Fic: The Sleepless Beast Knows Best
Characters: Buffy, Spike, and a bunch of Angel Season 5 folks.
Word count: 2350
Summary: It’s the 2003 Wolfram & Hart Halloween Party, and Buffy’s been invited.
A/N: For Angel non-watchers, it’s the one where Lorne accidentally starts broadcasting destinies rather than just reading them.
Drunk guests? Check. Disco ball? Check. Unslayable demons dancing to The Ketchup Song? Checkity check check.
Stupid “neutral” territory, thought Buffy. Why was she even here, again? Oh, right. Some friend of Willow’s had called up with news of her vampire and an invitation to a corporate Halloween party at Wolfram & Hart, Angel’s new project. Well, the vampire was a no-show and the party blew.
“I can’t wait to see his face,” slurred Fred. Neither could Buffy, but her wishes were apparently not being granted tonight. Fred continued, confidentially. “He really is a sweet guy. He saved my life, y’know.”
“Kinda his thing, lately,” said Buffy. Fred had mentioned this a couple of times already.
“Sweet guy?” Wesley giggled while hovering over Fred in a totally transparent way. He might have manly stubble and not-at-all-sexy scars, but he was still a doofus. “William the Bloody would rip out your throat for saying any such thing.”
“Nuh uh,” sing-songed Fred, shaking her finger airily.
“Uh huh,” riposted Wes, who clearly thought he was being debonair.
Buffy thought about what Fred said, and suspected Spike was likely to roll over and offer his soft underbelly to the woman who could call him ‘a sweet guy’ and mean it. She pushed away thoughts of his belly, which truthfully wasn’t all that soft, and wondered how Fred had managed to get Spike figured out in such a short time. What had taken Buffy five years to understand, she’d realized in five months. Willow had said that Fred was super smart and, of course, Spike was a lot less prickly now that he had a soul. That must be it. It couldn’t be that Spike had made adorable little Fred his new confidante or anything. At least Spike wasn’t part of the horde of men — okay, two men — following Fred around the party. Not that he wasn’t free to follow whatever person he wanted. Just. Why hadn’t he let her know he wasn’t dead?
Buffy saw that weirdly familiar guy, Knox, hovering nearby and just knew he was about to try insinuating himself with Fred again. She didn’t need to be in the middle of that whole thing. Love triangles: so not her thing. She couldn’t shake the feeling that Knox was evil, despite his charming boyish grin. Which, if Fred was interested, who was Buffy to judge? He was human, and more importantly, under Angel’s protection. She’d promised she’d take the night off, Slayer-wise. She left them all to it and went to find the bar. The drinks must be good, if Fred and Wes were any indication.
The dance floor was jumping. Harmony was smiling and bouncing like she didn’t have a care in the world. Harmony. Harmony who now worked for Angel and who she also wasn’t allowed to slay. Harmony was having a blast while Buffy hung out on the sidelines. Figured. There could be no clearer sign that this was not Buffy’s scene.
It was officially Angel’s scene, but he looked just as uncomfortable as Buffy felt. He’d barely been able to say hello before being swept off by his handler to do the meet and greet thing. Now he was stuck by the wine fountain — she hoped it was a wine fountain — listening to some dreary-faced demon clan leader. Buffy realized that her situation could be worse. She could be here in a formal capacity, like Angel was. Making nice with the demon upper crust. Served him right, taking on this ridiculous empire of evil. Change from the inside? Sure. Good luck with that.
She felt a twinge. Angel had tried to help with the last big Sunnydale fight. She should probably try to be supportive. Should get over her annoyance that his contribution had killed her second in command. It wasn’t really his fault. He’d warned her that the amulet was volatile. Its use was ultimately her responsibility. But, oh, she’d desperately wanted to share the blame. Maybe she could start to forgive Angel now that Spike was not as dead as she’d thought.
Not entirely dead, according to rumor, but still missing. Where was he?
