Buffy woke the next morning to the phone ringing. She reached over to the bed side table and picked it up.
“Giles? What time is it, even?”
“It’s 6:30, but I realized you should probably have Spike accompany you to the library this morning, which makes it prudent for me to reach you before sunrise.”
“It’s too early for big words, Giles. Go away,” she groaned, but still moved to sit up.
“Buffy—” he began, chagrined, but she cut him off.
“I know, I know. I’ll write a note for my mom and go get Spike and be there. See you in a few.”
She groaned again and dressed, but she couldn’t deny the little bit of satisfaction she got from knowing she would get to annoy the bastard. She hadn’t forgotten his words from the night before. Couldn’t with her cheeks covered in dried tears.
She checked over her reflection in the mirror after washing her face and, satisfied she was free of visible weakness, marched her way downstairs.
She scribbled a quick note to her mother, then slammed open the door to the basement.
“Rise and shine, Spikey!”
Spike jumped up out of bed.
“What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing?”
“Giles wants us both at the library, and you’re sunlight challenged. Get up and get dressed, we’re going. Now.”
“No, I’m not.”
“You are, or I stake you,” she said, pulling one out of the back of her jeans.
Spike almost began responded with an insult, but stopped himself.
“Whatever, let’s just get out of here and find out what the watcher wants, shall we?”
Buffy looked confused, but she could sod off for all he cared. He told her he cared about his mum. Wasn’t going to do anything that might risk his life, because Anne needed him. He couldn’t just leave her alone here in the future. Couldn’t hurt her worse than he already had.
He rose from the bed, no shame evident in his shirtless state. He reached down to grab the tee he discarded before bed and noticed Buffy’s heart rate shoot up. The girl spun around to look away so fast he thought she might have broken the sound barrier.
Internally, he smirked. Dru might not want him, but at least he had proof he hadn’t stopped being attractive. And to the slayer, even.
On her end, Buffy was trying to talk herself out of her initial reaction of ‘yum.’
‘You’re the slayer, Buffy. He’s a serial killer… with a hot as hell body. But still a serial killer! And you’re not convinced that he isn’t playing everyone anyways. Absolutely no noticing of hotness until this thing is figured out.’
She tried very hard to ignore the little voice in the back of her mind that responded her to declaration with a big ‘shyeah, right.’
“Can stop hiding your blushin’ eyes, I’m ready. Let’s get out of here before I have to meet your watcher in a dust pan.”
Buffy just rolled her eyes and led the way up the stairs.
The walk to the school was made in silence, neither one quite feeling up to one of their inevitable arguments.
“Willow, why are you here so early?” Buffy asked as she pushed open the doors and saw her best friend already seated at the table.
“Oh, uh, Giles asked me to come. He wanted more details on the spell I cast so we can figure out how this happened.”
“Yes, Buffy. I’d like to speak with Spike alone; why don’t you have a seat and help Willow go through the records?”
She almost argued, but Giles had a look in his eye that said he wasn’t going to back down. So, with a sigh, she threw herself down in a chair and grabbed a book.
“So what am I looking for?”
“Anything to do with time travel, alternate realities, or this spellbook,” she said, pointing to the leather-bound tome laying on the table.
“Woo, yay for research,” the slayer responded sarcastically.
“How’s it going, Buffy? I felt bad having to leave you last night.”
“Well, my mom insisted that he come stay with us.”
Willow’s eyes went huge.
“Nope. Spike is all with the stay-age. His mom is still in the hospital right now, but she should be coming home today. She’ll stay in our guest room, and Spike is going to stay in the basement. And I have to be nice to him on punishment of death.”
“But he’s been different, right? The Spike I saw yesterday was definitely not the same one with the death and the murder. At least not the whole time, he wasn’t. And you seemed to be getting along alright this morning.
“We weren’t talking, this morning,” she said with a snort. “But, I mean, yeah, I guess. He sat out on the back porch with me for a couple of minutes and it was nice up until he made some insanely cruel comment about me and Angel.”
“Oh, Buffy, I’m sorry. That was awful of him.”
“Yeah. I don’t know why I expected any different from a soulless demon, you know?”
“Maybe because that soulless demon acts pretty human a lot of the time, especially now with his mom and before with the world-saving.”
“Maybe…” Buffy said, trailing off.
Good thing she had research to keep her from thinking it all over too hard. She had a feeling the inevitable research headache she was facing had nothing on the ‘trying to figure out Spike’ headache she wanted to avoid.
As Spike had followed Giles into the library office, he was curious as to what the watcher wanted to say to him alone.
“Would you like to explain to me just what the bloody hell is going on here?” Giles asked, whipping around to stare down the other man.
