A/N: Thanks to Megan for the beta. Sue, hope you like!
Reminder: Canon!Buffy = alive in BizarroWorld. BizarroWorld!Buffy = dead.
Chapter 5: Changes.
Buffy had long since given up on running when it was clear the vampire was no longer following her. She walked slowly, eyes darting warily towards the dark shadows that seemed to reach for her, paying almost no attention to her surroundings as she moved. When the occasional sound of movement caught her ear, her immediate reaction was to hide. And hide she did, behind cars, down alleyways, anywhere she could squeeze herself. For a while it worked, she stayed hidden until whatever was moving near passed by. Her mistake the last time had been pressing up against a new Mercedes. The second she touched it the car alarm began to sound.
A startled cry escaped her lips as she jumped away from the silver vehicle. The pair of vampires that had been walking past immediately turned toward her. Taking in her disheveled appearance and the way she was trembling, each of them assumed they’d found themselves an easy meal.
“Well, well, well,” drawled the first one, his mouth opening into an evil smile that clearly displayed the elongated fangs. “What do we have here?”
“You lost, lovey?” the second mocked, a cackle of laughter bursting from his mouth.
Buffy’s trembling increased, her hands unfolding from around her torso and exposing the sharp sliver of wood that was clutched in her right hand.
The vampires looked to each other in surprise, the cocky expressions on their faces wavering slightly. But the makeshift stake was not enough of a threat to make them walk away from an easy meal.
“Now why don’t you do yourself a favor and drop the wood, lovey.”
Before Buffy had the chance to respond, the vampires lunged.
Instinct and self-preservation took over as she ducked the punch of one vampire, and then snapped a kick at the kneecap of the other. The attack was far weaker than it would have been pre-death, her unused muscles still sore and stiff from disuse. Nevertheless, the vampire dropped to the ground with a grunt, a sound that was followed by a gasp of surprise as Buffy dropped to her knees and plunged the wood into his heart.
The momentary victory she felt disappeared the second a hand fisted into her hair and yanked backwards, knocking her off balance. Buffy stumbled against her attacker’s chest, the vamp taking her uncoordinated response as a sign of weakness. Cool breath tickled her neck, sending a shiver of fear down Buffy’s spine, knowing that fangs would quickly follow. The fight or flight response rose within her, precious seconds ticking away with indecision. A little over an hour ago she was loathing her return, yet now the fear of falling victim to a random vampire’s fangs made her almost desperate to fight back.
Fear turned to anger as the Slayer within took charge. Using her inverted position to advantage, Buffy slammed her elbow back into the vampire’s gut, her sense of preservation demanding distance be put between her neck and those fangs. As her attacker doubled over, Buffy spun one hundred and eighty degrees to slam the stake into his chest. The vampire roared in pain as he combusted into ash.
Relief washed over her and once again Buffy found herself alone in the street.
The adrenaline that had been coursing her veins just moments ago immediate dried up, the shaken slayer breaking into a run. She had managed to dust those two demons with relative ease, but they hadn’t exactly been master vampires either. She was out of practice, not to mention weak, and vampire numbers had seemed to grow since her passing judging by the amount she had seen already.
The mere prospect of having to defend herself against more of the demons chilled Buffy to the bone. She didn’t want to fight, didn’t want to face the evils of the night. What she wanted was to go back to the place where she had felt warm and safe and loved. Why and how she was back were both prominent questions in her mind, but the question that rang the loudest was, could she go back? Just thinking that she wouldn’t be able to, that she must have done something wrong to be kicked out had her wanting to crawl into a little ball and cry.
But right now that wasn’t and option. In her current condition, it wouldn’t be wise to stay outside alone. That’s why Buffy was headed in the direction of the safest place she knew.
With a firm squeeze of her thumb, the sedative left the syringe and into Tara’s arm. Tonight had been a particularly trying evening, trying to get Tara fed, bathed, and settled for rest. Unfortunately, the blonde hadn’t wanted to go to bed this evening, hence the drugs.
Knowing Tara would be out like a light in just a few minutes, Willow breathed a deep sigh of relief. The hour or so before bed after Tara was settled for the night was the only time the redhead had for herself. She relished this time, both for the quiet and the chance to do something for herself. Usually she would catch up on some reading, alternating between a work of fiction or a magical text each night.
Not tonight. No, tonight she was going to curl up on the sofa with a glass of wine, maybe watch a little television.
Not that she would admit it out loud, but the phone call earlier on from Spike had shaken her up a little. This wasn’t the first time Spike had phoned her babbling about Buffy. Tonight had just been the first night he had actually sounded sober, so convinced the Slayer was truly back from the grave. It was impossible, of course.
A voice in the back of her mind demanded to know why it was so impossible and Willow pushed the thoughts out of her mind, drowning them with a large mouthful of the Shiraz.
Not possible, she’s dead.
Eight months ago, maybe she would’ve given the vampire’s words more weight. Back then, before Riley, before Joyce, things had been simpler. Sure, there was a hell god looking to kill them all and bring hell on earth, but she was different then. They were all different then. Optimism, hope, teamwork, even friendship—these were words that no longer had a place in Willow’s life.
