By Mint Witch
RATING: PG-13, this chapter for adult situations, language, and mild violence.
DISTRIBUTION: Previous chapters at http://www.the-sandlot.com/mintwitch/mwfic.html.
DISCLAIMER: Joss is my type-monkey; I keep him chained under my desk. Naughty, Joss, no touching!
NOTE: This chapter is pretty much a bridge. Oh, and a chance for me to torture Xander, just a little. Big thanks to all the graphics bunnies. Check out http://www.cafeshops.com/cp/store.aspx?s=RetailJustice to see their efforts. Proceeds are donated to needy fans who wanna go to cons.
FEEDBACK: If I didn't want it, would we even be here?
PREVIOUSLY: Spike gets collared (Yum). Buffy invites Spike to live out a Ramones song. Xander remains unhappy with Buffy's life choices. Fun with cutlery. Dawn runs away to dance with suspicious hippies. Buffy's got a Brachen beau. Golf balls from Heeeeeaven. Some walking and talking. Xander gets over it (kinda) and Anya takes pity on his poor fragile self. Buffy and Dawn exhibit surprising new skills and scare the piss out of our Spikey. Awww, poor Spikey! The cruel sisters point and laugh. How mean! Then some smoochies, some snot, and a lame-o epiphany.
11. The Future
“Ah!” The vampire jumped and spun to face the threat, lost his footing on the slanted surface, and fell hard, scrabbling for purchase on the rough surface as gravity tried to work it’s will. With a muted bellow, his game face leapt to the fore, and he drove his claws deep into the cedar shakes, feet hanging precariously over 30 feet of air. The last thing he needed was a broken neck. Spike hung there for a moment, feeling less like a predator at the top of the food chain than a fluffy bunny faced with headlights and a semi.
“Geez, Mr. Stealthy, how ever did you manage to get caught by the Initiative with those catlike reflexes?” The voice drifted down from the roof’s peak, dripping teenaged sarcasm.
“Bit,” he hissed and swung back onto the roof. He leapt with self-conscious grace over the dormers to Dawn’s perch. “What are you doing up here?”
“Duh. Spying on you and Buffy, what else?” Her eye-roll was perfectly visible, a belated reminder that he was still in demon mode. Spike growled softly and shook himself back into human guise as he settled next to the girl.
“If you didn’t leave tonight, I was totally gonna blackmail her into letting me stay home from school.” She heaved a disappointed sigh. “That’s an hour of sleep, wasted.”
Dawn shot him a sly sideways glance and rearranged her face into a pout. “I don’t suppose you could be persuaded to sneak back into her room and make with some PG-13 nookie action, huh? Solely in the interest of my continued health and well-being, of course.” She batted her eyelashes and tried not to smirk.
Spike grinned at her and leaned back to fight his trouser pocket for possession of his smokes. He really needed a new jacket. “Much as I hate to disappoint you, Platelet, I do have other plans for the wee hours.”
Spike lit up with a deep sigh of pleasure, savoring the mingled bite of nicotine and tar across his tongue. “Thanks for the vote of confidence, though.”
“Think nothing of it.” Dawn waved grandly, changing both mood and subject with the regal aplomb that only adolescent girls could pull off convincingly. “So are you and Buffy official, this time?”
“Define official.” He quirked an eyebrow at her and took another drag, leaking smoke out his nostrils.
“Going steady, out of the closet, dating, yadda yadda.” She shifted uncomfortably in place. “C’mon, spill, my butt’s getting sore.”
“Dunno. Maybe. She wants to talk.” Spike pondered the glowing tip of his cigarette and wondered whether he should be merely afraid, or very terrified. His hindbrain was voting for gibbering terror.
“She wants to talk, or she wants to have The Talk? Did she capitalize?” Dawn jigged and shifted again, wincing.
Spike looked at her in awe. “How do you chits do that? Capitalize, boldface, and change font with your voice?”
Dawn let loose a triumphant crow and stood. “Ha! She did, didn’t she?” He nodded. “I knew it!”
Mission accomplished, she picked her way down the roof to her window, abandoning Spike to the company of RJ Reynolds. The wind carried her snickering chant up to him: “…k-i-s-s-i-n-g. First comes loooooove…”
He shook his head and pitched the cigarette out into the yard, rising to make his own way down. Women. Dead or alive, they were all mad as hatters, gods love 'em.
Spike worked the streets of Sunnydale in a tightening spiral, chain-smoking and casually staking as the opportunity arose. The new high school was similar enough to the old that his preparations there presented little difficulty, and the vampire was feeling well pleased with himself when he finally reached his own cemetery.
There was still plenty of time until sunrise, so he continued circling, taking out a few stray fledglings and some joker’s attempt at undead animal husbandry. Some vamps never learned that demonic house pets were a bad idea. The things inevitably strayed out into the sun and got fried; one squirrel-chasing incident was all it took. Better to just put the poor, sorry bastards out of their misery. Still, it always pissed him off to have to stake puppies.
“Don’t move, Soul Train.”
Spike froze. Buggering hell. “Don’t any of you Scoobies sleep?”
