A/N: thank you to my Beta Spikes Real Lover- she's the best!
So, once again I got a visit from the Plot Bunny (shh…don't tell Anya!) and this story was born. Just the first chapter for now and a rough outline in my head. However, this story will be in competition with some of my other WIPs, so updates may be sporadic. Still, I appreciate any reviews and smile with delight at any "Alerts" and "Favorite Story". It might take time, but I don't intend to abandon it.
Chapter 1 - Mirror Mirror
The first time it happened was the day after Sunnydale collapsed.
Robin drove the bus north along I-5 for about two hours, until he noticed the gas gauge was dangerously close to empty. He pulled over at the nearest exit and drove to the first motel on the right hand side of the street.
The post-fight euphoria had wound down. Talks of shoe-shopping had turned to shopping for more practical items such as ace bandages, antiseptic and gauze. As the talk wound down, Buffy could only look at her hands.
Giles went into the motel to take care of the rooms while Andrew and Dawn went across the street to the Rite Aid to purchase supplies. Faith checked on Robin, berating him for waiting so long before stopping while he stubbornly insisted he was fine. Buffy, Xander and the rest of the girls stepped out of the bus.
Buffy tuned out most of the chatter around her as the girls asked "Where are we?" and "Where are we going?" Buffy's thoughts were so jumbled she couldn't focus on anything in particular. She looked down at her hands again, cataloged each bloody gash and scrape, each shredded nail.
But no burns.
Shouldn't there be blisters and burn marks? His hand burned, his whole body had gone up in flames and she had held on as long as she could before running out of the basement. Why couldn't she carry burns?
Didn't she owe him burns?
Dawn and Andrew returned and Giles strode out from the motel office with a handful of keys. At some point during their shopping trip, Dawn and Andrew had devised a plan for treating each member of their group.
Buffy was first, Dawn announced. Everyone nodded, no one was surprised.
Dawn took her key and her hand and escorted her to her room. Andrew followed, carrying handfuls of white plastic bags.
Buffy wanted to protest. She wanted to shut them both out and just lie down and sleep. Yet when she looked at her sister's wide blue eyes and saw the concern in them, she relented. She had made the mistake of shutting her sister out before and she was determined to not make that mistake again. Instead, she found the energy to give Dawn a half-hearted smile as her sister gently cleaned her scrapes and gashes with the antiseptic.
When Dawn voiced her concern Buffy told her that she was fine, just tired.
Dawn made Andrew turn around as she raised Buffy's shirt to inspect her stomach for injuries. She gasped with shock over the ragged, puckered flesh that had already started on the path of healing.
She asked "How?" and "Why?" but Buffy had no answer, she simply shrugged as she lay back on the bed and rolled in between the cool sheets. She raised a hand to Dawn's face and was rewarded when her younger sister smiled a beautiful smile full of relief.
"We really survived, didn't we Buffy?" she said tremulously.
Finally knowing the right words to say, Buffy smiled. "We really did, Dawnie."
"You're tired. I … we - Andrew and I - are going to take care of the others now."
Buffy nodded and listened to the duo as they gathered up their bags.
Just before Dawn opened the door Buffy sat up and yelled, "Dawn!"
Dawn dropped her bags and was at Buffy's side in a second. "What? Are you in pain?" Worry clouded her features and Buffy took a shaky breath.
"I'm okay. I'm sorry, it's just -" Panicked, Buffy reached down and grabbed her sister's hand. "Dawnie, I love you. Okay? I just wanted you to know, I love you." Please believe me. Please believe me, she pleaded inwardly, fearful that her sister would look at her with sadness and say No you don't.
Dawn smiled. "I love you too Buffy." Then she was gone. And Buffy was alone.
She slept restlessly from the early afternoon and well into the next morning. Every sound seemed to wake her - the quiet murmurs of Willow and Kennedy in the room next to hers, the excited voices of Vi and another Slayer - who she assumed was Cho-Ahn (since half the conversation seemed to be in English and the other in Chinese). Both voices were excited and each girl seemed to be trying to recount the fight.
