Chapter Two: Take Me Past This Lonely Truth
Dawn crashed through the door, skidding to a halt partway into the room. Willow froze in mid-sentence at the interruption.
"Hi, guys," Dawn tucked a strand of hair behind her ear in a casual manner. Giles could tell by her red face and lack of breath that she'd been running for a while. "I heard that Spike's here."
She looked at William who was sitting nervously at the edge of the sofa. They were in Giles' office, and Willow had just gone over the details of what she'd found. William had been very quiet throughout, though Giles supposed that this was probably all very overwhelming for him.
"Heard from whom?" Giles asked.
"Uh...Kennedy. Some of the girls were talking about it," Dawn hadn't taken her eyes off William. "That's not him, though."
"No," Willow's brow was furrowed in annoyance. "No, it's not Spike. It's William. And Kennedy shouldn't be all talky about this anyway."
"Well, it's going round the rumor mill now," Dawn entered the room fully and sat down. "So, fill me in. How'd he get here?"
"We actually just went over this, Dawn. I'm not sure if William wants to hear it again or..." Giles said.
William glanced at him sharply at that. "I...I'm afraid I didn't understand most of it, so..."
Willow looked at Giles who nodded at her to review what she'd learned. It hadn't taken long for her to do the necessary research. It was barely lunchtime before she had met with them to explain her findings.
"Well," Willow sat up straight. "You know Buffy got that amulet thingy yesterday, right?"
Dawn just nodded.
"See, nobody really knew much about it or what it does or...anything, really. And we didn't have time to find out before using it so we just kinda didn't. But now we do and it's actually a pretty ancient magical artifact. Kinda like a Swiss army knife of artifacts. It can do a buncha different things. One of them was to, you know, burn up Spike. But last night Buffy used it, inadvertently, to make a wish."
Dawn blinked. "She wished for William?"
"No," Giles interjected. "She wished for Spike the way he was before he died."
"Leave it to Buffy to muck up a wish," Dawn frowned while rolling her eyes.
"Yeah," Willow said. "So then, boom! William!" Willow motioned to William then with her hands.
"And how do we send him back?" Dawn asked.
Willow looked at Giles again, but this time he could tell that she was begging for him to take over. He complied. "We don't," he answered.
Willow spoke up again. "Because there's nowhere to send him back ito/i, Dawn. What the wish did was duplicate William at that point and send the copy here. If we send him back, then there'd be two Williams and that would be completely not good."
Giles kept an eye on William who was being very muted in his reaction. He wondered if the man were even following the conversation. "William," Giles prompted him to look up. "Do you understand what this means? We can't send you back to your time."
William nodded, though it was the nod of a person who understood without accepting.
"So," Dawn spoke quietly. "What's gonna happen to him?"
"He'll stay with me," Giles said. "Until he adjusts to this time. It'll take some effort, but he will adapt. Once he is settled, he'll be free to do as he pleases."
"Do you have any questions?" Willow asked William in full teacher-mode.
There was a very long awkward silence as everybody's eyes turned to William. The young man looked as if he weren't accustomed to being the center of attention.
"Who is Spike?" He asked hesitantly.
"What?" Willow was obviously blind-sided by the question.
"People keep referring to me as 'Spike'. I had assumed that I must bear some resemblance to this person, however your fantastic explanation for my travel suggests something more that I don't understand."
It was the most he'd spoken so far. Giles was pleased to hear him speak without stuttering, as well. He had tried to carry on a conversation with William in the morning hours, but the man had been reticent to engage him in any sort of dialogue.
Giles had been hoping, however, that this subject wouldn't come up. It wasn't pleasant to have to tell William about what had lain ahead of him had he progressed along his natural time. There was no avoiding it, though, and neither of the girls looked eager to launch into an explanation.
"Spike was a vampire," Giles said.
"There's no such thing, Mr. Giles," William said as if reciting some dogmatic belief.
"Just as there's no such thing as magical time travel?" Giles replied. William fell silent. "William, within the normal timeline, you would have died the night you were brought here. You would have been killed, and then a vampire demon would have entered your corpse. This demon would come to call himself 'Spike' and would live for over a century."
