In another small city, far enough away from Winterset that travel back and forth was not all that common, a very old and angry vampire was questioning his favorite minion.
“You say he called her ‘Slayer’? This vampire that protected a human? It’s not possible. I killed the last slayer hundreds of years ago. Before I killed her, I found and destroyed all the possible replacements – ripped their throats out. Killed them, killed their watchers and their families. Before I feasted on the last one, I made sure that there was no way for another slayer to be called.”
“I’m just telling you,” Vamp Willow said stubbornly, “He called her ‘Slayer’ and told her to do her job.”
“And did she?”
“No...she was...she acted like she knew us. Like she thought we were friends or something.”
“But you weren’t?” He gestured for the red-haired childe who had become his favorite to come closer, smiling when she eagerly crouched at his feet and leaned against his bony leg.
Alex spoke up for the first time. He knew he wasn’t a favorite, that the Master only kept him around because Willow had pleaded for him to be turned with her. He generally tried to keep a low profile around their sire, only approaching when he thought he had brought something that the old vampire would like. Like delicate, pretty blondes.
“There was a girl that looked like her in our high school,” he volunteered. “And I think she had the same name. But that was years ago, and Willow and I killed her when we went back for Prom night. I know we did – I made her pay for ignoring me before we drank from her. She cried,” he finished with great satisfaction.
“And yet, here, close enough to be of concern to us, she appears to have come back to life as a Slayer....” With a final stroke to the top of Willow’s head, the Master rose to his feet and began issuing orders. He sent a small group of his oldest minions to Winterset, ordering them to find out what they could about the would-be slayer and the vampire that protected her from his own kind.
When they had left to make preparations for the drive to the other city, he walked to the large table in the middle of the room and studied the plans spread out upon it.
“Explain to me again how this is going to work, my little genius,” he purred, pulling Willow close and pinching her firm little rear. She giggled appreciatively, while Alex rolled his eyes and walked out of the room. Rubbing against her sire, Willow showed him how the process would work when they had rounded up enough humans to make it worthwhile, and begun feeding them into the machinery that would drain their blood into storage tanks.
When Buffy left the restaurant the following night and found Spike waiting for her just outside the back door, she was somehow not at all surprised. She was surprised to see him chatting casually with the chef, laughing and slapping him on the back. She hadn’t been aware that they knew each other, although she realized that Spike had probably made some friends and acquaintances among Winterset’s demon population during his nights out. As she walked up, she heard the other man say, “Your luck’s going to change one of these days, Spike, and then you’ll have to get a real job – just like the rest of us.”
“Never happen, mate.”
“What will never happen?” Buffy asked, smiling at the chef as she walked up and poked Spike in the back. “That you won’t stop treating me like a little girl who needs a big bad protector?”
“What? I can’t meet you after work for a quick spot of violence before I go off to do evil things? Has nothin’ to do with...I just felt like comin’ by and talkin’ to my mate, Harry here. ”
She rolled her eyes and gave him a “we’ll have this conversation later” look, before turning to Harry to explain, “He thinks taking care of me is his job or something. Like I wasn’t doing just fine all by myself before he got here,” she huffed.
The human/demon hybrid that she now knew Harry to be gave her a benevolent smile and said, “You may have been doing all right by yourself, but you never smiled the way you have since this card sharp started showing up to walk you home.”
Buffy blushed to the roots of her hair, and only the fact that Spike seemed as embarrassed as she was kept her from wanting to sink into the dirty pavement. She mumbled something about it just being nice to find somebody from her home to talk to sometimes, ignoring Harry’s knowing grin as she waved and began to walk down the alley. With a quick “See you later, mate” Spike jogged after her. In their embarrassment, neither one of them noticed the vampire standing across the alley in the shadows. He watched until they had reached the end of the alley, then slowly began walking in that direction.
Completely unaware of their onlooker, Buffy and Spike began a silent patrol, staking a few newly-risen fledglings and then pausing to relax on top of large marble tomb. Buffy lay on her back and looked at the sky overhead.
“There are more stars here than there are in Sunnydale,” she said abruptly.
“Not more, pet, just more visible. There’s a lot less light in this world than in ours. The stars are the same, we can just see them better.”
“How do you know they’re the same?”
