Fic: ‘By the click of someone else’s slippers’ [2/7] [NC-17ish]

This entry is part 2 of 7 in the series By the click of someone else's slippers
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Sorry I’m so late back!! But to continue the fic, here I am… What could be going on???

By the click of someone else’s slippers


S6 | NC-17(ish) | ~33,500 words total

Spike has spent the last few months in an AU LA with no memory of Buffy or even Sunnydale. Buffy comes to rescue him, but Spike’s not sure why she bothers. At the end of the day, though, it’s really just a rewrite of Smashed

[Chapter One]

Chapter Two

The girl’s story was even more ludicrous than Spike’s own. Judging by the pauses, she seemed to leave quite a lot out of it, but even then it was barely believable.

“So,” Spike tried to recapitulate nonetheless, “you’re telling me that in your world, I got the chip and then – despite trying to kill you all for several years – I decided the best thing to do would be take in with your little gang of nitwits. Only I wasn’t killing things, half the time, so much as babysitting some bitesize sister of yours.”

“Aha!” the Buffy replied, pointing at him like he’d given himself away. “That’s what you call her sometimes: Bitesize. See, it all figures out.”

Spike just stared at her.

“The thing I don’t understand,” Cordelia offered, arms resolutely crossed as she leaned back against her desk, “is why you let him hang out with you in the first place. He’s annoying. And undead.”

“We don’t let him!” was the not exactly encouraging response to that. To be honest, Spike worked pretty hard at being annoying, so he wasn’t going to protest. Plus it was fun to watch the mad girl throw her arms up and splutter. Then she continued, “We tolerate him, mostly…”

Now that, Spike wasn’t having. “So why are you so desperate to have me back in your sad little lives?” he demanded. “Things are falling apart now you’ve, what? Got a kid in the way of your stake-whittling?”

Rather than blow up even more – the reaction he was really hoping for – Buffy seemed to catch herself. Lifting her chin like an empress she stared him down, just for a second before she cut him entirely – shook her head and looked over towards the filing cabinets. “You know,” she said to herself, “this is exactly what Xander told me would happen when I came here.”

Spike was slightly unnerved by what her rejection did to him. The sharpness of it somehow took him straight back to a century and a score years ago, to all those ever so polite women who nonetheless took turns killing him with a glance. He was supposed to be immune to them – for god’s sake he had been immune to them since he could remember. Yet here he was with some goth urchin and it was all rushing back.

It took a moment, but Spike shook his head and banished the odd feeling. Thankfully, it seemed as though Cordelia was willing to take up the slack, apparently able to riff on whoever this ‘Xander’ character was.

“Xander Harris fights evil in your world?” she was complaining. “Are you kidding me? The only thing that loser’s gonna fight is cholesterol. And even then he’s probably gonna lose.”

Miss Buffy seemed to be tired of this game as well. She barely cast one glance at the other desk before snarking in a fairly dull tone, “Just laugh it up Cordy. In my world you dated him. For nearly a year.”

A gasp. “I did not,” came the outraged reply to that.

To which Buffy simply replied, “Yuh-huh.”

For some reason, Spike found himself taking pity on the girl, even after she’d kicked him in the balls. It didn’t seem like she’d done it intentionally, after all. The fact that she probably thought she’d let him win seemed like enough reason to grant leniency. “So apart from this loser,” he encouraged, leaning back to put his feet on the desk, “the other members of your little Scooby Doo club reckoned you could get me back to your world.” It sounded like hell on earth, of course, but he could have a think about that once he’d got all the information. “Did anyone find out what I’m doing here in the first place? And why it was so important for me to forget about the life I was evidently so sorry to lose?”

“Right,” Buffy confirmed, rolling her eyes. She glanced back at him. Most of her vigour seemed to have vanished somewhere, leaving her face this shell where he could almost see the fractures. The pigtails suddenly looked like the choice of someone who hadn’t been able to face the shower that morning.

He almost raised an eyebrow, but then the shell continued to talk. “So, you realise you’re under a spell, with the pet detectiving – but you’re actually under two.” She explained slowly, like she didn’t really care or else he was very stupid. “Mr. Bitey or whatever he’s called probably didn’t realise how effective they’d make each other, but all this stuff –” She waved a hand around the office. “– it’s pretty much just his joke. The pet detectiving itself is basically, like, the loan shark’s curse. When I beat him up he said you’d have known exactly what it was if you’d been in our dimension, but…”

“The loan shark’s curse?” Spike interrupted, though he really hadn’t planned to. “I’m under the bloody loan shark’s curse?” He leaned forward, letting his boots slam back on the floor in anger. This was ridiculous; absolutely bloody pathetic. He couldn’t believe it. All these months wasted…

“What’s a ‘loan shark’s curse’?” Cordelia piped up from the other side of the room, straightening some of the papers that had got messed up earlier.

