Disclaimer: All characters herein are the brain-children of Joss Whedon. No matter how I’ve twisted them, they’re not mine, no money, and so on and so forth.
The Other Side
She had nearly fallen asleep when she heard her name hissed from outside the cell. “Buffy!”
“Will,” she murmured, smiling, eyes still closed. “Sure, baby, anything you want…”
“Buffy! Wake up!”
“Hmm?” She opened her eyes and frowned on seeing Will, hair slicked back, cheekbones too sharp, wearing a long leather coat…
Then memory flooded back and she sat upright, staring. “Oh! Spike!”
He rolled his eyes. “Bloody good thing I’ve already disabled the camera,” he muttered. He swiped a card through a slot on the panel next to her cell, and the barrier between her and freedom disappeared. “Come on,” he said, holding a hand out to her.
She took it and stepped over the line where the barrier had been. Despite the fact that his hand was as cool as her own, it felt just like when Will had taken her hand in the cavern; they had the same long fingers and strong hands, even the same calluses on their palms. She squeezed his hand tighter.
Spike worked the panel again and replaced the barrier, then pulled her toward the exit to the cell block.
She noticed other cameras trained on the other cells, and asked, voice low, “Aren’t those others on, too?”
He glanced in the direction she indicated and shook his head. “Head of security says they only turn ‘em on when there’s someone inside a cell. We should be safe.”
Buffy groaned inwardly at that, and waited for the alarms to go off, because in all the movies she’d watched, that was the trigger for something to immediately go wrong. She was surprised, however, when they made it to the side stairs without incident.
It had that sense that all stairwells in big office buildings had – musty and dingy, with a slightly unfinished look. Nobody wanted to use the stairs when there was the sleek, super-fast elevator.
“Here are your shoes,” he said, surprising her; she’d forgotten she had taken them off. He pulled one out of each pocket, and waited while she stamped back into them.
“Welcome. Come on, pet. Something’s going on, and I think it’s to do with you.” Spike was still holding her hand, and tugged her up the stairs behind him.
“Where are we going?”
“Gonna go see if Science Gal can figure out a way to send you back to your own dimension.”
Buffy stuck out her lower lip a little. “You’re tired of me already?”
“What?” Spike twisted around to look at her, and they came to a stop. “No, pet, that’s not it,” he said gently, and reached out to touch her cheek, then stopped, remembering. “Angel’s all in a dither ‘cause he’s had the Slayer being watched, and now it looks like she’s disappeared. In his tiny little mind, he’s decided that someone turned the Slayer and you’re her. The only reason I’m not dust again is because he’s decided that I haven’t been out from under his eye long enough to turn anybody, much less Buffy, wherever she is… was across the pond.” Unmistakable bitterness crept into his tone on the last few words.
She squeezed his hand again, and he twitched slightly, as if he’d forgotten they were still connected.
He didn’t let her go, though; just turned and started pulling her up the stairs once more.
“If your Slayer disappeared,” Buffy reasoned slowly, following him, “does that mean that she got pushed through to my dimension?”
“I don’t know for sure,” he said. “Have to run it by Fred. Sounds likely to me, but we all know who is an’ isn’t the brains around here.” Looking back at her over his shoulder, he arched a knowing eyebrow.
She grinned back at him. “Yeah, yeah. We’re just the muscle. I’ve know that for, like, ever.”
“Just hope we can do this quick,” Spike said when the reached the top of the stairwell. “She does tend to get sidetracked, and we’re only going to have a little longer before Angelus realizes you’ve scarpered.”
She crept out into the darkened hall with some surprise; she hadn’t realized night had fallen. Been on day schedule for so long I never even knew the sun had set. With a glance in either direction, she got her bearings and stepped down the hall.
Unfortunately, Spike had stepped in the opposite direction. Between them, they’d nearly jerked their own arms from their appropriate sockets.
“What the flaming hell are you doing?” Spike demanded, trying to keep his voice low. “The lab is this way!”
“No, it’s not!” she hissed back. “It’s this way!” She pulled on his arm in the direction she wanted to go.
“You’re cracked, Slay… Buffy. That’s back toward Angel’s office. It’s this way.” He gave a quick yank that she should have been expecting but wasn’t. She stumbled toward him, and they were on their way.
She couldn’t keep from arguing, though. “Spike, it’s the other way, seriously.”
“Maybe in your dimension it is, love, but not here.”
