Buffy Summers woke up with the distinct feeling all was not right in the world. She sat up slowly, looking around the bedroom with a frown on her face. For a moment, everything was strange, as if she’d never seen the room before in her life, but then in a snap, it shifted, and she knew where she was – in her bedroom, in her house, which she shared with her fiancé.
As the thought of him entered her mind, Buffy smiled, forgetting the uneasy feeling she’d woken with. Instead, she remembered how excited she was about their upcoming wedding, remembered how happy he made her. She turned her gaze down towards the diamond on her left finger, biting the corner of her lip as she twirled the band.
Only to stop short when she flipped her hand over.
The palm of her left hand was marked with uneven scar tissue, the remnants of what looked like a burn. Buffy’s expression faded to a frown as she traced the faint pink and white lines on her hand and tried to remember where they’d come from. You didn’t just forgetthe cause of a scar like that.
Buffy closed her eyes as she caressed the scar with her fingertips, trying to pull the memories from the back of her mind. She remembered light, fire, a strong hand in hers…
She gasped, her eyes snapping open as an intense wave of recognition washed over her only to have it suddenly ebb away again. The memory she’d held for a moment faded, replaced with one of her hand against a hot stove. She shook off the traces of the first memory, her brow furrowing as she wondered where she’d come up with something as strange as her first thought. She must’ve been having some weird dream right before she woke up to forget burning herself on the stove.
“No more Chinese food for a late night snack, Buffy,” she muttered to herself as she threw off the covers.
She moved through her morning routine, trying to ignore the nagging sensation in the back of her mind that something just wasn’t quite right. She felt as if she was forgetting something, like she’d gone to the grocery store without a list and couldn’t remember why she was there, only for something more vital than just bread and milk.
Buffy picked at her breakfast, pushing the cereal around in the bowl until it grew soggy. With a sigh, she carried it back into the kitchen, dumping ruined cereal in the garbage before taking the bowl to the sink. She was rinsing out the remnants of the milk when she looked up and out the window.
The bowl slid from her hands, shattering in the sink and Buffy let out a cry of surprise. A strange woman was standing in the front yard, her unnatural blue eyes seeming to go right through Buffy, and Buffy stumbled backwards, her heart hammering in her chest.
In a blink, the woman was gone.
Buffy ran outside, looking around desperately for some sign the woman had been there, some sign she wasn’t going crazy, but she was alone, no trace of the blue-eyed woman anywhere. Hands trembling, Buffy pushed them through her long, blonde hair, her chest shaking as she tried to take deep breaths.
This wasn’t right… Nothing was right…
But what could possibly be wrong? She’d woken up the same way today as she did every other morning.
Maybe it was nerves. Her wedding was three days away – it was normal to get all anxious before you got married, right?
She reached down to touch her engagement ring, only to flip her hand over and smooth her fingers over the burn mark again instead.
Burning, collapsing…it’s the end, it’s all crashing down…
I love you…
Buffy closed her eyes and clutched her head, wanting whatever was happening to her to just stop. She opened her eyes again and let out a frustrated sigh before deciding with firm determination she was not having any more moments of crazy. She was going to go inside, get ready to meet with her bridesmaids like she’d planned, and forget all the weirdness.
She was a normal girl, with a normal life, and that was that.
She ignored how “normal” felt anything but…
*** *** ***
Buffy had hoped by the time she saw her bridesmaids the strange feeling from the morning would’ve passed. She was certain once she was with her friends, discussing her wedding, she’d feel like herself again.
She didn’t. If anything, she felt worse.
She’d met with her four bridesmaids at a coffee shop, yet when she first walked in, she didn’t recognize the women waving her over. For a second, she just stared, until her mind finally provided names and memories for all of them.
Yet as she sat down with them, she felt strangely detached, as if she didn’t have an emotional tie to any of them. She remembered them like she remembered watching her favorite movie, a memory of watching, not participating.
“Buffy are you okay? You look a little pale.”
Buffy looked at the woman who had just spoken, her brow furrowing as she tried to remember something about her that felt real. Her name was Tracey, they’d been friends since junior high, and Buffy used to spend the summers at Tracey’s parent’s beach house.
