The next night, without saying a word to anyone, Buffy rushed out the door of the restaurant as soon as her shift was over, and, clutching her paycheck, headed immediately for the bank branch where she cashed her checks. She smiled her thanks at the young man who handed her the money and stuck it in the pocket of her jeans while she strolled through the small mall looking for a shop that might have a dress that she could both afford and look pretty in.
An hour later, she was walking home swinging the bag that contained her new, and only, dress and the shoes she’d had to buy to wear with it. Hidden in the bottom of the bag was a lacy push-up bra and matching panties in the same pale green color as the dress. For the first time since she had landed in Winterset - confused, angry and frightened - she felt like herself.
Shopping therapy – nothing like it! She smiled to herself as she walked into the house and began calling for Spike. She quickly realized that he was still in the shower, the sound of the water not quite drowning out the song he was singing in a surprisingly pleasant baritone voice.
“Young girl, get out of my mind... My love for you is way out of line... Better run, girl, You're much too young, girl... With all the charms of a woman, you've kept the ...”
Okay, I’ve never heard that song – I wonder if he made it up? Of course, he’s older than dirt, so it’s probably just some oldie that—
The sound of running water cut off and, still humming under his breath, Spike emerged from the bathroom, a towel hanging precariously from his hips while he used both hands to rub his hair with another one. Buffy’s strangled “Spike!” got his attention just in time for him to make a one-handed grab at the rapidly slipping towel around his waist. He froze, not sure what to do as Buffy stood staring at him, her eyes wide and still focused on his flat abdomen and the line of soft curls disappearing beneath the towel that he was clutching tightly.
She’d never seen a naked man, let alone from a distance of less than six feet away and, while Spike was not completely naked, it was more than obvious that the only thing between her eyes and that part about which she couldn’t help but be curious, was a not particularly large, cheap, thin bath towel. She could feel her face redden, even as she was unable to tear her eyes away from the body in front of her.
Stop staring, Buffy! What is wrong with you? Stop looking at him! He’s going to notice...oh, god, he noticed...
Spike kept a firm hand on the towel that protected what little modesty he had, but he couldn’t prevent a grin from breaking out when Buffy’s breathing and heart rate continued to climb even as her face grew more and more colorful. He leaned back against the wall and waited until she was able to drag her eyes up to his amused face.
“See anything you like, pet?” he drawled, laughing out loud when she sputtered incoherently.
“What? No! No liking... I mean not that I...that you...I mean... you... naked... shower... towel... There is no liking here – no seeing and liking. No seeing. I’m not seeing – I’m going to my room now,” she finished with as much dignity as she could muster in the face of having to walk past an almost naked vampire to get to her room. It didn’t help that his shoulders kept shaking with barely contained laughter as she marched past, eyes carefully averted.
While Spike, still chuckling to himself, went through the kitchen and back downstairs to get dressed, Buffy lingered in her bedroom as long as she could – hanging up her new dress, putting the shoes into the closet next to her sneakers and boots, and scolding herself for being such a baby.
I’m the MTV generation. “R” rated movies and Playgirl magazine. That sooo did not bother me the way he thinks it did. And I was sooo NOT ogling his body. I love Angel. I love Angel. I love Angel...
Eventually she had to emerge, carefully stuffing stakes into her pockets and avoiding eye contact with the now completely dressed vampire. He was uncharacteristically silent as they left the house and headed for the nearest cemetery. They walked along in uncomfortable silence for several blocks before Buffy could stand it no longer.
“I love Angel!” she blurted out, turning away quickly when she saw that he had completely read the guilty thoughts that brought on that non-sequitur. He cocked his head at her and waited until she stopped and faced him, her face flaming. When she refused to meet his eyes, darting hers from the sky to the ground, to a very interesting, if imaginary, something over his shoulder, he sighed and shook his head.
