And Everything in Between
Disclaimer: Buffy belongs to Joss Whedon. Word of God said so.
Summary: A chance encounter with a Buffy from another world causes the Slayer to re-evaluate the direction her life is going. S9 SPOILERS. Bangel + Spuffy.
A/N: This is set after Slayer, Interrupted. Assume everything goes AU from there (seeing as Joss Jossed it!). Originally written for letsgetitdone on LJ.
The city hummed with life. Buffy admired the way that big cities never seemed to sleep. There was rarely any darkness—save the dingy back alleys that were obligatory in any town infested with vampires and other creatures of the night. In any case, LA was nothing like Sunnydale.
Buffy huffed as she turned a familiar corner. She knew that Angel would probably be furious that she was taking her time but it had been so long since she had felt the freedom of her feet pounding the pavement that she was willing to bear the brunt of his anger.
Or, if he was having a good night, mild annoyance. She could never really tell. In a split second, though, Buffy's slayer sense kicked in and she could hear the nearly silent footsteps fall behind her. "Now, here I was thinking a girl would be safe roaming the streets in LA at eight in the evening," she said tiredly, stopping in the middle of the footpath.
"I mean," she started as she turned around and grabbed the offender by the throat, "LA is bad and scary but seriously? Eight in the evening? You're supposed to be at home reading the paper."
The vampire growled but before he could do any damage, Buffy promptly shoved a stake through his heart. "Sunnydale vamps slept in," she said to nobody and pocketed her stake. She brushed the dust off her coat and snuck a glance at her watch. Eight-oh-five. Yep, Angel was going to kill her.
With a sigh, she pulled her light sweater around her. The Hyperion was visible from the corner and Buffy focused on it as she felt the day's exhaustion seep into her bones. Angel kept them afloat but if Buffy ever wanted to wear brand name shoes again, she knew that doing the afternoon shift was a necessity.
Her waitress uniform clung to her like an oppressive second skin as she finally opened the double doors into the hotel she had called home for the past four years. The Hyperion has seen Buffy on far worse days than this and she relished in the thought as she let her hair out of her braid. It felt like freedom.
Strangely, nobody was in sight and the hotel promised endless silence. The thought didn't comfort her. In her four years living with Angel, the Hyperion had never been quiet. Demons, vampires, witches, ex-watchers and Slayers all frequented the establishment and that was on a good day.
"In here, Buffy," his familiar voice called to her. She frowned, wondering why her hearing hadn't managed to pick up the faint shuffling of his feet or the soft noises he made while he drank his pig's blood. She also couldn't smell him. She had sensed the vamp that had been stalking her quickly enough but he had been so close, if he needed to breathe, it would have been ghosting on her neck.
"What's with the ghost town in here? Silence seriously gives me the wiggins," she started as she walked into the back part of the hotel. Angel's back was facing towards her. She unlooped her bag from across her chest and left it on the ground, hoping that Angel's advanced hearing wouldn't pick up on the sound of wood and metal crunching together in the limited space.
"Not that I don't appreciate the lack of infants crying or the fact that for once I walked through the foyer without stepping on a rattle or a demon hand, but..."
Angel turned slightly. The first thing that she noticed was the huge bruise appearing over his eye. The second thing she noticed was a familiar face staring back at her. Her hair was lighter and the bags under her eyes told a similar story to her own but unmistakably, it was her own face.
Exhaustion forgotten, it took her only seconds to be across the room. Her fist connected with her own face and she heard the familiar sound of bone and flesh shuddering under the strength of the Slayer. The thing that was wearing her face and her body—(seriously, where did she get those clothes from? The shirt was all wrong but she approved of the shoes) stumbled backwards and a hand nursed her bleeding face.
In the short time it had taken for Buffy to punch the other Buffy, Angel had leapt into action. "Buffy, wait—"
"Angel," the other Buffy started.
"What the hell is this?" Buffy snapped. "That thing is wearing my face! Did she do that to you?"
"You need to calm down," Angel replied, looking between the two women.
Buffy stared at him in shock. "Sick, twisted fantasy much?" she cried. "Seriously not the time Angel!"