“Just turn around slowly.” The vampire actually considered it for a nanosecond. Fuck that.
Spike dived to his left in a blur of supernatural speed and flipped off his hands towards the sound of the voice. He landed silently beside Xander, dropped to a crouch, and swept the carpenter’s feet out from under him as the crossbow twanged and released a bolt right where he’d been only seconds earlier. Spike backhanded the boy, grabbed the crossbow as Xander reeled with the blow, and threw the weapon out of immediate range.
Xander pulled out a stake and lunged towards the vampire, or tried to. His knee folded and he collapsed onto the turf with an ignominious squeak.
Spike danced back, away from his fuming attacker. “What the fuck was that for?!”
Xander rolled up into an awkward sprawl and leaned against the headstone he’d been hiding behind. He rubbed at his wrenched knee, glaring back at the outraged vampire.
“One, I couldn’t sleep, so I thought I’d patrol, and two, I want to have a little talk with you. Frankly, when having conversations with vampires, I prefer to be armed. Heavily armed.”
“Was this a shoot first, ask questions later type of conversation, mate? Because I don’t see you having a meaningful exchange of ideas with my ashes.”
Xander had the grace to look embarrassed. “I didn’t actually mean to shoot, it just sort of went off.”
Spike sighed and glared, glared and sighed. “No harm done. Fat lot of good the artillery did you, anyway.” He hopped up onto a neighboring monument and lit another cigarette, ignoring the crossbow and regarding Xander steadily. “So. Talk.”
Xander shifted uneasily, avoiding his gaze. “Um. Well, that’s the thing. I hadn’t really gotten farther than ‘don’t move,’ but if you give me a minute or two, I’m sure I could come up with something along the lines of ‘you better not hurt Buffy, you evil bastard, or I’ll stake you.’” He tipped his head back against the stone and closed his eyes. “And I think it’s been amply demonstrated just how empty that threat is.
“Still,” Xander straightened and met Spike’s eyes, “I’m a creative guy and I’m pretty sure I could come up with something painful and permanently dusty.”
Spike nodded agreement, tapping the ash off the end of his smoke. “I’ve no desire to be on the wrong end of a rocket launcher, I’ll give you that.”
“Oh. Okay, then.” Xander seemed a little surprised and continued with more confidence. “In that case, let’s set some ground rules.”
“First, stay away from Anya. In the carnal sense, I mean, not the retail sense.” He looked to the vampire for concurrence, and got another nod.
“Not to worry, one time thing, that.”
“Good. Okay, second,” Xander rubbed his hands together, “I know we’ve already covered this, but no hurting Buffy in any way, shape, or form.”
“Wouldn’t dream of mussing a hair on her or the Bit’s head.”
“That covers third. So, fourth, uh… I don’t what comes next, but I’ll think of something. Just keep your nose clean.” Xander nodded firmly, satisfied.
“Right then, my turn.” Spike jumped to his feet, sauntered over to squat in front of the human, and began ticking off his own rules with his fingers.
“One: lay off Buffy about us. She decides, not you or me. Two: don’t go sneaking around trying to shoot me in the back. Makes me nervy. Three: be nice to Anyanka, she’s a good egg, and deserves better than you. Remember that, or I’ll remind you in the most painful way possible. And four: I don’t know yet, but if you piss me off like this again, I’ll rip your arms off and use them to beat you to death. We clear?” He smiled pleasantly.
Xander gulped and nodded. It was never good when vampires smiled at him like that. “Crystal.”
“Good.” Spike exhaled a plume of smoke in his face and frowned. “I think it’s probably best if the Slayer never finds out about this.”
That earned a vigorous nod in reply, as Xander levered himself up. “Oh, on that point we are in complete agreement. Yup, complete and total simpatico.”
“Is this what’s meant by male bonding? Because I always thought it would involve orgasms and manly cries of ecstasy. I’m very disappointed.”
“Anya?” Xander startled, and would have fallen again if Spike hadn’t grabbed his arm. And how weird was that? “What are you doing here?”
The vengeance demon stepped into view and scowled at her ex-fiancé. “I could ask you the same thing, Xander, but I think I know, and I’m not pleased. You have no right to interfere in my life. If I want to have sex with Spike, I will, and you have no say. None.
“Not that I do, nothing personal, Spike.” She shot him an apologetic glance and he smirked back. “But as a matter of principle, I resent your making ultimatums regarding my orgasms and I won’t tolerate it. You are violating my civil liberties and undermining the fundamental tenets of a free society.”
“I didn’t mean it that way, Anya,” Xander huffed, flapping unattractively. “I was just---”
“I don’t want to hear it. Go home, Xander.” She turned her back on him, crossing her arms. Xander stared at her rigid posture, and then flicked a look at Spike, who shrugged.
“I’m sorry, An,” he said, softly. He looked for a second as if he would say more but didn’t, walking away instead.
Spike watched the other man until he was out of sight, feeling an unwelcome empathy for him, before addressing Anya.
“Were you looking for me, pet?” She shook her head without raising her eyes from the ground.