A few seconds later, they rounded the corner, and Buffy saw the pristine white doors to the laboratory. With some ill-grace, she stopped resisting, muttering about know-it-all-bleached-blonds who think they’re so smart.
Somehow – she wasn’t exactly sure how, because his expression was just brimming over with smugness – Spike refrained from saying I told you so.
There was still a light on, visible from the door. “Fred?” Spike called, pushing the door open. “You here?”
“What if she’s not?” Buffy whispered, hanging closer to him than his own shadow.
“We just head on down to see Percy. He’ll likely know where she is.”
They rounded one set of lab benches, and Buffy saw a girl scribbling on a note pad. She was muttering to herself as she worked.
“Fred?” Spike said, just loudly enough to grab her attention.
She jumped, her pencil skittering across the paper. “Oh!” Then she turned around and sagged a little on seeing Spike. She didn’t seem to even notice Buffy. “Oh, hi, Spike,” Fred said with a lopsided smile. At first, with the long brown hair tumbling down her back, Buffy thought it was Faith, then she realized that this girl wasn’t shaped anything like Faith. She was almost impossibly slim and wore severe science-y glasses besides. “Angel is still on the warpath, so you might want to… who’s that?” Her gaze focused on Buffy, still hiding behind Spike’s shoulder.
Except Spike chose that moment to step aside, and Buffy gave a desultory little wave. “Fred, this is Buffy.”
Fred scrambled off her stool, staring. “Buffy? You mean… the Slayer? That girl who died and came back and got turned into a… and Angel had her locked up?”
Buffy was about to open her mouth to reply, but Spike beat her to it. “Actually, this Buffy is from a different dimension. She’s the vampire that Captain Forehead was on about earlier.”
“From… a different dimension?” Fred pushed her glasses up on her nose so they were seated properly. “Really?” Finally, she addressed Buffy directly. “You’re not all grr, are you?” she asked, making a vague approximation of a game face, her hands curled into claws.
“No,” she replied, smiling in spite of herself. “Not all grr. I think you’re safe with us.”
“Oh, good,” the girl replied, and settled back down at her lab bench. “That means I can get back to work on…”
“Fred, luv,” Spike interrupted, before she lost herself in her task once more. “We were hopin’ that you could flip Buffy here back into her own dimension.”
“Like before your Angel really goes over the edge and stakes me?” She shuddered, and it wasn’t just for show. “I’d really rather not go through that again, y’know?”
Fred looked at her with sympathy. “Yeah, from what we saw of Spike’s resurrection, it wasn’t any kinda picnic. ‘Least not one I’d want to go to, and I’ve been to some pretty awful ones in my time…”
“Right. So. Sending me back to my own universe? I don’t mean to rush you, but now would be good.”
Fred didn’t answer her, however. She pulled out a gadget and started scanning Buffy up and down, and Buffy was rocked back to how Connor had done the same thing to her.
The gadget beeped, and Fred peered at it over her glasses. “Oh, this is an easy one! I haven’t had an easy one in forever. You’re the one who’s causing the rift I detected after the spell this morning.”
“A rift?” When Fred transferred her gaze from the electronic device to her, she eeped. “I didn’t mean to!” she whined. She knew she looked and sounded pathetic by the way Spike smirked at her words. She stuck her tongue out at him.
“What do you mean by easy, then?” Spike asked, deciding that ignoring her bad behavior was the best policy. “Can’t think of a time when things have ever been easy here.”
“Well, okay, I’ve gotta agree with you there,” Fred said, lowering her scanner. “Usually it’s all uphill battles and running out of time and remember the Alamo around here. And yes, the rift is getting bigger, but it’s not huge. I think if we send alter!Buffy back through it, it’ll turn out fine.”
“So I just gotta throw myself back through this rift? That’s it?”
“Yep.” Fred nodded. “That’s it. Easier than pie.”
“So… where is it? How am I gonna find it?” Jeez, Buffy thought, forcing down the urge to tap her foot. Getting information from this girl’s like pulling teeth. I’m glad Connor isn’t like this.
“It’s a puppy-dog,” Fred replied, like that made everything plain.
After a moment of no further explanation forthcoming, Buffy asked, “So, uh… a puppy-dog?”
“Oh, yeah, you know, like a little lost puppy, all big eyes and take me home with you? It started out in one of the corridors, then it drifted up into the penthouse section, and hovered outside the cages…”
“Hey, those are all the places I’ve been!”
“Yeah,” Fred said, giving her a bright smile. “It’s been followin’ you around, all puppy-dog-like.”