So why didn’t any of it make Buffy feel anything?
“I’m sorry, I’m just sort of out of it today. I woke up feeling all wonky and I haven’t been able to shake it,” Buffy replied. She looked down at her hand, watching as the light from the window hit the diamond on her hand. “I guess it’s just wedding jitters.”
Another girl – Cindy, her name was Cindy – snorted. “If I was marrying a catch like yours, I’d already be waiting at the church. You’re so lucky, Buffy. It’s like you’re living in a fairytale and you’ve found your Prince Charming.” She gave Buffy a teasing smile. “I’m jealous.”
“Yeah, he is a really great guy,” Buffy agreed even as she came to a startling realization.
She had no idea who she was marrying…
She knew she was getting married. It had been in the forefront of her mind all morning, even with everything else. The thought of her marriage and how much she loved her fiancé had always been there, making it impossible for her to forget for even a moment. But the face of the man she was marrying? His name? How they met?
She couldn’t remember any of it.
The feeling of dread in the pit of her stomach grew, turning into full-fledged fear. Something had to have happened to her. Had she hit her head, been injured somehow? She had to be sick, because this didn’t just happen to people. You didn’t wake up one morning and forget your whole life.
She glanced over Cindy’s head and out the window, her eyes widening as she saw someone standing in the road. Without giving it a second thought, she ran out of the coffee shop, ignoring her friends as they called after her.
When she got to the street, the woman was gone again, and Buffy looked around frantically, ignoring the cars speeding towards her. She gasped as one stopped inches from her, the driver honking the horn as he yelled at her from the window.
Still shaking, Buffy gave a quick apology as she went back to the sidewalk in front of the coffee shop, where her friends were looking on in horror.
“What’s wrong with you?” Tracey asked. “You…you just ran out into the street.”
“There…there was a woman,” Buffy said, glancing around trying to see her again. “She…she had blue hair and blue eyes, and this…this leather body suit thing. I…I saw her this morning, too, but she keeps disappearing.”
Her friends all shared a look, then Cindy started to talk. “Buffy…”
“I’m not crazy!” Buffy yelled, startling the other woman. “Look, I know how this sounds, but I know what I saw. Something’s happening to me. Something’s not right.”
“Sweetie, I think you might be stressed out from all the wedding planning,” Tracey said, patting Buffy’s shoulder. “You’ve been going non-stop since the engagement wanting everything to be perfect, and it sounds like you’ve worn yourself out.”
Buffy didn’t know if she wanted to cry or scream, so she did neither. “I’m not seeing things.”
Tracey took her hand and led her over to one of the coffee shop’s outside tables. “Come on, just sit down and we’ll call him to come get you, all right?”
“He’s at work,” Buffy said.
“He’ll still come for you,” Tracey said with a soft smile.
Buffy nodded, even though she didn’t want anyone to come for her at all. She wanted to go home – she wanted to remember where home was.
She sat with her head in her hands as she waited for a man she couldn’t remember to come and take her somewhere. Her friends tried to engage her in conversation, but she gave no real response, the whole day starting to overwhelm her.
“Buffy? Buffy, are you all right?”
That voice was familiar… She looked up, a wave of relief washing over her as she realized she knew the man approaching her. She had memories of him, but most of all, she felt a connection to him. Something stirred inside of her when she thought of him.
“Angel,” she said with a breath of relief.
“Yeah, Tracey called and said I needed to come get you because you weren’t feeling well. Something about running into the street chasing an invisible woman?” Angel said, frowning.
“I’m sorry,” Buffy replied. “I know you have a lot of work to get done before the honeymoon, and…”
“Hey, it’s okay,” Angel said, cutting her off. He knelt down in front of her and took her hands in his. “If you need me, I’m here. Always, Buffy. You should know that.”
