probably with you. That that’s where she went last time. We just assumed…”
“Well, you were wrong,” Spike snapped. Buffy forgave him, mostly because he seemed so unsettled about the whole situation. He probably wasn’t used to having such vulnerable friends, who could be in trouble with no defenses… “I’ve been searching all night, all the usual haunts, trying to find out if anyone’s mentioned her. Nothing.”
She reached for a shirt tiredly, ignoring Spike’s eyes fixed on her as she turned her back to him, pulled off her pajamas and got dressed. And she’d also thought about what Anya had said and decided to trust her. It felt good to be with Spike, both in the literal and romantic sense, and if even one person in the future (although admittedly, Anya wasn’t really one to judge by) approved, then why not go for it? She was aware that she was very possibly- okay, definitely- just making excuses, but it wasn’t like she’d be able to resist him. Ever. So at least she could have a relationship instead of lots of meaningless sex. She wasn’t that kind of girl.
“Where’d you look?” she asked Spike’s forehead, since his eyes were still steadily focused on the spot where she’d pulled the shirt over her bare breasts. Guys…
“Right. Uh…” he struggled to look up.
She swatted him on his ear. “Focus, flyboy. I’m up here.”
He caught her hand with his own reflexively, pressing a kiss to it. “While you were out gallivanting with your new boytoy-“
Buffy held up a hand. “Wait. What new boytoy?”
Spike sneered at her with barely disguised hurt. “Hospital Boy, what’s his name…”
“Ben?” Buffy shook her head. “He gave me his number, that’s all. I wasn’t going to go out with him.” She locked gazes with the vampire, willing him to understand.
Spike looked distinctly puzzled, not comprehending at all. “Oh. Okay.” He studied her expression for clues, and when she gave him none, he went on. “Anyway, I searched the Bronze, Willy’s, and a few of the demon stockers for the Magic Box. No one’s seen her. No one’s heard of any new threat, either, except for some mysterious vampire who killed a lot of people on-“
“A train,” Buffy finished. She frowned. “But Anya knew about that when I asked her. She wouldn’t have gone after it on her own, right?”
“Unless if she was supposed to be kidnapped,” Spike surmised darkly.
“And there’s always Glory,” Buffy added. “We don’t know where Willow and Tara’s spell sent her, but she might be back by now. What if she went after Anya?”
“Let’s start with the train,” Spike decided. “’S the pattern in Sunnyhell, anyway. Something strange happens, a Scoobie gets hurt, track it down to a one-time villain…”
“…I kick its ass and save the unharmed Scoobie.” Buffy smiled encouragingly at him. “She’ll be fine,” she murmured, squeezing his hand. She might hate how much Anya meant to Spike, but the girl was in love with him and still pushed him in Buffy’s direction. That earned her a safe return, at the very least.
“Yeah,” he muttered, looking away.
They went to the police station first, Spike easily breaking in through the back door and finding the police reports for the incident. Buffy considered being worried about the total lack of security at the station, then laughed to herself. As if the police are the ones taking care of local crimes…
Buffy flipped through the gory crime scene pictures with professional nonchalance, pausing only at the last photo. “Um. Spike?” She held it out to him.
He took it and went pale. “Bugger.”
“You know what it is?” Buffy demanded, worried at the sudden look of absolute terror on his face.
“It’s Miss Edith.” He straightened, distancing himself from her visibly. “Drusilla’s favorite doll.”
She nodded, not meeting his eyes. “Okay. Let’s split up. You’ll check the cemeteries, I’ll check anywhere else she might be.”
Spike glared down at her angrily. “We both know where she is. Do you really not trust me that much?”
“I trust you.” Buffy started for the door. “But around Drusilla…”
He scowled. “I love you! I swear, pet, if it came down to you or her...”
“She’ll cloud your judgment, Spike,” Buffy retorted. “You were in love with her for a hundred years. I think that might make you hesitate when it comes down to the wire.” She turned the corner, Spike hot on her heels. Luckily, Crawford Street was only four blocks from the police station, and the mansion where Angelus, Spike, and Dru had lived during their stint in Sunnydale just down that road. “I don’t blame you. But I can’t count on you for this one.” She left him behind, running for the mansion at top speed and not looking back.
The mansion door wasn’t even bolted when she charged in, following a faint stain of blood that had started just beyond the front steps and led her to a far room in the back of the mansion. She could hear Dru’s crooning from afar.
“Two in you, dancing together to different tunes… There is a tea party, but it isn’t your name on the letter. The hare is deep, deep inside… shall I cut her out?”
At Anya’s answering moan, Buffy tore into the room, her stake outstretched toward where she’d heard Drusilla’s voice. Instead, she nearly staked Anya, who was hanging by manacles, looking drained but not too injured, to Buffy’s relief.
Drusilla screeched in anger at the interruption. “The other Slayer, the other Slayer!” she cried out, ripping at Buffy from behind.
“That reminds me,” Buffy said, twisting to face the vampiress. “I never did properly repay you for what you did to Kendra!”
Dru cackled wildly. “No, no, don’t know, know!” She grabbed Buffy by the head and tried to force the Slayer to face her.
“Don’t look into her eyes!” Anya croaked the warning to Buffy, and Buffy smashed her forehead into Drusilla’s, making them both woozy.
Of course, with Dru, it was her natural state, and she recovered much faster, spinning Buffy around and switching to game face to tear out her throat.
Buffy stopped fighting, waiting for the last blow, when Dru shuddered in front of her and fell away, turning to face the room’s entrance. “Why?” she croaked.
“No one messes with my girls,” Spike said fiercely, raising the second stake to take aim. “I missed the heart on purpose. The next one won’t.”
“My Spike…” She reached out to him forlornly, then snapped her head around to scowl at Anya. “You stole the jack of hearts!”
And Anya, brave and tactless as always, managed a grin and a smug, “Yeah. I did.”
“Go away, Dru,” Spike ordered, waving the stake threateningly.
Dru gave him a dark, sorrowful gaze. “You burn brightly,” she whispered. “The light hurts Princess’s eyes.”
“Yeah, pet,” Spike agreed, moving between the vampire and Buffy. “There’s nothing for you here.”
