Title The Best of All Possible Worlds
Author Brutti ma buoni
Setting the not so good old days. Despite first appearances, very much not an all-human AU.
A/N Blame Gill for how this turned porny. I was going for a romp, mostly, before she nudged me a bit. Anyway. I’m not sure it was ever going to make much sense.
Elizabeth Ann Summers regarded herself in the looking glass. The dress of sprigged muslin was superlatively flattering – she had selected it apurpose at the Bazaar for that very effect. The single pendant? Demure, yet allusive. The slippers? Satin with a perfect sheen. Most satisfactory.
What was the hour? Was it time? Could she hear, even now, the clatter of carriage-horse hooves outside, meaning that, at last, they could depart for the evening’s entertainment?
Yes! A knock at the door – perhaps not so deferential as one might desire, but one employed coachmen for their way with horses rather than their delicacy, and strove to impart the simpler social graces over time. Daughtry opening the door. But not, it transpired, to a coachman.
“Come in, sir,” he said, bowing.
“Fucking idiot,” said the person – clearly not a gentleman – who was entering. “Some fancy suiting and you’re opening your threshold to any passing demon.”
“Sir,” said the butler, drawing himself up to a height considerably greater than that of the Person. “You are drunk.”
“No,” said the Person – who in addition to not being a gentleman, was, it was about to transpire, not a Person either – “I’m a sodding vampire, and you’re a disgrace.” He turned his back on the blanching servant, though not before Miss Summers was able to observe the flash of pointed ivory and golden eyes. “Now, where’s the Slayer?”
He ignored the butler – or would have, had Daughtry been able to speak – and sniffed, loud and long. Then pointed his gaze, no longer aureate, directly at Miss Summers’ place upon the stair.
“Buffy? Thank fuck. Been looking all over for you.”
“And whom do you suppose you are addressing?” Buffy drew herself up to her full height (alas, not so great as the modest stretch of the UnPerson before her). She groped silently for her reticule, lest- Yes. Good. A stake was indeed to hand. It was evidently for such eventualities that she always furnished herself with a weapon, though until this moment, the reasoning had not been manifest even to herself.
“Sod,” said the vampire, cheerfully enough to surprise. “Memory wipe as well as the time travel, is it? They warned me. Now-“ He picked a letter out of the folds of his outer garment. As he searched, he batted absently at Miss Summers’s earnest and effortful attack. “Doesn’t seem like they left you much training, eh, Slayer? Bit of the old reflex, but you’re not the woman I fought. Mind you, ‘spect those undies aren’t so accommodating as our modern- Fach threykal, fach inekal, fach mnemokal knickers and such.”
And the last three words fell on the ears of Buffy Summers. The Vampire Slayer.
“Yep,” he said, shrugging. There were a couple of steps between them, after he’d repelled her last attack, and she closed the gap as fast as possible. There was kissing. There was also the sound of Daughtry, gagging.
It appeared that Buffy hadn’t lost the whole Regency damsel setting along with her new personality. Damn.
Now that she looked about, the house was still pretty but electric light and TV would seriously have improved it. And Spike was right about the underwear, too. Stays were not Slayer-friendly at all.
It turned out that carriage rides to courtly balls in old London town were kind of a nightmare. They were travelling maybe a quarter of a mile, and the whole route was blocked with other ballgoers, going nowhere. Which, usually, would have been frustrating. Today, it was a welcome chance to get briefed.
“So,” Spike said, voice of scepticism a welcome point of familiarity in a reality that Buffy was only just realising was strange to her. “You haven’t seen the demon, then? Because he seemed awfully keen for you to come with him when he nabbed you.”
“Nope. I got nothing.” Buffy honestly had nothing demonic from the moment she woke up one ordinaryish day in the castle, until Spike de-spelled her. She knew she had retained memories of Slayer life enough to keep a stake handy, but- “Pretty sure I’d remember a big green demon trying to make me his wife.”
Spike grunted, twitching a shoulder. Wife was something of an unmentionable word just now. But that was an argument for another time. Really another time. Another century. Because apparently this was genuine time travel, not a dimension leap, and Buffy wasn’t over freaking out about that but there was no time. “Yeah. Well, he’ll make a move at some point. Though I’m betting he’ll be at least a shade glamoured if he wants to be accepted in the beau monde. He was a wee bit green for polite company, last I saw. Courtship his style doesn’t seem like it’ll take too long, though. Coupla dances, a spray of knockout juice and he’ll have you at the altar. Good thing I managed to get here before then.”
“Yeah, how did-“
He waved away the question before Buffy could even finish. “Whatever it took to get you back, Slayer. Time and space and all that’s between. You know we need you.” She’d been prepared to melt then, to hear how he’d missed her and get back to the brief state of happy kissing they’d achieved between memory loss and mission. But apparently Mr Vampire wasn’t in the mood. And wasn’t that just how things had been lately?
