“She is the sheep in wolf’s clothing,” Dru said as Spike and Buffy traded blows, darting in and out with her own quick strikes. “Come to turn you before your time, but not allowed.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “You know, so haven’t missed the crazy rambling. I think I’ve filled my lifetime quota for insane.”
Spike landed a punch to her mouth with a snarled, “Shut it,” as Drusilla danced closer once more, swaying, lost in her vision. “The drifting little cherry blossom lands on the dark soil, wants to plant bright seeds. Vile flower. No sun to bloom a flower in my boy’s heart,” she hissed, and then Buffy was trapped, one arm about her like a steel band, the other hand buried in her hair, yanking her head back to expose her neck.
“Shall you do the honors, my pet, or shall I?” the vampiress asked, her voice remarkably sane for once.
He grinned, his fangs gleaming, tongue flicking over the points. The Slayer struggled as Drusilla’s grip tightened. Spike found Buffy’s eyes.
Buffy didn’t bother to waste time analyzing the implications, instead driving one elbow into her captor’s stomach and her foot downwards at the same time. Drusilla shrieked and Buffy wrenched herself free, whirling with a stake in her fist, ready to dust the other woman.
Spike grabbed her stake hand from behind, his body tight against hers. “Run,” he whispered in her ear, the words so low she felt rather than heard them under Drusilla’s continued shrieks. “This is your free pass, Slayer.”
He shoved her away. Buffy looked back at him, sure her face was as confused as her mind in that moment, gaping as he turned from her and approached his lover the way one would a wounded animal, with gentle hands and soothing noises. Drusilla’s head swiveled to face her, eyes glittering with malice, and the Slayer decided to take Spike’s advice.
First rule of Slaying? Don’t die.
Shaken, Buffy didn’t patrol for the next several nights, not yet ready to face off with Spike again despite the physical release patrolling would have offered. Hey, even on the Hellmouth I took time off, she rationalized every time she began to feel guilty. The fight with Spike and Dru had been close, and Buffy wasn’t sure that she could have escaped had Spike not let her go. Maybe not without dusting him.
Truth be told, she was somewhat glad she hadn’t staked Drusilla either. She still wasn’t sure about this whole timeline thing, and it was a relief to know she hadn’t changed it yet. Without Drusilla, Spike would have never come to Sunnydale in the first place. Buffy wasn’t sure if never encountering Spike would be counted as a change for the better or not, but at least she knew how things would turn out if everything stayed the same. So far… not so bad. At any rate, the world had never ended.
She mused on all the possibilities as she tried to sleep. Maybe I shouldn’t be patrolling at all, because what about those other vamps… What if one of them was important to the timeline?
As usual, she pushed the thoughts away. Either she’d altered the future or she hadn’t. She turned her mind to Spike instead, mulling over what had happened the other night. He hadn’t attacked her, hadn’t hurt her. Had, in fact, aided in her escape. It was mind-boggling.
Part of her wondered if it was because he wanted the glory of killing his second Slayer all to himself, without help from his sire.
The more hopeful part of Buffy wondered if she’d reached him. Intrigued him. Caught his attention and maybe a tiny piece of his heart. Because she knew Spike, knew he was an opportunistic creature not given to passing up an advantage. And yet, when presented with the chance to drain her, he’d hesitated, a troubled look lurking behind the bloodlust in his eyes.
He'd not only hesitated… but set her free.
It was what she’d been aiming for, to try to change him, but still. A (large) part of her had doubted her Spike. Buffy had held even less hope that the evil creature she’d met in this time could show any traces of the man who claimed to love her. But now…
Was he telling me the truth? Did Spike really fall in love with me for me, not because of the chip?
It was a terrifying thought. One she was beginning to accept. But not one she knew how to process.
He was waiting for her once she resumed patrolling, perched on a stone wall near the boarding house.
“Spike!” she squeaked, surprised, and more than a little nervous. Was he regretting letting her go? He didn’t say a word, only examined her in that enigmatic way of his. “How did you know where…?” she said, her voice nowhere near as calm as she would have liked.
“Puh-lease. As if it took any effort to find you.” His head tipped farther as his eyes travelled down her body, making her blush. “Been wondering when you’d come out to play.”
Buffy peered around, trying to sense if Drusilla was nearby. She hadn’t figured his mood yet and didn’t want to be caught unawares by a second vampire lurking in the shadows. Spike smirked as he noticed her furtive glances. “She’s not here tonight, love. Just me… and you,” he said with a tongue curl. “You miss me?”
