She wasn't there.
He looked. Honest-to-the-Powers-That-Be, he searched for her. He tore everything upside-down, looked high and low, even tried to kill a few demons for information, but scared them so badly instead that they probably ran all the way to Texas.
No one had seen her. He couldn't find a trace of her. He'd gotten it wrong. Willow's spell was really a flop after all. He'd only seen what he wanted to see. Got his hopes all up – and absolutely dashed them to pieces.
Spike sat down on a curb in the middle of this fuck-all crap neighborhood, in this zombie town that wasn't even his town.
Everything here was just wrong.
Seemed like the perfect place to finally greet the sun and end his miserable life, then.
"That spot open, or you saving it for someone?"
Spike didn't bother to look up. He knew his own voice well enough.
The brunette slumped a bit.
"Only stupid old gits like me can sit here."
The brunette smirked a little and sat down beside himself. Still sort of surreal, but if he didn't think too hard about what it might look like, his brain didn't want to explode. He didn't say anything, just lit up a cigarette. When the blonde finally took his head out of his hands, tears very pointedly nowhere in sight, he offered the other vampire a fag as well, and they both smoked in silence for a few minutes.
"How'd you find me?"
"Heh." The brunette let a puff of smoke go into the pre-dawn sky. "Wasn't hard. Stayed at the shop for a while after you'd bolted. Even went home and had a snack. Your blood was still there. I could... sense you, in a weird way. Sort of like knowing what was going on inside your head. Things didn't seem right. You didn't seem so happy anymore. Came to check. Geez, that makes me sound like a ninny."
"I'm the one that's made a complete arse of myself."
Spike smoked for a while, considering this. "Nah. They already thought you were an odd one. I told 'em you were off to find some hidden pirate treasure or something. They went back to beating Red up about how to find Toth."
"I should tell them those spells won't ever work," Spike sighed. "But..."
"It's a good distraction," Spike finished, knowingly. "I don't expect you to tell me, but a clue would be nice. 'Cause sometimes I think, 'geez, shapeshifter maybe?'"
"Not sure if it's a good thing to tell you or not," Spike admitted. He scratched at his blonde hair, thinking for a while. "The Toth idea is so close. 'Cause we're the same, you and I. But not really. Very, very close to being the same, I think. Hey. Do you remember something..." he paused, wondering if he really wanted to ask. "When we were a kid. This servant girl that mum had for a while. She was a strange one, right? Pretty and young, but strange and old at the same time."
"I don't think so," the brunette shook his head and sucked at the cigarette.
"Oh." Spike fiddled with his own cigarette, finding himself actually reluctant to take another drag. Reluctant to be seduced by the restraints of this world again. A world without so much chaos, a world where the strongest girl in his life didn't even love him enough yet to beat him to a bloody pulp. A world where he already knew that he would not be loved. A world he had already seen destroyed.
"Wait. Yeah," Spike said slowly. "How did I forget her?" He was quiet for a moment, thinking. "She was bloody gorgeous. All brown hair and beautiful skin. She told us stories about monsters and sang weird lullabies..."
"Kissed our scraped knees."
"Was she a vampire?" the brunette looked at his double. "I never even thought of that, but it makes sense, don't it? She was an odd one. Seemed too old on the inside, like you said, but never changed on the outside. And those stories, that weird language she sang."
Spike merely smiled to himself, marveling at the revelation and the enjoying the shared memory.
"So you remember China? Prague? Acathala?"
Spike nodded slowly at each one, while the brunette cursed softly.
"So, time travel, huh?" the brunette asked nonchalantly.
"Not exactly. But I think I get it now," the blonde said. "What this is. How we relate. We've got the same past, but we don't share the same future."
"How can you tell?"
Spike flicked the other vampire's brown hair. "You're already on a different path."
"Right. Bugger. Now what?"
"Now nothing. I'm stuck here. I didn't take it seriously until now." And he hadn't, until the moment where he couldn't find Illyria, and he realized just how screwed he was. "Fucking stuck in Sunnydale again. Not like I particularly want to go home, anyway. I'd be dead inside a week."
"A week, really? Not bloody likely."
"Okay, well I could probably find the strongest demon lord around and go jump on his dick."
"Death it is, then." The brunette shook his head and stubbed his cigarette out on the sidewalk. "How about not here and now, though?" He grabbed his morose double under the arms and dragged him to his feet. "Don't know what future you been living in, but sunshine and vamps don't mix well, and I can't challenge a pile of dust to a rematch."
