Author notes: Post S7 but with a few changes to the canon of S7 - Spike didn't die in the hellmouth, Spuffy never had their ILY moment, Anya didn't die, Sunnydale wasn't destroyed and Kennedy never existed. I'll be updating this story for a while to come, I'm thinking it's going to be pretty long. That's if there's an audience for it.

Disclaimer: Don't own nothing. And that double negative doesn't mean I actually do own it, cause I don't. I just have bad grammar.

Rating: T for now, might change later.

Summary: Buffy and Spike are sucked back in time to S3 where they face questions about their bond, fight against an unknown foe and learn about how far they've really come and not to be afraid of what they have. Spuffy all the way.

Chapter One

"So what's it going to be Slayer? You game or have you lost your bottle?"

"You should have learned a long time ago not to challenge me Spike, it never works out well for you."

"Ooh, big talk from such a little thing - ready to put your money where your mouth is?"

"Only if I can put my fist where your face is."

"Tough talk Betty. Just make your move ..."

The tension was palpable. The first move was always the most important one, she told herself, it sets the tone for the whole battle and if she got it wrong he'd jump at the chance to destroy her as quickly as possible. After all he had the experience, 100 plus years more experience of this than her. Buffy was no slouch, this he knew, but still. It didn't do to underestimate him. So taking her courage in hand she reached out and ...

"You took 10 minutes to move your pawn one space in front? Bloody hell Slayer, no wonder you need an immortal to play chess with, everyone else will have died by the time you reach check!"

"Just shut-up and make your move, I've already thought out my next 3 moves blondie. It's all about the planning, this game. Which means you're so going down. We all know your ineptitude with plans - you get bored", Buffy snarked. Sitting in her basement, perched on the floor playing chess with Spike. God the universe was weird. Of all the experiences she'd had with him, this was probably going to end up being one of the strangest. And that was saying something.

She looked up at him, deep in thought, contemplating her life as it now stood. For 3 months life had been pretty peaceful. Well as peaceful as Sunnydale ever got anyway. Giles was off with the army of slayers, giving them the old watcher treatment in England, the Coven helping him track down the potentials that had been activated round the world. He'd really stepped up, she thought - he'd said being around the hellmouth would be too much of a baptism of fire for the new girls, preferring to ease them into it now that they didn't have to shoulder the burden of slayerness alone, like she did she thought wryly. It was easier for the newbies, they could take their time. Plus the ones who fought The First Evil next to her could pass on her little nuggets of wisdom without her actually having to be there. As much fun as that would be, there's still a hellmouth to watch over. Given a choice between being general Buffy and evil-fighter Buffy, I'll take the punching every time. Giles popped in every now and then, checking up, making sure things weren't going to shit as much as the last time he'd left Sunnydale in the Scooby's hands. And thankfully, every time he called or visited with that slightly apprehensive look on his face or tone in his voice, it was very satisfying to tell him that no, everything was great. Xander and Anya were back to being their solid couple-y selves (it's amazing the effect an apocolypse can have on your libido) and Dawn was doing good in school - a school that was now principle-less due to Faith taking on the hellmouthy fun in Cleveland and Robin being unable to extract himself from between Faith's legs, which .. ew. Okay, so Buffy herself still didn't have a job but she was working on it. She didn't think she'd ever be able to pay Giles back the money he'd gifted her, again, but that was actually one of the few parts about his checking up he didn't seem to bother about. That's what watchers are for, he'd said. Willow was still loner-ing it as far as relationships go but really, neither Buffy nor Giles were surprised about that. Tara and Willow were pretty much the most solid relationship they'd ever seen and the idea of Willow moving on from her was a difficult one to contemplate. Aside from that Will was doing good. No evil, just all Willowy-Willow - just the way Buffy loved her best. On the few occasions Giles had asked about Spike, Buffy had told him that everything was fine, normal, and he respected her slightly distant tone and didn't push it. He knows how much I want to forget about his betrayal, she could tell. He knew now that he was wrong and some part of her thought that he may actually regret it himself as opposed to just because she was so hurt by it. Yep, things were actually going along quite smoothly. Course every time Buffy thought that she couldn't help but hear the ghosts of herself and Willow all those years ago berating Xander for his assurances things would be fine ...