“No, just following Xander.” Her arms fell to her sides, hands dangling limply as she finally met his gaze.
“I don’t know whether I’m waiting for someone to make a wish against him or trying to protect him,” she whispered. “Half the time I’m worried sick, but the other half I want to pluck out all of his body hair, strand by strand.”
Anya sighed. “Anyway, so long as you’re here, I should give you a card.” A rectangle of stiff blue paper appeared in her hand. He raised an eyebrow as he accepted it.
“I meant to give you one earlier,” she explained. “I’ve diversified, expanding into the virtual marketplace, while still adhering to my core competencies.”
Anya pointed out the logo proudly. “The graphics are up at Café Press, and you can find it by searching on RetailJustice. This URL -http://www.cafeshops.com/cp/store.aspx?s=RetailJustice- works, too. It’s fully operational and all major credit cards are accepted.”
Spike nodded gravely, complimenting her. “It’s very nice, Anyanka. If I decide to curse Xander, I’ll come to you first thing.”
The vengeance demon fairly glowed, beaming. “Thank you, Spike! I look forward to doing business with you.”
She cocked her head suddenly. “Oh well, duty calls.” Anya fluttered a good-bye and disappeared.
Feeling vaguely like an undead Greta Garbo, Spike extended his senses, checking for any more unexpected visitors. Satisfied that there were no other Scoobies –or anything else- lying in wait to accost him, he cautiously started home. With any luck, he’d make it back well before sunrise without being shot, cursed, or maimed. Hope springs eternal.
Spike reached his crypt with no further excitement. Rounding the corner quickly, in anticipation of a nice chat about the evening’s festivities, followed by an even nicer morning snooze, he skidded to a halt, gaping in horrified outrage.
There was a bloody huge R.V. parked in front of his crypt.
The bell over the door jangled cheerfully as Buffy walked into The Magic Box.
“Anya? Are you here?” She called into the empty looking shop, searching for signs of life. “Anya?”
“Good evening, my sister.” Buffy whirled around to face the strange woman coming towards her and stared. She was dressed like a refugee from a costume party, Hattie-style, only different. The multicolored skirt swung in heavy silken pleats, and strings of pearls hid her bare chest. Gleaming black hair tumbled in ringlets, wrapped with more pearls.
“It’s morning,” Buffy argued, gesturing to the windows, but they were dark, and her hand fell.
The petite stranger shook her head and smiled. “Not yet, but it will be soon.” Reaching Buffy, she hugged her like a long lost cousin, and took her arm. “Come, sit. There is much to be done before they get here.”
Buffy let herself be led to the research table in a daze. As they sat, a woman dressed in a white skirt and tight girdle entered from the back room, carrying a tray. She set bowls of figs and dates, a jar of wine, and small plates of sticky looking pastries before them, and retreated silently.
“Who are you? Where’s Anya?” Her companion just smiled and pulled an open i-book towards her. She typed rapidly for several moments, while Buffy eyed the food suspiciously, before looking up with a serious expression.
“I’m afraid we don’t have much to spare. The tribes of the one god have burned Diamah and D’ashtar to the north and we’re currently flooded with refugees.” The woman typed some more and looked grave. “I can provide some limited funds. No grain or wine, unfortunately, with all the new mouths to feed.”
“Okay.” Buffy looked down at her sparkly halter and red leather pants. Fat bees buzzed lazily through the muggy air of the store, landing on baskets of pomegranates stuffed into shadowed corners. “I’m dreaming, aren’t I?”
Her hostess smiled and shrugged, reaching for glazed crescent of golden dough, dripping with honey. The odor was pungent, heavy and sweet with spices.
“Dream schmeam. This is important, and there is little time, so pay attention.”
A printer hummed and spat in the background, and the attendant returned with a battered scroll, neat lines of wingdings marching across its creased, brown surface.
The black haired woman examined it closely and sighed. “We’ve sent a warrior and a handmaid with your consort. They will make the journey west, to build the temple and restore the rites of the people before they arrive.”
“Before who arrives? Who’s coming?” Buffy was starting to panic.
“The rest of the refugees, of course. We can’t take them all, nor are we immune to the fires.” The dream person rolled up the scroll and tapped it thoughtfully against her palm. “Move swiftly, sister: there is much to be done, and you have only begun.”
Smiling sweetly, she reached for several strands of pearls, pulling them over her head. She held them towards Buffy, who bowed her own head to accept. As the pearls fell against her chest, the strings broke and they rained to the floor, bouncing and rolling away.
The bell over the door rang again, and golden sunlight streamed in as it opened into the shop, framing the blond man standing at the entryway.
Buffy jackknifed upright with a choked gasp, her eyes snapping open to the same sunlight flooding in through her bedroom windows. It dripped down the walls like honey, heavy and sweet, and she smelled spices.
With a groan, Buffy fell back onto her pillows and reached for the snooze button, closing her eyes wearily. The remnants of her dream unrolled behind her eyelids.
“Uh oh.” Giles was so gonna want to know about this.
Continued in 12. Hotel California