Chapter Notes:

Here we begin what I'm calling a "canon-universe AU 2nd half of season 5." That pretty much means that you won't be seeing much directly from the show from here on out, though some things will get touched on.

Also, while there is action and romance and even some (very mild) sex in part 5 there is also a lot of hard-core sci-fi type theorizing and conversation. I tried to mix in plenty of banter and character growth though, so hopefully those parts won't bore you too much :-)

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Prologue:

Sunnydale, December 2000

"Dawn, what is this?" Spike yelled over the maelstrom. The storm, or whatever it was, was beginning to pulse and glow as fingers of neon light danced around the center like one of those bloody stupid plasma balls that had been so popular a few years back. Yeah, not natural. At all. More than that, it felt wrong. And important. Ominous.

Dawn was one hundred percent with the world now, and she looked terrified. "I don't know!"

Spike frowned down at her. She knew this was not the time for keeping secrets, yeah? "Really? Because this feels like the Big Bad, the brewing of the apocalypse, stop me when I get to somethin' that sounds important, Bit."

She scowled as best she could through the strands of hair whipping about her face, but didn't pull away from him. Good thing too, way the wind was howling a slip of a thing like her was like to blow away if she wasn't anchored. "I said I don't know, okay?"

How was it she never seemed to know anything important? Had the Slayer kept her in a bloody box the first time 'round? "You're from the bloody future!" he protested.

"I know, but this didn't happen before."

"What?" Damn it. That couldn't be good.

"This never happened the first last time. I'm working off script here!"

"You're sure? This isn't one of those things they kept from you? Like the watcher coming over all demony?"

"Does this look like the sort of thing they could have hidden?" She gestured at the thing meaningfully. "I spent a lot of time in Scooby central last time. I knew when things were happening."

"Couldn't have been there all the time. You sure this isn't some part of this year's Big Bad?"

"Glory was the big bad."

Spike snorted automatically. 'Cause the demon in a human body had been so hard to kill. Woulda been over in an hour or two if the Bit wasn't so hung up on not letting him hurt a human. Couldn't imagine they'd have had the same problem last time. No way they'd dragged this thing out until May. Had to have been something more. Was always a near apocalypse in May.

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Dawn elbowed her vampire companion. Seriously, did he not remember anything she'd told him? "The first time we didn't know that Ben was Glory," she reminded him sharply, still forced to yell over the howling winds. "Not until way later, and then there was that spell I told you about. By the time the line between Ben and Glory was thin enough that everyone remembered, it was too late. Buffy wouldn't hurt a human and Glory had already taken me. We ended up fighting her at the height of her power. She opened the portal and Buffy had to close it again." She didn't want to talk about this. She wasn't going to talk about this.

Fortunately, Spike seemed to remember at least one thing from their conversation in the warehouse –probably because there had been crying– and he didn't press the issue.

"Did she have some sort of failsafe? A booby trap, maybe?"

"No way." Glory's end would have been completely anticlimactic if it hadn't been for the terrible loss of her sister. She shook the painful memories away. "That's not it. This has nothing to do with Glory."

Spike was flexing his fingers in agitated fists. "Okay, so maybe it's not the Big Bad. Weren't there, I don't know, small bads between the big bad bouts?"

Because this looked like a small bad? He'd just about accused her of withholding information about the apocalypse a moment ago and now he thought this might be a "villain of the week?" She studied him in disbelief until she realized that he was scared. He was hiding it well, but she knew him well enough to know. He was just as desperate for answers as she was, so she wracked her brain, trying to remember. She'd been under veritable lock and key by this time, hardly going anywhere but school, the Box, and Spike's crypt until May. But she was pretty sure she would have heard about something like this.

"A couple things," she shouted, even though he could probably hear her with his cheating super-vampy hearing. "Um, a troll . . . and a robot. She wasn't really bad though." Spike shot her an impatient look and she skipped over the rest. It wasn't like the Watchers Council manipulated the weather anyway. "But no storm thingies, I would remember super localized storms of plasma. I mean, that's big, even on the hellmouth."

Spike turned to look at the raging ball of angry cloud and light still hovering mere yards away. "So this is something new then?"

She wouldn't have heard him if the storm hadn't died out at that moment. She would have expected something like that to go out with a flash and bang, but instead it sort of flickered, then faltered, and hissed out of existence the way a dust devil might.

That was good, right? Not at all supernatural-y. "Unless you think it's a natural occurrence? Maybe?" she asked hopefully, looking at the spot the storm had been.

Spike ignored her, which was only fair. It was a stupid question.

"What we have to figure out is why it's happened now if it didn't before," he said. Whatever fear had been lingering in the back of his eyes was gone now, replaced by sheer determination.

He disentangled himself from her gently and she trailed behind him as he approached the construction site. It was eerily pristine – or as pristine as a construction site ever was, which definitely nixed the idea that this thing was in any way normal. Even the supplies along the fence, right under where the ball had hovered, were completely untouched.

Spike stopped in front of a small backhoe. "Has to have something to do with all this time travel nonsense," he mused. "But then why didn't it happen earlier? It's been a bloody year and now things decide to get all mucked up?"

Dawn bit her lip, considering. "Maybe because I didn't really change much for anyone but you until now."

His head whipped up and around and his eyes met hers with hawk-like intensity. "Nothing?" he demanded, arching his scarred brow.

"Nothing big."

"Right, preserve the timeline before we blow it to hell. I remember." He sighed, looking around at their unmarred surroundings. "Guess this is hell then." He snorted. "Always thought it'd be messier. Think it's a direct cause/effect sort of thing, or more a metaphysical sort?"

Dawn moved up beside him. "I don't know. It didn't really look like temporal backlash to me. I mean, in the movies things just start disappearing and stuff. Maybe it's not a direct time issue, maybe it's something else. Remember I told you before that some things seemed destined to happen no matter what I did? Like your, um, engagement."

He gaped at her. "So, what? This is a new big bad? We stopped Glory too soon, too easy, and the universe decided to schedule an extra apocalypse? Bugger that. This is why you don't muck with time!"

"I'm sorry!"

He ran a hand over his face, stance softening. "Not your fault." He paused. "I mean, yeah, kinda your fault. But you didn't know this was gonna happen. Bloody Powers."

It was a relief to know he wasn't angry at her, but it didn't solve the problem or even tell them what the problem actually was.

She fought the urge to kick over a stack of two by fours, just so it would look like something had happened. "So . . . what are we gonna do?"

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Chapter End Notes:

I'm planning to post Chapter 1 of part II tomorrow. From then I will be posting at least once a week, more if a chapter picks up right where the previous one left off. This part is a little longer than the other two - 29 chapters, plus the prologue and epilogue: 593 pages double space in Word. Thanks for reading, hope everyone can hang in there with me to the end!

reenas-as