DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course, and the chapter title comes from Shakespeare’s “Sonnet XXXIII.”
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Rose has decided to do the forgetting spell on William; Buffy, Richard, and William are fighting the vampires outside the house; and Willow has done the spell for Spike, with a result he didn’t expect…

*************

Chapter 38: Heavenly Alchemy

She was blonde, long hair waving loose about her shoulders, and she was dressed in what could’ve been one of his mother’s shifts if it wasn’t for the shortened skirt exposing the ripe curve of her calf. While the white fabric billowed around her legs, it hugged her torso, cupping the swell of her breasts and accentuating her slim waist. Even her arms were bare, the bodice held up by the thinnest of straps, and William colored as he jumped to his feet, wanting to lower his gaze out of propriety, but unable to look away from the vision that approached.

“Now why do I have a funny feeling that you’re William?” she asked, with a twinkle in her eye.

*************

“Don’t go.”

His muscles tensed beneath her grip, but he didn’t pull away, his head tilting first to look at her fingers before lifting to gaze into her face. “Who are you?” William breathed.

This time, she couldn’t resist the smile. “I’m Buffy.”

*************

There was no time to think, no time to react. The images were coming with infinite speed, playing out inside his head as the veil was lifted from Spike’s memory.

*************

Lying on her side, her head was cradled in the crook of her arm, golden hair spilling over the tanned limb, her legs tucked up to disappear beneath the skirt of her dress. Her eyes were closed, and as he watched her chest slowly rise and fall, William realized that she had fallen asleep. Without thinking, he reached out and pushed back a stray lock from her cheek, allowing his fingers to ghost over her jaw before hesitating at the swell of her mouth. “You are truly the most beautiful creature I have ever seen, Buffy,” he breathed.

*************

“You’re a good man, William Freston,” she murmured. Before the pleasure had registered in his eyes, she was on her tiptoes, her lips brushing across his jaw. Buffy’s eyes fluttered closed as she settled her cheek against his, her mouth hovering just below his ear. “And I am honored to be in any relationship with you.”

*************

Buffy slid from the bench to kneel beside him on the grass. “Why can’t we both be happy?” she asked. “You deserve it as much as I do.”

“I haven’t saved the world.”

“No,” she agreed softly. “You’ve saved me.”

*************

And then a flood of pleasure as the recollections of those dreams---those magnificent, torturous, orgasmic dreams---hit Spike all at once, hardening his body, sizzling his skin, almost making him come in his jeans just from remembering…

…sucking at her neck before following its delicate line to the hollow of her throat…

…his tongue circling the hard bud of her nipple, feeling its tense texture against the roof of his mouth…

…sliding into her heat, inch by inch, straining against the tightness until he was completely sheathed…

…and his voice throughout it all, whispering endearments and declarations disguised as poetry…

All the while…Buffy begging for more.

The euphoria that skated along his nerves was rudely elided when the memories of that first morning in his room---Buffy? In his room? In his bed? No no no, it couldn’t be possible---and their arguments about her presence in the past made Spike stiffen in a fear that shouldn’t be. Even the sound of his voice---

If I have any words worth sharing, I have them because of you. You’re the one who made it possible for me to capture the words that always proved so elusive, and you’re the one who heard them without contempt. You’re the one who helped me find my voice, Buffy---

---didn’t lessen the strain of reliving that wonderful, terrible day. It wasn’t until the flashback of that night, and the sight of Buffy in her cotton nightdress that became transparent when she stood in front of the candlelight, did ease begin to return…

*************

“I love you,” Buffy whispered.

William froze. “What?”

“You heard me.” She ground her hips against his, eliciting a groan from his throat. “Now…please…don’t stop.”

And he could still taste her, his mouth flooded with the jolt of her juices, his body warm from the memory of pressing her into the mattress with his weight, but it wasn’t that that was slowly filling Spike with scorched serenity.

It was the inescapable knowledge that he had loved her.

Just as she’d loved him.

Trusted him.

Believed in him.

Wanted him.

The aftermath of having been in both places---watching the cut appearing on her thumb in a Victorian drawing room superimposing over the corresponding cut in that stale hotel room with the witch and the Watcher---would’ve been confusing had he paid minute attention.

The duel in Richard’s back garden, where Spike’s first skills had been honed and the liberating rush of the fight had first been introduced to him---and how ironic that she would teach him exactly how she fought, making it impossible for either of them to kill the other when they met a century later---would’ve been distracting if he bothered to focus his attention on the kaleidoscope of sensation that flew past him.

