She hated it. It had saved the world. It was the most beautiful and magical object she'd ever laid eyes on. And she hated it.
A glittering gem twirling freely on its gold chain; it was a vessel. A funnel, in fact. It took the soul from the man she loved and used it to destroy the Hellmouth in one redeeming act of self-sacrifice. Buffy wanted to throw it against the wall to shatter so that it may be destroyed as Spike had been. Her will didn't extend to her trembling hands, though.
She exhaled, sinking back into her pillow. It had arrived today, three months after the destruction of Sunnydale. A team of Slayers, overseen by Andrew, had been searching the rubble for any magical artifacts that might have survived. Sunnydale was home to a large number of demons and occultists. It made sense that it also housed some important mystical relics. Apparently, Andrew had sent the amulet to her as soon as it had been found. He had included a note that simply said "To remind you of your lost love".
Buffy hated the note, too. And she hated Andrew for writing it. He was just using her as a character in his romantic fantasy, after all.
She was in England, where the new Watcher's Council was forming. After the apocalypse that hadn't happened, she'd thrown herself into her work with wild abandon. Not a day went by that she wasn't busy tracking down new Slayers or training the ones who'd already been found. She left the administrative stuff to Giles and Dawn. She couldn't stand to be at a desk poring over papers. She had to be doing something. Moving. Fighting.
It would be a lie to say she cried every night. In fact, she rarely cried at all. You couldn't cry over something you were ignoring.
And then the amulet had arrived. She couldn't ignore it anymore. It was twirling in her face, reminding her of what had been lost that day. She realized that she was on the verge of blatant anthropomorphizing when she started thinking that the amulet was taunting her. She was tired, and her eyes were sore from crying.
"I wish," she whispered, voice raspy from her earlier sobs. "I wish that Spike was back with me. The way he was before he died. I just wish -"
She stopped. There was no point in finishing the sentence. She placed the amulet on her nightstand and waited for sleep to take her away from reality.
Chapter One: A Shadow From Another Time
Buffy knew she was dreaming. She'd thought that a muffled cry had woken her up, but the sight before her convinced her that she had to be dreaming. How else could it be that Spike was standing by her bedside?
"Spike?" The name escaped from her mouth with her barely noticing it. She blinked to make sure he wouldn't disappear.
He was Spike.
But he wasn't.
The hair was dark and longer, and he was wearing a strange outfit. In fact, the only Spike-like part of him was his face, which was undeniably Spike's. But it obviously wasn't Spike. Spike wouldn't be backing away nervously with a panicked look on his face. The posture was all wrong. This man was not Spike.
"I'm terribly sorry, miss. I'm...I think....I'm..." He stuttered, stumbling over the words that wouldn't come. He'd backed up to the point where he hit the wall, leaving him to lean against it as if his legs wouldn't support him anymore.
Buffy tossed the covers back and stood up, moving quickly towards him. This wasn't a dream. Because if it were a dream, she wouldn't know it was a dream so she wouldn't even be thinking that it might be a dream. So this was real. And this man in front of her had crystal blue eyes. Eyes she'd last seen gazing at her as the world fell down around them. Eyes that belonged to -
"Spike!" She didn't remember making the decision to hug him. Her arms were suddenly around him, and she was holding onto him as tightly as she could. But something was wrong. He tensed within her embrace, arms thrust out awkwardly to his side, and he held his breath.
Held his breath. His breath? Buffy recognized the subtle thump of a heartbeat inside his chest. Beating heart. Spike's heart didn't beat.
Buffy quickly released him as if shocked. The man who was not Spike exhaled in relief and sank down further against the wall, unable to meet her eyes.
Buffy felt the last trappings of sleep disappear as her mind began to process the situation more clearly. This man was in her bedroom, and he looked like Spike, yet was not Spike. This was William. A very human William. A very upset and confused human William.
"You're William," she stated. The swelling of emotion she'd felt upon first waking was almost instantly flattened.
The man who was not Spike seemed to recover himself at her prompting. He stood up a bit straighter and nodded nervously. "Yes, miss. My name is William Pratt. My deepest apologies for intruding on you...your..." A frightened gulp interrupted his sentence.
