Title: Nothing Is Finished, Chapter 3
Author:stuffnonsense / stuffandnonsense
In Ripples on a Hellmouth, Buffy went back in time seven times to fix her past and stop the world from ending. Each trip back showed her a different ‘present’, until by the end she barely recognised it. But she still ended up with almost everything she’d ever hoped for in a happily ever after.
At least part of that was because of Spike. Just … not the same Spike she found herself married to in 2023. It was a different version of Spike – one who Buffy met in passing in one of her intermediate futures – who made just the one time jump, back seven years in time-travelling-Buffy’s timeline to when Buffy's husband died.
This is his story.
Ever since Willow went all starry-eyed about the prospect of Spike-and-Buffy-together-again, Spike couldn’t help but wonder if he’d just built it all up in his head. Whether the years with Dawn and Willow and that godawful bot had magically added up to something with the real Buffy he’d only ever retconned into those halcyon days when she’d still been alive and he’d been trying to help her save the world.
Ha bloody ha.
He caught his first glimpse of her a week after landing in beautiful downtown Cleveland, from behind and far away. But he’d know those moves anywhere, and the thrum of Buffy’s presence still made his skin sing like nothing else. Didn’t matter how far away he was, or that she was all bundled up like the Michelin Man. Watching her dismember what looked like a Lossgar demon – without a single weapon – had him so hard it hurt, and Spike was running towards her before he even realised what he was doing.
Way back when, she’d never have noticed the difference between the likes of him and the great unwashed vampire riffraff, and despite Dawn’s thirtieth birthday – plus Willow’s fortieth five years later – Buffy remained forever twenty in his mind. As Spike got to within the last few yards of her, his brain finally caught up with his cock and it struck him that she’d probably learned to use her slayer senses in the intervening years. That hitch in her shoulders told him she could feel ‘old’ and ‘powerful’ at the very least, so he scarpered back the way he’d come for all he was worth. It wasn’t exactly the profound moment he’d hoped for, seeing her for the first time after so long. But it would do. It was Buffy and suddenly Spike found himself breathless in a way he couldn’t remember since he’d stopped needing oxygen to survive.
So now here he was, finally outside her painfully suburban house, lock-picks at the ready and hefting a bag full of surveillance equipment. He’d spent the last few nights picking Buffy up and losing her again in every graveyard and shady industrial district in Cleveland, but last night he’d finally managed to follow her home. The house was all very … nice. White Christmas lights festooned the porch – vomited straight out of Nordstrom’s, Spike bet – illuminating baby-blue wooden deck chairs that were bang on trend for the summer home set. There was an immaculate snow-covered lawn out front and a dull silver Ford bloody Focus parked on a meticulously shovelled drive. Just looking at the place made the space between his shoulder blades itch with a desperate need to escape. But he couldn't do that, not after having waited interminable hours in the snow and the cold for them to bloody well leave.
Them because that other bastard was still there. Seeing another version of himself with her…. It was absolutely fucking awful. Logically, Spike knew it was a good sign. If all he’d done was get to the right dimension too early, his alternate should still be underfoot. But watching himself with her all he could think about was how unworthy he was. How unworthy both of them were. Like, did he really wave his hands about like that when he talked? Made him look a right prat. It damn near broke his heart.
Thankfully, there were no glaring differences aside from some basic disagreements in aesthetics. The other Spike had embraced the practicalities of winters in Cleveland with a puffy jacket and snow boots, plus his skin-tight black jeans looked more trendy than practical. Also, weirdly, he kept his hair short and spiked like Spike hadn’t since the early eighties and had clearly never lost the habit of dying it radioactive white back in the summer of 2001. Once he was ready to break into the house, Spike made sure a similar coat and boots and a knit cap covered the difference.
He also made every effort to look like he had a key: a place like this was bound to have nosy neighbours. Spike was endlessly grateful when the lock turned out to be the kind he could’ve opened with a credit card. Taking a closer look at the latch, he saw signs of the door having been kicked in and repaired any number of times. He supposed it was one of those things, whatever the dimension. Christ knew nasties came knocking for him and Faith often enough – and it cost them their security deposit every sodding time.
