Era/season/setting: Set between S4 and S5, canon divergent AU
Rating: Eventually NC17, but only R for language and violence for what gets posted here
Summary: When a carnival comes to town, Spike gets wind of a plot that doesn’t sound good for Sunnydale…or the Slayer.
Author's Note: This is my first Seasonal Spuffy in YEARS so to say I'm nervous is an understatement. I went for something comfortable for me which means adventure time for Spike and Buffy. I had originally hoped to have five chapters to post today, but it looks like it's only going to be three at most. Those will come later today. My outline for this puts it at 12 chapters, though I reserve the right to have that change if the story decides to take its own path. :)
DISCLAIMER: Not mine, which is a shame because usually we're nicer to them than Joss was. The chapter title is from “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over,” from the musical, “Carousel.”
The weatherman was a big fat liar.
Or rather, in this case, a busty blonde liar named Tina.
“Heat will break, my ass,” Buffy muttered as she climbed out of Joyce’s SUV. The stifling air had been hovering well over a hundred all day, and while she didn’t normally mind the hot, this came laden with the portent of rain, thick and choking. The forecast had said the temperatures would fall to more palatable levels by dusk, but dusk had come early with the heavy cloud cover and there was no relief in sight. Not even their proximity to the beach offered a reprieve.
“It won’t be so bad.” Joyce came around the front of the car to stand next to Buffy and gaze out over the animated vista. “Especially once we find some funnel cake. I’ve been looking forward to that all day.”
“Bring on da noise, bring on da funnel,” Buffy chirped.
She mostly felt it, too. When Joyce had brought home the flyer about the visiting carnival, Buffy had seized onto the idea of a mother/daughter date with all the excitement of winning the lottery. School was over, Willow and Tara were spending almost as much time together as Xander and Anya, and the demon population had been surprisingly quiet in the wake of the Initiative’s destruction. For a couple weeks, Buffy had wallowed in daytime television and just-because naps, but the monotony was wearing her down. Twice now, she’d pulled out her psych book—the one the school unsurprisingly refused to buy back—to sit and read. Unironically.
She’d even contemplated finding Spike to ask if he’d heard of anything brewing on the demon circuit, in hopes that a good brawl would break up the boredom.
Desperation, thy name was Buffy.
So in all honesty, she was excited about tonight. The carnival sprawled over a huge lot less than a mile from the shore, with lights sparkling the midway from blocks away. Old-fashioned organ music beckoned them to take a step into the past, while the heavy scent of sugar hung in the still air so thickly, she would’ve stuck her tongue and tried to taste it if she’d been a few years younger. Or without any witnesses.
As it was, she simply breathed it all in, relishing how carefree it made her feel, like anything was possible because the world was a simple place of simple pleasures and the only thing she had to worry about was how to win a stuffed teddy bear to take home. It was a lie, of course. Her world was far from simple. But it was good to pretend for a couple hours.
“So what should we do first?” Joyce asked as they strolled toward the revelry. Red and yellow flags drooped from the entrance arch, but the lights coiling through them twinkled with enough enthusiasm to make up for the limp display. “We’re going to need tickets if we want to go on any rides.”
“Darn those capitalist ideals,” Buffy replied.
Joyce pulled her wallet out of her purse and extracted a twenty. “Why don’t you go buy the funnel cake while I stand in line for tickets? We can formulate a plan of attack while we’re eating.”
“Strawberry with extra whip?”
Joyce smiled. “Is there any other kind?”
The path to sugary goodness was simple. All Buffy had to do was follow her nose. She soon stood at the end of a very long line, since it seemed everybody else in Sunnydale had the same craving the Summers women did.
Her eye caught on a flash of black leather disappearing behind the concession stand. She scowled.
Apparently, a certain bleached customer wasn’t willing to wait his turn.
Her internal debate about what to do warred longer than she expected. On the one hand, she would lose her place if she went after Spike, and then she’d have to wait even longer for funnel cake. On the other, who knew what kind of trouble Spike was about to get himself into? Someone could get hurt if she didn’t intervene.
Not to other demons, a little voice in the back of her head reminded her. If there’s any baddies lurking around, he could take care of them for you, and you could have a real night off.
