Title: Boots to the Fire (Escape)
Word count: 2350
A/N: Ostensibly set just after the end of the Season 8 comics, but you need not have read (or liked) them in order to enjoy this bit o’ fluff.
Summary: In the grand old (since January 2011) tradition of Spuffy fic centered around Dawn and Xander’s San Francisco fire escape, I bring you a story that begins with a make-out scene…
It wasn’t until Buffy was living and slaying in San Francisco that her fascination with black motorcycle boots became an actual problem. Tonight, she’d been distracted by a couple of really toned leather boys in tall boots making out in the alley behind Trannyshack. It happened sometimes. It was her sacred duty to keep guys like that safe from the things that go bump in the dark alleys behind bars. If she caught sight of a little grinding and groping in the execution of said duty, it wasn’t like it was her fault. Okay, so it might be a little voyeuristic; it was also all the action she was getting these days.
Except of the slaying variety, of course. Which meant that she couldn’t enjoy the sight of all that leather and chestage for even a minute before some stupid Phish phan vamp snuck up on her. She ducked his grabby hands, kicking back to land a foot solidly in his gut. He folded, whiteboy dreads flying, but turned it into a desperate lunge when she whirled to get some torque on a roundhouse kick. She used his wobbly momentum to bend down and flip him right off the edge of the roof behind her. There was an unpleasant tug and a ripping sound as he fell. She stumbled forward a step, then spun to see him land on a pile of jagged wooden pallets. Hey, presto!
That wasn’t the end of her problems, though, as he’d somehow managed to hook a claw into her waistband. The entire back seam of her slaying pants was ripped open — the pants were a total write-off. She couldn’t even keep patrolling unless she wanted to give the city’s entire vampire population an eyeful. Which she didn’t. She wasn’t that hard-up.
She held the back of her pants together with one hand and waved with the other at the leather boys, who were staring open mouthed between where she stood on the edge of the roof and the broken pallets where a body clearly was not. They’d been pretty busy a minute ago, so she doubted they’d seen much.
“Wow, that weather balloon just dissolved!” she tried. The guy with the complicated chest harness raised an eyebrow, while the one in the tight leather shorts just looked confused. Oh right, the weather balloon thing was for hand-waving away UFOs. She was going to have to add a lot more semi-plausible explanations for disappearing vamps to her repertoire.
“Hey, I think that guy was a vampire,” said Harness to Shorts. Shorts nodded thoughtfully.
Or she could just let people figure it out for themselves…
She shrugged off her hoodie and tied it around her hips to cover her butt, looking for a way off the roof while still preserving some semblance of modesty. The now familiar litany of ohmigod, he was so close, we could’ve been killed drifted after her. “You’re welcome,” she muttered. She just knew that their make-out session was about to get even hotter. Somewhere-in-the-vicinity-of-death experiences had that effect on people. She remembered the feeling well.
It’s not like she didn’t know why the boot thing got to her. If things had been dry on the sex-having front since before Sunnydale imploded, now that she was sleeping on the couch in Dawn & Xander’s living room the situation had ratcheted up to arid. Not to mention the fact that temptation kept swinging by for
Spike always had a good reason to stop by. Vamp nest in the Sunset. Vauxhall beast spotted near Stow Lake. It was always sensible. Always work-related. Never, “Oh, hey Buffy. Want to take in the new Daniel Craig movie at the Clay? It’s probably crap, but a lot of stuff blows up. Afterward we can discuss your thing for British blonds. Whadayasay?” Nope, never that. Then, intel delivered, he’d go, his damned boots the last thing she saw of him as he clomped up the fire escape to the roof.
She’d never invited him in, because, well, what was the point? It wasn’t her house, for one thing. It wouldn’t be fair to Dawn and Xander. But the main thing was that their relationship was of the strictly business variety. What were they gonna do? Give each other foot rubs? She remembered when she used to see his actual feet. Those days, the days of bare feet, were over. Ancient history. All her future held was boots, and so boots were what she fixated on. It made all kinds of sense.
