1. I am 95% sure this is all you're going to get. These 3 chapters have been sitting on my hard drive for over a year. Every so often, I open them, re-read, giggle like a madwoman, and then close them again. I sincerely doubt this will ever be finished.
2. It's a gimmick fic. GIMMICK fic. I know this. It's half the reason I started writing it, lol.
3. I am totally ripping myself off with this. How? It's another Scoobies out of water fic. Think Rhapsody in Oil. I have done this exact same thing before in another milieu, so points on the originality meter are in the negatives.
That being said, just thinking about this fic makes me smile. Which is why I thought of it when I saw so many people talking about WIP Amnesty weekend last weekend. I have posted a brief section of the first chapter when posting WIP snippets before, so that might seem familiar to some of you, but otherwise, nobody else has seen this except for sadbhyl when I first wrote it a year and a half ago. A few might have heard about it, because I was tormenting people with images of it at Phauxcon that year, but otherwise...nada.
TITLE: Hazy Shade of Innocence
RATING: R for now (it would have eventually gone NC17)
GENRE: Um...hard to say. We'll say romantic light with a side of fluff. It's ensemble fun, light on the angst.
DISCLAIMER: Not mine, which is a shame because usually we're nicer to them than Joss was. The chapter title is courtesy of Wang Chung.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Season 6. That’s right. I said, Season 6. Starting right after “Life Serial.” Everything is canon up to that point---Buffy died to save the world, Buffy got brought back from Heaven, nobody but Spike knows where she was, and she’s doing her best not to let it get to her. I’m going AU from here, though, for a more fun way of Buffy realizing that life isn’t so bad. And maybe a healthier approach to her relationship with Spike.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I’ll be the first to admit that I’m probably ripping myself off with this fic. I don’t care, lol. I want a fun Spuffy/ensemble fic, and I’ve been wanting to write something like this for awhile, so if you think it resembles one of my other fics as you’re reading, well, I knew that already… :)
The scent of raw sewage and White Diamonds drifting ever stronger from the building in front of them should have been their first clue to move away from the door. When it was shoved open, the heavy handle slammed into Xander’s stomach, knocking him to the ground, while the rest of the gang danced away from the lumbering form of the shaggy demon that came lurching outside. Buffy moved protectively in front of her friends, glaring upward into the demon’s single silver eye. It only blinked at her before doddering off in the opposite direction, the aromatic reminder of its presence lingering long after it had disappeared.
“I already don’t like this plan,” Xander grumbled as Anya helped him back to his feet.
“Be grateful it knocked you onto your ass and out of its sight,” Spike said.
“Yeah, well, I like it better when Giles is the one who ends up on the ground.” Xander grimaced at the stench, his hand lifting to plug his nose. “Please tell me the bar doesn’t smell this bad on the inside.”
“That’s the Shervargoth demon you smell,” Anya explained. “And Spike’s right. You really didn’t want it to see you.”
“Because it’s on the hunt for a mate, you git.” Spike rolled his eyes, reaching into his pocket to pull out his cigarettes and lighter. “How you’ve survived this long on the Hellmouth without getting eaten is beyond me.”
“That was a girl demon?” Xander exclaimed. When Anya nodded, his brows knit together in confusion. “Then how come it didn’t go after Spike?”
“Because he’s not human,” she explained. “They need human mates, because after the female gets impregnated, she requires a steady diet of fresh entrails, and humans are the best for---.”
“And tonight’s lecture on Demon Sexuality 101 is now officially called on account of being way too gross,” Buffy said loudly. “Plan, remember? Last time I checked, we had one.”
The quartet turned back to face the bar, this time a safe distance away from the door. Though it had been a week since her unfortunate night of drunken revelry with Spike, the mere sight of the place made Buffy’s stomach roil simply on principle. Too much had happened in the short span of those few hours. Not all of it had been bad, however. Remembering certain parts had the power to elicit a genuine smile from her when she luxuriated in the random spare moment.
Like the cool rush of riding behind Spike on his motorcycle, her hands splayed across his taut abdomen as he rounded street corners.
Or the rebellious glee at setting the kittens free.
Reliving how sick she’d gotten after the poker game was not one of them. Standing where she was now, that was pretty much the numero uno memory on hand.