Spike snorted a little, amused as he was pulled off to a shadowy building. "You're actually interested in saving my hide?"
"Well shit, mate," the brunette paused to kick in the door of an abandoned building. "We're one in the same, can't deny it. If we weren't, I'd probably have staked you meself a long time ago. If you're going to be all suicidal, at least go out with dignity. Grab the Slayer's tits or something so she'll off you."
"Dignity is the word for that, is it?" Spike teased.
"Bloody hell, but you know it'd be a decent way to go," the brunette answered, forcing the other vampire into the building and securing the front as well as he could.
"It stinks in here."
"No time for house-hunting, sweetums. You're the one who went to Slummydale and stayed until the sun threatened to come up."
"Yeah, I know. You gonna lay down with me or what?"
"That's a closet."
"S'all there is in here. Sunlight won't reach even if the doors and windows broke in. Don't make me sleep alone."
"Christ, but you're a needy bastard. I hope I don't end up like you."
"All I want is to use you for a pillow. Besides, you like it."
"Been on my own long enough. I prefer it."
"No, you don't."
"Shove over a bit." The brunette settled in next to the other vampire. Even though the blonde had said it, it was the brunette who ended up resting his head on the other's shoulder, like a pillow. Despite being in a rickety old building in the middle of someone else's territory, Spike felt safer than he had in a long time. Curled up together this way, they both slept soundly until nightfall.
A few days passed before the vampires bothered to return to the company of the humans, and then it was only because Anya was sent to the crypt to persuade them.
"There's supposed to be a meeting tonight," Anya said to them.
One Spike was sitting in an armchair that still faintly smelled of the dump it had been found in. He had a bottle of whiskey in one hand, but didn't seem to be interested in seriously drinking it. The other Spike was on the floor, apparently fashioning some sort of weapon, judging by the blades. She'd forgotten which Spike was which.
"Giles says that it's important for everyone to be there. But personally, I'd skip it. I know, I'm not very persuasive," Anya kept talking even though neither vampire so much as acknowledged her existence. "They sent me because Buffy was all 'ick, two Spikes' and Xander thinks that you're gay for each other. But to be honest, I don't care about the meeting and I don't think either of you are 'ick'. So you wanna skip the meeting and have a threesome instead?"
Neither Spike had ever made the trip to the Magic Box so quickly. They entered, actually eager for the meeting for once, ignoring a disappointed Anya who was right on their heels.
"Whoa, they do live," Xander joked. "So to speak."
"Giving it another go?" the blonde questioned, eying the selection of herbs and candles that were laid out on the table, as well as various books.
"Hm? Oh... no," Willow shook her head, distracted. "Magic isn't working right now."
"What?" Spike blinked. The statement itself broke his brain as much as the matter-of-fact way that she said it. "How do you break magic?"
"We think it has to do with the new Big Bad in town," Buffy said.
"Huh. Crazy wizard?" the brunette vampire asked.
"Not so much," Buffy folded her arms. "We can't really figure out what she is. I asked around and demons are calling her an Old One, but she looks like a human girl."
"Which is impossible," Anya put in helpfully, "because not only have they been dead forever, but Old Ones are your super-huge brand of original flavor demons. Not remotely human shaped or sized."
If Spike had a blood flow, he would have gone even paler than his normal complexion. He could not let Buffy fight Illyria. Weapons and mysticism had not stopped her before. Even Wesley's little draining trick had barely taken the edge off of her power. She had fought a dragon for fun, for crying out loud. Buffy was not that strong. Not yet, anyway.
"So they're lying," Buffy said, "or being lied to. But whatever she is, she's working massive mojo and blocking up anything Willow tries to do. Demons and vamps are terrified of her. They're actually fleeing town, or at least laying low. But others are even worshiping her. The last thing we need around here is an army."
"Alright, so what's the plan, commander?" the brunette Spike asked her.
"No clue," Buffy said. "Giles is researching everything he can, but there isn't much to go on. I've heard that she can rip a demon apart with her bare hands. So far all I know for sure is that she has a mean punch."
"I don't think you should fight her," the blonde Spike finally spoke. "I mean, if she's being compared to Old Ones... that's beyond all of us."
"And what do you suggest?" Giles questioned.
"Give her what she wants," Spike said, feeling a bit embarrassed to say such a thing. "Unless what she wants is the end the world."
