For those of you that remember, I had intended to start posting this story back in May, but due to catching Covid, I was delayed. So I only ended up posting the first chapter, which could sort of stand alone as-was. I have since caught up with my writing, so am now launching the rest of the story, starting with Chapter 2! You can either read Chapter 1 as originally posted in seasonal_spuffy here, or the (slightly) updated version on AO3 here. I do recommend reading it somewhere, because chapter 2 does follow on directly.
Title: Nothing Is Finished, Chapter 2
Author: stuffnonsense / stuffandnonsense
Warnings: There is some Spike/Other in this chapter, but it’s brief and is not carried over at all into the rest of the story.
In Ripples on a Hellmouth, Buffy went back in time seven times to fix her past and stop the world from ending. Each trip back showed her a different ‘present’, until by the end she barely recognised it. But she still ended up with almost everything she’d ever hoped for in a happily ever after.
At least part of that was because of Spike. Just … not the same Spike she found herself married to in 2023. It was a different version of Spike – one who Buffy met in passing in one of her intermediate futures – who made just the one time jump, back seven years in time-travelling-Buffy’s timeline — to when Buffy’s husband died.
This is his story.
“You know I love you, right?” Dawn asked. Again.
Faith snorted, and Spike only just managed not to roll his eyes. It was exactly the phrasing and intonation she’d used all through her teens and early twenties when she wanted something and he didn’t immediately capitulate.
It turned out there was a plan. Had been ever since Willow found the spell to send Faith’s spirit back to inhabit (or inhibit) past Scoobies, and Dawn decided Spike needed to be swept off to a nice, safe, dimension before the present had a chance to re-align itself to the reality where both Summers sisters died in 2001. While Spike listened, incredulous, to the little menace crowing about how she’d been patiently waiting in the coffee shop round the corner for Faith to figure out how to fix the past, the slayer herself drifted over to sit on the sofa and started fussing with her favourite knife and a whetstone, expression unreadable.
Then, as Willow got stuck into re-telling time-travelling Buffy’s visit, Anyanka apparated right into their living room. That elevated the whole thing to a full-blown conspiracy. Because like all good scheming cabals, there had to be someone who ought never to have been involved. And Anyanka fit to a T – she’d not just burned every bridge but salted the earth after, back when she and Rupes split.
Once Dawn put her mind to something, there was no stopping her. And this bonkers plan of theirs had her fingerprints all over it.
“I’m not exactly sure where – or when – you’ll end up.” Willow was furiously scratching at her arm. “It’s kinda like racing Formula One with a sensory deprivation helmet on.”
Anyanka smirked. “If only you hadn’t burned out your third eye playing patty-cakes with—”
“Leave her alone,” Dawn snapped.
“Fine,” Anyanka huffed airily, like she was doing them all a favour. Which, Spike supposed, she was.
“What with having Buffy here just now, I’m pretty sure I can lock onto her reality, get you back to when the other Spike died.” Willow’s breath hitched, and suddenly she came over all starry-eyed. “You two can be together.”
Looking back and forth between a serenely uninterested Faith and a romance-drunk Willow, Spike was at a complete loss. “But … why?” he asked again.
Dawn was incredulous. “How can you even ask that? You’re dead in her dimension; she’s dead here….” She gestured imperiously at him to finish the line of thought.
He still didn’t get it. “What’s that got to do with anythin’?”
“Sense of self-worth strikes again…,” Faith muttered.
Spike glared at her. “Shut it, pot.” She just smiled at him and pulled out the leather to start stropping, like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.
“We all agreed, Spike.” Dawn said it gently and firmly, like she’d remind Anouk that chocolate wasn’t dinner. “It’s not safe for you here once Faith changes your past.”
“Hey!” Willow said, mildly affronted. “I thought you’d be okay, but I was outvoted.”
“Ta. Ever so.” He wasn’t actually sure whether or not he was being sarcastic.
“I will never forget the morning I found you sitting on the roof.” Dawn’s voice was all over the place, and he still couldn’t decide how much of it was genuine and how much was messing with Willow. “If I wasn’t there….”
“Yes, yes,” Anyanka interrupted. “Spike wanted to die. And no one but you noticed. We’ve been through that.”
Spike wished desperately and hopelessly for the ground to swallow him up. “Where were you gonna send me, ‘fore Willow decided to play matchmaker?”
