Authors: the_moonmoth & bewildered/bewilde
Rating: NC-17 (eventually)
Length: ~5,600 words this chapter
Warnings: Sexual situations, bad language, violence, smut. Suicidal ideation. Temporary Spike/Other and Buffy/Other.
Summary: Spike travels back in time to change the future. It goes poorly.
Notes: see Chapter 1 for author's notes, disclaimers, etc.
Translation notes for the Americans: Smarties are a different type of candy in the UK than in the US. They’re kind of like M&M’s and, more importantly, actually taste good. Traditionally, Smarties come in a cardboard tube with a little plastic cap, and their advertising tag line is “Only Smarties Have the Answer,” which is a little joke Moony is having with herself, because one of her pet theories is that Harmony is actually 100% right about everything she says about Spike.
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Chapter 2, part 1
Everything was going according to plan.
Spike gathered up the sheaf of maps and notes and surveyor’s records, rolling them roughly to cart off to his lair for further study. He’d let his minions knock off for the night – it was just time for the bars to spew out the night’s buffet of drunk undergraduates – and had strategized with Brian for the next day’s digging, and he was confident they’d find the Gem of Amara within a week, maybe two.
Long time to go without hunting, but it would be worth it when the slayer was dead.
He whistled as he swaggered down the rough-hewn passage, wishing he’d had the time to run electrical wiring in so he could hook up a stereo. He’d swiped a CD of Never Mind the Bollocks when he’d passed through Los Angeles on his way to Sunnydale – brilliant selection, Amoeba Records – and he’d had the songs running through his head ever since.
“You come up and see me and I’ll beat you black and blue,” he sang absently, flicking on the Coleman lantern on the table.
Oh, bloody hell, where had that bloody pink monstrosity of a folding screen come from? Bloody woman, redecorating his boudoir without a bloody by-your-leave. He supposed he should be grateful it didn’t have a unicorn on it.
“I got no feelings…” he muttered testily, spreading out the maps again. “No feelings for anybody else…”
There was a whisper of movement behind him, and Spike tensed fractionally, testing the air, but then he relaxed. Nothing but his own scent – not demons, nor other vampires, nor even the cloying perfume of his latest tumble. But bloody hell, had Harmony broken one of his bottles of Jack? Smelled like a bloody distillery….
Blinding pain exploded in his head, and he sank into a black sea of bourbon fumes.
Buffy inhaled deeply of the night air, reveling in the knowledge that she was finally free. Free of the soft tyranny of ironed jeans, free of Celine Dion on constant repeat, free of the need to explain her late nights and grass-stained clothing… God, even if her roommate hadn’t been a soul-sucking demon, just the music alone would have sucked out Buffy’s soul before too long.
Though… that had been weird. Losing her soul.
Giles and the others insisted that that’s what had happened, that Buffy had been riding the mega-bitch-train because she was down to maybe twenty-five percent of her soul, and thus not really Buffy at all, but from the inside, she’d still felt like… herself. She remembered everything she’d said and done, and, okay, yeah, she probably wouldn’t have smacked together Xander and Oz’s delicate noggins if she’d been one-hundred-percent soul-having, but she also hadn’t crushed their skulls, had she? She’d still loved them, and Willow and Giles, even thinking they’d conspired against her. (Knowing they’d conspired against her, she mentally corrected, since they totally had.) And she’d still wanted to fight evil, she’d just been a little more... flexible in her methods. And it had felt weirdly good. Freeing. Like she could really take action and make real change -- though of course, that had been bad, in the end. Bad Buffy. She wasn’t supposed to enjoy the head-knocking and the backhanding and the face-ripping.
Except she had. And looking back, she still kinda did. Though she was trying hard not to think about that part.
How could twenty-five-percent-Buffy feel almost exactly like one-hundred-percent-Buffy?