“I’ve never had a puppy before…”
“You don’t have one now, pet,” Spike said. “Just an overly friendly portal that would probably like to go home and take a nap.”
“You,” she said, poking him in the chest, “are a pain in my derrière.”
“Just like old times,” he replied with a grin.
She rolled her eyes and turned back to Fred, who was watching them with interest. “So… how can I find my puppy-portal-home?”
“It’s kind of hovering right behind you. Just turn around.”
Buffy spun around, and saw a bright mote behind her, just as Fred said, kind of like a firefly, bobbing at about shoulder height. “Oookay, so how do I get through that? You got Alice’s incredible shrinking-drink or something?”
Fred flushed, and her hands fluttered distractedly. “So that’s the part I hadn’t quite figured out yet,” she said, her voice pitched a little higher.
She stared at the gently dancing dot, the urgency to get back home churning in her stomach, because she didn’t want to face this dimension’s nasty Angel any time soon.
The rift flashed.
“Hey, didja see that?” she asked over her shoulder without looking away from the portal.
“Yeah, we did,” Spike said. “Go on, gadget girl.”
“It’s bigger,” Fred said, and Buffy could hear her fiddling around with her electronic thing. “Not much, but it’s definitely bigger. Whatever you did, do it again.”
So she kept on staring at it, until if flashed again, and this time, she could see that it was bigger.
“So that’s how it works,” Fred murmured. Buffy heard the soft scratch of pencil on paper again. “It’s linked to you, ‘cause you came through it, but it’s really similar to the portal we were trying to create here with our spell.”
Buffy blinked, and glanced away from the rift, now the size of an orange. “You guys were doing a spell too?”
Fred looked up from her paper, her face suddenly alight with excitement. “Too? You mean, they were doing a spell on your side? Wow, such synchronicity is amazing! How come you were the only one transported?”
“Uh… I don’t know? I was the only one who wasn’t really involved with the spell. Dru kicked me out before they finished it.” Buffy turned back to the portal, still hovering, and it swelled to the size of a grapefruit.
Just then, a klaxon blared to life outside the lab, and lights started to strobe in warning.
“Uh, pet, I hate to hurry you, but you’re gonna have to move it along,” Spike said, sounding a little worried. “I think Angelus just discovered you’re not where he put you.”
“Yeah, I know, I’m workin’ on it,” Buffy said, her tone clipped. Concentrating on this puppy is hard…
Then boom! It seemed to tap into her increased urgency and ballooned up to a size that a human-sized form could fit through. “Whoa,” she breathed, “didn’t know that could happen.”
Fred stepped up beside her, staring at the glimmering portal, faintly blue and crackling with energy. “Wow. That went better than I thought it would!”
“What?” Buffy stared at her in disbelief.
Again, Fred’s cheeks turned red. “Well, I’d never seen one like this before! I didn’t know how it was going to work…”
“Fred, be a love and see if you can head Angel off at the pass, yeah?” Spike nudged her toward the door. “Don’t want him keepin’ this Buffy from goin’ home, which might keep our Buffy from comin’ back.”
“Oh! Right! Angel said she’d disappeared… that’s why he thought you were her… or…”
“Fred?” The impatience in Spike’s tone definitely called Will to Buffy’s mind. Well, she thought, grinning a little goofily, not like that’s difficult at all…
“Right, going. Heading off at the pass, Captain.” She bustled out the door.
“Before you go, pet…” All he had to do was open his arms a little, and she was embracing him again, as tightly as she had when she’d still thought him Will.
“You know, as freaky as this was,” she said, letting the words be muffled against his chest, “I’m really glad I met you.”
He held her a little closer. “Yeah, me, too.” His words rumbled through his chest, and she shivered a little, as a little tingle of arousal uncurled in her stomach. “Wish you could stay, but…”
“But there’s a Slayer that needs to get home,” she finished, and stepped away. “Gotcha.”
Spike cleared his throat. “You know, my Buffy’s the bravest person I’ve ever met. She’d face down a thousand demons an’ only care about the mess they made of her clothes. But feelings… they scare her. Don’t let yours scare you, pet.”
She swallowed down the lump in her throat. “I’ll try not to,” she managed. “Sometimes it’s hard, though, you know?”
“Yeah, I do.” He rocked on his feet, rubbed a hand at the back of his neck, then met her gaze again. “This bloke – your Slayer? He’s like me, right? In some ways, I mean,” he amended off her raised eyebrow. “Well, if that’s true, then he meant it when he said he loved you. I don’t think there’s a me… a William anywhere who wouldn’t fall in love with you… er, a Buffy once he’s met you. Ah, hell. You know what I mean, though?”