And with that simple statement, Drusilla turned and glided off into the darkness.
“She won’t be back,” Spike stated with confidence. “Not for me, anyway.”
Buffy’s first impulse was to throw her arms around the man she hadn’t believed in enough and apologize to him with kisses and promises of more. She moved toward him to do just that, but he’d already turned to free Anya from her bonds and Buffy remembered why she’d come in the first place, shamefaced.
Anya was smirking at her, and Buffy had the uncomfortable feeling that Anya knew exactly what Buffy had been planning. “You okay?” she asked the other girl tentatively.
Anya nodded. “Just a little blood loss. Nothing some cookies and orange juice can’t take care of!” she said cheerfully.
Spike slung her over his shoulder. “You’re going to the hospital.”
“No!” she protested, an edge of desperation in her voice. “No hospitals!” She flushed at their stares. “I don’t like them,” she finished weakly, her strength draining with every word.
“I’m totally there with you,” Buffy agreed. “But you might need an emergency transfusion. You’re looking a little pale. Spike?” she said, a sudden worry occurring to her.
“She’s got a nice, strong heartbeat,” Spike assured her. “But she needs blood.” He tugged at her hair teasingly. “You’ll be fine. Big Bad’ll keep an eye on you in the hospital, keep you safe.”
“I don’t need a guard dog,” Anya mumbled, her eyes drifting closed. “Go home and have makeup sex with pss!Buffy.”
“What?” Buffy asked. But Anya was already fast asleep.
“Let’s get her settled in the hospital, then we’ll take care of her other request,” Spike suggested, curling his tongue in front of his teeth in his signature leer.
She stood on the tips of her toes to kiss him softly. “Play your cards right…” she murmured slyly, grinning when his jaw dropped.
“You can’t tell me that when we’re trying to save a life!” Spike protested, shaking the unconscious girl on his shoulder. “S’cheating!”
“Builds the anticipation,” Buffy grinned, leading the way to the hospital. She scowled suddenly, wagging her finger at him warningly. “But you’d better not say anything stupid this time.”
“Believe me, love,” Spike assured her. “By the end of the night, you’ll be more than grateful for my mouth…and this tongue.” He waggled said tongue at Buffy and she gulped.
They dropped Anya off at the hospital, leaving a message on Xander’s machine to her whereabouts and making sure that she was alright before escaping together to Spike’s crypt. Their lips fused together before they even reached the basement level, and Spike, still glued to Buffy, climbed down blindly, setting her down clumsily on the bed.
Buffy felt something prick her back as Spike attacked her lips. She ignored it until Spike pulled away from her, his eyes hooded with lust. “You’re bleeding.”
“Huh? Oh!” She rolled off of the item, raising her eyes when she realized that it was a small, elegant dagger. “Trying to kill me?” she asked wryly, passing it to him.
A shadow crossed his face. “It was your birthday present,” he mumbled, trying to toss it away.
She pried it from his hand. “It’s beautiful,” she told him honestly.
“The stone on the handle turns red when an unholy creature is within ten meters,” he told her, gazing down at it.
“Wow. Pretty and functional,” she breathed, running her fingers over the blade. “Is it still…?”
“It’s yours,” he assured her hastily. “Happy birthday.”
She sank into his embrace, marveling at how right it felt to be wrapped in his arms. “Thank you,” she told him, kissing him gently on the lips.
“I love you, Buffy,” he sighed, pulling her closer.
And this time, she responded, “I know.”
Chapter 6 by coalitiongirl
Buffy laid her head against Spike’s shoulder, smiling as past!Buffy and Xander danced together. “They look like they’re having fun.”
A rumbling growl vibrated through Spike. “He’d just better keep his hands off of her,” he said darkly, eyeballing Xander. Past!Buffy saw it, and sent a conspiratorial eye roll Buffy’s way. Men.
Buffy smirked. “You two are doing well?”
Spike nodded. “She’s finally stopped playing hot and cold with me. A bloke can only take so much of it before-“
“Before you become her willing slave?” Buffy asked, raising her eyebrows.
Spike snorted. “You know me far too well, ducks. Was I that bad with you in the future?”
“Worse,” Buffy said without thinking. She froze. “Wait. What?” Spike knew. Oh, crap.
Spike laughed gently. “Can’t imagine I ever left Buffy, not as long as she’d have me. What happened? After she… Is that how we got together?”
Buffy sighed with relief. “Spike, we were barely a thing. One night, we were both drunk and depressed…”
“Ah.” He seemed disappointed.
She twisted to look at him. “What’s wrong?”
“Just…” He shrugged. “Thought we had more of a connection than that.”
They were interrupted before Buffy could respond, Xander and past!Buffy finished with their dance. Past!Buffy smiled warmly at Buffy, but moved between her and Spike with a proprietary glint in her eye. “Hey, Anya. How are you?”
Buffy grinned, moving to the side to expose the hand of past!Buffy’s that Spike was rubbing with his own. Past!Buffy scowled at her and pulled the hand away before Xander could see it. “I’m fine now. One blood transfusion and I’m good as new.”
“I was worried,” Xander said softly, extending a hand to rest it around Buffy’s shoulder. Buffy leaned into it, enjoying the feel of friendship with no additional burdens. Wow. I really took Xander’s lack of interest in me for granted… She turned to smile at him. He returned it tentatively. “Do you…want to dance?”
Aand we’re back into uncomfortable-land! She shook her head. “I think I’ll sit this one out. Hey!” she said brightly, nodding to where Willow and Tara had just joined them. “Why don’t you all pair up? I’ll stay here with Tara, you dance with Willow, and Buffy can dance with Spike!” Spike looked amused at her blatant attempt at matchmaking. Past!Buffy gave her a death glare.
Xander laughed. “Buffy’s not dancing with the Evil Dead!” He frowned at how close the two were standing. “Right?”
Past!Buffy blinked, staring up at Spike and then back to Xander. She started to shake her head, but blanched at the hurt look on Spike’s face. “I…I guess one dance wouldn’t kill me,” she said finally, letting Spike pull her to the dance floor.