Buffy glanced at her friends while the brunette Spike began to protest and loudly explain why they absolutely should not give her anything but a kick in the face. Spike waited for the slayer to call him out on his apparent cowardice as well, but her lack of anger was even more chilling than the fury he anticipated.
"You sure?" Buffy finally asked him. "'Cause what she wants is you."
Him? Spike turned to hide his bewilderment, afraid that his face might betray his emotions. Illyria was here, in Sunnydale, raising hell. She wanted him back? Maybe she only wanted to force him to kneel at her feet again. Maybe she intended to conquer this world, lay waste to entire civilizations, and brutally slay all of his friends in front of his eyes just to tell him that he belonged to her alone. He wasn't sure what was more terrifying – the possibility of these things happening, or the little part of him that actually loved the idea of someone wanting him so much.
"What now?" the brunette Spike interrupted, actually laughing. "You're kidding, Slayer."
"No. She told me she was looking for a vampire. She said – and this is just beyond creepy – that she could smell him on me, and that she was 'letting' me live just so I could tell you to surrender."
The brunette wiped a tear of laughter away from his eye. "That's a good one. Really, some crazy bint with a hard-on for us? What do you think?" he looked to his double, and realized that the blonde wasn't laughing in the slightest. "Mate?"
"You know her, Spike?" Buffy asked, continuing to stare at the blonde.
Spike finally turned back to face them. "Should've told you from the start, but it's just hard to explain. I'm not him. I mean, this isn't a Toth thing or anything like that."
Buffy didn't even blink. "We already figured that out."
Spike stared at her for a moment, disbelieving that she wasn't trying to stake him by now. He gave a small, embarrassed smile. "Of course. You'd think after all this time I would've learned that I could never get anything past you lot. How'd you figure it?"
"Tara mentioned it after the putting-back-together spell didn't work the second time," Willow said. "She can sense people's auras and stuff sometimes. She said that yours was way too different from the Spike we knew."
Tara nodded. "You've changed a lot. So... am I right? You're from an alternate timeline?"
"Yeah. I guess that's how you'd label it. You knew all this time?"
"Duh," Buffy said.
"And you didn't stake me?"
"Why should I? Tara said you weren't evil, and you've been keeping Spike out of our hair. That's a win-win." Buffy ignored the annoyed looks from the vampires and went back to business. "So this demon chick... what does she want with you? Because I'm not gonna let you go to her and get chopped into pieces."
"No, she's learned that I'm more fun intact," Spike answered. "What she wants is my undivided attention. What she'll do for it is another story. Hard to tell these days if she'll break my bones or chain me to a bed."
"Ew much?" Buffy made a face.
"Look, just don't fight with her. Trust me, Blue is one tough bird. Let me talk her down."
Buffy frowned. "What did you call her?"
"Why do you call her that?"
"'Cause her hair and skin are blue," Spike said, giving Buffy a 'duh' look.
"Her hair was black and red."
"No, love, Illyria is blue."
"She was red."
"Illyria is blue," Spike repeated.
"She didn't call herself Illyria," Buffy realized. "She said... what was it again?"
"Nyzaru?" Willow said. "We couldn't find an Old One by that name."
"Bloody hell," Spike sat down heavily. "She's not mine."
Buffy rubbed her hands on her knees. "So I guess that begs the question again, what does she want with you?"
"I bleedin' hope that she wants to chop me to pieces," Spike muttered, but already knew that the universe never gave him what he wanted.
"Well, there's something about you that she likes," Buffy said. "Or something she really hates."
"Yeah. Well, I'd better go, then."
"Go?" Buffy grabbed Spike to stop him from leaving. "I don't know what goes on in your Bizarro-world reality, but here we don't exactly give the bad guys what they want on a silver platter."
"It's not like I have much choice," Spike said. "You've never even seen an Old One. I've lived with one. Even in human form, she could slaughter all of your friends within seconds. So do me a favor and don't even get involved."
"Uh-huh. And what about you?"
"What about me? It's not like I belong here. Couldn't pick a better place to die, though. Chin up, Slayer. I'm nothing to you – you've still got me right over there, whole world of possibilities ahead of him. This is my issue, 'kay?"
Spike turned and left, imagining the twirling duster effect behind him. Kind of impossible when he'd lost his duster back in Non's world of death, but he was wearing Angel's shirt still, so that was fitting with the whole martyr hero bit. That was his last thought before hard blackness crashed over him.