Even their lovemaking---and he could call it what it was, he could still hear her rasped declaration as he claimed her soul for his own---wasn’t quite enough to divert him from the conflagration consuming his heart.

It was the proposal.

*************

“If…things could be different…If…it had been possible for you to stay…as a…permanent part of my life…I would’ve…it would’ve been only natural for me to…”

His pulse was pounding inside his skull, so loudly he was convinced she could hear it. Why did he think he could do this? This sounded so much more eloquent in his head.

“What I mean to say is…I love you, and…I know I don’t have much to offer, and not that I will because, well, you know…but it would’ve given me great pleasure to…to…”

And the words had failed him. For the first time in his shared existence with the woman who’d helped him find himself, William couldn’t get the words to come out for fear of what her response would be.

Then…she touched him. She’d looked at him. Those eyes, so old and so young all at the same time. And said those words that made it all worth it.

“Just so you know, if you had asked me, and it was possible for me to stay, I would’ve said yes.”

*************

Hearing their final promises---for her not to forget him, for him not to forget his worth---made him want to scream and shout in frustrated anger. She had known. Of course, she had known, known all along about what path he would take. She’d practically admitted to it when she’d come to him that first night. Had she been laughing at his simplicity in making such an absurd request? But even as Spike wondered, watching the events of their final day on the outskirts of London play out in all its Technicolor gore and glory, he knew it was a ridiculous question.

Buffy loved William. She’d seen him, not as the weak-kneed Spike had always believed him to be, but as a font of strength and goodness. She would never have found mirth at his expense.

And in her own way, she’d tried to save him. She knew she couldn’t directly affect the future; she knew about Dru and a century of demonhood. She’d told him over and over and over again just how valuable he really was. The truth of the matter was that he’d believed her.

Until that night.

When they’d broken the spell on his mother’s prison.

When he’d met Giles for the very first time.

When his golden goddess had taken on that bitch April…

*************

Buffy could see that William was only dazed from the blow, not unconscious, but as far as the fight was concerned, he was done. He was struggling just to rise to his hands and knees, his head hanging so low that his sweat-damp hair dragged along the earth, and his breathing was labored. Breathing meant still alive, though, and that was one state she had every intention of lasting as long as possible.

When April leapt toward her, Buffy dove out of her path, distancing the demon from the house and the others. “Richard!” she shouted. She didn’t wait to see if he heard her, too busy lashing out with her foot to sweep April off-balance. “Help get William back up to the house!”

“I’m…fine…” she heard William rasp.

“Your boyfriend is the stubborn sort, isn’t he?” April’s lips curled into a snarl when Buffy swung her sword at her midsection, missing contact by mere centimeters. “Stop that!”

“In case you haven’t noticed…” Buffy dodged left, avoiding another fist in the face. “…I’m trying to kill you.”

“And in case you haven’t noticed…” April smiled when a well-placed kick to Buffy’s wrist made the Slayer cry out in pain as her weapon went flying. “…you are outnumbered.”

Actually, she had noticed, and she was starting to worry that maybe it had been a mistake to let Richard and William join her in the fight. Not that more on her side wasn’t a good thing, but one of them was currently down for the count, and the other…

She allowed herself to steal a glance toward the Watcher. He’d managed to dust one of his attackers, edging closer to where William was still struggling to get to his feet, but several more of the vampires were starting to join in, finally obeying April’s command. They needed to get back to the house before it was too late. They needed---.

“Giles!” The sight of him standing in the doorway of the house made Buffy’s heart leap with hope. A makeshift stake was in his hand, and his eyes were darting around the yard, trying to determine where best he would be of help. Behind him, she saw Rose’s pale face, and sent silent prayers to anyone who would listen for sending back-up.

“How many Watchers do you have?” April complained. Her attention was diverted for a moment to the porch, a frown making her furrowed brow even more ridged---if that was possible---and Buffy took the opportunity to dart past her toward the group of vampires who were descending on a still-fallen William. She was stopped by a hand grabbing her skirt, and went sprawling to the grass, her outstretched hands just feet away from reaching his.

“Not so fast,” April growled.

Kicking back at the vamp, Buffy twisted to wrench free of her grasp, her heel connecting with April’s chin. She rolled onto her back, the blanket of stars suddenly blinking down at her, and kipped back up, cursing the skirts that tangled between her legs. One thing about getting back to her own time. She was so looking forward to fighting in pants again.

