Authors: the_moonmoth & bewildered/bewilde
Length: ~11,200 words this chapter (79k in total so far)
Warnings: Sexual situations, bad language, violence, smut. Suicidal ideation. Temporary Spike/Other and Buffy/Other.
Summary: Spike travels back in time to change the future. It goes poorly.
Notes: Apologies for the delay in getting this second half posted. Moony was supposed to do it during her kiddo's nap time, but then she fell asleep too, d'oh :)
Buffy made a quick detour by the Espresso Pump for some coffee-to-go before heading home -- for some reason, once she’d left Spike behind with Giles, the fact that she’d only slept a handful of hours on a marble slab kicked in and she couldn’t stop yawning. She presented one of the cups to her mother with a smile.
“Sorry I’m late. I offer this trendy caffeinated beverage in recompense.”
Joyce accepted it with an exasperated smile, taking a sip. “Interesting. What is this?”
“The latest fad in java. Pumpkin spice. I’ve been wanting to try it.”
“Hmm.” Joyce took another tentative sip. “Interesting.”
“You just said interesting twice. That does not bode well.” Buffy took her own sip. “Ugh. Okay, this is one fad I will be happy to see in the rear-view mirror, like shoulder pads and poodle perms.”
“Well, that is the nice thing about fads. Eventually, they go away.” Joyce gratefully surrendered her nearly-full cup to Buffy.
“So, did you find it?” Buffy shoved the coffee cups to the back of the sideboard, stifling a yawn.
“It took a while. I must have opened a dozen boxes before finding the right one. You’re just lucky I love you so much.” Joyce’s eyes narrowed speculatively when Buffy yawned again. “Late night last night?”
“A little. Oh, but I wasn’t partying.” Buffy held up the red gingham dress in front of her mysteriously hot face, thinking of Spike in the morning, the musky smell of his shirt.... She wasn’t lying! She was just… not volunteering information her mother might disapprove of. Which was her right as a bona-fide adult. “Wow, can you believe this used to be huge on me?”
“Hmm.” Joyce sighed. “Would you like some tea?”
“Yes, please.” As her mom disappeared into the kitchen, Buffy set the dress and its polka-dotted apron aside, slinging the red hooded cape around her shoulders.
“Kettle’s on.” Her mom leaned against the doorframe. “So, will it do?”
Buffy frowned. “The dress is good, I think, but this is a little tight around the throat. Not a big fan of the choking.” A memory of Spike flashed into her brain -- him grinning up at her in the sunlight as her fingers tightened on his throat -- and she hurriedly untied the ribbon, turning away in case her face was as red as her hood.
She was definitely in need of more sleep, because there was no logical reason whatsoever that the thought of straddling Spike with her hands tight on his throat should make her feel all squirmy and hot -- well, okay, there was a reason, that fight had been fodder for fantasy nearly every night since then, but there was still something distinctly weird about thinking squirmy hot thoughts with her mom standing just a few feet away, just like that uncomfortable moment at Giles’s when she’d noticed just how nice Spike’s rear end was while Giles had been there, waving his godawful tassels and being all stodgy and Gilesy, and it just wasn’t right. Lusty wrong thoughts belonged in Loofahland, not getting all up in her head at all the wrong times, and so she shoved the image of her hands on Spike’s throat and the image of her hands on Spike’s really fantastic ass -- along with that new, completely wrong image where one hand was on his throat and the other on his ass, not to mention where she’d decided his hands should be -- way back in her brain, and turned back to her mom with a brilliant, totally-not-thinking-naughty-thoughts smile.
Joyce was regarding her with an indulgent, wry expression. “You could always not tie the ribbon quite so tight.”
“Oh. Well, I could do that, I suppose. But it’s, um, a bit short.”
“Longer than the dress,” her mom pointed out, but she held out her hand for the cloak. “I’ll let down the hem.” She seated herself at her sewing machine -- how long had it been since she’d had that out? -- and started to thread it.
“Thanks, Mom.” The kettle started to whistle. “I’ll fix the tea. It’s the least I can do after The Great Pumpkin Spice Coffee Debacle.”
“Please. Milk, no sugar.”
Buffy flipped the spout up to stop the whistling and poured the water over the tea bags her mother had already set up in mugs, watching the brown of the tea bloom and diffuse throughout the water, which was peaceful and meditative, exactly what she needed after the supersonic rollercoaster of thoughts and emotions that she had been riding on ever since confusing-future-Spike had rolled into town.
