Summary: Millennium. All Hallow's Eve. Ringing any bells?
Pairing/Characters: Buffy, Spike, ensemble
Timeline: Set between No Place Like Home and Family.
Rating: PG-13 for language
Word Count: 3610
Warnings: Ghosts! Boo!
Disclaimer: Joss is da boss.
Author's Note: Sorry for the lateness in offering my Halloween story. Here it is! Banner by the ever talented amyxaphania
“I know Halloween is supposed to be deadsville, but that’s two days away. So where’s all the monsters? I’m all action-less Jackson here. Riley bailed on movie night and now I’m getting stood up by the demon community. Is ‘pathetic’ tattooed on my forehead?” Buffy pouted and kicked a clump of dirt into a headstone.
“Maybe they decided to call in sick for the murder and mayhem. Make that holiday last longer. Who can resist the tantalizing call of the three day weekend?” Xander said, leaning against the wall of a mausoleum, one arm draped around Anya’s shoulders, the other snagging a handful of leftover popcorn from the half-empty tub nestled in the crook of Anya’s arm.
“Four day weekend, sweetie,” Anya corrected, taking a sip from her wild cherry slushie. “Halloween is on Tuesday and the demons have been cashing in their vacation time since yesterday.” She waved her drink in the air. “It must be a generational thing. When I was a demon, I never missed a call for vengeance because of holiday plans. One thousand years and I never took a day off. Why would I? Vengeance is its own reward. I’ll take cursing a man’s penis over a trip to Cancun any day. It’s much more fulfilling.”
Xander grimaced, carefully removing his arm from around Anya’s shoulders and inching away. Anya didn’t notice, instead tossing a handful of popcorn in her mouth, munching loudly. Buffy bit her lip and shared an amused look with Willow and Tara.
“Yeah, those demons today with their bad work ethic. They should be ashamed of themselves for not trying to kill us all,” Willow said, exaggerating her scold with her furrowed brow of faux severity.
“Aw,” Tara said, pressing her fingers to Willow’s forehead and smoothing away the lines. It didn’t take much effort – the lines on Willow’s forehead disappeared into an expression of affectionate delight at her girlfriend’s touch.
“You guys didn’t have to come with me on patrol,” Buffy said, sighing as she hopped up to sit on Berta Fitzgerald’s headstone, swinging her legs back and forth. “Just because I’m stuck here doesn’t mean you have to be.”
“And miss out on the quality graveyard hanging time?” Xander shot her a lopsided grin. “There’s nowhere else we’d rather be than keeping you company, Buff.”
“That’s not true. I’d rather be at home watching television. The History Channel has a special on the Bolshevik Revolution,” Anya reminded him. “I wanted to see if I was in any of the footage. I wore the cutest outfit to that massacre.”
Willow looked at Buffy and Tara, then rolled her eyes. “Well, darn, if we’d known you had plans we would’ve gone to see Charlie’s Angels without you.”
Anya’s jaw dropped. “You would have gone to see the girl power movie with the impossibly choreographed fight scenes and outrageously perfect hair without me?” Her eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Xander?”
Xander threw his arm back around Anya’s shoulder. “Ahn, of course not.”
Anya released a heavy sigh. Her worries swept away, she nodded matter-of-factly. “Good. Because you know you’re not allowed to watch those movies without me no matter how much you beg.”
“Begging? There was no begging,” Xander insisted, scowling at the Buffy, Willow and Tara’s raised eyebrows.
“Even Riley found a lame excuse to not see the girly movie, so indulging your kinky sexual fixation for superpowered women with trendsetting hair styles only works when I’m included in the activity. We talked about this,” Anya scolded.
“And on that note, I think I’m gonna go take a lap around the cemetery. You guys can call it a night,” Buffy said, jumping down and brushing dirt off the backside of her jeans.
Xander shot her a grateful look. “Yeah, time to turn in. Happy hunting,” he called, guiding Anya towards the street entrance, Willow and Tara trailing behind.
