Late October 1999
Spike stood amidst the dissipating crackles and sparks of the portal, stomach clenched with bitter anticipation.
Willow had warned him that it wasn’t a sure thing, that he might end up in the wrong time, or the wrong dimension, or even just gutter away into nothingness, but he was obviously still in existence, and the air, the air seemed… right. Redolent of fresh-cut grass and that vague hint of decay that southern California called autumn , and he even fancied – his nostrils flaring as he hunted down the scent – that he could smell her .
His knees quivered at the thought, but he steeled himself for the task at hand. He had a job to do, and he was bloody well going to do it, or die trying.
Fuck. He would settle for AND die trying, as long as he succeeded.
Still, that trace of scent…. His nostrils flared desperately, and he closed his eyes – the better to smell you with, my dear – and he was almost sure of it. She was here, somewhere.
Bloody hell, the witch had bloody done it.
It was all he could do not to take off running, following that hint of fragrance to its source, because even knowing she’d likely stake him on sight, it would be worth it just to see her eyes alive and glowing with hate, instead of dead and cold and dead and empty and dead, and he frantically tugged his flask out of his pocket and took a swig, whiskey as bitter on his tongue as the feeling in his belly, because those dead dead eyes were never going to happen, not if he kept to the mission. Never fucking going to happen.
But god, did he want to see her.
“You can’t see her.”
Spike glared blearily at Willow. “Who says I can’t?”
She sighed, exasperated. “If she sees you, it’s going to ruin everything.” Her eyes were oddly bright and focused, piercing through the grey fog of his grief like a laser, and he felt a flash of resentment at her relentless functionality. “She won’t know that you’re trying to save her. She’s just going to see Spike, her mortal enemy, and she’s going to want you dead.”
Not more than I want me dead , Spike managed not to say, but the witch had a point. “So, what am I permitted to do?” he muttered, eyes skittering across the shattered fragments of his formerly-vast selection of liquor. God, he needed a drink. He was starting to feel again.
Willow stepped into his field of vision, arms crossed. “You have to make sure you don’t change anything except for the Gem. You find the Gem, you get it to Giles, you hide out until the magic calls you back. You have to make sure everything else goes exactly the way it did in our past, or who knows what might happen?”
Spike shrugged, eyes focused on the darkest corner of his crypt.
“She stopped, like, three apocalypses, at least,” Willow continued, fingers clutching at her elbows. “If we change anything, even the tiniest thing, like stepping on a bug, you could end the world. Or make it so the Cubs win the World Series. Real wrath-of-god type stuff.”
Spike dropped heavily into his armchair. “If you’re so concerned, why don’t you go your-bloody-self?”
“You’re the only one who can do this,” Willow said firmly, eyes hard. “You’re the only one who knows where it is.”
“And I’m expendable,” Spike growled.
Willow’s eyes narrowed. “Yeah,” she said shortly. “You are. So am I. We’re all expendable. The world doesn’t need us.” She looked away, breathing deeply. “The world needs Buffy.”
Spike flinched, his jabs drying up. He’d helped to bury her, a clandestine ritual in the dark of night, and the only thing that had held him back from greeting the sun the next morning had been knowing that Dawn needed him, that the slayer had made a last request and he was by god going to fulfill it. He’d live on for her sake.
But if only one of them was living, he’d rather it was her.
Willow was standing in front of him again, foot tapping impatiently like she’d been there a while – which maybe she had, he tended to lose time these days. “Here’s the letter for Giles,” she said brusquely.
Spike took it, raising an eyebrow when he saw the envelope. “Hello Kitty?”
She flushed, hands clenching. “The spell… it won’t work if I try to send anything back that didn’t exist then. The letter would just disappear. I used a stationery set Xander gave me for Hanukkah, junior year.”
“And you’re sure this’ll work?” Spike flipped the envelope over, glaring dubiously at the vacuous kitten sticker that held it closed.
“Giles is smart,” Willow said confidently. “When he sees my handwriting, he’ll know it can be trusted.”
Spike sighed. “So. Get the Gem, get it to Giles, sit on my arse until the magic comes to call.”
“And don’t change anything,” Willow insisted. “Seriously. Don’t even step on a butterfly.”
Spike heaved another bracing breath and stepped forward into the night. He had his marching orders, time to bloody well march.
As his boot crunched into the grass, he glimpsed a flutter at the edge of his vision; he looked down, arrested, and lifted his foot.
There, crushed into the moss, was a butterfly, its wings broken, twitching in its final throes. As Spike watched, it subsided into death.