Thankfully, Spike didn’t have to explain. “It’s like this really simple compulsion spell,” Buffy told her, spat forgotten and far too much pleasure in the smirk on her face. “Usually only lasts a couple days. Demon loan sharks use it when they want to call in debts and the loanee hasn’t paid them back…”

Spike slumped forward, barely able to believe it.

A little more animated now, Buffy seemed to revel in the explanation, “See, back in my world, Spikey here has one or two kitten poker problems. And uh, he borrowed forty Siamese kittens to gamble with –” Spike could almost feel the glare he got for that one. “– but eventually he gave them back. Thing was, he forgot the interest payment, so Sharkey the loan shark wasn’t very happy with him. And since the last time he went after that debt me and the gang pretty much killed all his minions, Mr. I’m-a-Shark decided the best way to make the punishment stick was to move Spike to somewhere where he didn’t know us. I guess…” She trailed off slightly, right at the end, sounding a bit less comfortable with the whole business as she suggested, “I guess because I’m not here to know?”

“So all he needs to do is find some kittens?” Cordelia asked, missing or not caring about Buffy’s existential crisis. Spike looked up, not because he cared either, but because he didn’t want to appear completely pathetic when his secretary figured out what he already had. “But,” Cordelia continued, thinking out loud as she knew no other way. “Billy Idol over there told me when I first started that he didn’t want his rep ruined with all the poker-playing demons. So we don’t do – cats. We never look for…” And it turned out she didn’t hate him after all, because she visibly winced. “Oh wow.”

Because yes. All these months he’d been slaving away looking for lost pets, and it turned out that the only thing Spike needed to do was the one thing he’d avoided. He was, officially, a bloody fool.

No one said anything for a short while after that. Outside, the crickets chirped with the early evening; a car was pulling out as one happy customer had apparently claimed their burrito. The ceiling fan whirred round once, then twice.

“So he just needs to find some kittens.” Cordelia eventually repeated, more firmly. A poster child for optimism everywhere, she pushed backwards on her chair and walked over to the files, which as it was only she could understand anwyay. “We can do that. I keep the details of everyone who calls, just in case…”

“I don’t understand why I’m not here,” Buffy chimed in, apparently stuck on this issue. Spike couldn’t figure out if he gave a shit.

Or, no; actually, he was certain that he didn’t. He had much bigger fish to fry. It had just transpired that he’d wasted months of his unlife haring around after fuzzy animals, all of which were completely irrelevant to the geas driving him towards them. Some joker shark was going to get bloody sautéed by the time was done, chopped up and pan-fried and thrown in some sort of spicy soup.

It seemed as though Buffy was missing this point, however. “I mean, do I not exist at all?” she was still whining, addressing him like he would actually bother to answer. “I always thought that I made a difference, at least, but it turns out that the world’s still here even when I don’t even exist…”

“Oh hey, I found someone!” Cordelia interrupted, leafing through the files. “One missing pregnant cat, probably gone to give birth somewhere; called in two days ago. The contact is…” She paused, like she couldn’t believe it. “Huh. Phi Eta Pi UCLA, sorority president…” With a look of sheer disbelief, Cordelia read the name, “Buffy Summers.”

It took a moment for her words to sink in; they all paused. At length, Spike weighed his reaction and couldn’t help but think the evening had just got that little bit more entertaining. “Well, would you look at that,” he said, enjoying the fact even more when he caught the look of sheer horror on this Buffy’s face. It at least made a change from the self-pity. “Sounds like you do exist after all.”

It didn’t take much convincing to leave their Buffy in the car while he and Cordelia trekked their way towards Barbie’s dream house. “The thing is,” Cordelia explained on the way. “It could be some loser interest-group sorority, you know, like a glorified film club or whatever. But maybe you should let me do the talking, just in case.”

“Whatever you want, love,” Spike replied, trying to figure out if that was a lawn flamingo he could see or the antennae of a vyvalin demon. He feared it was actually the former: payback for the amusement he’d felt back at the office. This visit had seemed like a good idea at the time, but now he wasn’t quite so sure.

Indeed, after ringing the bell, it only took a few moments for the answer to come and for all amusement to collapse into fear and panic. The girl who appeared was a paroxysm of bouncing red hair, sparkly teeth, one cheerleading top that wasn’t even skimpy and sweatpants that had been better laundered than his entire wardrobe. “Hi!” she said, like she would take any and every bit of candy they might be willing to offer.