“But you’re sure there has to be courting? He won’t just knock me right out?”
“Nah, it’s the spell, innit? The one he needs you for. Courting and all that. Bit surprised he needed you back in time, but maybe this is how he thinks courtship should be.” Spike poked his head out the window, contemplating the stationary line of carriages leading to Lord Ellesmere’s ball. Complete with horse shit and ragged kids on the streets watching them with big eyes, Buffy noted. It really wasn’t a very nice place to be. Back in his seat – and looking like the carriage’s undersprung cushions were as uncomfortable for him as for Buffy – Spike grumbled. “Dumb fucker. Who’d think this is better than cars and a welfare state? Not that your compatriots ever got the latter.”
Reflex snark at the end there. Yeah. Buffy rose above it.
The carriage ride was endless.
There was magic in the air at the Ellesmere ball, though. Not the bad kind.
Buffy walked up the sweeping staircase to the ballroom, listening to the buzz of social chatter. The flowers, candles, soft mirrors and décor all spoke of dream lives she’d never thought to experience. Even the Council castle was a lot more with the Fearsome Headquarters than the Luxury Dream House. Here, there were no worried warriors and hurrying bureaucrats: the rooms were packed with silk-clad ladies and gentlemen. Servants were everywhere.
At the door to the ballroom, she paused, drinking in the whole-
“What, love?” He was back to calling her love. A good sign, even if the hour of tetchiness in the carriage was raw and irritating in her mind.
“Is it a little… funky in here?”
He looked at her patiently. “Buff- How long d’you think it’ll be before someone invents the aerosol deodorant? Or the wet-dry vacuum cleaner, come to that? These rooms aren’t ever really clean. These people bath maybe a tenth as often as you. Welcome to the past, Slayer. It really stinks.”
How had Buffy possibly not noticed this before? They had worked out she had been in the past for at least two weeks, maybe closer to three (though only four days in Real Time, as Buffy was trying to think of it). And yet, in all that time, 21st century Buffy’s nostrils had never rebelled.
She tried not to dry heave. It was still very pretty. Also, possible demon slaying beckoned.
“Come on, love. Got to be announced,” Spike nudged her. She handed the invitation to the… erm, guy. Regency-Buffy’s vocabulary was vanishing along with her sense of smell.
The erm, guy shouted out, “Miss SUMMERS and friend,” and nobody tried to hurl Spike out of the room on account of being too vampiry nor too obviously out of time. Which was a little surprising.
“Did you have to do your hair before coming?” He was looking extra peroxide-tastic today. To Buffy, it screamed out like, like- Well, like the armpits of the guy ahead of her, which could probably kill demons in a cinch.
“Didn’t think it’d make much difference,” Spike said, calmly. “It’s all about looking confident, innit? I wasn’t going to a costume hire place just on the off chance Willow’s fortieth effort at opening a time portal’d work.”
Buffy blinked. That sounded… yes. That sounded like a lot of panicky work had happened while she was gone. Which wasn’t actually surprising. But he was skating over it like he didn’t want it noticed.
Before she could speak, he added. “You know how these things go, right? That much still in your noggin?”
“Uhuh. I think so. Dance cards and waltzes and guys off playing cards away from the scary marriage-hungry girls?”
“Yep. Dull as fuck-“ and Buffy did not miss the double take of a passing gentleman in unbelievably tight pants at that gem from Spike, so no, they weren’t actually invisible, nor completely protected by Spike’s air of confidence.
She nodded, and hastily took off from Tight Pants’s immediate vicinity. “So, we dance?”
He smiled. “Maybe. But let’s see who wants to dance with you first, love. Might be your demon is easy to draw out.”
Buffy’s mind really was blurring now. She’d been at parties before tonight, maybe not this kind of ball, but still, nice parties. With gentlemen, and ladies who would talk to her, and someone in this stinking hole must recognise her, but no one was talking. Not freaking, not panicking, just a little slow to start the mission and- Good goddess, it was hot in the ballroom, even without heating. The candles alone were insane, shooting out heat in unpredictable bursts. Wax was dripping from the chandeliers. It was on her dress already.
History was, it turned out, pretty gross.
She survived the evening. She survived the next two evenings, too – a little less impressive in the party department, but still demanding a lot of fake-Elizabeth-Summersing. No sign of demons. Lots of guys, mostly trying to look down her dress. Any one of them could have been a demon (she would cheerfully have staked at least half)
No Spike. Oh, he was present, kinda, mostly playing cards and drinking, from what she could see. It gave her reminiscent shivers. This was how they used to be, living alongside one another, in slightly different but always connected worlds.
