TITLE: Hazy Shade of Innocence
RATING: R for now (it would have eventually gone NC17)
GENRE: Um...hard to say. We'll say romantic light with a side of fluff. It's ensemble fun, light on the angst.
DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’ which is a shame because I think we’re nicer to them than he was. The chapter title is courtesy of The Bangles.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Everyone but Tara and Dawn went to the construction of the new high school to stop a big bad they heard was on the loose. There, they split up – Buffy and Willow to use the power of the covered Hellmouth to track the magic, Giles and Spike to look for anything suspicious, and Xander and Anya in the gymnasium keeping an eye on the high school class reunion that is happening…
The first part is here.
For a sickening moment, Buffy thought she was dead again.
One second, she was kicking aside debris to make room for Willow to lay out her stuff.
The next, she was back in the high school library, kicking the leg of one of the chairs around the table they had always done their research at.
Buffy froze. Her toe was still tingling from where it had made contact with the chair, and she stretched a trembling hand to touch the dark wood in front of her. It was solid and cool, very much not dream-like or anything else she had ever experienced. Well, that was wrong. It was exactly like something she recognized.
But that something had been destroyed at graduation. It was physically impossible for her to be in the middle of Sunnydale High with…sunlight streaming through the windows?
The trepidation in Willow’s voice made Buffy whirl around, but if she thought seeing the library in a non-blown up kind of way again was weird, it was nothing compared to what she felt at the sight of her best friend.
Her hair was long again, as it had been in high school, pulled into a ponytail on the side of her head with a huge, lacy bow. A black torn t-shirt hung off her shoulders, exposing the pink tank top underneath, while the short ruffled skirt she wore over the skintight black leggings sported the same colors, pink dots on a black background. Ankle boots and too many black rubber bracelets for Buffy to count completed the ensemble.
Willow’s eyes were saucers as she stepped carefully forward. “Your hair…” she breathed.
Buffy’s hand immediately shot upward. “I have helmet hair!” she squeaked. It was stiff no matter where she touched, curls sprayed within an inch of their life. The fact that she couldn’t feel her head didn’t reassure that it looked better than it felt, especially when it felt like her bangs stood up about a mile from her scalp.
Just as quickly, she looked down. The deep navy blouse she wore had a glossy sheen to it, with bat wings and shoulder pads to make her torso look massive. Her legs went the other way, jeans so skinny and tight that Buffy wondered if she’d been sewn into them.
“Are those acid wash?” Willow asked.
“It’s official,” Buffy said, meeting her friend’s eyes. “Hell is being stuck in a John Hughes movie.”
Willow followed her back to the table where two stacks of books rested on top. “This must be the magic Spike heard was going to happen. I’ll bet someone at the reunion cast a spell to make it like it was when they were in high school.”
“Someone clearly doesn’t get out enough.” Tilting her head to read some of the doodles on the cover of the closest book, Buffy couldn’t help but smile sadly when she saw the rainbows drawn around her name in the corner. It seemed like such an innocent thing to do.
“It could just be a glamour of some sort,” Willow went on. “Maybe the decorating committee has an overachiever on it.”
Behind them, someone cleared her throat. The girls turned to see an aged librarian standing at the counter. “I realize it’s Monday, young ladies,” she said, “but the first bell has already rung. You’re going to be late for class if you don’t skedaddle.”
When the librarian turned away, Willow leaned in and whispered, “How do we know where to go?”
“We’re actually going?” Buffy whispered back in a panic. The sudden thought that this really was hell, and she was being forced to relive high school for the rest of eternity made her stomach clench in fear.
“We have to find the others, don’t we?” Willow picked up her books and began flipping through them. A printed schedule immediately fluttered to the floor.
As Willow bent to pick it up, Buffy did the same, finding a similar sheet of paper used as a bookmark in the top text. “Oh, this isn’t too bad,” she commented. “I have gym first.” She glanced at the bright blue sky on the other side of the windows. “And since I’d bet Mr. Gordo that California high schools haven’t changed that much, that means we’re going to be outside. It’ll give me a chance to take a look around and see how much of the school is affected by the magic.” She glanced at the schedule in Willow’s hand. “What do you have?”