“You never know,” Xander said darkly.
Buffy pointed at Willow, who was being accosted by a large, beefy guy. “Hey, is she in trouble?”
“Looks like!” Xander headed off in that direction, forgetting his dancing friend in favor of playing the hero.
Buffy turned to watch past!Buffy and Spike dancing together to a slow ballad that had past!Buffy’s head resting against Spike’s chest with a blissful look on her face. They might not have been ready to “come out” yet, but the vampire and the Slayer had definitely built something lasting together. Xander had mostly stopped with the overtures. Glory hadn’t made any appearances lately.
All in all, things were very good.
“Hello!” The pretty girl in front of her jerked her from her thoughts with a bright, robotic smile. “Have you seen Warren?”
So now, of course, they’d be getting much, much worse.
She knew what would happen the next day, knew the hell past!Buffy would enter once she returned home after finding Warren Meers. She remembered it with the sharpness that only a life-changing event could foster, seven years later. And she still mourned. So for the first time since she’d been sent into the past, she decided to put her own needs before past!Buffy’s.
She’d called Giles that night, asking him to give her the day off from work. When morning came, she waited until past!Buffy was certainly taking care of the robot and Warren, and Dawn was off in school.
And once she was positive that her mother would be home alone, she headed for Revello Drive.
Joyce opened the door, looking puzzled at her appearance. “Hello, Anya. Are you looking for Buffy?”
She shook her head, feeling the tears well up in her eyes, and launched herself into her very perplexed mother’s embrace.
“I was so alone,” Buffy remembered, curled up beside her mother on the couch. “I’d been taken from heaven and everyone expected so much of me. But no one really understood.”
Joyce stroked her hair comfortingly. “Oh, Buffy…” It had taken a few minutes to explain to her mother who she really was, but just telling her secret had taken a load off of Buffy’s shoulders, and now everything was spilling from her, all at once. “I’m so sorry.”
Buffy closed her eyes. “Spike got it, more than the others. He was really…he took care of me. Especially when I wouldn’t take care of myself. And I hurt him…we hurt each other. A lot. Then, when it became too much for him, he went and got a soul.”
“A soul?” Joyce frowned. “Spike doesn’t need a soul. I see the way he looks at Buf- at the other Buffy.” She smiled suddenly. “I think she’s his soul, in a sense.”
“What do you do when your soul is damaged?” Buffy said quietly. “You get a new one.”
Joyce reached for her, but she sat up suddenly. “But enough about the future. Can we…can we just talk?” She touched her mother’s arm. “About happy things, memories?”
“Sure.” Joyce smiled fondly at her daughter. “How about I make you some hot chocolate and I’ll tell you some stories. What do you want to hear?”
“Tell me what I was like as a kid,” Buffy suggested, getting up to go to the kitchen. “Or when Dawnie was born. Or-“ Her voice caught. She couldn’t do this, couldn’t pretend that everything was okay when she’d just scraped the old wounds raw again. Suddenly, she was that terrified girl sitting outside the room in the hospital again, wondering if her mother would make it. And she already knew that one of them wasn’t going to survive the night.
“There’s just one thing I need you to tell me, Buffy.” Buffy stopped short at her mother’s tone. Knowing. Understanding. Joyce stood up, her eyes belying her weariness. “Do I go peacefully?”
“Mom?” Buffy whispered, her eyes watering up again.
“I’m going to die today,” Joyce murmured. “Why else would you be telling me all this?”
She turned tentatively to face her mother. “I didn’t-“
But Joyce held up a hand to stop her. “Thank you. You’ve given me…most people aren’t lucky enough to know that they’re going to die.” She guided her daughter into the kitchen, calmer than Buffy had ever seen her. “Do you know what time it happens?”
“Sometime before the afternoon,” Buffy said at last. “Dawnie was still in school.”
“Oh.” Joyce inhaled deeply. “I’m going to- I want to write them letters. Something to keep with them. Unless…will I be getting you in trouble?”
Buffy nodded through her tears. “Write the letters, Mommy. Please.”
She sat nursing her hot chocolate at the counter while her mother sat beside her, scratching out a brief letter to each daughter. If I’d gotten a letter, something from my mother…would it have made things easier? Would things have been okay?
When Joyce was finished, she turned to Buffy. “Dear Buffy,” she read, and Buffy sniffled loudly.
“Please don’t be angry at Anya. There was nothing she could have done.” Joyce frowned suddenly. “There is nothing, right?”
Buffy nodded. “It was an aneurysm, probably. They weren’t sure. It was so sudden…”
Joyce rested a hand on her daughter’s arm as she continued. “But she did give me the opportunity to write this letter to you, and that means the world to me. There’s so much I want to say before I go, so much I wish I could tell you…” She took in a deep breath, touching her stomach suddenly.
“It hurts?” Buffy asked quickly, jumping down from her seat.
“I’m alright. Just a little nauseous.” They made their way to the sofa again, holding onto each other tightly.
“I love you so much, Buffy. And I’m so proud of you. Other people your age dream of making a difference. But you…you’ve been able to change the world, to save thousands, maybe millions of lives… I’m proud to be your mother. I look back sometimes and wonder how I was able to raise someone so special-“ Her voice cracked, and the tears, so evident in Buffy’s eyes, started to spill from hers, too.
“Anya tells me that it’s not going to be easy on you from here on out. But I have faith in you. I know that you can do anything you try. The hardest thing, sometimes, will simply be to live. Be strong, Buffy. For me.”
Buffy wept again then, remembering the words she had said to Dawn on the tower, so similar to what her mother said now. Will past!Buffy be able to stop it? Or will another Summers woman fall with the same words?
“Take care of Dawn. She’ll need you now, more than ever. Your friends, Spike, and Giles? They’re your family now, and I know that they’ll be there for you. I can leave this world knowing that my girls will be safe. Oh!” Joyce whimpered, rubbing her head.
Buffy jumped up, pulling a blanket from under the table and helping her mother lie down properly. “Tell me about when you met Dad,” she whispered, sitting beside the couch, clutching her mother’s hand.