"I'm not a demon," the other Buffy said quietly. "Or a robot," she added. "Totally been done before. It wore a skirt and everything."
"Excuse me if I'd rather stab the demon that stole my bouncy hairdo," Buffy growled.
"I told you, I'm not a demon," the other Buffy said, her voice quivering. "I-I'm not even sure..."
Buffy took a moment to look at her doppelganger. She had seen this before, back in Sunnydale. But that had been years ago and the Hellmouth was officially closed for business. If this other Buffy had come through then, why would she wait until now?
She tore her eyes away from her own face and rested on Angel. When had she stopped trusting her own judgement and started trusting his? Everything about the other Buffy screamed shenanigans but here she was, taking props from her formerly undead boyfriend. She loved him, she really did but he was a vampire-less vampire (if that made any sense at all). She was the Slayer. And it was her call about whether to stab first and ask questions later or sit and listen to the demon-Buffy.
Faith would have stabbed.
"Angel, get out of my way," Buffy said calmly. "If she bleeds red I'll know she's not a demon."
"Demons can bleed red...okay, not the point," the other Buffy conceded as Angel stepped closer to Buffy. "Alright, I can't blame you for having the wiggins. You being here is kinda sending me the bad vibes too. I'd probably do the same thing you are. Or worse. Angel, you need to move out of the way."
The other Buffy moved her head and locked eyes with Buffy. "She won't hurt me."
Before Angel could intervene, she ducked around him and within seconds the other Buffy punched her. Buffy growled and leant in for another hit, longing to feel what she didn't really want to be true, under the force of her fists. The other Buffy was holding back. Her darkened eyes said it all. She was tired too. They matched each other's blows with precision. Buffy was taken back to another place—where she had been out for Faith's blood, to literally feed her to Angel.
But Buffy didn't want to feed this other her to anyone. She realised it was about proof. If this was another her from another place, or another time, then she'd know it. And by the thrusts and parries and kicks and punches, she'd be lying if she didn't suspect that this non-demon, non-robot Buffy, was her.
Angel stood on the sidelines and Buffy noticed the look of horror on his face. She suddenly felt awful—absolutely terrible, for accusing him of enjoying the situation. The other Buffy took the opportunity to deliver a swift knock to her face. With a cry, Buffy aimed for the other one's stomach. As if she were possessed, the other Buffy blocked her punch and pushed her backwards.
She knew that look. She knew that feeling. She herself had felt it—the overwhelming and overriding sense of protection. A sickening feeling passed over her as she stared in horror as the other Buffy groaned and tried to regain her footing.
They were both panting now. Angel was seated, looking between the two. A small part of Buffy felt a bit of triumph as she realised he was waiting for her cue. "She's not a demon," she whispered.
"I need your help," the other Buffy whispered and Buffy couldn't help but stare when she dropped to her knees and began to sob.
It had taken both Buffy and Angel to convince the other Buffy to get up off the floor. A part of her wondered what had happened to her—even more than the questions about who she was, or how she had come to be sitting in the Hyperion Hotel. She'd helped her up the stairs and, as gently as possible, put her in the shower. She hadn't spoken to Angel yet, but she was eternally grateful that he had sent the kids out. Maybe they were with Lorne—or even with Fred and Wesley. Either way, they wouldn't have to have the awkward discussion about why there were two mommies.
"I'm sorry I hit Angel," the other Buffy murmured as Buffy adjusted the temperature of the water. "He's human. I didn't know."
She didn't know why she answered, but she did. "Kind of like an advanced Shanshu thingie. He's like a vampire but without, you know, the vampire."
Her eyes flickered up. "I'm sorry," she repeated.
She couldn't help herself. If it was true, and this Buffy was from some bizarre Wish-verse world, she needed to know. She closed the shower door for privacy and flung a towel over the top. She would be able to ask the questions that were weighing on her mind before she was caught up in the overwhelming pain that was pooling in the other Buffy's eyes.
"Where you're from, do you have...I mean, is Angel—?"
"He's alive," she replied, effectively ending the discussion on the subject. Different scenarios ran through her mind. Alive didn't exactly assuage her concerns. She thought about her Angel, sitting downstairs, probably on the phone to whoever had Connor and Dawn.
