The Scoobies sat around the table in the Magic
Box, all watching the door, waiting for the last member of their group to
arrive. She’d never come, though.
Spike did, however, and they all seemed to awaken from a dream once he walked in.
“I’m here,” he said, striding in. “I guess we can get this over with.”
“Alright,” Willow began. “We need to decide on a patrolling schedule, or a rotation or whatever. Someone will need to stay with Dawn while the rest of us are out, and…” She glanced around nervously at the others. “Is it okay that I’m leading the meeting?”
Giles nodded, but Xander seemed to overwhelmingly support her status as leader. He made everyone take a vote.
Spike didn’t bother voting. As long as Xander wasn’t in charge, he really didn’t care, but it wasn’t his apathy that had him abstain. Spike was distracted by the overwhelming fragrance that he’d thought would’ve faded over the past week. Her scent washed over him like a sweet perfume, and he couldn’t keep himself from closing his eyes and breathing it in.
That was when he noticed something was off. It was Buffy’s scent, no doubt about that, but something was… different. Something was there that he didn’t remember. He decided to take Toucan Sam’s advice and follow his nose, which lead him into the office area of the shop.
He looked around, seeing nothing out of the ordinary, but here, where the scent was strongest, he felt incredibly weak.
Buffy’s not here, you wanker. She’ll never be here.
He stood in the room a moment longer, letting her smell work its way into his memory (like it wasn’t already there), before turning to the others.
“I’m gonna go.”
“But… Spike,” Willow sputtered. “We were going to do our first patrol tonight.”
Spike practically ran towards the exit, wanting to get away from her. She was everywhere and nowhere and knowing that just hurt.
“Some other night,” he called over his shoulder before the door closed behind him.
He needed to forget. He knew he couldn’t do that in the long run, not at all. But just for a little while he didn’t want to think about the Slayer.
* * * *
Buffy awoke with heavily lidded eyes, wishing for nothing more than to fall back asleep again. The sun had been rising when she’d fallen asleep, but now it had long since set, and Buffy realized that she couldn’t lose any more time. Or could she? She was still confused.
In her dreams she’d been carrying clocks with her everywhere she went. Huge grandfather clocks would trail behind her as she took her friends on a journey through time, and at one point they came across a herd of dinosaurs.
Luckily for her, it wasn’t a Slayer dream. Just weird.
Buffy sat up on the couch and braced herself on the edge of the cushions, feeling all sorts of crappy. She hadn’t bathed since that one night when she’d snuck into the showers at the public pool, she hadn’t eaten a decent meal since her arrival, and she was cut off from everyone, which wasn’t good for her already present struggle with loneliness.
So she left the mansion and traveled into town, where the streets were busy with people rushing about, doing last minute errands or meeting with their friends. She watched a couple enviously as they simply walked hand in hand around the corner.
She wrapped her arms around herself as she walked, feeling miserable and confused. She hated that she didn’t know what to do, only what not to do. Don’t be seen by anyone who knows you, don’t interfere with what’s going on around you—the common rules of time travel. Buffy wished that she had Giles’ brain or Willow’s magic; those would be great assets right now. But what was she supposed to do, say “hi, I know I’m supposed to be dead, but I’m the Buffy from the future—could you please help me get home?”
That would definitely be disrupting the past, and Buffy’s future was messed up enough as it was; she didn’t want to ruin it further.
A few subtle moves and a hasty exit from the drugstore later, Buffy was the proud owner of some cough syrup and box of ibuprofen. Now she just needed to go practice her Dawn skills to get her some food, and she’d be good to go. She was still amazed that she hadn’t gotten caught yet.
* * * *
“Hey, Giles,” Xander greeted when the Watcher walked through the Summers’ front door. The others were ready to go—Anya, Tara, and Willow—all carrying axes or stakes. “Dawn’s upstairs. She said she’d be down in a minute.”
“Yes, of course. How has she been?” he asked Willow, who, along with Tara, had practically been living with the young girl for the past week.
“Better,” Willow replied. “’Bout the same as us, I’d reckon, but she’s better at hiding it than we are.” She turned to Giles. “The… the thing is in the dining room if you want to work on it. I made some notes about what I was working on last in case you…”
“Of course. Have you tried getting in touch with Spike?”
Tara shook her head as she stood by Willow. “He wasn’t at his crypt, and we didn’t really want to waste time looking for him. He probably has plans.”
“Which is pretty much code for ‘too busy sulking to be of any use’.”
“Xander!” Willow admonished.
“Hey, it’s true.”
