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What A Difference A Day Makes
 
One Shot
 
Thanks to the wonderful Slaymesoftly for betaing this and making sure that my Giles didn't end up sounding like a yank. Also thanks to the ever-patient alwaysjbj, who my fevered brain seems to think is our own personal dictionary.

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The B/S relationship is not the main focus of this story, but I'm working on a few ficlets set in this universe which will not make much sense if you don't read this one first.

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This volume is unrelated to the others in that it gives no real account of my Slayer’s life. Rather it will shed light on some events with the intent to show how they differ from those in one of our parallel dimensions that – for some here-to-fore unknown reason – was shown to me by the Powers.

The others seem to believe that it was the Power’s way of showing their gratitude, since our world is a much brighter and happier place, and it seems as if I was the one who started the separation process. As for myself, I am not convinced. Neither that the Powers that control our world are beings that waste time with showing gratitude to simple Watchers, nor that most of the differences between the two universes can be attributed sorely to my actions. Had the balance of action and reaction not tipped in our favour, my – at the time rash and emotional - decision may just as well have changed our world for the worse, or not at all.

For now I will leave such fruitless theories behind and list the events and actions which were responsible for separating our world farther and farther from this other one. A more detailed description of what happened in our world can be found in my ordinary diaries; as for this other world I mentioned, I intend to write an account of what I saw shortly. Hopefully the direct comparison will prove a helpful guide for future decisions.

The event that started the separation occurred nearly six year ago, when I discovered the prophecy that stated my Slayer would die at the hands of the Master.

In the other world my reaction seemed to consist mostly of moaning over what I believed to be an unchangeable fate, as well as the fruitless last minute decision to give my life to safe hers.

In our world however, I refused to accept what the prophecy told us and immediately took actions to prevent it from coming to pass. At the time I worried heavily over involving my Slayer’s friends in my plan – mere teenagers at the time – but the realisation that should the Master truly be free to walk the earth their lives would surly be forfeit, helped me overcome my hesitation.

This decision soon proved to be the right one, as all of them were more than willing to risk their lives for the cause. Had I not involved them, I surely would have faltered when the souled vampire – Angel – reinforced the fact that a prophecy is unchangeable. As it was, I credit Willow and Xander who reminded me that there was no harm in trying; since the Codex only spoke of the Slayer and the Master, someone not foreseen should have a good chance to cause a disruption.

Their words were soon proven true, when the four of us – Miss Calendar offered her assistance as well – were able to take out the Master without any problems. The barrier which held him prisoner provided a suitable protection for us, and while the ancient vampire was fast enough to move out of the way of a crossbow-bolt, he was not able to continuously keep track of four of them.

I believe the events of that night caused a definite change in all of us. To be not only a witness when ancient knowledge is proven wrong, but to actually make it so, made us very aware of the power we, as mere humans, hold over our fate.

As for myself, it caused me to question the Council and their teachings as I had done in my youth. They would never have allowed us to do what we did, had they known; in fact, they would have claimed to know it would not work. They would have been wrong however, and if someone can err on one thing, they can do so with something else as well.

Willow Rosenberg lost much of her shyness after that night. She later confided in me that she had always thought that it was too late for her to change, but that if she could help thwart a prophecy, be part of such an ultimate alteration of destiny, she should be able to control her own fate as well.

The change in Xander Harris seemed to be a more unfavourable one at the time; he was convinced he could make my Slayer reconsider her recent rejection of him. In the long run however, this proved to be fortunate, as Buffy soon saw herself cornered into giving the boy a quick jolt back to reality. This much harsher rejection finally broke the fantasy he had build around her – one that I’m sure the Xander in that other world still secretly harbours.

Miss Calendar – by now Mrs. Giles – was equally affected by seeing how people’s actions can alter what before had been considered an unchangeable future. Soon after the events of that night, she came forward with her knowledge concerning Angel and his curse. It took the two of us almost a year, but in the end we were able to anchor his soul and thus eliminate the risk of a return of Angelus.

