Buffy paused in the doorway once they’d reached the crypt, and although it looked as if she were staring at the darkened interior, Spike could see the far-off gaze of one deep in contemplation, as if calling up a memory—or being suddenly assaulted by several.
“Um, where’s your…? Oh. Right.”
She coughed a little after saying that, and Spike nearly fell apart as he watched her hand fly to her mouth and her shoulders shake. He snatched her hand away after she was finished and Buffy stared at him like he was crazy as he unfolded it.
“What?” she asked, but he said nothing. He felt stupid enough; anything he would say would only make it worse.
“You sick?” he asked.
They were staring at each other, both in awe at seeing the person they’d thought to be dead standing before them, both at a loss for what to do next. Someone needed to make the first move.
“Why do you think I’m here?” she asked.
Spike blinked. “I… I don’t know. I’m not even sure how you are. You look different, a little older, actually, so…” his shoulders slumped. “Time travel?”
“Wow. That… would’ve been my last guess.”
He shrugged. “Done a bit of it myself. Me and Dru pissed off a warlock who sent us back a year. Don’t know what he was trying to accomplish, ‘cause we weren’t much fazed by it. Although 1929’s not really a year you want to live through twice.”
“Huh.” That was all she could think of to say.
“So,” he continued hopefully. “If you’re from the future… that means you must come back.”
Buffy shouldn’t tell him anything, but since she was already there, she didn’t see why she should hold back any longer. Especially when the answer was standing right in front of him, anyway.
“When?” he asked, stepping closer to her.
“Um, I was gone the whole summer. 147 days, to be exact.”
“But you’re okay, right? You’re still you?”
“Yes,” she replied softly. It was hard, giving him hope for his the Buffy of his time when he could offer none of himself for her future.
“But how? I don’t understand.”
Buffy laughed. “What’s to understand?”
“How you’re here. How you’re here, but you’re not.”
“I got stabbed by a Zhenchuk demon in my time. It should’ve killed me, and I still don’t know why it didn’t, but instead it brought me here. It’s like I retraced my steps through time and came face to face with myself. This whole experience has been… well, ‘trying’ isn’t a strong enough word.”
“How long have you been here?”
“Since the moment I died.”
He went silent at that. Seeing her standing before him put the memory of her death out of his mind, but hearing the words made it happen all over again.
“That… must’ve been tough.”
“Pretty much.” She coughed. “Do you have any water?”
Spike walked over to the fridge and pulled out a bottle. “Got some for Dawn,” he explained as he handed it to her.
Buffy took her time taking large gulps of the cold water, delaying any need for her to speak. It wasn’t easy, seeing him again. Especially when he wasn’t the man she’d left behind.
“So, uh, how old are you now?” he asked as she finished the bottle out. “Can’t be older than twenty-five.”
“I’m not,” she informed him sharply. “I’m only twenty-four.”
A glimmer of a smile appeared on his lips. “Thought so.”
His smile went away when her cough returned, and he stepped closer, almost jumping with surprise when she placed her hand on his chest.
“I’m not feeling so good,” she told him, swaying slightly. “I think I need to eat something.”
“Of course,” he said, ready to help her in any way that he could. “What do you want? I’ll go get it, whatever it is.”
Buffy looked up at him, wanting to cry afresh at what he was offering her. Food.
“Um, anything that doesn’t come in a bag would be nice.”
Spike nodded, but didn’t move to leave. “Do you want to lie down, or come with me, or… how does this work?”
“I don’t know,” Buffy replied honestly, referring to the problem at large. “It’s probably better if I didn’t go with you, considering I might run into someone I know and alter the events of the past. Oops.”
He didn’t laugh at her little joke. “Right, I’ll… I guess I’ll be right back.”
They stared at each other for a moment before Spike walked out the door, and Buffy fell into the armchair with a groan.
Of course she had to run into him. She couldn’t have run into Willow or Giles or Xander, all of whom were still alive in her time. It would’ve been awkward seeing them here, yes, especially the part where they’d freak out at seeing her alive again, but at least she wouldn’t feel the way she did now. Like she was supposed to be happy but she couldn’t be.