Buffy looked into his eyes and nodded even as a voice that sounded suspiciously like her own whispered in her mind. No, you aren’t…you always let me down… Not like…
Not like who? She couldn’t remember…
Angel pulled her to her feet, still holding her hands in his. Buffy wanted to jerk them away, but she didn’t, unable to remember a reason for why she’d be feeling any sort of animosity towards Angel now. She knew she loved him and, more importantly, could remember what it felt like to love him. He didn’t feel like a stranger.
“Come on, let’s just go home,” Angel told her, letting go of one of her hands to stroke her cheek, then tuck a lock of her hair behind her ear.
“Don’t you need to go back to work?” Buffy asked.
Angel gave her a slight smile. “Wolfram and Hart can get by without me for a bit.”
Buffy replied with a nod, letting him lead her away from the coffee shop.
He said good-bye to the four other women, thanking them for calling him.
Buffy said nothing at all.
*** *** ***
As soon as they were home again, Buffy sat down on the couch, her gaze shifting around the room, searching for something that signaled home to her.
Angel sat down beside her and wrapped his arm around her, pulling her against his chest. “What’s wrong, Buffy? Are you feeling sick? Do you need to see the doctor?”
“I don’t know,” Buffy replied. “It’s just…god, you’re going to think I’m insane.”
Angel kissed the top of her head. “I’d never think you’re insane.” He chuckled lightly, “Okay, maybe a little, but not now, I promise.”
Buffy pulled away from him and brought her legs up, tucking them beneath her. “Ever since I woke up today, everything’s just feltwrong. Like I should be somewhere else, hell, be someone else. It’s like I’m walking around in a dream, but I don’t mean in the everything’s so perfect kinda way. Like…like when you’re dreaming and you sorta know you’re dreaming only your brain is still trying to convince you you’re not.”
When Angel said nothing, she took a deep breath and decided to tell him the rest. “And I’ve seen this woman – twice now. She’s the one I ran out into the street after. She’s got blue hair and blue eyes, only not normal blue. They’re this freaky blue, like she’s not even human. And she’s got blue marks on her skin, and this bizarre leather jumpsuit thing. I know that sounds strange, but I’m sure I’m not hallucinating, Angel. She looked so real – more real than a lot of the other stuff I’ve seen today.”
For a long moment, Angel said nothing, and Buffy worried he was going to take back the thing about not thinking she was crazy and have her put under observation.
Instead, he pulled her back over to him and kissed the top of her head. “I think you’ve been under a lot of stress recently, Buffy. Why don’t you go to bed and get some rest. I’m sure you’ll feel better then.”
Okay, so maybe he didn’t think she was crazy, but clearly, he didn’t think she was sane. And he wasn’t going to help her try to figure this out.
“Buffy, you’re just tired,” Angel said sternly, making her feel like she was a child. “You’ve been killing yourself planning the wedding, and you need to just take a break and take care of yourself. Now are you going to go to bed or am I going to have to carry you in there?”
She didn’t like this. The sense of comfort she’d gotten when she’d first seen Angel was gone now, leaving further confusion in its wake. Angel was wrong, too. Everything was just wrong.
But maybe he was right. Maybe she did just need sleep. Could it really be that easy? Could she just sleep and wake up feeling like she was living the right life again?
“I can walk in there myself,” she said, getting to her feet. “Sorry…sorry to upset you and drag you out of work and everything.”
“It’s okay,” Angel replied, standing beside her. He cupped her cheek and smiled down at her. “You’re more important to me than work. I love you, Buffy.”
He kissed her, and she remembered kissing him in the past, remembered how it made her swoon, how it made her feel like nothing in the world existed but Angel.
She felt none of that now.
Buffy pulled away, gave him a tight smile, and went to the bedroom.
Alone, she finally allowed herself tears.
*** *** ***
She dreamt of fire…
She dreamt of fire and blue eyes and love so strong it tore her apart even as it made her whole.
She woke gasping, holding her hand out to someone who wasn’t there, the mark on her palm tingling with memories of flames.
She realized as she pulled the blankets tighter around her that she missed someone. Someone was gone, and the pain was so acute it made her want to cry out at the universe for the injustice of it all. And what made it even worse was she couldn’t even remember his name.