Spike had to give him credit, the watcher had balls.
“Came into town hoping to bag the slayer. Found the witch instead, had the lovely drunken idea to bring Dru here from the past. Somethin’ went arse over tits, though, ‘cause when the spell was done it was my mum standing in that circle.”
“Willow said that you provided her with the spell book. Where did you acquire it?”
“Won it in a poker game as I came through Mexico. Guy who gave it to me was some type of seer. Said it ‘had what I needed’ or some rot. Flipped through it once, then pretty much forgot I’d packed it away until I saw Red doing her mojo. I’d noticed the spell when I flipped through, just didn’t have anyone to cast it. Saw the opportunity and took it.”
Giles took note of the story for later investigation, then turned to the vampire.
“Buffy tells me you’ve agreed to another truce and to stop feeding on humans. I should like to know why a master vampire would make that agreement?”
“Not just for your bleedin’ white hearts. Jus’ got my mum back after a hundred years. I’m not keen to bollocks it up by snacking on the populace and getting myself dusted. Besides, she thinks I’m better than that.”
“You haven’t told her about your past?”
“Not yet. Don’t know how to. Explained that I’m a vamp, that this is the future, but she had a hard enough time wrapping her head around that. She clung to me, Giles, I’m the only familiar thing in this world. It’s my fault she’s even here. How can I tell her what her precious son became after she was gone?”
Giles eyed the other man closely.
“If I didn’t know better I’d say you still care for the woman.”
Spike fixed him with a steely gaze. “Loved my mum as a human, loved her after I turned. Would do anything for that woman.”
“That’s incredible. Everything I’ve read and seen says that—”
“Demons can’t love, yada yada yada. It’s bullshit, Watcher, thought you’d’ve figured it out by now. Us soulless folk love just as well as your precious humans. I’ll tell you what I told the slayer last night- just because Angelus is a sociopath without the soul, doesn’t mean we all are.”
Giles paused for a minute.
“So now what?”
Spike sighed heavily. “Don’t rightly know, do I? Docs said mum will be in treatment for at least a few months. Got an invitation from Joyce to stay there for a while, but I think we both know that isn’t going to end well. Have to just see how it goes, I suppose.”
“And how do you intend to pay your way?”
“I haven’t thought that far ahead, shoot me. Right now I’m just focused on getting Mum home from the hospital and adjusted to what’s happened to her. Speaking of what’s happened to her, do you lot have any ideas yet?”
“Nothing as of yet. Everything we’ve found on time travel so far has been shakey at best.”
“Well, you need to keep looking. The last thing I need is for the whole sodding past to be mucked up because I brought her here.”
When Giles spoke again, his voice was softer. “And are you prepared to send her back if need be?”
Spike turned on the watcher with an anguished look on his face.
He shook his head, and simply said, “No.”
Giles sighed, but didn’t push for the moment. Instead, he offered a suggestion.
“The sun’s up now, so you’re stuck here. Why don’t you help the girls with research while I call a few people who might know some things?”
Spike’s only response was to trudge out of the office and settle himself down at the table with one of the larger books.
“Can you stop that?!” Buffy finally exploded.
Willow had left nearly an hour before to visit Oz, and Giles had managed to wheedle Buffy into agreeing to continue researching while he met with an old colleague. So there she sat, and the silence in the library was broken only by Spike’s annoying habits.
“Tapping your feet, and clicking the pen, and shuffling your chair, and all the other stupid noise-making things you’ve been doing. What’s your problem?”
“My problem is it’s light out, it’s getting later, and my mum might be waking up alone in her hospital room right now. A hundred-odd years in the future. And I can’t do shit about it.”
Buffy’s jaw clenched, but she didn’t goad him over caring about his mom. Maybe it was a trick, but if it wasn’t she would be disgusting to go there. Instead she just turned back to her book.
The quiet lasted for about five minutes before he started fiddling with the pages of his own research.
“Oh, my god, just use the phone and call my mom and ask her to check on her for you, okay? You keep fidgeting and I’m not responsible for the pointy wooden object driven straight through your heart.”
Spike’s response was unusually soft.
“You think she’d do that?”
Buffy exhaled heavily, allowing the annoyance to drain out of her.
“Yeah, I do. She can call in late for the gallery since, hey, ya know, owner and all. Just go use the phone in the office.”
She ripped a scrap of paper out of her notebook and jotted down the number. As she passed it to him, their fingers brushed.
It was just for a second, but her heart leapt out of her chest. Not only from the touch, but because he was staring at her with an unfathomable expression. His only response was a quiet “thank you,” before he stood and made a beeline for the phone.