This Spike loved her, but he didn’t have a soul. He didn’t remember saving her from a very musical death or pounding her into the wall or taking a beating from her in the alley behind the police station. He didn’t remember the months of torment he suffered after getting his soul, or the bond that they had formed while he lived in her basement, or the night they shared together in someone else’s bed. He didn’t remember her words as their fingers burned and his soul shined and thank God, because if he didn’t believe her then, why would he believe her now?
She could show him. She could do everything all over again, only better. It wasn’t like her future was exceptionally bright. Lonely nights with nothing to look forward to but a good slay and a new issue of Cosmo…
Buffy sighed and curled into a ball. She’d been here already, danced this dance and sang this tune. If she lived her life here, then her past would change and she wouldn’t be who she became and she would never have gotten stabbed by that demon and have come back here, and wow, did that ever make her head hurt.
She could hear crickets chirping outside. God, those things were annoying in the summer. How long had Spike been gone, anyway? It seemed like a long time. Was he going to come back? He wasn’t going to go get her friends, was he? Because that would be bad. Really, really bad.
Buffy jumped when the squeaky door to the crypt opened and Spike entered, looking panicked until his eyes settled on her.
She watched, spellbound, as he walked towards her and offered her a large paper bag.
“Didn’t know what you wanted, so I got a couple o’ things. Plus I went back and got the medicine you dropped when we ran into each other. Figured you’d be needing that.”
She could only stare at him dumbly as she took the bag, tearing her eyes away only to look inside. There was a sandwich, a burger, some fries and onion rings. Completely greasy, but oh-so-delicious food. Buffy pulled out the sandwich and started chowing down.
Spike stood and watched her, as if he’d never seen her eat before. It was kind of creepy, actually, but the situation was so awkward and—well, awkward—that she really couldn’t call him on it. Besides, she wasn’t making the situation any better for him, either.
“Where are you staying?” he asked, just as she was moving on to the onion rings.
“Uh, the mansion. Figured no one would run across me there.”
Spike snorted in agreement and sat on the armrest next to her. “Right.”
Buffy finished off the onion rings in silence and started on the fries when she suddenly didn’t feel hungry anymore. She pushed the bag of food aside and stared ahead, trying to ignore the proximity of the vampire next to her.
They sat in silence, neither looking directly at the other, both at a loss for words. What more could they say? Possibly much more, as a certain number of answers would clear up some confusion they now felt, but they were both too baffled by the surreal situation they were in to speak.
Buffy’s heart sped up when she felt his hesitant touch on her head, closing her eyes when his fingers ran through her hair. She reveled in the caress, aching for more, but afraid that she’d find this all to be a dream if she reached for it.
But Buffy was tired of hiding from her fear. She laid her head against his side and he continued stroking her hair, his hand shaking. She realized that she was crying again, and without thinking, she whispered, “I’ve missed you.”
Spike’s hand continued to move until her words sank in, and then he stilled. “Guess that means I’m not around in your time.”
Buffy’s eyes flew open when she realized what she’d let slip. “I-I didn’t mean…”
“It’s okay, pet. Never thought I’d last much longer without you, anyway.”
She was going to clarify when she coughed again, this time so hard that her throat felt raw when she finished.
Before she could ask Spike was kneeling in front of her, measuring out the thick brown liquid.
“My, doesn’t this look tasty?”
Buffy whimpered pathetically when he handed her the small cup. Getting the cough syrup had seemed like a good idea at the time, but it seemed less so now that she had to take it.
“Oh, don’t tell me you’re afraid of a little medicine,” he teased.
She huffed defiantly before downing the liquid, reacting to it the same way she did to alcohol. “Bleeagh!”
Spike grinned at her as he took the little measuring cup away. For a moment they just stared at each other, both unable to believe that they were actually seeing the other again, even if their meeting was under unusual circumstances.
“You okay?” he asked.
“I’m sleepy,” she replied, her head lolling against the cushion. “I don’t like being sick.”
“It’s better than being dead.”
They stared at each other some more.