Buffy sighed. The man who was not Spike wouldn't look at her, and she could see he was trembling where he stood. She was out of her depth on this. And the crushing disappointing of finding William by her bed rather than Spike sent her overall mood from "depressed" to "bleakly apathetic to anything". Somebody else could deal with this.
Giles knew he was staying up much too late. He had been for the past several months. However, sacrifices had to be made when rebuilding an organization such as the Council. As the only remaining member, Giles had access to the vast wealth that the Council had horded. These months after the averted apocalypse had been dedicated to reforming and restructuring the Council into a vastly better entity.
Chief among his concerns had been giving the Slayers more autonomous power. Buffy and Faith were consulted on all major decisions, and, once more Slayers had been properly trained, they would become their own Watchers. It was Giles' hope that he would not need to remain on as the head forever, but that someone else would take his place. It pleased him to help in this time of reconstruction, but he was tired and ready to give the Slayers their independence from stodgy old men.
Small steps were needed, however. Although Faith had thrown herself into the job with a passion, Buffy had been less enthusiastic. She relegated herself to trivial tasks and had little interest in the decision-making process. He knew that Buffy was still mourning her loss during the battle with The First. Not only the loss of Spike, but the loss of her home. It would take some time before she was fully recovered.
Giles cursed to himself as he accidentally closed a window on his computer. He'd had no choice but to use one for his work on the Council, though he still despised the machine. He threw the mouse down and sat back in his chair. Perhaps he should go to bed. It was late, and he was becoming too short-tempered to be around technology.
They'd settled down in a renovated castle in England. It had been used by the former Council as a training location for Potentials. Now it served as a handy headquarters, as well as housing the core members of the new Council. Giles knew that, eventually, they would get scattered around the world. For now, however, this was home. Each person had a small set of rooms to provide them with a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and small den. So tiny were their living quarters, in fact, that they were called "cubbies" by the younger Slayers. The term had stuck, unfortunately.
A knock on his door interrupted his thoughts. "Yes, come in," he said as he removed his glasses to rub his eyes. He'd gotten used to late-night messages being delivered at inopportune times.
He was surprised when Buffy entered. He'd assumed that she would rest for the night given the delivery that had been made earlier in the day. Here she was, however, and with a young man behind her. Giles stood up, sensing the tension that had entered the room.
Buffy's face was a blank, though her eyes were red from crying earlier in the evening. The man behind her was stooped over, head down. He was strangely dressed and, when he did glance up briefly, Giles noted the look of desperate confusion on his face.
"Buffy, what's wrong?" Giles asked automatically.
Buffy stepped aside to give the man room to enter. She waved an arm at him and shrugged. "This guy just appeared in my room, Giles. He's not supposed to be here."
"Just appeared?" He asked, looking more closely at the man. Something about him was strangely familiar, and yet recognition escaped him.
"It's Spike," Buffy said bluntly, arms crossed. "Or...not. It's William. Spike before he got turned. You know."
Spike. No, William. William looked up at Buffy in curiosity and Giles was suddenly struck with the resemblance. But what was a man from the 19th century doing here?
"Come in," Giles said. Buffy hesitated before entering, and William followed her lead.
Moving to his cabinet, he began making some tea. "Tea?" He asked.
"No," Buffy replied. "I'm just dropping him off. I'm not staying."
He put the water to boil and turned back to her. "Buffy, at least sit down. Tell me how he got here."
"Does it matter?" she snapped. "He's here. I don't want to deal with him. You do your thing and send him back."
William flinched at her harsh tone from where he was awkwardly standing off to the side.
Giles decided that Buffy needed his attention now more than the Victorian gentleman. He approached her and spoke softly. "Buffy, something had to have happened to cause him to appear here. It would be helpful to hear any explanation from you. Perhaps you were trying a spell - "
He was cut off by her laughter. "A spell? Giles, I think I'm the last person who would try something like that. I did nothing. And, you know what? I don't care. I'm tired. He's yours. Bye."
She walked out.
Giles sighed. Some things didn't change. He turned now to the young man. "You must forgive her, I'm afraid. She is still recovering from the loss of a...comrade." He couldn't bring himself to give Spike any more status than that in regards to Buffy.
William merely nodded.
Giles extended a hand. "I'm Rupert Giles."
