Title: Calliope Unsheathed
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.”
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Buffy is enjoying a girls’ night out with Joyce at the traveling carnival in town, while Spike decided to pop into the fortune teller, only to get surprised by a threat against the Slayer…
“So we’ll do the Ferris wheel first,” Joyce said. “That gives us a birds-eye view of the carnival to figure out where everything is while our stomachs have time to settle.”
Buffy licked the last of the whipped cream off her spork. “Your stomach,” she corrected. “Mine’s fit as a fiddle.”
“Well, mine’s going to jump off the roof if I even think about going on a fast ride.” She glanced up at the cloudy sky. “I hope it doesn’t start raining while we’re on it.”
“We could always do the bumper cars instead. You only have to go as fast as you’re comfortable, and it even comes with this handy dandy rain protection called a roof.”
Joyce grimaced. “All it would take is one person to think it’s funny to go after the old lady putt-putting around the edges, and there goes the funnel cake. No, thank you.”
Buffy scowled as a familiar figure broke free from the crowd. “Spike.”
With a sigh, Joyce shook her head. “Buffy, I know you don’t care for him, but I genuinely don’t believe Spike would be that malicious.”
“No.” Buffy jerked her chin toward him as he sauntered toward their table. “Spike.” She sat up straighter when he came to a stop next to them. “What do you want?”
With a look of hurt—definitely feigned—Spike held his left hand over his chest. “Is that truly how you greet someone who comes only with good intentions, Slayer?”
“There’s nothing good about you,” she snapped. Sure about that? the little voice asked in the back of her head.
“Sure about that?” Spike replied. Her eyes widened at the echo of her thoughts, but she was saved from an immediate response when he turned to her mother. “H’lo, Joyce. You’re lookin’ particularly lovely tonight.”
Buffy had to fight not to roll her eyes when Joyce flushed a faint pink. “Why, thank you, Spike.”
“And now that the sucking up portion of the evening is over, why don’t you tell me why you’re really here?” Buffy said.
Spike cocked his head. “It’s not sucking up if it’s true, now is it?”
“Then where’s my compliment?” She waited expectantly for what she knew was never going to come, only to get distracted by a split second by the way he curled his tongue behind his top teeth as he contemplated her request. Too late, his gaze caught the flicker of hers, and her stomach went as flippy as Joyce’s when his features shifted into a knowing smirk. “Never mind,” she said. “Just go away.”
“Now, now.” Spike clicked his tongue in reproof. “You’re goin’ to want to hear what I have to say.”
“I was kidding about the compliment.”
“And that’s not what I was talkin’ about.” Grabbing a chair from a nearby table, Spike hauled it to theirs and promptly sprawled in it. “I take it from your complete lack of interest that you haven’t heard.”
Why couldn’t he just get to the point so she could go back to enjoying herself? “Heard what?”
“Whatever bad mojo the carnies are up to. Don’t know too much myself, just what I picked up from a couple of Igaro demons. Still, didn’t have anything better to do tonight, so I thought I’d come have a wander and see what I could suss out.”
The words came easily, his gaze steady, but something about the way he talked didn’t ring true. “Nope,” Buffy said. “Don’t buy it.”
“Don’t have to,” he replied easily. “Go take a look for yourself.”
“At what? You said you didn’t know anything.”
“Didn’t. Important word there. But I did overhear the fortune teller blusterin’ on while I was pokin’ around. She even mentioned you.”
Joyce stiffened. “What did she say about Buffy?”
“He’s lying, Mom,” Buffy said. “He’s just trying to distract me from the real reason he’s here.”
But Spike was unfazed by her disbelief. “Something about bein’ grateful to her,” he said to Joyce. “According to them, they couldn’t do it without her. Personally, I think that’s givin’ the Slayer too much credit. Everyone and their brother knows she’s on holiday. Word is, she hasn’t had a decent slay since Soldier Boy took off.”
Her mouth opened to argue when the little voice spoke up again.
He’s pushing your buttons because you didn’t believe his story. This is what he does, remember?
“Well, I’m not going to complain that Buffy’s had it easy the past few weeks,” Joyce said. “I think she’s deserved a break.”
Though she warmed at the way her mom stood up for her, Buffy couldn’t actually deny any of what they were saying was untrue. She had been wiped out after dealing with Adam, and she had been frustrated that it felt like all the demons had gone on sabbatical the past few weeks. But something else Spike had said tripped her question radar.
“You said, ‘according to them.’ Who’s them?”
“Told you. The fortune teller.”
“No, a fortune teller is a he or a she.” She paused. “Or an it, since this is the Hellmouth. But you specifically said ‘them.’ Who’s the other part of that them?”
“Her flunkie. A right git, if you ask me. Couldn’t even keep me straight from that wanker ex of yours. Like he and I have anything in common,” Spike scoffed.
Her eyes narrowed. “If you only overheard them, why would he confuse you with Angel?”
She saw the split second he took to realize he’d stepped on his own lie. How Spike had survived over a century when he was so bad at deception was beyond her. The stupid vampire wore most of his emotions like a bad wig.
