Horrible, wrenching pain as she was ripped asunder. Slayer and young woman, caught in an agonizing moment as they shuffled and fought over bits of the whole, like her parents squabbling over things after the divorce. This is mine. No, mine. Pieces torn into even smaller bits and traded back and forth until both sides were grudgingly happy with what they had.
And then it was done. Buffy groaned and slowly climbed to her feet. She was in a hotel room, but not the same one. Probably not even the same hotel. Her body felt weird and unnatural. Was it because the parts of her that made her a slayer had been separated out? Was the fact that her psyche was no longer whole making her body feel like some kind of foreign object?
She looked down at herself and let out a startled scream that was oddly more feminine than normal. Her body didn’t feel right because she was now a he. She hurried to the bathroom to stare at her – him? – self in the mirror.
“Oh god,” she whispered in horror. “The damn amulet turned me into Andrew!”
She was a girl. A girl dragged away and filled with shadows. A girl bound to kill. To protect. She was many girls, through the ages. A peasant girl, a pharaoh’s daughter, the child of those who fished the seas. A girl who lived in the south of France and fought vampires. A Chinese girl during the Boxer Rebellion, fighting a man who was achingly familiar, even if he didn’t look quite the same. She was a dark skinned woman in New York, fighting the same vampire. I have a son…. She was the Slayer.
The Slayer-that-was-Buffy blinked and shook her head, trying to shake off the sudden disorientation. What was going on? Where was she? It was a small room covered in disturbing drawings. She didn’t like the room. She had to get out of there. She had to….
Spike. Her entire being seemed to reverberate to the sound of that name, all her determination and power as the Slayer focused on it. She had to find Spike. Now. She went the door and began to pound on it, treating it like an enemy. Nothing would stand between her and her goal.
Willow might as well have been alone in the room. There were three other people with her, but Mathias was once again quietly sitting in a trance while Spike was still comatose, and Buffy was curled up beside the vampire, also comatose. There was also the Slayer Scythe still held in Willow’s hands, but despite the incredible power in it, it didn’t count as an actual person. Neither did the amulet.
She glared at the thing. Buffy had placed it around her neck, settled over her heart, before being sent inside. Before now, sending Mathias in had been the only real option. Through its connection with Angel, the amulet would have recognized Buffy as someone important to Spike and would have locked her away. Mathias was both an unknown and had an ability that made sending him in relatively easy. Now though….
Filtering Giles’s friend through Angel’s psyche the night before had given Willow the idea of doing the same with Buffy, only filtering her through the Slayer Scythe instead of Angel. She’d been split in two to make things harder for the amulet to figure out, her slayer self and her normal human self.
If anyone can get him out all in one go, it’d be Buffy, Willow thought, eying the fish tank that held part of Spike’s consciousness and soul. It was working so far, but there was no telling when the amulet would catch on and somehow stop that steady flow.
Sending Buffy had to work. Willow refused to believe that anything – even a gaudy piece of magic with delusions of grandeur – could keep Spike from going to Buffy if she was right there in front of him. Even before the soul, he had followed his Slayer, struggling through the natural evil tendencies of a vampire in an attempt to join her in good. It was something they’d all finally acknowledged during that summer without Buffy, when Spike had helped not only with patrolling but taking care of Dawn as well. It was something all just sort of… forgotten once Buffy was back.
I guess it was just easier to pretend he was only doing it to get into her pants, and not out of real love…
The door was suddenly thrown open and Kennedy sauntered in like she owned the place, though her disdainful glance indicated she didn’t really want to. In all the chaos when they’d first arrived at the Hyperion, Kennedy had appropriated one of the best suites for them. Willow hadn’t seen much of it, instead spending most of her time trying to help Buffy and Spike.
When was the last time she’d slept, anyway? Or eaten for that matter? She’d mostly been sustaining herself with magic. Guilt and worry stabbed at her. Was she abusing the magic again? Could any of this be achieved without magic? a voice asked in her head. Willow knew it was her own, but her imagination made it Tara’s. And is it truly needed, or just something you think is needed? Magic was the only way to save Spike in this situation, and he absolutely needed to be saved as soon as possible.
That’s your answer then, isn’t it, sweetie? the Tara voice said gently.
“You’ve been cooped up in here too long,” Kennedy declared, hands planted on her hips. “I’ve made reservations for us at a nice little place across town.”
