Title: Time is Running Out
Summary: Set post S4 Something Blue (BtVS) and post S5 Soul Purpose (AtS).
A/N: Thanks to all the lovely people who commented on the first chapter I posted back in April, and to enigmaticblues￼ for including an open day! Sadly, I still haven’t been able to quite finish the story, but have at least one more chapter to add as this round of wonderful fic and art draws to a close.
Los Angeles, CA – 2004.
Spike watched as the pair stumbled drunkenly down the alleyway behind the bar, pausing contemplatively as he finished his last drag on his cigarette before sighing and dropping the remains at his feet, grinding out the glowing ash.
“Time to save another moron,” he muttered under his breath, shaking out his coat as he stalked down the alley where he could hear the pair. Apparently Wonder Vamp back there was taking his time, still cooing sweet nothings at the chit he had backed up against the wall.
Spike paused, waiting for the inevitable scream. Really, didn’t anyone teach these girls that it was a bad idea to follow strange men into alleys? Sometimes he wondered if he was messing up the natural order of things, saving them this way. Weren’t the weakest of the herd supposed to be picked off? Strengthen the species and whatall? The daft pair of cows he’d saved last night certainly wouldn’t have been missed from the gene pool.
An ear piercing shriek pierced the night. Right on cue. He ran into the alley, grabbing the vamp’s head as he descended for the bite, and yanking him back to slam into the opposite wall. He let his own demon rise, his face shifting, as he crouched, bouncing on the balls of his feet as he waited for the downed vampire to rise. He’d been itching for a good fight and he was a big one. Maybe this one wouldn’t disappoint, even though he looked young.
With a snarl, the other vampire launched himself, and he laughed, relishing the rush of the adrenaline as they collided. “That’s the spirit, mate, no one likes dinner interrupted, do they, now? Let’s see what you’ve got.”
He was absorbed in the fight, the youngster’s struggle to keep up with his moves and attempts to throw his weight and height around keeping him amused for a few minutes before he grew bored at the repetitive lunges from Junior. “Another one bites the dust,” he singsonged, sliding his stake from his pocket and home with unerring accuracy. He wiped his hands of the particles that dissolved around him before turning around, human face sliding in place to find the wide-eyed morsel staring at him.
“Thank you,” she breathed, rushing forward as if to envelope him. “What was that?”
He slipped back into game face and snarled, quirking an eyebrow as she recoiled. “A lesson. Learn it well. Now go.”
She squeaked and nodded as she turned and raced away, leaving him alone in the alley again.
Or so he thought. A scrape behind from the dumpster alerted him and he turned swiftly.
Her head was spinning. Crazy, Tilt-A-Whirl induced nausea spinning. She started to open her eyes, felt her stomach lurch and closed them again, leaning her head back.
What the hell just happened? The carnival, Madame Serena, Spike and Harmony fighting, Blondie Bear, blah, blah, blah. Then there was that weird wind and poof. The ground was cold and hard beneath her. She moved a hand, scraping it on the surface. Rough. Concrete. A few more inches of careful exploration and she realized she was sitting against a brick wall. Probably an alley way. Was she behind the Bronze? How on earth did she get there?
She inched her eyes open again as she heard footsteps echo in the alleyway on the other side of the dumpster that was blocking her view. A couple, sweet nothings being murmured, a little giggle and gasp from the girl. She sighed, hoping they’d move on to softer surfaces or something. So awkward to try to stagger past them now, mid-clinch. Don’t mind me, just trying to get home.
On second thought – maybe that could work. Pretend to be drunk, skedaddle past, head for the dorm and a nice bottle of aspirin.
She moved slowly and carefully to avoid the upchuck she could still feel lurking, and used the edge of the dumpster to pull herself to her feet just as she a scream and the solid smack of a body hitting a wall. She peeked around the corner in time to see a figure clad in a familiar long black leather coat going mano e mano with another vamp. What the hell? Had Spike’s chip stopped working?
“That’s the spirit, mate, no one likes dinner interrupted, do they, now? Let’s see what you’ve got.”
She gaped as Spike handily dispatched the vampire, staked him, then shooed the girl on her way without even a snap in her direction. She must’ve hit her head on something, cause she had to be dreaming.
He’d had a few tonight, but not enough to create this hallucination, of that he was certain.
“What are you doing, staking that vamp?” She appeared puzzled and sounded slightly peeved.
But she looked well, oh so well, the way he remembered her from before, before she died and was pulled back again, before the last year under siege had worn her down to tough sinew and bone. All bouncy shampoo commercial hair, and curves that hid the deceptive strength of her body, the small crease in her forehead from hours poring over bills that wouldn’t pay themselves and strategies to defeat uber -vamps picking off her proteges and torturing stupid gits like himself completely smoothed away.
She almost seemed… young again, the way she was before so many things burdened her shoulders and dragged her down to his level. He supposed trotting about Europe and playing super Slayer must agree with her.
“Slayer,” he nodded, resisting the urge to go to her or make something of this, her finding him here, playing the reluctant hero type.
The day he’d regained corporal form, the one thing he’d resolved to himself that he wouldn’t do was seek her out. They’d had their moment, and it was one to be remembered for sure, all final declarations and flames. But she was in a different place and somewhere in those last days he’d made his peace with the reality that they were never meant to be. She might be the one, but he was not hers.
Of course, that kind of sentiment was easier to maintain when the lady in question was a thousand miles and several time zones away. Out of sight, out of mind. Hard to keep up when she was right before you, eyes flashing and hair tossing. He couldn’t stop a grin, he always had loved a riled-up Slayer.