As for my Slayer, she survived that night physically intact, but despite our efforts not without some emotional scars.

Angel had taken it upon himself to inform her of the prophecy, and we caught her about to enter the Master’s lair just when we were leaving. Despite her elation at hearing what we had done, the time she spent thinking she was destined to die that very night, as well as the disappointment that while her human friends were willing to get themselves killed for her sake, her super-powered vampire boyfriend would stand back and send her to meet her demise alone, were hard on her.

Again, what looked like an unnecessary burden on the young girl’s shoulders soon turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Being forced to face deepest despair, only to later learn that there is always hope, has helped her to never give into depression, no matter how dark the future may seem. As for the way that night changed her view of the souled vampire? Having been granted this view of what could have been makes me want to weep in gratitude for what we have been spared.

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In the other world, the following year was filled with the horror of Angelus and his attempts to re-enact the destruction of Drusilla with my Slayer as the female in question, as well as his previously undocumented desire to end the world.

Due to the way Buffy’s feelings for him had changed the night the Master died; we never met Angelus in this world. Furthermore, it was not long after Drusilla had been cured that Jenny and I were able to approach Angel with a way to anchor his soul. As the vampire was by that time well aware that my Slayer held no more affection for him than for her other friends – maybe even less – he asked us to look into the possibility of adapting the curse for another vampire. He was suffering greatly from loneliness and admitted to feeling too guilty about what his soulless self had done to Drusilla to see her demise without at least attempting to save her.

To this day I am not sure what compelled us to agree to his plea, as it does seem grossly unfair to give one vampire a chance to redeem herself, while continuing to dust all the others. Maybe it was because Jenny and I had started our relationship only a short time before and were still sensitive to the pain of loneliness in comparison to having someone at your side. No matter what the reason however, we agreed to try, and having studied the curse diligently for such a long time, it did not take us long to come up with a solution.

With the help of Buffy, Angel captured the vampiress one night while she was hunting, and we performed the spell the same night. None of us were privy to her development over the first few weeks, but Angel seemed happy enough, so we agreed to leave the two vampires alone.

Around the same time, Buffy started behaving oddly, which we wrongly thought the result of lingering feelings for Angel on her part. She had been so enamoured with him at one point, it only seemed natural that she would take his having a new consort to heart.

At the time I worried quite a bit as to whether I should intervene and try to help her return to the person she was before. Today, knowing what was bothering her at the time, as well as having seen the disastrous effect interventions had on the girl in that other world, I am glad to admit that I was too distracted by Jenny to go through with it.

Buffy’s secret came out a few months later, when Angel approached me and announced that he and Drusilla were leaving Sunnydale. Truth be told, I was quite put out that, after all we had done for him, the vampire would just leave us to deal with the Hellmouth alone. Before he could come up with an answer to my indignant question however, my Slayer arrived and admitted that she had ordered the two vampires to leave her town.

I was quite surprised by the vehement way in which she told Angel – apparently not for the first time – that neither he nor Drusilla were welcome here any longer. After that display, I refused to budge until I had heard the whole story; and what a story it was.

Not long after Drusilla’s ensoulment, Buffy had ventured to the warehouse the vampiress had previously occupied, intend on getting rid of the remaining minions. To her great surprise, she found it mostly abandoned - abandoned apart from a wheelchair bound and half-starved Spike.

Appalled that neither of the two souled vampires, who surely had to know that he had survived the fight in the church but was unable to care for himself, had bothered to either help their crippled relative or stake him, my soft-hearted Slayer hesitated. Instead of simply staking him, she announced her presence and was surprised when instead of the expected hatred, she found a desperate plea to tell him what had happened to Drusilla directed her way.

Still furious that Angel who called himself good, would wittingly let someone starve to death; she decided to tell him – and apparently she got the shock of her life for it.

I will never forget the way she looked when she told me of Spike’s reaction to Drusilla’s ensoulment. Despite having had months to become accustomed to it, the wonder in her face was still clearly visible.