"Angelus?" she asked, not really wanting to know the answer. She wondered if her counterpart had ever met him. She prayed that she hadn't. There was a lengthy pause that nearly set her heart on fire.
"No," she replied, her voice struggling to carry against the constant sound of the water running. "He's in England now."
Before Buffy could think, her voice carried her. "With Giles?"
The shower stopped and Buffy turned her back to give her double a sense of privacy. It was ironic, really. She wanted to destroy her fifteen minutes ago, and now she was considering her privacy.
"Giles is dead."
Buffy didn't reply.
"There's some loose clothes over there," she said quickly and closed the bathroom door.
Angel hung up the phone. "Wes is on his way."
Buffy nodded and wrapped her hands around her mug. "Connor and Dawn?"
Angel sighed and sat across from her, running his own hands over a cup of coffee. Buffy knew how hot it was and could only watch as he drank the steaming liquid. "They're with Lorne. He rang Willow and she's on her way."
Buffy nodded. "I'll call them later."
They sat in silence, both sneaking glances at the staircase. "I gotta say—you're handling this pretty well," Angel finally said, breaking the silence. "Well—apart from the 'make the lookalike bleed' thing you had going."
She rolled her eyes. "Well, what if it was a demon and it reported to all his demon friends that I'm an ask questions, stake later kind of gal? We'd have to ask Faith to move in to fend off all the stabby well-wishers."
"Well, I'm glad you only tried to beat the crap out of her before breaking out Mr Pointy."
Buffy smirked. "He belongs to Dawn now, remember? I never thought I'd see my daughter sleeping with my favourite stake under her pillow, that's for sure." Buffy face softened. "I wonder if she has a Mr Pointy."
Angel leant in closer. "Did you..."
"She wasn't much with the talking," Buffy admitted. "But I think we need to be careful about who we tell that she's here. Her world, wherever that may be, isn't the same as ours."
Angel took a moment to consider what that meant. "She took a swing at me as soon as I walked in and saw her there. And she wasn't holding back either."
Buffy moved seats. She sat next to Angel. Now, more than ever, she wanted to be near him—to feel him next to her. For all their faults as a couple, he was still her guiding light. Humanity had done wonders for them but at the end of the day, Angel was still noble to a fault—even going as far as trying to ban her from slaying. It had come from a good place but that didn't mean she was okay with it. But at least she had him.
The other Buffy didn't.
"You...or him...whatever, her Angel is in London," she said softly.
Angel frowned. "Giles?"
"With Faith," a voice spoke. Buffy and Angel both turned around quickly to see the other Buffy descending down the grand staircase. Well, that was an interesting turn of events. Buffy felt old wounds reopen but tried to push out her jealous thoughts. That had been a long time ago. She snuck a look at Angel who looked equally as surprised and even a little disgusted.
"Not like you think. They're a team, I guess. Scoobies, version two."
The other Buffy crinkled her nose in the same way she did. It was uncanny- two Buffys, two separate worlds and yet, the way her eyes clouded over even mentioning Faith, it was her.
Buffy avoided Angel's eyes as she sat at the table. The clothes Buffy had given her fit, as she had assumed. A part of her felt deeply ashamed that she had hit her double, but even the Slayer had lapses of judgement sometimes. Her fringe in senior year? Lack of judgement. Punching her clearly pregnant counterpart? Serious lack of judgement.
She noticed Angel's gaze make his way to her. He discreetly sniffed the air and once again, the half-vampire sniffing thing was still freaking her out. In any case, he had clearly come to the same conclusion. He cleared his throat and stood, awkwardly. The other Buffy averted her eyes as Angel walked past her and gave her a squeeze. "I'll go pick up the kids."
At this, the other Buffy looked at her. And there it was- another fact, another difference between their worlds. This pregnancy was Buffy's first. She didn't have any kids and that made her heart ache. Where was Dawn?
In a flash, Angel was out the door and Buffy was left looking at herself, with sadness and pity. Sure, life had been difficult at first, but she couldn't picture herself in a life without Dawn. She had been to hell and back to give birth to her daughter, and she stifled the sick feeling that rested in her bones as she thought about what it had cost her. Whom it had cost her.