“It was my freshman year at college,” Joyce remembered, “And I didn’t have a date to prom, but I decided to go anyway. I don’t know why. Hank had a girlfriend, someone he’d been seeing only for a few weeks, and…” Her voice trailed off, and she squeezed Buffy’s hand in reassurance.
It took almost three minutes for her grip to loosen. It took another two for the breathing to stop. There was a muffled moan, and then-
“Mommy!” Buffy cried for her mother as she lost her for the second time. “Mommy!” But there was no answer from her mother. No pulse in the wrist Buffy held. No up-and-down motion as Joyce breathed. Nothing.
When all tears had been exhausted, Buffy gently raised the hand she’d been holding and laid it across her mother’s chest, tucking the two letters underneath it. She closed her mother’s unseeing eyes and slipped out the back door.
Some things just couldn’t be changed.
And she awaited the ramifications for what she had known.
The news came in the late afternoon from a somber Anya.
Spike had just woken up from a very enjoyable dream that had involved himself, Buffy, and an absurd amount of massage oil. The best part of which, he decided as he got out of bed, was that dreams like that weren’t so far from reality anymore. All he needed was to go patrolling with Buffy…and by the end of a properly strenuous night, she’d be ready for anything he tossed her way.
Although it would probably be difficult to find a pool’s-worth of massage oil like he’d dreamt.
Humming the theme to Dawson’s Creek, he cleaned himself off in his shower- okay, displaced pipe- and got dressed for patrol. It would be a few more hours, but Buffy had said that she’d drop by beforehand with some fast food. And that was as close to a date as they’d gotten to so far.
Well, except for two nights ago, when she’d decided to go to Willy’s with him to beat people up for information. That had gone well. Thirteen demons had been killed. Six of Willy’s tables were now beyond repair. Willy had politely requested that they never return. To be fair, though, he usually shouted that after Spike at least once a week, Slayer or not. And as pathetic as it was, he actually had more street cred now that he was hanging out with the Slayer than when he was all alone with a chip in his head.
Plus, the brawls were far better now.
He smirked to himself as he settled down to catch up on Passions. He’d missed a few shows this week, but he suspected that he could skip a week’s worth and still be just as confused as he was after skipping only one episode. As it was, he tried half-heartedly to focus on the episode, but his mind was on a certain blonde Slayer…
The door to his crypt creaked open slowly, and he jumped up warily. None of the Scoobies were ever so tentative when they came by. So who was visiting him now?
“Anya?” Spike murmured, moving toward her. She looked terrible. She’d been crying, long black streaks of mascara jumping out at him from her cheeks, and she was shaking so violently that for a moment, he’d thought she was having a seizure. He ran to hold her in his arms. “What’s wrong?”
She looked up at him, her eyes empty. “You have to go to her.”
“What?” He frowned, lifting her head with his hands to face her. “What’s going on?” A cold dread ran through him. “Is it Buffy?”
She shook her head. “It’s Mom- her mom. She’s gone.”
He seized her by the shoulders and shook her. “Anya. What are you talking about? Gone where? Not Joyce!”
Anya started shaking again, this time with repressed sobs. “She’s dead. She’s dead. She’s dead. She’s dead. She’s-“
“No!” Spike pulled Anya close, hugging her tightly as he shed his own tears for the eldest of the Summers. “What happened? Was it Glory?”
Anya shook her head again. “An a-aneurysm. Spike, you have to go to her. She’s in the hospital.”
“Joyce?” Did she think Spike could save her? Was she already gone?
He was halfway across the room to get his duster before she finished the word. “I’ll go through the sewers. I should be able to get in through the parking garage. You go aboveground, I’ll meet you there in-“
“Spike!” She cut him off. “I’m not going.”
Spike stared. “What do you mean, you’re not going, pet? She’s going to need all the support that she can get. You’ve got to-“
“I can’t,” Anya whispered, looking away. “She won’t want to see me. Not now.”
And then it hit Spike like a dash of cold water. “You knew.” He forced himself to stay calm. “You knew that Joyce was going to-“
“Please, Spike.” Anya held up a hand. “Go to Buffy.”
He turned on his heel and stalked off, not saying a word to her. The stupid bint! She knew everything, was playing with them all along! What gave her the right to decide what to change? To choose who lived or died? How dare she play god with them?
The betrayal carried him through about half the trip before he finally conceded that Anya might not have been that cruel. It was possible that it was sudden. That there was nothing that could have been done. That Anya was only trying to spare Buffy the dread of knowing that she was about to lose her mother. But she could have told Buffy, given her the chance to say goodbye… Unless if she hadn’t known when it was going to happen, in which case this was also a shock to her…
He emerged from the sewers and stepped into the hospital just in time to see the Scoobies arrive right in front of him. He gave them a moment before he followed them in, unwilling to let Xander’s hatred of him get out of hand so soon. Buffy didn’t need that.
She was hugging Xander when she caught sight of him, and she melted, right before his eyes. Uncaring of her friends’ wide-eyed stares and her Watcher’s worried frown, she raced into his arms, letting him encase her in the comfort of his embrace.
“You came,” she whispered, raising her face to kiss him chastely on the lips, even as tears flowed freely from her eyes.
“Of course,” he murmured, kissing away the tears as they came. “I’m so sorry.”
He was aware of her friends behind her, talking among themselves as they focused incredulously on the lovers. He knew that there might be a staking in his future and an intervention in hers, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. Not for either of their sakes.
His beloved needed him, and he was going to be there for her.
“Go away,” Xander said disgustedly, glaring at the vampire as he approached the house on Revello Drive.
“Brought flowers for Joyce,” Spike said, holding them up. He’d picked the daisies and the ragweed in the cemetery, for lack of a better place. Somehow, he’d known that it would be a disservice to Joyce to steal flowers in her memory. Soul or not, he wasn’t stupid.
Xander scowled. “You’re kidding. First you take advantage of Buffy’s grief to manipulate her for your own warped purposes, and now you’re going to try worming your way in again through the most pathetic bunch of flowers I’ve ever seen? You’re sick.”
Spike glowered at him. Had it been any other day, he would have gladly exposed his and Buffy’s relationship. But not today. “Fine. Just bring these in, will you? I didn’t leave a card, so there’s no worming today. I just liked the lady.”