She surveyed the dance floor again. Spike was always going on about the dance, all metaphor-y and “look at our mythos”, like she cared about that. Sometimes a dance was just a dance, for cripes sake. Like right now, with that demonic conga line winding around the room.
She did love to dance.
Before she even realized it, her hips were swaying to the music and she was drifting closer to the bopping bodies. As she pulled even with a giant paper maché skull sculpture, she heard a familiar voice say her name.
Finally. She looked around, but only saw the big skull.
“Spike? Where are you?”
“Thought I was in hell. Rethinking that at the moment.”
Buffy studied the skull. “I dunno. This place is close enough. Are you hiding in that weird head?”
“Not hiding,” he said, unconvincingly.
“C’mon, Spike. Fred explained your ghosty-toasty thing. Come out where I can see you.”
“Lorne said I should get my head together first,” he said, as if that explained anything. Buffy continued to stare at the grinning skull. “Seems…right in here.”
“Well, it’s not. I want to talk to you. I came a long way to do it.” The skull didn’t respond. “And, I’d kinda like to dance with you.”
“That right?” The voice tried for seductive, but barely made it to surprised. “Can’t say I blame you. The Dark Paper Pusher over there’d mash your toes to paste. One thing in my favor: light on my feet.”
She laughed. There was a long pause before he spoke again.
“Turn around, then. Need to concentrate.”
She shrugged and turned toward the dance floor again. This, she could do: trust him at her back in a room full of demons. She’d done it a hundred times before. She felt a whisper-soft pressure on her hip. After another few moments she felt a similar touch on her opposite shoulder. The gentle contact on her hip began to increase and decrease with the beat of the music. She let herself move to the rhythm the phantom touches suggested.
After a few minutes, she felt the barely-there contact on her shoulder skim slowly down her arm to her hand. She felt a slight pressure on her palm. It felt…good. A little tingly.
“How are you doing that?”
“Reality bends to desire.” She could hear the strain of concentration in his voice. “Never really worked for us before, has it?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I can remember a few times.” The gentle pushing on her hip faltered, then resumed. The pressure on her palm increased a little.
“Gotta say, this is yards better than picking up a sodding coffee cup.”
“Flatterer.” He huffed a chuckle near her ear, but no air stirred her hair.
The conga line drew closer. The lead dancer was Angel’s green demon, the one who had been trying so hard to get the party going. Buffy had been avoiding him. His red laser gaze found her now. He handed off the reins to the dancer behind him and came over to join them.
“Spike, you’ve been holding out on us! Introduce me to your stunning friend.”
“Buffy, this is Lorne, the host of tonight’s little get together. Lorne, meet Buffy Summers, the Vampire Slayer.”
“The Buffy? It’s an honor to finally meet you! It’s easy to see what all the fuss is about. Look at you two. Didn’t I say that the moment she laid eyes on you, all your worries would disappear?”
Haven’t laid eyes on him yet, thought Buffy. Spike’s ghostly grip seemed to tighten.
“Have a few worries, mate. Still a phantom. Still a vampire. Neither of which the Slayer needs.”
“Excuse me? The Slayer is right here, and she can decide for herself what she needs.” Buffy spun to look at him.
The sight of him made all the stuff that had been weighing on her fade to insignificance. Was he permanently incorporeal? How did he feel about her, now that she’d gotten him killed? Was she ready for the responsibility of a relationship if he still wanted one? Was Angel going evil? Would Willow go off the rails again? Would Giles turn into some sort of priggish Council Guy now that he was more or less running things? Should she buy that pair of shoes she’d seen this afternoon at the Beverly Center, even if they did cost a half-month’s salary? None of it mattered, now that she could see Spike again.
He looked...well, he looked just like he had when she’d come back from the dead that one time. She suspected that she might have the same wondering expression on her face.
“See? Didn’t I tell you, lemon drop?” Lorne sighed contentedly. “Everybody loves a lover.”
Buffy reached for Spike’s cheek, and when she didn’t find anything solid there she pitched forward. She stumbled right through him and ran into a firm chest. She looked up to see Angel. He was looking at Spike the same way that Spike looked at her.