He rested his hands on her shoulders, waiting until she reluctantly raised her eyes to his before he said carefully, “I know you do, pet. Or, I know that you think you do; just like you think you know him. You’re not doing him any harm by ogling my naked body – and it doesn’t make you a bad girlfriend, or a loose woman. It makes you a perfectly normal, healthy girl. I didn’t credit that look for anything but it what it was.”
Her shoulders relaxed in relief. “What was it?”
“Jus’ a curious little chit tryin’ to get a look at my goodies,” he said, leaping back with a laugh as she swung her fist at him.
“I wasn’t...I didn’t...oh, you are sooo full of yourself!”
Still laughing, he ran toward the cemetery, calling over his shoulder, “Com’on, Slayer. Take that temper out on some vamps that might actually need pummelin’”
Clutching her stake in a threatening manner, Buffy chased the laughing vampire until he ran past a grave that erupted with a pair of dirt-encrusted arms. She stopped, waiting until the newly-risen vampire had pulled himself most of the way out of the grave before she chirped, “Hi there. Welcome to the rest of your...death,” as she ran her stake through his heart and watched the dust settle back onto the soil. She looked up at Spike with a satisfied smile, forgetting about her earlier embarrassment. “I feel much better now,” she grinned. “There’s nothing like watching a vamp go ‘poof’ to make a girl’s night.”
Shaking his head at her, he responded with a rueful smile, “Nice to know that you’re so easily pleased, Slayer. I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Uh oh,” Dawn’s voice caught the attention of the red-haired witch working in the corner and Willow looked up.
“What’s ‘uh oh’? Uh oh’s are never good, in my experience.”
Dawn gestured to the scrying bowl and said, “You need to see this for yourself.”
Willow walked over to the large bowl that Dawn had learned to use so well, peering into it and blanching at what she saw.
“Oh, Goddess,” she whispered, watching a vamped out version of herself as she held a teary-eyed Buffy with one arm and fondled her with the other. She watched as Buffy tore herself away and Spike stepped between the slayer and the two vampires. She gave a little moan when she saw who the other vampire was.
“They’ve gone to the world where the master is still alive,” she said, shaking her head in denial even as she watched demon Willow and Xander run off together. Dawn kept the bowl focused on her sister and the vampire who was protecting her – noting how he got Buffy out of the cemetery and on the way home while the young slayer remained in a state of shock. Once they were safely in their house, she waved her hand over the bowl and allowed the picture to fade.
“What do you think is going on?”
“Well, it can’t be exactly like the alternate dimension that Anyanka put us all in when Cordelia wished that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale, but it must be very similar. Of course, the Buffy that finally showed up there didn’t know us, and the Master was killing her just as Giles smashed the pendant – so we don’t know what would have happened. But that Buffy didn’t have Spike on her side – and Angel wasn’t really much help, I think he got himself staked or something...”
“I have to get back there – I have to warn them—“
“Warn them about what? They’ve already seen us - them – they know what they are. And Spike isn’t a captive like Angel was, so he should be able to help her.”
“They know about you guys, but they might not know about the Master. I guess I should talk to our Buffy first and see if she has any ideas...” Dawn wandered off to the room she now used for her portal-opening experiments, muttering to herself about vampire witches and dumb-ass carpenters. Willow watched, her brows knitted in a little frown as she tried to think of anything useful to tell young Buffy about her vampire self.
“You saw what?!”
“Vamp Willow and Xander. They attacked Buffy, but she got away and Spike was there, so—“
“Tore the whelp’s head off, I hope.”
Dawn rolled her eyes at the vampire’s less than useful contribution to the conversation.
“He was busy trying to keep Buffy 2.0 from getting too close to them. I don’t think she realized for a second or two that they were vamps – or that being vamps meant that they didn’t know who she was.” She frowned. “I don’t think Xander was a very important vampire – vamp Willow smacked him across the face. That’s got to be good, right?” she added brightly.
“It’ll have to do,” he grumbled, subsiding while Dawn and Buffy compared notes about what they could remember of that dimension. Dawn wasn’t much help, as in that world she hadn’t even existed and neither had Joyce. Buffy tried to fill Spike in on one of the few Sunnydale experiences for which he hadn’t been present.
