Summary: In the year 2336, Buffy wakes to find she is humanity's only hope for the future, and Spike is the only link to her past. Contains spoilers for Season 5. Set during and 335 years following "The Gift."

Pairing: Who do you think?

Notes and disclaimers: The main characters aren't mine. Partial dialogue taken directly from the Season 5 episode "The Gift," written by Joss Whedon. Some story elements (and at least one of the featured weapons -- and by the by, this fic was written about a year before "Blade 2" came out) are direct rip-offs of the BBC miniseries "Ultraviolet." Hey, if I was full of original ideas I'd write nothing but original fiction, 'kay? At least I only pilfer from the best.

Big love and thanks to adjrun and Ehann for their righteous (yes, I'm in 1989) beta-reading skills and excellent advice. Special props to eep, who inspired this whole thing when she asked over at MBTV, "Will the CoW still deem [Spike] as 'evil' in, say, 2374?"

Archiving: Please let me know where it's going.

Feedback: Hello, praisewhore!

*****

Part One: A Desperate Action

*

Spike runs. Up the tower, as fast as he can. As he reaches the top, the girl screams out to him, and the old man--demon, whatever the hell he is--turns to greet him.

"Doesn't a fellow stay dead when you kill him?" he asks the creature.

"Look who's talking."

"Come on, Doc," Spike says, readying himself for a fight, "let's you and me have a go."

"I do have a prior appointment," Doc says, indicating Dawn, tied to the end of the platform behind him.

"This won't take long," Spike promises. He's cocky. The old guy doesn't look like much of a challenge. Hell, if Harris could best him…

"No," Doc says, "I don't imagine it will."

Spike lunges, but before he can make contact the old man is behind him, plunging a knife into his lower back. Spike screams. Bloody hell, that hurt. He manages to get himself between Doc and the girl, and re-evaluates the situation. He's never seen anything that could move that fast.

"You don't come near the girl, Doc," Spike warns.

The old man sniffs the air. "I don't smell a soul anywhere on you... why do you even care?"

"I made a promise to a lady."

"Oh." Doc nods in understanding, but then his reptilian tongue lashes out at Spike's head.

Spike dodges it, but it's just a feint. Before he knows what's happening, Doc has a hold of him from behind, pushing him to the edge of the platform. The little old man guise is obviously a ruse, designed to give his enemies false confidence. The creature is impossibly strong. Spike struggles to free himself, to keep away from the edge, to send the old bastard over the side in his place, but it's no use.

"I'll send the lady your regrets," Doc says.

Spike has just enough time to see the look of sheer terror and defeat on Dawn's face. "No," he pleads.

His plea is met with a shove. As he falls, he hears the little girl's anguished scream mingle with his own.

***

The vampire awoke with a start. "Bloody hell," he muttered as he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes.

"You okay back there?" the pilot asked.

"Fine," Spike said. "Just dozed off, had a dream."

"Not a good one, by the sound of things."

"It never is."

The pilot made a sympathetic noise. "Anyway," he said, "I was just about to wake you. We're almost there."

Spike grunted in reply. He gazed out the transport pod's window as the Council headquarters came into view. At least, he guessed that's what it was, since that's where he was headed, but all these buildings looked alike to him. Architecture these days was all about efficiency and functionality. Aesthetic considerations were a luxury belonging to another time, another world.

He could see that other world, hanging low on the horizon. It looked healthy again, blue and green and lush, just like in pictures he'd seen long ago, taken during humanity's first explorations of this barren rock they now called home. It looked ripe for the taking, which was exactly what the Council intended to do.

How the hell he figured into their plan, he had no idea. He supposed that's what he'd been summoned here to find out. He was too recognizable for a spy mission, so that was out. The Slayer was safely tucked away on Mars, undergoing intense combat training, so he wouldn't have been called here for her benefit.

He'd know soon enough, he supposed.