“Buffy…”

Even if his voice hadn’t been so hoarse, he would’ve had her complete attention, and she scuttled back to help William get to his feet. Slipping her arm around his back, she took his weight against her, kicking out at the vamp who tried taking them down. It stumbled away, only to be replaced by another.

“This was a mistake,” she murmured, and felt William stiffen against her.

“Go,” he whispered. “Don’t mind me.”

Her arms tightened. “Right. Like I could just leave you here.”

“I’m an albatross.”

“Isn’t that a bird?” April was already on her feet, and Buffy crept away, green eyes jumping from demon to demon as she kept herself at the ready for another attack. “Why do you think you’re a bird?”

A blur rushed past them and the Slayer gaped as Richard charged the remaining throng, weapon drawn. He ignored the minions who clawed at him, and instead lunged for April.

“Finally,” April hissed. She grabbed the sword and yanked it vertically toward her chest, ignoring the deep slices the blade made into her palms.

The action pulled Richard tight against the vampire, but he didn’t struggle within her hold. Instead, he said, in a voice so low that Buffy almost missed it, “Let the others go, Masia. This is between you and me.”

Maybe it was hearing her birth name that made the demon freeze. The ridges in April’s forehead seemed to soften, and Buffy was convinced she was going to morph back into her human face. Even William was holding his breath, waiting to see what would happen.

“Dearest Richard,” April murmured. One hand released its hold on the sword, rising to cup the Watcher’s cheek. Even when her fingers left wet, red trails along his skin, he didn’t flinch, merely stared at her with the exhaustion of a man long-traveled. “Always the idealist.”

William’s snort of derision wasn’t enough to distract from the passion play before them, though Buffy did use the changed focus as opportunity to discreetly further themselves even more from its epicenter.

“This has been a long time coming,” Richard said. “We need to end this.”

“Yes,” April agreed. She was absorbed in the streaks of blood that stained his cheek. “Yes, we should.”

Her hand moved before anyone could stop it, sliding to the back of Richard’s head and yanking him forward. In a clean snap, her fangs sank into the flesh of his neck.

*************

She was grateful she was tall enough to see over Giles’ shoulder, but it was still not enough for Rose as she watched the fight commence on the garden below. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Buffy standing off with April, but it was Richard who held the greater part of her attention, the tired slice of his weapon through the air as he decapitated one of his attackers in a shower of dust. He was weakening, fatigue from the long day of battles taking its toll on his no longer young body, and she knew him well enough to know that it was sheer will that was driving him at this point.

Buffy’s call to her Watcher helped Richard by diverting his opponents’ attention, and he made short order of their confusion to barrel past them to an unsuspecting April. When the vampire used his sword to pull her against him, though, Rose’s breath caught in her throat, and she pressed forward against Giles’ back in order to better see.

“What is he doing?” he said quietly, just as riveted to the scene as she was. He was reluctant to venture from the house, her warning about leaving its boundaries hindering his motivation, and was instead hovering on the chance one of the demons came close enough for him to fight.

“I don’t know,” Rose admitted. She could see their lips moving, and when April reached up to touch his cheek---a motion so intimate and so child-like all at the same time---she felt a flicker of hope that maybe it would work out right in the end after all.

She screamed when April bit him.

With the cry not even dead yet in her throat, Rose thrust Giles forward and out of her way, not cognizant of his vanishing the moment his foot crossed the threshold, her only concern to save her husband and the man she’d been so desperately trying to redeem for the past twenty years. Her scream galvanized the group, Buffy tugging William desperately closer to the house while the vampires bestirred from their sluggish daze at their leader’s actions.

But the only thing she saw was Richard slowly slumping against April.

The blood coloring April’s lips where they stretched against his skin.

And her fury erupted with the release of the binding spell she kept in reserve, her last and best weapon in an attack, the one Richard teased Rose about never using for fear of how it would impinge on those surrounding the target.

She no longer cared.

She was only interested in saving Richard.

*************

He found himself in the middle of the street in front of the market, almost the exact same spot he’d been in when he’d first been magicked out of his time. With a half-stumble, the feel of Rose’s furtive hands still imprinted on his back where she’d shoved him out of her way, Giles tripped to the curb, slight disorientation from the time traveling he’d just done making the world careen around him. He fell to his knees on the walk, grasping the lamppost to remain steady while he sucked in huge gulps of air, and waited for the vertigo to right itself.