Or he could act as ringleader and start trouble.
Like he did taking down the Initiative? Except, oh, wait a minute, he didn’t. He played on your side when it counted, remember?
Her frown deepened. She was still convinced he’d only helped out to save his own skin. Spike was nothing if not a survivor.
He’s had weeks to get into trouble, and you’ve heard nary a peep. Stop overthinking this.
“Shut up,” Buffy muttered at the little voice. When the burly guy in front of her glanced over his shoulder, she plastered on a bright smile. “My stomach,” she clarified. “It hasn’t stopped growling since I got out of the car.”
Her excuse seemed to mollify him as he snorted in amusement and turned to face the front again. It wasn’t even that far from the truth. She was going cuckoo for funnel cake. But she was also going cuckoo wondering what Spike was up to.
“Looks like I won the line lottery.” Joyce’s sudden appearance at her side startled Buffy from her reverie, and she shifted to give her mother room. “Do you want to do a few rides first and come back later to see if it’s shorter?”
“And risk no sugary goodness at all if they run out? No, thank you. I don’t mind waiting. Unless you…?”
Joyce shook her head. “I didn’t wear stretchy pants for nothing. Besides, it’ll give us some extra time for girltalk.”
Girltalk. The one thing she wasn’t looking forward to about tonight. Because it would inevitably lead to…
“So, have you heard from Riley?”
Tamping down the bitter rush of disappointment that came these days at mention of his name, Buffy shrugged. “Some. He’s been busy.”
“That’s a shame. But at least you’ll get to see him when the fall semester starts up again.”
The line moved, so Buffy shuffled forward with it. “Actually, probably not.”
“What? Why not? I thought he needed more credits to graduate.”
“Did you two break up?”
Had they? Buffy wasn’t even sure. “It’s not like that. He got offered a job.” By the very same people who’d let the Initiative happen in the first place. “He says he’s going to take it.” To make a real difference this time, he claimed.
“You can’t trust them,” Buffy argued.
“I don’t need to. I need to educate them. You saw how ignorant they are about the demon world. I need to fix that.”
“And if they sucker you in again?”
“They did the first time.”
“I know what to look for now.” Riley sighed. “Buffy, this is a good thing. They asked for my help. They know they’re at a disadvantage, and that I can fill in all the gaps. I can really make a difference here.”
And that was it. Riley needed to be needed. More than she could give him. Another boyfriend gone bye-bye.
Joyce put her arm around her shoulders and squeezed. “I’m sorry, sweetie. I know you miss him.”
But that was the other rub. She didn’t. Well, not very much anyway. In all honesty, most days she hadn’t given Riley much thought which sparked all kinds of icky guiltage once she came to that particular realization. She’d missed him most when she got horny after patrol, and didn’t that send the wrong message about her feelings for him.
“He’s doing what he has to,” she said, partially because she knew it sounded good, more because it helped ease her battered conscience. “I’ll manage.” Shifting just enough to dislodge Joyce’s arm, she poked her mother in the shoulder. “Your turn. What’s the what on the dating front for you?”
Spike sagged against the back of the concession stand. That had been a close one. He didn’t need to deal with the Slayer tonight, not when he was out for some serious dosh. If she caught wind of his intentions, he’d never shake her, and then he really would be royally fucked. The caretaker at the convent wanted the money by morning, or the deal was off. The git was a blowhard who took the mick out of anyone within a ten-foot radius—probably to make up for the fact that he had the face of a melted welly—but he was also the only bloke in town with the connections Spike needed to make the crypt truly habitable.
Though it wouldn’t be the end of the world if it all fell through, Spike was tired of his lack of amenities. No more all-night Laundromat where the idiot clerk Spike would’ve eaten back in the day cracked incessant jokes about how dead Spike looked under the fluorescents. No more congealed wings because the bloody microwave kept shorting out from the irregular power surges. The caretaker said he could even hook him up with some premium cable packages so Spike could get some decent telly from across the pond. All he needed was the money to set it in motion.
The carnival was perfect for that.