She narrowed her eyes impatiently. “Is your chip malfunctioning? What are you doing out – why aren’t you at Giles’s house?” She frowned, “And what was up with you and Harmony tonight at the carnival? You’d better not have been killing people – if I so much as read one item on a missing person from there in the UC-Sunnydale Times tomorrow, so help me-”
“Slayer, what are you on about? Did’ya hit your head back there? You know the chip’s gone.”
“The chip’s gone?” Her eyes widened in shock and she managed to produce one of those stakes he’d never been able to deduce how she hid and wave it at him menacingly before she wavered, and then clutched at her head as she began to slowly sink to the ground.
He reacted without thinking as she started to crumple, moving forward and catching her in his arms before she face planted. The shock of it hit him full force as he touched her flesh, that strong, compact little body, so deceptive.
He cursed under his breath. “Reckon you did take a knock, there, love.” He shifted her back in his arms, her limp form awkward. “Buffy? Slayer, are you alright?”
She remained inert and unresponsive, and he shifted her so that he could gather her up in his arms. Might be a bit Gone With the Wind, but he wasn’t much inclined to just sling her over his shoulder. He started down the dark alleyway, turning the corner and pausing under the streetlight as he glanced down, her face now fully illuminated by the bright light. He swallowed hard. This girl… this wasn’t his Buffy.
Wesley looked up from the tome he was studying on his computer screen at the knock at the door. There were advantages to the electronic transfer of ancient scrolls, but he felt a certain nostalgia now and then for the smell of crumpling parchment, the delicate material beneath one’s fingers slowly revealing its secrets.
He pressed his fingers against the bridge of his nose to cut off the initial throbs of a migraine that had been lurking for a few days now as a result of his quality time with the glaring monitor. Angel insisted this translation was necessary to preserve the alliance with the Glahgna clan, but given what he’d read so far, Wesley wasn’t quite convinced.
Harmony’s preternaturally perky face was grinning at him from the doorway, and he suppressed a sigh. Interactions were her were always so draining. He chortled a little internally at his pun. Draining.
Of course, he’d long ago concluded, based on his vague memories of Harmony as a high school student, that this was not a vampire characteristic. She was quite simply a tiresome girl. Probably here to collect for yet another baby shower or retirement. He so hated office culture.
“Yes, Harmony, what is it?” he asked, automatically digging in his back pocket for his wallet.
She stepped into the office and closed the door behind her, looking furtively around. “Spike needs to see you,” she stage whispered in a voice loud enough that he suspected the next office could easily have heard, if it had been occupied.
“Very well, I’m just in the middle of some research I can break from. Tell him he can stop by whenever.”
Harmony shook her head and came closer. “No, he needs you to come to his apartment. He says it’s an emergency.”
Wesley raised an eyebrow, “What sort of emergency, Harmony?”
She pouted and flopped down in his chair as Wesley cringed. Oh no. not again. Apparently Harmony had concluded based on his Britishness and ability to nod without listening that he was the perfect sounding board for her travails with her Blondie Bear.
“Harmony, I don’t really-”
“He didn’t tell me. Wham, bam, thank you for the copier sex, which didn’t even get finished, if you know what I mean, and he’s been practically ignoring me ever since. He wouldn’t even tell me what this was about, just said you’d need to come by right away, that you’d find this,” she mimed air quotes, “bloody interesting.” She sniffed. “And I asked if I might find it bloody interesting too, and he hung up. He won’t even tell me where his place is, even though I’ve given him my address like ten times now, and-”
“Well, if it’s an emergency, I’d best be off,” Wesley interrupted, grabbing his coat and shooing her towards the door. “Mustn’t keep him waiting, who knows what evil’s afoot.”
“So you do know where his apartment is?” Harmony followed like a particularly vicious little Pekinese on his heels.
“Um, well, I’ll contact him and get directions,” Wesley replied and bounded towards the elevator.
“But he called from a pay phone!“ Harmony wailed as the doors mercifully closed behind him.
Wesley smiled as he entered the garage and liberated one of the more sedate models from the Wolfram & Hart garage. Crisis or no, it was good to be out and clear his head.
Within twenty minutes he’d managed to find parking on a side street a few blocks away from the basement level apartment Spike had acquired, and found himself before the bare door, its paint long faded and streaked. Hardly a welcoming home sweet home, but he seemed to recall mention that Spike had a penchant for crypts and abandoned factories as places of residence, so this might seem quite posh to him.
He knocked sharply twice and waited before Spike opened the door and stepped outside, quickly pulling the door shut behind him.
“Quiet, Watcher. Let’s take a little stroll.”
“I hardly think so. You call late at night, demand my presence, then refuse to let me into your flat? What’s in there?”
Spike rustled in the pocket of his jacket and tapped a cigarette out of the pack, nervously turning the cigarette over and over in his fingers as he fumbled out his lighter. “That’s just it, not quite sure, though I have a guess.”
Wesley waited as Spike finally managed to light the cigarette and take a calming drag.
“The Slayer? But we believed that she was in Europe.” He frowned. “Has she returned to resume your . . . liaison?”
Spike snorted and crushed the near mangled cigarette on the ground beneath his foot. “Hardly. The problem is it’s Buffy Summers alright, from the tip of her blond hair to her size 6 ½ shoe. It’s just, she’s not the Buffy in Europe. It’s Buffy when she was nineteen.”
“Pardon?” Wesley asked.
Spike turned and looked him straight in the eye. “Watcher, she’s from the past. From what I gathered before she dropped like a stone and passed out, she’s Buffy when she was a freshman in college. 1999. And there’s something wrong with her.”
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/348104.html