The real problem, she reluctantly admitted to herself, was that she’d had Spike filed away in her head under E for Evil, a categorization that made him basically fair game for random fantasies because it wasn’t like they were ever going to actually do anything other than beat each other up. F for Fantasy was right in that same file drawer, and when fantasy-time was over, she’d always been able to just shut them both away and go on with her life, secure in the conviction that Fantasy and Reality (down in the R-drawer) were never going to meet. It had been freeing, and she’d imagined all sorts of scenarios that she would never, ever let happen in real life -- or make happen, since for some reason her Spike-fantasies tended to go in all sorts of… domineering directions -- all without any actual danger to her heart or soul.
But this future-Spike, he upset her whole file system, refiling everything willy-nilly until there was a whole Spike drawer with all sorts of stuff from that F-drawer -- Fantasy and Fun and Fighting and maybe even Friendship -- plus a bunch of other things from all over the alphabet, H for Humor and C for Conversation and L for Laughter, and then adding in S for Sexy and another L for Lust, and it was like he’d just upended the whole cabinet into a pile of manila folders and was lying naked and grinning and unrepentant right smack in the middle, and --
Tea! she thought grimly. You’re making tea, which has nothing to do with Spike. How many minutes has it been?
She hadn’t checked the clock, and in her head naked-amongst-the-files Spike clucked his tongue at her disapprovingly -- she hadn’t ever seen him drink tea, but he was English, he probably had a fancy teapot tucked away in his lair and drank with his pinky out when nobody was around and totally cared whether his tea had been steeped precisely three minutes or four minutes -- and rolled to his feet and sauntered towards her.
Naughty girls must be punished, he purred, and then he fell to his knees and flipped up her skirt and --
Yep. This was a real problem.
Buffy sighed and decided the tea had steeped enough -- since it was not, in fact, helping her clear her mind -- and poured in a little milk, rejoining her mom in the dining room. She was holding up the red cloak, looking at it judiciously, a faint smile on her face.
“Oh, no,” Buffy said, setting the mugs on the table. “Someone’s getting nostalgic face.” Though she was one to talk; she was suddenly thinking back fondly as well. Things had been so much simpler when she was twelve.
“I’m sorry, I’m just thinking about the little girl who wore that… what is it? Five, six years ago?”
“Yeah, Little Red Riding Hood was the cutting edge in costumes.” Buffy reached out and fingered the red satin wistfully.
Joyce raised her eyebrows. “Most little girls didn’t insist their Little Red Riding Hood costume required an axe.”
“It’s what I get for letting you watch that musical. You were the bloodthirstiest twelve-year-old on the block.”
“Says the woman who dressed up as the wolf.”
Her mom smiled wistfully. “What can I say, your father really liked that costume.” The subtle emphasis on really was… expressive. Buffy wrinkled up her nose.
And then her heart sort of sank, as it always did whenever she thought about her dad.
“Your father loved to take you out trick or treating,” Joyce said, catching her mood.
“He just wanted the candy.”
“No, he wanted to keep you safe. The candy was for me.” Buffy couldn’t help a small smile at that. Joyce continued, “Your father loved spending time with you.”
“Not enough, I guess.” Buffy sighed. “Why are men so…” She flapped her hand helplessly.
“Oh honey, our divorce had nothing to do with you.”
“I don’t know. I’m starting to feel like there’s a pattern here. Open your heart to someone and he bails on you. And then when the next someone comes along, and he seems really smart and funny and like he’s got your back, and you really want to trust him, and he hasn’t given you a single reason not to, but there’s still some part of you that’s scared it’ll happen all over again, and just when you think everything’s perfect, he’ll just -- poof! -- disappear.” There was a long, slightly awkward pause. “Was that last bit even a sentence?” she asked lamely.
Joyce reached across the table and took her hand. “Is this about something in particular?”
Buffy flushed. “No! I mean, not really. It’s just… a hypothetical, you know?”