William paled to the complexion of his vampire counterpart at that explanation. "A demon..."
"Yes," Giles continued. "Not a very nice one, either."
"Then why would Miss Summers wish for his return?"
That was something Giles didn't want to think about, in all honesty. He'd never adjusted to Buffy's attachment to the vampire. While he could freely admit that Spike had proven his worth in destroying the Hellmouth, he couldn't give him the blind admiration that he seemed to garner from some of the others. Even with a soul. This man sitting before him was just one reason for that. William Pratt had died so that Spike could live. And William was just the first in a long line of Spike's victims.
Willow spoke up, obviously sensing Giles' reluctance to provide an answer. "See, Spike did some good things for us. It's kinda complicated. But he got his soul so he was all with the good-making for a while. And he died averting an apocalypse so big plusses there. That's why everybody's like 'Oh, Spike!' when they see you."
William shook his head. "There is no good in a demon. No doubt this creature of evil must have had some darker purpose for his actions."
"I don't think he did," Dawn said.
William ignored her, however. "Is this commonplace in this time? Battling the demonic forces of the world? Such things are told as superstitious stories in my time, and yet they seem readily accepted by you."
Giles was happy that the conversation had moved away from Spike. "Actually, no, William," he answered. "We're involved for various reasons, but most people in the world know nothing about the demons or our work to fight it. This actually may be a good time to start getting you adjusted to this time."
Giles stood, motioning to William to do the same.
"What are you gonna do?" Dawn asked.
"I will use the time-honored tradition of getting him accustomed to the culture of the time by showing him some television."
After some brief questioning, Dawn found out that Buffy had taken a group of new Slayers out to train and wouldn't be back till late. She had wanted to talk to Buffy about Spike. Well, about William. Because Spike was dead. And William was here now.
It was confusing. Not least of which because she and Spike had never really reconciled after that one year. She didn't regret it, actually. Her Spike had died when he went to get his soul. Her Spike of the rebellious snark and big brother affection had betrayed her trust and then died. The vampire who'd came back ensouled wasn't that Spike. Wasn't her Spike. He was Buffy's Spike. And Dawn hadn't wanted anything to do with him.
She paused at Giles' door. She could hear the TV blaring from inside, and she knew William was watching, probably confused. This man was different. He wasn't her Spike, but he wasn't Buffy's Spike either. But he hadn't betrayed her like her Spike had, and he hadn't taken the place of her Spike like Buffy's had so she didn't feel any resentment towards him. She felt sympathy for him, instead, being thrust into a completely new world.
She pushed the door open. William was sitting on the sofa watching the news. He had the face of a man that...well, that had been sent a century into the future. He stood up quickly when she entered.
"Hey," she said, looking around. Giles wasn't to be seen so he was probably back in his office.
William shuffled his feet. No, this man definitely wasn't Spike. Spike projected an image that he was taller and bigger than he actually was. His personality exceeded his physical presence. William hunched in on himself as if trying to make himself disappear. He seemed much smaller than Dawn remembered. She was almost as tall as he was.
"Mind if I join you?" She asked when he didn't say anything.
His eyes flicked to the TV quickly, then moved back to her feet. "We...we haven't been introduced."
"Oh, yeah," she said. She'd forgotten that. She put her hand out to try to match him in his formality. "I'm Dawn. Buffy's my sister."
He looked startled at her outstretched hand and bowed slightly instead of taking it. "William Pratt. It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance."
"Cool," she said, putting her hand down before it offended him further. Introductions out of the way, she walked over and plunked herself down on the sofa. William carefully sat on the edge of the sofa as far away from her as possible. He was obviously uncomfortable with her presence. "Where's Giles?"
"He had some work to attend to so he's left me here to watch this...television. He will return at dinnertime." William's attention was back on the TV and the weather report that was currently showing.
So no Giles. Too bad. He could have been helpful in defusing some of the awkwardness. "Don't you have any other clothes?" she asked, taking in his slept-in suit.
