DISCLAIMER: We know they're Joss', right? Which really is a shame, because most of the time, we're so much nicer to them than he was.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Buffy found out that the alternate dimension is a result of her turning Spike aside when he came to her for help after he was chipped, while Spike and Angel went to Ilona at W&H for help with the Immortal...

* * *

Sitting heavily on the edge of the bed, Buffy blinked as she tried to digest the implications of Spike’s story. This world and everything in it – Adam’s maniacal grip on the Hellmouth wielding his demon army, the death of her friends, the twisted relationships between humans and vampires in a desperate bid for survival – was because of a single choice she had made. Instead of letting Spike in that Thanksgiving so many years earlier, this world’s Buffy had shut him out. Time had marched on, minute by minute with hers, but where her world was a sunny spring in Rome, this world was caught in a nightmare April in a Sunnydale that had never fallen. Not to the First, at least.

If ever she needed proof that good will could go a long way, this was it.

Spike paced the opposite end of the room, haunted eyes narrowed as he watched her reactions to his story. He no longer seemed interested in pushing her buttons, though his erection was still prominent through his jeans. With every step, the silence stretched longer.

“No wonder you hate me so much,” Buffy said, shattering the quiet though her voice was no more than a hush. “You’ve probably spent the past four years blaming me for everything bad in your life.”

His gaze ducked guiltily. “Not everything. Blame Adam and the Initiative boys just as much.”

Apologies were pointless. She couldn’t change history. Hell, it wasn’t her history to change. But sitting there, feeling helpless, finally understanding why it was she was regarded with such venom, all Buffy wanted was to fix it. She couldn’t save her Spike, but this one didn’t have to live like a rat trapped in a never-ending maze. This one still had a chance.

“You’re plotting something.” He said it out of the blue, startling her from the loops her brain was spinning. When she looked up, he had moved closer, halted now in his concentrated pacing. “You goin’ to share or do I get Tara back here to do her mojo?”

Admitting that she was brainstorming on a way to make things better bordered on the Land of That Might Be Pushing Things Too Far. This Spike didn’t trust her any more than his chip – and Tara – forced him to, and while she was eager to mend what she could, Buffy couldn’t forget how long it had taken them to come to terms in her own dimension. This required delicate handling, much like she had tried when he’d been crazy in the school basement. Granted, that sort of gentling hadn’t lasted long before Buffy got frustrated and tried the tough love approach, but she was older now. That was supposed to mean wiser, right?

That was her theory, and she was going to stick to it.

In the meantime, she still had to tell him something.

“I’m mostly wondering what it’s going to take to get you to believe me,” she said. “Regardless of what happened to you, I’m not your enemy, Spike. I need for you to know that.”

His jaw ticked as he regarded her, wheels visibly turning inside his head. At least he didn’t seem so afraid of her any more. That was a huge step in the right direction.

“The enemy of my enemy,” he murmured, and then seemed to make up his mind about something. Folding his arms across his chest, he dared the next response from her with a glint in his eye that was classic Spike. “You say you killed Adam? Tell me how.”

Buffy frowned. “What do you mean, how? We ripped out his power source.”

She might as well as have said they’d shot Adam to the moon. “How the bloody hell did you suss out where his power source was?” Spike demanded.

“It was in the files you stole for Will…”

Her voice trailed off. Now it all made sense. In this world, Spike had never worked for them, so he had never stolen the Initiative files that led to figuring out how to destroy Adam once and for all. He hadn’t been around at all that year, and as the implications of that sank in, Buffy’s mind raced to try and figure out what else couldn’t have happened without Spike around.

“Can you do it again?” She met his eyes, and for the first time since meeting this incarnation, Buffy saw the familiar burn of hope deep within the blue irises. “If I had your back and got you in, could you do it again?”

“Sure,” she replied. It was an automatic response, mostly because she knew with Spike at her side, they had been pretty unstoppable most of the time, but as soon as it came out of her mouth, doubt started to creep in. “Except it wasn’t just me,” she added. “Willow and the gang did this spell that turned me into some kind of Super Slayer---.”

“Tara’s a dab hand with the magic now,” Spike interrupted. He was gaining momentum, his excitement growing as the possibilities began to reveal themselves, unable to stop from bouncing on the balls of his feet. “And Rupert’s still got a trick or two up his sleeve. Between the pair of ‘em, they should be able to juice you up enough to do what needs to be done.”

