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 learned more of the changes, and Angel and Spike discovered the room of clocks...

* * *

Spike could only listen, gobsmacked, as the Immortal explained the import of the room, every word an awed prayer to the living shrine he had created. On a stalker scale, it made Spike and Angel look like amateurs, and as much as he bristled at the notion of anyone being this obsessed with his Slayer, Spike’s irritation at the Immortal’s grandiosity was even greater. Was there anything they could best the wanker at?

Angel was as clearly annoyed as Spike was, lips thinning to invisibility, brow drawing so tight that his dark eyes were little more than angry beads. “How is any of this possible?” he interrupted. Though his voice was a trifle raised, in the subdued atmosphere of the room, it sounded like Angel was shouting. “This much dimensional energy concentrated in a single location? I’m no scientist, but I’m pretty sure we’re talking chaos here.”

The Immortal visibly winced, raising an elegant hand to cut Angel off. “There is nothing that can’t be achieved, given the proper means and motivation.” He smiled, and while it was obviously intended to be ingratiating, it only served to make Spike growl. “And since I have both…”

“And each one of these is a portal?” Angel pressed. “To…someplace else?”

“Only to the life’s owner. To the rest of us, they are just art, but to she who made the choice…” He picked up a small wind-up clock with a picture of Raggedy Ann on its face, his finger tracing the frozen hands like that of a lover. “A single moment where everything can change. Captured like so much ephemera. It is beautiful, no?”

“No,” Spike barked, finally finding his voice. “Where did Buffy go?”

“Technically, nowhere. She is resting.” When both vampires moved to leave the room, the Immortal glided sideways to block the door. “You must believe me. I never meant for Buffy to learn of my little hobby. I had every safeguard put up to bar her from this room---.”

“And if you knew anything about Buffy, you’d know that would only make her more bloody hellbent on getting in.” Spike was about to charge forward and shake the information they wanted out of the wanker, when Ilona’s fingers curled around his forearm, her first interference since they’d walked in.

“The Immortal would never wish ill for or upon his lovers,” she began to assure, but at mention of hearing lovers and Immortal in the same sentence in reference to Buffy, Spike jerked away.

“Where we come from,” he snapped, “wishing of any kind is begging for trouble.”

This time when he tried to move, Angel was the one to block his path, a meaty hand clapped firmly on Spike’s shoulder while he positioned himself between them. “If she’s resting, what do you need Wolfram and Hart for?” Angel asked.

The Immortal’s head ducked in an embarrassed nod. “My attempts to lessen your distress have made my situation unclear. Buffy is unconscious. I have not been able to wake her.”

Angel and Spike exchanged a knowing glance. It didn’t take a genius to figure out her consciousness was stuck in the other dimension.

Looking around to the cluttered walls, Spike asked, “Which one did the damage?”

“This one.”

The Immortal turned and picked up a small mantle clock with a cracked face. Spike’s nose twitched at the scent of dust and blood that clung to its ornate design, but something about the scent made him frown, an air of familiarity that had him asking to look at it more closely before he could think to keep his mouth shut.

For a moment, the Immortal regarded him, then shrugged before passing it over. “It is not her blood,” he said. “Other than her sleep, Buffy has not been harmed in any way.”

But Spike already knew it wasn’t Buffy’s. It was another smell from days gone by, evocative of more than simply Sunnydale, that had him sniffing.

Angel frowned. “What is it?”

He didn’t answer, turning the clock around in his hands to look at its time. Three-seventeen. “How do you know when this is supposed to be?” he asked.

The Immortal took it back and flipped it over. On the bottom was a small engraving. Spike and Angel craned their necks in order to be able to read it.

“That was Buffy’s freshman year,” Angel said. He thought for a moment. “It would’ve been some time around Thanksgiving.”

Spike scowled. His memories of that particular period were never pleasant, but it also confirmed for him what had first attracted his attention. “And that’s Rupert’s clock. Which means this probably has something to do with him. If we can’t figure out how to wake her up, we’re goin’ to have to call him.” Stuffing his hands in his pockets, he glared at the Immortal. “No more ditching the issue. Take us to Buffy.”

* * *

He argued with her for ten minutes before finally caving on the issue of Giles. “It’s not goin’ to be what you expect,” Spike warned. “Things are different here.”

“Gee,” Buffy said, looking pointedly around the room, “you think?”

“More than that.” Opening the door, he looked up and down the hall before nodding for her to follow him out. “And you’re goin’ to need me to translate, so no point in telling him anything you don’t want me to know.”