“I see,” Joyce said, but it was altogether too knowing for Buffy’s comfort. Her mom definitely couldn’t see inside her head, right? She decided to valiantly ignore it. “Well, I won’t lie, it can be really hard to get out there again when your trust has been broken. For a while, I thought it might be easier not to let anyone in. You must have noticed I’m not exactly the social butterfly I was when I was with your dad. It’s natural to feel gunshy, but you can’t shut yourself away forever. You’re so young, Buffy. I’m not saying go after the first handsome boy who smiles at you,” she added, with a mock sternness that made Buffy snort. “But if, after you’ve spent a lot of time with someone, getting to know them and understand them, and making sure they’re worthy of you, if that… Mr. Hypothetical… is worth it, I guess you just have to... take a risk... and hope for the best.”
Her mom spoke that last part as though she were trying to convince herself of something, which was weird. Buffy nodded uncertainly. She hadn’t ever really thought about guys as being worthy or unworthy of her before; she’d always been the one doing the chasing. Maybe part of her had even started to believe that she’d never get a boyfriend without bending over backwards to be perfect. Maybe that was why she’d been such easy prey for Parker, who’d been the first guy in a long time to approach her. Huh.
“That’s… insightful. Thanks, Mom.”
She didn’t feel like she had to bend over anything to please Spike. He just sorta seemed pleased with her regardless. Wanting to bend over something to please him was another matter...
Joyce shrugged a little sheepishly. “You tend to do some serious thinking after your boyfriend turns out to be a homicidal robot.” She blinked. “On second thought, maybe you shouldn’t be taking my advice.”
Buffy hurriedly stuffed the image of Spike bending her over a gravestone away for later.
“You have to admit,” she said. “We do kind of have a track record of bad, guy-related decisions. D’ya think it’s genetic?”
“I prefer to call them learning experiences,” Joyce said primly, and then they both laughed softly. “But seriously, Buffy, even when things feel like they aren’t going right, I will always be here for you. And you’ve got Mr. Giles and your friends, and… Spike?”
Buffy started. “What? How did you know about…?
But Joyce was looking distractedly out of the window. “No, I mean, Spike’s outside.”
“Oh, right. Giles must’ve dropped him off. I should…” she gestured vaguely towards the door.
“Oh, is he coming with you to the party?” Somehow her mom didn’t look all that surprised. Although, why else would be hanging about outside her house?
“Uh, well, he kinda has to. You remember what I said about him being from the future? Giles wants him to prove it, so there’s this thing going down tonight, and basically I need to keep eyeballs on him. Not literally, because ew. Although, Halloweeny.”
“Right,” Joyce said with a look of amusement. “Well, does he have a costume?”
“You mean aside from the…” Buffy gestured head to toe. “Oh, and the…” she made a snarly vamp face.
“Aside from that, yes.”
Buffy shrugged. “Probably not. I didn’t really think about it.”
“I may opt for the quieter lifestyle myself these days,” Joyce said, “but I do remember something about costume parties requiring an actual costume.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Vamps don’t go in for that stuff, Mom. It’s beneath them, apparently.”
“Mmm hmm. Maybe I can find him something to wear that won’t offend his sense of style.” And she disappeared towards the basement.
Buffy decided not to examine the wash of relief that she could go greet Spike without witnesses. Totally lame. It wasn’t like she hadn’t just seen him an hour ago, or spent the night under the same roof as him, or been thinking about him pretty much constantly ever since.
She took a deep breath as she reached for the door handle, mentally composing something snarky about his lurking tendencies, but what came out of her mouth when she actually laid eyes on him was a shy-sounding, “Hey.”
“Hey,” he replied, eyes doing that soft, glowy thing that made her insides tumble.
“So I guess you survived. Giles, I mean.”
“Er, yeah, just about. Guess he was all out of rocksalt.”
“Guess he was.” God, why was her heart pounding so hard? “Lucky.”
Words. Words good. Speak more words. “How’s your heart?” Spike seemed to flinch minutely, and his hand went to his chest. “Still un-stakey?” Buffy clarified.
“Whole,” Spike agreed, giving her a look of such earnest intensity she felt her skin break out in prickles.
“Well, good,” she said, and finally collecting herself, stepped back for him to come inside. He didn’t move, and embarrassment slammed into her again. “Oh. Oh! You need an invite.”
He regarded her for a moment in silence, the same intensity as before, and then he seemed to shake it off, grinning, and said, “No, actually,” and stepped over the threshold.
Wait, she hadn’t uninvited him? No, she realized -- she hadn’t. Huh.
“Thought you’d be all dressed up by now,” Spike said, turning slowly as though taking in his surroundings.
