Buffy gets home from evening class and steps into the welcoming warmth of the house with a shiver of relief. There is something so hostile about Cleveland weather, and her memories of California become more and more golden the oftener she gets them out to drool over them. Balmy nights and sunny days, thermal underwear a distant rumor. She heats up some chocolate and gets up the stairs to the study, where she can hear everyone being busy and talking a lot. The sounds from below indicate that Xander is busy in his work room, probably in the company of Andrew. They might be sealing Andrew’s entire X-men collection in plastic, or whittling stakes.
The bright copper head bent over something invisible on the big table looks up. “Hey Buff. How was class?”
“Okay, with a smidgen of disappointment.”
“Did you sit next to Hot Guy?”
“Hot Guy was not there, hence the smidgen.”
“How about my interdimensional vortex generator?” Willow says proudly, indicating the shimmering circle of light in front of her.
“I’m thinking it would look really nice in my ears?”
“Bad idea. You’d be tearing across the galaxy for the rest of your natural life. Which would then be really short, I guess.”
Buffy does a mock shiver and holds up her hands to show she won’t touch.
Willow turns back to her research. A glowing hoop of blue fire lies on the table. Willow handles it with a pencil, careful not to touch it. Dawn and Kennedy sit chatting at the other end of the table. Buffy lets her tiredness wash over her and leans back, sipping slowly from the hot chocolate. She wishes she’d remembered to put in those little marshmallows her mom used to have. She thinks she did a reasonably good job of touching base with her friends just now, light-hearted and asking after them, not just talking about her own concerns. They know that she’s still not feeling all quippy and happy Buffy, and Europe only made it worse, because it was full of tall well-dressed people who didn’t speak English, a fact that Dawn and Willow handled way better than she did. She’s glad to be back home, even if home is now Cleveland.
She yawns. Early to bed, she guesses. She puts down the half-empty mug of chocolate, but her tiredness makes her miss the table and she grabs hastily after it. Her outstretched pinky touches the fiery hoop and with a silent explosion of light a vortex opens and sucks her in.
The vortex spews Buffy out after milliseconds, or centuries, she can’t tell. Her milling legs catch solid footing and she stumbles, propelled forward by her own speed until she manages to stop. Gray concrete swirls around her and she throws up the entire contents of her stomach. The world steadies and comes into focus. She’s in a big space, somewhere unbelievably hot, sweat exploding from her skin in a haze of droplets. Urgently she peels off her down sleeveless vest, her fleece sweater, her long-sleeved T-shirt and then she’s still too warm in her pink thermal undershirt. She’s not in Cleveland anymore, baby.
That leaves her with wool trousers, thick socks and boots. She peels off the already sodden socks and takes stock of her surroundings. She’s sitting on the splotched, rough concrete of an old factory floor. The big doors to the outside are opened out into the night. The silence here is deafening compared to the subsonic roar of the snowstorm. Far away she can hear some traffic.
It smells like home, and nostalgia and heartache set in with breakneck speed. If she didn’t know she’d been flung through an interdimensional vortex she’d think she was back in Sunnydale. She shakes off the sadness, which she feels is inappropriate for adventures. She’s an experienced interdimensional traveler after all, she’s met ancient Slayers and enigmatic shamans in cheap print dresses. She balls up her winter clothes and hides them behind some old crates. Shoes in one hand, she starts to explore cautiously. To the left there seems to be some kind of old office space where a faint light is shining out. She paddles over there silently, her tender winter feet cringing away from the dirt and roughness of the flooring.
She peers around the wall through the windowpanes into the small space, cluttered with a library’s worth of books in tottering stacks. A hunched shape is reading one of them by the light of a few candles., illuminating only the sparsely printed page, a poem she thinks.
The dark form looks up and throws his book face down. ‘”What are you sneaking around for, Buff? Trying to surprise me?”
He stands up and moves a few steps closer. Buffy’s heart shoots up into her throat, then sinks down into her bare feet and starts up a wild ricocheting dance.
“Had a nice feed, did you? You smell all human,” the voice continues.
“Spike?” she croaks.
“Expecting someone else?” he says and walks up to her.
The way he walks makes her heart scream. How well she remembers that cocky strut and roll, taking his time about it, fishing out a cigarette and his lighter from his jeans pocket while he walks and lighting one. He smirks at her through blue-gray smoke.
“C’mere,” he says. “Give me a taste of what you ate, pet.”
A sound tries to make its way out of her throat but fails. Spike stops stock still at ten feet away. “What the fuck! I can hear your bloody heart beat!”
She can’t speak. Destiny is dealing her a low blow and she’s petrified by it. He’s on her faster than her eyes can track and has her neck in a crushing grip. She sags against him in defeat, completely overwhelmed by this turn of events. She’s limp and will-less, unable to defend herself. But it’s Spike, after all. She won’t have to.
“Who are you and what have you done to my Buffy?”