“Hi!” Cordelia replied, overstressing it to the point Spike feared his ears might bleed. “I’m Cordelia Chase and this is Spike. We were wondering if Buffy was home?”

“Oh, it’s so good to meet you!” the girl replied, hand on chest like she’d just taken a hit of E. For all Spike knew she had. “I’m Tammy. I think Buffy’s just upstairs. Can I tell her why you’re here?”

If Cordelia didn’t get this done soon, Spike realised, he was going to murder someone. It was all too much. “Sure!” his secretary nonetheless replied, taking her sweet bloody time about it. “We’re from The Pet Detective; it’s about your missing cat.”

“Oh my god, Ketchup!” Tammy whined, apparently able to hit an even higher register. “We’re all so worried…! I’ll go get her right away.”

Thankfully, then, she left. “The cat’s name is Ketchup,” was all Spike could say, beginning to think he would rather put up with another month of finding ferrets in rubbish bags if it meant he could get out of this particular situation. It didn’t even matter how much it would entertain him to tell all this to their failed goth guest in the car; he couldn’t see that far ahead.

Cordelia didn’t turn to look at him. “I told you,” she said, barely relaxing the syrup in her smile. “Let me do the talking and it will all be over soon.”

Christ, Spike thought; why in God’s name had he thought that this would be a good idea? “I reckon Ketchup the cat probably got out while she still could; she’ll be three counties away by now.” Fuck it; he was lighting up.

Spike!” Cordelia hissed as she heard his lighter, but by then it was already too late. And before she could kick up more of a fuss they heard the sound of a familiar voice. She settled for a whispered, “Put that thing out!”

He ignored her, eye on the door as it opened again. Spike kept his eyes on his cigarette, summoning his strength.

But then, “Hi,” this Buffy said. No squeal – no exclamation mark – just one easy, mellifluous word.

Spike looked up, and was immediately a little taken aback. Because she scrubbed up well, this Buffy. With a smile that barely showed teeth, there was not a hint of the Playboy bunny about her. She was looking at them through long eyelashes, a little impatient like she expected champagne and if she didn’t get it she’d be finding herself a whip. Her hair was golden, honey blonde, with highlights glinting in the porchlight; a long, loose swirl of it hung around her shoulder. Her top was sheer and emerald green.

“I’m Buffy,” she added unnecessarily, a glance between them both. “Cordelia, is it?” she asked while Spike let loose the smoke he’d been holding. “From Sunnydale, right? Did we come on the same campus visit? I think I remember you from a mixer…” She paused, apparently to think, her mouth quirking into a serious frown. “Anyway; of course I know your name. Aphrodisia told us all about what happened with your father… It’s so awful.”

This seemed to strike Cordelia speechless, which should have put Spike on his guard. He was still musing about this new girl’s neckline, however, and so missed the implications.

Until, that was, the she-witch turned to him. “And you must be Spike,” this Buffy said, with a glimmering sort of smile that would have pulled in a weaker man from at least fifty paces. As it was, Spike found it a little difficult standing so close. “I guess you do the detecting.” However, since he was standing so close, he noticed the flicker of a frown that crossed her face when she caught a glance at the DeSoto over his shoulder, parked by the curb. “Is that your car?” she asked, and it almost got to him.

Thankfully the spell at least was punctured, and Cordelia was finally able to interrupt. “So – we’re here about Ketchup?” she asked, apparently unwilling to give up the Valley Girl lacquer that was her professional persona, even if there was more of a bite to it this time. “When we spoke on the phone you said she was missing? And then I think you wanted to come in and talk to us, but I explained at the time about how we have a policy on cats… Only, we don’t anymore, so we figured we should come and talk to you.”

It had to be said, it was really quite difficult to recognise this Buffy they were talking to now from the mad girl in the backseat. For a start, this girl here had poise. She took a moment as if to absorb it all, then immediately took one graceful step towards them on the stoop. “Right!” she agreed, pulling the door to behind her. “No – it was just that I didn’t want the other girls to worry…” She looked between them, her big round eyes reeling them in towards complicity. The imperious look about her was gone, replaced by the rather more mundane nervousness of a twenty year old out of her depth. “It’s just that – and this is gonna seem really dumb, but… I think Ketchup was taken. Like, catnapped. We had a catburglary.”