What did you say that for? Now something bad is going to happen?

You don't know that!

Not until some idiot says 'as long as nothing bad happens'!

What were you thinking? Or were you even thinking at all!

Buffy smiles at the memory, remembering how that very conversation had resulted in the arrival of the man sitting opposite her right now, staring at her with irritation on the surface and all sorts of gooey emotions under it.

"Did I ever tell you that when you smile fondly at me you look like a preying mantis about to bite my head off Slayer?", he asked her with a grin.

"Don't make me hit you", she pouted. "Besides, I wasn't thinking about you. Why would I be thinking about you and smiling?", she bit back, smiling playfully. God, the time when this would have been a real issue. Back when feelings were so unclear and neither of them could make a cutting remark without it hitting home in some way, devastating or infuriating the other. They were both past that now. Long past it. Their feelings for each other were perfectly clear to themselves and everyone else, despite never having voiced them. They were in love and they both knew it. They just didn't talk about. Or act on it. Or think about it. Much. Somehow after all that had happened, it was enough for now. This comfortable life. Okay so the passion was under lock and key but then so was the hatred and fire and violence. Safer this way. I'll trade it for now, she thought. They both came to this conclusion and as with most of the momentous decisions about their tumultuous relationship, it happened without having to be voiced. They weren't big talkers. So they'd fallen into this half-relationship. In love? Check. Focused only on each other? Check. Talking about/acting on it? Big fat no check. Still it was better than a kick to the peas, as Spike would say.

"Can't for the life of me understand how you got me to agree to this, Slayer. I wasn't a fan of chess even when I was alive and boring enough to be the poster boy for it", he grumped, flashing her one of those if I were still evil you'd be wearing that rook in your eye-socket looks that he was just so good at.

"Oh stop complaining Spikey. What else have we got to do? Patrol was a bust, there's no big antsy evil haunting us or goading us or trying to bust the door down and you refused to watch ANTM with me. So it's chess or Buckaroo ..."

"We could be training right now. You know, pretend fighting? As opposed to me sitting watching you pick up a pawn, make a smell face, put it down, make a smell face, pick up a knight, make a ..."

"I get it!", she said laughing. "I see where you're going with that", giggling at him, "god you can moan". She was looking at him fondly and he returned her look, passing that feeling back to her, through her - that comfortable, loving, happy, how the hell did we get here feeling that neither of them could quite believe they inspired in the other. Love's a funny thing he'd once said, all those years ago, and he was not wrong.

"Seriously, there's got to be something important for you, and by extension us, to be doing", he whined. Getting antsy without the prospect of some kind of release was not something he was used to. But their lives in the last few months had really presented little problems in the way of the supernatural. She still wasn't quite sure why she wasn't bothered by that. She had her suspisions that when The First Evil had been so decimated in battle, it broke its power in ways she hadn't even contemplated when gearing up for the fight of her life, so sure her and hers would be ended by it. She had no illusions it was dead, for want of a better word, because as Giles wouldn't stop saying over and over, it's not a demon to be killed. It's a presence, an essence, an idea. And you can't kill an idea. Well, Fox executives can but that's a whole other thing. No, maybe it just had the window that Buffy being ressurected had opened slammed shut in its face and it was back to being behind the scenes as opposed to front and centre. Either way, there was nothing about the kind of hush all over Sunnydale that was giving her the wiggins. Nope, life was - for once - actually being easy on one Miss Buffy Summers.

"Spike", she contentedly sighed, "if there's one thing I've learned from living on a hellmouth, it's that you don't ask for trouble when there is none and you always check for giant penises in the heads of little old ladies".

A grin spread across his face as his eyes warmed up and turned that brilliant blue she loved so much. "That's two things Slayer. Maybe I shouldn't have hit you over the head so many times".