But no Spike at night. He didn’t even sleep at the house (“Your reputation, cousin Elizabeth!” Sometimes, Buffy really hated the jerk). And it had been years since she hadn’t slept with Spike, when they were in the same town. She’d lived almost a month without him, by her calendar. Maybe she hadn’t know it the whole time, but now- Well, now she was itchy with Spike-need. All this history, all this ladylike stuff… Buffy Summers was simmering underneath it, and she really, really needed to get free.
The second night, Spike casually mentioned that the only way they could get home was by killing the demon. Which, okay, Buffy had already been pretty motivated to get this damn kidnapper demon and not complete his spell. But the thought of living here, and now, forever? With the smells? And the underwear situation (no bras, no panties, a whole corset thing of badness)? The one bright spot was that maybe that would be enough to finally get Spike to marry her, because she was pretty sure his lodgings weren’t awesome. And Buffy was pretty sure he was also getting itchy.
The next night was another ball. A really big deal, apparently. With Dukes. Or Princes. Possibly both, Buffy was a little foggy. Spike arrived to accompany her, dressed in actual local clothes instead of the duster and some attitude. “Are you wearing shorts?”
“Knee breeches, pet. And there’ll be no bloody laughter, or I won’t fuck you in the anteroom if your demon doesn’t show again.”
She opened her mouth, closed it. Swallowed. Breathed. Itchy turned into desperate, and she was pretty sure Spike would smell it. Even with deodorant, he didn’t miss that kind of cue.
“Uh, Spike?” she asked, after a few minutes, when the carriage had travelled maybe its own length (nobody ever mentioned how history was one long traffic snarl).
“What’s an anteroom?”
He laughed shortly, and didn’t explain. Buffy simmered, but she figured she would be finding out soon enough. Hopefully it was nothing really dirty.
By the time they arrived at Devereux House, Buffy wasn’t so much simmering as about to come to a full boil. Damn Spike. Great company. Good on a mission. Tease. Beloved. And a man-not-a-man who’d said he wouldn’t marry her on a bet. Sometimes the contradictions were a little much. But she’d long since decided this was it for her life, and she wished he would shut up and let her live with it.
Buffy was more comfortable at this ball, everything that little bit more familiar. It was still stinky and dull, and full of odd noises not included on period films (like the thudding of everyone’s feet when they danced, the crackle of fires and the rattle of traffic outside), but she was getting noticed. There was dancing, sometimes with guys she’d met before.
She was absolutely not focusing on anything except where that anteroom might be and when exactly Spike might whisk her off there. A woman has needs. A time travelling woman, many needs, it turned out.
His voice, when it came, was tinglesome on the back of her neck. She never felt his breath there, of course, but when he spoke, the tiny hairs stood up and begged for him. “Miss Summers, I wonder whether I might-“
“Yes, absolutely yes now please,” she said, before he got whatever excuse out. Who cared? He laughed, and her whole spine shivered with want.
The anteroom was the size of a janitor’s closet, but it was enough, once they’d barred both doors. Candlelight was dim, but that was enough too, when they knew each other’s body like their own.
“Damn corset,” he mumbled at one point.
“But no panties,” she replied, and he gave up fiddling with her stays to investigate that immediately. “Hah! Couldn’t remember what the Regency style was. Been driving me crazy wondering what’s under your skirts and it’s nothing at all.” The froth of petticoats took him some time to penetrate, by which time he was on his knees. Which seemed convenient all round, though Buffy almost bit through the skin on her wrist trying to keep quiet while he licked into her.
When he leaned back, finally, her legs were shaking, but she didn’t miss the gleam of moisture on his mouth as the dancing candle flames caught it. He was smiling, though it turned to a frown as he looked about them, disdainful at the one chair the anteroom had. “Not exactly over-furnished, this place. That horsehair number’ll be itchy, and it’s small. Mind the floor?”
Buffy’s legs were feeling more competent in the moving-around department, so she walked over to the nearer door, placed her hands on the frame, and looked back over her shoulder. “Come on, when I’m so conveniently undressed?”
He followed, scooping up her skirts, throwing them almost over her head till he had her bare from the waist down. Naked ass, so she waved it at him, invitingly, just a little bent forward to let herself brace properly. “Good old-fashioned knee-trembler, hmm? Retro. I like it. We should time travel more often, Slayer.”
It was kind of a shame that they picked the one door, though, because it was the other one that burst open almost before they’d finished. A voice, booming and somehow not quite human, bellowed, “Elizabeth! My love, how could you so betray me?” It was one of the guys she’d danced with earlier, one of those that she’d remembered from the first night Spike was with her. Huh. Demon was a slowpoke, it seemed.
Spike tutted, and pulled away from Buffy, scrabbling to do up a fly button or two before leaping into the attack. Buffy only had to flail her skirts down which was faster, so she got to the demon first.