“I’ve been thinking about you,” she admitted before she could clamp her mouth shut. Almost nonstop, though nothing could pry that thought from her lips.
“Is that so?” Spike could insinuate so much with no more than a look. God, he was frustrating, and it made her ornery.
“Yup. Was wondering how long it would be before Drusilla ran off on you again.”
It was almost funny to watch his cocky arrogance fade away into surprise and then outrage. “You bitch,” he spat.
Okay, so I seem to have a thing for riling Spike up. As if he doesn’t do the same to me…
“Stuff it.” She tossed her head. “Do you want me to make with the ass-kicking now? Or later? Your choice.”
Spike stalked towards her, all dangerous predator, his yellowed eyes gleaming with an unholy light. Buffy had to repress a shiver, repress the urge to back away. She tipped her chin up instead.
“Do you want me to kill you, little girl? You have a death wish, is that it?”
His posturing didn’t frighten her. She’d already decided that if he did still want to kill her, it would be a point of pride for Spike – this Spike – to kill her on his own, without help from his family. The Spike of the future wouldn’t have quibbled over such details – he had, after all, sent the Order of Taraka after her, never mind his minions – but this younger Spike still wanted to prove himself. And he wasn’t good enough to kill her, not yet, so unless he got very lucky? She was safe.
Buffy didn’t respond, simply glared back at him. His nostrils flared, and the muscle in his jaw ticked. “Watch your back, Slayer. I know I’ll be watching it,” he threatened.
He turned and strode away, not realizing that his dramatic exit was marred by Buffy’s remembrance of how impressive he looked when he executed the same move with a swirl of black leather.
When they returned home from work the next day, a letter was waiting for her. Buffy frowned at the return address in the corner. Sir George Wyndam-Pryce… Why would he be writing to her? She stared at it for a while longer, then shook herself. Only one way to find out.
“Dearest Mrs. Barrowman,
It has been some time since your last report, nor have you responded to my most recent correspondence. As Doctor Reynolds has recently mentioned your personage in his own correspondence with me, I am assured that you remain in good health and presume the lapse is due to the unreliable postal service during this time of war.
In the event that my last letter went astray, I shall repeat the information here. Based upon the description you offered, I can say with certainty that the vampires who attacked your hospital were three out of four of the members of the Scourge of Europe, namely, William the Bloody (or Spike as he now calls himself), Drusilla, and Darla. The whereabouts of Angelus remains unknown at this time…”
Buffy dropped the letter in surprise. She – Anne Barrowman – had been the potential? No wonder the Watcher had known all about the attack at the hospital. And – was that how Buffy was able to occupy this body? Was there some kind of mystical connection? Her thoughts swirled about her head, a single idea becoming clear in the confusion.
If her great-great-grandmother had been raised as a potential, raised to serve her fellow man at the expense of her own life and then never called… could it maybe – maybe – explain why she had abandoned her family? She thought of Kendra, who had known nothing but duty to her calling, and it was easy to imagine her continuing to serve the Watcher’s Council even after it had become clear she would never be called. Perhaps Anne, already chaffing at having been relegated to a normal life, never serving others as she’d been trained to, had leapt at the opportunity to help in the fight against evil in some small way.
It didn’t excuse what she’d done in Buffy’s mind, but at least there was a possible reason. One she could understand, having struggled with the same pull to put her calling above all else.
She wondered what Sir George Wyndam-Pryce expected of her, and whether she would be able to fool him into thinking she was still Anne. She didn’t want to give him any reason to travel to Albert, not with Spike around, not until she’d decided just how to handle the vampire.
Glancing at the return address once more, Buffy decided the first step would be to respond to his letter. After explaining the situation to a surprised Edith, Buffy enlisted the other woman’s help, asking her how Anne would have phrased her sentences, even trying to mimic the handwriting of her host body as best she could. Anything to make her Watcher think it was business as usual in France.
When they’d created something that Edith thought would pass muster, she sealed it up, sending off a report which suggested the notorious vampire family had long since left the area, as well as an abbreviated account of other supernatural events she might have observed. Buffy kept it as simple as possible, fairly certain Anne had not gone out on patrol before her great-great-granddaughter had hijacked her body, and would therefore only know the barest details of demonic activity in her area. A simple cover story was always better than a complicated one.
