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 Katrina and the Waves.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: The gang has discovered themselves in their seventeen-year-old bodies, including Spike in William’s and Giles as Ripper. Now, they’re trying to meet up…
The first two parts are here and here
The first thing Buffy found in their favor was the fact that it seemed to be the first day of school for everyone, not just them. Everywhere, eyes jumped to schedules held in tight fists as students raced to get to classes, muttered curses as more than one person did an about-face in the middle of the hall and ran off in the opposite direction. She smiled as she pushed open the doors to the gym. That first day panic seemed to be another universal school reaction.
A chorus of warm greetings bombarded her as she headed for the rest of the class already sitting on the bleachers. Two girls in outfits nearly identical to Buffy’s separated with bright smiles in order to give her a place to sit, but she hesitated before taking it. She wasn’t here to socialize. She was here to find a way to reverse the magic. None of this was real, even if it felt like it.
Then she saw Xander.
He was seated on the uppermost riser, talking animatedly to a lanky blond with a blister of acne across his cheeks. While his clothes didn’t look all that outlandish – though Buffy was itching to turn down the collar on his blue Izod polo – his hair was straight off of a Flock of Seagulls poster, closely cropped and sticking up on one side, long and hanging in his face on the other. This was going to provide months of teasing fodder, she thought as she began to climb the bleachers to get to him.
“Buffy?” The girl’s voice behind her made Buffy hesitate, twisting to see one of the doublemint twins staring up at her in confusion. “Where are you going?”
“I think I’m in the mood for a birds eye view today,” she replied and continued climbing until she could plop down next to Xander.
“This place is so giving me the wiggins,” Buffy said, dropping her books to her side. “You have no idea how glad I am to see another friendly…” Her voice trailed away as she looked over to Xander. He was staring at her like she’d grown a second head, and her hand went up automatically to check her hair. “What? Is it really that bad?”
“You’re…sitting next to me.” The incredulity in both his tone and eyes sent a chilled warning through Buffy’s veins, and she sat up straighter in order to better face him. “Did you lose a bet or something?”
She frowned. “What are you talking about?”
Exchanging a quick glance with the blond next to him, Xander inched further away from Buffy. “It’s just that we’ve always had this great relationship,” he said. “You treat me like the gum you’ve scraped off your shoe, while I make meaningless comments about you being an airheaded bitch behind your back while secretly wishing to be your favorite snuggle bunny. It’s always worked for us. Just because it’s senior year doesn’t mean we have to disturb the status quo, does it?”
Even when she’d first arrived in Sunnydale, Xander had never acted like she was so untouchable. There had to be only one explanation.
“Do you know who I am, Xander?” Buffy asked carefully.
He and his friend laughed, amused by the apparent absurdity of her question. “I think the real question is, do you know who I am?”
A shrill whistle made Buffy jump, and she whipped away from Xander to see the sound’s source standing at the bottom of the bleachers. “Oh. My. God. Tell me I’m blind and that’s really not---.”
“---the same Nazi windbag who made our lives hell last year?” Xander finished with a sigh. “Unfortunately, yes. The rumors of his so-called death by demon were grossly exaggerated.”
Buffy could only stare. She was seeing a ghost. Literally. Because Principal Snyder had been dead for three years and it was impossible for people to just---.
She stopped that thought before she could finish it, shaking her head to clear it before focusing on the fact that he was addressing the class. It’s 1986 here. Of course he’s still alive. And in satin shorts.
“…won’t tolerate slacking just because it’s your senior year,” Snyder said. “There are rules, and I will expect you to follow them.” He began pacing up and down in front of the students, the baggy tank top he wore almost completely covering the tiny shorts. His fingers played with the whistle that hung around his neck, his beady eyes glaring at the whispering girls in the front row. “Since it’s the first day and I know none of you actually remembered to bring your gym clothes, we’re hitting the field to go over what’s going to be covered this year.” He rolled his eyes at the class’ audible groans. “Like you want to stay cooped up in the gym for the next hour. Now get outside.”
He hung back and watched the teenagers file past him, heading out through the doors toward the stadium behind the school. As Buffy stepped off the lowest riser, he caught her eye and jerked his head to the side.
“A word, Ms. Summers.”
Great, she thought as she followed him a short distance away from the others. The twerp hates me in this decade, too.
“I’ve been informed that you missed cheerleading practice last night,” he said without preamble. “As our illustrious co-captain, I’m sure you’re aware of what a bad precedent that sets for the other members of your squad, especially this early in the season.”
She had no idea what to say to that. Snyder didn’t even seem mad about the absence. In fact, the conspiratorial angle of his body made it seem like he was sharing a secret more than reprimanding her for missing practice. What kind of bizarro world had Snyder as her greatest supporter?
“I’m sure you have extenuating circumstances regarding yesterday’s practice,” he was saying, his voice pitched lower in order not to be heard by the remaining students. “So I’m just going to erase your absence from the athletics records for now. No reason for it to mar your permanent record.”
Apparently, this bizarro world.
“Thanks,” she managed to say.