Dawn shrugged. “Anyanka said she knew a dimension where you’d be safe.”
Anyanka turned a decidedly odd colour, sort of flushed and pale all at the same time. “But Willow’s idea is so much better!”
Spike blinked. “What the hell makes any of you think things could ever work out between me and Buffy?”
“Because you love her,” Dawn said, shoving him. Without really thinking, he shoved her back. Anyanka stepped between them before it turned into a competition, which surprised him. He’d never thought she paid enough attention to other people’s relationships to notice something like that.
“She said you were her everything,” Willow whined. “I mean, if I had the chance to go somewhere Tara was still alive, mourning me?” She shivered, and Spike caught the briefest glimpse of Willow-from-before, back when she genuinely believed there was nothing she couldn’t fix with magic. It gave him the screaming ab-dabs. “Aren’t you curious?” she continued. “Just a little?”
“Course,” he said, nonchalantly as anything. “But curiosity’s hardly worth racin’ Formula One in a sensory deprivation helmet.”
“I may have exaggerated slightly for effect,” Willow said sheepishly. “It’s kinda nice being impressive again.”
Spike valiantly resisted the urge to punch her in the face.
“Everything will be fine,” Dawn said firmly. “The three of us have been over this spell a thousand times.”
“Oh, well,” Spike sneered. “If Twitchy, Evil-Again and Snack-Size say it’s fine….”
Anyanka stepped out of the firing line and drifted over to the sofa and Faith. “They’re still like this?” she whispered, quietly enough that Dawn couldn’t hear, but Spike could. Briefly, he wondered whether that was on purpose.
Faith nodded, a smile flickering over her lips.
“Don’t you call me – I’m taller than you!” Dawn wasn’t quite screeching. Not yet, anyway.
“Bloody act like it, then!”
“Hey,” Faith interrupted. “You two really wanna waste your last few minutes together bickering?”
“Who said I was going anywhere?” Spike snapped.
“Babycakes.” She sounded almost sympathetic. “It’s so cute you think you have a choice here.”
He sat down cross-legged on the floor and folded his arms.
“You’re really gonna try that against a witch, a vengeance demon and a slayer?” Faith had the grace to look low-key impressed by his ‘bravery’.
“I’ll hurt you,” Anyanka chirped coquettishly. “It won’t bother me.”
“I mean….” Faith looked back and forth between him and the others. “I’m pretty sure they can just move the portal around you.”
“If you really don’t want to, we won’t do it,” Willow said.
Dawn, radiating incredulous rage, opened her mouth, but before she could say anything, Willow shouted: “Consent is important!” like a spotty teenaged boy trying to prove his feminist credentials. Spike was embarrassed on her behalf – no woman in her forties should ever say those words while looking like that.
But Dawn’s mouth still snapped shut, miracle of miracles.
“What have you got here, really?” Faith continued. “Without Dawn and her family?”
“You,” Spike replied quietly, wishing he believed it.
She smirked. “Tell me your first thought wasn’t taking Miss Priss up against a wall.”
Spike put on his best poker face, but it never worked on anyone who’d met him more than twice. Anyanka started laughing and didn’t stop until Dawn glared her into giggly submission.
After one last pointed glare, Dawn knelt down in front of Spike and took both of his hands in hers. “You’re my only family. I can’t let Faith go back unless I know you’ll be okay.” She paused. “And she has to go back.”
Spike stared mulishly up at her. He’d given up on any pretence that Dawn actually listened to him around the time she started college. But that didn’t mean he’d just roll over and do whatever she wanted.
“I love you so much.” No wheedling or manipulation this time. Those wide eyes and trembling lips were her greatest weapon because she never had any idea she was even doing it. Dawn pulled a phone’s memory card out of her pocket and placed it on his palm, curling his fingers around it. “Our wedding. All the family photos.” Her breath hitched. “I need you to remember us.”
As Spike’s resistance visibly broke, the other women didn’t even try to hide their sniggers. It was completely unfair. Sure, he’d never been able to refuse Dawn anything she really needed, but Willow gave up any hint of a backbone back when Tara’d been doing most of the parenting and no one else had ever even pretended to try. It was a bit rich them giving him grief over it now.
Dawn crawled into his lap and wrapped herself around him, and he buried his nose in her neck. For today, at least, he could pretend to the both of them that he’d never forget her scent.
“Be safe, Spike. And don’t you dare lose sight of how much we all love you.”