Buffy meandered through the headstones, twirling a stake in her hands, singing, “Here demon demon demons… ”
The snap of a twig sent her spinning around, stake raised and ready to attack. Sighting black leather, she dropped her arm with a sigh, grumbling, “Spike.”
“Alone at last, Slayer,” he murmured, eyeing her hungrily.
“This-” she said, pointing at the space between them, “not alone. Alone is me walking away from you. Watch. I’ll demonstrate.” She spun on her heels and strode in the opposite direction.
“Not so fast, pet,” he called out. “Things are brewing. Things you need to know about.”
Buffy turned to face him, arms crossed. “What game are you playing now? Short on cash? Go hit up Giles if you wanna get paid.”
“Yeah, last time I checked world-in-peril stuff falls in the Chosen One’s lap. Slacking off then? Or is your plate already full? Did kid sis get kidnapped again? Soldier Boy wearing you out?” He snorted. “I find that unlikely.”
“I’m fine,” Buffy gritted out. “So what do you know?”
“Short and to the point. You sure are a charmer. It’s no wonder the blokes are lining up. Oh, except they’re not, are they? Poor girl. Can’t even get White Bread to show up for a date. Wonder what that says about you.”
“It says that you’re an annoying bloodsucker who’s wasting my time.” She lifted the stake, pointing it at his chest. “You feel like sharing or dusting? Your choice.”
He smirked, flashing his teeth. “Millennium. All Hallow’s Eve. Ringing any bells?”
“Not this Y2K crap again.”
“Please,” he sneered. “Like the end of the world is gonna come from a bunch of one’s and zero’s out of order. Try realities bleeding together if they’re not set to rights. I’ve been seeing signs, hearing whispers. It’s coming and I wanna know what you’re gonna do about it?”
“How come Giles hasn’t heard about this? If it’s all prophesied, end-of-the-world dire, he should be all over it.”
“Good question. Maybe that midlife crisis is interfering with his work. It’s not like he’s had any new distractions of late, like, say, a magic shop…”
Buffy huffed, jaw working from side to side. Spinning around for the third time, she stormed off.
“Hey! You’re welcome!” Spike yelled after her. Watching her hips swivel out of sight, he shook out a single cigarette from the pack in his hand and lifted it to his lips. The snick and flare of the Zippo lighter, a deep, long drag, then he exhaled. Cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth, it bobbed when he muttered, “What’s it take? Ungrateful bint.”
“You’re joking. Please tell me you’re joking. That’s your joking face only it’s the same as your normal face ‘cause your humor’s all weird and British. You are joking, right?”
“Buffy, I’m afraid that-”
“Don’t say it!”
“-Spike was right,” Giles finished, laying a book down on the round table in the center of the Magic Box.
“Could my night get any worse?” Buffy huffed and slumped into her chair.
“There’s more,” Giles warned.
“Apparently, it can.”
“The veil between our world and the spirit world weakens on Samhain – All Hallow’s Eve. The origin of the holiday is well known, but the Watcher’s Council believed it to be based on superstition. Too many years with no supernatural activity assured us there was no cause for alarm.”
“So why cry wolf now? Maybe it’s all a hoax. It wouldn’t be the first time that happened this year. And nothing’s more embarrassing than premature alarmation.”
Lips flattening in a strained effort for patience, Giles paused to stare Buffy down before continuing, “I’ve gone back into the chronicles and discovered texts mentioning a Druidic order that performed rites every millennium to rebuild the walls between worlds. The ritual is shrouded in secrecy and because there were no outward signs to back up the accounts, the Council dismissed the threat. Until now.”
“So why doesn’t this Dude order do the ritual and call it a day? No fuss, no muss. ”
“Because they all died horrifically in the 14th century.”
“Yes, quite. With no one to perform the ritual, the details of which remain unknown, the veil between worlds will fall on the night of Samhain.”
“And then what?”
“The world will be overrun by the spirits of the dead.”
“And that’s bad?”
“Very bad. Thankfully, the veil will only be fully drawn back for the hour surrounding midnight.”