He felt a familiar series of bumps as the transport docked at the airlock. The hatch opened. "Thanks, mate," Spike told the pilot as he climbed out. After passing through a series of pressurized chambers, he was met by two security officers, armed to the teeth with anti-vamp weaponry. No doubt he'd set off their alarms when he'd entered. Spike sighed as he showed them his ID and his standing invitation.

The senior guard inspected them, then ordered the underling to stand down as he handed them back. "Sorry, sir," he said. "Just following standard precautions."

Spike tried to rub the weariness out of his eyes. "Weren't you told to expect me?"

"Yes sir, but you never can be too careful."

He nodded, then noticed the underling staring at his coat. "Something wrong, junior?"

"No, sir," he said. "I mean, yes, sir. Your coat."

"What about it?"

"It's leather. Leather was outlawed in 2198, sir."

Spike blinked at the boy. "Well, yeah, but that's because we only managed to make it off of the planet with about 50 heads of cattle. I've had the coat for just a bit longer than that." He smiled, a humorless grin that matched his mood. "But you're welcome to do your duty and try and take it from me."

"N-no, sir," the officer said. "Please, carry on."

Spike pocketed his papers, and did just that. He couldn't help feeling a twinge of disappointment. Nobody here would fight with him, except for the Slayer, and she'd been gone for over three months. Maybe he'd stop by the cadet lounge later, see if anybody else would give him grief about his coat. Most of the folks around here were used to it, but there were bound to be some new recruits who wouldn't know any better.

The prospect of a good, old-fashioned bar brawl lifted his spirits a bit. He found himself smiling as he moved through the antiseptic white corridors towards the briefing room. His smile faded as he approached the room's entrance and prepared to undergo another identification process. The doors around here opened automatically for anybody with a body temperature, but for him it required a voice code and a retina scan to gain admittance. It always reminded him of bad science fiction movies he used to watch, back when there'd still been such a thing.

He stopped at a panel outside the door, but as he opened his mouth to recite his code, the door slid open, and a dark haired boy in his mid-twenties stepped outside.

"Oh, hey, Spike," he said.

"Harris."

"Mom was just sending me down to check on you."

"Well, I'm here," Spike said as they both stepped inside the room. He looked around at the assembled officials. "Now, does somebody want to tell me why I'm here?"

"Of course, William," a matronly woman in glasses replied from the head of the conference table. "We'll begin just as soon as you have a seat."

The Watchers, ever the sticklers for formalities, all waited as he took a seat at the opposite end of the table, and Nick Harris sat catty-cornered from him. As he sat, he scanned the table until his eyes fell on Anne. She smiled and offered him a little wave, and he responded with a wink and a grin. Once again he was struck by how much the girl resembled Joyce Summers. It amazed him that the woman's genes could still have such a strong influence after so many generations.

"As you all know," Chairwoman Harris began, "the Council of Watchers is working with the military in an effort to reclaim our home planet from the vampire infestation."

A few eyes shifted to glance at Spike on those last two words. He pretended not to notice.

"It seems that our scientists have made an astounding technological breakthrough that will bring us one step closer to that goal. Time travel, of course, was first proven possible over twenty years ago, but there were still several variables to be worked out, and stabilizing the process to control where, or should I say, when you would end up proved difficult, at best." She paused for effect.

"Look," Spike interjected, "I don't mean to be rude, but I'm very old, and very tired. Will you be getting to the point any time soon?"

"Patience, William," she said. "I'm getting there." She smiled. "Ladies and gentlemen, I'm pleased to announce that our people have perfected the process so that they are able to pinpoint a precise moment in time in which they are able to either extract or introduce an object."

"An object," Nick said. "You mean, like a person?"

"Great!" Spike said. "So, we send somebody back to stake that Lilah bitch before she ever gets a chance to push the button, and this whole sodding mess will never have happened. Good plan."

"I'm afraid it's not that simple," the chairwoman said. "To do that would change the entire course of history."