Easing the door open, Spike had his first big shock. He'd counted on the house smelling like him: it was why he wasn’t worried another vampire would notice the break-in. But the only bits of Buffy’s scent he really remembered were the potions and lotions she’d once slathered herself with. And only those because he used to raid her bathroom so he could pretend she spent enough time in his crypt for her fragrance to linger. He was absolutely unprepared for the unadorned musk that permeated the house, all heady power and spicy heat. Despite his best intentions, Spike found himself sinking to the floor one step past the doorway, already breathless again, and overcome by a tsunami of grief and joy and … Buffy.
But what really undid him was the way his own scent intertwined and intermingled with hers. It spoke of a shared life, something he never could have imagined without evidence. So there he sat, eyes shut, trying to breathe in every last molecule for far longer than he ought to have done. It took everything he had to keep from having a wank right there in the hall, pretending he was coming home, that she was his. Only fear of his mess being discovered held him back.
The proof of their shared life only got stronger the more Spike looked. A pair of black, steel-toed boots were lined up next to the front door, alongside a pair of thigh-highs in grey, buttery leather that gave Spike fond memories of the first few times he’d seen Buffy, back in her thong and high kicks days. The symbolism of her longer, softer boots draped around his might even have warmed the cockles of a better man’s heart.
Trying to pull himself together, Spike stood up and finally paid attention to the layout of the place. The stairs to the second floor were a few feet away from the front door, just before the hallway narrowed into a corridor with one (closed) door to the right, leading off to what Spike assumed was the basement, and another one at the end (open), leading into the kitchen – which seemed as good a place to start as any.
Aside from the usual accoutrements, the kitchen cupboards revealed the kind of cheap black tea Spike liked and the accumulated detritus of years of failed attempts to make animal blood taste halfway decent. Not even sure why he’d looked, it made Spike’s stomach do funny things to see more blood in their freezer than there were carefully dated and labelled tupperware boxes. Willow, it seemed, fed her friends in every universe. And Buffy was a hell of a lot more understanding about his eating habits than Faith ever had been.
He placed the first video camera inside a dusty colander hanging from a wall rack and went to open the connecting door. It was locked, and with a much more sophisticated mechanism than the one leading outside.
When Spike finally got the bastard thing open – having exhausted every expletive he knew in at least seven different languages – he thought it was their bedroom. The reek of sweat and sex and blood was overpowering. There were years-old scents overlaid and refreshed by new ones, until he could almost see the two of them fighting and fucking in ghostly perpetuity. It also brought to vivid life a cascade of explicit fantasies Spike hadn’t allowed himself access to in years. Then he remembered to use his other senses, and was forced to accept it was nowhere near as exciting as all that.
The room was more dojo than anything else: sprung floors, half-decent soundproofing, and walls covered in weapons. And aside from one hideously kitschy, sparkly-red-and-chrome axe that looked more like a film prop than a weapon, they were all well-made and expensive. He ran his hands covetously over a matching pair of swords that would’ve already been antiques back when he was alive. They were probably from the Watcher; Rupes certainly liked spending money enough.
Spike had to admit it was a pretty good set-up. To himself, anyway. He would absolutely sneer if anyone asked.
He lay down on one of the exercise mats already laid out and stared up at the Artex ceiling, trying to work out the story behind the slayer blood he could smell. He didn’t think it was Buffy’s, for all his hopes and dreams on first scenting it. He couldn’t be a hundred percent sure, given how long it’d been, but he thought hers held something more … depth of flavour, maybe? And wasn’t that a crushing disappointment. Because slayer blood on tap was the holy grail for any vamp, even a reformed one.