No one could argue with that.
“I wonder what he is doing,” Anya pondered. “We could use the extra vamp muscle.”
“You’ll be fine,” Giles assured her. “It’ll be hard at first, but I suppose it’ll be like that summer when…”
Willow and Xander also went silent, thinking of the last time Buffy wasn’t around.
“No,” Giles softly amended. “No, this isn’t anything like that.”
* * * *
Spike closed his eyes and buried his face into the pillow next to her head.
“Oh my god,” the woman gasped, trying to catch her breath. She touched the back of his head in a loving caress, something that would be expected from a lover, but Spike didn’t love this woman. He pulled away from her.
“Yeah,” he muttered, looking around for his pants.
The young brunette sat up, hurt evident in her eyes. “Wha… was it bad?”
Spike shook his head as he pulled his shirt on. “No, love. You were bloody marvelous, but I can’t stay.”
“Oh. Is that guy-speak for ‘thanks for the quickie’? Although that wasn’t really quick…”
Spike sighed. In the old days he would’ve taken what he wanted from this girl and then ripped her throat out, but he couldn’t even bring himself to do that in a verbal sense. He didn’t want to hurt her feelings if he could help it.
“Look, I’m messed up, pet. You don’t want a bloke like me around, and it’ll be best if I just leave now. Nothin’ wrong with you, alright?”
It wasn’t a line, even though the words had often been used as such before. The girl noted the sincerity in them and nodded in acquiescence. “So… bye?”
Spike nodded, lifted his coat from its landing place on her bedroom chair, and offered her a small smile before walking out the door.
He wasn’t watching where he was going when he stepped onto the street. As he was pulling on his coat he felt someone run right into him. Don’t people watch where they’re going?
“Hey,” he griped as the girl stepped back.
That’s when the ground disappeared beneath his feet. It was her.
He couldn’t speak, or move, or think anything other than it’s her, it’s her, it’s her. Her eyes went wide, and something looked off about her, but before he could determine what it was, she was running in the opposite direction, whatever she’d been carrying falling to the ground with a loud clatter.
She’d made it across the street and around the corner before he could react, and he ran after her as fast as his legs would carry him.
* * * *
Buffy panicked. Running into him was bad; very, very bad. Not only was she not prepared to see him again, but he wasn’t supposed to see her, not if she wanted to protect the future.
She ran as fast as she could while still trying to breathe, her panic making the act difficult. People cried out in protest as she pushed them out of her way, her feet pounding on the pavement as she tried to find somewhere—anywhere—where he wouldn’t look for her.
He was catching up. She heard him calling her name, and hearing his voice was so bittersweet. She wanted to turn around and take him into her arms, but this was not her time, not anymore, and Buffy had never felt so scared.
She’d arrived at the U.C. Sunnydale campus when she felt his hand wrap around her arm, roughly pulling her to a stop.
“No!” she cried, struggling in his grasp.
Spike grabbed her other shoulder and shook her a little, but she refused to look at him.
“Look at me. Look at me! Buffy… love?”
She raised her eyes to his, the hope in his voice breaking her heart. Yes, it was her, but she wasn’t the one he wanted.
Looking her in the eyes seemed to confirm his hopes, and Spike’s jaw dropped, his eyes alight with amazement. It wasn’t long before that emotion turned to confusion, however.
“Buffy,” he said breathlessly. “You… it is you, right? I’m not dreaming?”
Buffy couldn’t respond. If she said yes, he would think she was his Buffy. If she said no, he might freak out on her. If she said anything, she knew she was going to cry.
“Say something,” he pleaded.
“Let me go.”
Her voice was small, but from his reaction you’d think she’d shouted at him. “What?”
“Please,” she pleaded, the tears she’d feared now falling from her eyes. “I’m not who you think I am. Let me go…”
“You’re Buffy. Don’t lie to me.” His eyes narrowed as he scrutinized her. “There’s something different about you,” he noted, one hand lifting to her hair, which was a tawnier shade than it had been at her death. “What happened to you?”
“I died,” she replied, weakly attempting to pull away from him. “I’m dead.”
Spike stared at her in bewilderment. “Buffy…”
At that point she couldn’t take it any longer. Buffy threw herself against him with a sob, and the familiar feel and smell of him provoked more tears.
“I can’t…” she sobbed. “I can’t do this anymore.”
His returned her embrace hesitantly, but his hold on her was firm. All the pain she’d felt in the past week—no, the past year—hit her with full force and all she could do at that moment was cry.
Especially since she’d really screwed things up now.
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