The crippled vampire had raged a bit over the pain they were putting his lover through, but when Buffy made it clear that the curse was unbreakable, he calmly announced that if Drusilla was going to have a problem with his being evil now, he would just have to give it up.

Naturally my Slayer was wary of his claim at first, after all it contradicted everything she had been taught about vampires; however, she did agree to help him.

My belief is that she thought herself capable of finding the answers to all her questions long before Spike was healed enough to become a danger to her. By the time she revealed all this to me, she had long since made up her mind about the vampire, and could no longer remember what, precisely, her thoughts had been. She did however, recall seeing no harm in feeding him some pigs-blood since it would not hurt anyone as he posed no danger to anyone with her watching vigilantly lest he heal enough to become a danger to humans.

By the time Spike had healed, Buffy had not only become convinced of his honesty, but had also initiated a tentative friendship with the vampire and even talked him into patrolling with her on occasion.

Something upon which I had to compliment her, as it would have helped greatly to have closer ties to our nocturnal allies. Especially since Angel seemed unwilling to part with his habit of only showing up in a crisis, and the fact that none of us had met Drusilla since her ensouling.

As for the events that lead to her ejection of Angel and Drusilla from Sunnydale; the night before Angel approached me, Buffy had decided to present what she proudly called her contribution to tipping the balance of good and evil in our favour, to the two souled vampires. However, what she had expected to be a joyful reunion, turned out quite differently. Refusing to accept that a soulless vampire could be good, Angel had rejected Spike harshly, and only my Slayer’s intervention stopped him from dusting the younger vampire. Enraged and disappointed, Buffy had forced her way into the apartment, intent on trying to convince at least Drusilla of their sincerity. What she found however, was a childlike creature who refused to even consider going against her ‘Daddy’s’ wishes.

Seeing the vampire whose development she had been so proud of rejected and near to tears, Buffy had announced that Angel and Drusilla had outstayed their welcome and had better leave town before she decided that consciously leaving a creature, evil or not, to starve to death was a staking offence.

At the time I never though twice about my ready acceptance of her decision, nor did it occur to me to speak up against her announcement that she was going to try to convince Spike to stay and fight by her side.

Having been privy to my actions in that other world, I now realise how much I had already changed from the person the Council hoped to create. Buffy and Willow, upon hearing what I saw happening in the other world, tried to credit those changes to my being a better person than the other Giles; however, I am sure that a great part of my willingness to accept a soulless vampire’s help came from never having to experience Angelus.

Equally, I only now realise that there had been a risk of Willow and Xander causing problems for Buffy and her new ally. None of us ever considered that, as those two were, at the time, busy trying to salvage their friendship after a short but steamy affair – no doubt brought on by the more outgoing and self-confident Willow that had emerged after we killed the Master.

I always made sure not to delve too deeply into those affairs, but my suspicion was that they took their relationship to a level for which neither of them was ready, and nearly destroyed their life-long friendship in the process.

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When the Mayor turned out to be the next big evil in Sunnydale, we reacted much the way or as I saw it in the other universe. The main differences were probably the lack of a second Slayer – since our Buffy never died – and that we had Spike’s help instead of Angel’s.

At the time we were all worried that we might not be able to withstand this particular assault, but being able to compare our experiences to what could have been, I have to admit we had it rather easy. There was no one to double-cross us, and Spike turned out to be not only a skilled double-agent, but also fiercely loyal to Buffy.

The perhaps most surprising similarity between the two worlds was the presence of Anyanka. One would think her appearance in Sunnydale and subsequent loss of powers to be such an unusual event that it could not possibly have happened in both worlds. Even more astonishing however, is that in both cases she came here to curse Xander, who in one world betrayed Cordelia with Willow, and in the other cheated on Willow with Cordelia. A truly astonishing concept, and one that I will be sure to investigate further.

It should be unnecessary to mention that, of course, I never submitted my Slayer to the Cruimentium. I had long since overcome my blind belief in the Council and their teachings, and with my refusal to betray Buffy I made it clear where my loyalties lay.

