A/N: This is for Paula (Uri6) who requested another take on 'Something Blue' even though I'd already done one. She gave me the basic idea and the method of return, but everything else she suggested was totally changed and any flaws of execution are all my fault, not hers. Even though the time period is the same, I think this is very dissimilar to 'Something New' and I hope you'll enjoy it.
It was almost a year now since the Hellmouth was destroyed and Sunnydale disappeared into a crater. A year since Spike...
Buffy bit her lip hard. She wasn't going to think of Spike.
Strange how she missed Sunnydale. She'd spent seven years hating being tied to the Hellmouth, wishing she could see the rest of the world, wishing that she could leave Sunnydale. And here she was, missing it.
She had seen the rest of the world now. She'd gone everywhere, locating the novice Slayers created by Willow's spell, gathering and bringing them in for training. She was even living in Rome, in a small apartment that Dawn shared with her during holidays from that expensive boarding school that Giles had arranged for her. Giles being head of the new Council of Watchers made such a difference. A proper salary for Buffy. A proper job teaching the Slayers that were training in Rome while still being on call if some problem arose somewhere that needed her expertise. Fashionable clothes. Home in a fashionable quarter of the city. Dates with fashionable men.
All those beautiful cities—that were empty for her. The affluent life that she walked through numbly, feeling nothing but pain. The dates with the men who all didn't have any faces for her, were just generically handsome mannequins that weren't real to her. Meaningless. She'd stopped dating now; it had become a pointless exercise that only left her feeling more lonely.
She had thrown away everything that had real value to her. She had thrown away her heart.
'I love you.'
'No, you don't. But thanks for saying it.'
Of course he hadn't believed her. She hadn't given him any sign of it before, hadn't even known it herself until it had struck her in the gut in that final, terrible moment, when it was too late.
And then he had died. And she had let him die. She could have ripped that amulet off his head. Why hadn't she? Because everything had been coming at her too fast, because she hadn't had time to think, to process?
She had failed him. He had given her everything that he had, even given his life in the end. And she had given him nothing. All he had ever asked for was a crumb and she had given him a stone. Stony heart, stony purpose, iron contempt. Used him, abused him, in her self-absorption never even looked at him properly, never seen what she was throwing away.
Hadn't even appreciated the soul. That terrible, magnificent achievement of his. No demon had ever sought a soul before. Even Angel had his soul thrust upon him. But Spike had fought for his. All for her, so that he would never hurt her again. Which hurt itself had been something she had driven him to, with her mixed messages, her no-no-no-yeses. How often had she said no to him, only to agree when he persisted—and then blamed him for her own weakness.
And when he had come back with that soul, all she had been was irritated. Annoyed at being saddled with the insanity the burden of that soul induced in him. Callously leaving him to struggle with it alone in the basement of the high school. Making cruel jokes about his lack of hygiene, which had been caused only by that insanity. Not caring about the agony that had driven him insane, only caring that it had taken away her strongest fighter.
Her eyes burned from wanting to cry. But all these endless days she had refused to cry, refused any ease tears might bring. She deserved the pain. Deserved to live with the loss and the guilt.
The others never guessed what she felt. They didn't value Spike, didn't really give him credit for the sacrifice that he had made, burning away in the Hellmouth to save the world. The amulet had done it, they said, refusing to see that it was Spike's soul that had powered that amulet. Or that he could have saved himself if he had only taken it off.
But it was not in Spike's nature to take it off. He never went at things halfway, always threw himself headlong into everything, never counting the cost.
None of them were what they used to be, herself most of all. The cost had been too high. Giles was head of the Council now—and was slowly turning into Quentin Travers, cold, calculating and manipulative. Willow, all that joyous naïveté gone—the loss of Tara taking away the joy, having been Dark Willow taking away the naïveté, her new lover, that brash shallow Kennedy, in no way making up the loss. Xander, helping train Slayers, playing at being GI Joe, lacking an eye and lacking the heart that had made up for, oh, a whole list of foolishnesses, Anya's death perhaps being the cause, despite the way he had treated her. Buffy herself—empty, a hollow shell, going through the motions, not really caring about anything.
Something irrecoverable had gone out of her relationship with the Scoobies that day they had thrown her out of her own house. Only Spike had stood by her. Of course, it was Spike, whom she had scorned and abused, who had stood by her.
She wondered whether Spike would even recognize her, the way she was these days. Angel certainly didn't, kept looking at her in bewilderment, unable to understand why she didn't respond to him the way she had all those years ago when she had been a naïve teenager. But she saw him now, saw how he manipulated people, used them, played with their memories, even her, whom he claimed he loved. She had quietly found out a few things this last year.
But she was an expert on the many ways of using someone, wasn't she?