But the ache felt familiar. It stirred in her heart, and she knew it was something she’d held for a while now, something that had traveled with her, refusing to be forgotten. Everything around her told her she lived a perfect life, and yet the only thing that felt real was loss.
Buffy sat up and looked at the clock, frowning when she saw a picture of herself and Angel sitting beside it. Had that been there before?
She picked it up, trying to remember when it had been taken. She couldn’t.
“This wasn’t our deal. It isn’t working.”
“These things can take time. Just wait a few days, and it will all take hold. I promise.”
“It better. I had to make sacrifices for this.”
“We will hold up our end of the agreement.”
Buffy frowned, dropping the picture to the bed as she went to the door and placed her ear against it, trying to hear the conversation more clearly, only to hear nothing but silence. She’d recognized one voice as Angel’s, but the other one wasn’t familiar at all.
And what had they been talking about? Deals? Sacrifices?
Nothing about that had made her feel anything but uneasy.
With a deep breath, Buffy opened the door and walked into the living room, finding Angel on the couch. “Who were you talking to?”
Angel looked up, seemingly surprised to see her. “No one.”
“I heard you.”
“Oh, I was on the phone.”
“I heard two people.”
“Speaker phone. I had to call work about a problem with a case, but it should be all settled now.” He smiled easily, and it made Buffy feel sick inside. “What about you? Are you feeling better now?”
“Not really since my fiancé is lying to me.”
Angel flinched. “Buffy?”
“Something’s going on, Angel, and you know what, don’t you? Stop lying to me and tell me what happened to me. Tell me.”
He stood up, holding his hands in front of him. “Buffy, whatever is going on with you, I promise I don’t know what it is, okay? But I am starting to worry about you. I think you should go see a doctor, make sure there’s not anything serious making you feel this way. With your family medical history…”
She knew immediately what he was referring to which only served to convince her more that something was being done to her. Some memories were so real, so vivid in her mind, while others felt like they were happening to someone else while she watched on. When he brought up her mother, Buffy knew exactly what it had felt like to watch as she grew sick, to walk in and find her body, lifeless on the couch.
That memory was real; the rest of it was not.
The world she was living in wasn’t any more real than a dream, and something buried in her mind told her to believe what seemed impossible.
“I don’t have brain cancer, Angel. You’ve done something. I know it was you because you’re the only person in this place I remember, but you’re not my fiancé. So who are you? Who am I?”
“Buffy, calm down. I am your fiancé, and we’re happy together, all right? I don’t know why you don’t remember, but you’re mine – just like it’s supposed to be.”
“No. No. This is wrong, all wrong. I don’t want any of this. I don’t want you.”
Angel moved across the living room and grabbed her arms, pulling her to him. “How can you say that? This is what you’ve always wanted, Buffy. A normal life with me. Maybe you don’t remember it right now, but this is what you want. You want me. You’ve always wanted me.” He moved one hand to her hair, stroking it as if trying to soothe her. “Just let go of everything else, okay? Stop fighting it, and everything will be fine. We’ll be together, and we’ll be happy. We won’t have to worry about anything else ever again.”
Buffy looked into his eyes, and it was so tempting to let herself be pulled in. She recognized something in his words, and knew they’d been true once. Could they be true again? What was she even fighting to remember? The only things that had felt real to her all day had been drenched in blood and pain. Was that what she was fighting to hold on to?
She raised her hand, ready to reach out and take his when her eyes fell to the burn scar again.
With a burst of strength that surprised her, Buffy pushed Angel off, sending him across the room. “No,” she told him again, her body trembling as she pulled off her engagement ring and threw it down to the ground. “This isn’t real. This isn’t my life, and I don’t want it.”
“You’re miserable, Buffy. You’ve lost so much, and you’re alone. We’re alone. Maybe you don’t remember it, but we love each other so much. That life you’re fighting for, we’re not together – can’t be together. Do you really want that?”
“I don’t want to live in a dream, Angel.”
“Dreams are better than reality, Buffy.”
“But you always have to wake up.”
Angel stood and started towards her, but Buffy ran, not stopping even when she was out of the house, her heart pounding as she tried to escape a prison with no exit.