Buffy sighed. Spike was following her. Again. He’d been doing so for the last several nights, and not very stealthily either. She was coming to think he wanted her to notice him, even though he hung back and never spoke to her, never interfered in any of her fights, instead watching her from just out of range. If he was waiting for her to be the first to speak, she wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction.
She turned her attention to the demon carrying a large cloth sack. She’d been trailing him for a while now, and so far he hadn’t done anything demon-y other than glance over his shoulder at her in fear and walk faster. If she had to guess, she would almost venture he was the harmless sort, but she didn’t know for sure. Hence the stalking. With Spike following along right behind.
When the demon began to jog, his tree-trunk sized legs jiggling with every step, Buffy picked up her speed and called out, “Hey Buddy! Whatcha up to, anything evil I should know about? Got small children in that sack?”
The big guy grunted out something that sounded like, “Pardonnez- moi, Madame,” and kept on going, his eyes rolling in fear. He hadn’t done anything aggressive or evil, had in fact politely excused himself, but… Buffy needed to check that sack. And she didn’t have the French to make herself clear.
“I check your bag, okay?” she ordered. It didn’t help. “Fine, make me do this the hard way. Don’t say I didn’t give you a chance.” She put on a burst of speed and the demon screamed, tripping and falling to the ground with a thud that she felt travelling up her spine.
The demon was babbling something at her in French, but hell if she knew what he was saying. For a moment, she wondered why most of the demons on the Hellmouth had spoken English – the ones who spoke human languages at all – then turned her attention back to the blubbering mess at her feet. “Huh?” she said, feeling more than a little repulsed by the decidedly un-evil creature before her.
“Oh for the love of…” Spike was by her side. “Do you mean to say you’ve been here all these weeks and you still don’t speak French?”
“And you do?” she snapped back.
Buffy eyed him. “Prove it. Ask him what he’s doing and tell me his answer.”
“Like you would even know if I was lying.”
She thought about that. He had a point. “Well then I’ll just have to see what’s behind door number one for myself,” she replied, reaching for the cloth bag.
“Wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Spike warned. She raised her eyebrow at him. “Bloke says he’s got some kind of… uh…” He listened for a moment. “S’like a crab, I guess. For his kids to eat. But touching it is fatal to humans, and he doesn’t want you to die. Says he has nothing against you.” The vampire looked her over. “Suppose you could take your chances if you want, maybe being the Slayer will keep you from dying.”
Buffy narrowed her eyes. “Are you telling the truth?”
Spike shrugged. “Got no reason to lie.”
“Um, maybe because you’re evil? And if you are telling the truth, why bother? Tree stump here kills me, you’d be doing the happy dance over my dead body.”
Spike sniffed. “No fun if someone else steals my glory. You’re mine. Gonna fuck you and drain you; can’t do that if you’re poisoned.”
“You do realize I could kill you anytime, Spike.”
He began a retort but she turned away from him in disgust, trying to puzzle out how to proceed. The big demon watched her, sniffling. Buffy settled on pantomime, pointing to the bag he was clutching to his chest, then wrapping her hands around her neck, choking and stumbling. She paused, and he nodded fervently. She sighed.
“Ask him if he has any evil plans. Oh… but be sneaky about it! Pretend you want to know, not me.” The vampire stared at her. “Um, please?”
“What do I get out of it?”
She waved her stake threateningly. He rolled his eyes, but did as she asked. As far as she knew, what with the only understanding a word or two here and there.
“Just a family man trying to keep bellies full,” Spike said, lip curled. “Pathetic excuse for a demon.”
Buffy glared at the vampire, suspicious. But… the demon was pathetic. And her instincts argued on its behalf. “Tell him I’m sorry, ‘kay? He can go. But – he’d better not do anything evil!”
A few more words, and the big guy lumbered off, bowing repeatedly to Buffy as he backed away. When he was gone, she turned to face Spike, surprised to find him smiling at her. “What?” she snapped, disturbed by his apparent friendliness.
She shifted. “I… I didn’t know you spoke French,” she settled on, trying to figure out if she should attack the vampire or let him go too.
“Thought you knew all about me.”
“A guy lives well over a century, you can’t know everything about him,” Buffy quipped, then froze at the look on his face.
“Over a century…” Spike stalked closer, his expression intense. “You know something I don’t, Slayer?”