He lowered himself beside her, taking great care to be far enough away that he wasn’t touching her.
“Because when I was a lad, we didn’t have all those lights in the cities – and none at all in the countryside – so I could see the stars almost every night if it was clear.”
“Oh. So you were one of those ass...astro...starwatching people, huh?”
“Among other things,” he replied.
“What other things?” She turned her head to look at him and there was a long silence while their eyes met and held. She was suddenly very aware that the vampire was lying only a few inches away, and she swallowed hard at the expression on his face. For a second she thought he was going to kiss her, but instead, he sat up and said, “Nothing that you need to hear about, Slayer. Now get your lazy arse up and let’s find some demons to beat on.”
Grumbling about vampires that think they’re the boss, she rolled off the tomb and led the way toward the cemetery’s gate. “Fine,” she sniffed, “don’t tell me about what else you know. I’ll just go find some other annoying vampire to talk to. I’ll pretend he’s you, and when he won’t tell me what I want to know, I’ll--Oh, look! Here one comes now!”
“Here comes more than one, luv,” he growled, stepping up beside her as four of the master’s minions spread out around them. He watched their nostrils flare as they caught his scent and recognized the faint trace of family.
“The Master wants to know what you are doing with her,” the tallest one demanded. “Why aren’t you where you belong?” He frowned as both Spike and Buffy laughed heartily and the vampire answered, “Don’t we wish we were!”
“I don’t belong with you lot,” Spike continued. “Don’t know what old Bat Face has done in this world, but you might want to tell him that where we come from the Slayer dusted him when she was just a little chit.”
Spike rolled his eyes. “Have at it, pet. I reckon they need to learn the hard way.” To the surprise of the other vampires, he just pushed the one in front of him out of his way, then, rather than join the fight, he jumped gracefully onto another tomb and sat down to light a cigarette.
“I thought you were helping her?” a husky minion who had just been kicked by the Slayer gasped as he doubled over.
“Oh, I doubt she’ll need it. There are only four of you.”
Spike took a deep drag on his cigarette and blew a stream of smoke in the direction of the deadly whirlwind that was the Slayer. She had already staked two of the minions, leaving only the one stocky man and a nervous-looking woman to continue the fight. With the grace and athleticism that he loved to watch, Buffy kicked and spun until there was nothing left but the dust coating the grass and her boots.
Spike applauded briefly, then his head snapped up at the same time that Buffy fell into a fighting crouch and spun around, her eyes searching the shadows. The minion that had been following them had remained out of sight while the others attacked the Slayer, and he was now running away with the tale of Buffy’s effortless decimation of four of their strongest minions. With his enhanced vision, Spike could just make out the vamp’s outline as he ran for the gate. He looked at Buffy questioningly and she shrugged.
“Let him go back and tell them what he saw. Maybe they won’t come back any more.” The trace of hopefulness in her voice made him ache for her and he said gently, “They’ll be back, pet; but probably not for a while. My great, great grandsire doesn’t go looking for trouble – he’s going to stay away from a city with a Slayer livin’ in it.”
Buffy frowned at him. “If he doesn’t live here, where does he live? There aren’t a lot of cities in this world. Not on this continent, anyway. I checked out all the ones in this country when I first got stuck here – looking for Sunnydale, but it doesn’t exist.”
“Well, wherever it is, it has to be close enough for him to send minions to check you out a day after he finds out about you.” He gently nudged her elbow and guided her toward the gate. “We’ll try to find some maps or somebody who knows the area and see where the nearest city might be that’s big enough for a family of old vamps to hide out without being noticed.”
“I wish I knew more about this place,” she grumbled. “Maybe I should have tried to get into school somehow – at least I would have learned some history or some geography.”
Considerin’ that by the time you got to high school, you would have been expected to know some of both of those things, I don’t think that would have been in your best interest, pet.”
“Probably not,” she sighed. “Everybody’s pretty cool about most stuff here – like letting me work without a birth certificate or a social security number – I wonder if they have social security?” she segued. “Do you think they do?”
He snorted a laugh at her ability to switch subjects so quickly and shook his head. “Wouldn’t know, love. Not something demons and vamps spend a lot of time worryin’ about.”
“Well, they should...I mean the ones I’m not going to slay, anyway...”