She had fled to LA without a second thought and Angel had caught her as she tumbled through the door, crying and clutching Dawn. She had done the same for him as Darla had staked herself in the back alley.
So with Faith in Sunnydale and herself playing guardian to not one, but two bouncing, screaming prophecy children, this was life. Angel did the champion thing, she moonlighted as a Slayer during down time and whenever some idiotic demon clan decided to try and get one of the kids.
But this other Buffy didn't have that. Buffy had stopped fighting the good fight and had been happy for the break when Faith and Angel had relieved her of her duty. She was a mom first, Slayer second.
It was her own voice from her double's mouth that reminded her that she was needed. "You have kids?"
The doors to the Hyperion closed and Buffy forced a smile. As every self-respecting parent did, she had photos stashed in the sorry excuse of a purse in her pocket. She hurriedly pulled them out and the other Buffy looked at them intently.
A wave of recognition passed over her features. "Dawn," she breathed and held the picture closer. Red flags were going up and Buffy was one to trust them. White flags too, on occasion but Other Buffy was toeing the line between them right now.
"I'm sorry," Other Buffy started. "I know you probably don't trust me yet. The last time someone stole my face, it was a robot and I wasn't making with the trust right away."
"Plus the whole skirt thing," Buffy added. "I mean, at least you were wearing pants. Nice pants, even." She cleared the throat. "Do you recognise my daughter?"
A small smile played on Other Buffy's lips. "Dawn is my sister."
Oh. Well, that explained it then. Except, it didn't at all. "Huh?"
Other Buffy shrugged. "I woke up one day and I had a sister. Not that that I remember not having a sister. I dunno, Hellmouthy stuff? I'm weirded out that you actually gave birth. Major wiggins."
Hellmouthy was right. Other Buffy frowned. "Who's her father?"
That was something that Buffy didn't want to talk about, like ever again. So instead, she shoved the second photo into her double's waiting hands. Other Buffy took the hint. "Angel's son," she said without preamble. "Connor. Is he...?"
"Darla's," Buffy confirmed. "So we have not one, but two Prophecy children. Makes for a slammin' apocalypse every two weeks." Buffy took both photos away from her double and touched them quickly, as if if the photos themselves were more precious than the sun. "Hence why we have a vampire with a soul and a Slayer here at all times."
Buffy left out the part where it was Angel and Wes and Willow who beat back the demons.
"And more babysitters than you can shake a stick at," Other Buffy commented. "Must be nice."
Sure, her life was far from glamorous and she hadn't had ashes coating her hands in a long while but she wouldn't have it any other way. She had her kids. She had Angel. She had Giles.
"The baby..." Other Buffy started. "It's not...I mean, I'm not sure..."
Before her doppelganger could say the words and maybe reveal how she ended up in this dimension, the sound of shattering glass filled the air. Of course, of all days, the idiots would choose today to attack. But for once, Buffy had a one-up on whichever LA low-life wanted to throw down with the Slayer.
There were two of them.
Buffy didn't even have to look to see her counterpart up and at the ready. She had fought alongside Kendra and then Faith but despite the worlds of difference, the guilt and the doubt that went along with facing an altered version of yourself, every instinct in her body screamed to trust the other Slayer.
So when the Kathras demons crashed through the front door of the Hyperion, effectively announcing the breaking of the Sanctuary spell, Buffy didn't even blink. She remembered the way the vampire had tried to attack her when she had first found out she was pregnant with Dawn. If the Other Buffy was even half the woman she was, these guys were going to be dust.
If Buffy thought the slay earlier had been satisfying, this was at a whole other level. Every part of her was on fire. Her body moved of its own accord, as if generations of destiny had all banded together to remind her of what was deep down in her bones. With a swift punch the knocked out the first demon that got to her.
They were after her children and that made her the most dangerous thing in the room. Well, nearly. Another demon howled and he was on her in seconds. She stole a look at her companion as she kicked one of the gnarlier green demons clear across the room, sending him into Angel's beloved weapons cabinet. Knives and swords spilled onto the floor.