Maybe Spike wouldn't recognize her anymore either. No. She was wrong. Spike always knew what she was, what she was going through, even when she didn't want him to know. And she wouldn't be this way if he were here. Even if she were, he'd bring her back. He never gave up. Not Spike. Made mistakes, tried to correct them, kept on going. Tried and kept trying. Always.
'Watch the heart.'
Always the heart with Spike. He hadn't needed the soul. He had that heart.
She wouldn't make the same mistakes either, if he were here now. She wouldn't throw it all away, the way she had for years. She'd learned. She knew better now.
Too late, of course.
Her cell phone rang. It was Andrew, checking on the status of her latest mission for Giles.
"I'm going out there tonight," she said. "I already cased the joint earlier this afternoon, just to get a feel for the place."
"'Cased the joint'?" muttered Andrew, offended by the phrasing, as she had known he would be. She smirked. "Honestly, Buffy! This is Stonehenge you're talking about, not some 'joint'!"
"I'm an uneducated barbarian," she mocked.
Andrew sighed pointedly.
"Anyway," said Buffy, lying back on the queensized bed that had come with the hotel room and in which she would be sleeping alone, "I went on the tour. Did you know there were still a couple of hundred tourists around, even though it's late November?"
"The only time Stonehenge is closed is Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Good thing it's not summer. They get thousands of visitors then."
"Right, right. So only a couple of hundred people will get eaten by this boogeyman of yours if it turns up right now."
"Is that supposed to be a joke?" asked Andrew suspiciously. "It's not funny. There's something out there. The Wiccas say so."
"But they couldn't find it when they dropped in."
"We thought with your special Slayer sense..."
"Ri-ight. Anything else special?"
"What do you mean?"
"Anything about today that might attract the creature? Any prophecy or power concentration or what the hell else? This handy-dandy guidebook that I picked up talks about solstices. I mean, maybe I should have come on the winter solstice or something."
"That's a whole month away!"
"My point exactly," muttered Buffy.
"Really, Buffy," sniffed Andrew. "You don't have to be flippant."
"God, you're really starting to sound like Giles."
"Why, thank you!" said Andrew, pleased, and Buffy rolled her eyes.
"I'll go in just before midnight and see what turns up. The witching hour, right? Did your Wiccas think of dropping by around that time?"
"Of course they did," snapped Andrew, offended. "We're not stupid, you know."
She grinned at the long silence that suggested Andrew was counting to ten.
"Do you want one of the Wiccas to come with you?" he said finally, deciding to ignore her remark.
"What? To protect me?" Buffy asked, amused. "Nah. I've got that doohickey of theirs that will teleport me in. It should poof me out if I run into any trouble I can't handle. Unlikely as that is."
"There really is..."
"Yeah, yeah. Talk to you later."
Half an hour before midnight, Buffy popped into the center of Stonehenge. Teleportation always left a queasy feeling in her stomach. She swallowed that down with an effort, dropped the amulet that had brought her here into her pocket where she could easily reach it if necessary, then looked around her.
When she had come here on the tour earlier in the day, she hadn't been allowed past the ropes that kept tourists from trampling the site. But even from that distance away beyond the cordon, the vast stone circle had been impressive. Now standing in the center of it, the massive columns looming over her on every side, she felt a little shiver of awe run through her.
The sheer scale of the structure, the age of it! She turned carefully, mindful of any dips in the ground, the full moon allowing her to see without resorting to the torch in her pocket. She was glad she hadn't come three days later when a lunar eclipse was predicted.
All around her, the monolithic circle swept, over a hundred feet wide, seventeen blocks of stone left out of the thirty that would have been there when it had been built, each block six and a half feet high and three feet thick, each weighing twenty-five tons, according to the guide book. Many of the lintels were gone or fallen, but she could see the ring that they would have made. Within that ring was another circle of smaller stones, many of those also missing—bluestones, which hadn't looked blue by day, though the guide said they turned blue when wet. Inside the two circles, where she was standing, was a horseshoe of giant, upright pillars—the trilithions. There were three pairs of them with lintels across them and two pairs with the second stone and lintel lying on the ground. The tallest of the trilithions was more than four times her height, twenty-two feet, the book had said. The gigantic, looming weight of it towering over her took her breath away.
Over four thousand years old. Built by people using primitive tools, seventy generations of them. It had taken over sixteen hundred years for them to raise the structure, the equivalent of people working nonstop from the fall of the Roman empire to the present day. But they had never given up, kept on working determinedly; it had meant that much to them. She wasn't a Wicca; she didn't know if there was power of that sort here. But the will and the engineering genius and the sheer determination of the people that had built Stonehenge was potent, spoke to her.
