The Long And Winding Road
Rating: up to NC-17.
Warning: character death
Spoilers: Seeing Red, Villains
Author Notes: Post BtVS and AtS. This is a novel-length AU fic that begins post-Not Fade Away. It's a very long (you have been warned!) time travel fic in which Spike and Tara are thrown together in the nineteenth century. If you like long, description-laden romances with elements of sci-fi (think: Diana Gabaldon's Outlander) then this is the fic for you. This was beta-ed by a cast of thousands, who have my deepest gratitude. I'm currently combing the SpikeTara community on LJ, where this was first posted, to make sure I properly credit all the help I had. Feedback feeds the muse. I won't say there's a sequel in the works, but I have a telltale tickle in the back of my mind...
Summary: Spike time-travels on a mission of mercy to rescue Tara, courtesy of Willow.
Disclaimer: None of these characters belong to me. I'm just having fun with them.
"So let me get this straight, witch. You want to magick me back to the past to rescue Tara." Spike scratched his left earlobe. "Haven't you ever heard the word 'anachronism'? Or 'changing history'?"
"That's three words." Willow set her jaw.
He gave her his best look of disdain. "Well, now. I don't know. Your track record for magickal solutions to life's problems isn't exactly stellar."
"Come on, Spike," she urged. "You're recovered from the big fight... getting the seat of your pants scorched by Rodan. Aren't you up for a little excitement?" She tried on a persuasive smile, with notable failure.
Spike decided to be blunt. "Red, I know you loved her. But she's gone. There're some things you just have to accept—"
She burst out, "I can't!" and then lowered her voice. "I can't. I've tried, really I have. I thought maybe Kennedy... but there's no one like Tara. I loved her so much. I still love her. Please help me. Please!" She began to cry, her nose turning red and starting to run.
"Here, now." He patted her awkwardly. Spike hated crying women, well, unless you counted the good old days when he was actually trying to make them cry. Ah, those were the days, came the nostalgic thought. "Don't cry." He rummaged through his pockets and found a crumpled napkin with a phone number on it. After a moment's hesitation, he put it back in his pocket. "Come on." He heaved a sympathetic sigh. "Put your head on my shoulder and have a good cry, pet." He minded snot on his shoulder less than losing the bird's number. Buffy wasn't the only one who had moved on.
"Now, I'm not sayin' I'm convinced, but tell me your little plan. Maybe we can come up with something else. Talk to me."
Unseen by Spike, the face hidden on his shoulder took on a sly smile, but she sniffled and began in a hesitant tone, "Well, you know—or maybe you don't—that bullets were flying that day. I've experimented, and can travel in time, back and forth a bit, but it'd take a lot more power to send you back three years. I'd go back myself but I don't want to get shot, too." She raised wet green eyes to his in appeal.
Spike snorted derisively and raised an eyebrow.
"I don't mean it like that!" she backpedaled hastily. "It's just... you're already dead so if you got clipped, you could just, you know, soldier on, and I'd pull you both back. It's a threefold problem, sending you back to the right time and place—that's teleportation—and then astral-projecting so I can keep an eye on you and make sure you have her and she's okay, and then bringing you both back safely.
"What about changing the past? I've seen Star Trek. Never turns out to the good."
"What about it?" she began stridently, and then backed down. "Can you imagine someone like Tara bringing anything but beauty and goodness back into the world? So much was lost when she left it. It hasn't been the same since. It's like the sun were snuffed out." She lowered her voice even further. "Please, Spike. I don't want to beg, but I would do anything, pay you anything, get you anything. If it's Buffy, I know she still loves you, and I can—"
He cut her off. "Now, that's enough of that. No need to compound all these magickal nips and tucks you're contemplatin'. Not sayin' I won't help. I think she was a right sweet girl, and for the record, I'm right there with you flaying robot boy and I wouldn't have minded helping, but I'm going to want a lot more assurance you can do this and not send me back a million years BC."
In a thoughtful tone he added, "Although the thought of those fur bikinis isn't altogether unappealing."
They had a long discussion about ways and means, and exactly how much power it would take to send him, a non-living vampire, back in time. Apparently it was easier for a living person to time-travel—something about their life-force being a charge to the "battery." Spike's main concern was that she wouldn't have the means or the power to control it. The it being how far back he was supposed to go, and if Willow could, in fact, return them both to the here and now if he actually found Tara.
"Don't worry about that," Willow said eagerly. "When you tell Tara what I'm trying to do for her, she'll help you. We used to cast spells in linkage. The combined power is synergistically greater than either of us individually."
"Are you sure she'll approve?" He was skeptical of telling Tara much of anything except, "Come with me if you want to live," à la The Terminator.
"What do you mean?" There was that strident tone again.
"Well, my thought is that she was never a big fan of the easy magickal solutions. When she learns that you've undone her death—"
"That doesn't matter! She'll be coming back to me. She wants me, just like I want her."
He was doubtful, but kept it to himself. Red was right about one thing, though. He was up for a new adventure.
She provided proof that she could do it. A library book materialized on the coffee table, book-marked with its withdrawal slip, dated a week in the future. Spike gave a low whistle. A small thing, but still! The plan began to take on reality for him.
"Now, here's the deal. It'll take time to summon the power to do this. It's a two-part process at this point. You'll be traveling in space as well as time, from LA back to Sunnydale, which as you know, doesn't exist anymore."
He gave her a look that said, Duh. "I remember, pet. I was there."
"And it's longer than I've ever time-traveled. I should experiment and try sending you on a couple of trips, just to make sure."
"Yeah, how about back to 1929? Got some stock I want to sell short before autumn. Keep me in Silk Cut and Type AB for the rest of my unlife."
"That's a ways, Spike. Let's just focus on the problem at hand."
"You focus, witch. I'll grab your bird for you. Just you bring us both back, safe and sound."
Spike paced while Willow pottered in the next room. He wasn't interested in the minutiae of witchcraft. Presumably she knew what she was doing. Oh, bloody fucking hell, what had he gotten himself into? A creeping sense of unease made him want to call it off. He had a clear sense that this was not one of his more well-reasoned decisions. He was long on the grand gestures and short on the good sense, he knew that about himself. It wasn't Willow's tears and pleading that had softened his initial refusal. It was his empathy. He had loved and lost more than once and he understood wanting it back, whatever the cost.
A growing hum like a dynamo began to emanate from the next room. Put him in mind of a road trip out west he'd taken with Dru, back when tourists could go into the bowels of Hoover Dam. Fine sport coming across unsuspecting tourists in the corridors, their screams masked by the roar of the turbines. Funny that in spite of the soul, he still had euphoric recall of their kills. (This never happened to Peaches, he was sure). He had enjoyed the power, felt himself the equal of the roaring machinery channeling the rushing water.
It was like that—a hum of overwhelming, unimaginable power. A voice sounded in his head. Spike, get ready. Protect Tara. Don't let go. I'll bring you both back safe.