Even if on the odd chance Spike weren’t wrong, it wouldn’t change anything. Lines had been drawn in the sand, ties had been severed, trust evaporated, for far too long.
“And I’ve got the bloody nose to prove it.”
There was long silent pause as the information that had just been delivered sank in.
“Are you su--”
“Don’t even finish that sentence,” Spike half growled. “I know what I saw; I know what my nose felt. She’s back.”
After the vampire had destroyed one telephone, Spike had run to the only other pay phone in working order on the street, slipping in a couple of quarters and dialing the watcher’s number. If anyone did, he would want to know.
“If you can persuade her to, coming here would be the safest option.”
Spike ended the call—gently this time—and immediately made his way down the street. A voice in the back of his mind asked why he was doing this, why he was so gung-ho on finding and protecting Buffy. The thoughts were quashed immediately with resounding conviction, because it was Buffy. He still loved her. Although she’d treated him like the dirt beneath her shoes, mocked his feelings and thrown rejection in his face with a laugh, and taken his ponce of a Grandsire to bed—in his home, Spike still loved her.
You could call him pathetic for hanging onto the thread of hope that things might one day change, or deluded for thinking that Buffy would express gratitude towards him for looking out for her, but one thing you couldn’t call Spike was a quitter. Running after her did open up the possibility of more pain, but his masochistic side didn’t care. Spike was not going to throw in the towel and let the woman he loved get herself hurt—or worse, killed—just because she’d treated him badly in the past.
He had a slayer to find.
And if he knew anything about this girl at all, he knew just the place to start his search.
Buffy collapsed to her knees on the front lawn of her home, the shock she had first felt at seeing the sign before her quickly dissolving into nothing as rivers of tears rushed down her cheeks.
Spike’s trek across town had been a quick one. He’d come across a pack of vampires near Weatherly Park but had managed to avoid a confrontation by slipping into the brush, taking a slightly longer route to save himself a fight. He wasn’t exactly Mr Popularity these days with the undead community.
It wasn’t often lately that he found himself thankful for being a vampire. However right now, the whole not needing to breathe thing was something to be grateful for. If he was going to be charging across town all night in search of the slayer, not worrying about getting winded was a small consolation.
Spike rounded onto Revello Drive filled with equal parts hope and anxiety. If she were here then his search would be over. But if she were here, it would mean trying to convince her to come with him some place safe. And considering her earlier reaction to him, he didn’t like his chances.
He was halfway down the street before he saw her huddled form on the lawn. Spike’s relief was immediate. Thank god…
Slowing his pace to a walk, Spike approached with caution. There were no guarantees that she would even hear him out, let alone consider coming with him, but he had to try. Spike stopped when he reached the driveway; just close enough to lunge at her if he had to, and far enough away for comforts sake.
“Slayer,” he began, the rest of his words dying on his lips when she lifted her head and fixed her tear-filled eyes upon him. The pain and confusion that he saw in them was heartbreaking. His first instinct was to rush forward and sweep her into his arms, and he had to fight to stop himself from doing just that.
“Slayer, we need to get you some place safe,” he urged.
Buffy watched the myriad of emotions that flickered through Spike’s eyes, the way his muscles tensed and relaxed with indecision. He was right. It wasn’t safe here. The one place she’d always thought of as her haven was actually no longer hers.
Thoughts of where he may be taking her crossed Buffy’s mind, and obviously her expression as well as Spike answered her unspoken question with a wry smile gracing his angular features.
“Not the crypt. The Watchers’ place.”
Relief and something resembling a weak version of happy washed over Buffy as she gave her response in the form of a nod.
That was all Spike needed. Holding out a hand to help a wary Buffy to her feet, Spike began leading them through town.
It became apparent to Buffy after only a few minutes travel that many things had changed in Sunnydale since she’d died. The streets seemed…quieter, if that was even possible.
Spike’s gaze darted to Buffy erratically every few moments; the temptation to pinch himself again growing. Was it really possible that she was alive? Was Buffy really walking beside him?
She seemed so different to the woman he once knew. The confidence and strength that was so innately Buffy was all but non-existent. Spike reminded himself that waking in the grave could do things to a person, or demon in his case, but it did little to settle his nerves.
As hard as it was to do so, Spike forced himself to look away, focusing instead on the street ahead. Sunnydale was no longer the place that it had once been. Existing—because without Buffy he didn’t feel that he was living—existing in Sunnydale while the town had crumbled down around him, was not something that didn’t go unnoticed. How Buffy must be feeling seeing her town like this for the first time, Spike didn’t know.
Houses had been left to fall to disarray, lawns un-mowed, mail uncollected, garbage littering the streets and driveways. Every now and then, the shell of a burnt out car could be seen, either by the roadside or even parked in a driveway.
Spike didn’t know what was stranger—seeing the burnt out cars themselves, or the irony that there were several top of the line cars packed throughout town without so much as a scratch on them. He had suspicions as to why some remained unmarred, but nothing he could yet prove.