She moved carefully around the stones, sliding through moonlight and shadow, her Slayer senses extended as far as they would go. Nothing moved except the wind in the grasses and the odd cloud scudding across the moon. She sensed no demonic activity anywhere. Looked like a washout. But she was not sorry she had come. She would never have thought of making the trip here otherwise, or of stepping into the circle itself. Tourists could, if they made appointments, but not in winter. It was November twenty-fifth; she didn't have to worry about taking out an innocent tourist by accident.
November twenty-fifth. Thanksgiving back in the States. She winced suddenly, thinking of that Thanksgiving four years ago when the Initiative had placed that chip in Spike's head and he had come to her for help. She had been so focused on having a perfect Thanksgiving that she hadn't even thought of what he was going through—unable to feed, unable to fight, all that he loved taken away from him. Everything had started from there though, the change in him and her own stubborn refusal to see what was right in front of her eyes. God! What she wouldn't do to have that day back!
Her cell phone vibrated against her hip. She was glad she had muted it: ringtones would have been so incongruous here, almost sacrilegious. She was even more glad that someone had called, distracting her from her painful thoughts. She didn't want to think of Spike and her own blind stupidity.
It was Andrew. "Anything?"
"Nada. Zippo. Zilch. It's way past midnight and I'm freezing my ass off here. Are you sure...?"
"Yes, I'm sure! You couldn't wait for dawn, could you?"
"It's November! Dawn comes at seven-thirty! Hours and hours away!"
"Just a little longer," wheedled Andrew. "Just a few hours."
"How about I just pop back into my nice, warm hotel room and pop back here every hour on the hour?"
"It's boring," she complained, then looked up. "Oh, shit."
Several hundred feet away, on the grassy plain that surrounded Stonehenge, a dull reddish-black line had formed, a line that seemed to stretch from the ground right up into the heavens. A pulsing black force was streaming from it.
"It just became unboring. Where are your Wiccas? Wake up your Wiccas. A portal just opened up out here."
"There are no portals around there...!"
"There is now. So not a good thing." Buffy backed up and nearly tripped over the huge stone lying flat behind her. "Get me a witchy person, Andrew! Slayers don't handle portals! Portals don't respond well to stakes!"
"Are you pulling my chain?"
"Give me that, you idiot!" Buffy heard a woman's voice exclaim behind him, then there was a clatter as if the phone had been snatched out of his hand. "Buffy, we're on it! What's coming through?"
"Some kind of energy. Black. Moving very fast. Coming right at me."
"Where are you?"
"Center of Stonehenge."
"Teleport out. We're activating the megaliths."
"You're whatting the huh?" Buffy dug in her pocket for the amulet. "Well, look at that."
The massive stones of the Henge had suddenly started to glow blue, the luminescence spreading and linking together.
"Kinda like a force field, right?" Buffy remarked. "Are you sure it won't hurt the stones? Be a shame if..."
"It won't hurt them. Buffy, just get out of there! This is no time for sightseeing!"
"Can't." Buffy looked down at the amulet in her hand. "Your pretty gem isn't working."
Emanations from the portal perhaps, nullifying the amulet. Guess she should have brought one of the Wiccas with her. But everyone had been thinking of demons, not esoteric forces. Which might just turn out to be a fatal error, she thought as the black wave rushed right past the blue field of the circle and roared towards her.
The wavefront struck her. She was flung back, thrown right off her feet, to crash against the trilithion behind her. Her head struck the rock and she saw stars. The phone spun from her hand. She could hear it squeaking at her, calling her name.
Whatever the Wiccas were doing was working. She could see the portal beginning to close. Didn't do her any good though. She was caught here, trapped between forces, between the blue pulses pouring out of the stone behind her and the raging black force in front, the two conflicting energies crackling through her like an unending lightning blast. Human bodies weren't made to take that kind of stress, not even the body of a Slayer. Her brain shorted right out.
Then she was floating in space, looking down at a crumpled form lying at the base of the trilithion.
Her form. Oh, damn.
'Dead again, huh?' she remarked dreamily. 'This is really starting to get old.'
She drifted higher. Andrew and the Wiccas would come once they had that force contained. She could see it starting to waver now that the portal was almost closed. But all they would find would be her body.
'Oh, well. Easy come, easy go.'
She was almost relieved. She didn't care anymore and it would be good to rest. Willow had sworn to her that she would never bring Buffy back again. No more freaking resurrections.
Below her, Stonehenge flared pale blue and she saw it as it must have been—every stone and lintel in place, the circle perfect and exquisite, a glorious structure. She didn't know whether that was part of the spell the Wicca were doing or whether it was part of the swirl of time and space around her. The vision spun, then drifted away and faded into white.
All white now. She was floating in glowing white light that seemed to go on forever in all directions. Something opened in front of her.
'Oh, there you are again.'
She knew it. That place where she had been safe and warm and loved and finished. That perfect place.