She feigned offence, grabbing one of her pawns and knocking over a few of his pieces playfully, then sighed as she stood up. "Okay, so you're right. Not so much with the chess". She started to pace aimlessly, watching him watch her from the floor as he took out his cigarettes and lit one, sitting back aimiably against the cot they slept on together so many months ago. "If I had a job, I'd probably be a lot more fun in my free time you know. Stupid apocolypse driving away potential employers", she grumbled, not that that was a valid excuse any more. Once the battle had died down, the population of Sunnydale had flooded right back in.

"Something'll come up pet, don't fret about it", he assured her. "It's not like you and nibblet are running on empty, you know. And you're not alone. We all have faith in you", smiling quietly at her, his eyes glowing.

She stopped her pacing and focused her gaze on those eyes, so full of faith and strength and calm. Spike with calm eyes, god the world has gone and changed on me big time. "Thanks Spike", she returned quietly.

This whole not shying away from their feelings and acknowledging their connection but not taking it any further thing had its perks but in moments like this there was always a pang in her stomach, knowing that it was against their silent agreement not to take things further to just crawl onto his lap and let him know just how much his understanding of her, his faith in her, touched and awed her. Just to have him hold me, be close physically. It wouldn't be enough just to hold him once she touched him though, she knew that - they'd step over that invisible boundary and that would be ... well, not what they'd agreed ... but the idea never stopped presenting itself in her mind in moments where he did or said something and she just felt that jolt through her of he gets me ... gets right down into me.

He seemed to realise the thoughts passing through her head at that moment as they held that gaze and sat up, not unabruptly saying, "Let's check on the nibblet, see if she's had her fill of To Kill A Mockingbird yet".

"Why not", she sighed, not filled with happiness but grateful for the break in her reverie. They started up the stairs to the kitchen, she ahead of him grumbling about the fact that high schools never got enough of the book torture, "They made me read that in sophomore year and I never got why Scout didn't just kick the crap out of the drunk guy at the end. Always have to be saved by a guy, don't they?"

They made their way into the living room, where Dawn was sprawled out on the couch at the far end with a pained look on her face and cheeto crumbs all down her front.

"Not everyone can be blessed with super-strength, luv. Some girls are actually quite weak and kitteny", he smirked at her, blanching as he saw Dawn raise her head with an accusatory look on her face which said ... oh yeah?

"... of course those girls exist wholly in the realm of Mills & Boon historical romances and nowhere near this house", he finished somewhat sheepishly, plonking himself down in the chair opposite the newest Summers girl.

"How's it goin Dawnie?" Buffy said, flopping onto the couch next to her little sis, brushing the crumbs off Dawn's top distractedly.

"I'm past the stage of wanting to avoid your stare of disapproval and am now fully okay with feeling like a cheat and just watching the movie", she replied stuffing yet more cheetos in her face. "How goes the chess tournament? Bored yet?" she said, smiling knowingly.

"We were bored before we started, little bit, hence the playing chess."

"God Dawn, don't you ever get any of those in your mouth?" Buffy said, standing up to wipe a crushed cheeto off her ass.

"Eating is hard when you're holding a book", Dawn replied through a mouthful of cheetos.

"S'probably a good thing you two are so cute", Spike mumbled, gaining himself a couple of stares from the Summers couch. "What?"

"Oh excuse me, Brain of Britain over there", snarked Dawn not unkindly, throwing a cheeto at him. He opened his mouth and caught it, unable to stop the grin of smugness that grew there as he did so, causing the Summers' girls to laugh. William the Bloody was cute. Who would have thought it.

"Ugh! I'm just so bored of the normal-ness of school Buffy. It feels like everything has been dowsed with boring for months now. Where's the fighting? Where's the drama? Where's the gut-wrenching misery that we thrive on?" Dawn whined, melodramatically dropping her head on Buffy's shoulder.

"Poor Dawnie" she replied, patting Dawn's head. "I guess you'll just have to content yourself with a life where you're not being made to sing by hell beasts and your family and friends aren't trying to kill you. It's tough but you'll adjust sweetie".

