The portal was open. That was really all there was to it. Lightning arced through the sky in massive, hellish bolts and big black shadowy somethings had taken up overhead. The tower was shaking, vibrating, about to come apart. Dawnie was in her arms, frantically struggling as she tried for the edge of the tower.
“Buffy! You have to let me go. Blood starts it, and until the blood stops flowing, it’ll never stop.”
If there was ever a real-world moment that personified anguish, this was it. All with the anguish. Cue the heartbreak. Cue the dread. Show for one.
“You know you have to let me. It has to be the blood.”
And all at once, everything clicked. Cause it’s always got to be the blood. It’s Summers blood. Just like mine. Death is your gift.
Dawn saw her intention before she did. “Buffy, no!”
“Dawnie, I have to.”
And somehow, somehow she made her sister listen, and stroked her cheek, and kissed her goodbye. And then she was sprinting, sprinting toward the end. It was gold medal time. One way ticket to Dead Land.
And then, she wasn’t. A shocked gasp escaped her as she fell into a heap at the absolute edge of the tower. And she fell on top of… Spike?
He grinned at her through bruised eyes, a swelling cheek. “Now where do you think you’re going, Slayer?”
“Spike.” Her voice was suddenly calm, suddenly tender. This was it, after all. Tenderness could be spent in spades. She’d never need it again. “You have to let me go. I have to close the portal.”
“Gotta keep the Niblet safe. I know, I promised.” His words were stern, heated.
She found herself nodding her head violently. “I know. That’s why you have to let me go.”
He rolled the two of them so she was on the bottom, and then climbed to his feet. A sudden shuddering of the tower almost knocked him off them again. “No, Slayer, that’s why I’m coming with you.”
He pulled her to her feet and held her hands in a death-grip. “Keep Dawn safe. How safe’s she gonna be without a mum or big sis?”
“Spike! This portal is likely going to hell.”
He stared at her pugnaciously, chin jutted out. “Yeah? And who of us is made for hell? You’re gonna survive it and get back, if I have anything to say in the matter.”
Another tremble, and they both almost tumbled off the tower.
“Right.” Spike let go of one hand, the one farthest from him, and flashed a fangy smile. “Time to go, Slayer.”
Buffy just looked at him. But there really was no more time. She nodded once, briefly. And then they were sprinting together, fast as the lightning in the sky, hands mashed bruisingly together. And then they were flying and falling. And, oh god, when did the sky burn? And then everything went black.
“C’mon, Slayer. C’mon. Come round now.”
Buffy groaned. “Grrngh.”
“That's right. Come back now.”
Buffy frowned. Her head felt like it was about to come unglued and pain tendrilled through every iota. She whimpered.
“S’okay, Slayer.” Something cool and dry covered her forehead and she nuzzled into it without thought.
"Did we... did we fall here?" she managed in a croaky whisper. The roughness of her voice convinced her to wrench open her eyes, but everything was blurred and watery and mostly dark. Her nose was working, though, and she wrinkled it in distaste against the ripeness of sewage. She couldn't even imagine was it was like for Spike. It was then that she realized the cool touch on her brow was Spike’s hand, and she drew back with all the sharpness that a pounding head would allow.
"In the street, as a matter of fact. But couldn't stay there. Didn't look the part and all."
Finally her eyes cleared enough to be past the eighty-year-old-with-cataracts stage, and she blinked blearily around. They were in an alley, for sure. A low moon hung over some crumbling brick corner. And Spike was hovering next to her with...
"What are you wearing?"
The duster was gone. God, the jeans and tee were gone, too. In their place was something that looked... well, not Giles-ish exactly, but frighteningly close. He was wearing dark gray breeches – Was that even a real word? – and some kind of dark blue coat that swung down to his knees. There was a cream shirt underneath it, tied at the top with a dark tie. And shockingly, it looked good. Whoa.
"People just leave out their kits here. No dryers, yeah? Nicked it down the way." He handed her a large swath of cloth. "Got you some, too."
Buffy stared at the fabric and looked around again. She was propped up on some splintery crates, thankfully away from whatever was making the freaksome smells. She wrinkled her nose. "What's wrong with what I'm wearing?"
"Trust me. Won't go over well here."
"Hell has a dress code?"
"Summat like that."
She groaned as she unfolded the cloth. It was a dress. A lot of dress. Some kind of pale green monstrosity that would cover her from wrists to ankles. "Oh god, this is hell. I'm going to be Sister Mary Celibate in this."
He grinned at her. "It's not all bad. It'll fit nicely around your pretty chest, at least."
"Hey!" Buffy glared him, then tugged the cloth-y mess over her head. Spike helped her pull it down as she stood. She groaned. All of her muscles felt like jelly, and not in the good way. At least the pounding in her head was starting to dull. Barely.
"Lose the sweater, Slayer."
She gave him a dirty look, but made with the gymnastics act and pulled it out at last. It was a middle school locker room all over again. Like anyone needed to repeat that.