“Tell me again why me and Ahn have to be the ones to do this,” Xander complained.
“’Cause the Slayer got the both of us blacklisted with her born free agenda,” Spike said.
She ignored his sarcasm, focusing instead on Xander. “We need to know if Spike’s sources are right,” she said. “If there’s some big mojo going down tonight, we need to find out where it’s going on so that we can stop it.”
“And Dave knows everything that goes on in this town,” Spike added. “You tell him what I told you, and he’ll answer any questions you ask.”
Xander jabbed a finger into the vampire’s chest. “See, this is the part of the plan I don’t get. He won’t even let you into his bar, but he’s going to spill on the next big bad rising on the horizon just because I know you? Am I the only one seeing the flaw in this logic?”
Buffy saw the muscles start twitching in Spike’s jaw, his blue eyes growing darker with rising irritation. She knew he still burned about getting banned from his favorite bar and weekly poker game, and while she didn’t feel bad about rescuing the kittens or the damage that had followed when the fights had broken out, she did feel marginally guilty about the inconvenience her intervention had created for Spike. He had only been trying to help her forget what a crappy day she’d had.
“Just do it,” Buffy said, stepping between the two men. “We’ll be right out here in case anything goes wrong.”
“Do we have a signal for that?” Anya asked.
“Our bloodcurdling screams.” Xander curled his fingers around her elbow, guiding her to the front door of the bar. “Come on. Let’s get this over with.”
When it was just the pair of them left on the sidewalk, Spike ambled a few steps away from Buffy, bending his head as he cupped his hands around the end of the cigarette in his mouth to light it. The sudden red flare warmed his face for a fraction of a second, and then shadows fell again to hide his features, leaving her wondering just how upset with her he was.
“Maybe we should’ve pointed out Harris to the Shervargoth, after all,” Spike said casually. “Might not have got the information we want, but it sure as hell would’ve been fun to watch.”
“I’m sorry about that.” The apology came tumbling out before she could stop it, and when his head snapped up to stare at her, Buffy quickly tried to cover. “It sucks not being able to take care of this ourselves, I mean. I don’t worry so much about Anya for some reason, but every time I think about Xander trying to play Mr. Undercover Man, I start imagining oodles and oodles of wrongness on our horizon.”
He took a long drag on his cigarette, the smoke curling about his head as he regarded her with eyes too dark to fathom. “Could still try and find the beasties ourselves,” he said. “Harris and his bird will do fine gettin’ back without us to babysit them.”
Buffy shook her head. “We’re here now. We might as well get what we came for.” When he nodded and turned away again, taking the few steps necessary to lean against a lamppost while he finished his cigarette, she rolled her eyes at her own lameness. Talking to Spike wasn’t supposed to be hard. In fact, ever since she had come back, talking to Spike had been the one thing she could rely on being easy. But the combination of her guilt about the poker incident and his subsequent lowered tolerance level for her company had erected a wall between them that Buffy decided she really, really hated. Like it or not, she missed him.
Well, she hastily corrected, not him. Their conversations. The way he listened. The fact that she didn’t have to pretend that everything was hunky dory in her life when in actuality, her life was neither hunky nor dory.
She was going to have to apologize for real if she wanted to get it back.
Or wait until something else pissed Spike off and distracted him from his annoyance with her. It was half the reason she’d suggested Xander and Anya be the ones to come with them.
Buffy decided she much preferred the sound of the latter option.
A growl from inside the bar pierced the silence of the street, Buffy’s head snapping around to face the door while Spike pushed off from the post to come to her side. Seconds later, one of the front windows crashed outwards, glass spraying almost directly in Buffy’s face. Before she could flinch away, Spike shielded both of them with his coat, gathering her against his lean body while a second window shattered behind him.
Though the black leather obstructed most of her view, Buffy saw the glass shards go flying past, landing in the gutter to glitter beneath the moonlight. She didn’t have time to relax or to fully absorb the clean scent of Spike’s soap before the door slammed open.
“We have a new signal!” she heard Xander shout. Anya’s high-pitched squeal punctuated the sound of their hastening footsteps. “It’s called running for your life!”
Buffy and Spike needed no further prompting. All four fled into the night.