Finally she stopped, breathing hard as she stood on a sidewalk, clueless as to where she was. She heard heavy footsteps behind her, and knew Angel was there, ready to take her back. She shook with the strain of keeping herself from breaking down, feeling helpless as she realized she was completely at his mercy. Whatever he’d done, this was his world, and she had no way out.
Suddenly, she felt a hand clamp on her shoulder, and she looked up, gasping as she stared into the inhumanly blue eyes of the woman she’d seen before. She held her breath for a moment, waiting for the woman to vanish again, waiting for Angel to grab her, when she realized time had frozen around them.
“This world isn’t correct.”
Buffy let out a mirthless laugh. “Yeah, tell me about it,” she replied. “I’ve been saying that all day.”
The woman cocked her head. “The vampire has done something. He’s had this world created to his liking.”
“Vampire? What are you…” Buffy stopped as something in her mind clicked. “Angel.”
“This world is unstable. You fight what has become reality, and it is making reality crumble. You must accept what the world has become or the world will become chaos.”
“I can’t accept this. It’s wrong. I don’t belong here, or with him, or…” She gasped, her body reeling as the blue eyes in her mind took their place on a face. “Spike…”
“You long for Spike?” the woman asked, her head tilting again.
“Yes,” Buffy replied, the answer coming without having to think. She could remember nothing but his face, his eyes, but she knew as soon as she heard his name that he was what was missing from her heart. His loss had brought this emptiness no dream could fill.
The woman’s eyes lost focus, as if she were seeing something beyond what Buffy herself could see. “It was his sacrifice that made this world possible. Bring him back, and it will…”
“Make me wake up?” Buffy asked.
“Do you wish to let go of this world?”
Buffy turned and saw Angel behind her, frozen in the moment the woman had appeared. She searched his face for a reason to stay with him, to accept what he was offering in place of a world where all she could remember for certain was pain.
She looked back at the woman, determination on her face. “I want to wake up. I want the real world.”
The woman’s hand dropped from Buffy’s shoulder, and she stepped back, her eyes closing for a moment before they snapped open again and a blue light began to swirl beside her, spinning faster until it spread apart.
Buffy knew what she was supposed to do.
She ignored Angel’s cries as she jumped through the portal.
*** *** ***
This is Hell…
Buffy knew without a doubt where she was, and even though she knew she should think that was insane, it gave her some sort of comfort when she didn’t. Being in Hell seemed to be the most normal thing in her whole day.
She looked behind her and saw the portal was still open and breathed a sigh of relief. Hopefully, it would stay open long enough for her to find Spike…
Because he was here, somewhere. Buffy knew that better than she knew anything at the moment, as if she could feel his presence as much as she would his physical touch.
She remembered nothing but his name, his face, but she knew she loved him. Whatever they’d had, she knew it had to be something worth fighting to get back if her mind was struggling so hard to hold on to it.
Buffy pushed her hair off her forehead, already damp from sweat, her eyes squinting as she surveyed the red-tinted world around her. Spike was here, and he was close, but she didn’t know where.
She closed her eyes, took deep steady breaths, and smiled as she felt her hand tingle.
She could remember now. She remembered standing with him, their hands linked even as they burned. There had been no stove – the scar on her hand was his scar. Something tangible to match the one he’d left on her heart.
And it would be her heart that would lead her to him. Not even Hell could keep her from him now.
Buffy found him soon, his broken, bloodied body crumpled against a rock. She ran to him and knelt down, gathering him into his arms as she rolled him over to look at his face. He was cold and still, dead, and yet she knew somehow, that was okay. She was holding him, he was solid, and he’d be okay.
She’d seen him like this before. Images flashed in her mind, and her strength in her belief that this man was more real to her than anything else grew. He was hers, too firmly imprinted on her soul for anything to take away.
He groaned, shifting with a wince before his eyes open. For a moment, he stared at her, his brow furrowed, before realization bloomed in his eyes, and he gazed at her in disbelief.
“Hey,” she said softly, smoothing her hand over his bleached hair.
“You…why are you here?”