But anyhow. That was all in the past, mega-bitch-Buffy and even-more-mega-bitch-Kathy, and Buffy’s future was looking bright. She and Willow had submitted their paperwork for a room change -- funny how the Housing Office clerk hadn’t even blinked when Buffy had lamely explained her roommate’s mysterious disappearance -- and in the meantime, she’d managed some quality flirtage with Parker.
He had really soulful eyes.
Rolling her shoulders, Buffy headed along the dark campus paths, a tune niggling at the back of her head. After a bit, she gave it voice. Quietly, because duh. Patrol.
“Do you believe in life after love?”
Oh, god. She really needed to kill something.
Spike stared at Harmony in foggy disbelief as she chattered on.
The witch’s plan had been simple -- neat, even. Drop him back in time to the start of the dig, pacify his past self and take his place. It was so easy he could even do it drunk, a fact he had recent experience of, and hadn’t that been oddly satisfying, to watch himself crumple to the ground from a crowbar to the head? Fortunate, really, that the rule about items from the future not travelling back in time with him apparently didn’t extend to the things he’d consumed. Spike spared a thought for how messy that could’ve been and suppressed a shudder. Then Harmony mentioned the blasted P-word again and he let it out after all.
“-and then we’ll dine at the top of the Awful Tower, and drink blood out of champagne glasses, and-”
“Eiffel, you stupid bint,” he muttered, but she either didn’t hear him, or was wilfully ignoring him.
God, how had he ever thought shagging her would be a good idea? His past self deserved every inch of the headache he was going to have when he finally came to. Spike rolled his eyes, and they came to rest on Harmony’s tits, jiggling slightly as she bounced in place. Right, that was how. Of course, they now held about as much appeal as the damned Bot, and her voice, good god, did she ever. Stop. Talking?
“Harm,” he said.
“Yes, Blondie Bear?”
He grabbed her by the throat and squeezed hard enough to trap what air was left in her lungs. Blissful silence reigned.
She stared at him with big, betrayed eyes, but a moment later the expression had melted into something sultry, and yeah, he remembered now, she’d always been good for a bit of fun between the sheets (or on top of them, or on any available surface). But god, for some reason, he couldn’t unsee that first look, eyes like saucers and pouty lower lip; she’d looked -- fuck -- she’d looked like Dawn when he’d stepped over the mark and been too mean. Except, Dawn in a satin corset, which was all levels of wrong, because his nibblet was just a little girl, wasn’t she? Growing up like a daisy in the sun, sure, but… young. And in need of his protection. He’d… he’d given his word.
‘Til the end of the world….
It occurred to him to wonder for the first time how old Harmony had been on turning, and with a vague sense of horror, it dawned on him that he probably didn’t want to know the answer. Then he shook his head, because if he was starting to feel sympathy for Harmony Kendall of all vamps, it was probably time to try being sober for a while.
Then again, maybe not, because sobriety meant acceptance, meant having to face up. Sobriety could piss right off. And, he decided, so could Harmony. Slowly, Spike made himself release her instead of popping her head off like the cap on a tube of Smarties.
“Be a love,” he said evenly, “and run along now. Daddy’s got work to do.”
She coughed, and tried to rub her neck surreptitiously, which of course was not very surreptitious at all.
“So I can go to the thing?”
Spike blinked blankly. What thing was that, then? If she’d mentioned it just now, he’d tuned out. Had she gone before, or had he forbidden her last time? He couldn’t remember. More importantly, he just couldn’t bring himself to care. Not if it meant getting rid of the dozy bint for the next few hours. How much damage could one brainless tart get up to, anyway? She hadn’t even managed to bite Red properly, last time. Or… she wouldn’t manage to, in a few days’ time.
He pinched the bridge of his nose and waved her off. “Sure. Go. Have fun.” His headache swelled under her squealing. “Don’t come back,” he muttered.
Selectively not hearing him again, Harmony broke into a dazzling grin and bounced over, kissing his cheek with unexpected affection. It was the first time since... that night… that anyone had touched him with anything even approaching tenderness.