The slamming of Dawn’s bedroom door made the pictures on the wall audibly vibrate, but Buffy didn’t pause as she opened the weapons chest. “We shouldn’t be gone that long,” she explained to Tara. She handed a crossbow to Willow who passed it along to a waiting Giles. “All we have to do is stop whoever it is casting the spell. Should be cake.”
“The way Niblet sulks,” Spike interjected, “we’ll be back before she even comes out of her room. Remember the night she threw a wobbler because we wouldn’t let her go out with that boy from the carny?”
Everyone in the room chuckled at the memory. Everyone, that is, except Buffy. It was a memory she didn’t share with the others, something from that summer that everybody but Spike had conveniently forgotten about, but rather than let them see how it stung, she buried herself back into dispensing weapons.
“Xander will have his cell phone,” she said, her tone brisk. “The construction they’ve been doing on the new high school means we’re going to be splitting up to try and find the source of the magic, but he knows the layout better than any of us. He’ll be able to get to any of us if you have an emergency back here.”
Tara nodded, though her eyes slid to where Xander sat on the couch, holding an ice pack to his swollen lower lip. “Is he OK with going?” she asked.
Though he tried to pull the pack away from his mouth to speak, Anya quickly shoved it back into place. “We get guard duty this time,” she announced. “Xander’s been far too traumatized for one night already.”
Spike rolled his eyes. “That Shervargoth never even caught you, you git.”
This time, Xander didn’t let Anya stop him from talking. “Were you the one with the big hairy hand down his pants? I don’t think so.”
“Still got your dangly bits, don’t you? Consider yourself lucky.”
“I consider myself molested, thank you very much.”
“As…disturbing as the images you’ve evoked are,” Giles interrupted, “there could potentially be an even more disturbing reality if we don’t get moving very quickly here.”
“Trust me,” Spike said, lifting the broadsword Buffy had given him to rest on his shoulder. “There is nothin’ more nauseous than the thought of a Shervargoth demon straddling the boy’s---.
Buffy’s sharp voice silenced the room, stilling any more argument. When everyone turned to her, she did her best not to flinch under their stares, picking up the heavy duffel with Willow’s supplies. “Giles is right,” she said. “Time is not on our side tonight. We can save the discussion of Xander’s sex life for the next time Anya decides to channel her inner Dr. Ruth.”
Anya helped Xander rise to his feet. “Actually, Dr. Ruth is a valuable---.”
“Really not the point, Ahn.” He pulled his keys from his pocket, jingled them, and asked, “Who’s riding with me?”
“What’s with all the cars?”
As Spike turned off the ignition of the motorcycle, Buffy slid from the seat behind him, her thighs still vibrating from the roar of the engine between her legs. Her brows were drawn together as she scanned the packed parking lot, cars and SUV’s of every shape and color spilling out into the street. In the distance, she could hear the faint beat of loud music pulsing through the air.
“There’s your answer.” Spike jerked his chin toward a large banner that spanned the walkway leading into the new high school’s atrium. The construction wasn’t completed, but this part of the building looked as if it was ready for students to move in at any time. Only the scattered equipment around the lot revealed the truth.
“Welcome, Class of 1986,” Buffy murmured, reading the bright red lettering out loud. She scowled. “Great. Now I have to worry about not killing a bunch of drunk old people while we take care of the magic stuff.”
“They will hardly be old,” Giles said, coming up behind her. Xander, Willow, and Anya stood next to him, Xander’s car in the far distance along the sidewalk. “If they graduated in 1986, that would only make them thirty-two or thirty-three now.”
Buffy stared at him blankly.
“Which, of course, is absolutely ancient for you,” Giles finished with a roll of his eyes. Sighing, he turned to the others. “Now. Do we have our course of action set?”
Willow was the first to nod. “Buffy and I will set up in the old library. According to the constructions plans, they’re building the principal’s office over it, so the Hellmouth is pretty much still covered. But the residual energy is still there. I can use it to help focus and find the source of whatever is going to happen tonight.”
“Spike and I will look around for anything else unusual.” Distant screams of delight emanated from the new portion of the high school, drawing Giles’ attention. “Xander, I’d like for you and Anya to check out the reunion. Try and keep everybody contained. I would prefer keeping the events of tonight amongst ourselves.”
