By Mint Witch
RATING: PG-13, this chapter. Hey, nobody is forcing you to read this.
DISTRIBUTION: Did you ever in your life know an ill painter Desire to have his dwelling next door to the shop Of an excellent picture-maker.
6. Illegal Smile
There was singing. There was swaying. There was music playing. There was dancing in Spike's crypt. How wrong was that?
Flanked by the crypt owner, Buffy surveyed her field, considering and rejecting multiple scenarios. She was forced to concede that no matter how personally offensive, the tableau before her was not sufficiently dangerous to warrant Slayage. Even Spike, after a brief-but-frantic look around the crypt, had settled into his usual hip-shot slouch, sword casually resting against a shoulder. One of her swords, Buffy noted absently, it's gleam painting Spike a barefoot knight, a tattered one-man army rushing to his Lady's banner. When had she begun to take for granted that his efforts would be on her behalf? She had felt his loss keenly over the summer, a cavalier ghost at her side mocking every battle.
Buffy put the thought away for later examination and contemplated her options. Surprisingly, what at first glance had resembled a TV miniseries about Woodstock resolved into a mere four people and many, many candles.
The crypt itself seemed to be bearing the intruders with genteel sufferance. It had been transformed into something reluctantly batik. The stone and marble seemed to tremble with outraged dignity, promising bloody retribution against the onslaught of embroidered pillows, even as the sarcophagi shrank back into the shadows, creeping impossibly into corners for fear of being noticed and draped in tie-dye.
Buffy's eyes picked out the dancers in the flickering light: Clem, Dawn, an unknown male and-- oh dear God-- it was Woodstock. As the last person in the room spun to face the newcomers, gender became mortifyingly at issue. Buffy crossed her arms over her chest, determined not to look down; didn't Mom always say comparisons were spurious? Or something.
Spike's hippies fit the description, that was for sure. Both the man and the woman wore long, colorful, patch-worked skirts, some beads, and cheerful grins. End of description. And what was that smell?
The red-haired woman swirled and shimmied toward Spike, her salient characteristics undulating in a fashion that was both unnatural and unfair. Her smile teased and taunted, causing Buffy's blood pressure to shoot into the danger zone. Buffy might very well be forced to kill her first human if the bitch didn't back off.
The bitch in question turned her smile on Buffy, then spun away to link arms with Dawn. The two danced a complex series of spirals that ended with them kneeling, arms stretched along the floor toward Buffy and Spike in a disturbingly worshipful pose.
The bizarre beauty of the dance distracted Buffy from the eccentric circumstances. With a flash of unwelcome insight, Buffy wondered if this sort of thing lay at the core of Xander's anger. Surrounded by people who glowed and sparkled with an otherworldly brilliance, constantly reminded in such moments that his very mundane-ness made them shine the brighter by comparison, he could only choke on his own bile, nurturing worms of envy in the dark earth of his heart. Trust Spike to bring along two more stunningly exotic reasons for Xander to rage against the vampire.
Buffy's voice plunked into the silence following her sister's strange obeisance. "You are so busted."
The unfamiliar man--scratch that, the unfamiliar male vampire-- nodded happily at Spike. "Dude." Throwing a curious look toward Buffy, he swayed back on his heels and shook his tambourine gently at her, before addressing Spike again. "This your old lady?"
"Excuse me?" Old?!
The blond vampire apparently realized that cutting Buffy at the pass was the better part of valor, and stepped forward, gesturing towards the topless duo. "Slayer, this is Gil and Hattie. They. well, they kind of gave me a ride. Guys, this is Buffy. I, er, may have mentioned her?" Spike's usual aplomb was seriously undermined by the fact that he was twitching. Clem caught his eye, and nodded towards the downstairs with a nearly invisible wink. The sudden tension leaving Spike's shoulders would have arrested Buffy's attention even if she hadn't already been watching the interchange. They were hiding something. Something related to, but presenting a separate danger than the nudie hippies teaching her sister lewd dance moves. Something that made Spike twitchy. He was so going down. Later.