When he started to head for the door, Buffy jumped up and grabbed his arm, forcing him to stop. “You go into this half-cocked and you’re going to get yourself killed.”

His eyes dropped pointedly to her slim hand but he did nothing to shake it off. “And you have a problem with that because…” His lashes lifted. She shivered at the bare restraint that greeted her. “…you don’t hate me.”

Buffy swallowed, wetting her suddenly dry throat. Dangerous ground here, especially with his deliberate tossing of her own words back at her. It didn’t help that he could pick up on every single one of her body’s reactions to him, that the simple act of grabbing his arm could make her heart speed up for a fraction of a second or that noticing how thick and dark his eyelashes were made her remember how they could tickle against her inner thigh when he was eating her out.

It definitely didn’t help that he seemed determined to test exactly how far he could push her, either.

When he took a step toward her, Buffy stepped back, letting her hand drop. “These are different circumstances than what I had four years ago,” she said, trying to get him back onto the subject of killing Adam. “And I’m a different person.”

Spike wasn’t backing down. He advanced further, forcing her to back closer to the bed. “So am I.”

She didn’t know if it was supposed to be a threat or a warning. Either way, Buffy was too absorbed in watching him approach to see his hand shoot out to grab her wrist until he was already tugging her flush against him.

“Let’s test a theory, shall we?”

She should have expected it. Really, how many years had she spent with Spike and his spontaneity? Not to mention his need to be the one with the power. Even with the chip, Spike had looked for ways to get the upper hand, resorting to words first and then his body later. So Buffy had no excuse to be surprised when he pressed his lips to hers.

Her only excuse was that, in spite of being in cloudcuckooland, she loved him. This could be her last chance to get anything from any version of Spike.

The kiss was hard and unyielding, reminiscent of those early days when it had been about forgetting about dying and forgetting about herself. He forced his tongue past her nonexistent resistance, driving in to devour, and pulled her harder against his hungry body, his other hand settling in the small of her back to mold her hips to his. Not responding would have been impossible. Buffy lifted her arms, and though the softer texture of his hair was unfamiliar, the sculpture of his skull was not, her fingers curving around his head to keep the contact as long as possible.

It ended far too quickly, with a shove that had Buffy’s head spinning almost as much as the caress.

His eyes were feverish as Spike wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. She thought for a moment that maybe they’d drawn blood from the sudden brunt of the kiss, but when she darted her tongue out to lick her own lips, she tasted nothing but Spike.

“Why did you do that?” she asked, her voice oddly hoarse.

“Don’t try and tell me you haven’t been creaming for that since I saved you from those half-breeds,” he scoffed. “My head’s been thick with the scent of you for hours now.”

Buffy gaped at him in disbelief, momentarily distracted from the kiss by his bluntness. “Don’t do me any favors, Spike. I’ve gone almost a whole year without you around. I can definitely last one more night.”

“Came to my senses, did I?” He sneered, slowly regaining his cooler equilibrium, and hooked a thumb through his belt loop. “You might have taken me in in your world, but I guess you couldn’t keep me. Did I suss out how to feed on my own without bein’ your charity case, Slayer? Or did you get tired of havin’ a punching bag that couldn’t punch back?”

“It wasn’t like that,” she ground out.

“Wasn’t it? How the fuck could it be anything else?”

“You died, all right!” She was done with trying to pussyfoot around her reality. Spike had told his story and now he had better prepared to hear hers. “You’re dead, Tara’s dead, Sunnydale is gone, and I’ve spent the past year trying to move on with my life. I have a gorgeous boyfriend who showers me with expensive Italian shoes, and I only have to slay if I want to or Giles needs me, but still, at least once a week, I dream about you.”

He didn’t flinch as she stalked forward and shoved him against the wall so forcefully that a book on the shelves fell over with an echoing thud. “Don’t try and knock me off my game with your innuendo and snide remarks,” Buffy warned. “I’ve seen it all. You can’t do or say anything that will surprise me any more.”

“Looks like I already did.” His head tilted, his eyes gleaming in studied calculation. “Came back from the dead, didn’t I?”

“You’re not my Spike.”

“No, but I’m all you’ve got.”