Willow took the flowers, her gaze thoughtful. “You and Buffy…”
“Spike?” Buffy opened the door to her house, poking her head between Xander’s and Willow’s. “Are you coming in?”
“Buffy, are you sure that’s a good idea?” Xander said cautiously.
Buffy met his gaze evenly. “Pretty much, yeah.” She motioned for Spike, with a hand that was clutching a folded piece of paper and he followed her in, grabbing the flowers from Willow with smug confidence and not a small measure of wonder. Never had he imagined that Buffy would stare down her friends for him.
“Wait up!” Xander said suddenly, following them back into the house.
Buffy frowned at him, puzzled. “I thought you were going home.”
“I changed my mind,” he said shortly, his eyes on Spike.
Willow glanced back and forth from the Slayer and vampire to her other best friend, worried. “Maybe I’d better stay, too.”
“Fine. Whatever,” Buffy said finally, turning away from them. “I’m going to go get the laundry.” She opened the basement door. “Spike? You coming?”
He followed her down, reveling in the dark look on Xander’s face just a bit. “I shouldn’t have come,” he said, trying to sound noble. “I’ve caused some trouble…”
She rolled her eyes. “Oh, you’re loving this, Spike. Sticking it to the Scoobies is, like, your dream come true.” She sat down on the cot in the room, settling into Spike as he followed her lead.
“True,” he acknowledged. “But right now…”
“It’s not ideal,” Buffy admitted, curling up next to him. “But I need you here with me more than I need peace right now.”
She needs me. He grinned like an idiot until he remembered to school his expression into something more somber. “What is this?” he wondered, frowning at the paper still clutched in her hand.
She looked down at it as though she’d forgotten that it was there. “A letter. From Mom.”
“Ah.” He kissed the top of her head. “I loved your mother, you know.”
She turned to squint up at him. “Not like you love me, though, right? Because that’s kind of squicky.”
He snorted. “Not quite. Just…she was decent to me when the rest of you lot weren’t. Always had a cuppa for me.”
“In our defense, you were trying to kill us,” Buffy retorted. But she clung tightly to him and pressed a kiss to his chest. “Thank you.”
“For trying to kill you?”
“For being here for me,” she murmured.
They sat in silence until Xander finally called down the stairs, wondering if the laundry was done. Right. Because the boy’s so worried about the LAUNDRY…
“Forgot about that,” Spike said apologetically. “Is the laundry done?”
Buffy shrugged. “Probably not, since there’s nothing in the washer.”
Buffy waited anxiously as past!Buffy and Spike came up the stairs. There was a good chance that Spike had clued her in, or that past!Buffy had read the letter, in which case Buffy probably wouldn’t be welcome in the house anymore.
She didn’t blame past!Buffy at all.
Past!Buffy came up the stairs, her arm entwined with Spike’s and looking more relaxed than Buffy remembered being the first time around. “Hi, guys.”
Then she caught sight of Buffy and froze. “You.”
Spike stood back expressionlessly, his eyes fixed on the scene before him. Past!Buffy stalked forward. “Get out of my house.”
“Don’t you dare!” Past!Buffy snapped, furious. “Don’t you dare apologize and think it’s going to be okay! You killed my mother!” She slapped Buffy across the face with a resounding crack!
“Buffy! I don’t think-“ Xander started.
Past!Buffy rounded on him. “She knew Mom was going to-“ She stopped, and Xander looked down.
She turned back to Buffy. “And you have the nerve to come back here? You knew, all along! Every time I asked you, I gave you the chance to warn me…You could have stopped it. You could have told the doctors, or said something!” The rage and the sorrow were mixing together in her voice, and she was crying as she shouted. “YOU KILLED MY MOTHER!”
Buffy bowed her head, feeling her own tears springing up again. “I know. I’m- I just wanted to-“
“Shut up,” past!Buffy hissed. “You don’t get to talk. Get out of here.”
She rose numbly and headed for the door. She’d known past!Buffy would be angry. She’d expected recriminations. But it still hurt to be expelled from her circle, to see her friends looking at her with disgust as they-
-Blocked the door? “Xander? What are you doing?”
“Wait,” he said firmly, and turned back toward past!Buffy. Spike was trying to reassure her. She pushed him away, and he stalked out of the room, stung. “It’s not her fault,” he said finally. “She couldn’t have done anything. And it sounds like all she did was make sure that you got one last message from your mother.” He gestured at the letter, still in Buffy’s hand. “She didn’t make it happen. She just lived through it.”
“She could have said something,” past!Buffy said softly, the anger still there, but contained.
“Would you have wanted to know?” Xander asked gently, moving to enfold past!Buffy in his arms as she cried. Buffy wept with them, until Xander had her, too, and the two Buffies were crying together, holding onto each other for support.
Spike didn’t come back that night, and Buffy wasn’t surprised. She’d been harsh with him when she’d meant it for Anya, and as much as it sometimes surprised her, he was so sensitive when it came to love…
He’d come over to comfort her, and she’d responded with vitriol. “You can go now,” she’d snapped at him. “I’m not going to sleep with you tonight, anyway, so I don’t need you.”
As if that was all she needed him for! She missed him more than she had thought she would. When he could have been holding her as she slept, or comforted her before the funeral, or come now, while she was standing all alone, preparing for a vigil over the grave…
A cold hand slipped into her own as the sun set in front of her mother’s grave for the first time, and she leaned against him in relief. He’d come.
Or maybe not, she realized, when she noticed that the frame of the man beside her was much bulkier. In fact, it felt like… “Angel?”
“I’m sorry. I couldn’t come sooner.”
She felt a rush of warmth for him. He wanted to be there for her, to take care of her again, like he had so many times before. She envisioned a night, just the two of them, talking and reconnecting near her mother’s grave.
But then there was a flicker of doubt. Because she knew that Spike wasn’t going to approach if Angel was there. And right now…Right now she wanted Spike.
“I’m sorry,” she echoed his words back to him. “I really do appreciate you coming. It means a lot to me.”