“So… what now?” he asked, looking as uncertain as she felt.
“I don’t know. We didn’t exactly cover time travel in Slayer training.”
Spike frowned and Buffy felt her eyes begin to droop. He sighed deeply before he spoke.
“I don’t know why you’re here, Buffy, but I’m glad you are. I’ve had to live a week without you, and I can’t imagine living a hundred and forty days more.
“Aside from failing you, the thing I regret most is that I never told you I loved you. I know I said the words over and over again, trying to get you to… but just in case you never figure this out, I want you to know that I mean it.” His eyes were shining with fervent tears. “I really love you, Buffy.”
“Yes?” he breathed hopefully.
“I’m falling asleep.”
* * * *
Spike stared at her for a moment, shocked that she’d actually fallen asleep without him noticing. She’d barely been awake when she’d spoken her last words, and he felt like a git for saying what he had. He tried to do it right this time, no chains and everything, and she didn’t even hear him. Probably didn’t want to. In her time she’d probably dusted him already, or run him out of town for good. Wouldn’t blame her for that.
Although if she had—or, if she does—then why was she with him? She didn’t seem like she had anywhere else to go, but if he wasn’t mistaken he’d seen something in her eyes when she looked at him. Something he would call longing if he didn’t know any better.
Spike rose to his feet and slowly and carefully lifted Buffy from the chair and into his arms. She felt familiar and foreign all at once, her soft skin and slender form nothing like he remembered from his brief stint as her fiancé.
Her head fell against his shoulder and she whimpered in her sleep. Spike turned so that her face was close to his, close enough to kiss, and looked at her. He could feel her rich, Slayer’s blood thrumming under his fingertips, but when he saw her nose, her eyes, her lovely little mouth, all he saw was the woman. She was beautiful, in some ways more so than she had been when…
Spike pulled her forehead to his lips and closed his eyes, the tears falling despite his best efforts to hold them back. He took a deep breath to calm himself and then walked her over to the coffin on which he slept, laying her down gently. Spike adjusted the pillow under her head so that it rested at a more natural angle, careful not to wake her. Not that he would mind if he could see her eyes open and looking at him, or hear her heart beat as fast as it had when she’d leaned against him.
I miss you…
So he wasn’t around, eh? That was beginning to bother him. Why wouldn’t he be? When Buffy comes back, he will be thrilled. Overjoyed, even, especially since she comes back alright. She apparently doesn’t hate him now, and she seemed to appreciate him before they went up against Glory, so what would change? Does something happen to him? Does he get fed up because she never wants him and leave? No, he would never leave her, not unless he had to. So that only left him dead. Dust.
He needed a cigarette.
* * * *
He was floating above her, a small smile on his face as he watched her awaken. “There you are.”
“Spike, you’re here.”
Buffy sat up slowly. She felt very light, like gravity wasn’t weighing her down.
“Of course,” he replied, stepping close enough to touch. Buffy wanted to reach out to him, but it was as if her arms wouldn’t work. “Where else would I be?”
“Um,” she thought, turning around to see another Spike behind her, his expression a mirror image of the other. “Over there.”
“I’m there,” he verified, looking over her shoulder. “You should be getting back.”
“But I don’t wanna go,” she said with a frown. “Spike… why aren’t you here?”
“I am here. Problem is, you’re not. Can’t very well touch you when you don’t even exist.”
Spike reached out to touch her face, and Buffy gasped when it didn’t make contact, instead it went through her like he wasn’t real. Like she wasn’t real.
Spike stared at her as if she were crazy, like it was normal that he’d just touched her as if she were some ghost. She started to calm down when two cool hands grasped her by the shoulders.
“Buffy! Slayer! Wake up now, love. C’mon, that’s it...”
She opened her eyes and saw him hovering over her, a frown between his eyes. Buffy frantically raised her hand to his face and felt his flesh resisting beneath her palm.
He blinked, his eyes trying to see the hand that was touching him. He didn’t flinch, but she could see his body tense.
She closed her eyes and sighed with relief. “How long have I been asleep?”
“Couple of hours. Sun’s not up yet.”