“All right, fine, I talked to them a bit,” he said. “But the rest of it is true. She specifically told me to thank you.” He leveled a finger at her. “Which I did. So you’re welcome.”
This, she actually believed. Which meant his earlier assertion about something going down tonight was likely true. And the best way to determine that was…
“Where’s this fortune teller?”
Spike nodded toward the midway. “Back a ways, but you can’t miss her.”
Rising, Buffy tossed her napkin onto the empty plate. “We’ll only be a few minutes, Mom. If you want to head over to the Ferris wheel, I’ll meet you there when we’re done.”
Spike’s gaze tracked her as she dumped their trash in the can. “What’s this we business?”
“We,” she repeated. “As in you and me. Are you really having that big a problem with pronouns today, Spike?”
“Since when am I a part in this little play of yours?”
“Since you decided to crash my girls night out with your doomsaying. C’mon.”
She turned on her heel, not bothering to wait to see if he would follow. She had no doubt he would. For all his complaining, if there was a fight to be had, she could trust Spike to be in the middle of it.
Sure enough, his muttered curse came on top of the sound of leather flapping against his legs as he rose from his seat. Within moments, he was at her side, matching her pace with his loose gait, his arm occasionally brushing against hers as they headed deeper into the carnival.
Her pulse accelerated. Though she still didn’t trust Spike not to have shady plans tonight, the thrill of a potential fight was enough to get her adrenaline going. The location sucked—if there truly was an evil afoot, she’d have to find a way to keep it away from the crowds to avoid drawing unnecessary attention—but beggars couldn’t be choosers. She’d use one of their trucks as cover, then pray none of the non-evil carnies got caught up in the fray.
“Well, hell,” Spike said, grinding to a halt.
When Buffy glanced over, he was frowning at a clearing off the main path. “What is it?”
“The bloody bint’s done a runner, that’s what.”
Buffy scanned the area. Packed earth gave no indication of footprints or tire treads, but the plot was big enough for its own attraction. It didn’t make sense for it to be left vacant in the middle of the carnival like this. “Did she have a table set up?”
“A whole bleedin’ house.” Spike wandered deeper into the patch, crouching after several feet to touch the dirt. He lifted his fingers to his nose and sniffed. “Yeah, this was it. Sign was right here.” He waved his hand over the ground. “Don’t know where she got the magic to move the whole lot, but that’s what she must’ve done.”
All of her excitement about something interesting to fight vanished. “I should’ve known you were blowing smoke. Go home before I decide the only way to cure my boredom is to play pin the stake on Spike.”
She hadn’t made it two steps when his sharp voice carried after her. “You think I dragged you out here to look at a pile of nothin’ on purpose?”
With a sigh, she faced off with him again. “I think you got bored with your sad and tragic existence and decided to satisfy your weird sense of fun by setting me on a wild goose chase, yes.”
“Like you weren’t so bored, you left your mum behind just to see about a potential spot of violence?” When she stiffened, the corner of his mouth lifted, and he lowered his head to peer at her through his lashes. “Oh, I noticed how your heart gave a little pitter-pat at the notion, luv. Or are you goin’ to try tellin’ me that was because of my oh so charming company?”
Of course, he’d heard that. Nothing slipped past Spike, no matter how much she might want it to.
“I’m not arguing with you over whose summer vacation is more pathetic,” she said. “Just be straight with me. Do I need to worry about something wreaking havoc on the Hellmouth or not?”
Spike straightened. Stuffed his hands deep in his pockets. Looked her right in the eye. “Considerin’ she made her entire operation disappear in the time it took me to tell you, I’d say yes.”
God help her but she believed him. “Then let’s find her.”
How he got roped into being her sidekick for this little adventure, Spike had no idea. But when she met his silent dare without batting an eyelash or a snide comment about his pitiable reality, a small flame of satisfaction had ignited deep in his gut. He couldn’t ignore it. Which meant he was currently roaming around the carnival, looking for any sign of the seer, after watching Buffy send Joyce off with promises about finishing their girls’ night tomorrow.
“But how’re you going to get home?” Joyce asked.
“Like I always do,” Buffy replied. “I’ll walk.”
“I can see to it she gets back safe and sound,” Spike heard himself saying.
Buffy rolled her eyes. “I don’t need an escort.”
“Was thinkin’ more like a ride. The DeSoto’s parked in the lot.”
Though Buffy wrinkled her nose, Joyce reached into her purse. “Thank you, Spike. That makes me feel better. Let me just give you something to pay for the gas—”
“Mom! Do not give him any money!”
He cocked his head and grinned. “Yeah, Buffy, why not?”
“He is doing us a favor,” Joyce continued.
Buffy clamped her lips shut at that, so indignant it was almost cute. But when Joyce held out the ten, Spike shook his head.
“Got it covered, Joyce.” He didn’t, but it never hurt to have the parents on his side.