"Yeah," Spike said. "That's kind of the point. It's not like it's been a history any of us feel too bloody attached to."

"Perhaps not overall, no, but if we were to pursue that course of action, where would we draw the line? Why target Lilah Morgan? Why not go back even further and target, say, Adolf Hitler?

"Because Hitler's not responsible for the mess we're in now, that's why."

"Yes, well. Even so, William, we in this room are rather attached to our existences. I'm fairly certain that if you polled the other colonials, they would feel the same way. And you yourself wouldn't want to do anything to endanger the very existence of your Anne here, would you?"

Spike looked at the young woman, who appeared less than pleased at being used to manipulate him. Good for her. Still, he sighed. "You've got a point. So then, what is the plan, and what's it got to do with me?"

Mrs. Harris smiled. "I'm glad you asked. As you know, the colonial military is fairly new, and though it is not without its heroes, there are none living who are capable of inspiring the confidence in the troops that is necessary for a successful strike against the Earth's inhabitants. Ideally, the Slayer would lead the charge, but although Jessica has proven a skillful fighter, she is hardly capable of commanding an entire army. Besides, supernatural gifts aside, our soldiers are hardly likely to have much confidence in a fourteen year old girl."

Spike furrowed his brow as he listened. He wasn't sure he liked where this was going.

"What our army needs is not simply a Slayer, but the Slayer. The greatest who ever lived. And we now have the ability to retrieve her." Mrs. Harris pressed a control on the consol in front of her, and the lights dimmed. She pressed another control, and a holographic projection appeared in the center of the table.

If Spike's heart still worked, it would have skipped a beat. The holographic model in front of him was crude, but even so, he had no trouble recognizing what it represented. As he watched, a dimensional portal opened up beneath the tower's platform. His memory worked to fill in the absent details, so that in his mind's eye he was looking at a perfect re-enactment, as vivid and real as it had appeared in his dreams night after night for the last three centuries. He clenched his jaw as the chairwoman continued.

"Our scientists are confident that they can retrieve Buffy Summers from the midst of the portal that killed her, before irreparable damage is done to her body. They will then replace her with a lifeless clone. The body will fall out of the portal, just as in her Watcher's account of the event, thus preventing any disruptions of history. The real Miss Summers, however, will be brought here, very much alive, to finish out her mission by leading the assault against Earth." The chairwoman turned off the hologram and turned the lights back up. "Any questions?"

The room went silent as all eyes turned to Spike.

"No," he said.

"All right, then," Mrs. Harris said. "I suggest we--"

"I mean, no," Spike said. "You're not doing this."

The woman's smile faded into a look of confusion. "But, William, I'd have thought you'd be pleased."

"Pleased? You thought I'd be pleased that you want to pull her out of the bloody frying pan and into the fire? To fight a war that's not even hers? She already finished out her bleeding mission, and she got to die for something that actually meant something to her."

"William--"

"No!" He jumped up, knocking his chair over behind him. "You won't do this. It's not fair to her. Let her rest in peace."

Mrs. Harris leaned back in her chair. With a sigh, she took off her glasses, and set them on the table. She looked up at him, her face full of sympathy, yet set with determination. "I'm sorry, William, but I am not asking you. I'm telling you."

Spike stared at her for a moment, then he hung his head in resignation, and ran a frustrated hand through his dark curls.

"Whether to bring her back is not the issue," the chairwoman said. "The decision is already made, and orders have been handed down. It will happen tomorrow, with or without your cooperation." She paused to let this sink in, then continued. "The reason we asked you here is that, because you have a history with the girl and we believe your presence will be beneficial in easing her transition to our time, we feel that you are the best candidate to assume the role of her Watcher."

Spike's head snapped up. "You… you want me to be Buffy's Watcher?"

"That's correct."