He plucked the sweater from her hands and tucked it into some case he had sitting at the edge of the crates. She eyed it questioningly.
"Nicked that, too," he confirmed unrepentantly. "Gotta keep our real clothes somewhere."
Buffy sighed. "Is there really any point in reminding you that stealing is bad and wrong?"
"None at all." He smirked at her.
She sighed again, and peered around. Sounds were echoing everywhere as people flitted by, all dressed like something out of Oliver Twist. Horses and carriages rumbled by. Weirdness to the nth degree. "Geez, this hell dimension is a bit behind the times."
Spike shrugged, looking suddenly uncomfortable.
"Do you know where we are?"
"Have my suspicions."
When he didn't elaborate, she glared at him, to no effect. He pointedly looked away, out into the street beyond their little alleyway. “Can’t stay here. Got a few hours before sunrise, better find a place to hole up.”
Buffy just nodded and followed him to the edge of the alley. He stopped abruptly, then plunged into the night, pausing only to grab her arm by the elbow. She made to tug it back but he stopped her with a hissing growl.
“Play along, Slayer. For now.”
She subsided with a grumbled whatever, and let him lead her down the streets. It was only after a few minutes of walking along – almost half-running, really – that she realized Spike knew where he was going. He was looking determinedly straight ahead, his mouth pressed in a straight line.
“Not now.” He didn’t even look at her.
She yanked at him then, glaring, pulling them to a halt. “Yes, now.”
He sighed. “Just hold your horses for a tick.” He squeezed her elbow reassuringly. “Please.”
Against her better instincts, Buffy let him draw them back into motion. From her vantage, they didn’t seem to be going anywhere sensible. They had started in some kind of commercial district, shops flowing to the edges of rough cobblestones, proclaiming to sell everything from books, to boars, to boots. Most of the shops were all closed up – it was the middle of the night, after all – but there were bars aplenty open. They passed no shortage of drunken men and women on the streets, carousing and laughing. Buffy frowned.
“Spike! They’re speaking English.”
He glanced back at her. “As you’re sometimes wont to do, yeah.” She almost missed the edges of his smirk.
She slapped his shoulder. “Very funny.”
“Thought so, m'self.”
“But Spike. English. We’re somewhere that speaks English.”
“Can hear that.”
She rolled her eyes and stopped trying. Stupid difficult vampire.
He continued leading her through narrow streets without so much as a quick hesitation, building her suspicions. They eventually emerged somewhere that looked incredibly residential. A long series of townhouses sprawled next to each other, connected at the hips by brick. He pulled short in front of one and glanced up at the moon. "Should be about right.”
“About the right time,” he amended, staring fiercely at one of the houses. Buffy didn’t get the appeal. It looked like most of the others: brick, ancient, brick, did she mention brick? There were two paned windows at the front by a dark painted door, and she could see the softness of candlelight through the curtains. Then the door start to open and a voice called something back to those inside.
Buffy glanced over at Spike curiously and blinked. He looked pale. Paler than usual, that was. Could vamps even go pale, really? Blushing was out of the question, for sure. Buffy thought about making a snide remark then stopped. Wait, something made Spike go pale-r? That could not be of the good.
And then Spike stepped out from the house, shutting the door with a careful firmness, and started walking to the street. Or… not Spike, but some weird Victorian doppleganger of him. He was wearing little spectacles, and had a mop of curly light brown hair. But it was the stride that convinced her that it couldn’t possibly be Spike. Spike swaggered. He stalked. He strutted. This man trotted along, looking for all the world like he was begging for no one to notice him.
“Bloody fucking hell,” growled the vampire next to her.
The man that wasn’t Spike turned around the corner away from them, out of sight, and Buffy snapped her eyes away. “Uh, Spike? Is that…”
“William? Yeah, pet.” And then he kicked at the metal lamppost near them with a low roar. “Bleeding fucking hell!”
The vampire continued to ignore her, ranting lowly, something about “tear that Hell Bitch into pieces and fuck her cunt into bloody next Tuesday.”
He stopped and slowly looked up at her. The haunted shadow of his eyes snapped her mouth shut. Oh, god. This had to be bad. Ubersuckage. Mas Bad. She took a deep breath.
“Ok, you are giving me some serious wiggins. What is going on?”
To her infinite continued wiggins, Spike just stared at her for a long moment before launching into something that sounded dangerously like poetry. His eyes burned into hers and his voice was rough and low. "My life closed twice before its close; It yet remains to see if immortality unveil a third event to me, so huge, so hopeless to conceive, as these that twice befell. Parting is all we know of heaven, and all we need of hell.”
“What the what with the huh?”
Spike swallowed heavily, shaking his head. “We’re in hell, pet.”
“Oh.” She clasped her hands tightly front of her and looked around at the dark street. There were barely any carriages on this side of town, and it was nearly quiet. “Know which one?”
He followed her gaze with a sigh. “Mine.”
Buffy snapped her eyes to his. “What?”
“We’re in London, Buffy. In 1880.”