Willow frowned at her girlfriend, trying not to be annoyed. Kennedy was trying to be romantic, not rude and presumptuous. “I can’t, you know that. I have to monitor things here and keep the magic going.” She could, theoretically, do both from across town, but it would be a lot more draining and not as accurate.
“I’m your girlfriend, and I’ve barely seen you since we closed the Hellmouth,” Kennedy complained. “Can’t you just take a few hours off from helping the damn vampire and spend time with me?”
Before Willow could ask just what was stopping the other woman from spending time with her while she worked her magic, Dawn came in through the still open door. The teen was carrying a tray with a thick roast beef sandwich, apple slices, a small bag of chips, and a bottle of soda. There was also a book tucked between her elbow and her side.
Dawn glanced between the two of them before walking past Kennedy and offering the tray to Willow. “I brought you some grub. Figured you could use some non-magicy fuel to fuel the magicy stuff.”
“Thanks,” Willow said with a smile as she took the tray. Protein, carbs, some good fruit, and a dose of caffeine and sugar. That would do a lot to keep her going.
Kennedy gave her a tight-lipped look before turning and storming away, slamming the door behind her. I should go after her, Willow thought vaguely. Instead, she sat on the edge of the bed and sighed heavily before starting in on her food.
She would have gone after Tara. No, I wouldn’t have, she realized. Tara would have been right there with her the entire time, giving her whatever support she needed. Even if she couldn’t work magic, Tara would have been supporting her. She would have been the one bringing food, not Dawn.
“Would it be too much of a distraction if I read out loud?” Dawn asked, holding up the book she’d brought.
The bed wasn’t exactly ginormous or anything, but Dawn managed to find room at the foot of it. She opened up the book and began to read. The Jungle Book, it sounded like. For that first month-and-a-half after Buffy’s fall from Glory’s tower, Dawn had usually woken up screaming at least once in the night. After about a week, Spike had started soothing her back to sleep by reading some of Kipling’s stories.
Willow took enough of a break to finish her meal, the backdrop of Dawn’s reading a calming influence, then got back to work. She focused her magic and brought up four projections. One for Spike, one for Mathias, and two for Buffy.
The Slayer stood in a warehouse, gazing out. So many creatures getting in her way, getting between her and her vampire. She’d slain them all, stopping them before they could hurt any innocent people. It was her calling.
A familiar sensation suddenly tingled through her. Vampire, but with several subtleties to the feeling that were specific to one particular member of the species. The shocked relief was enough to keep her from reacting until he walked up behind her.
“Likin’ the view, are we?”
She turned to face him. She was definitely liking the view now. Spike. With an inarticulate cry of fierce, wild joy, she flung herself at him.
“What the hey?” Willow blurted out as she stared at the projections, interrupting Dawn’s reading.
“What is it, what’s wrong?” the girl asked anxiously.
“I’m not sure,” Willow said slowly, trying to figure it out.
One of the Buffy projections was overlapping with Spike’s, but after the initial meeting, they weren’t matching. In Spike’s, they were fighting. In Buffy’s, she was standing confused and alone, Spike having vanished with a trace.
The amulet was trying to keep them from being together. Willow’s eyes narrowed, and her magic pulsed. Oh no, not on her watch. The amulet wasn’t the only thing that knew how to twist things around.
Being Andrew was very seriously of the uber weird. Why would the amulet do that? Angel didn’t know Andrew. Hell, Buffy wasn’t entirely sure he’d ever even seen Andrew, even after they’d taken over the hotel. If not the amulet, then Willow must have done it, but that didn’t really make sense either.
Maybe because Andrew was one of the few normal humans in the group who hadn’t clocked in years as a demon hunter? That could be. Or maybe she’d been turned into Andrew because the damn mushroom boy was always messing with her stuff. Maybe the scythe had gone all mushroomy itself and absorbed Andrew flavor or something.
Either way, she was now stuck as Andrew, playing out the scenario the amulet had come up with. So far, it involved waiting around in a conference room at Wolfram & Hart with Angel’s lackeys while on the hunt for some seriously wacked out Slayer. Thank god she wasn’t actually real. Though there could be some poor girls out in the real world in the same boat as Dana. She’d have to talk to Giles about that, and about helping them in some way.
The door opened, and Wesley glanced towards it. “Angel, we were just about to –”
He stopped talking as Buffy turned her chair to face the new arrivals. There he was, standing next to Angel. Awake and aware.