She started when he smiled at her. It was actually a genuine smile, too. She’d never seen one of those without the influence of charmed chocolate. “This is going to be a good year,” he said as he began to follow the last of the students out to the fields. “I can feel it in my bones.”
Funny, but the one thing Buffy could feel in her bones didn’t seem anything like good news.
Sometimes, looking like a complete git had its bonuses. Like being able to distract the school secretary while Rupert broke into the filing cabinet and filched all the schedules they needed to find the others. Spike had wanted to be the one to do the stealing, but the second he’d been spotted standing outside the office, the woman behind the desk wouldn’t stop beaming at him. The choice on who would put their five-finger discount to the test had become a simple one.
He smiled and chatted with the blue-haired biddy with an aplomb that astonished him. Actually, it was a deadly combination, Spike realized. He had the look of young, inoffensive William – and the reputation to match, apparently – but the charm skills he’d accrued over the last century. The secretary never knew what hit her.
When he saw Giles slip back out into the hall, Spike smiled and made his excuses to go, hurrying out to join the waiting Watcher. “So where are we off to?” he asked.
“It appears we’re in luck.” Giles was flipping between the paper schedules, comparing them. “Willow and Anya have the same first period, as do Buffy and Xander. That helps tremendously.”
“And then? What’s the grand plan to get us back?”
“Reverse the spell. We’ll have to go to the magic shop to utilize their resources, but I’m sure we can find what we need.”
Spike didn’t share the same confidence, but he held his tongue while they made their way to Willow’s classroom, hanging back as Giles got her attention through the small window in the door. They waited until she’d found an excuse to come out, but at the sight of her get-up, Spike quirked a brow.
“Interesting look you’ve got there, Red,” he commented, raking his gaze over the pink and black ensemble.
Her amusement was just as obvious as his. “Same back at you, Spike.” She looked to Giles, though why she didn’t seem as surprised by his appearance, he had no idea. “Do we know what’s going on?”
“Not yet,” Giles assured. He glanced over her shoulder back into the classroom. “Get Anya. Then we’ll---.” He stopped in mid-direction, Willow’s nervous chewing of her lower lip capturing both of their attention. “What is it? Is there a problem?”
“Well…that depends on your definition of problem.” Moving away from the door, Willow waited until Spike and Giles joined her before continuing. “Anya has no idea who I am,” she said, her voice almost a whisper. “I mean, she knows who I am, but not the real me, the new millennium me. She thinks it really is 1985---.”
“I thought it was 1986,” Spike interrupted. “That’s what that banner said.”
“That’s the year they graduated,” Willow explained. “Which is next June. So right now, it’s 1985.”
“And Anya has no recollection of coming here to stop this from occurring?” Giles pressed.
“Not a clue. When I kept trying to talk to her, she accused me of hitting on her and moved to another computer.”
With a sigh, Giles ran a hand through his hair, muttering under his breath about needing a fag. It was hard for Spike not to smile. The Watcher might have long ago given up the habit, but his seventeen-year-old self was still firmly hooked, and the lack of nicotine was taking a visible toll.
“Let’s go fetch Buffy and the boy,” Spike said. “We’ll sort out what’s wrong, then come back for Anya once we know how to fix it. A day in the life isn’t goin’ to hurt her.”
“Yes.” Giles seemed grateful for the direction and began leading them toward the gym. “Excellent plan.”
That excellent plan took a southerly direction when they walked into the deserted gymnasium. Squinting against the fluorescents, Spike frowned as he listened to Willow and Giles argue about what to try next, but the focus of his thoughts were on Buffy and how she was dealing with the change of time. Any other big bad and he might have been grateful. She seemed to have the easiest time of it when there was something for her to focus on that didn’t directly affect her life, and considering how much she was still holding back on her friends, anything that made Buffy’s life easier was good in Spike’s book.
Even when it meant he was barred from his favorite poker game for awhile.
He knew she believed he was still mad at her about the whole kitten incident, but the distance Spike had been keeping over the past week was mostly for his own peace of mind. These continued trips to his crypt, her gradual opening up of things she would never have considered sharing a year earlier…each one was salt on an open wound, hope given wings for those hours she spent with him only to be clipped as soon as she walked out the door. It was better if he only got those moments in smaller doses; it made her departures less painful and the absences easier to tolerate.
At least, that’s what he kept telling himself. Finding the excuse to go to her about bad magic on the horizon had been a feeble attempt to be both around her and not, knowing she would get the Scoobies involved.
When both Giles and Willow announced the locker rooms were empty, they decided to check the football field behind the school to see if the class had been taken outside for the period. There was a moment when they pushed the double doors open and the sunlight caught on the toes of his loafers that Spike hesitated, glancing up at the brilliant blue sky as the heat reflected off the sidewalk and onto his face.
Willow stopped when she noticed he was no longer behind them. “What’s wrong?” she asked.
Slowly, he took a step out, stretching a hand so that it caught the rays first. His instincts were screaming at him to step back into the shadows, but with the memory of his reflection still burned bright on his mind’s eye, Spike held there, half in and half out, watching his skin do absolutely nothing in the golden ambience.