Spike couldn’t tell if the wordplay was meant to be a joke or just indicative of poor vocabulary. He thought he could see a glint of humour in the girl’s eyes, but he had a feeling that was eyeliner. “O-K,” he said slowly, no longer interested in letting Cordelia talk for him. He had a rather serious, sinking feeling in his gut. “And why, pray tell, would anyone want your cat?”

“Well,” Buffy Summers replied, like she had the most exciting story in the world. “The thing is, she shouldn’t have really been pregnant at all. Ciara was supposed to take her to the veterinarian to have her spayed, right?” She looked between him and Cordelia, to make sure they were following. She was a bit less assuming than her twin, it seemed. “And we all figured that she must’ve gotten lost and gone to the kitty salon instead – even though she promises she didn’t. But, anyway, weird things started happening in the last few weeks, so we got thinking…” For a moment she seemed to choke up at the gravity of what she was saying; Spike was glad he had a fag. “Girls would see bushes moving, funny faces through the window,” she explained. “At first we thought it was just the guys from Kappa Rho Delta, but we used to find Ketchup sitting in the window, meowing like she knew something was up… She wouldn’t leave me alone, like, at all – and then a week later she was gone. It’s just…” she continued straight on, wrinkling her nose. The funny end of it seemed to make sense on her face, the way it didn’t on the girl in the car. “It all feels hinky to me, like something isn’t right.” Then she rolled her eyes, seeming to cast the feeling away. “And I know she’s only a cat,” came the final comment, “but she’s a Phi Eta Pi. No way would she have left on her own.”

Framed by the cream front door, her perfect eyebrows were the image of despondency. Spike breathed out, and then in again. He glanced up to the soothing murk of the night sky and wondered, really, if he had actually signed on for this. He wanted some kittens. They were here to find him kittens, but this whole business was suddenly starting to sound like there would be a lot more aggro before he was done.

More to the point, he really didn’t believe in coincidences. And as funny as it was to have one Buffy Summers in the car, ragged and bitchy, while this one stood in front of them like a prize piece of cattle, he was over the joke now. It didn’t help that this one wasn’t very silly, really, but rather seemed quite a lot more dangerous. Beyond that, if these spells on him, however many there were, had set him up for this, then there was something to be worried about. It felt too much like he was getting himself into something, and he didn’t yet know what.

After all, ‘funny faces in the bushes’ had ‘demon’ written all over it.

Cordelia was saying something to close down the conversation; Spike found himself nodding along. Buffy kept looking at him, which was unnerving, even as he grunted his goodbye and threw his fag end at the palm by the side of their door.

“Please find her,” she said as they left, and god damn her she sounded serious. He didn’t look back, but managed to pin down some of his anxiety when he realised that he actually wanted to help.

“So, what was she like?” came the question as they got back into the car. The plaintive note was what had been missing from the other Buffy, Spike realised; what had made her sound so commanding.

As he turned on the ignition, Cordelia answered first, talking to this strangely now familiar Buffy in the rear-view mirror. “She had a two-hundred dollar haircut and a shirt from Dolce and Gabbana; you were a complete and total bitch.”

As far as Spike could tell, Cordelia said it seriously, but when Buffy moaned it didn’t turn out to be for the reason he expected. “Oh my god,” she said. “You liked her.”

“Well,” Cordelia even conceded the point. “I don’t know if it’s because you’re the Slayer or because you’re poor in your world for some reason, but it seems like someone here taught you how to put together an ensemble. You should look into that.”

“Hey!” came the complaint from the backseat. “I’ll have you know that my wardrobe at home is chockfull of cute stuff, even if it comes with a side of affordable chic.”

“Yeah, well…”

Spike tuned the argument out. In his head, he switched on his mental record player and started playing Combat Rock. He felt better almost immediately.

They dropped Cordelia back at the office, so she could pick up her own car. That left him with the mad girl – who, honestly, seemed slightly less mad now that she’d perked up a bit.

When Spike looked at her now, this Buffy, he could see something of the other one. She was a long way down on her luck, but he realised now how her features fit together. More than that, with the shiny version in his memory he couldn’t help but notice the things that were off with this one. She had bite scars on her neck, he realised – and that was two if not three. The lines around her eyes were deep, serious, and she had the ability to stand still like someone who’d seen enough trauma to send them rigid. Or else someone who knew how to hunt.

As they stood there in the strip mall’s parking lot, Spike had a rather peculiar urge to see the girl move. Fight. Erupt from this stillness into the other one’s smooth and clinical action.

“So what do we do now?” she asked him, and it caught him off guard. Apparently she was comfortable enough with him there on his own. Spike didn’t quite share the feeling; wasn’t sure what to say. “You got a process for this thing or what?” she continued. “Is there a bar somewhere we go for information?” She seemed almost excited at the idea.