“Because I came for you,” she answered simply. Her lip quirked upwards. “Don’t I always?”
Spike chuckled, even as he winced again. “Yeah, I guess you do. Even when you probably shouldn’t.”
She was in Hell, and Buffy wanted to weep for joy. Even with her true memories still struggling to regain their foothold, she knew what this moment meant.
“Yeah, well, I’m stubborn like that. Can you walk?”
“Maybe. Can I lean on you?”
Her answering look clearly said, “dumb question,” and Spike chuckled as he let her help him to his feet.
“The way out is close,” Buffy said. “There’s some blue chick holding the door open.”
“Blue chick? Is she wearing a bizarre leather get-up?”
“Yeah. Know her?”
“It’s Illyria. Hellgod type. Right helpful when she wants to be, though.”
“She was real helpful today. I’ll tell you about that later, after we’re out of here. Are you sure you can walk?”
“Sweetheart, you’re here. I could bloody fly.”
Buffy smiled at him, he smiled back, and they walked together to the portal.
*** *** ***
The closer they got to the exit, the more Buffy could feel her memories shifting, the ones that had spent all day trying to assert themselves slipping away, making way for the ones she’d lost.
With every step they took, she remembered more about the man beside her. Buffy held on to him tighter.
When they stepped out through the portal, the suburbs were gone, replaced by a dark, rain-soaked alley. Angel stood across from her, his expression accusatory.
“What have you done, Buffy?”
She met his eyes without wavering. “I got back what you took from me.”
“I did it for you – for us. There were demons, hundreds of demons, and we couldn’t stop them. I…I got an offer, and I took it. All the demons gone, all of it, over. And you could finally be a normal girl, have the normal life you’ve always wanted.”
“And all it cost was Spike.”
“I didn’t want to sacrifice him,” Angel argued. “But it was one person to save everyone who those demons would’ve killed. I thought Spike would’ve understood that. He claims he’s a Champion now, he should’ve been willing to make the sacrifice.”
“Like you were, you tosser?” Spike snarled, and Buffy knew if he had been able to as much as stand on his own, he’d be doing a lot more than growling.
“They wanted you, not me,” Angel replied.
“Yeah, and I’m sure you were really heartbroken over that.”
“I was doing it for Buffy.”
“Oh don’t you dare,” Buffy snapped, causing both the vampires to grow silent. “You don’t get to make decisions for me, Angel. It was bad enough when I was in high school, and now…” She shook her head, trying to keep her anger in check for the sake of the man needing her to keep him upright. “We’ve barely spoken in five years, and you’re going to presume to know what I want? God, you are seriously an arrogant prick.”
“Shut up, Angel. Really. I don’t want to be a normal girl. I haven’t wanted that in a very long time. And as far as being with you…” She took a deep breath, her eyes closing for a moment as she let go of an old dream, finally accepting that what she wanted was what was real.
“We were a teenaged girl’s fantasy. Nothing more. You never gave me what I really needed. You never even bothered to learn who I really was. Spike is the Champion here, Angel. He fought for what was right even when he didn’t have a soul, and as far as sacrificing himself, he already has. I watched him burn for the world – for me. And no, I don’t want to be with you. Ever. I don’t love you. I love Spike.”
She felt Spike shift against her, and when she turned her head towards him, he was looking at her in awe. She smiled in response. “Do you believe me now?”
He smiled back, and for a moment, the alley seemed to not be so dark. “Yes.”
Reluctantly, she turned back towards Angel, only to realize she had nothing to say to him. Whatever his motives for what he’d done, she doubted she’d ever get the full truth from him, and as it stood she didn’t care. For all her anger at Angel right then, she also had to be thankful this day had allowed her to finally open her eyes completely.
She turned from him again, walking from the alley with Spike as she left Angel and the dreams of her childhood behind.
A/N: This is the end of this one, but I might do a companion piece of Spike’s perspective, if anyone’s interested in that. (And if my muse cooperates…)
Please review and let me know what you thought of this. It’s the first bit of Buffy fic I’ve written in months, and I’m worried I’m rusty. Honest feedback would be ever so helpful.