That was real. I won’t forget it….
Story of his pathetic unlife that it was a vamp too stupid to get the message that he loathed her.
“Thanks, baby,” she trilled, before finally -- thank fuck -- fluttering off. And Spike held onto the table edge and tried not to stumble when his legs threatened to give out.
It was stupidly easy to get to the Gem this time, so much so that he was a good week ahead of his past-self’s schedule. But they’d been counting on that. Per Willow’s spell, he had about two hours left here by the time he slipped the ring onto his finger and headed for the watcher’s flat.
The sun was setting as he made his way over, the sky changing colour from blue to sugary pastels. Amazing how you could go more than a hundred years without seeing a sight like that, and then see it twice in one week. It unfolded again in his mind’s eye, the slayer’s broken form lying on the ground beneath the tower, bathed in the rose-gold light of morning. He would’ve just stayed there, broken too, until the light had taken him, if Willow hadn’t made him get up, made him move. He wondered fleetingly when this mad plan had formed in her head -- as early as that? Earlier, even? Each of them had been an island in a sea of grief; except her. And the slayer, of course.
With no guarantee that any of this would work, the temptation to just slip the ring off and release himself from it all welled up in Spike again now, and he indulged it for a few minutes, letting the sun sear his eyes as it sank towards the horizon -- and what a bleeding metaphor that was, the bright thing falling to earth. He laughed, and swiped viciously at his eyes, and finally, at the kiss of contact, he picked his feet up and marched on. He had a mission now. There was something he could do, and he had to try, despite the uncertainty of outcome. No place for this wallowing in self-pity anymore. Definitely not. Right. He took a swig from his flask. And everything would go just as smoothly as Willow had described with old Rupert, too.
Giles started at the knock on his door and frowned at the carved wood as though it could yield an answer. The children had mostly stopped their random and unannounced appearances since they’d started university -- a far more congenial place to congregate, he assumed -- and it was early still for Buffy to be popping in before patrol as she occasionally did.
“Who is it?” he called. There was a long pause. The door gave off a hesitant air. Giles eyed it suspiciously.
“Bloody SuperTed, here to save the day,” came the eventual, cryptic, and rather pissed-off response. “Open the sodding door, Ripper.”
The voice was familiar, but Giles couldn’t immediately place it. One of Ethan’s friends? No one else called him Ripper these days.
The door was unforthcoming.
Capitulating to its whimsy, Giles finally laid down his pen and stood from his desk. He really ought to get a spy-hole, he mused, as he opened it a crack.
Then, calmly, he closed it again and reached for his crossbow.
“Spike,” he said, upon re-opening. “What an unpleasant surprise. I see you left your chainsaw at home this time.”
And then Giles shot him.
Sadly, the vampire had clearly been anticipating it, and the arrow only embedded itself in his raised forearm. Giles was less than impressed -- he’d seen Angel catch an arrow right out of the air before. The fact that Spike just left it there, though, sticking out at a right angle from his flesh, gave Giles pause.
“Now, now,” Spike said with a nasty smile, as though he was following along with Giles’s train of thought, and had done it just to mess with him (entirely possible, if not probable). “Be fair. The chainsaw was Angelus’s. You know the one: tall, dark, murderous. Oh, and not me.”
“Ah yes, my mistake. Bottling is more your style, isn’t it?”
“Oh, like you’ve never engaged in a bit of Glasgow hospitality.”
“I’ve certainly never tortured someone with a sharp implement,” Giles lied. “Mechanical or otherwise.”
“Because us vampires are all the same, right? Well, Rupert,” Spike growled, “unlike that great lumbering twit I call a grandsire, I’m actually here to help you. Just like last time. Which, by the way, you’ve never once thanked me for, you ungrateful lump of tweed.”
He thrust a crumpled up envelope at Giles furiously, expression turning even darker when his hand bounced off the barrier at the threshold.
“Of bloody course,” he muttered. He glared at Giles, waving it about in front of his face. “Are you going to take it, then, or what?”