Hundreds of people, footloose and fancy-free, throwing money left and right at every fantasy and thrill the carnies had to offer. Since rides were already paid for, it was easy to pick pockets amongst the throngs in the games and concessions. He’d headed straight for the sweets, knowing that was where most of the blighters would congregate in this heat. The Slayer’s presence put a kibosh on his prime picking spot, though. Better to lay low until she moved on. Now was not the night for goading her, no matter how much fun it could be.
Spike glanced up at the darkened sky. The impending storm allowed him to get out earlier than usual, but he’d still be more comfortable sticking to covered areas for another half hour. Hanging around here risked running into Buffy again. But what other options did he have?
He glanced around, his scowl deepening as he saw how exposed the area was. He was almost ready to stomp off and confront the Slayer himself, maybe annoy her so much she decided to flounce off and forget the carnival, when he saw the makeshift cottage constructed off the main path.
Dark curtains veiled tiny windows, while fake stone gave it an old-fashioned appearance that wouldn’t have looked amiss in a book of fairy tales. It even had a chimney, but what really caught his eye was the sign planted in the packed earth of the front “yard.”
A pang of nostalgia stabbed his gut. Dru had sold fortunes a few times over the years, mostly out of boredom than anything else. She regaled her customers with visions of a marvelous future, after which Spike stepped in and held the victim still while Dru chortled about how it was her future that was so wonderful, not theirs. Then they would eat, followed by hours entwined in each other’s bodies, only to start it over again when someone else would be foolish enough to stumble into Dru’s orbit.
His feet started moving of their own accord. He didn’t have money to waste on a reading, but maybe he could charm this Madame Margareta into a freebie. He had no doubts the entire set-up was a fraud, of course. Most sideshow carnies were. But it would be good for a laugh, and it would remind him of Dru.
Best of all, he could avoid Buffy long enough for her to get her sweets and scarper off, leaving him in peace to do what must be done.
A couple was reading the policy sign mounted on the cottage wall as he approached. The young man took one look at Spike and grabbed his girlfriend’s hand to haul her away.
Spike grinned. He might not be able to bite the bite of vampires anymore, but he bloody sure could walk the walk.
A tiny bell jangled over the door when he pushed it open. Inside was just as sweltering as out, though a floor fan perched in the corner did its best to move the air around. The conventional circular table sat in the middle of the room, covered in a purple cloth, with a crystal ball resting on a wooden dais at its enter. Beyond it was an open archway with diaphanous veils hanging from the ceiling to hide whatever lay on the other side.
Spike wasn’t alone in the room. A hulk dressed as a gypsy stood next to the veils, heavy arms folded over his broad chest, his wide mouth in a permanent downturn. The pants he wore stretched over the tree trunks he called legs, and tattoos snaked from beneath the fabric to cover both of his bare feet.
“You want fortune?”
The accent wasn’t unexpected, but if it was put on, it was the best fake Ukrainian accent he’d ever heard. But before Spike could reply, the man’s frown deepened, and he held a hand up as if to stop Spike from venturing farther into the room.
“No. You go.”
“Now, hold on there.” He could’ve done with or without an actual reading and not been fussed, but getting the brush-off before he could get a word in got his hackles up. “You sure about that, mate? Seems to me, you’re not the main attraction.”
The guard’s nostrils flared, and for a split second, Spike wondered if he’d read him wrong. He’d seemed human, but…nope, there was the heartbeat, slow and steady. The smell gave him away, too, with the bonus of a slight whiff of adrenaline gearing up for a fight.
Spike would have to wade carefully here if he wanted to come out of this without a massive headache and a few broken ribs.
“We cannot guide you here,” the man said. “Go.”
The veils parted. “He means me.” A woman came through, in her own version of fortune-teller garb. She was middle-aged, with thick gray hair plaited down her back and a dark blue kerchief tied around her head. Green eyes bored into Spike beneath heavy brows, and though her arms were bereft of the jingly bracelets he usually associated with sideshow seers, a gold medallion nestled atop her heavy breasts. “You seek fortune?”
This had to be Madame Margareta, but where the guard’s accent was authentic, hers was most definitely fake. A very good fake, but phony nonetheless.
Spike jerked his chin toward the guard. “Stonehenge here is turnin’ down my business.”
A half-smile twisted her lips. “Oleksiy would not do so.”