She was itching to get her hands on one. As soon as she thought it, Other Buffy was yanking Sir Gnarly out of the cabinet and a sword with a pretty handle flew straight into her outstretched hand. Sir Gnarly's friend, Mr Stinky growled and Buffy cut through him without a second thought.
"We search for the Slayer," Mr All-Over-Lack-of-Hygiene boomed from his space at the front door. There were already bodies littering the floor. She'd have to scrub later. She hadn't even changed out of her work clothes. And Mr Stinky had left green blood on her shoes.
"Two for the price of one offer, today only," Other Buffy quipped. "Sure, it means twice the ass-kicking but I think it's going well, don't you?"
"There is only one," the demon snarled, as demons often did. At least this one spoke English. The last one had spoken Ancient Boravarik and Wesley swore he had said 'I will kill you and your vast collection of egg-based beverages.'
"One...three, you know," Buffy called out as a distinctive look of fear passed over his horn-like features. "I'll call Faith and then it'll be a party."
The less than enthusiastic demon beside Mr All-Over-Lack-of-Hygiene-Boss-Demon-Guy snarled. "We smelt it. The child of the slayer. We'll bleed her stomach dry and dance on her grave!"
The Other Buffy's breath hitched slightly. She hadn't been through this but she had. Everyone always wanted a piece of the child of the slayer- even more so than the prophecy child of two vampires, it seemed. Dawn and Connor were safe with Angel but she was here. And she was standing between Other Buffy and the demons, right where she should be. Buffy knew the demon would attack first and all she had to do was be ready. As predicted, both demons snarled in unison and then both were hurtling towards her in a spectacularly uncoordinated fashion.
The pair of demons didn't even see it as Buffy's sword neatly sliced through their necks. Her whole body hummed as the bodies fell to the floor, useless and bloody. She spied the carnage and felt deeply satisfied. Not in a deranged Faith serial-killer kind of way, but the feeling she got every time she dusted a vamp. This is what she was made for and more than that, she was so good at it.
And then, the faces of her kids and Angel flashed through her mind and the familiar guilt seeped back into her bones. It was the typical cycle- Buffy Slay, Buffy guilty. As much as she loved and trusted Angel, there were some things that he couldn't understand.
Dawn and Conner were her everything but being a Slayer was in her blood. As much as she had tried, she couldn't push her destiny away completely. She could do this because she had to. Faith protected the Hellmouth but she was still the Slayer.
And nobody understood that more than the not-a-hair-out-of-place doppelganger beside her. She didn't even huff. Or puff.
"I've had a grave and I'm assured by many sources that there were various demons dancing on it. It's overrated," Other Buffy stated. She glared at them. "No poof?"
She smirked. "No poof," she agreed. "I already ruined a good pair of shoes tonight. Angel can clean this up."
The Other Buffy looked at the sword, which was still dripping with demon blood. "It's been a while, hasn't it?"
She turned to face her mirror image and it struck her just how alike they were. Buffy had seen enough heartache in her own world. She had been through The Master, Angelus, Faith...she had seen her mother die and she had given birth to a prophecy child while being hunted by a hell-god. She had scars on the outside and even more on the inside.
Other Buffy's eyes were similar. She had her own Dawn, a sister, which the monks had seamlessly inserted into her life. She didn't even have Angel or Giles. There was a question that was on her lips though, and she wasn't sure she wanted to know. It had hurt to consider Other Buffy's life without Angel but there was another possibility she hadn't dare thought of anywhere near Angel.
Another horrible memory surfaced. A tower, a screaming god and a screaming baby. A vampire sans soul gently drawing blood from her new-born daughter. A quick smile and then a cataclysmic boom ending in an insignificant pile of ash on a concrete floor.
The man who had saved them.
She took a deep breath. "Dawn doesn't have a father."
Other Buffy raised her eyebrows. "Oh."
Buffy should have known a fact like that wouldn't surprise her. She did have her own Dawn, after all. She diverted her eyes and awkwardly played with a stray piece of lint on her blood-stained jacket.
"Before she was born, Spike..."