“Oh, um… there were… Well. I’ve grown a bit since I was twelve.” Buffy barely managed to stop herself from gesturing at her chest, but Spike’s eyes flickered there for the barest second anyhow.
“I just bet you have.”
“Taller!” Buffy blurted out. “I’m taller.”
His grin widened. “Are you, indeed?”
“So Mom had to… Okay. I’ll just go cha-” She flushed at the sudden heat in Spike’s eyes, as if telling Spike about taking off her clothes was the same thing as actually taking off her clothes in front of Spike, the thought of which made her insides tumble even faster, like a clothes dryer on steroids, and she hurriedly snatched up her gingham dress and headed for the stairs. “I’ll be right back.”
She determinedly did not linger over the changing, getting into the dress in record time -- no zipper in the back, thank god -- and tying the apron over the top before looking in the mirror. She definitely filled the dress out better than she once had, and the shorter length exposed a nice amount of leg. She wondered if Spike would -- no, no, she didn’t. She knew she looked cute as a button, except a grown-up button this time, not a twelve-year-old button, and it didn’t matter what Spike thought. She quickly braided her hair into twin pigtails to complete the look and headed back downstairs.
Spike was still standing in the foyer alone, face oddly grim, though when she appeared at the top of the stairs his expression instantly cleared into what looked like relief. Weird. Did he think she was going to sneak out the window and go off to fight the demon without him? Not to mention without her red riding hood. Buffy prided herself on being unpredictable, but she wasn’t about to go out in a half-complete costume. Especially after her mom had just put all that work into altering the cloak for her!
After all, she wasn’t a monster.
I know I’m a monster, but you treat me like a man.
Spike’s own words to a very different Buffy, under very different circumstances, in this exact same place, echoed in his mind as he watched Buffy descend the stairs. She was wearing a little-girl dress and had her hair in little girl braids, but somewhere between the shortness of her skirt -- he barely resisted craning his neck to see up it better -- and the inexplicable glow in her eyes, she managed to look more womanly than if she’d been in a sophisticated evening gown with her hair in a glamorous updo.
And he would swear that the look in her eyes was meant for a man.
The déjà vu was suddenly almost blinding -- it was the last time he’d been in this house with his Buffy, that moment, and now the first time in this house with this Buffy, and he could almost imagine them repeating this scenario over and over into eternity, him looking up at her and her looking down at him, doomed never quite to meet.
The moment was interrupted by the sound of the basement door bumping open; shortly thereafter, Joyce bustled into the dining room, setting down a large cardboard box on the table beside the sewing machine.
“Hullo, Joyce,” Spike said with an awkward bob of his head, suddenly embarrassed. Though he supposed he shouldn’t be; weeping into his cocoa on her front porch wasn’t all that far a leap from weeping into his cocoa in her kitchen. It felt different, though -- maybe because it was Buffy and Joyce herself he’d been weeping for, or maybe because he had the memories of other conversations they’d had in his past to trip him up, or maybe even because his grief over Dru had been, at its core, a selfish grief, and now there was simply so much more at stake.
“Hello, Spike,” Joyce said, a hint of laughter in her voice. “How did things work out for you the other night?”
“Well enough,” Spike hedged, glancing up at Buffy. “The butterflies of Sunnydale have been safe with me.”
“Well, that’s a relief. I’d hate to wake up and find out that some reality-show star was suddenly the President of the United States.” She opened the box and started rummaging. “If you’ll just wait a moment, I’m pretty sure this is the right one...”
Buffy swept past Spike into the dining room. “The other night?” Her voice was casual, but there was a slight edge to it.
Her mother glanced up. “Oh, Spike just came by for some advice. Or maybe it was the cocoa.” She glanced over her shoulder at Spike. “Speaking of which, I did pick up some mini-marshmallows the last time I was at the store. Would you like a cup?”
“Mom, we don’t have time for that,” Buffy said quickly. “We have to go to the party so we can kill the mini-demon that may or may not exist.”
Joyce stopped rummaging for a moment, raising her eyes to the heavens. “You know, most mothers of college girls worry about their daughters drinking too much, or flunking Economics.”
“Don’t worry, Mom.” Buffy turned and looked at Spike steadily, a slight smile on her lips. “If Spike’s telling the truth and not, you know, neglecting to tell me any important information, I crush the mini-demon like a bug.”
Spike couldn’t quite tell whether she was teasing or sniping, but before he could riposte, Joyce broke in.