She trudged up the stairs to the apartment, stopping every few steps to adjust the insufficient jacket she had tied around her waist. She paused in front of the door, hating to barge in on Dawn and Xander’s Saturday night. What had they said was on the agenda? Oh, right: poker night. She breathed a sigh of relief. At least she wouldn’t be interrupting anything not fit for a sister’s eyes. Unless it was strip…nah. As she shoved her key in the lock, she heard a rattling sound followed by a thump from the other side. She fixed a bright smile in place and walked in.
Dawn, Xander, and Clem were seated unevenly around the circular table, studying their cards with elaborate concentration. Dawn gave her a distracted wave. All were fully dressed. All were fully shod, but all of them wore boring athletic shoes, so…
“Everything okay? I thought I heard-- Hey Clem! I didn’t know you came to poker night!”
“Hey Buffy! Yep, Saturday night regular, that’s me!” He beamed at her and started to get up. She clutched her knotted sweatshirt with one hand and waved him off with the other.
“Oh! Don’t get up. Just…wardrobe malfunction on patrol. I’ll be back on the mean streets as soon as I change into something a little less perforated.”
She scuttled sideways over to the hall closet, also known as the repository of All Buffy’s Worldly Possessions, grabbed a fresh pair of pants and walked backwards into the bathroom. She emerged a minute later with relief. She sat in the empty chair at the table. Everybody was awfully quiet tonight.
“So, a regular, huh?” She absently traced a wet ring on the table in front of her. Clem bobbed his head enthusiastically, making his ears jiggle in a way that made Buffy feel a little homesick.
“Yeah, it’s super nice to hang with the old Sunnydale crew. I’m liking the Northern California ambience. Way more laid back than LA. People can get really hung up on appearances down there. Like…whoa.” He shook his head at the futility of understanding some people.
Buffy nodded in sympathy. She picked at the cards in front of her, tilting up the edges just enough to see several queens before letting them flick back down.
“I can imagine. Hey, I didn’t mean to interrupt your game. It’s really great to see you, though.” She had a sudden inspiration. “You should totally come by my work for coffee sometime!”
“Oh man. I’ve really had to cut out the caffeine lately. But I wouldn’t say no to a cheesy-scone, if you carry ‘em.”
“You got it.”
“It’s a date, then.”
She bounded up and gave him a hug. An old friend was something to treasure. He patted her back awkwardly with one hand, holding his cards to his chest with the other.
“Well, I’m off for more thrills and adventure. I’m thinking one more sweep through SOMA, then I’ll hit the Tenderloin on the way home when the bars close. Don’t wait up.”
“Remember, I’m making waffles tomorrow,” Xander said.
“You’re too good to us!” called out Buffy just before pulling the door shut.
The players sat unmoving, listening carefully to Buffy clattering lightly down the stairs. When they heard the distant ka-click of the front door closing, they relaxed. Dawn let out a long breath and walked over to open the living room window. She stuck her head out and looked up.
“Psst!” she hissed.
Booted feet landed on the fire escape landing. Spike bent down to look around the room warily.
“She gone, then?”
“Yeah.” He slipped through the window with his usual vampiric fluidity. Dawn cocked a brow. “You know this is stupid, right?”
“Now, now, Bit. Wouldn’t want to deprive the Slayer of her fun, would we?” He dropped into the empty chair Buffy had just vacated.
“Doesn’t seem all that fun to me. It can get cold out there!”
“Me ‘n the Slayer do alright in the fresh air,” said Spike, running his tongue along his top teeth.
Dawn gave him a look that clearly said don’t even. “You’re not fooling anybody.”
He shrugged. “’Sides, the fun part’s yet to happen. She’ll come over all Lady Bountiful one day and invite me in.” He got a dreamy expression on his face. “Can see it now…it’s gonna be sweet.” Dawn rolled her eyes. Clem bit his lip and looked off to the side.
“You’re a far more patient man than I ever would’ve guessed,” said Xander, shaking his head.
“Not one to push in where I’m not wanted,” said Spike, to the snorts of his companions. “Just waiting for her to make the first move, is all.” Spike fished a lowball glass and a bottle of Laphroaig out of his deep pockets, ignoring their pitying looks. He poured a measure, and placed the bottle down on exactly the circle Buffy had been tracing moments ago.