William looked down, blushing. A hand went up to smooth a wrinkle in his jacket. "No. Mr. Giles is taking me out this evening to find suitable clothing for me."
"Oh," she replied. "Lucky you. Giles never takes me clothes shopping."
William didn't seem to know how to respond to that. Instead, he turned back towards the TV just in time for the sportscaster to start going over the latest soccer matches. No, football matches. She still wasn't used to this British stuff.
"Am I making you nervous?" she asked.
He almost jumped at the question, swallowing in a nervous gesture. "I...well...I...yes," he said. He looked at her directly then as he finally gave her a definite answer.
"Why? Cause I'm being friendly and trying to talk to you?"
"Well, yes." At her look, he continued. "It's not...you and I alone together would surely cause people to talk. It's not proper."
She laughed. "You need to watch more of that TV, William."
He flinched, glancing at the mentioned object. "Things do seem...looser in this time."
"Way looser. You know what people would think if they heard that you and I watched TV together? They'd think 'So?' Cause nobody cares about that sort of stuff now."
"So," he said. "People do not care about standards of decorum anymore?"
"We have standards. I mean, it's kinda gross if people are making out in public or something. But it's not as strict as your time. Not that I know much about your time except that you were all gentlemen and corsets and stuff."
They both fell silent as they watched a commercial for McDonald's. "Actually," William said. "Most gentlemen in my time don't wear corsets."
She frowned as she tried to work out what he meant. It wasn't until she looked at him and saw the slight smile accompanied by another blush that she realized he was making a joke. She laughed.
Giles regretted his choice of shopping venue almost as soon as they'd entered the store. He'd been thinking about the Council's budget when he had chosen Tesco, and he hadn't given much consideration to William's reaction.
The young man froze as they entered the large supermart. It was William's first trip out of the castle, and he'd already been amazed by the car ride here. Now he stood rooted to the dirty floor, blinking and looking overwhelmed by the sheer massiveness of the store.
William jumped as Giles gently took his elbow. "I know it's different from what you're used to, William, but it's not as bad once you get inside." He smiled in what he hoped was a comforting manner. Giles hadn't had much chance to be of comfort to anyone recently.
It worked, apparently, as William seemed to resolve himself. He nodded and allowed himself to be led to the clothing section with Giles. Giles quickly grabbed a trolley since they would be picking up a good amount.
"I think three changes of clothing for now will be sufficient until we can find some work to have you start earning your own wages," Giles said on the way. "Also, some pajamas are necessary as are...er...undergarments."
He wasn't sure how much William was actually listening or even understanding him, but Giles continued to talk anyway. "Also, we should get some toiletries for you. Deodorant, toothbrush, and such." He turned to look at his charge, but William's eyes were scanning the women's clothing section they were currently walking through.
Giles thought back to this morning where William had been baffled by his suggestion that he take a shower. To his chagrin, Giles had forgotten the different standards of hygiene during Victorian times. William probably was accustomed to a weekly bath and perhaps a cool dip in the morning.
They reached the men's section, and Giles quickly moved to the trouser rack. He had already decided that jeans were out of the question for now. Instead, he was browsing through the casual trousers for William when he realized that he didn't know William's size. He glanced up at the man.
William stood off to the side looking at the rack with a look of skepticism. "This is..."
William probably didn't know his size. Giles would have to guess and have him try it on. "A clothing rack," he explained before turning back to the trousers. "We mass produce our clothing now. You come to a store such as this and look through the rack for something in your size."
Giles took advantage of the puzzled silence to grab several different pairs of trousers of different sizes for William to try on.
"And then where do you go to get them fitted?" William asked.
Giles turned to William, trousers slung over his arm. "You don't. Now let's have you try these on. Once we have some trousers for you we can pick out some shirts. Those will be easier."
Giles was not looking forward to shopping for boxers for William.
A quick glance around led them to the dressing rooms. Giles instructed William on proper dressing room procedure and sent him inside. He took a seat on one of the benches to wait for William to finish.