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The following year brought even more differences to our alternate world. I was deeply ashamed to witness the way my other self allowed himself to wallow in self-pity and depression. Luckily I can claim to never having fallen victim to such unseemly behaviour. Instead Jenny and I used the free time after the destruction of Sunnydale High to further solidify our relationship and it wasn’t long before she gave me the honour of agreeing to become my wife.

My Slayer, having long since realised that liaisons with humans were not working out for her, had started dating her vampiric ally over the summer, and by the time the children started college she too was settled in a strong and caring relationship.

My consent and support of her choice in partner is another thing that Buffy has taken to thank me for almost daily ever since she heard about the other world. However, as with my reaction to Spike’s continued presence two years earlier, I am sure that the main reason for my different behaviour was the lack of Angelus in our lives, as well as the fact that I had Jenny at my side; and who am I to deny my Slayer the happiness I myself am experiencing daily?

By the time that we discovered what the Initiative was doing with the demons they captured, all of us had long since accepted the existence of grey areas which led us to irrevocably condemn and denounce their goals and methods. I still have a hard time accepting that none of us stood up in indignation and rebelled against the thought of such cruel treatment of sentient creatures. The Willow Rosenberg I know refuses to buy cosmetics that have been tested on animals, how that same person could possibly nod and smile at the concept of demons as laboratory animals is beyond my understanding.

I assume one of the major reasons for our different reaction was that in our world it was not a hated enemy who fell victim to their experiments, but a trusted and well-loved friend. When Oz showed up at the home Jenny and I shared after having escaped from his cage during the full moon a week earlier and subsequently disappeared, it took one look at the horrible state he was in, mentally and physically, for us to make up our minds.

However, this still does not excuse the casual and cruel behaviour of our counterparts.

I am happy to say, that our more compassionate – dare I say human – behaviour in the face of our newest opponent served us well. Some skilful manipulation of the Council was all it took before the older and more powerful organisation agreed to convince the U.S. government that it was a bad idea to play on their turf.

The Initiative and their experiments were destroyed before the Adam creature I saw in the alternate world was even close to being finished.

Sadly, we were unable to help Oz cope with his experience, and he left Sunnydale soon after his abusers were gone.

Before my look at the other world, I always saw his departure as one of our biggest failures. Knowing now that, even without his being captured and abused by those monsters he did not stay with us, gives me a certain degree of relief. Perhaps it was not only our inability to offer the poor young man any real solace that drove him away, perhaps he had felt the desire to truly capture the wildness in himself before.

Despite the fact that with Spike’s help and our ready acceptance he had not seen his demon to be as much of an abomination as in that alternate world, the week he spend in a cage among people who saw him as worthless and less than human must have rekindled his longing for complete control over the wolf.

It is odd how people who played such a big part in our lives in one world do not feature at all in the other.

Having discussed Riley Finn with the others, I had to realise that only Willow can remember him at all, and then only that there had truly been a TA with that name.

Another person with whom the same phenomena occurred, although not to the same degree, is Cordelia Chase. In the alternate world, she left Sunnydale after graduation and from what I garner, she started working for Angel in Los Angeles soon after. Our Cordelia stayed in town and I am almost ashamed to say that the continuous fights she had with the former Anyanka over Xander Harris’ affection provided a very humorous entertainment during the following year.

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Having been able to watch this other world without suffering the alterations to my memories regarding Dawn, I am now aware at which point she appeared in our lives. With this knowledge I am going to assume that she first showed up in our world around the same time. This revelation has led me to some uncomfortable theories concerning the memory-alterations and Joyce Summers’ health issues. It does seem rather odd that this heretofore perfectly healthy woman developed a brain-tumour directly after her memories had been manipulated.

I have however, not, as yet, discussed this theory of mine with any of the others. As in the other world, our Joyce sadly succumbed to her illness, and I fear that discovering the original reason for it will be of no help. So I will keep this potential knowledge to myself and not burden young Dawn with ideas of how her existence might be responsible for her mother’s death.