The air is thick and slow around her. She stares at the milk white furious countenance above her through spider webs and dew. This can’t be her Spike. He snarls at her as if he hates her and he has an air about him as if he’s never been insane in his life. He exudes lack of soul and barely contained bloodlust with every vibration of his body. She’s actually feeling a sliver of fear for this one.
“Who are you and what have you done to my Spike?” she counters two beats late.
She may be a little rusty, but she does remember quipping. This Spike pushes her away from him, still holding her neck, with her artery close under a big black-lacquered thumb, and looks her over carefully. He raises the other finger and points at her.
“No games, you cunt. My Buffy does not have a heart beat or body heat. You’re older than her. Spill.”
“I accidentally touched a magic object, an interdimensional vortex generator. It flung me here. Is this Sunnydale?”
“In my world, Sunnydale is a big hole in the ground, courtesy of you.”
He grins at that. “I’ve always been bad.”
She can’t let that one go. “No, you haven’t, William.”
His hand jerks and rattles her head like a doll’s. “What the fuck! I told you, no games. Where is my Buffy!”
“How would I know,” she says, irritated. “Probably in Cleveland where I came from.” She sees him frown. “Surrounded by a powerful witch and two slayers,” she adds. “She’s probably dust by now.”
He brings his face very close to hers. “You better hope not, Slayer. You better hope she’s right as rain, because then I will exchange her for you. Otherwise you die.”
When Buffy hears him call her ‘Slayer’ she tears up like a wimp. The Spike notices it and sniffs her suspiciously.
“You’re not that scared. Why cry?”
She looks into his cold blue eyes and something inside her swells and bursts open like a boil, leaving her weak and shaken.
“He used to call me Slayer all the time.”
Tears are running down her face now. His smirk is evil. “I usually love it when girls cry before I rape and eat them because it makes their blood taste better. But now I don’t want you to cry, I want you to pay attention. Tell me more. How is your world different? We need to get one of these interdimensional whatsits for the exchange.”
Instead of answering she says, “Do you love her?”
He brays with laughter. “Don’t be daft. She killed my Dru. I probably hate her. But she’s mine, my get, my lieutenant. First minion of the Master of Sunnydale.”
“The Master? I killed him.”
He cuffs her, “Don’t be stupid. I killed him, the Most Annoying One, and now I’m Master of Sunnydale. Have been for six years now. A sweet gig, and I don’t want your little interdimensional fooling around to bollix it up.”
Buffy almost covers her ears and screams. She makes her voice come out even, knowing that Spike will read her every emotion from her smell and heart rate anyway. “I killed Dru, and then you killed me?”
“And this is 2003?”
“‘Course,” he says, frowning, but fishing for a cigarette again.
“Things went differently in my world” she says. “I never killed Dru. As far as I know, she’s still roaming the world.”
His face goes slack and wondering at that. “Dru? Dru alive? My Dru?”
It’s a relief somehow to see him like that, get the face she associates with herself, Spike blindly and blissfully in love. He can’t be that different then.
“So. You never got chipped?” she asks.
“What? Of course not. Burnt the fuckers out who were trying that thing. I fell for that in your time?”
“You were distracted, I guess,” Buffy offers, obscurely needing to exonerate her Spike. “Dru dumped you, and you were pretty cut up about it.”
Her ears are ringing and her cheek hurts. She’s lying on the floor, and realizes she’s been hit by a furious Spike with a burst of vampire speed, which hers never seemed to use much.
“You’re lying,” he grates, towering over her.
She shakes her head numbly. She receives a kick in the side for it. It’s very reminiscent of her kicking Spike when he was possessed by the First. She crosses off one tally. Still plenty left.
“Don’t damage me too much,” she says flippantly. “I might not be able to get you to the vortex generator otherwise.”
He roars and smashes a chair through the window. That is so Spike, taking out frustration on inanimate objects. The love boil that burst open in her heart races flames to her cheeks and fingertips. Too late, too late, it sings. The real Spike will never know now.
A minion in game face sticks a worried head around the door. “Boss?”
“Bugger off!” Spike says, a little calmer. “Get my car ready.”
Buffy sits up. “Is it still the DeSoto?”
Spike rakes a hand through his hair. “How the bloody hell do you know all this stuff about me? What was I still doing in Sunnydale if I wasn’t its Master? You are the Slayer, right?”
He delves behind a stack of books, she hears clicking and he surfaces with a thick wad of cash, which he stuffs in his jeans pocket.
“We were enemies for a long time, but finally we became allies. First to defeat Angelus.”
Spike nods at that. “Right. Same here. We killed the old man.”
The pang she still feels at the thought of killing Angel is very small now, more of a reflex than a real feeling. “Is he in LA now?”
“What? You just heard me say, we killed him, dusted him. Of course he’s not in LA.”
“So he didn’t come back?”
“No, why would he? Did he in your world?”
She nods, wondering still. “He was raising Acathla, and I ran him through with a sword and sent him to hell.”
She registers his incomprehension.
“We, my Buffy and me, dusted him because he had a filthy soul, and was trying to kill us together with your old friends,” he says.