The seer had been correct, then. All he had to do was leave the house and he’d be returned to his London. It was probably a good thing he hadn’t attempted to help Buffy in her fight more directly.

The thought of his Slayer drove Giles’ eyes open.

Buffy. He had to help her.

She was still in the past---the explanation of times running concurrently, just at the space of the century-plus separating them, had been more than clear---which meant Willow was here trying to bring her back. He had to help her. As he pushed himself up to walk clumsily around the corner, Giles thought that it was a very good thing he was so near the flat.

Or not.

He certainly didn’t expect to find it empty.

Or appearing as if it had been ransacked.

The musty smell of the apartment announced its longtime vacancy, sending Giles’ hopes plummeting as he slumped against the wall. Rubbing at his eyes, he tried to remember more of what Buffy had explained to him and Anne. Had she mentioned where they were in London? There’d certainly been no mention of why they might leave the flat, only that Quentin had not been entirely frank in telling her what exactly was going on. He only knew that Willow was in the midst of doing what it was going to take to bring Buffy back to the present.

But Giles had no idea where Willow was. It would take forever to try and find her without some sort of aid.

Quentin would know. It was inconceivable that he would let the whereabouts of the Slayer go unchecked. If he wasn’t a part of trying to coerce Buffy’s return, than he would at least be privy to where they were staying.

And at this hour of the night, Giles knew exactly where to find him.

*************

She felt like a giant someone had picked her up and wrung her out like an oversoaked sponge, twisting and squeezing her body until all her bones were mush and every rational thought was jelly. Somewhere---a very distant somewhere that could’ve been a vacuum for as real as it felt---she could hear a deep voice speaking to her, but it took several solid minutes before any of it began to remotely resemble words to her ears.

“C’mon, Red,” it was saying. “There’ll be time for sleep after you’re dead. Time to wake up now.”

Willow’s eyes blinked open, the room dazzlingly white around her, and for a split second, she wondered if she was dead.

“Not dead,” came the response with a chuckle. “Though the way you look, you might wish you were.”

Oops. Guess I said that out loud.

She blinked again---OK, a lot---and slowly, the room began to darken, taking shape into recognizable forms as awareness returned. The only thing that stayed white was Spike’s head leaning over her, and she grimaced as she tried to sit up.

“What happened?” she asked. “Did the spell go kaplooie?”

He pulled away from her, returning to his chair at the side of the bed, and Willow squinted as he began gathering what looked like first aid supplies off the seat. “Knocked you out,” Spike said. “Threw me for a good wallop, too, but I don’t have nearly as delicate a constitution as you do, it would appear.”

There was something about the set of his shoulders, a tenseness as he folded what she definitely recognized as bandages, that made her inexplicably want to go up to the vampire and give him a huge hug. “Didn’t it work?” Her voice was small. If his spell failed, there was no guarantee that Spike would stick around long enough for her to do the one for Buffy. What would she do then?

He shrugged. “Think that’s a matter for time to decide,” he replied rather cryptically, and then laughed as if he’d just said the funniest thing in the world.

OK. The spell made Spike crazy instead of Dru. Not good.

Eyeing him warily, Willow struggled to her feet, grabbing the altar for balance as she stepped past the candles on the floor. Only then did she notice that Buffy had been repositioned on the bed, stretched out on her back with the blanket folded down to her waist. A fresh bandage was wound around her forearm, and the unmistakable scent of blood hung in the air.

“Not to sound like a broken record,” she said, “but what happened?”

“Smelled Buffy’s blood. Patched her up before it got too bad on this end.”

She stared at him. “What? Why? It wasn’t so that you could, you know…lick her or something while you did it, was it?”

The eyes that met hers were black, all humor drained from their haunted depths. “Woke you up for a reason,” Spike said, ignoring her questions. “I suggest you get movin’ on whatever it is we have to do to wake Buffy up.”

“Oh. Right.” Willow was on autopilot as she walked back to the wardrobe for the incantation she was going to need. It was only when her hand was on the door that it registered she’d not heard Spike use his usual terminology in talking about Buffy. Just her name. He never used people’s names.

She stole a glance over her shoulder to see him sitting at the side of the bed, his inscrutable face half in shadow as he watched Buffy sleep, long fingers ghosting over the length of her injured arm as if he wanted to touch her but was afraid of the consequences. Willow’s mouth suddenly went dry.

What in heck did that spell do to him?

 

To be continued in Chapter 39: Time Will Come and Take My Love Away