"Shuo yachi?" Vi repeated.
"Shuo. Yachi." Cho- Ahn carefully enunciated each word. She must have added a visual for clarification.
"Oh" Buffy listened to the sound of Vi as she giggled. "Very big teeth."
Buffy dozed off.
The sounds got quieter. Dawn crept softly into the room and Buffy listened to the sounds of the shower as she drifted back to sleep.
Later, she woke to an empty room. She stretched and grimaced slightly when she felt the pull on her stomach muscles. Cautiously, she pulled up her shirt and gently explored the red, puckered area. Then it hit her.
I should have died, Buffy thought.
No one should be able to survive a mortal wound - by the very definition, it was a mortal wound. If she had died, she knew deep in her gut, that he would have crawled his way to her while the walls and ceiling collapsed around them. He wouldn't have left her to die alone. He would have held her in his arms as he burned up from the inside out, saying some smart-ass remark.
"See you on the flip side, Slayer". Yeah, that sounded like him.
She frowned. Maybe not. He was so sure he would ride the highway into Hell... but surely his sacrifice wouldn't go unnoticed? The thought of him being overlooked by the Powers That Be made the acid in her stomach churn. A champion didn't deserve that...
She swung her legs off the bed and stood, taking a moment for the lightheaded feeling to pass before making her way into the bathroom.
In the shower she washed the layers of grime of the fight from her body, scrubbed her arms and legs. She refused to give into the tears that threatened to spill from her eyes. She closed her eyes as she inhaled deeply through her nose and tipped her head backwards into the steaming spray to wash the suds away. Lather, rinse, repeat. It was her fourth repeat and she thought she might finally be clean.
She turned off the spray, squeezed some of the water from her hair and grabbed some of the large white towels from the rack beside the shower. She wrapped one towel around her body and another around her head. She stepped out of the shower and walked to the mirror over the bathroom sink.
The mirror was cloudy, opaque with steam, and she swiped a hand across the mirror until she saw her image. She took her time, dispassionately staring at the image in front of her. Here, while alone in the bathroom, she could tell herself all of the hateful things she thought, things she couldn't dare say out loud in front of her friends, the poten- no, not potentials, she reminded herself - Slayers, they were all Slayers.
"You are awful." She told herself. "How could you?"
Her words seemed loud in the quiet of the bathroom. It wasn't enough. She pulled the towel from her head and watched as her hair fell in wet waves. She leaned forward in the mirror, placed her palms on the counter until she was nose to nose with her image.
"You are a disgusting evil thing! How can you stand to even look at yourself?" She stopped and tilted her head. She had heard a weird echo in the bathroom as her words were repeated in an odd, distorted way. Her words, but not her voice...
Then it happened.
She watched as her green eyes changed until they became blue; the shape of her face changed, hollowing out slightly in some areas and cheekbones jutting out sharply in others. Her hair receded, the length slowly retracting while the color changed and became bleached blonde and slicked back. She wasn't looking at her face anymore.
It was Spike. She whirled around-
- and looked behind himself.
"Buffy?" Spike said.
Of course she wasn't there and he stamped down the insane hope that curled in his belly. Yet, it some cruel way, he could swear he heard her voice gasp "Spike?"
He had been walking by the mirror after stepping out of the shower. He had swiped away some of the steam and looked at empty bathroom. He had no reflection because – well , duh, vampire. Filled with loathing and disgust, he spoke to the mirror. She was gone, dead and he had left Sunnydale in the early hours of the morning because he couldn't bear the place. Buffy was everywhere in that town, and the memories - were too much.
He found this place just before sunrise.
Slowly, he turned until he could see the reflection in the mirror out of the corner of his eye. She was still there, in an awful parody of his reflection. He raised a hand to his head to run his fingers through his head, stopping his hand in mid-air when he saw the Buffy in the mirror do the same.