“You sure about that?”
Her bravado faltered in the face of Spike’s defiance, and she tilted a curious glance up at Oleksiy. He stared forward, not meeting her gaze, but an errant muscle twitched in his jaw.
“Oleksiy?” she prompted.
Seconds ticked by. The only sounds in the room were the whirr of the fan and the click of Madame Margareta’s long nails toying with her necklace. He clearly did not want to answer, but as the wait stretched, his shoulders slumped.
“He is vampire,” he said.
Madame Margareta laughed. “So? He would not be the first.”
This time, Spike laughed. “Well, yeah. But if you’ve done my kind before, that shouldn’t shock and amaze you.”
“No.” The defeated attitude was now frustrated, the single word coming out in a growl. He finally addressed Madame Margareta directly, his black eyes flashing with some unknown emotion. “She surrounds him, and he…he lets her. There is no push. We cannot because she will know. You see?”
“Who’s this she you’re nattering on about?” But even as Spike uttered the demand, memories began to supplant the scene around him. The same heat. Dru’s voice. I can still see her floating around you. Why won’t you push her away? He took a step back as it started to come together. “You’re the seer?” The real deal, too, if he could pluck out Dru’s predictions from Spike’s thoughts.
“People have expectations,” Madame Margareta replied, but her focus was still on Oleksiy. “Are you saying he is bound to her?” she asked him. “How? What did she do?”
“Will one of you bloody tell me what’s goin’ on?” Spike snapped. “‘Cause no matter what you might think, I’m my own vamp. Nobody pulls my strings but me.” And the damn soldier boys with their chip technology, but that had nothing to do with this.
“You think this, but is not true,” Oleksiy said. “She commands your heart. This is why you stay.”
Madame Margareta turned an amazed eye toward Spike. “You’re the vampire in love with the Slayer? But I thought you lived in Los Angeles.”
“Oi! I’m not Angel,” he snarled. Then, because he realized he’d focused on entirely the wrong part of her statement… “And I’m not in love with the Slayer!”
She shrugged. “Oleksiy says you are. But no matter. I do not care if you belong to her—”
“Stop sayin’ that!”
“Nothing can change what is already set in motion,” she finished. She waved him off. “You do not need a fortune tonight. Go. Enjoy your time while you can.” She started to turn away, then stopped and shot him another smile, this one laden with such malevolence the short hairs on Spike’s nape stood on end. “And tell your Slayer…thank you. We could not do this without her.”
“Do what?” Spike shouted after her retreating back, but then Oleksiy was moving, grabbing Spike by the collar, hauling him toward the door. Spike thrashed against it on reflex, only to be rewarded with his skull exploding with pain.
A moment later, more pain shot through his shoulder as he landed on the ground outside the cottage door.
Gingerly, he rolled to his feet, wincing as the throbbing behind his eyes failed to recede right away. Well, that had been a rubbish idea. Clearly, the pair inside had completely lost the plot. No fool in his right mind would ever think Spike could fall in love with the Slayer.
What about the rest of it?
Margareta had some sort of nefarious plan in motion, one Buffy had supposedly contributed to though there was no way Spike would ever believe she’d knowingly done so. Margareta’s intentions were evil. Spike would wager his coat on it. No good would come from what was to happen.
Was that why the Slayer was at the carnival tonight? Rupert could’ve got wind of it and put her on the job.
Then why was she getting sweets instead of checking out the dark corners of the carnival?
She was about to get blindsided by whatever Margareta planned.
Spike grinned. Good. Bint deserved it.
There was only one problem. Spike knew it was coming. If the Slayer found out after the fact, it could very well be the final straw for her. He was on thin ice after splitting up her and her friends. He’d only walked away from the battle with Adam because he’d helped in the fighting.
Nothing can change what is already set in motion.
Telling Buffy what he’d heard wouldn’t have an effect on the outcome. It would only serve to score him points so he could live to fight another day.
“Oh, bloody hell,” he muttered. He glanced toward the front of the midway where the concessions were crowded. Oleksiy had been right. Someone else had a hand in pulling Spike’s strings.
Sometimes, he well and truly hated seers.
To be continued in Chapter Two: A Cloud of Doubting Thomases…