Oh. Maybe that’s why Spike hadn’t called? That oil suggestion had just been a joke! Wait, there wasn’t any oil involved because Spike was not corporeal, ergo not oil-able.
She looked around. Fred, Wes, Knox, and bunch of people and demons she didn’t know had gathered. They were all looking at Spike with adoring expressions. Well, that made sense. He was a fine specimen, though she wasn’t used to getting a lot of agreement on that score. It was nice that people were finally getting what she saw in him.
Except Lorne, who looked worried.
“This isn’t right,” said Lorne. “After everything these two have been through, they ought to get their happy ending. Spike’s been a ghost long enough. Surely, with all these connections and resources, somebody in this room can figure out how to put him back in the land of the unliving.”
A young woman barely older than Buffy spoke up. “I can make a call,” she said, fishing out her cell phone. “Not sure it’ll work, but there’s a guy who knows a guy, who might know a way.”
She walked a few paces away and held a mumbled conversation. Angel shot her a mistrustful look, but then went back to gazing at Spike. Buffy could feel something banging away at her memory, but she knew it couldn’t be anything important.
The young woman kept talking into her phone. “Yes, now. I’m sure. What do I need to...okay. Gotcha.”
She walked over and held the phone near Spike’s head. “This should only take a second.”
Angel started forward. “Eve, what are you trying to pull?”
“Just doing a little problem solving, Angel.”
A screeching sound issued from the phone, and a flash that wasn’t a flash made everybody blink.
Spike took a deep sniff and patted his chest, then his face. He broke out into a wide grin and pulled Buffy in for a hard, short kiss. He threw his head back and laughed. He dove in to kiss Eve, then Fred, and took a step toward Harmony. He hesitated, and stepped back at the same time that Buffy caught the collar of his coat and pulled. He turned his smile on her.
“Let’s do this properly, eh?” He encircled her with his arms, leaned down and gently pressed his lips to hers. At least it started out gentle. It soon became the most thorough kiss she thought she’d ever experienced, and only ended when the very last of her air ran out. She stood in his arms, hers wrapped around his neck, their foreheads pressed together. There was nothing in the world but the two of them. Well, except the people standing around watching them like they were the most adorable kitten video on the internet.
It was perfect.
Until the shouting started on the other side of the room. But that was okay, because the dismembered demon in the washroom meant they had a case to work, and it was so good to work with him again.
The party kept going even though that guy Gunn kept peeing on things, Angel and Eve kept sneaking off to have sex, and poor Lorne was getting more and more stressed. Fred and Wes couldn’t stop giggling and slurring, but somehow the clues added up to a solution. Buffy and Spike got to fight with the Hulk-o-version of Lorne while Fred and Wes worked out how to make the manifestation go “poof”. It was fun! Right up to the moment when Fred fired her gizmo and put Lorne to sleep.
Buffy looked at Spike and realized that those shoes in the Beverly Center were definitely too expensive.
Her other worries were less easy to resolve. Spike looked stricken. She gave his shoulder an experimental push. Still solid.
“Well, at least you’re not a ghost anymore. Welcome back to the land of ‘everybody’s got problems’.”
“Spike, I know there’s a lot to figure out about this whole thing…”
“And, the mystical mind-messing again makes it even more complicated...”
“Don’t expect anything…”
“...but I came here hoping you’d come back with me.”
“Know you don’t need me bollixing up your life...what was that?”
“I want you to come back to England with me. We could really use you on the team.”
“Oh. Right. Need the muscle, I suppose.”
She snorted. “Uh, no. Not really. Remember that Slayer empowering spell? We’ve got oceans full of muscle. What we really need is cunning. Experience.”
She didn’t mean “experience” as a double entendre, not really. He searched her face. She wasn’t sure what he was hoping to find there. All she could do was look back at him, steady and calm. Finally, he nodded.
“Ah. Well then, perhaps I’m your man.”
She took his hand. The tingling was still there.
“I’m counting on it. Let’s dance.”