“You’re joking, right?” Spike asked right back, recovering himself. “I’m a pet detective; not fucking Batman. Who’m I gonna ask?”

The girl shrugged. “I don’t know,” she said. “I just figured that, you know, if you’ve been doing this for months, then you might have some idea how to start…”

It was a fair cop, that insult. The timing was right and caught off-guard it made him laugh. The sound echoed from the sharp corners of the concrete walls around them. “Well,” he replied, slipping into humour. “Mostly I spend my time wandering around calling ‘Lassie, come home’ and hoping for the best.”

A slow grin crossed the Slayer’s face. She was clearly holding back her own giggle; she couldn’t stop it creeping into her eyes, brightening the corners. “Hmm,” she said. “I guess if it ain’t broke…”

Spike grinned back before he realised what he was doing – and then that sharp, sinking feeling struck him once again.

It was true enough, after all, that if you turned the thumbscrews he could admit he found Cordelia as entertaining as he did irritating. It was rare when she didn’t have some choice words to say about their clients, and he could appreciate a fine-crafted insult as well as the next man. But the two of them didn’t understand each other particularly well, at least not the extent that they shared that many moments of unspoken simpatico. She’d been working for him for months now, and some days Spike even forgot to look down her top.

And that suited him just fine. Apart from the odd drunk co-ed, he hadn’t been feeling particularly tender towards female kind of late.

The problem was, weird nose or not, this girl here was threatening to turn him on. Spike couldn’t figure out why. She was skinny as a rake, and her flat chest was covered up to her chin by the polo-neck she had on. Fair point, the other version of her had basically shown him what she looked like in a bra, but that beach-bunny stomach was probably nothing like what this girl had got from fighting evil…

Fuck him, also, if she wasn’t now looking at him like she could tell what he was thinking. The light in her eyes was warm, receptive, beckoning him closer.

It was time to get control of this.

“Look,” Spike said, forcibly distracting himself. She’s the Slayer. She says she’s the fucking Slayer… Just think what Dru would say. “This geas usually kicks in the moment it’s obvious what I should be doing, but since I ain’t currently got an urge to go knocking on doors, it probably means a night of bloody bookwork. And a drink.” Self-conscious now, he realised he sounded like he was inviting her in. And so he changed the topic, asked, “Where’ve you been staying, anyway?”

“Oh,” the girl replied, blinking. The looked around the car park and, thankfully, whatever moment had just been seemed to pass. “Well, you know; I got here late last night; I spent the day figuring out where you… I kind of haven’t been to sleep yet. Didn’t figure I’d be here more than a few hours.” She rolled her eyes. “I thought you’d still be you, so, once I’d explained things – you’d just find some kittens at the pet shop and I’d take us home. Only now I guess this other Buffy needs our help or something, and I can’t exactly leave myself without her pet cat or whatever…”

She kept talking, but Spike had soon stopped listening. The pet shop. Why the hell hadn’t he thought of that one? Presumably there was no chance of that now, was there? Of course, that was really the minor issue, he realised. “So how exactly are you supposed to take us ‘home’?” Spike interrupted, trying to hold back his feeling of suspicion.

Buffy shrugged, looking a little glum. And slightly exhausted, now he actually looked for it. “Tara – my friend – she gave me a couple of magic pendants. We put them on; say the word; we’re home before you can say ‘whiplash’.” She paused. “At least, that’s what should happen.” The girl rolled her eyes, continuing, “My friend Willow wanted to help, but she’s off the magics ever since this whole incident with Dawn, when I gave her an ultimatum about whether she could stay in the house or not… You won’t remember, but she wiped our memories this time when we first met your loan shark guy, which really should have been a warning sign, but…”

Another shrug. Spike watched her, silently. It was different, now she wasn’t playing defensive to a crowd of him and Queen C. It was like she’d forgotten for a moment that he had no idea who she or any of these people were. It was as if she thought he cared.

He wondered, not for the first time and with even less expectation of an answer, why exactly she thought he would want to come back with her. Because he didn’t care – not one subscript iota.

“D’you fancy a bit of whiskey and the internet?” he asked without fully intending to.

Wide, hopeful eyes looked up and met with his. Those bloody eyes, he thought; he had to stop looking at them. “No whiskey,” she said, even as the rest of her screamed some sort of desire to be needed, to be wanted. “And I can’t promise to keep awake if the screen’s all flickery.”

“Done,” Spike replied with a grin. Although part of him was panicking about what the hell he was agreeing to.


[Chapter Three]

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