Xander peered into the darkness. “It looks like they’ve set up shop in the new gym,” he said. “There’s only the one set of doors, so that should be easy to keep an eye on.”
“Let’s do this.” Swinging the duffel over her shoulder, Buffy deliberately ignored Spike’s sharp glance in her direction and began to march toward the far end of the construction site. A few seconds later, Willow’s running footsteps came up to join her.
“This is definitely the place,” Willow said, her voice slightly breathless. “It’s a good thing Tara isn’t here. The vibes around the school are even wigging me out.”
“Are they vibey enough for you to pinpoint where it’s going to happen?”
Buffy was disappointed when Willow shook her head. “It’s blanketing the whole school.” They were almost to the old library before she added, her voice hushed from the somber atmosphere, “And I’m starting to think that’s really not good.”
It was oddly comforting hearing Spike’s heavy step at his side as they walked through the new halls of the high school. During the time of Buffy’s absence – Giles was reluctant to even think of it as her death for fear of making that mistake while speaking with her – he had been paired with Spike a great portion of the time, whether it was because the younger people thought their shared heritage was a common enough denominator or simply because they feared spending too much time with the vampire. As time progressed, Giles found he didn’t mind. Spike didn’t engage in idle conversation, he did the job that needed to be done, and he always left at the end of the night. It was more than could be said about Xander or Willow.
Still, since Buffy’s resurrection, it had seemed odd for Spike to suddenly be gone so often. Giles knew Buffy went to the crypt to see him; he strongly suspected Spike’s perspective on dying and coming back was a contributing factor to their growing friendship. And it was impossible to deny that she looked to him more than she did her other friends. Why that would be, Giles didn’t know. In light of how morose she still appeared, however, he wasn’t going to question the few things that did manage to lift her spirits, Spike included.
For the third time since separating from the others, Spike shifted next to him, lifting his shoulders as if in discomfort and pulling at his sleeves.
“Is something wrong?” Giles asked.
“Something’s off,” Spike clarified. His dark brows were a straight line above his eyes as he stopped to look down an empty hall. “Everything in me is itchin’ to hightail it outta here, but it’s like an itch I can’t reach, you know?”
“You mean that sense of impending doom?” Giles couldn’t help but smile. “Welcome to Sunnydale High.”
They stopped before another closed door, but when Giles moved to open it and check to see if the room was empty, Spike snorted. “It’s a soddin’ bathroom,” he commented. “I hardly think something with the kind of mojo we’re lookin’ for is goin’ to set up shop in the loo.”
“We have to be thorough,” Giles said, and disappeared inside.
Wang Chung blasted from the speakers spread throughout the streamer-decorated gym, drawing the air in tighter, while the bodies gyrating near the stage jacked the temperature in the room by another twenty degrees. More people were milling around the edges of the room, heads bobbing to the pounding music, but beyond the occasional beer gut and bad dye job, Xander didn’t see anything that raised his Hellmouth hackles. It looked like what it claimed to be, the high school reunion for Sunnydale High’s Class of 1986.
“Remind me to have Buffy go to more of these catered apocalypses,” he said around a mouthful of cake.
Anya was busy staring at a big poster, filled with a collage of yearbook photos. “I remember this decade,” she mused. “They had some very interesting ideas about hair.”
Xander tossed his empty plate in the trash and grabbed a cup of punch from the end of the table. “I think that’s a claim to fame for any decade.”
The music came to a stop, and the slight electronic squeak of a microphone being adjusted caught everyone in the room’s attention. “Is everybody here?” a too perky voice said from the stage. It belonged to an overweight bottle-blonde with dark roots just starting to come through. Her sequined dress hugged in all the wrong places, but she seemed oblivious to the snickers that ran throughout the crowd.
“I don’t want to get the awards ceremony started until I know everybody is in here,” she went on. Standing on tiptoes, she peered over the assembled heads at the back of the gym. Xander glanced to the side and saw a scrawny guy in a tux too long for his short legs pull the doors shut. “Are we good, Bucky?”
With a wide smile, Bucky lifted his arm over his head so that the woman onstage could see him and gave her a thumbs up.
“Then let’s get this show on the road!”
Before Xander could shift his gaze back to the stage, a brilliant flash of light flooded the room.
To be continued in Chapter 2: Manic Monday…