“Microprocessing.” At Buffy’s confused frown, she elaborated. “Computers.”
“They had computers in 1986?”
She knew Willow probably didn’t mean it, but her small smile was more than condescending. “You’ve got an open period after gym,” she said. “I can meet you by the locker rooms and we can compare notes.”
Buffy paused. “And how sad is it that I had to think for a minute about whether or not you meant actual notes?” She shook her head, scooping the pile of books up into her arms. “No dillydallying in finding whoever it is that did this, because there is no way I’m reliving senior year. One giant snake demon a lifetime is enough for any Slayer.”
The sudden flood of lights from the overheads made Giles blink, but when he reached a hand up to adjust his glasses, he inadvertently poked himself in the eye. He frowned. Gingerly, he felt for the wire rims but when he came up with nothing, he turned to look at his reflection in the mirror over the sink.
“Bloody hell,” he murmured, eyes widening in shock.
Leaning closer to the glass, Giles stared at his seventeen-year-old self, his brow unlined, eyes glittering with youth. His hair was devoid of gray, mussed into a careful disarray that he remembered pretending not to fuss to create. The slacks and jacket he’d been wearing were gone as well, replaced with a faded Who t-shirt and worn blue jeans.
Beyond his appearance, however, his body was buzzing with energy, though there was an edge to his nerves that left him a tad uneasy. He felt young, like he could even take on a Slayer.
Remembering Buffy brought him crashing back to earth.
Obviously, this was a result of the magic they’d been hoping to stop. Had Buffy and the others been caught up in it? He was going to have to go look for them to find out.
Taking a step away from the sink, Giles paused when he felt a distinct draft around the top of his legs. Glancing down, he saw nothing amiss until he looked over his shoulder and saw where the seat of his jeans had been frayed away into almost nothing, revealing red briefs underneath.
“Good lord,” he muttered, twisting to get a better look at his ass in the mirror. Rather than make the vision go away, however, it showed exactly how much of his back half was exposed, the damage to the denim too extensive not to be deliberate. Rebellious youth certainly didn’t change all that much, he thought, regardless of the decade.
Loud voices outside the door drew his attention away from his reflection, but by the time Giles began to head toward it and investigate, the door was pushed open and a slim body was shoved inside, sprawling to a heap on the tiled floor. Four large young men in Sunnydale varsity jackets came rushing in afterward, laughing and sneering as they jostled their way toward the slumped figure on the ground. When they saw Giles, however, they skidded to a halt.
“Shit,” the one in front said. He was tall and broad, with a pathetic dishwater mullet hanging over the collar of his coat. Across the breast of the jacket, the name “Hannibal” was stitched in gold thread.
“Does he have his knife?” Giles heard one in the back whisper to his buddy. It took him a moment to realize they were referring to him, and the sudden knowledge that these four thugs were actually afraid of Rupert sent a surge of power through his body.
He took a step toward them, grinning when all four automatically took a step back. “So it takes four of you to thrash someone half your size?” he taunted. “Or maybe you were hoping you’d find someone more interesting to fight?”
When he reached toward his back pocket, pretending to go for the blade they assumed he carried, all four athletes turned on their heels and ran, pushing past each other in order to be the first out the door.
Giles snickered as he turned back to the fellow who had been the target of their attack. When the teen lifted his head and groaned, however, the surprise that taken him aback at his own reflection was overwhelmed upon recognition of the boy at his feet.
Brilliant blue eyes glared at him from behind the lenses of silver-rimmed glasses. “Shove off, Rupert,” Spike growled, struggling to stand. His normally graceful movements were gangly and awkward, legs nearly drowning in baggy khakis, his slim upper body looking even leaner in a light blue button-down shirt. He batted away the hand Giles offered before finally rising, shifting so that he could see his face in the mirror.
