The concluding part of today’s story! Part 1 is here.
Title To Cancel Half a Line
Author Brutti ma buoni
Rating PG13 (there’s some filthy Spike-ish language, no other content of concern)
Characters/Pairing Spike and Buffy, with hints of Spike/Buffy, with appearances from Giles, Willow, Faith and Xander
Setting post-Becoming AU
Summary After the Apocalypse, Spike thinks about how things could have gone differently.
They had more than enough dragon scales for the demon-killing spell, but it still failed. The red witch did her best, but the feeble light of hell couldn’t mimic the necessary sunlight, and her magic wasn’t enough to compensate. They pissed around a bit trying to make sunlight with more spells, but nothing came of it.
Back to square one.
That was a bad day. Spike could see in the slump of spines and quietness of talk that they were all pretty near giving up. Going back to Faith’s way, of grim survival and recrimination. Live out their lives in bunkers, till the day the hell-demons battered down the doors.
Spike wasn’t going to go that way. If they were giving up, he was getting out. Go solo, death or glory, fighting to the end. Not sitting back in his chained-up cave room awaiting the end. He said as much, to Buffy and Willow and Giles, one gloomy morning in the cave.
(Strange really, how they clustered round him now. Nobody trusted him, he was pretty sure. But somehow he’d become a symbol of not-Faith, not-the-Initiative – of their resistance within a resistance. An odd thought, that if Spike hadn’t met Giles at the moonshiners’, the good guys might never have thought of trying to save the world again.)
“Yeah. I know. Waiting for the end is just… it feels all wrong,” said Buffy, but slow and grim, like she didn’t know what else to do. “I just wish… I wish this had never happened.”
There was a pause. She started to laugh. “Uh… Yeah, okay, I guess that wasn’t the most profound thing I’ve ever said.”
“Perhaps not,” said Giles, with a tickle of something in his tone that made the others sit up. “But… I think perhaps we’ve been looking at this spell the wrong way. Instead of trying to make our current situation better, shouldn’t we be looking at ways to stop it happening at all?”
Spike drew a pointless breath, seeking patience in lieu of punching the man. Which he’d rather have done, but the chains prevented. “Rupert, I’m sure that made sense to you, but the rest of us would appreciate the subtitled version, if you please.”
“Oh… erm, yes. Well, I’m not certain that there is a fully-subtitled version as yet. But… Well, first I was thinking about vengeance demons. They can grant wishes, d’you see, so Buffy’s wish that the day Angelus took the world to hell hadn’t happened, that could be granted. If we had a vengeance demon, which we don’t, and if we could convince her to grant it as a vengeance wish, which is doubtful.”
Spike didn’t punch Giles at this point either. Nobody applauded his superhuman feat. Watcher man continued, unceasing, “All of which has too many ifs and buts, and I don’t think it’s practical at present. However, I was thinking then about other ways we could erase that day, or change it. And… well, there are ways of travelling in time, for example, or switching oneself with a past version of oneself to affect a critical juncture with benefit of hindsight, or… Well. I need to think about it.”
Bloody hell. Giles’s brain clearly worked a million times faster than Spike’s, if he’d got all that into a few seconds of harrumphing. Good. Because Spike had something to contribute.
“I’ve been telling myself, ever since that day, that if I’d not been in a wheelchair, it wouldn’t have happened.”
They looked at him, blankly. Not quite disbelieving, but Buffy and Willow definitely needed some persuasion that he was telling the truth. “Giles’ll tell you. I was never down with the whole effing stupid Acathla plan. Tried to put Dru and Angelus off, tried arguing that we enjoyed the world the way it was-“
“Tried to stop them torturing the truth out of me,” added Giles, with a twist of his mouth. He must know Spike would have killed him then, to stop the truth getting out, if he’d only had the chance. But he must also know it would have been a sacrifice worth making, for the world.
Spike nodded, moving on, talking direct to Buffy. “I had these dreams, for months after, where I’d just get out of my chair while you were fighting Angelus. I had it all planned. Help you out, get Dru well out of there, slug Angelus a few times for being such a cunt, you know…” She looked at him, disdainfully, presumably at the language. “Sorry. I don’t like the guy.” Sometimes he forgot how young these girls were. “Anyway, my point is… if Rupert’s right, reckon I could do it. Go back in time, play myself, get up out of that chair and help to save the day.” He paused. “I’d need a decent haircut, mind.”
Amazing, how quickly the truly insane ideas take off. Spike watched over the next couple of days as the whole research capacity of the Scoobies was poured into locating and then perfecting a spell that could switch his past and present selves. Only a minor side effort in locating some bootleg peroxide for him was any sort of distraction. Xander and Oz were working on the logistics of the timeline, enlisting Buffy’s help to identify a moment when Spike could best make his entrance. Because someone would have to let past-Buffy know she had an ally. They didn’t have enough firepower to send more than one person back in time, so there would be no handy backup for Spike on this mission. Was just going to have to be Spike, talking to the Slayer, and getting her to believe he was on her side.