It would have been more appropriate to take William to a better establishment to purchase clothing. However, Giles had trouble justifying spending much of the Council's money on William. Besides, he would have to adjust to these modern shops eventually.
"Mr. Giles?" There was a tentative call from inside the dressing room.
"None of these trousers fit."
Giles blinked. He'd been fairly certain that at least one of them would have fit the young man. "Are they too big or too small?" He stood up, prepared to go gather some more sizes.
"Actually, they are too short. That is, they don't fully cover my waist. And the legs are also very long."
Giles had a sudden epiphany as to why men didn't go clothes shopping together.
"Are you decent? I'll come in and take a look." Giles said.
The door opened and Giles quickly entered, hoping nobody would see him joining another man in the dressing room. It was bad enough that an observant person would notice the two pairs of legs under the door.
William was wearing the mid-sized trousers that Giles had picked out for him. He had discarded his jacket onto the bench behind him and was tugging at the waistline. A cursory look told Giles that the trousers fitted fine.
He told William as such.
"But the cut is completely wrong, Mr. Giles." William continued to attempt to pull up the waist.
"It's the style now, unfortunately. You'll get used to the trousers...er...hanging low."
William didn't seem happy with that answer, so Giles continued. "Nothing to worry about, actually. Just give it another decade and the style will have changed completely."
Giles quickly left to pick out two more pairs of trousers. He also grabbed some shirts for William to try on.
It was easily the longest shopping trip of Giles' life. William had been fascinated by the material that was being used. He'd been distraught over the tags that irritated his neck. And he'd been shocked at how little clothing was required to be considered "decent" nowadays. It had taken a couple hours for Giles to provide a modest wardrobe for him, complete with socks, shoes, and boxers. As if that hadn't been bad enough, the trip to the bath aisle had prompted a long conversation about modern personal hygiene that William seemed alternately curious and embarrassed about.
As Fate obviously wasn't on his side that day, there was a tremendous line at the checkout, and William's current state of dress drew a good amount of attention. William was obviously the sort of man who didn't like receiving attention.
So they waited in line for 30 minutes. William fidgeted and read the magazine headlines, and Giles began to wish that he'd let Dawn take him shopping.
Finally, though, they were back at the car, loading bags into the boot. William had gaped at the cost of everything, and Giles had had to reassure him that £170 was a lot less money than what he was accustomed to.
"I imagine you're hungry," Giles said as he got into the car. "We can stop somewhere on the way back to the castle to eat."
William nodded, struggling with his seat belt. "There was an ad on the television this afternoon for a Scottish restaurant. Might we go there?"
Giles frowned. "What was it called?"
Giles laughed. "That's not really a restaurant, William. They serve food, but it won't be anything near what you're used to."
There was a snap as William finally clicked his seat belt into place. "It must be good, though. Everybody in the ad looked quite happy with the food."
"Yes, I'm sure they did," Giles said while starting the car. "Very well. Let's go to McDonald's."
Why not? He'd taken William to Tesco, after all. Capping the trip off with a dinner at McDonald's seemed wholly appropriate.
As Giles expected, William was dumbfounded when they actually arrived at the "restaurant". He had stared blankly at the menu behind the counter for a few minutes before Giles ordered a standard hamburger meal for him. Once they got their food, Giles led them to a booth at the back. William sat uncomfortably at the edge of his seat. He was careful to keep his elbows off the table and was staring at his hamburger as if disbelieving it were really food.
"The advertisement you watched did show people eating, did it not?" Giles asked while salting his chips.
"Yes, but I presumed there would be more on the menu. Are all restaurants like this?" William followed Giles' lead and picked up a chip.
"This is a fast food restaurant. It specializes in getting you your food...fast. We can take you out to a more traditional restaurant tomorrow. Perhaps Dawn could come. You two seemed to get on well."
William choked as he swallowed the chip. He coughed, tears forming at his eyes. Giles pushed his drink towards him to prompt him to drink. "That is very greasy," William commented.
"That's what McDonald's specializes in."
William nodded and pushed the chips to the side, focusing on the hamburger instead.
"You did get along with Dawn, didn't you?" Giles asked again.