Slowly he dropped his hand and Mirror-Buffy did the same. He twisted his hand and watched his- no her – hand in the mirror as it did the same. Her hand looked raw, knuckles were scraped, nails ragged. Her arms were marked by long gashes, thin scrapes and bruises everywhere. Then he looked at her face, his eyes drinking in the sight of her.
"You look awful." Was the first thing he said and then heard her voice, muffled and oddly distorted, repeat the words a scant second later. His lips twisted bitterly and he saw hers do the same.
"You should see the other person." He said automatically, as if she were really there, in front of him. Once again he heard the weird echo of her voice. He sighed and her image did the same. "I know it's not possible, but …" they both stopped and he looked into her green eyes. He knew it was a mirage then, the love in her eyes...
"You're a sight for sore eyes." He said softly. Her lips moved at the same time and her voice echoed back. He choked down a sob, felt his eyes fill with moisture and hung his head.
"All aboard the Crazy Train. Next stop Looneyville." He said to himself. The weird Buffy echo repeated his words back to him.
He closed his eyes and raised his head, too afraid, and too filled with hope to look into the mirror. What if she was gone? Despair filled him at the thought. She was dead, and the logical part of his brain knew that. But, if he was going crazy because she was appearing in mirrors, then he could embrace insanity with open arms and never let go.
He would believe in anything to have her back, even if it was just as a figment of his imagination.
He opened one eye and almost passed out with relief when one green orb stared back at him. She, too, had her fingers splayed across her face. Tears sparkled in her eyes and ran down her cheeks. He reached out with a hand and touched the smooth surface of the mirror, wishing that it really was her face he could touch. In the mirror, their fingertips touched.
"I know you're dead." They both said.
He looked at her eyes and saw the same startled expression in her eyes. He was overcome by a wave of guilt. He promised her that he would take care of Dawn and what does he do? Not even two days after her funeral and he left the Bit because he was having a difficult time dealing. That's why she was here, that's why he could see her in this mirror. This phantom-Buffy was here to remind him of his promise. Spike knew then that he needed to go back to Sunnydale and back to Dawn. He had promised Buffy he would always look after her kid sis and Spike always kept his promises.
He leaned close to the mirror again until he was nose to nose with her. He needed her to believe these next words, even if she wasn't real, even if she was only a-
- figment of her imagination. She had to make him believe.
"I meant what I said." She said fiercely looking into his blue eyes, watching as they showed the same intensity she felt. She heard the muffled distortion of Spike's voice repeat the same words. Then the mirror clouded over with steam. She choked back another sob and said brokenly "I love you, Spike."
Then, clear as a bell, she heard his voice say brokenly. "I love you, Slayer." It was if he was standing next to her.
Maybe it really was him in the mirror. Maybe, she wasn't crazy…
Tears streamed down her face and sobs shuddering through her body, she reached out and frantically wiped the foggy condensation from the mirror. Until she saw –
No reflection. Just an empty bathroom. He clenched his fists on the counter and looked into the mirror, anger and pain threatening to explode out of him. He took his fist and punched through the glass, not feeling the glass as it sliced through his fist as –
- the glass shattered and shards rained all over the counter.
She stood and gazed at the empty space on the wall where the mirror once rested. She heard the pounding on the door and Willow's muffled voice coming from the other side of the connecting door. For a moment, hysterical laughter bubbled up inside her. Maybe she was crazy. Willow continued knocking, and then Buffy heard Willow muttering in a soft voice. The door opened and Willow came into Buffy's room.
"Buffy? What happened?"
The hysterical laughter burst through her lips and Buffy slapped a hand over her mouth at the sound.
"Goddess, there's glass everywhere. Buffy, don't move!" Willow commanded and looked over her shoulder, "Kennedy, can you find a broom?"