“The bell will be ringing soon,” Giles prompted quietly.
He looked up, expecting to see scorn or condemnation in the Watcher’s face. Instead, Spike was startled by the compassion that gleamed in the youthful features and blinked more than once behind his glasses, wondering if he was seeing things. The same was reflected in Willow’s eyes, though that wasn’t quite so unusual. Of all of them, she had been the first to see the potential in Spike, and if she now regarded him with soft understanding at his awe and fear of being in the sunlight, so be it.
With a curt nod, Spike stepped the rest of the way into the sunshine, the heat prickling along the back of his neck as he followed Giles’ lead to the football field. Willow hung back, walking alongside him, all the while continuing to cast furtive glances at him out of the corner of her eye.
Finally frustrated, he growled, “Spit it out, Red.”
“There’s nothing to spit,” she said, all too quickly. “I just…you’re human, Spike. That’s amazing even if it’s not permanent. I mean, don’t you think so?”
He was trying not to think about it at all. There were odd pains and weird rhythms and unexpected flashes of cold and hot throughout this body he barely remembered. Worrying about Buffy had seemed a perfectly logical alternative to considering what was going on with him, and he didn’t appreciate the witch making it worse by reminding him that he wasn’t a vampire any more.
“There they are,” Giles interrupted.
Grateful for the distraction, Spike followed the Watcher’s line of sight to where the students milled around on the sidelines, watching a shrimpy guy in shorts and a whistle barking some nonsense about a clipboard he held in the air. All the young people seemed to meld into a verge of color and shapes, and as his search for Buffy remained fruitless, frustration began to coil in Spike’s gut. This was a definite drawback, he decided. As a human, he couldn’t pick her out of a crowd like he could back in their time, didn’t have her heartbeat memorized like a favorite song. She was just another body in a sea of others, and he was impotent to do anything more than keep on searching for her.
Then he saw her. Standing on the edge of the group. And he felt like a complete git for not having found her in the first place.
In spite of the dated clothing, Buffy held herself with the same Slayer grace Spike had come to know so well. Her body was fuller, rounder in all the right places, and while he got hard looking at the swell of her ass in those skin-tight jeans, he couldn’t help but question if her leaner look back home was due to natural weight loss or poor health. Had he been so glad to see her that he’d overlooked any dangerous eating habits?
Spike frowned. He didn’t like that thought at all. He would have to be much more diligent about seeing that Buffy ate properly once they got back.
Other than that mild concern, however, she seemed to glow with health, the sun brightening her hair, her skin bronzed from months spent in its radiance. An amused smile tilted her mouth as she seemed to listen to whatever the teacher was saying, but when she glanced away and saw the trio standing on the opposite side of the stadium, even with his glasses, Spike could see the relief palpable in her face.
They waited as Buffy’s hand shot up to get the teacher’s attention. Her words were too unintelligible at that distance, but quickly, she was walking away from the class, breaking into a light jog in order to reach them even more quickly.
“That didn’t take long,” she said as she approached. “And just in time, too. There’s only so much of Snyder I can…”
Her voice trailed off as her gaze settled on Spike. For a moment, her luminous eyes grew wider as it flickered over his attire, but as he steeled himself for her mockery, her smile returned.
“Always been bad, huh?” she said. And that was that. There was a tease in her tone, but the friendly smile remained even after she turned back to her Watcher.
“Where’s Anya?” she asked, already changing the subject.
Briefly, Willow explained the memory loss, but before she was finished, Buffy was already nodding her head. “Same with Xander,” she said. “You don’t think it has something to do with the fact that they were in the gym and we weren’t, do you? I mean, we are assuming this has something to do with the reunion, right? Because that makes the most sense right now.”
“Quite logical,” Giles agreed. “Which helps us focus our attentions on how to reverse it. We just need to get the books to do so.”
“Off to the magic shop then.” Pushing her way past them, Buffy had taken quite a few steps before realizing that nobody was following her. “What?”
“What are you doing?” Rupert asked.
Buffy’s smile was brilliant. “It’s called skipping class, Giles. Welcome to high school.”
To be continued in Chapter 4: Say You, Say Me…
And there you have it. The only completed chapters of my most indulgent fic. I have half of chapter 4 done, and an outline complete with 80's song titles for chapter names, sitting on my hard drive, but somehow, I've always managed to talk myself out of finishing this. I think it's because I feel guilty about writing it. I mean, it's completely about me a) having fun putting the Scoobies in the 80's, and b) wanting to write a high school fic that wasn't a high school fic. I graduated in '87, and reliving all this, and having images come into my head was tremendous fun. But I've done this kind of story before. Look at Rhapsody. Or Beg the Liquid Red. All that's different is the message I wanted to convey (for Buffy to learn that no matter what happens, life goes on and you can never go back to the way things were). But I still read these chapter and smile, and I play through the scenes I know coming up and I laugh, and so it's probably worth it in the end to share at least these snippets. At least, I hope so. :)