It was still strange waking up in Spike’s house. It was still strange that Spike even had a house. She was so used to him living with her, not the other way round. In fact she was so used to it that when she awoke the next morning she actually started to make her way down to the basement, bleary eyed and half asleep still. It was only when she walked straight into the coffee table, hitting her shin painfully, and flying over it headfirst into the couch that she remembered she wasn’t at home.
Scrabbling up quickly, now fully awake, Buffy looked around and was relieved to find that no one had seen her nosedive. When she was content that she hadn’t been rumbled, the Slayer sat down on the couch and fussed over her aching leg.
“Stupid future coffee tables,” she mumbled to herself.
It was still early and no one else was up and she was glad for that. She needed a while to compose herself. Both superficially and the other stuff.
“Woah, Buffy it’s you!” Mya announced as she bounded into the room. “I thought we had a birds nest in the house.”
The Slayer patted her hair self-consciously. “Hey!”
“Sorry,” she grinned, slumping into an armchair, looking perfectly coiffed yet still dressed in her pyjamas. “Sarcasm is kind of a tradition in my house. I was raised on the stuff. Does a body good.”
Buffy was still smoothing her hair down. “You could go easy on guests.”
“Yeah, I guess. It’s just I’ve been told so much about you I kind of feel like I already know you. But I’ll be on my best behaviour now.” Mya held up three fingers in a Boy Scout salute.
This interested the Slayer. “Spi…your dad talked about me?”
“Uh huh,” Mya picked her nails absently, legs flung over the armrest. “But then everyone did. You were like the woman, the legend - Buffy Summers! Perfection personified. Kind of a relief to see you get bed head like the rest of us.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “I’m far from perfect.”
“I see that now.”
Mya chuckled. “Sorry, I can’t help it. I do have an incredibly snarky Brit for a dad, you know. Dry sense of humour and all that.”
“Mmm, I think I like my humour wet.” Buffy paused. “Forget I said that.”
Mya nodded. “Gladly.”
They looked at each other a moment and then the girl broke the spell by clicking the TV on. Buffy actually found herself interested in what was on, looking for any kind of clue as to what else had changed in the years she had been gone. She was hoping for a news show or something else useful. So, of course, a rerun of Friends was on. Granted, the picture quality was so high she could see Ross’ nose hairs but really. The future was shaping up to be much like the past. Except for the important things.
And one of those important things was coming through the door right at that moment. Spike slammed the door closed behind him, calling out “I bought strawberries! I’m officially a nancy.”
Buffy turned to look over the back of the couch as he entered the living room carrying brown grocery bags. Woah to the domesticity. And, also? Spike was wearing shorts. Spike. In shorts. Spike had legs! Well, obviously she already knew that but Spike didn’t show his legs. And yet, shorts. Shorts and a T-shirt and sneakers to be exact. In fact it looked like…
“Enjoy your jog?” Mya asked, nabbing the strawberries from him when he held the pot out to her. “Your disgustingly healthy lifestyle still appals me, by the way.”
Spike was sweaty. Buffy noticed that now. He had sweat patches on his chest and his hair was slick with it. And that was weird because why did vampires even sweat? She’d never really thought about it before but it confused her now. The Spike in shorts thing had thrown her completely off her game.
He nodded. “It was alright. Some old dear pinched my bum, though. I’m really sick of getting sexually harassed by women. And men.”
“You poor, poor man.” Mya scoffed, biting into a strawberry.
Spike turned to Buffy and held out a bag to her. “I, uh, got you some clothes. Since you can’t keep wearing Mya’s stuff. Don’t want you to look like a pre-teen Spice Girl now, do we?”
“Uh! How dare you?” his daughter complained.
Buffy took the bag from him and peered in briefly. “Thank you.”
“I think I got the right size. I was getting some looks browsing around the women’s section, so I was in and out as fast as possible.” Spike ran a hand over the back of his neck, and the movement made the sunlight glint on the face of his watch.
And something very important occurred to Buffy.
“You were just out. In the sun?” She sat up straight.
Spike glanced at Mya who looked curious. “Yeah, see that’s one of things I wanted to talk to you about today. The changes and –”
“Vampires don’t die by sunlight anymore?”
“No, they do.” He sat down on the armrest of the couch. “If they’re not wearing the proper protection.”
Buffy frowned. “Protection?”
“It’s…well, basically it’s like sun cream –”
“But for the undead.” Mya chimed in.
“Right. But a lot stronger and it’s not a 100% cure or anything, you can only be outside for half an hour…an hour tops, before you start to burn.” Spike explained slowly. “And you have to be covered head to toe. I’m slathered in the stuff everywhere. I can still find it sometimes, days afterwards, in all my nooks and crannies…”
Mya scrunched up her face. “Um, ew?”