Buffy ignored them and continued to stand and stare at the empty space on the wall where the mirror had been. She wasn't sure how long she stood, while Willow and Kennedy cleaned around her - seconds, minutes, hours…it didn't matter.
Later, after the mess was cleaned up, she got dressed and made her way to the motel office. She asked to speak to the manager, knowing that she needed to let them know about the mirror she had broken.
The front desk attendant told her the manager was out, but he expected her to be back from her lunch in a few minutes.
Buffy said she didn't mind waiting and took a seat. Idly, she looked around the small office, taking in small details - the vase of fresh flowers on the small table near the loveseat that she sat upon, the celebrity magazines spread out in front of the vase, the large mirror behind the front desk...
She looked at the mirror and stared at the room reflection. The sun shined through the windows and caused the fresh white carnations in the vase glow, as did her reflection. Then the hairs on her arm seemed to stand up and another image slowly replaced hers.
Mirror Spike was back.
Bloody Hell, I'm really losing it. Spike watched Mirror-Buffy as she regarded him with fathomless green eyes. She still looked awful. She had lost so much weight. Being dead would do that to a person, he figured. She had huge circles under her eyes. She wore a pair of jeans and a hideous yellow t-shirt that read "My Sister Went to California and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt." So, even figments of imagination change clothes once in a while.
The manager had stepped out for a moment and he was alone in the office. He stood, unsurprised when Mirror-Buffy also rose. Simultaneously, they walked backwards until he had a head to toe view of her. His eyes roamed over her body, once again drinking in the sight of her.
Yep. Insanity was welcomed if this was the view he got every time he looked in the mirror. Of course, real-life Buffy never looked at him with this open and almost greedy expression. Oh, how he had wished she had though…
Well, that was weird. He stared straight ahead at the image and, if Mirror-Buffy had followed the rules that his on-the-brink-of-insanity mind had already set up, then she should be looking straight ahead as well. She wasn't. Mirror-Buffy's eyes were moving, up and down and he swore - he swore - he could feel her touching him with her eyes. His skin began to tingle.
He forgot himself.
"Like what you see, Pet?" Buffy felt a shock go through her. Startled she looked straight at Mirror-Spike's face and saw his eyes filled with his familiar leer, the cerulean blue eyes sparkled with promise and his tongue curled back in a way that she used to complain was obscene, but always secretly found sexy.
She almost replied back with some cutting remark, out of habit - when she had wanted to punish him for making her want him, for staying when she told him to leave, for daring to love her and make her feel.
This time, I could tell the truth.
"Always." The word slipped from her lips on a sigh.
The flash of pain across his face was so un-expected, but all too familiar. Even with the truth, she could hurt him. Even this figment of her imagination didn't believe her.
The door opened and more sunlight spilled through the office, but in the mirror Buffy realized the room was dark, like it was night. Some imagination…of course Spike can't walk in daylight, so I make it nighttime in his mirror world. It was kind of scary, that her mind was going through so much trouble to make him exist.
The manager walked in front of her and Buffy watched her reflection in the mirror. Mirror-Spike watched the woman as well. Buffy frowned and watched as Mirror-Spike did the same. Something was off…
As if there were two separate speakers playing the same song, but one set had a slight delay in relaying the sound, Buffy heard the woman speak.
"I'm told you had a problem with your room?" she said, looking at Buffy expectantly. Buffy tipped her head to the side and looked at the mirror. She could see the back of the manager and Spike's face as his head was tipped to the side as well.
"No problem. The room was fine, but I caused some damage." Buffy heard her words repeated in the same muffled and distorted Spike voice that she had heard earlier in her bathroom. Once again she tipped her head and met eyes with Mirror Spike.
Now this is getting freaky.
"Damage? What kind of damage?" the woman asked, in stereo.
"A broke the mirror in the bathroom. I'll pay for damages." She and Spike said together.
What the hell?