Spike laughed. He couldn't help it. This was too much. It was all too absurd. He had to get out of there. He turned around and headed for the door, but it failed to open for him. He kicked it. "Somebody open this bloody door!" he shouted. Nick jumped up and opened it for him, and he stormed out into the corridor. He heard the doors swish shut behind him, and he began to pace. He wanted a cigarette. Something else that no longer existed, at least not off world. He wondered if the vampires back on Earth had managed to regrow tobacco after the radiation clouds had abated, or if that was another thing they'd ruined forever. At any rate, he couldn't have a cigarette, no matter how badly he craved one, and right now he craved one more than blood.

He heard the doors swish open behind him, and he stopped pacing.

"Uncle Spike," said Anne.

"I'm not your bleeding uncle, Sunshine, and I think you're a little old to keep calling me that."

She came to stand in front of him. "Spike," she said, "you can't say no to this."

"I bloody well can too." He pointed at the roomful of Watchers. "They're going to bring Buffy back, like some kind of tool, because that's all the Slayers ever are to these people. And they want me to be her Watcher?" Again, he laughed.

"Why is that so funny? You've acted as a Watcher before."

"It's funny, because when Buffy wakes up she's going to be one seriously brassed off Slayer. She's going to look for someone to blame, and then more likely than not she's going to proceed to kick my ass. She's liable to drive a stake through my heart as soon as she sees me." He considered this a moment. "Come to think of it, that's not funny. It's not funny at all."

Anne shook her head. "I don't understand. I thought you and Buffy were allies."

"Allies, yeah, but we were never exactly friends. She barely tolerated me even at the best of times. I mean, the night she…" His voice trailed off, and he swallowed. You'd think it would have stopped hurting after all this time. "That night was the closest we ever came to making peace. I don't know. Maybe if she hadn't died…"

"Maybe she would have loved you the way you loved her?"

Spike winced. That bit of his life story had been passed down through the generations like some kind of bleeding fairy story. The Slayer and the Lovesick Vampire. He found it bloody irritating. The look he gave Anne said so.

"Oh, come on. Even if it wasn't common knowledge, it's so obvious whenever you talk about her. Even now. And even when you're not talking about her, it's pretty clear you're thinking about her. You were in love with her. I think, probably, you still are."

Spike sighed. "Yeah, well. It hardly matters, either way. She didn't love me, and she was never going to love me. I was about to say, maybe we could have been friends."

"Well, now's your chance to find out. Look, Unc--" She stopped herself as he shot her a look, then continued. "Spike, she's going to be here tomorrow, no matter what. She's going to be alive, and alone, and I don't care how brave a Slayer she was, she's going to be scared. You're the closest thing she'll have to a friend here, and she's going to need you. And she's not going to stake you. From the stories I've heard, she passed up her opportunity to do that too many times for it to even be an option for her any more."

When Spike didn't say anything, she continued. "We need her, Spike. We need her bravery, and we need her abilities, and we need her legend. And in exchange, she gets a second shot at life. It's not the life she knew, but it's got to be better than dying, doesn't it?"

Spike shrugged. "Take it from me, Sunshine, there are worse things than dying."

"She's coming, Spike. Try to think of this as a second chance. For her, and for you." With that, she gave him a gentle squeeze on the arm, and then left him alone.

He thought about what she said, and he knew that she was right. They did need Buffy. Desperately. Maybe it wouldn't do them any good, but… if one person could make all the difference in this fight, that person would be Buffy Summers. Maybe he could finally get a chance to make it up to her for the way he bollixed things up so badly that night, failing to keep Doc away from Dawn like he'd promised. And maybe… maybe he could finally stop seeing her lifeless body every time he closed his eyes.

His mind made up, he turned back to the briefing room, where Anne and Nick held the doors open for him. He strode back inside, picked up his chair, and sat down.

"I accept," he said.