My feelings for the young girl are much like that of a father or an uncle, so I was appalled to discover that my other self would propose her death as casually as he did. To a certain degree I understand his reasoning, but the fact that killing the girl was his fist suggestion rather than the last, shames me deeply. I am however, not the same person he is – for which I will be eternally grateful – and refuse to feel responsible for his actions.

I am proud to say that we were much more successful in handling Glory than our counterparts. Instead of waiting for her next move, we took the fight to her very early on, and when we were unable to defeat her, we decided to watch her closely to discover any potential weaknesses.

When Spike fist discovered her second identity, as well as the spell that kept us from remembering her frequent changes, he told me about it; and luckily I found it in me to trust our vampiric ally enough to cast a counter-spell on myself despite not being able to understand much of what he told me.

I am sure that the other Giles would have refused to listen to him, even if the information had been in time. Not only that, but without someone to support him, as my Jenny does for me, I doubt he would have trusted his magic abilities enough to try. By god, that man didn’t even bother to train Willow when she started dabbling in magic.

The spell I cast would probably have been too weak to counteract the memory-alteration that followed upon a direct sighting of Glory’s change, but if told second-handed, her cloaking lacked the necessary power.

Between the two of us, Spike and I decided the safest way to rid ourselves of Glory would be to kill her human counterpart. This was not something I considered lightly, but when one is required to weigh one human life against thousands one must to be willing to make sacrifices. Also, as our vampire pointed out to me so rightly, Glory’s human host would be the first victim should the Hellgod succeed.

It would have been easy to let my companion do the actual killing, but I refused to put his relationship with my Slayer at a risk merely to keep my own hands clean of blood.

Should the others ever find out what we did, I doubt they will hesitate to forgive me; a soulless vampire – no matter how accepted – might be a different matter.

In the end, it was not necessary to reveal what we had done, as the Knights of Byzantium instantly became aware of Glorificus’ demise and approached us to declare they would no longer pursue the Key now that the threat had been removed.

The Hellgod’s death had broken the spell on the others, and with remembering that Glory spent part of her time as a human, vulnerable to the dangers of this world, a discussion of how she might have died was sparked. A discussion, that soon turned to the ridiculous. Maybe I should have put a stop to the way they were making a sport of thinking up the most humiliating way for a human to die, but as Jenny reminded me, it was merely a way to release all the tension that had accumulated throughout the year.

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I find myself unable to compare our lives today to the last part of what I saw in the alternate world. Are we really those people? Do we have it in us to become like them? I would rather believe that impossible.

Our Willow is a true Wicca, well trained and in tune with her power. The idea that she could ever play with Tara’s memories the way that other woman did is atrocious and hard to believe.

Xander has, after nearly two years, finally stopped changing his affections back and forth between Anya and Cordelia; or rather, the two women made that decision for him. Cordelia is keeping a tight leash on the young man and seems well able to handle his less favourable impulses.

Anya is currently single and it appears that she has made it her goal to date her way through the entire population of Sunnydale. As she is still adapting to being human, I believe that this time of freedom and the insight into different individuals it has given her, is much more suited to her than a steady relationship. Our Anya is an exceptionally bright young woman and I do not doubt that once she is ready to settle, she will have no trouble finding a suitable partner.

My Slayer is blissfully happy with her vampire, never forced to face the dangers of her calling alone, and grateful to have found someone who appreciates all parts of her, not just who she is by day. With Dawn in the mix, the three of them make a sweet, if unusual, little family.

As for myself, I have been married to my Jenny for nearly one and a half years now, and I cannot imagine my life without her. The idea of leaving Sunnydale and returning to England has not crossed my mind in years as it would mean leaving behind everything I care about.

It is hard to decide whether I am grateful to the Powers for showing me that alternate world or not. The knowledge that all of us had the potential to turn into the unpleasant people I saw there is something I had rather not have. On the other hand, the awareness of how our lives might have turned out does make us appreciate our current situations all the more.

I will now close this section in the hope that we will continue to make the right decisions without ever having to come back and be reminded of the terrible fate we escaped simply by being decent people; instead of merely claiming the title without living up to it.