“You know how it is. Some things are worth the wait, eh mate?” He tipped his glass to Xander, indicating Dawn with an arched brow.
Nobody seemed to have an argument for that, so they went back to their game.
Buffy was half a block away when it hit her. She wasn’t the longest-lived Slayer in history because she was unobservant, after all.
She turned back before she got to the corner store. Who would want to hide from her? The only people she didn’t want to see were on a different continent. Willow had been kind of distant lately, but not enough to ditch her. The Don’t-Call-Me-Slayers didn’t hang with her sister, for obvious reasons. Some random co-worker of Xander’s wouldn’t flee rather than face her. They didn’t even know her! Was her reputation that scary to guys?
It didn’t make sense, and in her experience things that didn’t make sense needed to be investigated. One sneaky maneuver deserved another. She passed by the front door, rounding the corner into her building’s narrow service alley. Dodging the recycling bins, she stood looking up at the fire escape. It was too high for a burglar to reach, but burglars didn’t have Slayer powers. She took a standing jump to catch the bottom edge and swung noiselessly onto the first landing. She crept up the remaining four stories with admirable stealth, reaching her window just in time to hear a familiar crow of victory.
“Full house, folks. Ladies over deuces. Not your night, is it?”
She plastered herself next to the window, fighting a touch of vertigo. Spike? Spike was the mystery player? But, how? Dawn and Xander didn’t even know he came around!
Except…obviously they did. While she was busy keeping his visits a secret, knowing that they’d flip if they knew she was still on speaking terms with a souled vampire, they were inviting him in for poker. She took a quick peek into the room. Poker and cheesy snacks! There was clearly something she wasn’t getting in this scenario.
She peeked in again. Xander was by the open fridge, asking who wanted another beer. Clem was shuffling the cards. Dawn was laughing at something Spike had just said. She rested her head against the wall and processed this.
Spike was inside the apartment and everything was incredibly…normal.
Her brain did a little lurch, and all of the sudden she saw that things were not as complicated as she’d been making them. She reached over and let a knuckle fall softly against the glass. Twice.
She heard a chair scrape inside. “I’m out this hand. Smoke break.” The window beside her slid up, and Spike climbed out. His eyes flicked toward her, then away as he straightened.
“Buffy,” he said to the night sky.
They stood beside each other, listening to the murmuring from inside. She considered asking him if he thought she was an idiot, but realized that it wouldn’t matter. She knew the answer.
“So,” she said, after awhile. “There’s this Daniel Craig movie playing at the Clay. Want to catch the late show?”
He cautiously turned his head to look at her. “Hear it’s crap,” he tried. His voice was sort of hoarse.
“Yep. Lots of explosions, though. Plus, it’s rumored that some hot British blond does a bunch of running and fighting in it. I’m kinda into that.”
His cautious look turned to wonder for a brief moment. Then he smiled. “Are you, now?”
“Yeah. It’s this thing.” She shrugged one shoulder.
His eyes seemed to shine brighter. “Hmmm. Well, must do my part to keep the Slayer entertained.” He toed the grating of the fire escape with his boot. She looked down, mesmerized. “It’s a date,” he said, the hint of a question in his voice.
“A date,” she echoed. She tore her eyes away from his boots. “I’ll pick you up from your game in an hour, ‘kay?” She stood on tiptoes and kissed his cheek, then fled down the fire escape.
For once, her last sight of him was not his disappearing feet. Instead, she savored a clear picture of an awed vampire, touching his cheek in surprise. She still had time for a quick sweep around the neighborhood. She didn't think a glimpse of motorcycle boots would slow her down anymore tonight.
Some San Francisco tidbits:
• Trannyshack — Not so much a place as a show. It was a weekly event at a bar called The Stud for many years. To see what the organizers are up to now, go to http://www.trannyshack.com/
• Phish phans — What the followers of the band Phish call themselves. Like Deadheads, some of them have made a lifestyle of following their heroes from show to show.
• Leather boys — The phrase encompasses quite a few different subgroups. They can be straight, gay, or some variation thereof. But, like Buffy, they know what they like.
• The Sunset — A traditionally fog-bound neighborhood.
• Stow Lake — A doughnut-shaped lake in Golden Gate Park where paddle boats can be rented.