“So it’ll fix itself? Can we say making a mountain out of a mole hill?”
“You know better than anyone the danger when dealing with spirits.” Giles took a seat next to Buffy. “Where is this reluctance coming from? Weren’t you complaining about the lack of supernatural activity only yesterday?”
“Oh, sure. But I was thinking more along the lines of something I could hit. Dealing with spirits? Not so much with the punching. How am I supposed to slay a spirit that’s already dead?” Her eyes lit up. “Wait a minute. I can’t slay a spirit. And I shouldn’t, should I? Because they’re just people. Dead, ghosty people, but that doesn’t make them evil.”
“Not necessarily. Though dangerous spirits will be just as plentiful as the benign.”
“So if I can’t slay them, we need a magic solution.” She waited for his nod then rushed forward, “So you and Willow can figure out how to stop this spiritpalooza, right? You totally don’t need me. It’s just some lame, non-apocalypse that Spike dreamed up to distract me.”
“Distract you? I don’t th-”
“He’s probably planning something. Something evil and annoying that’ll ruin my one night off from slaying.”
“Buffy, this is serious. I need you involved and focused in case something goes wrong.”
“So my plans to go to a Halloween party with Riley tomorrow night…?”
“I knew you were gonna say that.”
“And here I thought you found my predictability strangely comforting.”
“I suppose it’s too much to expect the same level of enthusiasm you’ve devoted to your recent training tomorrow night. Buffy?”
“Is there gonna be candy for this spiritual wall fixer upper party? ‘Cause chocolate would go a long way towards getting me enthused.”
“Bribery? Not likely,” Giles scoffed. His amusement dwindled in the face of Buffy’s potent glare-pout combo. “Milk chocolate or dark?” He eyed her raised eyebrow and interpreted, “Both? Fine, I’ll get both.”
Buffy grinned. “You’re doing your part in keeping America’s youth sugar high.”
“Why is he here?” Buffy glared at Spike across the Magic Box round table.
He sat with legs sprawled open, one hand resting on his thigh (just on his thigh, only touching his thigh, the uppermost part of his thigh but still just his thigh), his smirk permanently plastered on his face, eyes heavy lidded and unimpressed with the proceedings.
“Because the ritual requires his presence,” Giles said, continuing to pour sand in a circle, setting tall white candles around the edges of the circle’s perimeter. “Our research has shown the spell to reinforce the walls between our world and the spirit world requires a vessel that has known life and death. As a vampire, Spike qualifies.”
“Qualifies? More like I’m bloody essential.” Spike leaned back and grinned.
“How long is this ritual going to take? Are we talking abracadabra poof or SAT test-taking time of neverending doom?”
Giles lit the first candle in the circle. “Is there no happy medium?”
“No happy, period,” she said.
“Not satisfied, eh?” Spike mused, eyeing her. “That explains a lot.”
“Shut up, Spike, before I stake you and drag in some other random vamp to play in Giles’ sandbox.”
“Sandbox? Really,” Giles muttered, continuing to light the candles.
“Oh, nasty. You looking to pick a fight, Slayer? I bet you’re just dying to get that engine revving. Not had a chance to unleash it what with all the demons playing nice.” Spike rose to his feet, sliding forward, his head bent down, stare intent. He stopped in front of her, mirroring her crossed arms pose.
“Giles,” Buffy said through gritted teeth.
“No no, don’t kill him,” Giles said without bothering to look up from pouring the white sand. “We need him for the ritual. As soon as the veil drops in all of two minutes, the ritual must commence to restore it.”
“Yeah, you heard the Watcher,” Spike said, smirking down into Buffy’s face, barely a foot separating them. “I’m needed. You need me to save the world. So deal with it. Come to think of it, guess that makes me the hero while you’re stuck twiddling your thumbs on the sidelines. It must be hard on you – being useless.”
“You’d know, Mr. Impotent Non-Biter.”
“Nah ah ah. Careful what you say, Slayer. I’m doing you a favor. The least you could do is show a little gratitude.”