It wouldn't be as perfect now. Spike wouldn't be there. No perfection without Spike. But she had thrown that away.
Something else opened to her left. Another place. And in it...
She sensed Spike. Whatever that place was, she could feel him within it.
She caught her non-existent breath.
She was being given a choice. Heaven or Spike. A surge of joy went through her, unthinking, instinctive, coming from the very cells of her body. Didn't matter where that place was, didn't matter what she would find there. The two of them together, they would find a way even out of Hell.
Heaven would always be there. Heaven could wait. What she wanted was to be with Spike.
One place vanished, as if that innate response of her soul had been enough of an answer. The other opened wider. She found herself sliding towards it. Into it.
Landed with a jolt.
With her arms full of a bowl of mashed potatoes.
She was in Giles' flat. Giles and Willow were standing nose to nose arguing. Xander was lying on the couch, looking sick as a dog, with Anya beside him.
"Let's give him some land," Willow was saying.
"I'm sure that'll clear everything up," retorted Giles.
"Sarcasm accomplishes nothing, Giles!"
"It's sort of an end to itself."
Give who some land? Buffy looked around wildly. This certainly wasn't a hell dimension. This was...
She'd gone back in time. That's what it was.
"So we take this guy out," Xander was saying.
"There are two sides to it," protested Willow.
"Slaying him? The representative from syphilis votes yea," Xander shot back.
Ohh, wait! Thanksgiving. Hus. The Chumash.
"He's a vengeance demon," Xander was saying. "You don't talk to vengeance demons. You kill them."
Anya drew back, stung. "I didn't know you felt like that."
She had to get time to think. "Uhh, I'll just go powder my nose," she muttered, set down the bowl on the kitchen counter and fled. They were too busy arguing among themselves to notice.
She locked the door of the bathroom behind her and sat down on the edge of the tub, her fingers clinging to the coolness of the rim.
She had been thinking of this Thanksgiving back there in Stonehenge, thinking that this was where it had all started, wishing to have the day back. And she had been given that.
Given a chance to fix things. Not only for herself and Spike. But for Giles and Willow and Anya and Xander as well. Do it right this time. Save them all from what they had ended up becoming.
She got up and stared at herself in the bathroom mirror. No one had two souls. So this was her soul in this earlier body. But where had that mind gone? That consciousness? Had it just been sublimated into her present one? She didn't have a sense of two minds here, no sense of overlap or overlay. She had just been seamlessly integrated into this borrowed body, all her memories of the future intact.
Tell the others? And tell them what? She had died and wanted to be sent back? They might think she'd usurped this body, might try to make her leave, try to force her out and bring their Buffy, the original Buffy, back. She knew what Willow was capable of, even at this point early on in her sorcerous career.
Couldn't have that happening. There was too much to fix. Had to keep Spike from dying. Had to keep her Mom from dying. And Tara. And Anya. So many deaths. Had to keep Willow from misusing her powers. Keep Giles the kind, gentle man that he was, instead of having him turn into a scarier version of Quentin Travers. Break Xander out of that self-absorption and prejudice against demons which caused his unthinkingly callous and selfish attitude towards Anya.
So much to do.
There was a knock on the front door. She heard Giles open it and then he and Spike talking.
Spike's voice. "Come on, I'm parboiling out here. Invite me in."
Spike! She shot to the bathroom door, struggled with the lock.
"No. It's fairly unlikely," Giles was saying as she managed to get the door open and flew out of the bathroom.
"Giles!" she yelled. "Let him in!"
"Are you mad? He's a vampire! He's dangerous!"
"Not any more! He can't hurt anyone!"
"Yeah, sod it!" snapped Spike. "I can't bite anyone. Ask Willow."
"That's true. He had trouble performing," agreed Willow as Buffy was racing to the door.
"Looks like they've done me for good," growled Spike. "I can't bite anything. I can't even hit people."
Buffy reached the door. And there he was in his ragged blanket, white as a sheet, lips chapped, eyes red-rimmed, looking like death from starvation, already smouldering even in the indirect late evening sunlight.
"Giles!" she yelled.
"Oh, all right," muttered Giles reluctantly. "Come in, Spike."
She reached out and grabbed the blanket and yanked him into the house. "Spike, get in here!"
A year. A whole year. The blanket fell from her hands. Her fingers closed on the shoulders of his duster, shoving him back against the wall. She held him there, leaning on her straight arms, feeling him solid and real, real, under her palms. That beloved face with its strong bones and beautiful mouth and vividly blue eyes. That lean body vibrant under her hands, undead but so much more alive than any living person she knew. The scent of leather and cigarettes and, beneath it all, that unique, particular scent that was Spike himself.
She could have wept. Wanted to grab him, hold him tight...
Then she saw the amazement in his eyes.
This Spike didn't know her.