“No,” Giles said. “I rather think I’m not, because the moment I put my hand over the threshold, you’re going to pull me out.”
Spike seemed to pause a moment, as though genuinely brought up short. “Yeah,” he said. “Right.” He looked at the envelope as though deeply confounded. He also, Giles realised, smelled strongly of booze. He supposed that explained the slow-for-a-vampire reflexes. Dear god, if this was related to Drusilla again, he was going to slit his own wrists in preemption.
“What are you doing here, Spike?”
“Told you,” Spike replied, sullen now. “I’m here to save the sodding day.”
“Let me guess,” Giles said drily. “Spotty came down in his little ship and sprinkled you with cosmic dust?”
“...What?” He looked very confused.
“SuperTed, you berk.”
Spike gave him a look as though he had been the one to bring it up. And also possibly was the one currently cerebrally pickled. “You really had a lot of free time in the 80s, didn’t you?”
“Yes, well, I was a PhD candidate at the Watcher’s Council. We had to make our own fun.” He straightened up and hauled the conversation back on track. “What’s in the envelope?”
Spike fiddled with it for a moment with jittery fingers before moving his grip right to the very end and slowly holding it out until his hand couldn’t go any further. Giles scrutinised it before plucking it from his grasp, careful of his orientation with respect to the door.
Now that he looked more closely, he could see that the envelope was pale pink in colour, with a little cartoon cat depicted in one corner. There was a similar sticker on the back, acting as a seal. The design looked vaguely familiar, in the way that many teenage items of curiosity looked vaguely familiar to him now, and he raised an eyebrow at Spike in silent derision, eliciting a scowl in response. On the front, Giles’s name was written in purple ink that had a strangely metallic sheen, in handwriting that was very much more familiar than vaguely.
“That’s right,” Spike said. “‘S the witch’s hand. She said you’d recognise it.”
“You have Willow again?” Giles asked, sudden cold gripping him. He adjusted his hold on the crossbow. But the vampire’s reaction was not what he was expecting. Spike sighed.
“No, Rupert, she gave it to me. All right? She gave it to me to give to you, and if you’ll just read it, you’ll understand why. She can explain it better than me, anyway.”
There was something terrifyingly earnest about Spike’s expression now. Earnest and… desperate. What the hell was he up to? He’d proven himself more of a loose cannon, more unpredictable than Angelus during his stint living in Sunnydale two years ago, but if anything, that only made him more dangerous, and if there was one thing Giles was certain of, it was that vampires were evil, and self-serving, and most definitely not to be trusted.
Helping Willow? Out of the question. Especially when she herself was just across town and no more than a phone call away.
Cautiously, Giles slit the envelope open with his little finger and pulled out the letter within, setting the envelope aside. The same curious, cat-embellished stationery greeted him; the same dense, familiar handwriting in the same purple ink. And when he looked up, Spike was also sporting the same expression of desperation and hope.
Well, that sealed it.
Deliberately, Giles put down the crossbow and reached into the little drawer in the side table for the lighter he used on his ceremonial candles. Then, even more deliberately catching Spike’s eye, he lit the letter on fire.
Spike’s whole face blossomed into horror. “What the hell are you doing? You son of a bitch!”
Unhurriedly, Giles dropped the last smouldering corner of the letter to the tiles and scooped up his crossbow. Then he shot Spike again. This time, the vampire was apparently too distraught by the foiling of whatever misdeed he’d been planning to avoid the bolt, and it sunk home right over his heart.
Except not, apparently. Giles seemed to have missed it by a fraction of an inch. What bloody bad luck, since he was now out of bolts.
Spike’s eyes glittered. He ripped both arrows from his flesh and threw them back at Giles with enough force to sting where they caught him on the thigh and shin. His voice was low and uneven with fury when he said, “You idiot. You raging bloody idiot. You have no idea what you’ve done!”
At which point, Giles shut the door in his face, and went back to his diary.