Somewhere Ages and Ages Hence
By Barb C
Pairing: Buffy/Spike, and Buffy and Spike
Summary: It’s not so much a dark mirror as a tie-in novel series that’s gone way off the rails.
Notes: This story takes place in the same universe as A Raising In The Sun et al. It’s a many-years-later followup to In A Yellow Wood and is set a month or so prior to To Lie Down With Wolves. It also contains spoilers for Season 12 of the BtVS comics.
So it turns out that, surprise, Other Buffy has problems of her own.
Real Buffy doesn’t know what they are, and she doesn’t ask, because not her business, right? (Though it’s her. How can it not be her business?) She’d expected Other Buffy’s world to be a dark, twisted mirror of her own life, something that would reflect her own problems back to her, and allow her to solve them in one neat, tidy revelation. (Not that she has any problems. Nope. She’s totally problem-free. And if she just lets Other Buffy assume that she still has a castle and a submarine and an army of adoring followers, well, it’s only because it would take too much time to explain what’s happened since the last time they met.)
Instead, it’s not so much a mirror as a tie-in novel series that’s gone way off the rails. Other Angel is human. Other Willow’s a vampire with a soul. Other Faith and Other Giles are running a Watcher counter-insurgency. Other Illyria is some lawyer chick, and definitely not hooking up with anyone. Other Fred Burkle is still Fred Burkle, and as soon as she gets the coordinates for Real Buffy’s home dimension figured out, Other Dawn can send her home.
And then there’s the time thing. Somehow or other, she’s lost some years, or Other Buffy has gained them, because they’re not the same age anymore, and it makes her head hurt when she tries to figure out how 2018 minus 1981 equals thirty. (Literally. A warning, don’t-go-there throb, like she’s been chipped, and certain thoughts are off-limits. But she is only thirty, she knows she is. Math was never her subject, and as long as she ends up on the younger-and-perkier end of the deal? Screw it.)
It’s not just Other Buffy who’s older than she should be. She remembers, vaguely, when she and her assorted doppelgangers were all trapped in the Wolfram & Hart pocket dimension, Other Buffy telling them that Other Spike was alive, because Mothra blood or something. But she never really thought about what that meant. Other Spike was still a soulless vampire, that was the important thing. Today she’d braced herself to look into the face of the guy she’d last seen across a stark white bathroom, and instead found herself looking at a middle-aged stranger. If there’s a flicker deep in his eyes, a dangerous light long extinguished in Real Spike’s, it’s filtered by years she hasn’t lived through, and pains she hasn’t felt. Other Spike has changed. Into what, she has no idea.
Something’s up with them, Other Buffy and Other Spike. They treat each other with the exaggerated tenderness of people who’ve almost broken something beyond repair, and are hoping that if they move carefully, and hold their breaths long enough, it will mend, and not just fall apart. When one looks at the other unnoticed, it’s full of yearning, a need so raw it makes her breath catch.
It doesn’t stir even the tiniest pang of envy in her breast. Not the teeniest.
Love is blood, children, not brains.
Which is stupid. What she feels for Real Spike is all brains. There’s nothing raw left between them; it’s all smooth edges and healthy, mature, adult self-sufficiency. She doesn’t need him, and Real Spike doesn’t need her, either. They’ve achieved John Galt levels of not-needitude. They just… occasionally enjoy one another’s company, in a healthy, mature, and self-sufficient way. And that’s a good thing – witness their recent mutual and totally-the-right-thing-to-do breakup. They can slide painlessly in and out of one another’s lives at any time.
(At least, it’s painless for her. Totally. And if it isn’t for Spike, he’ll never tell.)
If Other Buffy and Other’s Spike’s relationship falls apart, they’ll be wrecks. Heartbroken. Other Spike will probably go on a month-long bender and kill things, and Other Buffy will probably eat out the entire ice cream section of Krogers and also kill things, and there will be tense custody negotiations over their kids (they have kids. Plural!) and through it all they’ll still be giving each other that look, even as they flay each other with words. Maybe they’ll both move on eventually. Maybe they’ll even be friends. But it won’t be quick, and it won’t be easy, and it certainly won’t be painless.
Other Spike flicks his smartphone off, turns and gives her the once-over, in that see-you-down-to-your-component-atoms way he has. (Had. Once he got a soul, Real Spike never presumed to give her that look again.) He nods, coolly, as if she compares unfavorably to his Buffy. Which is super irritating, because hello, younger and perkier. “Anya says she and Harris can keep an eye on the spawn, and Dawn’s taken the afternoon off. Says we can drive you up to L.A. any time, and the Burkle should have the coordinates by the time we get there. We’ll have you home in two ticks.”
Other Buffy claps her hands together briskly. “Great. Let’s get going.” She doesn’t seem any happier to have Real Buffy here than Real Buffy is to be here, which is a small comfort.
Buffy follows them out to Other Buffy’s car (a total mom SUV, score one more coolness point for Real Buffy) and slides into the back seat. Two hours of strained small talk on the I-5 is a small price to pay for a ticket home, she guesses. After a brief squabble over who’s going to drive, Other Spike takes the wheel. Buffy doesn’t know what’s up with them – what shattered, why it still hurts so much, why they’re so determined to mend it. Not that it matters. She’s going back to the real world, and her perfect healthy mature painless not-relationship with her not-boyfriend. Two not-boyfriends. (And maybe a not-girlfriend; it’s really hard to tell with Faith.) Whom she loves, but never to the point where it might hurt to stop. Which is so much better a place to be in than wherever Other Buffy is.
For a moment Other’ Buffy’s fingers brush Other’s Spike’s on the steering wheel, and he stiffens. Other Buffy’s hand freezes. Then drops defiantly onto his, giving his fingers a squeeze, and Other Spike breaks into a startled, joyful smile.
So much better.
Originally posted at https://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/635737.html