They pinned it down to Buffy’s hours of wandering after finding Kendra dead in the library. There was time there, while Angelus and Dru were out eating and taunting the Slayer brigade, for Spike to hop out of the mansion, connect with Buffy, sort out a plan and get back into his wheeled chariot without anyone noticing.
Willow asked, tentatively, “Should you tell Buffy about the spell, too? The one to re-ensoul Angel? Because Xander didn’t and…”
Xander blushed, dropping his head. “I’ve been wondering if that would have changed things…”
“Nope. No way.” It wasn’t only his grudge against Angelus that made Spike say it. Well, 99% perhaps, but not pure vengeance. “Slayer was trying her heart out, but she was already too reluctant to Slay him, you know? Last thing you need in a fight like that’s someone hanging back, spinning out time. She’s got to be wholehearted. Got to know she has to kill him.”
They got distracted for a while, arguing the toss about that and whether there was another, earlier, point on which the Apocalypse pivoted, which might suit them better and leave less to chance. But there wasn’t an easy single moment, if Buffy and Angel’s soul-breaking shag was excepted, and no one wanted to suggest Buffy go back to that moment.
Besides, Giles wouldn’t hear of it, when they ran plans B, C and Q past him. “No. I’m afraid it’s riskier than you think, making a time fold, not to mention harder to calculate. Angelus awakening Acathla is such a huge magical occurrence, easy to locate in the ether… it’s really the only option we’ve found that we have sufficient resources for here. Dabbling with time travel is dangerous enough that I can only suggest it be done to change one single defined event. We need the world not to get sucked into hell on that morning. Therefore, Spike goes back to that morning, and helps to prevent it.”
Baldly said, it made Spike realize, uncomfortably, just how much this world saving lark relied on him.
Well, him and the witch and the Slayer, anyway. The witch was pretty confident, with backup from her little boyfriend and the other minor Scoobies. The Slayer, though, that was a whole other story.
Buffy brought Spike his blood that night, and hung around by the door as she did when she fancied a chat. He was always obliging, of course.
“You all right, love? Look a bit peaky. Not enough sunlight, I bet.” She was hanging round his cave most days, even if hell’s light had been health-giving, vamp-burning real sunshine, which it wasn’t. One thing he’d miss about hell, truth be told.
She looked at her feet. So did he. Boring boots, sensible and heavy, demons: for the efficient slaying of. He missed her sassy old look, daft as it had been for a lethal warrior. It had felt more like her. Not as if she needed camo gear to make her formidable, any more than she needed an AK47 to make her lethal.
Her lack of response twitched him into action. “Well, I reckon my world-saving skills’ll have you right back in the pink soon enough.”
She snorted, just a little.
Spike played up his response, hand on heart. “I’m hurt. Truly. What makes you think I can’t save the world?”
“What makes you think I can?”
Ah. That was the nub of it, was it? “Course you can. Always had the skills, just needed the backup.”
“I don’t think so. I think… I don’t know if I even wanted to kill him.”
“Don’t spose you exactly did, at that. I still don’t want to kill Dru. But I will, if I have to. Loving someone doesn’t have to make you a total fuckwit, love. You were trying hard as I’d ever seen someone try, to stop Angelus dragging us all down into hell. But with Dru, and all that, and all you had was Xander getting the Watcher out the way… Well, ‘snot so surprising you had a hard time, is it?”
Buffy blew out a sigh so deep that it ruffled the small curls on her brow. Spike didn’t find that at all adorable. It was important to remember that. “Faith said I couldn’t do it-”
He waved a hand, cutting her off abruptly. “Faith’s a bashed up kid looking for someone to blame. You’re handy. Doubt she could have done better. Doubt anyone could.”
She looked surprised at the passion of that, almost impressed. “I didn’t think you thought I was…”
“’Course I rate you, love. Why’d you think I stayed in Sunnydale? Killing you would be the ultimate, you know?”
Her face closed up. In retrospect, that probably wasn’t such a great compliment for a human. Damn.
But Buffy walked out on him with her spine straight, and her self-belief returning.
It was as she was leaving that he realized if they pulled off the time-fold nonsense, none of this would have ever happened. This Buffy and this Spike, and their moments of tentative accord, they’d be gone with the wind.
And that would be a good thing.
Fuck it. Being a hero was every bit the pain in the arse he’d suspected.
The witch was good, despite her inexperience. Really good. You could see it even as she brought the time fold spell together. This was going to work.
Spike wished, just then, that someone could tell him how vampires functioned. Really. Because what felt like adrenalin was flooding through what felt like his bloodstream, and it’d be good to know that it wasn’t just a hallucination.
Buffy ran through the plan once more. She finished with a shaky, comradely, “Good luck, Spike. We’re counting on you.” It felt… oddly right.
He stepped into the circle. The Scoobies joined hands around him. Willow spoke the words.