“But?” He frowned, confused. “I’m sensing there’s a ‘but’ here.”
She smiled half-heartedly. “But…but I’ve got people who I can count on here, and it wouldn’t be right to them to leave them for the night.”
“You mean Dawn?” Angel said, blinking. “You think that she should stay in the cemetery for vigil with you? Is that such a good idea?”
I mean Spike. But she couldn’t tell him that, not now. He’d never go then. Instead, she hugged him tightly, feeling tiny and warm and safe next to him. “We’ve been apart for a while,” she murmured. “We’ve both changed, and for the better.” She parted from him, and gave him a sweet smile. “We’re not who we used to be anymore. But I’m glad that we’re still friends.”
“What happened?” he said, sounding bewildered. “Why don’t you love me anymore?”
“I’ll always love you,” she said finally. “But I’m not still that sixteen-year-old who was in love with you.” She felt old suddenly, as though it had been decades since she’d first been in a love so untainted and unreal. “I’m sorry,” she repeated, turning away from him and waiting.
After a few minutes, new arms came from behind and embraced her. Lean, pale arms. “I love you,” Spike murmured.
She turned to kiss him. “I sent him away,” she told her lover.
“I heard.” He settled them down in front of the grave, leaning against the marker. “Hullo, Joyce,” he said. “I’m sure you’re not thrilled about this. Well, you’re probably happy that it’s not the Great Poof, at least, but ‘m still a vampire.” He wrapped an arm around her shoulder. “But I promise, I’m going to take care of your girls.” At Buffy’s skeptical look, he amended, “Well, I’m going to take care of them some of the time. But it seems like most of the time, they’ll be taking care of me.”
“Forever,” she whispered, pressing her cheek to her mother’s tombstone.
Buffy woke up the next morning in Spike’s crypt, snuggled up next to him on his big bed. “How did we get here?” she wondered.
He yawned. “You fell asleep sometime in the early AM. I carried you back here at sunrise, woke you up to come down here…you really don’t remember?”
She shook her head. “I didn’t mean that. How did we get here, you and me, like this? A year ago, we hated each other.”
He shrugged. “A year and a half ago, we were in love and getting married.”
“That was a spell! And it’s not like we’re getting married now…”
“But are we in love?” Spike wondered, suddenly fully alert, his eyes probing into her.
She looked away. Were they? “I don’t know yet. It’s…it’s too soon.” But not unlikely…
“Right.” He patted her arm, sleepy again. “Best get home now. The Bit will worry.”
“Probably.” Reluctantly, she got out of bed, pressing a kiss to Spike’s lips before climbing back up the ladder into the main room of the crypt. Dawn. She’d hardly spoken to her in the past day, even though she was one of the foremost matters on her mind. How could she take care of her alone? What about Glory? Would Dawn be sent to her father? Would she be safer there?
She was so immersed in her thoughts that she didn’t realize that Anya was there until she’d bumped into her. “Oh! Sorry.” Her eyes darkened as she realized who it was. “Anya.”
Anya shifted awkwardly. “Buffy.”
She sighed. “Look, I’m still not happy with you. But the truth is, we need you. Especially now. Glory…”
“Right.” Anya bobbed her head up and down. “Glory. I can help you there.”
Buffy sat heavily on a stone bench along the path, gesturing for Anya to join her. “I guess the first question is, what goes wrong? We beat Glory, but I die? Who stops her, then?”
Anya closed her eyes. “Dawn gets taken eventually. She’s tied to the top of this tower Glory’s people built… Spike goes after Dawn, but he gets thrown off the tower by one of Glory’s minions. This little old guy, he cuts Dawnie open…you get there just as the blood starts dripping…The only way for Dawn to live is if someone else with the same blood closes the portal.”
“And so I jump,” Buffy realized, finally understanding. “Rather than to lose Dawnie, I kill myself.”
“Yeah.” She looked down. “I didn’t tell that to the others. They wouldn’t understand.”
“I would do it again,” Buffy said fiercely, thinking of her sister.
“You can’t,” Anya said swiftly. “Not this time. Not with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.”
“If it’s Dawn or me-“
“Stop.” Anya held up a hand. “We just need to keep that situation from happening at all. Go to Spike, ask him if he knows who this guy is. I think his name was Doc. If we get rid of him, hopefully, the bloodletting won’t even start.”
Buffy nodded. “What about everyone else? Where were you, and Giles, and Willow and Tara and Xander while this was going on? Can any of you back Spike up on the tower, stop that Doc from getting to Dawn…?”
For the first time since they’d sat down, Anya looked uncomfortable. “I don’t remember. I guess we were caught up with the minions. It’s all kind of fuzzy.”
“Oh.” Buffy accepted that with some regret. Her head shot up again. “Wait a minute. You remember, in detail, everything else that happens, but you don’t remember where you were?”
“It was traumatic!” Anya protested. She perked up again. “But I remember that you pretty much beat Glory to a pulp with the troll hammer. And the Buffybot distracted Glory first with the Dagon’s Sphere. And-“
Anya continued on, oblivious to Buffy’s rising suspicion. Anya knew a lot about the ritual. The important stuff. What had gone wrong. But something was off.
Well, something had been off for a while. Anya wasn’t as prone to unexpected, blunt remarks, usually concerning sex, as she used to be. She never mentioned her vengeance demon days anymore, and Buffy hadn’t seen her kiss Xander even once. Maybe she’d changed in the future seven years.
Or maybe Willow had been right all along, and she was possessed. Maybe she was a demon determined to sabotage them, and had invented a plausible-sounding story so they’d be unprepared for the real deal. Maybe she was a spy for Glory, and was only biding her time before she took-
Anya stopped, puzzled. “What about Dawn?”
“Nothing,” Buffy said, thinking rapidly. “I’m just worried about her.”
Anya nodded vigorously. “You should go to her. She probably needs her big sister.”
The doubt rose in Buffy’s mind again. Because if Anya was possessed by an evil demon, why would she care about Dawn? Or her and Spike, for that matter?
Well, there was only one way to tell. “Yeah, I’m thinking that maybe we should get a pet or something. I hear they’re therapeutic in grief counseling.”