William returned the handshake with a cold, sweaty grip. "William Pratt. Pleased to make your acquaintance."
"Of course. You look pleased," he smiled, trying his best to put this man at ease. Whatever his prejudice against Spike, this man was not the violent vampire that had come to them after a century's worth of slaughter. Obviously, the Council's speculations as to Spike's violent human past were off the mark. It was apparent to Giles that William was more than harmless. "Please, sit down." Giles offered him a seat.
Giles turned back to serve the tea as the young man sank down in one of the cushioned armchairs. William eagerly took the cup and raised it immediately to his lips, decorum forgotten in the shock of his situation.
"So," Giles sat down across from him. "Why don't you tell me the sequence of events that led you here."
"It's difficult to...it's very disorienting," William said. Giles noticed he spoke with an proper accent rather than the North London accent he was accustomed to from Spike. He supposed that changed when he became a vampire.
"I was leaving a party," William continued. "I was on my way home so as to not keep Mother waiting. There was a furious flash of light, and I found myself in that young woman's bedchambers." A blush spread across his face. "I deeply apologize. I certainly didn't intend to see her in such a manner."
Giles took a sip from his tea to cover his grin. Buffy's nightwear consisting of a tank top and sweat pants would surely be seen as scandalous by someone from the Victorian era. "What year is it?" Giles asked.
William looked up, making brief eye contact. The question seemed to surprise him. "Why, it is 1880, Mr. Giles."
The year Spike was turned, if Giles recalled correctly. He paused to gather his thoughts. A part of him wondered if it would be best not to let William know that he was now in 2003. The shock would be overwhelming, to say the least. However, he knew that it would be impossible to make any sort of explanation other than the truth. Already, William had been exposed to numerous 21st century objects. Why, his computer was just behind him. He couldn't possibly find a way to explain everything in terms of it still being 1880.
No, they would find a way to send William back to his proper time. Beforehand, they would have to do a memory spell on him to erase his recollection of this time. In the interim, it was best to let him know exactly what was going on. Presumably, this was a reasonably intelligent, adult man who would be able to adapt accordingly.
"William," Giles prefaced, putting his teacup down and leaning forward slightly. "This will most likely come as something of a shock. However, the year is now 2003. Somehow, and I'm not certain of how yet, you got brought here to the future."
Giles sat silently to give William time to process that bombshell. The young man sat still, staring at Giles incredulously. Finally, he shook his head. "That's...that's not...it's not possible."
Giles stood up at that and went to his desk. He rummaged through the papers that littered the surface until he found the newspaper he'd gotten a few days ago. He turned, handing it to William and silently pointing at the date at the top.
William's eyes focused on the date, and he briefly looked over the headlines. Then he displayed a flash of Spike-like quickness and dropped the newspaper as if it were on fire. His tea, likewise, fell from his hand to the stone floor, and William bolted from his seat, steadily backing away from Giles.
"No," he shook his head. "This is a prank of some nature. I - I don't accept this sort of nonsense."
Giles put out a calming hand. He supposed it was a testament to his lifetime as a Watcher that he took William's time displacement in stride. "I know it's hard to accept, but think rationally about it. Look around you, William. Does your time have such objects?" Giles motioned to the television and the computer.
William continued to shake his head, but he openly looked around the room. Giles had no doubt that many of the furnishings and objects would be unfamiliar to him.
"The future," William whispered. Then he rubbed his brow and frowned. "I'm afraid I feel quite ill."
Giles supposed that, for now, William could stay with him and sleep on the couch. It wouldn't do to leave him on his own while he was adjusting to this new time. He turned back to the cabinet and fetched a couple sleeping pills from his medicine chest.
"Here," he handed them to William. "These will help you sleep. Get some rest here on the sofa. When you wake up, we'll find out what can be done for you."
As he gathered blankets and pillows for his unexpected houseguest, Giles mentally prepared for the next day. He would have to make some calls, but those could wait until the morning. He hoped Buffy would be more forthcoming, but he feared that she would not so long as William was present. He might have to resort to another method.
"So he's Spike?"