He gave her a friendly nudge and said with a smile, “You know, Summers, you’ve come a long way, livin’ here.”
“Older you? She didn’t get that not all vamps and demons are alike until she was several years older than you are. She told me about it – how she was all about the fightin’ evil and no exceptions – except the bloody poof, of course. Thought that soul meant the world...”
“Well it does!” Buffy quickly rose to Angel’s defense.
“Then how do you explain all the peaceful vamps and demons in this world? The ones you see every day and don’t slay because you know they aren’t up to anything more evil than playin’ poker on the weekends?”
“It’s...it’s a different world. That’s all. They’re different because the whole weird world is different – so, it just makes sense that the vamps and demons would be different too! Maybe they all have souls or something,” she muttered at his skeptical look.
“An’ me? How do you explain me, pet? Not from this world, am I? Got no soul to keep me righteous – jus’...” His voice trailed off as he realized how close he had come to admitting having feelings that he was still fighting.
“If I tried to explain you, I’d go nuts,” she muttered, laughing when he growled. “It’s true!” she argued. “You don’t have a soul, but you didn’t kill other me when she said she knew you, and then you...you started to like her...”
His lips twitched at her youthful way of talking about his feelings for the slayer he’d left back in Sunnydale. Different dimensions or not, this one was so like what Buffy must have been like at that age that he had to constantly remind himself that she wasn’t her.
“Had other things I was interested in doin’ with her, pet,” he said, waggling his eyebrows at her.
She gave him the obligatory glare and “ewww”, then looked more thoughtful. “Why don’t you want to do those things with me?” she asked innocently. “Is it because I’m not pretty anymore?”
He was rendered completely speechless – stopping in the middle of the street and staring at her as though she’d grown another head. He wasn’t sure which had astonished him the most – that she didn’t realize the effect she had on him, or that she didn’t know how beautiful she was. He stammered incoherently as he tried to decide which misconception to address first.
“Spike? Did you hear me? Why did you stop?” Buffy turned around when she realized he wasn’t with her and put her hands on her hips. “What’s wrong with you?”
He shook his head and gave a nervous laugh as he walked toward her again.
“Just a bit gobsmacked, love. And don’t know which of those comments is the more wrong-headed.”
He pushed a strand of hair off her face and touched her chin, smiling to himself when he heard her heart-rate go up. (Ah, love, if you only knew how badly I want to do those things with you.) Choosing to go with the safer question, he said with perfect sincerity, “I told you that first night that you were a beautiful woman, and I meant it. Do you look like the curvy little thing that’s pretendin’ to be you back in Sunnydale? No. You look like the woman she grew into. You’re strong, you’re beautiful and if you would go get that pretty dress you told me you were gonna get a dozen paychecks ago, I’d take you out to that club like I promised and prove it to you. I can guarantee you’ll be the most beautiful woman in the place.”
As he’d hoped, his effusive praise of her looks and the reminder that they were due a night out on the town distracted her from her first question and she blushed and stammered as she finished walking up to the front door. Before she could get her key out, Spike was beside her opening the door and holding it for her. She smiled her thanks and ducked under his arm, heading immediately for the living room and the TV. After a minute of good natured arguing over which old movie to watch, they settled on one that sounded like it would have enough violence for Spike and enough romance for Buffy.
One of the drawbacks of this world’s being so different from what they were used to, was that very little of what was on the few television stations available was familiar to either of them. The different history, much smaller population of humans world-wide, and the tacit acceptance of the peaceful demons that lived and worked with humans meant some major differences in the entertainment world, just as it did in many other areas. Spike, who had spent over a hundred years watching his world change around him, had adjusted much faster than Buffy had been able to when she first arrived. It had taken her several months of making what she now knew to be stupid mistakes before she had learned to watch and wait before opening her mouth or jumping into a conversation. Now, with Spike’s easy mingling with the demon population and her own hard-won knowledge of how this world was and was not like the one she came from, they were becoming more and more comfortable in their new environment.
Buffy told herself that watching TV and movies was an important way for them to learn more about their world, and she happily spent a couple of hours most nights sitting on the couch with Spike and arguing with him about whether or not what they were watching was “real” or a made up story that they shouldn’t take as a genuine look at their new home.
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