Buffy opened her eyes when she felt his hand come to rest over hers. He seemed nervous, unsure of how she would react, and if his heart could beat it would probably be doing so at ninety miles a minute.
“I fell asleep.”
“I had a dream.”
“You had a nightmare,” he corrected.
“Never heard you sound so afraid.”
He touched her hair lightly, his caress gentle and a bit forward given this Spike’s relationship with her. Not that she minded, she was just a little confused. Part of her wanted to push his hand away, and the other was screaming for him to touch her just a little bit more.
“You sure you’re okay?”
His eyes were sad and happy at the same time, a sort of vulnerability she was familiar with. It was easy for him to be happy to see her. His future had hope, whereas hers…
“I’m fine.” Buffy sat up quickly, his hand falling away as she grabbed her head. “Ow.”
“You’re a bit warm. Reckon you’ve got a bit of a fever. I got some more food for you, just in case you were hungry. Some sick food, you know, like soup and crackers and all that.”
Ah, there was that awkward silence she’d been missing.
Spike stared at her for a long time, waiting for her to move or say something, but Buffy could only stare back. He looked exactly the same, of course—vampire. There was something missing, though. No, it wasn’t just something; it was his soul. She could tell by the way he held himself, the way he looked at her, and the way he touched her without even thinking about it. At the same time, though, Buffy saw something in him she hadn’t seen before.
He had been gentle with her when she’d first come back, but that’s how everyone had been. Delicate, fragile Buffy needed to be handled with care, after all. But with Spike it had been different. He’d been gentle, maybe a little hesitant at first, but he knew that she wasn’t going to break. Maybe it had something to do with him rising from his own grave, even though their situations had been completely different.
“You feelin’ any better?”
“Yeah. Um, do you still have a shower downstairs?”
“Or, I guess I should ask if you have one yet. I mean, I know you had one when… when we…”
“I don’t know if I’d really call it a shower. Just a bit of runnin’ water over a hole in the ground.”
Buffy gave him a little smile as she stood on her feet. “I know it’s not fancy. You don’t mind, do you?”
“No, you go right ahead.”
Buffy gave him a long look before descending down the ladder. She wanted to ask him to come with her—not in the shower—but just to be down there so she wouldn’t lose him. She’d felt awful the night before when he left, like she were going to wake up in her apartment in Cleveland and this would have all been a dream.
But wasn’t that what she wanted?
Once downstairs, Buffy found the lower level an unfamiliar sight. It wasn’t the chains and Buffy-shrine version she’d known before her death, but it wasn’t the oriental rug-covered floor that she was more familiar with, either. In the back of the lower level there was a tall rectangular section in the wall, much like a shower, with a crude water spout attached to the waterline above.
Buffy had learned of this makeshift shower one night when—coincidence of all coincidences—Spike ran into her on patrol and they’d been sprayed with some rather acidic demon blood. Buffy had wanted to run home, but Spike had led her to his crypt where she discovered that she could wash off… and other things.
She removed her white blouse and laid it on a hook Spike had in the wall. It made a nice towel rack. Oops, she needed a towel.
Buffy turned around and yelped to find Spike behind her.
“Sorry,” he apologized, although his gaze was zeroed in on her chest, clad only in a lacy black bra. “Thought you might want a towel. Found the cleanest one I had.”
It felt as if all the blood in her body had rushed to her face. Buffy snatched the towel from him and covered herself, keeping her eyes down. “Thanks.”
“The uh,” he coughed a little, his voice breaking. “The water isn’t too warm.”
“Right. I’ll… I’m gonna go for a smoke.”
Buffy buried her face in the towel as soon as Spike disappeared up the ladder. What was her problem? Spike had seen her in much less before. Actually, considering this time, he hadn’t. Did he think she looked good? She wasn’t as skinny as she had been; she could actually afford to eat now. Not that she was anywhere near fat, but her body wasn’t the same. He could probably tell. Although her breasts were larger than they’d ever been…
Buffy shook her head, ashamed of herself. What did it matter what he thought? It wasn’t the same. This was all just a big mess, one that a little shower couldn’t wash away.