William looked up, "Yes, she's a very charming young woman." He took a small bite from his burger. This seemed more acceptable to William as there was no coughing fit this time.
"I'm glad you think so. Would you be agreeable to her helping out with your transition to this time? I will have to ask her, of course, but I'm certain she'd be eager to assist."
"I don't wish to be a bother to anyone," William said when he had finished chewing.
"And you're not. In a way, it's sort of our business to help those who fall victim to the supernatural. This would include you." Giles didn't want to mention that Dawn had been very fond of his vampire counterpart and that she may wish to be close to William simply to keep the memory of Spike alive. It was best not to burden William with uncomfortable talk about what fate he would have met had he remained in his time.
"Very well. Then if she is agreeable, I'd be happy to have her help," William said. "Also, would it be expected for me to give some form of condolence to her sister, Miss Summers, for her loss? It might help to alleviate her grief at my presence." This last suggestion was spoken in a hush tone as if William were unsure of asking it.
Giles shook his head. "Buffy grieves in her own way. I think it would be best if you keep your distance from her for the time being. What she's going through is in no way your fault, of course."
The younger man nodded. "I suppose I'm just unaccustomed to young women being so distraught in my presence."
"You're wrong," Buffy declared. Willow sat across from her. As this morning, they were in Buffy's cubby, and Willow was filling her in on what had been found out. Buffy had been out all day training and keeping her mind off this whole William thing, confident that her best friend wouldn't let her down. But she had.
"I don't think I am," Willow said. "This amulet thing. It's called the Amulet of Taylieah. It's got some wonky powers. Even if I could do a time travel spell to send him back, it would just muck things up more. He has to stay." Buffy didn't reply. "Or, we could, you know, kill him." Willow joked.
Buffy didn't crack a smile, though. She stood, going into her bedroom and coming back out again before Willow could call after her. In her hand she held the Amulet of Screw Her Life Up. "So, this thing has some special powers, right? Why can't it undo its own wish?"
Willow shook her head, "I don't think it works like that. What I was able to find were some transcriptions of some scrolls on the thing. It just laid out some of its powers. It didn't really specify the how or why on them."
The chain rattled as Buffy violently shook the amulet. "It grants wishes, right? We know that? So if I wish for William to go back, it would just send him back, right? If I wish for Spike...the real Spike...to be here, now, it could do that, right? So why doesn't it, Willow? Why the hell doesn't it?"
She knew she was coming dangerously close to throwing a tantrum and she didn't care. Already she could feel tears prickling her eyes, but she didn't want to cry. Not in front of Willow.
In the early hours of the morning before Willow had stopped by, Buffy had tried some of those wishes on the amulet. It hadn't obliged her.
"Buffy," Willow stood and rushed forward to her friend. She held up her hand as if she were about to grab the amulet but stopped at the last second. "I'm so sorry, Buffy. I don't know. I can look some more for you. It's old. It may just not be working right. Like magical Alzheimer's or something."
Her cheeks were burning and her jaw hurt from biting back her tears. She nodded, clasping the amulet and turning to face away from Willow. She wanted to tell her to leave, but she was pretty sure that only sobs would come out if she opened her mouth. She didn't want that to happen.
Willow seemed to get the message, though. "I'll see what else I can find, Buffy. Really, I will. And Xander comes back from Cleveland tomorrow so we'll get him to help, too." There was a tentative pat on her shoulder. Then she felt Willow's presence disappear as the door shut.
It wasn't fair. She stared down at the stupid glittery amulet in her hand. So she'd gotten one wish on it, and she'd screwed it up. If she'd changed her wording, just slightly, Spike would be with her now. Instead, she had the man who was not Spike walking around with his face. She hated him. She didn't care if he's what Spike started as. She wanted Spike. Not that impostor.
Tears began to fall against her will. She threw the amulet against the wall, hoping it would shatter. It clattered against the stone with a loud racket and fell to the ground.
Buffy furiously wiped her eyes. Crying wasn't helping. Crying never helped. Instead, she opened her chest and grabbed a stake. Tonight, she'd hunt.