Half of the shops in town were boarded up, abandoned, and the rest of them had bars fitted to windows. Graffiti was unceremoniously sprayed across the doors, windows and walls of the shop frontages in an indiscriminating fashion.
Street lamps flickered as the vampire and slayer walked silently, casting eerie shadows across every surface.
Buffy shivered, not from the chill in the air but the shock of seeing the chaos around her. Because that was the only word that seemed fitting. What she was seeing, what had become of Sunnydale, it was too much to take in at once. It was like she was walking around in a terrible nightmare, and no matter how many times she blinked her eyes, the destruction, the devastation still remained. Buffy felt disoriented, lost, and a part of her was seriously questioning if this were really her home town, or if she’d been re-born to some sort of Hell dimension.
The town seemed almost… dead.
How could this all happen so quickly?
Buffy wasn’t certain how long she’d been gone, but it didn’t seem long enough for this many changes to be possible. This was not a place that she knew; the only part of the journey that was remotely familiar, was Spike. Unable to process anything more, Buffy clung to the one thing she knew, inching closer to the vampire at her side.
The street the Watcher’s apartment was on came into view and Spike found his focus once more diverting in Buffy’s direction. For the most part she had been silent, stoic in a manner that was reminiscent of the wolf who used to be apart of the Slayer’s circle. It was as if she had been walking around in a complete daze, the occasional surprised sigh or sharp intake of breath the only indication that she had noticed her surroundings. But the closer they neared the apartment building, the more she seemed to come undone. Steps became shorter, trembling took up residence in her hands, and then finally her gaze began to dart off to the sides, almost as if she were searching for an escape route.
“Slayer,” Spike murmured gently, reaching out to gently touch her shoulder in an attempt to soothe her. His hand was mere inches away when she finally turned her gaze upon him, freezing him to the spot.
It was her eyes.
Fear, that’s what he saw in her hazel depths. She was afraid. What of, Spike couldn’t be certain, but what he knew was that he never wanted to see that look in her eyes again. “It’ll be alright, you’ll be safe here. At least until we can find a place for you to stay.”
Buffy’s bottom lip trembled once before she bit down on it with her teeth in an attempt to stop it. She nodded once, resuming her movement towards the apartment building. All too soon she was there, a place she had thought she would never see again. Buffy came to a stop a few feet from the apartment, her arms lifting to wrap around herself as Spike joined her at the door.
“Ready?” Spike asked gently.
Another nod and Spike lifted his hand to knock on the door.
The sounds of movement from inside caused Buffy to tense even further as she waited for it to open. The hinges creaked signaling the door opening and Buffy closed her eyes, taking a deep breath to try and prepare herself for what was to come. The prospect of seeing her mentor and the person she regarded to be the closest to a father in her life, brought about several emotions. There was expectant relief, that seeing the familiar face would make this more real. She also felt hope, hope that he could make sense of everything that had happened. And there was also anxiety. What if Giles’ reception was less than favourable? What if he was disappointed in her, for jumping off the tower the way she had? Leading up to the night of the fight against Glory, a source of great contention between Watcher and Slayer had been Buffy’s unwillingness to even consider that her sister would need to be sacrificed to save the world. She had put love ahead of her duty.
Disappointment from Giles right now would probably be the worst reaction she could receive.
“Good evening, Spike.”
Buffy’s stance had been tense before, but her entire body went stiff as a board at the sound of an obviously British—yet unfamiliar—voice.
“And this must be Miss Summers. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”
Buffy’s eyes darted open as she quickly lifted her gaze from the ground upwards. Kind chocolate eyes stared down at her, but they were eyes she was not familiar with. The man before her was young, younger than Giles, possibly even younger than Wesley. Pale complexion and tweed all but confirmed that he was undoubtedly a watcher, just not the one she had been expecting to see, especially in this apartment.
“My name’s Nicolas Thompson. Won’t you come inside?” he suggested gently, stepping aside to allow the pair entrance.
Buffy’s gaze flickered hesitantly to Spike, who nodded once in response, his gaze assuring her that everything would be all right. She looked towards the stranger again, trying to hide the nervous shaking in her shoulders as she hesitantly stepped forward. As much as she wanted to be confident right now, knowing that her presence was going to be a shock to Giles, she couldn’t stop the fluttering of nerves in her stomach. Once Giles knew she was back, it wouldn’t be long before the Watchers Council was informed as well, and stepping inside this apartment was as good as signing up for active duty again. Quentin Travers wasn’t exactly renowned for his compassion.
Knowing that it was either now or never, Buffy ducked her head her head and stepped inside the apartment.
A/N: I hope you liked this chapter, comments would be greatly appreciated!
If you are under the age of 17, please use your head and do not read fics that are labeled "NC-17". Parents, I cannot control what your children are reading, so please be advised that the majority of the fics archived here are NOT suitable for those under the age of 17.
I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I am in no way making any profit from this site. This is for pure entertainment purposes only.
Concept: (c)bringonthebloodshed.com (2004), Code & Design: (c)Diabola (2006), Graphics: Selene & Always