“Bugger,” Spike muttered to his reflection. He pushed back the honey curls that hung over his forehead, scowling when they just fell back into place again. “Thought I’d seen the last of you, mate.”
Giles wasn’t so much absorbed by the differences in Spike’s appearance as he was the implication of what he was witnessing. “Spike…” he said quietly. “You can see yourself.”
“Your point?” came the irritated response. “Other than to remind me never to give up on my bleach job, that is.”
Without saying a word, Giles reached down and lightly grasped Spike’s wrist. He found what he was looking for as soon as his fingers made contact.
“My point,” he said when Spike yanked his hand away, “is you’re not a vampire any more. You have a pulse and a reflection, which I presume is due to the fact that we seem to be in our seventeen-year-old selves if my craving for a cigarette is any indication.”
The import of Giles’ announcement made Spike’s eyes widen comically behind his glasses, his head whipping around to stare at himself again the mirror. This time, he stretched out a hand to touch the glass, as if expecting it to dissolve away.
“Knew that itch was something,” he murmured.
Giles saw the instant Spike came to the understanding he had prior to the athletes’ unannounced arrival. “Buffy and Willow will be in the library,” he said, marching with Spike to the door. “We’ll---.”
His words were cut off by the shrill ring of a bell, and the straggling remainders of the students milling in the hallway broke into a run as they raced for their classrooms. The two men stood and watched the crowd disperse, doors slamming in the distance, until they were the last two left in the echoing void of the corridor.
“This is evil, even for the Hellmouth,” Spike said dryly. “And not the good kind.”
“I’ll wager someone at that reunion has something to do with this.” The pair began to walk down the hall, headed for where the library had always been. An odd sense of déjà vu filled Giles’ every step, but Spike’s presence at his side tempered some of the disconnect. “If this is 1986 as I expect, that would narrow our search to the senior class.”
“Why are we the only ones who seem to realize something is wrong, though?” Spike asked. “Those wankers called me by name, acted like they’d been roughing me up every day of their pathetic lives.”
“I don’t know,” Giles conceded. “We can only hope that Buffy and the others are still in possession of their memories, though. If they’re not, I fear breaking the spell will be that much harder.”
Reaching the library, Giles pushed open the door, striding possessively inside as he had so many times in the past. Spike followed on his heels, but when the elderly librarian looked up from behind the counter, it wasn’t the sight of Giles who brought the beaming smile to her face.
“Mr. Pratt!” she exclaimed, sliding from her stool and coming around to face them, completely ignoring Rupert’s presence. “What can I do for you today? Don’t tell me you’re ready for that next volume of poetry. My, but you are a voracious young man. I can hardly keep up with you.”
Spike’s face was beet red, eyes jumping from the woman in front of him to Giles and back again. “I...I…” he stammered. He coughed into his hand, clearing his throat, then visibly straightened. “I’m supposed to meet another student,” he said. The marked difference in his accent made Giles frown in confusion. “Buffy Summers?”
“She’s gone to class,” the librarian said. “I sent her along with Miss Rosenberg as soon as the first bell rang. If I’d known she was waiting for you, I would have allowed her to stay, but she didn’t say a word to me about it.”
Spike murmured polite gratitude and backed out of the library, catching Giles’ eye for him to follow. Once they were back in the hall, Spike shoved his hands in his pockets and waited expectantly.
“Well?” he asked. “Now what?”
“We get their schedules.” It took only a swift assessment to remember in which direction the office was, and even less time to start walking for it. “We’ll get Xander’s and Anya’s as well, then find an excuse to pull them from their classes so that we can formulate a plan on how to reverse this spell.”
For long moments, the only sounds in the empty corridor were the heels of their shoes. Then, amusement spurred Giles to make the comment he’d been dying to since leaving the library.
“So…you’re a Pratt?”
“Shut it, Rupert.”
Giles’ laughter drifted down the hall.
To be continued in Chapter 3: Walking on Sunshine…