“Willow was a vampire – a gay vampire – and so was Xander, only not gay ---I don’t think. And the Master was still alive, and they kept Angel in a cage, and...” Her eyes flew to his. “They kept Angel in a cage – and they were setting up some kind of machine for the Master that was going to drain people for him. What if that’s...that’s the dimension they’re in? The one where the Master’s alive?”
“Easy, pet,” he said quickly, putting a steadying hand on her arm and speaking soothingly. “Even if it is that same dimension, you don’t know what the situation is now. Clearly it’s different from what happened to you, or they wouldn’t be around, would they? And they would have recognized you as the Slayer – which Dawn says they didn’t.”
“In...in that dimension...they-he...won,” she whispered softly. “They would be still walking around, because the Master killed me - or, he was about to anyway. Giles broke Anya’s pendant and that dimension just...vanished.”
She looked at Spike sadly. “What if it didn’t vanish? What if we just got sent back to our own dimension – me, Angel – but what if the Master and vamp Willow and vamp Xander stayed wherever they were? What if this is where they’ve been all the time?”
“Think, Slayer. Didn’t you say that you went back to your own dimension just as old bat-face was trying to off you? And that the witch and the whelp came back with you? If it is another version of them, they don’t know you. They’ve got no idea what they’re up against.” He smiled at her dubious expression and gently pushed her hair off her face. “No idea at all.”
“I guess that’s why there’s no Mom or me in that one,” Dawn said thoughtfully. “Must have something to do with the Master not being trapped in the Hellmouth....or maybe it’s just a completely different dimension and nothing’s the same except a few people or vamps. We don’t know if what Anya did actually sent us all to another dimension, if it changed the one we were in, or if we were all having the same bad dream that ended when Giles broke the pendant. And it’s not like we can ask her....” Dawn’s voice trailed off and Spike and Buffy exchanged looks over her bowed head.
“What are you thinkin’, Bit?”
“Well, in my world – your old world – Anya died; but in this one, as far as we know, she’s still a vengeance demon, right? Maybe you can summon her and just...ask?”
“Ask a Vengeance Demon to tell the Slayer what happens when she grants a wish? Oh yeah, that should go over well!”
“But, it’s Anya...”
“She’s still Anyanka here, Bit.” Spike’s voice was gentle as he reminded her that the demon they would summon was not their Anya and would not know them. “Got no reason to help us out; and might be a bit brassed off at being summoned for somethin’ like that.”
“Fine!” Dawn’s tone and her rolling eyes indicated that she wasn’t giving up on the idea, but she agreed for the time being. “So, what should we - I do? I need to tell them about the Master, at least.”
“I think you should tell them,” Buffy said suddenly. “And maybe...” she gave Spike an apologetic smile, “maybe you should tell them to look for Angel? Just in case he’s got his soul in that dimension and the Master is torturing him again?” She ignored his growling and continued. “They could probably use all the help they can get and having Angel on their side would—“
“Would bollix up any chance of anything developin’ between me and you,” Spike interrupted. “Is that what you want for them? For you? To waste all those years mooning after my grandsire when she could be--“
“Spike, we can’t make them fall in love with each other. They’re us...but they’re not us, too. Maybe he won’t even want me – her. I was able to coax him into bed, sure, but he wasn’t in love with me and he didn’t want to be in love with me. I’m glad he found her, and that he’s helping her, but we have no idea how they feel about each other. For all we know, he has a vampire girl friend and just sees Buffy when he patrols with her.“
Buffy looked at Dawn for verification, but saw that she wasn’t going to get any help there.
“I think he likes her, Buffy. He doesn’t want to admit it out loud, but I can see the way he looks at her. I think he’s afraid to say anything because she’s so young – and because she’s still---“
“Still hung up on Angel,” Buffy sighed in agreement. “Yeah, even if he is interested, I don’t know if teen-aged me is ready for Spike. That’s a lot of...”