"Not likely", she pouted.

Just then there was a thud from upstairs, like something heavy falling on the hardwood floor bringing Buffy and Spike's attention to the ceiling - Slayer senses on alert instantly.

"Oh it'll be Willow, she got home a few minutes ago" Dawn supplied nonchalantly, not raising her head from Buffy's shoulder. "She seemed in a bit of a rush but s'all cool she said ... of course. Wouldn't be anything interesting", she grumped.

Buffy sighed, returning her attention to her sister, smiling fondly. "Okay Dawn, this is the one and only time this is happening got it?"

She'd successfully gained her sister's full attention.

"Go upstairs and get your shoes on and we'll go rent To Kill A Mockingbird". Dawn squealed and enveloped her in a hug before bounding out of the room and up the stairs, taking them two at a time.

She looked over at Spike who had a knowing look on his face and said "Oh it's just this once. We're not dumb, us Summers' women, but we're not much with the book-learnin'. I feel her pain".

"Like I'd ever call you dumb Buffy. I like my privates intact", he smirked, "I don't really have much of a ..."

BANG

Blackness. No wait ... not blackness, just ... I can't open my eyes. There was something cold and hard under her, surrounding her. She felt dazed, confused, ripped out of herself and it took a few long seconds before her senses kicked in. Voices, she thought, I can hear voices ... focus, focus ...

"...get back! Get back, that looks like Spike!"

"Don't touch them! Angel, get in front of Willow ..."

She became aware of a cold hard surface - it's the floor under me, she thought dazedly. She slowly moved her hand to her face, rubbing at her eyes. She pried her eyes open with her fingers and was met with blinding white light. She felt rather than heard a groan next to her and recognised it instantly as Spike. She reached out her hand in the direction it came from and was met with cold flesh - his arm. She grabbed it as best she could, pushing the hair out of her face and trying to knock her head back on. "Wha .." she tried, unable to get out more than a croak. She was aware of the space having fallen into silence where before she was sure there was noise, voices maybe and she slowly start to gain some of her eyesight back. Things went from blinding to white to fuzzy and then ... she could see Spike out of the corner of her eye lying next to her, spread-eagled and blinking furiously. She met his eyes and the same look of confusion was plastered all over his face. Gingerly she started to push herself up, sliding, half hobbling on her knees, over to Spike and turning to face him, crouched down. I feel like I've just gone 15 rounds with an uber-vamp, she thought, aching and throbbing. She looked past Spike to the floor they were on, seeing it for the first time and feeling a strange sensation down her back. I know that pattern, she thought. That strange feeling of being totally out of place and yet knowing where you were at the same time. If possible it added to her confusion ... that feeling only intensifying when she followed the pattern up the wall to ... the library doors. The Sunnydale High School library doors. That were blown to smithereens over 4 years before. Suddenly the voices she heard in the blackness came back to her and she instantly whipped her head around behind her, gifting herself yet another wave of dizziness.

The sight that met her when the dizziness subsided was ... Willow ... standing behing Angel, an Angel who had a cold look on his face staring past her ... Giles was off to the side staring open-mouthed ... Xander was on the other side of the desk looking thunderstruck and in front of him was ... Buffy. A younger Buffy. A Buffy with short hair. A Buffy from over 4 years before. A Buffy glaring in her direction with a look of mingled shock, suspicion and fear. Me ... I'm looking at me and ... good god, am I wearing a fluffy purple coat?


AN: Well as I said, I've decided to re-upload the first few chapters having changed from first person narrative to third person. I don't even know why I decided to do it first person originally anyway, since I pretty much abhor it. So yeah, I'm going to be changing the first 3 chapters but I'm not changing anything else, nothing major, and once I've fixed these I'll be posting the new chapter today or tomorrow. Thank you so much for the reviews so far :) Can't tell you how nice it is to know people are enjoying it. Hope you're in for a long ride, cause I can't see this story being any less than 30/40 chapters long :0 Scary.