***

Spike stood outside the doors to the temporal physics lab, trying to get up the courage to go in. It was almost time. In a few minutes, he would come face to face with the long dead love of his life. He hadn't seen her for over three hundred years. What the hell would he say to her? Where would he even begin? What if she wasn't exactly like he remembered? Or what if… what if whatever they brought back in that contraption wasn't his Buffy at all? Spike closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. His lungs didn't need it, but his nerves sure did. He opened his eyes, and stepped up to the security panel.

"Voice authorization code?" a friendly sounding digitized voice asked.

"Sunnydale," Spike said.

"Please hold for retinal scan," the voice instructed. Spike stood facing the panel as a light flashed directly into his left eye. "Thank you, William," the voice said. "Please proceed."

The doors swished open, and Spike entered the lab. Anne, Nick and Mrs. Harris were all inside, waiting for him. Anne's eyes went wide at the sight of him.

"Spike! Your hair!"

Spike raised a self-conscious hand to his newly bleached locks. "Uh, yeah," he said. "Just want to be sure she'll recognize me. What d'you think?"

She eyed him critically for a moment, then nodded her approval. "It suits you."

"It should," he said. "I kept it this way for the better part of a century."

"Are you nervous?" Anne asked.

"A bit. You?"

"Me? Nervous? Hey, I'm about to meet my great, great, great… suffice it to say, my really great aunt, who also happens to be this legendary superhero that you used to tell me bedtime stories about when I was a little girl. Why should I be nervous?"

"Hey, at least you're not purported to be the spitting image of one of her best friends," Nick said. "Come to think of it, maybe I shouldn't be here. If I look as much like my really great grandfather as you say I do, I might just confuse things for her."

"I hate to say it, Nicholas" Mrs. Harris said, "but I think you may be right. Perhaps it would be better if both of you give the Slayer time to settle in before she meets you. I know how much you both wanted to witness this event, but you'll both get your chance to meet her."

"Damn," Nick said. "I was afraid you'd say that."

"She's right," Anne said. "Come on, Nick. Let's go down to the cadet's lounge. I'm buying."

"Yeah, okay," the boy grumped as she led him out of the lab.

Once they left,the chairwoman turned to Spike and smiled. "How are you, William?"

"Absolutely terrified," he said. "If anything goes wrong…"

"It won't," Mrs. Harris said. "The procedure has been thoroughly tested. They wouldn't be doing this yet if they weren't certain they could pull it off."

A technician signaled to them from behind the controls on the opposite side of the chamber.

"They're ready to begin," the chairwoman said.

Spike nodded, and stepped up to the rail to get a better view. When he did, he drew in a sharp breath. Below, inside a small chamber, lay Buffy's lifeless body, looking exactly as it had when he'd first seen it lying on a pile of rubble. Peaceful, serene, beautiful--and absolutely horrifying. He couldn't take his eyes off of it. "Is that…?"

"The clone," she said. "A perfect physical reproduction, minus brain function. It's not entirely ethical, I concede, but desperate times…"

"If you don't mind my asking," Spike said, "what the hell did you use to clone her?"

"In the twentieth century it became standard procedure to catalogue tissue samples from each of the Slayers. I'm not certain what the reasoning behind it was, but the catalogue survived the relocation."

"Lucky for us," Spike muttered.

"Yes, quite." The chairwoman either missed his sarcasm or chose to ignore it.

The technician signaled for them to put on their safety goggles. Mrs. Harris handed Spike a pair as she settled her own in place. As he put them on, a blinding white light flooded the room, and then after a moment it abated. Spike took off the goggles, and looked in the chamber. It looked much like before, only now the figure inside was covered in cuts and bruises, and it began to cough.

"Buffy!" Spike jumped over the rail to the chamber below. "Open this thing up!" One of the lab techs came over to help him inside. Once he was in, he dropped to his knees beside her. His hand trembled as he reached out to stroke her hair. He had to touch her, to verify that she was real. "Pet? Can you hear me?"

"Spike?"

Emotion flooded through the vampire as she spoke his name. He fought to keep his composure, but he couldn't keep his voice from breaking.