Alarm drew her to a halt. “Translate? Has he had an accident of some kind? Like…” She grimaced at the image. “…get his tongue cut out?”

Spike looked at her like she was crazy. “Don’t be daft. He’s just a Fyarl demon. And unless you’ve grown a few extra brain cells in your world, I’m goin’ to wager you’re not big on demon languages.”

A Fyarl demon. She’d worked it out by the time they reached Giles’ room. In her world, Spike had been the one to help Giles find Ethan Rayne, but if Spike had been captured by the Initiative at that time here, Giles would have been on his own. Buffy wondered if he even knew that Ethan Rayne was the one behind his transformation, but then realized that if he had, he wouldn’t still be a demon.

She rubbed her eyes. All of this was starting to give her a headache.

Seeing Spike knock and wait to be allowed in wasn’t quite as weird as hearing answering growls from within, especially knowing who they belonged to. At his instruction, she hung back, letting him enter first as a stream of what she had to assume was Fyarl issued from his throat.

A dark shadow prevented them from going further. When Buffy lifted her head to meet Giles’ demon gaze, some of the anxiety at seeing him in this form disappeared. She remembered this. She could still see the Watcher in his eyes.

When nobody moved or said a word for over a minute, Spike nudged her with his elbow. “He still understands English,” he said with a raised brow. “Just lacks the human tongue to speak it.”

“Oh. Yeah. I knew that.” Buffy smiled and gave Giles a little wave. “Hi. Guess who’s back from the dead again?”

She didn’t need a translator to hear the disapproval in Giles’ voice as he whipped his head around and growled something at Spike.

“It was a joke,” she rushed to clarify. “OK, not a good one, considering the circumstances, but it’s still me, Giles. An older, better dressed, saved the world a few more times since Adam me.”

Giles growled again, still sounding pissed off. Buffy was beginning to think that was the natural intonation for Fyarls.

“Tara says so,” Spike replied to whatever Giles had said. “’Course, then she scarpered off, so what she might’ve found out remains to be seen.” Another brief exchange, ending with a noncommittal Spike shrug. “Maybe.”

“This is going to get old real fast,” Buffy said. “Can we just cut to the whole killing Adam part of the conversation and save the doubts and questions for afterward?”

Grunts of shock and surprise sounded the same in any language apparently.

“Yeah,” Spike said. “She claims to have offed the wanker years ago. Ripped out his…” He looked to Buffy for confirmation. “…power source?”

She nodded. “That’s all there is to it. Of course, it’s in the middle of his chest, which means punching through all that armor, not to mention getting close enough to make the hit in the first place. So not with the easy, even with all the mojo, and it took me forever to get my nails looking halfway decent again…” Her voice trailed off when she noticed Giles staring at her. It almost looked like he was smiling, which, with the demon face and horns, was way too creepy. “What?”

His growled response was accompanied by a retreat back into the room, allowing her to stop hovering in the doorway and follow Spike inside. It was decorated much like Spike and Tara’s quarters, but when she saw the women’s clothes hanging on the rail, Buffy quickly flushed and averted her eyes. Giles with a woman was wiggy enough when he was human; Fyarl Giles with a woman was…

She swallowed hard. If she shuddered in disgust, both men/demons would know it.

There was another exchange between them that diverted her attention back to the situation at hand.

“Last I knew, Tara’s of the mind it can be done,” Spike was saying. At Buffy’s quizzical frown, he clarified. “Sending you back to your own dimension.”

She hadn’t realized they were talking about that and said so. “Not that I’m against figuring it out,” she ended. “But I can’t help you with Adam if I’m not here, now can I?”

The slow tilt of his head made her stomach flip-flop almost as much as the soft calculation in Spike’s eyes. “No,” he agreed softly. “Reckon you can’t.” Nodding for her to sit at the lone table in the room, he straddled the other chair while Giles grabbed a notebook and a very, very fat pencil. “Let’s get to work then, shall we?”

* * *

It shouldn’t have felt right, sitting there with a Spike who hated her and a Giles who had lived the past four years as a demon, going over munitions and floorplans and ideas on how to get a half-breed monster away from his army long enough in order to rip out his so-called heart. But it did. Buffy wasn’t even bothered by the claw marks in the tabletop from where Giles’ fingers caught on the wood as he scribbled away with his pencil. At least she understood why it was so fat now. His clumsier hands would never have managed anything slimmer.