“Seconded.” Buffy paused, thinking about all this. Not the nooks and crannies. Well, maybe a little. “So, you can…walk in the sun? Watch the sunrise?”
Her eyebrows rose and she blew out a breath. “That’s got to be…well, it’s great. For you.”
Spike smiled, remembering. “Yeah, you should have seen me the first time I tried the stuff. Scared shitless that it was all a crock then…it was amazing. You should’ve seen it!”
“I’d have liked to,” she said softly.
The looked at each other and then it just happened. It all clicked back into place and it was Old School Spike and Old School Buffy and nothing had changed. They were back to where she had left it.
Mya stood up. “I’m going to go do that thing I like to do. That thing I like to do when my dad is eye flirting. ’Scuse me.”
Both Buffy and Spike looked away in different directions as the girl made a bolt for it. Spike laughed nervously, muttering about his daughter as Buffy shifted awkwardly on the seat.
“She terrorises me,” Spike said finally. “Teenage girls are not my forte.”
Buffy shrugged with one shoulder. “I wouldn’t say that. You were a good babysitter.”
“Dawn was more like a mate, though.” He said.
She closed her eyes and rubbed the bridge of her nose. “I don’t think I’m ready to talk about her. You said you bought food? I think the future decrees I should be fat.”
Spike rose and picked up the grocery bag, handing it to her. “You have got thirty years of eating to make up for. So, in your standards that amounts to about three plates of dinner.”
She picked up an orange from the bag and threw it at him. He caught it expertly and bit into it, zest and all. Then he instantly regretted it and spat out the chewed up orange, gagging noises following shortly after. Buffy laughed at his showboating and the consequences of it as he stumbled off to shower.
Then she sighed to herself and walked back to the guest room to get changed into the clothes Spike had bought for her. She chose a plain skirt and top that didn’t do much to flatter her figure and were a little loose but they weren’t all that bad. At least he hadn’t gone the Buffybot route of a pink skirt. That would have been more than a little freaky as well as a fashion faux par. Not that she really knew what the fashion was now but it seemed pretty similar to what it had been before. Buffy would have thought they’d all be wearing silver one-piece bodysuits. Or maybe she’d just been secretly hoping that. She’d rock a silver bodysuit hard.
When she had dressed and finger-combed her hair she left the guest room and went in search of Spike’s room. She wouldn’t try and deny that it was anything other than nosiness. She wanted to know what Spike’s room was like, so she passed Mya’s room where she could hear the girl singing along to something on the radio, and found the only other room in the house.
Glancing around she pushed the door open and stepped in. She could hear a shower running and guessed that Spike had an en suite bathroom. His room was probably the largest in the house, which she guessed was fair enough. The walls were painted a nice shade of blue that Buffy wouldn’t have guessed was to Spike’s taste. But then, she didn’t know his taste anymore. And maybe his wife picked it out. Best not to go there.
His bed was the centrepiece of the room, a modest-sized double bed with dark blue sheets. There was a nightstand next to it on one side and she walked over to it. On the nightstand was a picture of Spike, his wife and Mya standing by a lake on what seemed to be a family holiday. But there were two other people in the picture. One was Dawn. She looked older and more beautiful. Standing with her arm around Spike and Mya, looking content and relaxed, smiling easily. Buffy’s gaze lingered on her for a long while before she regarded the man in the picture. She didn’t know him. He was tall with dark hair and an athletic build. Pretty in a college boy kind of way. But she didn’t know him. She put the picture back down on the nightstand.
There were a lot of shelves in Spike’s room, all full to the brim with books of all shapes and sizes. In fact, the books were now piling up on the floor where he had run out of shelf space. Buffy had known Spike liked to read but she didn’t realise he was a Giles in the making. Walking over to the shelves she glanced at the spines of the books casually, without much interest. A lot of the books were poetry or prose but then she started to notice a change. Magic books. Books about dimensions. About portals. About the Watcher’s Council. About Slayers and their heritage. Buffy picked up one of the books about dimensions and opened it up. Several pages had been dog-eared. She scanned the pages briefly. She didn’t understand much but what she did understand was that Spike had been researching the portal that the shadow puppets had opened up.
“Never did find a clue on how to get you back,” Spike announced from the doorway of the en suite.
Buffy jumped, nearly dropping the book in the process, as she turned to him. He had a towel wrapped tightly around his waist and another thrown over his shoulder, hair dripping wet. He looked mildly embarrassed and also regretful.
She put the book back on the shelf. “It means something that you tried.”
“It doesn’t, you know,” Spike sighed despondently, sitting on the corner of his bed, head bowed. “Not when it’s my fault you’ve been gone all these years.”
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