Oh. Of course, there would be no rising of Angelus if she wasn’t around to sleep with him. Oh.
She crawls up from the floor. Spike does not extend a hand to her.
“You killed my friends?”
“We killed them, pet. Had us a real ball doing it, too.”
“Filthy soul, you say?” she taunts, angry now. “You went and got one for me!”
He gapes. “Never.”
“Oh yeah. Dru dumps you; you get chipped, fall in love with me, and get a soul for me.”
Why she leaves out that they were lovers before he got the soul, she’s not sure. He roars in anger and starts for her throat again, but this time she’s ready for him. The all-out fight that ensues destroys most of the ancient office furniture, although it seems to be made of steel. The books scatter and fly around in the tiny space until they can’t set a foot down without crushing some ancient tome. The fight is oddly out of whack. She caroms into a wall of books, expecting resistance but going through it like a fist through butter, and then the second time she’s counting on give and painfully rams into a solid steel desk with her butt. Buffy is a little weirded out to notice that she’s really enjoying this. She hasn’t even reached for her stake. Is she incapable of staking this Spike because she loved the other one? Geez.
She manages to get him up against the wall and positions the stake over his heart. She’s pressing up close to him and can’t help noticing the outline of his body under his tight black T-shirt.
Arousal flares through her, love riding hard on the heels of anger, and she sees Spike take a deep whiff to determine what he’s smelling exactly.
“Bloody hell, slayer,” he growls. “You loved him back, didn’t you?”
“No way,” she bites back, “I used him as a sex toy. What Slayer would love a vampire?”
His face turns soft and he smiles sweetly at her, using his free hand to stroke her upper arm.
“I would love you, Slayer,” he says huskily. “Such a pretty girl you are, with your big green eyes and your tawny hair. Come here.”
The stake drops from her hand and she’s kissing him before he’s finished his sentence. He tastes like her Spike, exactly like him, brassy and smoky at the same time, brimstone and pennies. She feels him harden against her and moans helplessly. His whole body tenses in preparation for she knows not what and she’s flung across the room. He straddles her, applying merciless pressure to her throat.
“Are you insane, you daft bitch? Falling for a ploy like that? Of course I wouldn’t love a Slayer. Any Slayer is my enemy, and if you weren’t one you’d be my lunch, not my date.”
He despises her, she can see it in his face. His lips are curled in disgust and he shakes her head and pushes on her throat until she sees black stars dance in front of her yes. Note to self: he’s not the real Spike. He’s just another vampire.
He sits back on her thighs and lights his third cigarette. “So. Dru’s still alive. Why’d she dump me?”
But he does love his Dru. She’s always thought that was what made him different, his ability to love. There’s hope.
“She was mad because you’d allied with me to kill Angelus.”
She sees the flash of pain on his face and wishes she could kiss it better. “And then you got chipped, and when she came back you threatened to kill her to save me.”
He shakes his heads and smokes pensively. He’s gorgeous, his face and hair a vision in creams and blues, the smoke curling around his head enhancing his eerie beauty. He looks younger and smoother than her Spike, she sees. She made him suffer so much that she made a vampire age. An achievement she can be real proud of.
She can hear a car roll up. The minion comes in, dangling the keys proudly.
“Here you are, boss.”
Spike doesn’t take them. He remains sitting on her hips, finishes his smoke and asks the minion.
“Which way is the car pointing?”
The minion gibbers a bit but points away from the big doors.
“Get back in and turn it for me, you stupid bugger. And remember next time, or you’ll never get tenure.”
“Manner of speaking,” Spike says curtly, but winks at her.
He jumps up like a big cat and stalks off in the direction of the car, one hand unerringly swiping the duster off its hook in mid-stride. Buffy sits up, staring after him. What does he expect her to do?
“Slayer!” he calls out mock-sweetly. “Are you coming or do you want me to make you?”
She gets up stiffly. Lying on the floor like that has made her remember she was really tired, although the balminess of the climate here cushions tiredness like the relentless cold in Cleveland doesn’t. She wobbles for a moment and feels disoriented. She must be getting old, because events are developing faster than she can follow. She only just got here and already she’s leaving.
She walks over to the DeSoto. In her universe she hasn’t seen it since her so-called date with Spike. The car frames him like a painting, Dorian Grey. She opens the car door and crawls in reluctantly. “Why don’t we fly? Would be lots faster.”
“Too much security these days, Slayer. This won’t attract any attention.”
“Maybe not the car, but the trail of people you eat certainly will, ” she retorts.
How can she find this ruthless killer even remotely charming? The thing is, she does. She should try to keep the two Spikes separate in her mind.
“You volunteering to donate some blood?” he smirks at her, showing his tongue.
She shivers. The tongue. She looks away from him and tries to look bored, but is very much afraid he’ll see right through her like he always did.
“Off we go then, Slayer.”
“Wait!” she says. “My clothes. I’ll need them in Cleveland.”
He hesitates but nods. She gets her clothes from behind the crates and dumps them in the back.
They roar off.