What made it even more fascinating was watching Spike and Giles interact. Dawn had always claimed they’d gotten along that summer she had been dead, but Buffy had only ever witnessed the aftermath, when everybody had been done with Spike in spite of the fact that he’d helped them so long and then later, when the First had triggered him for all kinds of badness. Even after Sunnydale’s fall, any mention of Spike brought a tightening around Giles’ mouth, like he was biting the inside of his cheek to keep from saying anything. Buffy had stopped talking about him at all when she dealt with anybody but Willow and Dawn. They were the only two who would listen to her without judging.

But these two…

Time and circumstances had made them friends. Though she could only understand one side of the conversation, Buffy could still hear Spike’s laughter, and she could still see the twinkle in Giles’ eyes every once in awhile. In her absence, her friends had grown closer, achieving an ease that they had never found with her continued presence.

It was bittersweet to say the least.

It was some time while they were finalizing weapons that she heard the soft chime. Glancing up from the notebook, Buffy saw the clock sitting on a nearby shelf, automatically noting the late hour. It was only as she was turning back to the planning that she realized she recognized it.

Her head snapped up so sharply that Spike stopped talking in mid-sentence.

“What is it?” he asked, a small line between his brows.

“That clock.” Rising from her chair, Buffy skirted the table to go to the shelf, aware of both men shifting in their seats to watch her path. Though it was missing the dust ground into the carved whorls and the faceplate was smooth and uncracked, there was no way it wasn’t the same clock she had touched at Paolo’s. She started to reach for it, but then stopped, remembering the events that had led to her showing up in this dimension in the first place.

“Is this yours?” she asked Giles.

He nodded and growled, though the explanation that ensued sounded way too long to her to be a simple yes.

“It was one of the few things we could salvage from his flat,” Spike explained. “After Adam killed you---the other Buffy, I mean---and the lot of us escaped from the Initiative cages, me and him holed up there until the half-breeds started routing everybody. We grabbed what we could and ran.” He glanced at Giles when he growled again. “It’s a family heirloom, apparently.”

“Paolo had this in Rome. This is why I’m here.” She told the story of waiting for her date, watching Spike’s countenance grow darker and darker. By the time she reached the point of passing out, he was up and pacing the far end of the room.

“What’s wrong?” she asked when she was done.

Spike ground to a halt and glared at her. “The bloody Immortal?” he spat. “That’s the boyfriend who’s taking such good care of you? Do you have any concept of evil any more, Slayer?”

His possessive attitude threw her off her game. “His name is Paolo,” she said, her temper rising as she stood and marched to stand in front of him. “And he’s not evil. He’s more…roguishly bad. Kind of like Rhett Butler except with better teeth.”

Spike snorted, rolling his eyes. “Considering your taste in kissing partners, I’m not so sure why his dental records rate so high on your dateworthy criteria.”

“Hey!” She poked him in the chest, hard enough to make him stumble back. “Who I kiss and who I date are none of your business! You don’t even like me, remember?”

He came at her as fast as she pushed him away. “If he’s so bloody wonderful, why is it you still dream about me? That’s what you said. Least once a week, creeping into your head, into your thoughts.” Grabbing her hip, Spike yanked her against him, grinding their hips together. “Bet you get off thinking of me, too. Stick your hands between your legs and fuck your---.”

She kissed him. It was the only way to get Spike to shut up that didn’t involve hitting him. Because Buffy didn’t do that any more. She’d made that promise to herself a long time ago.

For a second, she thought it worked. His cock twitched against her, coming to life as his fingers dug into the soft flesh of her hip. A rumble deep inside his chest made his body reverberate, made hers vibrate in kind, and she had just started to melt against his hard chest when Spike ripped his mouth away, shoving her away at the same time.

“No,” he said, his face contorting in anger. He jabbed a finger at her, eyes flashing with gold sparks. “You don’t get to bloody do that, Slayer. I’m not your pet vamp, whipped into shape by the call of your quim, understand? You said it yourself. I’m not him.”

Before she could stop him, he pushed past her, knocking her out of the way as he nearly ripped the door from its hinges and stormed out. Buffy shot one apologetic glance at Giles, then bolted after Spike, determined to get these differences hashed out once and for all.

She collided with a body much softer than the one she expected.

Gentle hands kept her from stumbling. But just as quickly as they righted Buffy, they disappeared, and she heard a sharp intake of breath before she lifted her head to apologize.

She froze. Two women stood in front of her, two women whose funerals she had attended in her own dimension. At least Tara wasn’t a shock to see.

“Buffy…?” a stricken Joyce murmured.

 

To be continued in Chapter 7…