Buffy smiled. “I think so. But if that’s the case, that means your Slayer meant it when she told you she loved you.”
Immediately, Spike shook his head. “No. She didn’t… not like how I wanted her to mean it.”
She slapped his arm hard.
“Ow!” He scowled at her, rubbing at the offended limb. “Violent little bint…”
“I think I know me as well as you know you!” she said with some heat. “So why would you think that your Slayer didn’t mean it, then turn around and say that mine did?”
Spike looked away, peering off into the far corner of the lab. “Did a lot of things to Bu – to my – to the Slayer,” he replied quietly. “I never meant to hurt her, but somehow I always did.”
“And so did I to Will. But if you tell me Will still loves me…” She trailed off. “Well, it only stands to reason.” She stepped backwards. “Good luck, William,” she offered, and turned around.
The portal still danced, and she stumbled when she stepped through. She felt herself start to fall, and, chagrinned, thought, What a way to make an exit…
She landed face down on the laboratory floor. “Ow…”
“Buffy? Is that you?” Connor popped up, staring at her wide-eyed over the row of lab benches. “You’re back!”
She sat up, gingerly touching her nose to make sure it wasn’t broken. “Yeah, I’m back.”
As she did, the alarms started ring. “Oh, not this again,” she muttered. “My ears hurt.”
Connor winced. “Sorry,” he said, making his way around the lab bench to where she had landed. “But Dru revoked your authorized status when she discovered you were missing. Maybe she just wanted to know when you came back.”
“Not your fault, cutie,” she said, and somehow managed to climb to her feet. “You can’t help it that she is what she is. I guess I’ll wait here for Security,” she added, and plunked down onto one of the stools. “Wouldn’t want them to have to work to find me, would we?”
Connor grinned, then yawned hugely. “Yeah, guess you’re right. See you in the morning?”
“You betcha.” She could already hear the pounding of feet out in the corridor.
Connor could, too, by the way he cocked his head. “I’m glad you’re back, Buffy,” he said, just as Security burst through the door.
It choked her up a little. “Thanks, sweetie.” She stood up, hands raised and non-threatening. “So we’ve been through this before, boys,” she told the Security detail. “Just take me to see Grandma Dru. I won’t put up a fight, I swear.”
“Yeah,” one of them muttered, prodding her with his gun. “That’s what you said the last time.” He still bore traces of what had been a beauty of a shiner.
“Yeah, it is,” she replied, as chipper as she could manage. “But it was a great dance, wasn’t it?”
It was double-time march all the way to Dru’s office. Guess they really don’t want me to try anything this time, she thought.
Dru, of course, had lots to say, and she said it as loudly as she could.
Buffy stood in front of her desk like a schoolchild called to task in front of the teacher. She nodded from time to time, whenever it sounded like Dru had paused in her tirade, but her thoughts were definitely elsewhere.
Don’t be afraid of my emotions, he said, she thought, picturing Spike, but still seeing Will instead. Don’t be afraid of what I feel. That’s what I have been doing… making excuses because I’m scared. It’s not just what if he doesn’t love me how I want him to, it’s also what if he does? What if we’re equals now?
What if all I’ve done is wasted a lot of time here when I could have been with him?
You know what? Knowing can’t be any harder than not knowing.
At last, her mind was made up. Determination in every line of her face, she stared at her grandsire across the broad desk. “Dru… I need Will’s number.” She held out the key ring she’d swiped before her dimension-tripping fandango.
Dru studied her for only a moment, then her shoulders slumped. She took the keys and unlocked the special drawer, and after a brief hesitation, ripped a page from the slim address book hidden there. “Here.”
Buffy took it eagerly. “Thank you.”
“You can use the phone in here,” Dru said, standing, and Buffy could hear how sadness and regret weighted her down.
“Dru,” she said, just as her grandsire reached the door. “Really. Thank you.”
Drusilla managed a tiny smile. “You’re welcome. Just… make him happy.” Then the door closed behind her.
Buffy’s fingers danced over the phone pad. When it started ringing on the other end, she wished there was a cord she could fiddle with, and settled for doodling on Dru’s notepad.
“This had bloody well better be important.”
She smiled. She’d heard the same voice and everything from Spike just a half hour ago, but this? This was so much better. It was real.
“Hey, Will. It’s Buffy…”
July 31, 2009
© randi (K. Shepard), 2009