“Ah! Here it is. I hoped I would have it for you.”
“Your costume. If you’re going to a Halloween party, you need to be wearing a costume.”
“Like he--” Spike nearly bit his tongue cutting off his initial reaction. “Don’t need a costume,” he continued in a measured tone of voice. “Not going out for giggles. I have to go, by Slayer decree -- I’m just along to help kill the demon.”
“Then think of it as a disguise. You’ll want to blend in.”
“Come on,” Buffy cajoled, definitely teasing now, though there was also something earnest in her expression. “It’ll be fun!” She turned and scooped up a pile of shiny red fabric from the table, shaking it out.
“Fun? Can get all the fun I need from the killing part of the evening. Don’t need to get all rigged out like Henry the Eighth, or bloody Elvis, or--”
“Or the Big Bad Wolf?” Joyce interrupted sweetly, turning around with her hands full.
Spike fell silent, staring at the bushy tail and rubber mask that Joyce was holding.
“Come on, Spike,” Buffy grinned as she tied on her hooded cloak. “Haven’t you ever wanted to pretend to be someone you’re not?”
I’ve always been bad.
What had he told Buffy that time, sitting at the Bronze like they were on a date? Not the truth, that’s for certain, not what he’d truly been as a human, not that the entire century he’d lived as a vampire had been spent crafting his persona, creating Spike. Though he supposed it had been less pretending than becoming, growing into himself, and in the end did it really matter? He rolled his eyes and reached out for the costume. The fact that it sort of matched Buffy’s didn’t hurt.
“Bloody-- Fine. I’ll play dress-up.” He set the mask on the table for the moment and slung off his duster, regarding the tail. “You didn’t make this for me, did you?”
“Oh, no. It’s an old family costume.”
“Family costume, eh? Your father wear this when he was herding itty bitty you about, did he?” Spike raised an eyebrow at Buffy, waving the shaggy tail. Buffy opened her mouth and shut it again, face twisting in an unreadable expression that made his heart sink.
“No, actually I did,” Joyce said with a wry smile. “That year Hank was on a business trip. So Halloween was Girls’ Night. Probably for the best, as the rest of the costume involved spandex.”
Spike cast Joyce a wicked grin, taking refuge from Buffy’s reaction. “Not leather?”
“It was the early Nineties.” She shrugged, smiling. “Buffy insisted I play the part, too. Growling and snarling….”
“Sounds like a good time. Like to play the Big Bad, do we?” From the slightly mischievous light in Joyce’s eyes he’d wager she had, once upon a time. “Must have been quite the sight, you wearing this, though I’d have pegged you as a fox more than a-”
“Geez!” Buffy interrupted, glaring at Spike. “Stop making goo-goo eyes at my mom and just put on the tail already. We’ve got work to do.”
Spike rolled his eyes. Here he’d been feeling all warm and fuzzy, like he’d been invited to join in a family affair, and the Slayer had to up and get shirty. He met her grumpy eyes with a glare of his own, unhurriedly unbuckling his belt and pulling the tongue from the loops until he could slip the tail’s loop over it, sliding the tail to the back and buckling up again. He turned and presented his back to Buffy. “Will this do?” He gave his arse a mocking pat.
“That…” Buffy cleared her throat. “That’s fine. Get your mask on.”
Spike obligingly slipped the strap of the half-mask behind his head. It covered him forehead to nose, wolf snout protruding out a few inches, a fringe of fur tickling at his cheekbones. All right. He could work with this. He grinned and licked his lips, eyeing Buffy up and down, getting into the part. “Well, well, well. Aren’t you supposed to comment on what big… eyes I have?” He hooked his thumbs in his belt loops.
“Only when you’ve got Granny’s shawl on, lame-o. Read the book.” Buffy’s cheeks were pink.
“Got a shawl?” He looked over at Joyce; her face was thoughtful.
“We’re going to be late,” Buffy said firmly before Joyce could answer.
“Oh, right. Can’t keep the demon waiting.”
“So you say. Maybe it’s just a party.” Buffy struck a sexy pose. “Maybe your mysterious sources just told you I was going to look all victimy tonight.”