He expected Anyanka, at least, to deny that. Willow too. After all, their only real point of connection was Dawn, even if time and enforced proximity eventually turned them into something approaching family. And if he was completely honest with himself, he’d never been sure Faith was capable of loving anyone. The walls she’d built around her heart were just too damn high.
But none of them said a word. There was a part of him that resented it taking the actual end of the world to bring them to this point. But Dawn was the only one with reason to love him, and he still had to pinch himself every so often to believe in it.
Dawn finally extracted herself from his lap, wet and blotchy, yet so strong and determined he could barely stand to see it. No one should have to manage the end of their own existence like this. He wondered how badly he’d been letting her down all through this, just like he’d once let down her sister.
Before he could say anything, Willow stepped in, pulling Spike upright and into a hug. “Just tell Buffy how you feel and everything will be fine,” she told him.
Spike nodded dumbly. He didn’t believe in any of it for second. And while the hug was nice enough, it also proved Faith’s point: he had zero control in this situation.
Willow drew a chalk circle on the floor while Anyanka and Dawn chanted something Spike thought sounded suspiciously like a demon lullaby he half-remembered hearing decades ago in very rural Russia. Ninety percent sure Anyanka was having a laugh at the others’ expense, he tried to catch her eye. When she studiously looked anywhere and everywhere but his direction while piously chanting even louder, he was sure of it.
Chant over, Anyanka left Willow and Dawn to complete the next bit of mystical mumbo-jumbo and sidled over to him, bumping her hip against his.
“How the hell’d you get roped into this?” Spike asked.
She leaned in to kiss his cheek, all breezy and light. Then, angling herself so no one else could see, she licked the length of his jugular and whispered, “Old time’s sake.”
He blinked, wondering what the hell she could be talking about. They’d been friends of a sort for a good few months back in Sunnydale. Then Buffy died and Rupes took Anyanka with him back to sunny old, and
Spike had barely seen either of them again – not for more than a couple hours – until nearly nine years ago when they reunited to save the world. Again. In the aftermath, it was obvious their relationship was in its death throes, and then Dawn told him she needed a break from the supernatural for a while, launching the number three spot for worst six months of his entire life. He’d shagged Anyanka exactly once, when they were both far too drunk and sad and thinking of other people to enjoy it properly. Spike woke up hungover and alone, and only found out later she’d left his bed to openly slaughter an entire frat house. To Spike’s knowledge, none of their mutual acquaintances had spoken to her since.
Anyanka pulled back, and he noticed for the first time how haggard she looked. “You okay?”
“How do you do it?” she asked softly, still avoiding eye contact. Then she turned her piercing, ancient gaze on him. “You play human so well, even I believe it.”
Any other day, Spike would have argued. Vociferously. Instead, he gave the best answer he had: “Love.”
Anyanka flinched. “And when love isn’t enough?”
Spike made a face at her, all sneering disbelief and bravado. “Never happen.”
Anyanka just nodded and stepped back towards Willow and Dawn, making him feel unbearably young and naive.
Despite his promises, Spike was still half-considering legging it: search out one of the baby Hellmouths, and go out fighting instead. He didn’t trust Willow to send him back however-many years into some other version of himself’s life. He trusted even less that he’d be able to slot into it. The Buffy he met might’ve mourned him, but she was still travelling through time, changing things. Who the hell knew about whichever Buffy he’d find on the other side of that portal?
He knew where he was in this world. Knew who he was. Until Faith’s next trip back, anyway.
As if summoned, Faith came to stand with him and immediately he could feel her fingers bruising him where she gripped his bicep. He realised that if he left now he’d only be backing Dawn’s conviction that, without her, he’d immediately give in to that death wish she was so sure he’d been secretly nurturing since the night Buffy jumped. He hated when that girl outsmarted him. Worse, Faith was now clearly staking her claim to stop him if he tried. Spike started quietly laughing; it was the only thing he could do not to scream.
A small velvet bag dropped into his hand. “My rainy day fund.” Faith briefly laid her cheek against his shoulder and he leaned into the touch for as long as she let him. “Few decent rubies, and some uncut diamonds that might or might not pan out. Should be at least eight grand there.”
Spike raised one eyebrow. “You been holding out on me.”
Faith shrugged. “Hadn’t rained hard enough yet.”
He stared up at the ceiling, beige and cracked and dispiriting, and rubbed at the back of his neck. “I’ll miss you.”