“A lot of....?” Spike’s eyebrows were raised as he waited to hear what she thought it might be too much of. When there was no response, he filled in, “Passion? Incredible sex? Violence? Stop me when I get to something you haven’t thought of, pet.”
Glaring at him with angry eyes and lips that were trying not to smile, she said, “I was going to say ‘That’s a lot of pretty intense emotion for a teenager to handle. It might scare her off.’ “
“Too bad we can’t talk to them then, isn’t it, love?” he said, pulling her into an embrace that she only pretended to fight. “You could tell her what a wonderful lover I am and what a wanker Peaches really is.”
“Or, you could tell him to take it easy and not scare her off by doing something stupid.”
“Stupid? What have I ever done that might have been scary to a slayer? Aside from tryin’ to kill you,” he added as an afterthought.
“Chains, offers to kill crazy ex, and then threats to feed me to crazy ex - let me know when I get to something that might be scary to somebody who--”
“Oh,” he muttered, hiding his face in her neck. “That stupid stuff. Well, he probably won’t think about doing anything like that.”
“We can only hope not,” she said. “Who knows if she’s as easy going and forgiving as I am...” She felt him shaking with laughter that he tried to hide by nibbling on her neck, and she bit down on his shoulder with her own teeth, giving a very credible growl.
“Um...if you two could stop with the wildly inappropriate PDA’s for just a few more minutes, I’d like to come up with a plan about what I should tell them.”
The two growling blonds reluctantly disentangled themselves and sighed simultaneously. “I’m leavin’ this up to you, pet. I don’t really know anything about what happened – all I know is old Bat Face was already gone by the time I got here, and you’d pretty much cleaned out most of his minions, too. Nothing left for me but the Annoying One and a couple of wannabes.”
Buffy looked at Dawn and said thoughtfully, “Maybe I should just write it out for her – you could take a note or letter with you, couldn’t you?”
“Yeah, sure. If I couldn’t take things with me, I’d be showing up naked all the time—and you sooo did not leer at me, Spike! Ewwww! That’s like...like...ewww!”
“Sorry, Bit. Force of habit – I am a man, you know. Pretty girl says the word ‘naked’ I just naturally perk up. Even if she is more of a sister-type.”
“Men are disgusting,” she huffed, turning her back so he wouldn’t see the smile on her face.
“Pigs,” Buffy agreed primly, pinching Spike’s ass while her sister wasn’t looking. “All of them.”
“I know when I’m in a conversation that’s not going to go well for me,” he laughed. “I’ll be in the other room.” He pinched Buffy back, and before she could retaliate, he was already at the doorway and going into their bedroom. As soon as he got out of sight, he went to the desk and pulled out a sheet of paper, quickly scribbling out a note and folding it into a small packet.
Buffy was also writing, filling a page of notebook paper with as much as she could recall about the demon dimension to which Anyanka had converted Sunnydale. She made sure to point out that she didn’t know for sure if that’s where they were, but that she was giving them some things to watch out for. She finished the letter, reread quickly – adding some more facts about Angel and the fact that he hadn’t known her, but had been willing to help – then folded it and handed it to Dawn. She chewed her lip for a minute, then ripped off another sheet of paper and scribbled a much shorter note, folding it into a much smaller packet and giving it to her sister too.
“Do me a favor,” she whispered, looking around to be sure that Spike hadn’t come back into the room, “give this to Buffy when Spike isn’t around to see it. Okay?”
“Okay,” Dawn agreed readily, tucking the folded paper into her pocket. “What did you do, tell her to forget about Angel and grab Spike while the grabbing was good?”
“Something like that,” Buffy mumbled. “But don’t tell my Spike I did it.”
“Don’t tell me you did what?” His sudden, silent appearance behind her was a reminder of just who and what she was living with.
“Right. Cause it’s always important that you not tell me nothing – never know what I might do with information like that.”
“It’s nothing,” she repeated stubbornly. “Just girl stuff.”