Dawn actually hadn’t told him what Buffy was wearing, though she’d been vocal in her annoyance with her own costume. Raggedy-Ann, had it been? Or maybe Rainbow Brite. Something both outdated and atrociously cute. If Dawn wasn’t real, where had that whole thing come from? Had the monks who created her actually come up with that storyline on their own, or had they created that memory out of his own subconscious? And if so, what did that say about… He shook that thought off, realizing that he’d been staring at Buffy’s legs the whole time. Not that they didn’t deserve it. My, what a short skirt you have….
“Not lying about the demon,” he said in a rush. “And my source was reliable.”
“My, what a big mouth you have!” Buffy warbled in a high, sugary voice. “Less talking, more walking. Mom,” she said brightly, turning to Joyce. “Thanks for fixing up my costume.”
“You’re welcome, honey,” Joyce said with a touch of exasperation in her voice, standing to give Buffy a hug. She turned to Spike, looking a trifle awkward, like she was considering whether she should offer him a hug, too, and whether he would be likely to accept one.
He would, he thought in some surprise, but he rescued her from the decision by catching up her hand and planting a kiss on her knuckles. “Thanks for the costume, Joyce,” he said, adding a little growl at the end.
She laughed. “Any time. Sorry you don’t have time for cocoa -- or tea.” She gestured to the two half-drunk mugs left abandoned on the table.
Spike could smell from here that they’d been over-brewed and mixed with bloody half-and-half, of all things. Americans. “Well, perhaps next time--”
Buffy snatched up his duster, holding it out pointedly. “Oh my god. What did I say about the mouth?” She gathered up a clinking wicker basket, tapping her foot as Spike slid his arms into the sleeves.
He grinned, settling the leather around his shoulders. “All the better to eat you with, my dear,” he snarled dramatically.
Buffy’s eyes widened, and she dragged him out the door, tossing a high-pitched “Bye, Mom!” in her wake.
Spike let himself be dragged.
Once they were a few blocks from the house and Buffy’s overheated skin had been cooled by the breeze, she slowed to a brisk walk, pretending she wasn’t still thinking about-- she wasn’t thinking about it! Not about any of the ‘its’! She totally, totally wasn’t. Not even the ‘it’ that was slightly less scary than the other ‘its’, though no less squirm inducing (in a completely different way!), that was Spike and her mom apparently… sharing space without warfare? Peacefully coexisting? Possibly even… getting along? Because that ‘it’ was completely uncharted territory for a… a possibly friend-shaped vampire guy who she… liked spending time with, and… Argh! Not. Thinking. About. It.
Spike was obligingly quiet until they were on the fringes of campus, wolf mask dangling idly from his fingers, seemingly lost in his own thoughts. Which she hoped were also not about any of the ‘its’, especially the naughtier ‘its’, because thinking about him thinking about them made her think about them again, and she was so not going down that rabbit hole of badness.
“So,” Spike finally said, in a kind of overly-casual tone of voice. “Little Red Riding Hood. Very… Freudian.”
“It’s all I could manage at short notice,” Buffy protested, shoving all the ‘its’ she absolutely wasn’t thinking about in her ever-ready File Cabinet of Ignoring, under N for Nope, Nuh-uh, and Not Gonna Think About It. “I wasn’t planning to go to the party to actually, you know, party.” Willow had convinced her, since they’d have to go anyway, and she’d figured, hey, what harm could it do? Might as well get maximum enjoyment out of the evening, since it was sounding like this was going to be an easy slay.
The bushes off to the left rustled, catching her attention briefly. Oh good, spooky Halloween wind, just to set the scene.
“Oh? Seems like the perfect opportunity for a slayer to relax, let loose, all that. Nothing ever goes down on Halloween, you should know that by now.” He glanced at her sidelong, doing that tongue thing.
Yep, that thought belonged in the N-drawer, too.
More rustling, from the right this time, and she thought she caught a flash of green, maybe in a camouflage pattern? She didn’t sense vamps, though. Probably some college kids thinking they were clever, being creepy in the foliage. “Right, except when some old frenemy of Giles’s curses us into becoming our costumes.”
“There was that,” Spike conceded. They’d re-hashed that particular bit of nostalgia into dangerous territory last night, though; she tried to steer them well away from a repeat.
“And besides, the only thing Freudy about my costume is the fact that Little Red chopped up the wolf into teeny tiny wolf-bits, so you should watch yourself, mister.”
Spike’s grin was equal parts filth and delight. “Oh! That sounds promising, Slayer. Not such a helpless little girl this time, then.”