Turning her attention back to the immediate danger, Buffy focused on Dawn, now standing, her arms crossed defensively. "Home. Now."
Gil shook his tambourine again. "Bummer," he muttered in quiet harmony. Buffy's Slayer senses shrilled a warning at the subtle strands of beguilement woven in that voice. Her hand itched for a stake, and she stepped back involuntarily.
"Dawn, we're leaving." Discounting the amiable smiles, completely non- threatening body language, and partial nudity, there were several elements of this whole scene freaking her out, and she couldn't identify them. Add to list of things to torture out of Spike later as well as to list of things for which Dawn would be grounded. A two-for, score.
Dawn whipped her hair around in the patented Dawn hair-whip of "you are such a bitch", and addressed herself sweetly to Hattie and Gil. "Nice to meet you guys. It was fun, but now I have to go be tortured by Sister Dearest."
Hattie descended on the girl, all red corkscrew curls, cooing, and secondary sexual characteristics - obviously some sort of evil Earth Mother hugging demon- and whispered in her ear. Dawn giggled, Hattie giggled back, and Buffy steamed.
She cleared her throat. Not over-reacting, nope, not at all.
Another hair-whip, simple irritation this time, and a "whatever" later, the Summers girls finally exited crypt-party central. Buffy called over her shoulder, "We'll talk later, Spike. And we will talk." The door thumped shut behind them.
Looking sympathetically at his counterpart, Gil ventured a comment. "Wanna toke?"
"God, yes." At this, Clem smiled happily and skipped downstairs. The tension level in the room had dropped to its usual low demon buzz with Buffy's departure. Spike shook his shoulders, loosening the muscles. He'd forgotten the electric strain of being in the Slayer's presence. Just a few hours, and all the calm he'd hoarded was washed away by wild, deadly, seductive thoughts. How ironic that when the chips were out, the man was more dangerous than the monster.
Walking beside her sister, Dawn nodded periodically, doing her best 'I'm listening to your rant with due consideration to the fact that you have my best interests in mind' impression, while actually ignoring Buffy entirely and mentally estimating potential developments of the mammary variety. If she ended up like Buffy, implants were definitely going to be a consideration. Either that, or do as Buffy did and contribute significant future income to the inventive people at Wonder-bra, Inc. On the other hand, she was already taller than the Slayer, so maybe she'd also end up more endowed in other areas. Not significant architecture, just something a little more Hattie-esque. That would be fine: not too much, but enough to make certain types of guys notice. Or at least hold up a tube top.
The Gil-friendly cars on this particular train did not indicate another Vamp Crush, though. Of that Dawn was certain. She was so over that. But still, as a point of comparison, Gil-friendly hooters were harmless, right?
"Are you even listening to me?" Uh oh, Slayer Dearest must have asked a direct question. Dawn shuffled through her mental card catalog of Buffy- rants, as her mouth laid down staccato cover fire.
Apparently the question was rhetorical: Buffy steamrollered on, the rhythm of brow beating providing a kicky counterpoint to their footsteps. Dawn's thoughts marched in time, coming to a halt just as they reached the house.
She turned to Buffy, voice dripping sincerity, "I'm so sorry that I worried you, Buffy. I wasn't thinking, and next time I'll totally stay in my room and hate my life, okay? Good night!" Giving a chipper wave to her sister, Dawn ran up the porch stairs, Buffy staring after her, mouth open. Hah! That'll keep her for an hour or two.
Buffy stared after Dawn in furious silence. There simply weren't words. Wheeling around, she allowed herself to be diverted by the other object of her anger. She would find out what the hell was going on at Spike's and return home full of righteous fury. She threw a final sortie at the house, yelling as loud as she could, "You are still grounded!" Now, look who's gotten the last word!
Dawn's bellow floated out the window, just as Buffy stepped off of the curb.
"And I still hate you!" Brat.
Buffy huffed out her breath, squared her shoulders, and sallied forth to brace the vampire in his lair. What did he have down there that was worse than demon eggs?
Continued in 7. A Very Brady Apocalypse