Joyce knocked on the door frame of the hospital room, waiting for the soft ‘come in’ before moving through.
“Hello, Mrs. Pratt. My name is Joyce Summers, I’m a friend of William’s. He asked me to come check on you.”
“Pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Summers. If you don’t mind my asking, where is my son?”
Joyce smiled gently at her. “He’s with my daughter. They’re researching to figure out how you came to be here.”
“Would you know anything about that? I feel I must be dreaming, but I’m not typically laid up with my consumption in my dreams. And I doubt that I have the imagination to create such a world as this to be the future.”
“I think you should wait for William or my daughter, Buffy, to explain. I don’t understand much of it myself, I just do the mothering.” She paused for a moment before continuing. “How are you? I understand the future is likely nothing like you expected.”
“It is strange, all these machines and the odd clothing people wear. I am quite in awe in the advances of medicine, though. In my day, consumption was terminal.”
“Yes, medicine has come a long way.
“It is fantastical, and yet… I find myself without a friend in this world.”
“You have one, at least, Mrs. Pratt.”
“Please, call me Anne.”
“Only if you call me Joyce.”
The two women smiled at each other, grateful to have found a kindred spirit
By the time Giles returned to the library, it was nearing sunset.
“Any luck, Watcher? We’ve got nothing here.”
“Yeah, a whole big fat pile of boring nothing,” Buffy chimed in.
Giles began to clean his glasses.
“From what I can glean, time travel is theoretically impossible.”
“Well, clearly it isn’t, because she’s here.” Spike gave him a dirty look.
“Yes, I am well aware. I’ve spoken to a few people more knowledgeable on the subject than myself, and they’ve agreed to assist with research. I thought since it’s nearing nightfall you might appreciate a ride to the hospital.”
Buffy watched the stunned expression cross Spike’s face.
“Yeah, could do.”
This softer side of Spike was confusing as hell. He kept flipping back and forth between the arrogant ass she recognized, and someone almost… nice, who she didn’t. It was giving her whip lash. How had one day flipped everything she thought she knew on its head? It was one thing for Spike to have a truce with her for his own gain, but doing all this for another person?
It didn’t make sense.
Well, it did if she let herself remember how devoted he was to Drusilla. By all rights he should have let Buffy stake her that night in the vampire club the year before. Spike had always been different. Just how different, she couldn’t say.
Buffy stood. “Well, if we’re done in the land of torture, I’m going to go start patrolling early.”
Spike nodded sharply at her. “See you back at the house, Slayer.”
God, why did he have to keep being nice?! She really, really needed to kill something. At least slaying still made sense.
Joyce and Anne had chattered for hours about art, literature, and the future. Neither noticed how long had passed until Spike walked into the room.
“Hello, ladies. Joyce,” he nodded to her before walking over to his mother’s bedside, taking her hands, “and mother. How are you fairing? Have they treated you well?”
“Oh, everyone has been simply lovely, and I feel much better than I have in a long time. The advances in medicine are nothing short of remarkable.”
He gestured to a bag he was carrying. “I brought you clothing to help you assimilate to this modern time. I endeavored to find something acceptable to your sensibilities.”
Anne smiled warmly at him.
“Thank you, son, you’ve always been too good to me.”
“Joyce and I will leave you to get changed, mother. A doctor will be here soon to give your release instructions.”Anne nodded, and he and Joyce left the room. When they reached the waiting area, Spike turned to Joyce.
“So you two birds are getting along, then?”
“We are. You’re mother’s a lovely woman, Spike.”
“She really is…”
The words were innocuous, but his eyes were haunted.
“Spike, I want you to know that I’m here to talk, if you need someone. I don’t know what happened to give you that look, but sometimes it helps to talk about it.”
“Thanks, Joyce. You’re a right good lady.”
When they arrived back at Revello, Anne in tow, Buffy had just started to eat the Chinese takeout she’d ordered. She informed her mother that there was enough for everyone, and Spike and Joyce gathered food for themselves and Anne.
“Buffy, dear, tell me about yourself,” Anne asked as she sat down.
She tried not to look taken aback at becoming the topic of conversation.
“Me? Oh, I’m not very interesting. I’m 17, a senior in high school—did they have high school when you’re from?” Her eyes widened as she realized how rude she was being. “Oh, no, I’m sorry, I didn’t…”
“Wasn’t a formal education system like you’re used to then. There were schools for wealthy boys, but they wasn’t any standard concept of high school.” Spike took pity on her and cut off her babbling.
“My William went to Eaton. He was such a smart boy, always writing. He had a knack for languages as well. He received a degree in linguistics from Oxford.”