“Let’s face it, the only times you’ve ever even come close to besting me were with the help of magic, so go right ahead and… Spike?” She looked around. He’d disappeared.
The breeze rustled the leaves ominously again, and the shadows flickered. All around her, noise she hadn’t noticed before came rolling in, the thump of a bass and squeals of people having fun, drinking, TP-ing the trees. Where had he gone?
A dark shape walked up behind her and she jerked around, but it was only Xander.
“Hey, Red. What you got in the basket, little girl?”
She sincerely hoped he was trying to be creepy, because otherwise, ew.
“Weapons,” she said flatly, still casting around for Spike.
“What, you thought she was gonna have some tasty treats for all the boys?” a deep voice rumbled, shiveringly close to her ear, and suddenly Spike was at her shoulder again, as though he’d just melted out of the shadows. Which he possibly had. Vampire. Which made it kind of stupid that she relaxed, but whatever, it was Spike.
“Spike!” Xander yelped, voice pitched high enough to be at odds with his admittedly suave appearance. “It’s Spike! Spike’s here!”
Buffy gave him a level stare.
“And I see that this is not a problem,” Xander continued, watching Buffy closely for approval. She nodded sarcastically, uh huh.
“It’s future-Spike,” she explained, deciding to be generous -- as if she’d just show up with her actual mortal enemy in tow. Sheesh. “He’s here to help.”
“Oh,” Xander said, brows beetling. “Oh. So we believe him now?”
Xander blinked, and then shrugged. “Okay, good enough for me.” He held out his hand to Spike. “I’d say it’s nice to meet you but…”
Buffy turned to see Spike eyeing Xander’s hand with a strangely mixed-up expression. There was a long pause. Then, his expression settling on derisive, he shoved his hands into his pockets and sneered, “You do realize we’ve met before. You cosh a bloke into unconsciousness, you’d think he’d remember you.”
“Uh.” Xander floundered, awkwardly raising the hand left hanging to smooth back his heavily pomaded hair. “Now Buff, you’re absolutely sure you’ve got the right bleach-head here, yes?”
Buffy couldn’t help it -- she smirked. “Spike, play nice,” she scolded, elbowing him in the ribs with just the tiniest bit of force, so that he knew she meant business, despite what her treacherous face was doing. “Xander, like the tux.”
He straightened, trying to look assured, though his eyes still flicked a little nervously between her and Spike. “Bond, James Bond. Insurance, you know, in case we get turned into our costumes again. I’m going for cool secret agent guy.”
“I hate to break it to you,” Buffy said, “but you’ll more likely end up cool head-waiter guy.”
“Hey, as long as I’m cool and wield some kind of power.”
Spike snorted. “Keep setting that bar ever lower, Harris, there’s a lad.”
“I see you spared no expense in the costume department,” Xander said, waving a hand to encompass Spike’s traditional get up of black on black. “What are you supposed to be, Punk Count von Count?”
“One, two, three,” Spike said softly, eyes glittering in a way that made the hairs on the back of Buffy’s neck stand on end, then in one smooth movement he donned his wolf mask. “I’ll blow your house down.”
Buffy was saved from Xander’s reaction by Willow and Oz appearing further up the path. She waved them down and they came over. “Hey, Will. Medieval Will.”
“Hail, ye olde varletty thou,” Xander said, looking somewhat confused by Willow’s costume.
“I’m Joan of Arc,” Willow explained. “I figured we had a lot in common, seeing as how I was almost burned at the stake, and plus she had that close relationship with God.”
“And you are?” Xander asked, turning to Oz, but that question would have to wait, because--
“Is that…” Oz said, squinting over Buffy’s shoulder.
“Spike?” Willow finished. She sent Oz a significant glance. Significant how, Buffy couldn’t say, but it sure was significanty.
Spike remained silent, but grinned dangerously at them from under his mask, and with just his lower face on display, all Buffy could really see was his mouth, and… yeah… totally nothing entrancing about that…
But why was he being so… off with her friends? If he was working with her in the future, wouldn’t he be working with them, too? He must at least be on good terms with Willow, who’d sent him here. But he seemed almost… She tried to shake it off, because it so wasn’t him, but it wouldn’t go. He seemed defensive, brittle almost, falling back on his special brand of Spikeish bravado to protect himself, and when the hell did she get to know him so well that she could analyze him like that?