“A pet?” Anya raised her eyebrows. “Why?”
Buffy shrugged. “Just something cuddly for her to take care of. Maybe a cat, or a hamster…” She paused, as though she was thinking some more. “Ooh! Or a bunny!”
“Bunnies are cute,” Anya agreed.
Buffy’s heart was racing with fear for her sister. “You’re not Anya. Oh, my god. You’re not Anya at all.”
The-thing-that-wasn’t-Anya-at-all’s eyes widened. “Wait. Wait, Buffy, stop thinking! Now!” she said, clearly panicked. Her eyes darted to the ground, where they both could see a large stone. “I’m sorry, but I have to do this!” she said tearfully, grabbing it and smashing it towards Buffy’s skull.
Buffy dodged it easily with Slayer reflexes, and seized Anya’s wrist before she could try again. “What I don’t get is why you haven’t told Glory about Dawn yet,” she said, shaking her head. “Or are you just biding your time?” Another horrible thought occurred to her. “Is Spike working with you?”
“Of course not!” not-Anya said indignantly. “And I’m not working for Glory! I’m trying to stop her! If I wanted to help her, I would have let her find out about Dawn when she had her alone in the hospital!”
“But you’re not Anya!” Buffy repeated.
“Maybe I got over my fear of bunnies, huh?” Anya retorted, but Buffy’s brain was churning, thinking back to a thousand little slip-ups that “Anya” had made.
Anya, revealing herself two weeks before. “There was a guy who makes robots. We had him make one of m-Buffy!”
Anya, coming into the Magic Box two hours late one morning, walking into the training room before she suddenly remembered where she was supposed to be.
Anya, sounding unusually like a Scoobie sometimes. “Fine. I get it. You’re just going to stick to the talkage.”
Anya, not quite desperate for sex with Xander. “You know what? I really don’t feel like ‘going back to the apartment’ tonight. I’ll find somewhere else to go.”
Anya, understanding her better than anyone else seemed to. “This is Riley making you feel like you’re the villain. He’s been basically cheating on you, and then he turns it all back on you? If he can’t handle his own insecurities, then maybe he’s not what you need.”
Anya, coming to see her mother before she died. The mug of hot chocolate still on the kitchen counter when Buffy came home, the little marshmallows that Buffy had always loved barely melted at the top.
Anya, in a cozy scene with Spike, staring into his eyes…
In love with him…
“You’re in love with Spike, and all you do is push us together,” Buffy accused. “No one’s that selfless. You had to have gained something from it.”
She saw the terror in not-Anya’s eyes an instant before she put the pieces together.
And then she knew.
There was no swirl of energy, no sudden shock to her system or speedy repeat of everything from her past. There was only an instant of horror before Buffy was unceremoniously thrown back to the future.
Epilogue by coalitiongirl
Thank you to everyone who read and reviewed this fic! I'm still making my way through the reviews now, but I'll hopefully be able to finish responding to them in the next day or two. :)
Seven Years Later
Or, for Buffy, One Second Later
She woke in the big, cozy bed an instant later, and wept tears of frustration. She’d failed. Her identity had been compromised, and she’d been sent back home because of the paradox. All was lost. Kennedy would keep killing Slayers. The world was doomed to destruction. She couldn’t open her eyes, couldn’t face the desolation she’d wrought with her carelessness.
“Coffee?” a cheerful voice that had no business being in Willow’s little cabin offered.
Buffy opened her eyes in the hopes that the mirage would go away. It didn’t.
“I thought that you could use it,” the mirage said. It frowned. “Wait. I did get my timing right, yes? You just got back? Because otherwise I wasted some perfectly good time I could have used for morning sex. It’s best when Xander and use the syrup in foreplay, and-”
“How are you…?” She stared at Anya. “Are you real?”
Anya nodded vigorously. “Of course I am! Oh, right. You had that whole episode with the First Evil.” She tapped the coffee mug to prove her corporeality. “Good friend of my old boss D’Hoffryn’s, actually. I think he had a crush on it. It caused all sorts of trouble at home. His wife’s a Polgara demon, you know, and they make the best wishes-“
“Anya,” Buffy repeated disbelievingly. “But- you’re dead.”
“Not here I’m not,” Anya informed her. “Those nasty little creatures of the First’s never got to me in this timeline.”
“But the paradox…past!Buffy realized that it was me…it was all supposed to revert to how it was…”
“Oh, that.” Anya waved her hand. “Willow was wrong.”
“Willow was wrong?” Buffy repeated numbly.
Anya shrugged. “What? Accidents happen. And it’s not like she’d ever done a spell like that before, or that it had gone correctly in the first place.” She tapped her head to remind Buffy of the original screw-up. “It was a good thing that you did get found out, because Giles is pretty sure that if you hadn’t, you never would have returned to the present. And that would have really messed up some things for me.” She made a face.
“Where were you?” Buffy asked. “How did you know about…?”
“The spell? Everything?” Anya finished. “It was only fair. You took my body. So I took your mind.”
“My mind?” Buffy repeated dazedly.
“Speaking of which, you could have slept with Xander at least once,” Anya said reprovingly. “I was half out of my mind in there with no sexual gratification. And it isn’t cheating if he thought it was me.” She grinned suddenly. “Or I wouldn’t have said no to Spike. He’s quite attractive, too, although he has smaller forearms than Xander.”
Buffy held up a hand. “So let me get this straight. You were in my mind?”
Anya sat down next to her, frowning. “Are you going to drink this coffee? Because I put effort into making it for you, and you haven’t even thanked me.”
“Thank you, Anya,” Buffy said automatically, unable to tear her eyes away from the woman next to her. She’d been the face in the mirror for months, and now she was herself once more, walking like Anya, talking like Anya…it took some getting used to.
“Oh, and yes, I was in your mind. We’ve established that,” Anya said archly. “I spent months trying to communicate with you.” She took the coffee from Buffy’s hands. “Well, don’t drink that now. It’s probably cold. It’s ironic, don’t you think?” she continued without missing a beat. “You spent months of my life trying to persuade everyone to listen to me, while you were completely ignoring me in your head.”