“Spike?” She’d known he’d be around somewhere, but part of her hadn’t quite been able to believe she’d see him.
“Oh for the love of….” Spike sounded somewhere between annoyed and exasperated, which made sense because, well, Andrew.
“Spike.” She stood up and ran to him, resting her hands on his shoulders. “It’s you. It’s really you.” And not just the limp, lifeless shell of his body.
She hugged him, sobbing while random Andrew babble fell out of her mouth. If she focused, she could control what she was saying, but right now, she didn’t care about that. All she cared about was Spike. He wasn’t hugging her back, which made sense because, again, Andrew. It was enough, just to feel Spike in her arms, to feel the random little twitches of an aware person and the habitual breathing.
She let go and backed up just enough to look him in the eyes. To see him. The personality and the soul shining through. She reached up to cup his cheeks in her hands, needing to touch him again.
“…more beautiful than ever,” she said at the tail end of more Andrew babble.
Then she hugged him again. It may have been her imagination or just wishful thinking, but it almost felt as if something inside of him flowed into her, finding home.
She didn’t know what had happened last time, or why Spike had vanished, but he was back again, this time showing up in the basement she’d found herself drawn to. The Slayer wanted to grab him and take him out of this horrible place, but she stayed cautious, just in case her actions had made things go wrong before.
She slowly approached him, circling and stalking like a lioness with her prey. She wouldn’t hurt this prey. It was a vampire, but also beloved, to be protected and cherished. She slipped closer, then sprang, intending to grab him and drag him away to where he’d be safe.
She stumbled on nothing before she could get to him, and the entire world swirled and spun, the basement dissolving into a pinkish gold void. What was that? What had just…? It didn’t matter. Spike was with her, though he looked a bit different. He was wispy and see-through with pieces missing. He was wearing his usual black clothing and leather jacket, but his hair was brown and curly and a pair of glasses were perched on his nose.
“Buffy,” he breathed, eyes dark with longing as he looked at her.
The Slayer knew, even without being able to see herself, that she now looked like the self that was Buffy. That part of her was the dominant one right now, and he recognized it. Was drawn to it.
“Come to me,” she said, holding out her hands. “Just come to me, and I can get you out of here.”
“I….” He took a hesitant step towards her. He looked so lost and confused, but he took a few more steps.
Then his hands were in hers, his skin warm instead of cool. “Buffy,” he said again, leaning in to rest his forehead against hers. She could just barely feel the rims of his glasses.
She basked in the feel of him – so warm and sweet – for a moment, just enjoying it. God, she’d missed him so much. She finally pulled back a little to look at him again, her hands shifting to wrap around his wrists.
“Good to see you again, love,” he said quietly with a soft little smile. Then he frowned, a pained look flickering across his beautiful face. “Somethin’s going on…. Somethin’s not….”
He screamed in sudden agony, and Buffy yanked him towards her as he started to fade away.
“Spike! No, stay with me! You have to stay with me!”
“Buffy! God, it hurts!” he gasped out, his voice sounding like it was coming from a huge distance.
And then he was gone, all except for his hands, still held firmly by Buffy.
“Oh god,” Dawn said, feeling sick as she stared at the projection showing what was happening to Spike. His hands….
She jerked back with a scream and fell off of the bed when Buffy suddenly lurched up into a sitting position. Her sister’s jaw dropped and pinkish gold light poured out of her mouth and eyes to join the thin thread coming out of the amulet. It rushed into the fish tank.
The flow of light stopped coming from Buffy, leaving her panting and dazed. Her eyes found Dawn’s as she got back on the bed, then drifted to the projection where Spike was tied up and handless at the mercy of an insane slayer. Buffy turned just in time to throw up over the side of the bed instead of all over Spike’s unconscious body.
Dawn crawled across the mattress to her and hold back her hair. “I know, it’s awful,” she murmured once Buffy was done.
Awful didn’t even begin to cut it. Poor Buffy, coming back to see that and barfing for real after metaphysically upchucking essence of Spike. Dawn hugged her close, being the strong one for once as she gently rubbed her big sister’s back.
“I did that,” Buffy whispered hoarsely. “I did that to him. I held on when I should have let go. He’s hurt because I didn’t let go. I….”
“No, Buffy, no.” She pushed Buffy away and pointed towards the fish tank. “You did the right thing. Look.”
It was now a third of the way full.
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