"Yeah, baby. It's me. You're gonna be okay."

She reached up and grabbed his coat collar, then opened her eyes. "Where's Dawn?"

Shit. How the hell was he supposed to answer that?

"It's okay, love," he said. "You saved her. You saved us all."

Buffy seemed to be satisfied with this, for now. She nodded, and then she passed out.

***

She was even more beautiful than he remembered.

He'd half expected the opposite to be true. He was sure he'd built her up so much in his memory over the ages that she couldn't possibly have been as beautiful as the face he pictured whenever he called up her memory. But here she was, flesh and blood, right in front of him. Her beauty awed him still, just as it had the first time he'd ever laid eyes on her. What's more, he knew that once she woke up, once her features became animated by her passion and wit, she would become even prettier.

She'd been out cold for a full day, but the doctors insisted there was nothing seriously wrong with her. Her injuries hadn't been that extensive to begin with, and her Slayer healing factor had already undone most of the damage. She was just exhausted. Spike knew she hadn't slept in days. He remembered thinking that she already looked worn out when she'd come to him to ask for his help in getting Dawn out of town. He couldn't remember ever seeing her sleep between then and the final showdown with Glory. Unless he counted the hours she'd spent in a catatonic stupor.

"Spike?"

The sound of her voice snapped him out of his reverie. He sat up and scooted his chair closer to her bed. "Hey," he said. "How do you feel?"

"Like I threw down with a hellgod and then jumped off of a really tall tower," she said. "You?"

"Just… really happy to see you, pet."

She sat up, and Spike reached over to adjust her pillows. "Where is everybody? I mean, no offense, but I'm kind of surprised they let you be the one to keep vigil."

Spike simply stared at her. He had no idea where to even begin.

Buffy looked down and fidgeted with her sheet, then offered him a half smile. "Not that I mind," she said.

That was encouraging. Spike scooted his chair closer. "Buffy, listen to me. There are some things you--"

"What the hell are you wearing?"

"What?"

She looked him up and down. "You've had exactly one outfit the entire time I've known you, not counting that time you fell into the GAP a couple of months ago. So what's with the Jetsons getup?"

Spike looked down at the black fatigue pants and light gray fitted shirt that had become his standard attire. He supposed the shirt's material was a bit shiny, but it hardly counted as Jetsons-wear. "These are just my clothes," he said.

"Since when?"

"That's what I'm trying to tell you, Slayer, if you'll shut up for two seconds and listen."

"Jeez. Defensive much?"

"No."

"Fine," Buffy said. "Shutting up now. Spike talk. Buffy listen."

Again Spike stared at her, this time out of a sense of déjà vu.

"Your two seconds are up," she said.

He felt the corners of his mouth quirk upward. "Same old Buffy," he said.

Buffy eyed him suspiciously. "Why are you looking at me like that?"

"Like what, pet?"

"Like a puppy who just found his long lost favorite toy." She looked around the room for the first time. "And why doesn't this look like any hospital I've ever seen before? And why are you the one keeping bedside watch instead of, well, just about any of the others? Where are the others? What the hell is going on, Spike?"

Spike sighed. "You're not going to like what I have to tell you."

"Why not? Is it Dawn? Oh, God, she was cut. That old guy cut her."

"Dawn was fine, love."

Buffy gaped at him. "'Was?' She 'was' fine? Oh, God." She started to get out of bed, but Spike held her down.

"Hold on, Buffy," he said gently. "It's nothing like that. Just listen."

"Spike, take your hands off of me right now before you lose them."

"No. You're going to sit there, and you're going to listen to everything I have to tell you."

"And I'm going to do this why, exactly?"

"Because I'm your bloody Watcher, that's why!"

Buffy blinked at him for a moment, and then to his surprise she burst out laughing. Spike let go of her, and sighed. Had she always been this bloody bullheaded?