She and Nordstrom-Spike were definitely the only ones having sex in here, but there were at least … five? No. Six others who trained here often enough to leave traces. Six slayers. And five of them had been injured badly enough to bleed. What the hell happened in this reality for there to be so many slayers? Reluctantly, Spike got to his feet. He really needed to finish what he came for and get out before anyone came home. Once the second video camera had gone into prime position to catch the action, whatever form it might take, he carefully locked up after himself.
Upstairs was less personal. Mostly. There were two bedrooms; a full bathroom; and the displaced living and dining rooms. The first bedroom looked generic, but stank of magic and Willow, while the other smelled more like fake lemons than any one person. He couldn’t see or smell anything of Dawn, which worried him a little – when Dawn moved out and he and Willow parted ways, they’d both always kept a room for her, no matter where either of them lived. The extra expense drove Faith nuts, particularly once Michael came on the scene and Dawn decided they needed more privacy than any room in a vamp’s apartment could ever provide.
But this Dawn and Buffy stayed together, so maybe it wasn’t the same.
Spike felt no need to spy on either of the spare rooms, but after he picked up the faintest traces of bleached bloodstains in the bathroom grouting he put a microphone in there, just in case. There were no other signs that anyone who lived there used it, though.
The dining room seemed like it was mostly a home office, so it got the third video camera, angled for the laptop screen.
Everything he’d seen so far could’ve come straight out of an Ikea catalogue – cheap, showy, and impersonal. But then Spike stepped into the master bedroom turned living room and – well. That was so personal it hurt.
They had a telly and a decent games console for 2016, but that all shrank to insignificance in comparison to the shelves upon shelves of books. So far so library. And after only the briefest of glances Spike knew they were mostly his. Or rather, other-his. The romance novels he hated anyone to know he read were brazenly on display, instead of hidden away on his phone like they should be. Ditto the godawful sappy poetry he desperately wished he hated as much as he always said he did. But worst of all – if that middle Billy bookcase was any indicator – it looked like he was covering a significant portion of the research brief usually reserved for Giles’ brigade of tweedy minions. Spike had done his bit for research these last few months – end of the world and all, it was only right for everyone to muck in. And there’d been one or two tight spots in the past, too. But he didn’t hang on to the priceless bloody artefacts afterwards, did he! And Christ knew Buffy would rather gnaw her own arm off than read anything more complex than a fashion magazine.
He spun around, desperate for anywhere else to focus, until his gaze landed on the soft, fuzzy blanket draped over the top of the sofa. A blanket that looked suspiciously like an exact colour-match to his eyes. Smelled of him, too. Disgusted – the likes of him weren’t supposed to be bothered by cold – Spike turned back to the shelves.
Photos in brightly-coloured lacquer frames were scattered around in front of the books, making it look even more like an Ikea commercial. Spike’s eye was immediately drawn to one of the ones of Dawn. She looked so happy. Softer, somehow, too. Like life had been kinder to her. He thought about snatching it – there were so many, they’d hardly notice one missing. But no photo would make his Dawn less dead, or relieve her of any of the burdens he’d watched her pick up, one loss at a time.
He told himself he could always come back for it later.
Then he noticed them: five or six snaps of himself in a penguin suit alongside Buffy in – horror of horrors – an eye-blisteringly white wedding dress, the both of them grinning like loons. Spike actually shuddered at the sight. It was hard enough discovering a version of himself stuck in a suburban hellhole like this without the added absurdity of learning he’d become some sodding Stepford groom in a traditional bloody wedding. What the hell had Buffy done to him?
When Spike found the journal – in his own handwriting, all full of his alternate’s precious thoughts and feelings – he dropped a microphone behind the dustiest group of books he could immediately see and ran back into the hallway like the hordes of hell were hot on his heels.
He hadn’t kept a journal since before he was turned. The Spike who lived here had to be fully domesticated. Neutered, in a way the Initiative and their control chip had never been able to manage. No wonder he died. Who in their right mind would live like this?