So far, they’d seen neither hide nor hair of the seer’s cottage. He’d walked the perimeter of the spot where it’d been without a tingle of what might’ve happened to it. When he suggested bringing in Red to help track where she might’ve gone, Buffy dismissed it with, “Will’s still not a hundred percent.” Spike didn’t buy it. Buffy’s tone was too casual. Beneath it was a tinge of sadness that he wasn’t sure she was even aware of.
Missed her gal pal, most likely. It made sense for Willow to get reinvigorated by spending time with the other witch. New relationship and all. But with Riley gone, Buffy needed her mates more than ever, needed that charge they supplied that always drove Spike mad. He’d never understood why she fussed with them when she was clearly so much better on her own, but the more he’d witnessed this past year, the more he recognized they provided the spark that ignited her when she was the sole candle in the darkness. She couldn’t see that, of course. Part of her charm. But he’d kill anyone who dared to suggest he had a weakness for it.
Still, it was just the two of them here, even surrounded as they were by the hundreds who sought escape amongst the carnies. Having a go at her wasn’t nearly as fun if she wasn’t at her best. The one thing he could do for her was find the fight.
Frankly, it was the one thing he could do for both of them.
“Are you sure they actually worked for the carnival?” Buffy asked as they finished their second lap around the grounds.
“Not sure of anything right now,” he conceded. He glanced up at the sky. The temperature was dropping, the winds rising. The rain the clouds had been threatening all day looked to be upgrading to a proper storm. “Maybe Mother Nature’s throwing a spanner in their works.”
When Buffy looked up, Spike’s gaze caught on the elegant line of her jaw for a moment longer than was necessary. She might be missing her friends, but she wasn’t wasting away, waiting for the boytoy to come scuttling back to Sunnydale with his tail tucked between his legs.
Good for her.
“I always knew Tina was a demon,” Buffy muttered.
Spike frowned. “Seer’s name is Margareta.”
“Not her. The weather girl.” But his comment had pulled her back to the moment. “You talked to the fortune teller long enough to find out her name?”
Her voice held more than a hint of the distrust she’d shown earlier. “It was on the sign outside her door.”
“Of the invisible cottage you can’t find anymore.”
“Really? Because it feels like stalling.”
“Slayer, if that was true, you would’ve started usin’ me as a punching bag a half hour ago.”
She deflated, as he’d known she would. She was as frustrated as he was by their lack of progress.
Then, a drop of rain hit her cheek.
“That’s it,” she said. “Someone’s gotta be the boss around here. If she’s employed with the carnival, she has to report in.”
“And if she’s not?” Spike prompted.
Buffy grimaced. “I’ll think about that later.”
Her new path led her toward the parking lot and the information booth situated next to the tickets. No fighting crowds this time. At the first hint of rain, guests had started making a beeline for their cars, like they’d melt if they stayed out too long. Spike wasn’t bothered by it, but Buffy’s pace quickened as well, taking the lead and trusting he’d be right there behind.
The possibility of abandoning her barely skittered through his mind. For his money, the view was worth sticking around for.
She’d dressed for the heat, in a white tank that floated over her body and slacks that seemed painted on. Not leather, which was a shame, but he understood her desire to remain cool. The fabric of her top fluttered in the breeze, and the added promise of what it might look like plastered wetly against her skin sent his thoughts careening in a dangerous direction, one leading straight to naked limbs and hot flesh and head-spinning moans.
The fantasy wasn’t new. He’d nursed versions of it over the past two years, and though most ended with his fangs in her throat, recent incarnations weren’t quite so deadly. Bloody, sure, but taking a sip was a drastic shift from draining her dry. One could impose pleasure and never trigger the chip. The other was a surefire mood killer, even when the mood was completely in his head.
He dwelled there quite comfortably now, taking advantage of Buffy’s attention elsewhere, until she disappeared around the front of the carousel. He jogged to catch up, only to be stopped short by a familiar hulk standing outside the ride’s queue.
“Buffy!” When she glanced back, her firm frown a tip off to the admonishment to come, he pointed at Oleksiy. “Flunkie to your right!”
Though she honed in on him without pause, Oleksiy was the first to react.
“You could have protected her,” he said to Spike and retreated a step. “This is why—”
Lightning cut him off. Thunder rumbled after a brief pause. While the surge of heartbeats from the startled passersby threatened to drown Spike’s senses, Buffy’s pulse remained calm.
“That’s typically a sign someone needs to re-evaluate his life choices,” she commented. “Is there something you’d like to share before I proceed to kick your ass?”
Another flash lit up the sky, casting the world in white for a split second. Oleksiy tilted his gaze upward, still as a rock, until the thunder crashed a moment later.
“Yes,” he said, but when he leveled his eyes back at Buffy, they glowed as pale as the lightning had. “Run.”
Her natural retort was interrupted by a sharp crack as lightning blazed from above and struck the carousel. Unbridled energy radiated from its center, electrifying the air, searing every nerve ending Spike possessed. Buffy whirled to see where it was coming from, but before Spike could shout a warning, the world shattered around him.
To be continued in Chapter Three: Sizzled and Cracked…
Originally posted at https://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/658790.html