And Spike was out of hell.
He’d forgotten exactly how night air felt, without the exudations of demons on the breeze. It was fresh, sodden with scents of flowers and life, of humans, of fast food and slow love.
It was a good thing the cop car came by at that second, or he’d quite possibly have got lost in the moment and caused the Apocalypse by standing around sniffing like a loon. He just had time to wonder briefly how this-timeline-Spike was faring, back in hell without his wheelchair – whether his Buffy felt guilty looking at the wreck she’d made of him.
But he had more important things to fret about now, and here was the first. Buffy-in-the-past looking at him slantwise as he knocked the copper out.
He couldn’t resist.
Past-Buffy believed his faked-up story, in the end. Spike suspected that his naked sincerity about wanting to kill Angelus probably tipped the balance. He chucked in a few things about Dru for good measure. It’d be sweet if his past self could get out of this with that relationship intact, for sure, so he started laying the groundwork. She might be mad as a snake, but a century of adoration was hard to shake, and he’d bet his past self would thank him. Driving out of here with Dru in his arms was far from the worst possible outcome. Saner than crushing on the Slayer, for certain.
There were a world of complications in this timeline that no one had thought to mention to him, though. Popping in on Buffy’s mum, and saying hi, for example. Not the most pleasant of conversations, what with her little girl being wanted for murder and all, but he thought he pulled it off in the end. Reminiscing about her axe attack was a nice touch.
Getting back into the mansion undetected wasn’t a doddle, and Spike had to relearn inhabiting the wheelchair like he belonged there. Not enough time to prep, he remembered, he needed to get along to stop Angelus killing the Watcher too speedily, or Giles giving up the secret of awakening Acathla too soon. Had to keep to the timeline, else they’d all be lost, and his current self would wink out of existence leaving his past self in just as much shit as before.
Complicated, this time-travelling to save the world. His head was spinning.
But it wasn’t too hard to snark at Angelus’s poncing around, Mr Evil Torturer to the life. You’d think he’d watched a training video. Giles didn’t die. Angelus didn’t get a wiggle on with the ritual too speedily. It all slotted into place.
Buffy arrived with her prophesied sword. And then, it was just like in his dreams. Spike rose from his chair, and slammed that fucker Angelus right across the spine.
The fighting was immense, glorious. Just like Spike had imagined. Except he spent most of it trying to subdue Dru, and there wasn’t enough he could do to help the Slayer. She fought that true fight, though, tigerish and stunning, in for the kill, till at last Angelus began to take her over. Spike remembered this part, from before, when he’d watched in hopeless anguish. Happening again.
He whispered, “God. He’s going to kill her.” Just as he had last time. But, just like last time, she found the belief to fight on.
Dru was stirring. He had to get her out of Buffy’s hair, else they’d be fighting two on two again, and he’d be helping no one. Slayer could take care of herself. He knew it.
So he left her behind, and fled.
On the road, he tried to recapture the Spike of old. Loving Dru, despising Angelus. A guy who’d maybe just helped to save the world, but all for his own selfish ends. Thinking himself into the part of his past self, so that when the reverse time-fold came the transition would be smoothly seamless. Bye bye, future Spike, and he’d simply dissolve.
He’d even remembered to sling the wheelchair into the trunk, on the off-chance this mad plan should work. Heaven forbid that his past self should time-fold back in and have to deal not only with a mightily pissed-off Dru but a lack of disabled support too.
As the day wore on, Spike began to notice things. For one, the world wasn’t being sucked into hell. Presumably, Angelus was dead, and the Slayer triumphant. Good work team.
Which made it a little troubling that he was still here. In his own alternate past. This wasn’t how they thought the time-fold worked. Red witch should have been able to magic him back once-
Except once Angelus was dead, their old timeline to the future would vanish. They’d all have dissipated into the air. No one to magic Spike back.
He tried to be angry, that they must have known they were sending him on a mission with no return. But even if they had been able to get him back, he’d only have ceased to exist with the rest of them, in their redundant timeline. Past-Spike would be living his life, blissfully unaware of the past months of hell and self-discovery. Suddenly, Spike didn’t want that. Saving the world’s one thing, but losing your self in the process… no.
This was his unlife now.
He turned Sid on full blast, grabbed Dru and snuggled her against him, and tried to tell himself this was his way. The right way.
Now leaving Sunnydale.
Except he knew he’d be back. Couldn’t leave his Slayer alone for too long. Just what he’d come back for, he wasn’t sure. Fighting was glorious, but the alternatives…
Oh well. She’d never be entirely his Slayer, perhaps, not the lost girl from the timeline he’d quit. She was victorious now, not a defeated Slayer who’d lost her self-belief, and he’d never get to know how that might have turned out, if they’d lived in hell for long enough to dare to breach the barriers keeping them apart. But Spike was pretty sure Buffy Summers would be worth knowing, whoever she was.
Originally posted at https://seasonal-spuffy.dreamwidth.org/317530.html