The words struck exactly as he intended, stabbing straight through her resolve and into her heart. It drove her back against him, her lips desperate as they sought his, trying to regain those fleeting moments where the world made better sense. Spike didn’t fight her, and instead slid his arms around to grab her ass and hitch her more firmly against his erection, teeth savage, fingers so hungry that Buffy wasn’t sure if he was responding to her desire or summoning his own. A part of her was convinced it was the latter.

Too quickly, she broke away, labored breathing making her chest burn. “That’s why I’m not letting you die again,” she said. “Now. Take me to Giles.”

* * *

It was hard not to look pleased when the housekeeper extended the invitation to enter before realizing who it was with Ilona. With a smirk, Spike sauntered past her, ignoring her panicked eyes as he followed Angel into the front salon, then listened to her rushed footsteps as she likely ran to tell the Immortal the vampires were back.

Buffy’s scent came rushing at him as soon as he sat on the white couch. It had been strong at her apartment, of course, but that was to be expected. Finding the heady perfume here was both the vindication Spike needed to know their earlier inquisition had been right on the money and a bittersweet ache reminding him of all the months he’d chosen to stay away. She was living her life, as he had hoped she would, but what had the cocktail of his fear and good intentions actually done for Buffy? Driven her into the arms of a man notorious for taking lovers and then tossing them aside.

Now the Immortal needed help for Buffy. If she was hurt, Spike would never forgive himself.

The soft whisper of the opening door drew Spike back to his feet, shoving his hands deep in his pockets as he took his place next to Angel. Time had done nothing to change the Immortal’s appearance. Black eyes made blacker by his bronzed skin. Dark hair waving slightly where it tumbled over his low brow. A mouth too wide for his narrow face.

Spike’s lip curled in disgust. He could still see the wanker’s smug smirk through the window of his palazzo when he had forced Angel and Spike to turn away a century earlier. This time, Spike was determined to permanently wipe the smirk from the Immortal’s face.

Ilona rushed forward with a flurry of Italian and air kisses that never quite met skin. The Immortal smiled and murmured a response, but it wasn’t until she gestured back toward the waiting vampires that he deigned to glance in their direction.

The lack of recognition in his dark eyes made Spike seethe.

“From Los Angeles? What brings you to my fair city?”

His English was as impeccable as his appearance, and Spike and Angel tensed at the same time. “Business,” Angel said, his voice terse. He shoved his fists in his armpits, an old trick to make himself look even broader. “But as it turns out, Buffy’s an old friend of mine.”

“Ours,” Spike was quick to interject. “Very good friends.”

He regarded them for a moment, and then shrugged. “She does not like to talk about her past,” the Immortal said. “Very much a girl of the moment, is she not?” When Donatella appeared at his elbow, he leaned imperceptibly to the side to listen to her frantic whispers, his eyes narrowing with every rushed Italian word.

Spike wished his knowledge of the language encompassed more than getting directions and how to order a beer.

“What were your names again?” the Immortal asked warily.

“Oh!” Ilona swept back and squirmed her way between them. “This is the great Angelus, and this is William the Bloody. Handsome, are they not?”

“The vampires,” he murmured. “Now I understand.” His smile returned, though it lacked the warmth he’d bestowed upon Ilona. “Since it is too late for me to bar your entry, I suppose I should enlist your aid. After all, I am certain you wish only the best for Buffy.”

Without waiting for a response, he turned on his heel, expecting the others to follow as he headed for the stairs. Nobody said a word until they were in the upper hallway, but the stronger scent of Buffy surrounding them made the skin prickle at the back of Spike’s neck. There wasn’t blood, though. That had to be a good sign.

“Buffy was early for our assignation,” the Immortal said, stopping in front of a closed door. “She…grew bored. And found this.”

He pushed it open, the hinges silent. The room was abuzz with electricity, but it was the odd spectacle of hundreds of clocks crammed into nooks and corners, stacked against the walls, that pulled Spike across the threshold, Angel close behind.

“Bloody hell,” he muttered.

“What is this?” Angel demanded.

The Immortal slid around the periphery of the room, well-manicured fingers trailing along the various faces of the clocks. More than once, he stopped, pausing to caress them with almost sensual strokes. “This is Buffy,” he said, his voice a reverent whisper, as if speaking louder would be sacrilege to the room’s constants. “This is the potential of her life.”

 

To be continued in Chapter 6