Willow picked up the brush and glanced at Kennedy in the mirror. Her girlfriend was sitting on the edge of the bed, lacing up her boots. She sighed. She'd hoped for a vacation of the fun type after the whole apocalypse that didn't happen. Instead, it had been more work. Kennedy loved it. She took every opportunity to go out and slay or train or basically do anything that involved fighting. Willow was stuck doing the boring paperwork. Which sounded like it might be fun when she heard about it. Cause, paperwork, right? Kinda like studying. Just not. With studying, you actually learned stuff. Paperwork you just kinda worked with papers. Not as much fun at all.
"Not really," she answered Kennedy as she began brushing her hair. "He's like pre-Spike. Spike before he became Spike."
"Weird," Kennedy laughed.
"Yeah. And not on the Hellmouth anymore, either, so really weird. But we'll figure it out and get him back in no time." Long hair was a pain to brush every morning. She considered, as she often did, cutting her hair. But the short hair was for College-Willow and now she was Adult-Willow who had long hair, and it made sense in her own head.
"So," Kennedy had finished with her boots and was directly behind Willow now. She grabbed the brush from her hand and began to brush her hair for her. "Mr. Giles asked you to talk to Buffy first?"
"Just to see what happened. She didn't say much last night, apparently. Giles thought she'd talk to a friend," Willow replied, enjoying the feel of her girlfriend stroking her hair. She wasn't sure how helpful she'd be with Buffy. Buffy and her didn't talk so much anymore. And Buffy had been especially avoidy since the Hellmouth had been destroyed.
"Look, I gotta jet. Training some of the kids today. Be brilliant," Kennedy said, leaning over Willow's shoulder for a quick kiss before leaving.
Well, darn. Kennedy had been her last reason not to leave her cubby and walk to Buffy's. She couldn't help but feel a little hesitant to talk to Buffy. But Kennedy had told her to "be brilliant", and she couldn't let her down.
Willow and Buffy didn't live far from each other. Actually, being in the castle kinda reminded Willow of living in a dorm in college. Just more damp and with less frat guys.
She knocked on Buffy's door, hoping she wasn't gonna wake her up. There was an immediate answer, though, as Buffy opened the door slightly. Well, she was already dressed, so that was a good sign.
"Hey, Buffy," Willow waved, smiling brightly. "Can I come in?"
Buffy frowned but opened the door wider to let her in. Most people had decorated their cubbies by now, but Buffy's was still pretty sparse. It wasn't lack of money. No, Willow knew that Buffy had money now. She guessed that Buffy didn't feel like making the effort to personalize her living space.
"Lemme guess," Buffy said while walking over to where she was making some coffee. "Giles called you this morning to tell you about my late-night visitor and see if you could get the background details from me."
"Well, yes, actually," Willow sat down. She should have known that Buffy would figure this out pretty quick.
Buffy sighed and poured two cups of coffee before walking over and handing one to Willow. She sat down on the other end of the couch. "I thought of something last night after I dropped him off at Giles'."
"Yeah. I kinda wished for something last night. I," she looked down. "I wished that Spike was back here. The way he was before he died. I think it came true. But I wasn't specific enough. So he's back the way he was before he died the first time."
Willow frowned. "But there was nobody around to grant the wish, was there?"
"No. That's why I didn't think of it until this morning. But what else could it be?"
Willow took a polite sip of the coffee even though Buffy was horrible at making the stuff. If Buffy were right and William did appear here as a result of a wish, then it may be difficult to send him back. After all, his travel through time obviously didn't affect the timeline any. And wishes were next to impossible to reverse unless you knew the person granting the wish, but there was no one else there. She frowned. This was not of the good.
"You can send him back, right?" Buffy asked. Willow looked up at her friend and could see the stark desperation in her eyes. Willow tried to imagine what it would be like to have Tara show up. But not Tara. Tara from the past who didn't know her and who was completely different. It would be a constant reminder of her Tara that she'd lost and -
Willow stopped her own thoughts there because they were bad thoughts and she didn't want to think them anyway. Instead, she considered how to answer Buffy's question in a comforting, yet honest fashion.
"We'll do some research." That was honest. Good. "You can go about your normal work today. Giles and I will take care of William." And there was comforting. Willow was proud of herself. She'd sorta sucked at the supportive best friend thing these past few years.
She could tell it wasn't the answer Buffy wanted to hear, though. But she nodded anyway. "Thanks."