“I’m sorry,” Buffy said apologetically. “I didn’t mean to.”
“Well, it couldn’t be helped!” Anya said brightly. “And your attention grabbing worked out well in the end, since they all listened to me when I was set free and knew who Glory was.”
“Ben!” Buffy smacked her head. “How did I not get that? It was Ben, all along!”
“Well, of course you didn’t get it. You were under a spell.” Anya shrugged. “I was unaffected, of course, since I was so well hidden in your mind. So I told Spike who it was, and we killed him together!” she finished happily.
“But the chip-“
“Oh, I did the actual killing,” Anya said breezily. “Spike just obtained the poison.” She looked askance at Buffy. “You don’t want to kill me over that, do you? Because Giles and Xander had to talk you out of doing it last time. And it was a really long time ago.”
“No,” Buffy managed. “You did what had to be done. Dawn’s okay?”
“Dawn’s in graduate school in New York,” Anya informed her. “Willow lives in LA and works with Angel now. Tara was still killed by the unpleasant nerd, even though I warned her to stay away from windows, and Willow is in a new gay relationship now. Apparently, she wasn’t bisexual, after all, just confused. Xander and I live a few blocks away. He didn’t leave me at the altar this time, although he waited an extra year to propose and I had his best man handcuff himself to him during the ceremony. He has been a considerably better boyfriend and husband since you withheld sex from him for an extended period of time.”
“That wasn’t what it was about,” Buffy protested half-heartedly, knowing that it was a moot point. “Why don’t I remember any of this?”
“Post time-travel temporary amnesia,” Anya explained. “Your memories will return over the next few hours, as your mind adjusts to the new information. Alcohol speeds up the process,” she added helpfully. “Would you like some?”
“I’d rather stay sober,” Buffy assured her hastily. “What else happened? Where’s everyone else?”
“We have three daughters right now,” Anya continued. “Xander keeps trying to make babies in the hopes that we’ll have a son. You two like to say that it’s because he has no Y chromosome, but I-“
“Wait,” Buffy interrupted before things got very unpleasant. “Which two? Who else lives here?”
Anya gave her an odd look. “You and Giles tied the knot four years ago.”
She nodded. “Xander was right. That was
Anya gave her a genuine smile. “Giles is in England. The Hellmouth was never closed. You still live in Sunnydale, with…” Her voice trailed off as she gestured around the room. Buffy followed her gaze.
Heavy curtains, drawn tightly shut so no light could come through. A single mirror in the corner, over which was written in drippy red lipstick, “I’M RIGHT BEHIND YOU.” A mug reading “Kiss the Librarian” sitting on the nightstand on the other side of the bed, and a dagger she’d never seen before was beside it, a stone in the center of the hilt glowing blue. “Spike?” she whispered, hardly believing it.
“Yes, him,” Anya confirmed.
“Where is he?” Buffy asked breathlessly.
“Spike?” Anya checked her watch. “It’s past sunset, so he should be back soon. He’s on a buyer’s trip for the Magic Box- we’re very successful. We have outlet stores near every Hellmouth,” she said proudly. “You and Spike work for me, but you decided to stay home for this one, since I thought that you might come back from the past today. I’ve taken off from work for this, you know,” she said primly. “I left Andrew in charge of the shop, and he’s incompetent.” She studied Buffy critically. “You look very sexually unsatisfied. I should leave you to Spike.”
“We’re still together,” Buffy said wonderingly. “After all this time…”
“Well, there was that rather ugly breakup when Riley came back to town and framed Spike,” Anya said cheerfully. “But you two worked it out eventually. And, of course, the month when you decided to find someone else to have your babies, and when Angel tried to persuade Spike to work with him instead of you.”
“Angel and I fought for Spike rights?” Buffy said doubtfully.
“Yes, it was very erotic,” Anya said blandly. “But now you and Spike are happily and very noisily together. I thought that you’d be happy to hear that.” She headed for the door. “I’ll leave you to that. He generally jumps you when he walks in, and I’ve heard that
She opened the door and made to leave before Buffy called, “Wait!”
“Yes?” Anya said, confused. “Why are you delaying orgasms with your skilled vampire to talk to me?”
Buffy laughed hard, tears springing to her eyes both from laughter and from joy. “It’s just…” she managed through her mirth, “I missed you.”
Anya gave her an awkward hug. “I’ve been told that this is the convention,” she explained.
“You haven’t changed at all,” Buffy marveled. “Seven years, and you’re still the same.”
Anya shrugged. “My unusual speech and sexual openness have been there since I was a human the first time. Why, did you think that it was because I was a demon? How many other demons talk like this?”
And Buffy couldn’t remember a single one.
She rested against the bed, peeking past the curtains every few minutes to see if her lover had returned. Finally, she closed her eyes and tried to remember.
It came back to her in bits and pieces.
“You’re me, aren’t you?” she demanded, gaping at not-Anya. “You’re me from the future!”
“No, I’m Anya,” Anya said, wiggling her fingers experimentally. “Future!Buffy has left my body. About time!”
“What? Now?” Buffy asked skeptically. “How convenient.”
“There was a spell. You couldn’t know about her, or she’d be flung into the future and everything would be reversed.” She looked around thoughtfully. “Apparently, she was wrong about that last part.” Anya shook her head. “Witches. You can never count on them. One of them made a wish to my old friend Shuno that her lover would never know pleasure again. So she castrated him, of course,” Anya said conversationally. “The witch was so furious that she turned Shuno into a toad. We haven’t seen her since.”
“Oh, my god,” Buffy said, staring at her. “You really are Anya, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” Anya nodded enthusiastically. “I’m back.”
A set of lips pressed softly against her eyelids, kissing them open. “I’m back,” Spike murmured.
Buffy pulled him down to her, feverishly covering his face with kisses and yanking desperately at his clothes. “I love you,” she whispered, pulling at his lower lip with her teeth.
He steadied her hands. “I love you, too, kitten. But what’s wrong? I was only gone a day…”
She kissed him with all her pent-up passion and love, borne from months of working for this
. And this
was completely worth it. “You got it wrong, Spike. I’m
It was just as well that Willow had screwed up.
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