“Oh, please,” she said, tossing her head to the side in disgust.
“He raises a good point, Buffy.”
“Excuse me? Giles, you’ve got to be kidding me.”
“He is doing us a favor which begs the question why he hasn’t demanded payment yet.”
“Why are you helping us?” Buffy asked, searching his eyes for a sneakily disguised, evil motive.
“Can’t a vampire stop the world from being overrun by poltergeists without getting the third degree?” Spike said, jerking his shoulder and scuffing the toe of his boot against the floor. “Isn’t it time for the lights show, Rupes? Don’t want any of those ghosties slipping through the net and causing all sorts of mayhem, do we?”
“Step inside the circle, Spike,” Giles instructed. “And don’t touch anything. Just stand there.”
“Oh yeah, what a hero,” Buffy snarked. “You get to save the world with your impression of a mime.”
“Slayer,” Spike growled, and moved to step outside the circle of white sand.
“Buffy, enough. We don’t have time for this. Spike, stand over there and do shut up,” Giles said, pointing at the center of the magic circle.
“No,” Spike said, stepping outside the circle. “I’m not feeling particularly willing. Might need a bit of persuading.”
“And my night is now complete,” Buffy said, looking up at the ceiling in disgust. “Seriously, do you spend all your free time looking for ways to annoy me?”
“Just naturally gifted,” Spike shot back.
“You’re a natural pain in my ass.”
“What? Feeling neglected there?” Spike leaned to the side to eye the curve of Buffy’s behind in her form-fitting jeans. “Want me to give your Tin Man some pointers? The boy’s clearly out of his depth.”
“Say one more word and I will end you.”
“Yeah, yeah. Same old song. You love to sing that tune, but when it comes to putting your stake where your mouth is…” Spike curled his tongue, pushing it up against the back of his teeth. “Looks like your Joe Friday’s been teaching you a thing or two about failure to deliver. Shame, that.”
Her hand shot forward and gripped Spike by the throat. With a snarl, she lifted him and threw him back against the round table.
“Buffy!” Giles snapped, rising from a crouch where he’d lit the last candle.
Elbows planted on the table, Spike chuckled and rubbed his neck. “Oh yeah, wound up tighter than a-”
“Spike! Get in the circle now,” Giles ordered.
Huffing out a breath, Spike slinked into the circle, hands pushed into the pockets of his black duster. “Get on with it already.”
“The veil should fall any moment now. We just have to wait.”
Five minutes later, Buffy was busy tapping her fingers against her hips. Spike alternated between staring at the cash register and side glances at Buffy whenever she wasn’t looking.
“Any moment now,” Giles said, crinkling the paper with the ritual’s incantation written out painstakingly in even meter that had been highlighted. Willow was very thorough in her instructions, if a bit gratuitous in her colorful formatting.
“Pfft, this is ridiculous,” Spike said, jumping outside the circle and headed toward the front door.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Buffy said, chasing after him. She grabbed him by the wrist and whipped him back around to face her.
“Out. What are you gonna do about?”
“Oh, you’re not going anywhere.”
“That right?” Spike glanced down at her hand still clenched around his wrist. “You gonna manhandle me? That the only way you know how to get what you want?”
Her other fist smashed into his cheekbone. He staggered back, nearly falling if not for Buffy’s firm grip on his wrist.
“Should I take that as a yes?” Spike said, snickering.
“Spike, get back into the circle,” Giles snapped.
“No, not until I get an apology. Maybe a fervent expression of gratitude. And one of those fruit baskets you get when you’re promoted at work for not diddling the secretary. Scratch that. I don’t want the poofter’s basket. But I will have that apology. Right now or I’m gone.”
“Buffy, just…” Giles waved his hand at Spike.
She crossed her arms and ground her teeth. “Over my dead body.”
“Your loss,” Spike said, spinning around towards the door.
The lights in the shop flickered, flaring brightly only to pop. Glass shattered, sending the room into darkness. The faint glow from the candles drifted up from the floor, throwing shadows on everyone's profiles.