He gave her one of his “I see right through you, Slayer” looks, but dropped the subject, instead walking up to Dawn and giving her a hug. “It was good to see you again, Bit. Give our regards to our other selves.” As he released her, he slipped the folded note into her hand, whispering, “Give this to Spike - just don’t let the Slayer see it, yeah?”
Dawn rolled her eyes at both of them – inspiring mutually suspicious looks from the two blonds – then stepped into her portal area and closed her eyes to concentrate. While Spike and Buffy watched in admiration, the walls of the portal swirled up around her and she waved as the usual loud “pop” carried her back to her own world.
Moving closer together, they stared at the empty space for a few seconds before Spike put his arms around Buffy and pulled her into his chest. He nuzzled the side of her neck, smiling when she tipped her head to the side so that he could lick his mark. She put her hands over his crossed arms and held them in place as she enjoyed the sense of belonging and serenity that she got from his attention to his mark. Finally, she gave his arms a little squeeze and moved away, turning to face him as she did so.
“Do you think they’ll be able to handle him? He did kill me the first time I faced him. Of course that was all about that stupid prophecy that Giles and Angel had me thinking meant I was going to die no matter what I did....”
She heaved a sigh and nodded sadly. “Got to say, it wasn’t one of their finest moments... but the other Buffy has already kicked his ass once, so she should know she can handle it—”
“She’ll be fine, love. She’s you, isn’t she? Old Bat Face isn’t gonna know what hit him.”
“What about evil Willow and Xander? You heard what Dawn said about what she saw – what if she’s so lonely there, that she can’t kill demons wearing the faces of her friends?”
“I’m pretty sure soulless Spike isn’t gonna be bothered by that, pet. If he had time to meet Harris while he was here...” he waited for Buffy’s reluctant nod, “then he isn’t going to have any problem at all with it. Trust me,” he growled, half-seriously.
Buffy laughed at his growl. Even though they had explained and explained about Spike and his soul and his world-saving, Xander refused to see him as anything but the slayer killer that had appeared in Sunnydale the year before, Drusilla in tow. His reaction to the news that not only had the blond vampire returned to Sunnydale for Buffy’s birthday, but that his body was now inhabited by the Spike that this Buffy knew and loved had been sufficiently ugly to create a rift between the two friends that had yet to heal.
Giles, on the other hand, couldn’t resist the appeal of recording as much as he could get Spike to tell him about a vampire who loved a woman enough to get his soul for her. The vampire’s confirmation that the Powers were responsible for his presence, as well as Buffy’s, went a long way to gaining some acceptance for the situation. Buffy and Spike were still treading a fine line between feeding the Watcher’s curiosity and not revealing too much about a future that very well might not happen in this dimension. They were all agreed that they should limit their interference with the possible course of events to those things that they could be sure were necessary.
Buffy’s disappointment that she couldn’t arrange to beat Cordy for Prom Queen was only partially put on – that little taste of semi-normal high school life being one of the few she could remember from her own high school days. She huffed angrily when Giles said that he was “quite sure that the Powers That Be did not bring you back here in order to watch you cheat your way into a tiara”; and she threatened Spike with spending a lonely night on the couch if he couldn’t stop laughing at her disappointment.
Even though she had stomped out in a fit of temper, she was secretly delighted that the two Brits seemed to be bonding this time around, and that she would not have to worry about her surrogate father trying to kill the man she loved. Her best male friend was another matter, and she smiled ruefully at Spike at his reminder that Xander was not as accepting of his presence in her life.
She nodded her head. “I don’t suppose he will,” she agreed. “I don’t know what’s wrong with Xander – I know he’s a better person than this—“
“He’s jealous, love. There isn’t going to be much we can do about it until he outgrows it or finds somebody else. There may not be an Anyanka this time around, so who knows what it’ll take. The cheerleader doesn’t seem to be doing it for him and he’s lost his chance with Willow. Now, can we talk about something else besides the bloody whelp? Gives me indigestion, it does.”
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