"Okay," Buffy said. "I get it. Very funny. It's in incredibly poor taste, but I can laugh. So. Joke's over. Go get my sister."

Spike closed his eyes and massaged the bridge of his nose, a gesture which, as he did it, he realized was very reminiscent of her original Watcher. So much for trying to break it to her gently.

"Buffy, the year is 2336. Originally, you died when you jumped into that portal. The Council of Watchers, of which I've become a member since the last time we met, figured out a way to snatch you out of the portal before it killed you and bring you here to our time, so that you can help us take back the planet, which is currently populated by vampires who are not going to let it go without a fight."

Buffy's smile never wavered. "You done?"

"For now. Oh, and, we're in the infirmary at Council headquarters, which is stationed on the moon."

"The moon," Buffy said. "Wow. That's… creative. You come up with that all by yourself, or did Dawn help?"

Spike sighed, and sat on the foot of the bed. "Pet," he said gently, "Dawn passed away about 250 years ago."

Buffy's smile faded. "Okay. You know what? This isn't funny anymore."

"It's not meant to be."

Buffy got up. "If you won't go get them, I'll go find them." She looked around the room until she found her clothes, and pulled her pants on underneath her hospital gown. "Giles'll be here somewhere. No way he'd leave you here alone with me."

"Buffy, be reasonable," Spike said. Ignoring him, she started for the door. He stood up to try and stop her as she passed him, but she shoved him back down on the bed. "Buffy!"

He followed her out the door, and out of the infirmary.

"Okay," Buffy said. "So this obviously isn't Sunnydale General. Where the hell did they take me, Spike?"

"I already told you, love."

"Giles!" Buffy called. "Where's the waiting room? There's got to be a waiting room."

"Buffy, let's go back to your room and talk about--"

She spun around and came back to stand in front of him. "Spike," she said, "you help me find Giles right now or so help me I will kick your ass up one side of this freaky hospital and down the other."

"Maybe later, pet. First, I want you to do something for me."

Buffy sighed. "What?"

"Look behind you."

Slowly, Buffy turned around, and for the first time looked out the windows that made up one wall of the corridor. "Oh, God." She walked up to one, and put her hands against the glass. Outside was a small city, made up of indistinct gray structures, all alike. Transport pods and larger carriers flew back and forth in the traffic zones above. Beyond the city was a vast, gray landscape that stretched to the horizon, where it met up with black sky filled with unfamiliar constellations. Above the horizon, brilliantly blue and beautiful, hung the planet Earth.

"I guess that explains your shiny outfit," Buffy said after a long silence.

Spike went to stand beside her. "Yeah. And hey, we finally got flying cars."

"About time," she said. She looked at Spike, who stood next to her in the sunlight. "Umm… why aren't you bursting into flame?"

He tapped the glass. "Special polymer. Filters out the hostile bits while letting light through."

"Neat."

"Yeah. They kind of had me in mind when they built the place. I thought it was right considerate of them."

"So, you're really a Watcher?"

"I'm really your Watcher, love."

"And I died."

"Originally."

"But you have a time machine, and you used it to save me, so I can fight the vampires that took over the world."

"In a nutshell."

"Damn. Suddenly a hellgod trying to destroy the universe sounds like a piece of cake."

"I guess this is a lot to take in all at once."

Buffy turned around and slumped against the window. She looked stricken. "So. That means all of my friends and family, all the people that I ever cared about… they're all gone."

"Yeah, pet. I'm afraid so." Spike struggled for something to say to make it better, and realized that nothing possibly could. "For what it's worth, I'm still here."

Buffy looked up at him. "You always are, aren't you?" She managed a smile. "That's actually worth quite a lot right now."

"Come on," Spike said. "Let's get you back to bed."

She nodded, and stood to go with him. "Maybe if I go back to sleep I'll wake up and this will all be a freaky dream I can tell you guys about at the next Scooby assembly?"

"Sure, pet," Spike said. "Why not?"

*

TBC