Faith grinned, but there was no warmth to it. “If I want you to miss me somewhere else instead of forgetting me here, does that make me a terrible person?”
“The worst,” Spike replied softly. For the first time, he wondered whether the distance between them had more to do with him than with her. Yet another thing he’d bollocksed up. “But who’s to say we wouldn’t still find each other?”
Faith’s smile slid off her face like water.
“Recall a promise you made me once. Involved ridin’ me at a gallop ‘til I popped like warm champagne.”
She snorted. “I’d have dusted you without Dawn in tow.”
She turned dead eyes on him, and raised one brow slowly. “Sure.”
Spike sighed, all the fight leaking out of him. “No escapin’ this, is there?”
Faith’s shoulders twitched. “But hey, we’re saving the world, right?”
Despite himself, he immediately thought of Buffy. “Right couple of heroes, we are.”
Faith was still laughing when they opened the portal and she callously shoved Spike through – right into the middle of a twenty-year-old nightmare.
He’d expected telly’s tried and tested atmospheric flashing lights and windstorms. Quantum Leap sort of stuff. Instead, he was surrounded by all-consuming hellfire. But then, just like the last time, Spike popped back into reality. Only this time, he was fully corporeal and knee-deep in snow instead of lawyers. Gasping and jittery, he wondered what other nightmares might haunt him in this alternate world. Then he realised his skin was still smoking.
Cursing Willow, Spike ran for the shadows, wishing someone had guessed he might arrive in the middle of the sodding afternoon. As he was checking himself over for stray flames, he considered how lucky he was not to have been dropped in a field or the middle of the sea.
Suddenly, the pull of sire snapped back full force, almost bringing him to his knees. He wasn’t sure how to feel about that. He’d need to figure it out sharpish, though – knowing Dru, she’d come to investigate the duplicate Spike taking up residence inside her head. He just hoped he wouldn’t need to kill her again.
He got his phone out of his pocket and was pleasantly surprised to find it still worked. That had to be Anyanka’s gift: forcing reality to bend around him. It was the twenty-ninth of November 2016, at three-seventeen pm. He went straight to his favourites and stared down at Dawn’s number. He had to at least try it – just check she was okay. Before he could overthink it, Spike pressed the call button.
After a few rings, “Hi!” a bright, cheery, and decidedly male voice echoed. “You’ve reached Dav—”
He hung up. Then he blocked and deleted the number, studiously ignoring the way it felt like amputating a limb. Not for the first time, he mourned the fact that the only people he’d ever managed to form any mystical connection with were Dru and Willow. He could only be thankful the one with Willow didn’t seem to have carried over into this new reality.
Spike tried to centre himself, leaning back against the wall and pulling out a cigarette. The fact that he dropped it twice trying to get it alight was absolutely, definitely, nothing more than cold fingers and a brisk wind. As he inhaled, he forced himself to shrug off the things he could do nothing to change and take proper stock of his situation.
If he was in the right time and the right dimension – and wasn’t that the biggest sodding ‘if’ he’d ever faced – then he’d be six years back in time-travelling-Buffy’s past and her Spike should be recently departed. That meant all he needed to do was ride triumphantly into town and ta-fucking-da. He could slip straight into the other Spike’s life. ‘Not so dead after all, thanks. Wouldn’t you rather have me than dust?’ Happily ever after.
Only all he could think about was the many, many times that Willow had cocked up the finer details of a spell. He was probably in a dimension exactly as cheery and hopeful as his own, minus some crustacean or other.
Spike shut his eyes and opened himself up to his surroundings. There was the faint pulse of power against his skin that came from being on a Hellmouth. That was good – there’d be the right sort of amenities in place, and a far better chance of finding the slayer.
But it also meant he had to be careful. This time of year, Buffy was generally getting her arse handed to her by whatever big bad she was going up against. If her current crew were on high alert, they were likelier to stake first and ask questions later if they noticed Spike running around again back from the dead. It’s what he would’ve done.
He stroked at the bag of gems in his pocket. Time-travelling-Buffy hadn’t said anything about her past, or what she’d been doing to change it. Spike figured he ought to sit back and watch for a while, work out the lay of the land. Couldn’t rush in blind and risk losing the snowball’s chance in hell Dawn had gifted him.
Chapter 3 to follow….
Originally posted at https://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/708950.html