“It’s started. Spike, now,” Giles urged.
“No, not until the Slayer says the magic words.” He stared at her, his eyes adjusting to the dimly lit room with ease.
Buffy’s mouth opened and closed. Then opened and closed again. She swallowed, eyes braced shut as a violent shudder wracked through her. She let out a gasping breath, her hands reaching up to touch her neck. She fought to breathe, seeming to wrench at invisible hands gripping her throat.
“Buffy?” Giles stepped forward, only to be shoved back by an invisible force.
“Slayer?” Spike grabbed her by her shoulders, shocked to find her ice cold to the touch, her body shivering. Her knees gave out and she slumped to the floor, lack of oxygen rendering her weak.
“Do something!” Spike yelled at Giles.
“Spike, get in the bloody circle,” Giles snarled.
Jerking upright, Spike jumped over the white sand perimeter. “Any day now, Watcher!”
His shout was met by a gurgling sound as Giles fell to his knees, hands clutching at his throat.
A cold shiver skimmed across the surface of Spike’s skin. He felt it push down on him, a heavy pressure growing on his chest. The pressure deepened then suddenly snapped back. The cold whipped around him, encircling his ankles and snaking up his legs. Around, around, but not in. It couldn’t get in. It couldn’t grab him. Not him.
Rushing forward, Spike knelt at Giles’ side and ripped the incantation out of his hand. Within the circle, paper in hand, he stumbled through the Latin, garbling his pronunciation as his inflection smoothed from his rough London accent to more cultured tones. The cold air whipped around the circle of candles, stirring up the flames, sparking and flashing fire until the bent tips of red heat merged into an uninterrupted ring of flame that lifted up off the wicks of the candles and spun around him.
Fire. Fire flowing around him.
“I said the sodding spell, you ghost bastards! Party’s over. Time to get the fuck out!”
The wind howled in response, shooting around the room, knocking over the bookshelves and shattering the glass paneling at the checkout counter. The circle of fire kept spinning around him, tightening inch by inch until its heat kissed the black leather of his duster.
It made sense now. The ritual required a sacrifice. Any spell worth its salt demanded a sacrifice. So be it.
Spike closed his eyes and waited for the fire to take him.
Fire. Why’d it have to be fire?
“Is it over?” Buffy gasped.
Spike’s eyes shot open and met her red-rimmed gaze. She wobbled on her knees, one hand rubbing her neck.
“Yes,” Giles rasped. “I do believe it’s over. The spell worked.”
Stumbling forward, Spike’s boots smeared the edge of the white sand perimeter. He numbly walked to the table, stopping to place one hand on the wooden surface. He stood there, leaning against the table, silent.
“Spike?” Buffy said, her voice cracking. “Are you… are you okay?”
He blinked then shook his head. Her words finally registering, he nodded absently. “Yeah, I’m fine. You?”
She coughed out a laugh. “I’ve been better.”
When he didn’t respond, she offered, “Thanks for…”
“Pfft. It was nothing.” He jerked his shoulder again. “I’ve gotta go. Places to be.”
“People to kill…” Buffy murmured.
He laughed hollowly. “Yeah, got plans.” Walking towards the door, he yanked it open, letting it bang against the wall. Mock saluting, he said, “Happy Halloween.”
The door slammed shut behind him.
“Well, that was bracing,” Giles said, standing up only to slump into the nearest chair.
“Yeah,” Buffy murmured, staring at the front door. “You… you forgot to pay him.”
“For helping us. You didn’t…”
“Oh, well, I’m sure he’ll be back to collect his dues.” Giles snorted. “And then some.”
“Yeah,” Buffy said, turning to look at the front door, running a hand across her neck. “I’m sure he’ll be back.”
Hours later and she’d yet to go home. No, instead she was here at Restfield cemetery staring at the door to a crypt over twenty yards away. Any closer would be too close though she wasn’t sure why she knew that.
When she turned and walked away, she forced herself to not look over her shoulder. There was nothing she needed to see here. She didn’t need to…
She didn’t need anything.