Faintly alarmed, and not really paying attention -- something about Oz and God? -- she totally missed Willow sidling up to her, and jumped a little when she touched Buffy’s arm. Leaning in, Willow said quietly enough that no one else could hear, “Sleep okay?”
Knocked clean off her axis, Buffy floundered around for something to say. “Err…” Well, that was something, if not a very intelligent something.
“Just, you know, after the speech you made last night about getting enough rest, when I saw your bed all un-rumpled this morning, I wondered where you’d been a-rumpling.”
Chancing a look, Buffy saw that Willow didn’t look especially concerned about the lack of morning-Buffy. In fact, she had a gleam in her eye that Buffy thought boded pretty ill.
“No, there was absolutely no rumpling!” she whispered back, trying hard not to splutter too conspicuously. “And I slept just fine, thank you. And completely alone!” This was technically true, she reassured herself, since Spike had been all the way on the other side of the crypt, and also maybe hadn’t slept at all, just watched her as if Buffy Sleeps was Sweeps Week Primetime TV, with his eyes all soft and… “Totally, completely alone!”
“Uh huh,” Willow said. “Your puffy eyes and caffeine-jiggles say otherwise.” But she thankfully left it at that.
“Oh, yeah,” Xander was saying. “I, ah, invited Anya to join us, but she’s having some trouble finding a scary costume, so she’s just going to meet us there.”
“Oh, demon girl’s here?” Spike said, seeming to perk up. Buffy cut him a curious look, but he obviously realized that he’d let slip Anya would be sticking around for a while (though Xander didn’t seem to have noticed), and clammed up, jaw twitching beneath the fringe of faux wolf fur.
So Xander would have Anya for however many years, and Willow and Oz were obviously never splitting up, but when she’d asked Spike about her own future lovelife, well, she’d cut him off, but he hadn’t exactly been Mr. Keen with a name for Buffy’s future-honey, which boded about as well as Willow’s Knowing-Smirk Face.
“Perfect,” Buffy muttered. “Everybody’s got a date but third-wheel Buffy.”
Willow’s innocently raised eyebrows were expressive, but thankfully quietly so. Xander, on the other hand…
There was a long, stretching silence as they all peered at Buffy, waiting for her confirmation. Her eyes landed on Spike’s with the inevitability of heartburn on All Saints Day, but of course he was wearing the damn wolf mask, and didn’t seem inclined to give anything else away. Weirdly, she didn’t want to hurt his feelings, and somehow she felt that the quick denial that’d jumped into her mouth would do just that. But this also really, really, very definitely wasn’t a date. Was it?
“Uhh,” she said, grasping desperately for a change of subject. And that was when a group of guys dressed up like commandos stepped out of the bushes in front of them. Someone behind her let out a shriek -- Willow? Buffy absently patted her on the shoulder as she gratefully redirected everyone’s attention to the wannabe army guys with a couple of witty remarks, before turning back to the group.
“What are they supposed to be?”
Oz shrugged. “NATO?”
“And what were you yelling about, Braveheart?” Xander said, grinning gleefully, but he wasn’t looking at Willow -- he was looking at Spike.
“Huh? That was you?” Buffy asked.
Spike straightened from the half-crouch he’d been in, obscuring his presence at the back of the group, and rolled his shoulders. “What was me?”
“That extremely un-manly scream,” Xander said, “which was most definitely you, ya big fraidy-vamp. What kind of monster are you?”
“Hey now, no need to get pers--”
“Are all vampires afraid of the army?” Oz wondered.
“Let’s not jump to--”
Willow was smiling too. “Who knew Spike’s worst fear was a bunch of frat boys in bad face paint,” she joked.
“Yeah, yeah,” Spike muttered, looking away with an irritated sniff. “Laugh it up.”
“You have to admit,” Oz pointed out. “That was somewhat unexpected.”
“And hilarious. Oh come on!” Xander said, with a friendly punch to Spike’s arm as they all started walking for the frat house again. “Even you’ve got to see the funny side of a creature of the night being scared of things that go bump in the same.”
“Oh I’ll show you my funny side, Harris,” Spike sniped, but Buffy could see that the tension at being teased had gone out of his body, so Xander probably wasn’t in imminent danger of being eaten. Smiling at the feeling of having all her favorite people together for a night of fun and frolicking -- and hopefully demon-killing, but that was fun, too -- Buffy opened the door and stepped into the haunted house.
This was going to be a scream.