And then Other Buffy's face said it all. It communicated everything she needed to know. Her pain, her relief, her fear. She took a deep breath. Her life was so full, that she rarely stole moments to think of him. Funny, it often happened whenever she was covered in blood.
"He...I mean, if you had a Dawn, I'm sure you had a Glory?"
Other Buffy nodded in understanding. "He went off the tower, didn't he?" she asked softly. "To save you. To save Dawn."
She shuffled a bit and averted her eyes from her jacket. Understanding went both ways, after all. "You have your Spike, don't you? He's not dead?"
Other Buffy shook her head. "He was. I mean, so was I. Being dead means something a little different in my world."
That was clear enough. She had found death more permanent here, amongst the blood and ash. That wasn't fair though- she also had life. She had Angel and she had her family. And she was the Slayer. She motioned for Other Buffy to follow her to the office.
She followed wordlessly and sat down across from Buffy. The silence wasn't awkward, like it should have been. And then, she spoke. "I'm here because Willow said I needed something that I couldn't get anywhere else. When I got here and I saw Angel, I reacted...badly. I love my Angel and I always will, but he wasn't the answer. I panicked. And then you came in. All tired from work and a mother and fresh from a slay. And I've seen how you operate, Buffy. You love your kids but he holds you back.."
Other Buffy took a deep breath. "You loved him and he died, but you're still here. Kicking asses and taking names. Faith may be in Sunnydale, but you are still the Slayer."
"You can be both," Buffy said, as if it were the greatest revelation in the world. Because it was. And that what it had all been about. The hard work, the sleepless nights, the training, being here with Angel. She was supposed to do both.
"Your baby will be amazing. You don't have to throw it all in. You probably couldn't if you tried. And if you have him, if he's there..."
Other Buffy didn't say anything but she closed her eyes. "Thank you," she whispered. "I was supposed to hear it from me."
Other Buffy's eyes flew open and then Buffy had noticed that her left hand was shimmering. Willow's spell had worked. She was going home.
"Oh!" she called out, as the rest of her body began to shimmer. "The scythe. If it's here, in this place, it's yours. It's in Sunnydale. It's the key to-"
And then, she was gone.
Buffy stared at the spot where her double sat. She had gone home, but not before giving Buffy everything she needed. She was a mother and the Slayer. She was both. The sound of the doors to the Hyperion opening reminded her that the foyer was covered in demon parts and she was about to have two crying children and a pissed off Angel.
With a final glance at the empty chair, she straightened her shoulders and left the office. "Buffy!" Angel called out, his left hand holding Connor and his right holding Dawn, both asleep.
She raised her hand to quiet him. "I'm fine. It's fine. Well, not for the Kathras demons, but I'm 100% Buffy approved okay."
Angel looked confused and Buffy wondered when she had gotten used to every nuance of his face. She held out her hands and Angel deposited their son, all soft and cuddly into them. She took a moment to smell his hair, the colour and texture all Angel.
He shuffled Dawn onto his other hand, trying not to wake her. "Buffy?"
After a small kiss on Connor's head, she whispered, "Gone." And then, the memory of the sword in her hands prompted her to remember her double's final words. She didn't know a thing about a scythe but if it belonged to a Slayer, she needed it. It was hers. She would call Wes and Giles from the road and they could look into it, but Buffy had given her everything she needed. It was night-time and the perfect time to travel.
Besides, she hadn't seen Xander in a while. Dawn missed him.
"Get the kids packed. We're going to Sunnydale."
Buffy pierced the zompire's heart without a moment's hesitation. These things were becoming old hat for her now. Buffy Summers, commander of the Slayer Army and killer of the zompire. Andrew would have a field day with that one.
She hadn't expected any to be here. Well, she was expecting a vampire but she had hoped to be zompire-free. Her heart was beating. Why was it beating so fast? Okay, it was beating for two right now but that shouldn't have mattered.
Except that it did.
"Looks like you've still got it, pet," Spike's familiar voice drawled. And then the heart made with the beating. But it was okay. She could tell him this. She could do anything. This was going to happen.
She smiled. "Spike, we have to talk."