Ready to be done with this house of horrors, Spike stomped downstairs in search of the basement and what was presumably ‘their’ bedroom. If there wasn’t a half decent toy box down there, he’d just burn the place down and call it quits. Wait for time-travelling-Buffy to come back and seduce her instead. He’d likely stand a better chance, anyway – it still made every hair on his body stand on end remembering the way she’d looked at him. But Dawn and Willow had insisted, sending him back to just after the other Spike died was safest. For which he definitely heard ‘Buffy wouldn’t have settled for someone else in the meantime’, no matter how hard they denied it.
Early signs were promising. The door to the basement led down to a sort of vestibule with a washer and dryer and two more doors. The first one he opened was the bathroom, which had an enormous multi-jet shower area complete with ergonomically-designed ledges and handholds, plus a bath that could probably fit three in a pinch. It was almost entirely black tile, with silver and white highlights here and there, and accented by blood-red towels. It looked like it belonged in the kind of five-star boutique hotel Angelus and Darla used to like best, and it had Spike wondering who’d been in charge of decorating the rest of the house. Because if anyone ever gave him carte blanche to kit out a bathroom, this was pretty much what he’d choose. Needless to say, there was none of that designer mock-seventies-floral chic that saturated the one upstairs.
Then Spike noticed there wasn’t a single scented product, and he didn’t know what to do with that. The headaches he got from Faith’s collection were one of the very few things they properly rowed about. But it all seemed so at odds with the perfect suburban life this Spike and Buffy had.
The bathroom had a connecting door through to the master bedroom, and Spike was forced to admit he liked that, too. It took up a good three quarters of the floor space of the house, and was all dark, rich, colours, instead of the fake beech, muted pastels, and never-quite-matching off-whites that ruled above. It also had no windows, which was a level of personal safety he definitely hadn’t expected. Spike suddenly wondered how many of the flimsily-curtained windows he’d seen upstairs were necro-tempered.
But there were still some nasty surprises lurking under the veneer of respectability. Spike found a drawerful of multicoloured men’s socks that made him want to poke his own eyes out just to stop the glare. And equally colourful silk boxers, when he hadn’t worn underwear since the advent of denim. Although it was only a couple of pairs, and they smelled almost as much of Buffy as him, so maybe it wasn’t so bad as all that?
The bed was more stylish than he’d expected – real wood, looked like it’d been carved by hand. It was sturdy, too: enough to withstand the horizontal gymnastics of the super-strong. And was that the clink of a chain somewhere underneath? It wasn’t until Spike was testing out the bounce – not much; good quality foam – that he found the one thing sufficient to convince him to stick around for the next seven years. Or seventy, if called for. And it wasn’t the toy box, although he did find one under the bed much later, and it was more than adequate.
As soon as his nose got near the sheets, it was very, very clear that interior-decorator-Spike was drinking Buffy’s blood on the regular. Awed and reverent, he lay down in their bed, soaking up the scents of her and him and glorious, intoxicating slayer blood and finally had that wank. It was quite possibly the best one he’d ever had.
He hadn’t been at all sure about what he’d do in this dimension until he was lying there, emotionally and physically spent. But knowing that his tosser of a twin had sussed out a way to drink Buffy’s blood without frying his brain made Spike’s pathway much clearer. He wanted this life, so badly he could feel it burning inside him.
It wouldn’t be perfect, but then what life was? Willow’d wanted him to talk to Buffy. Tell her what was happening. He knew it was still what he should do. He absolutely knew that. But since when was he in the business of doing the right thing? No one had ever accused him of being selfless. Selflessness was why the Buffy and Dawn he’d known and loved were dead.
Ideal scenario, he’d watch and wait for his alternate to die, then step neatly in and take his place. No fuss, no muss. No one ever had to know there’d ever been two of them, so Buffy would feel no pain. And if the doppelgänger needed a little help to get out of the way? Well then.
It hurt, dragging himself out of their bed, then out of their house. So badly he nearly couldn’t do it at all. But it was necessary. For now, anyway. Eventually, he’d come back to claim everything that should’ve been his.
Stay tuned for Chapter 4....