The little horsehair-stuffed chair came apart pretty easily, and okay Demon Guy wasn’t a vampire, but stabbing most things through the heart with a foot of pointy wood works pretty well. Buffy shouted over her shoulder as she stabbed, “Spike? What part do we need to get back?”
Spike was still preoccupied with his fly buttons (which: Buffy had mentioned before they were fiddly in a tight spot. Hah.). “Erm, definitely need him dead, I think we just nab some hair or something – anything to bind his body to the spell. Anything that’ll burn.”
“Okay,” and she killed the kidnapper demon properly on the second stab. He was quite good looking, in a way, though as he died he turned a little greenish and his features grew pointier. Unfortunately, the watching London society crowds didn’t see that part.
“Hussy!” “Harlot!” “Shameless!” “Murderess!” A crowd was gathering outside the broken door, pressing forward, body odour and candle wax intruding on Buffy and Spike’s former private space. Possibly not so much a crowd as a mob. Or soon would be.
“Slayer?” said Spike, at her shoulder again. “I’m thinking this could get ugly. Shall we leave these nice people to their chuntering and get off home?”
Two doors to an anteroom? Very handy. They escaped down the back stairs, and into the night, fleeing through London laughing with post-sex and post-kill thrills, back to the house where the butler tried to stop Spike from entering. “It really is most improp-“
“Whatever,” said Buffy. “We need a fire and some cookware. Could you bring- Oh, wait, we’ll go to the kitchen.”
The way real people, not Regency beauties do it: let’s go to where the stuff is, not get our servants to carry it. Not that she knew where the kitchen was, but it didn’t take long to locate, nor long to get the fire going and mix her demon kidnapper’s hair into the flames. Spike incanted. Buffy sprinkled salt and oil and milk as needed, and a portal opened just where they expected. Which almost never happens.
Buffy paused before they stepped through. “Spike?”
“What love?” He paused, turning, one foot already pretty much in the portal.
“If you married me-” He made that face again, the one that turned her cold and angry before, but she knew better now how to press down the internal voices and get what she wanted. “If you married me, I’d be protected.”
He turned fully now, foot out of the portal, fully in the past, fully with Buffy. “How’s that?”
“Demons aren’t good at modernity. Or lots of them aren’t,” she amended, looking at her demon, who could do Regency but looked much better in the twenty-first century to her eyes. “They don’t get cohabitation the way we do.”
Spike looked at her, exasperated. “That’s your best argument?”
“No, dumbass,” she shot back. It had been a long day. “My best argument is I love you and want to be with you forever, and say that in front of our friends. But I tried that one, and you wouldn’t bite.” He smirked at that, which she had to admit was fair. “So, marry me to protect me from deranged demons making me their bride. You idiot.”
And she walked into the portal. Spike behind her, grabbing at her fingers as she went. Which was good, because this portal? Not instant. Not instant at all. It was dark, and bright, and pushed and pulled at Buffy like the sea, or a hurricane, or electricity. And Spike’s hand tight in hers was the thing that told Buffy that she wasn’t alone, or crazy, and that somewhere out there was the real world. Where the vampire she loved wouldn’t marry her, but would travel through time to a place of stinkiness, and have sex with her in an anteroom, and let her kill the demon, and help her run from a mob and yeah, okay. Marriage isn’t everything.
The portal ended, eventually. They were standing in Willow’s spell room, Buffy breathing like she’d done a marathon, Spike gulping hard, like he wanted to be breathless too. He wrapped his arms tight round Buffy, silently. Like he had almost lost her in the mists of time and space.
Buffy was almost ready to speak, and she was intending to say something about the mini-epiphany and how it was okay Spike not feeling like he could do it, when Spike stopped with the flailing fish impression, and said, “Okay. Okay, you win. Not in church, but I’ll marry you.” Buffy’s heart gave a little flutter as Spike’s arms tightened around her. “I do pretty bloody near everything else on your account, after all.”
She rolled her eyes. But if he was complaining, he was with her. So. “Will, you’re a witness. He totally caved.”
Willow nodded, silently, and looked down at her notebook. She really needed a sign saying Staying Out Of This for the full look, but the message was clear.
So Buffy turned in the arms of William the Bloody, Spike, her affianced husband, and kissed him to seal the deal. “You totally caved.”
“I totally did,” he agreed. And maybe didn’t look distraught at the fact.
So she dared, “I was thinking, in the portal, maybe it’s not the most important-“
But Spike kissed her again, and said, “Oh, shut up love, I’ve given in. Don’t make me regret it.” And he was grinning, and Willow was not avoiding anyone’s eyes any more. And maybe weird time-travelling demons with poor ideas about courtship weren’t the worst thing that ever if they shortcut all the roundabout arguments of the past months.
Though, you know, Buffy was still pretty glad she had Slayed the demon. His past sucked.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/482942.html