Buffy’s jaw almost hit the table.
“You did not know? I wonder, how did you two come to be acquainted?”
“Buffy’s the slayer, mother.” His voice affected a more Giles-y accent, and Buffy was confused. Just how much of ‘Spike’ was a character he made up? All of it, from the looks of things.
“Slayer?” Anne asked, confused.
“I was chosen by the Powers that Be to fight against vampires and demons.”
“But my William is a vampire, is he not? Surely he was not one of those evils you are meant to defeat?”
Both Spike and Buffy froze. She could almost feel his terror radiating off of him.
“Um…” She paused, debating her options. “Of course, not! He, um… he helped me save the world once.”
Buffy ignored the grateful look Spike shot her across the table. What the hell was she doing? Covering for a vampire? This whole situation was insane.
She rolled her eyes internally and put her focus on finishing up her food.
When dinner was finished, Joyce suggested they have drinks in the living room and work on explaining modern life to Anne.
He conversed easily with the two women, feeling strangely at home and out of place at the same time.
After a few minutes, he noticed the slayer was missing.
When both women went up to bed, he decided to try to find out where she’d gone off to. He checked outside the front door, pausing when he heard voices above him.
“Angel, I was busy today. You’re not my boyfriend, I shouldn’t be with you constantly.”
“But Buffy…” Angel whined.
“No, Angel, we can’t go there. End of story. I don’t think I should come by the mansion anymore. Strictly group meetings only.”
“I thought you loved me, Buffy.”
“I do, but I can’t put people the other people I love at risk because of it. I won’t. Now just… please leave?”
Angel heaved a sigh, and Spike was struck once again with just what a drama queen the poof was.
Spike stayed out of sight as the Great Git jumped off the roof and took off towards the mansion. Upstairs, he heard her sniffle, then run down the stairs and onto the back porch.
Buffy sat down, looking up at the overcast night. She heard the door open, but she didn’t turn her gaze.
“Mind if I sit?”
“You gonna go away if I say no?” she asked dryly.
“Prob’ly not,” he said and moved to sit down on the step next to her.
Buffy sighed. “Well, for what it’s worth, I don’t mind.”
Spike gave a humorless laugh. “High bloody praise.”
“I’m trying here, okay?” She finally turned to look at him.
“Why, because you can’t stand having your mum down your throat? She’s not here, don’t worry for my sake.”
Buffy sighed in aggravation. “Why can’t you just stop being like this? I’m trying because you’ve been different, and because I like your mom, but if you want to play it that way, we can just go back to sniping at each other. Not like I don’t have enough on my plate here.”
Spike pursed his lips, then looked at her thoughtfully. “Well then, what’s so important that it’s got the Slayer in a tizzy?”
“It’s not slayer problems, it’s Buffy problems.”
“Problems with loverboy then?”
‘Might as well,’ she thought, before sighing and diving in.
“Only in the sense that he’s not. He keeps wanting to spend time with me, but it’s not a good idea. Nothing can happen. I don’t understand why he can’t just let go.”
“Because you’re you, pet. No man with half a brain could have you and then just let you go without a fight.”
“Well, when not letting me go is a one-way ticket to trying to murder me… wait,” She looked over at him, puzzled. “Was that a compliment?”
Instantly his face was closed off again. “No, it bloody wasn’t, Slayer. You’re off your bird.”
She sighed and leaned back, resting on both hands as she looked up at the sky. “Okay, it wasn’t. Good to know. No compliments for Buffy.”
For all his bluster a moment ago, his next words were still verging on kind.
“Poof’s never been good at seeing reason, pet. Thought you might’ve got that from his brief stint as Angelus.”
“What I got from that stint was that it can never happen. Ever. I put what I wanted first and Miss Calendar wound up dead, Giles got tortured—the world almost ended. Literally.”
His voice was softer than she’d ever heard it. “Wasn’t your fault, pet. Angelus had a responsibility to research that curse the second he got it. And even without it—you don’t see me playing mind games with you and yours, and I’m as soulless as it gets. You had no idea. Don’t let anyone tell you it was your fault, myself included.”
Buffy was quiet for a moment, then whispered, “I think I need to be alone for a while.”
Spike pursed his lips, but didn’t fight her on it. Instead, he whispered a soft, “g’night, Slayer,” and stood to leave.
She heard the door shut behind him and she laid back on the porch. He was right, of course, but what did that even mean?
Did Angel just not love her enough? And what’s it matter, anyways—she screwed up, people died, she can’t do it again. End of story.
She sighed again. “What the hell is happening to my life right now?”
Neither of them had noticed the vampire five yards away, overhearing everything.
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