Disclaimer: These characters are not mine (sob). They belong to Joss and Mutant Enemy. I just like to take them out and play with them sometimes, because they're so pretty.

Summary: The Buffy Summers Roadshow hits town…

Author's Note: Silly bit of fluff inspired by a line in the brilliant Season Noir by Anna S: 'In another reality where she had her own talk show'. That was just too good an image to resist. Set in an AU some time after Season 6.

And The Crowd Went Wild

Buffy stamped her feet and blew on her hands. She was freezing, and the skimpy little top the producer had insisted that she wear was doing nothing to keep out the wind. The make-up boy tried to fuss with her nose, and she swatted him away. "Shiny is in right now," she said. "Didn't you get the memo?"

He slunk off, and she sighed. She hadn't meant to snap, but she was cold and nervous and who the hell thought it would be a good idea to film the Halloween special in England anyway? What was wrong with Florida? You could appreciate the whole ghoulies and ghosties and long legged beasties thing just as well in seventy degree sunshine, couldn't you?

Apparently, no. She hugged herself and wished that thermal vests weren't quite so obvious under a strappy top. She could hear the crowd in front of the stage stamping its collective feet, although whether that was to express excitement or try and warm up, she wasn't sure.

"Nervous?" said a voice, and she jumped at least two foot in the air by way of answer.

"Willow," she said, trying to calm her heart rate. Hyperventilating didn't go down too well on stage. She hated live broadcasts – they were hell on the nerves. The roadshows had been extremely popular - and at least she'd got to see a bit of the world besides Sunnydale - but there was still a big part of her that would rather take on a rabid vampire horde than stand in that spotlight.

Willow smiled without any sign of nerves. The network didn't demand its Demonology and Magic consultant go in front of the cameras. Well, not any more. Not since the whole plague of boils incident. Willow had never really got over the stage fright thing from high school.

"Ready?" asked Willow. "You're on in ninety seconds." She beamed at Buffy. "It's gonna be a good one. They reckon we've got at least twenty thousand out there."

"I think I'm going to be sick."

Willow patted her arm. "Don't worry. You'll be fine. Xander's warming them up lovely."

Xander had taken to the role of performer like a duck to water. Or should that be Parvar demon to spinal fluid? He'd found his vocation, and loved every part of it. His irreverent, schoolboyish clowning was the perfect counterpoint to Giles' stuffy – um, instructional, she meant instructional – segments, and the fans loved him. He loved them right back, and Buffy envied him for it. In the three years since they'd blown the lid on the whole 'monsters under the bed are real' thing, she'd never got used to having fans. Sure, coming clean had meant that there were a lot more fighters on the side of the Light, and all that good stuff, but still – fans.

Men – and women, and assorted demons - sent her pictures of themselves naked, the tabloids took pictures of the contents of her washing line with telephoto lenses, and people regularly went through the contents of her trash. How did you ever get used to that?

There was a sudden commotion behind her, and she saw a body stretched out on the floor. The first aid people were hurtling towards it and Clem stood off to one side, looking sheepish. Another unbeliever had bitten the dust, by the looks of it. Despite everything, there were a lot of people who still thought the whole thing was all nothing more than computer graphics and imagination. A lot of them turned up at the roadshows, smug and superior in their rationality. Clem tended to be a bit of a target for them, which was kind of understandable. Even Buffy had to admit that he did look like he should have a zipper running up his back. He was normally very good-natured about it, letting them poke and prod and generally manhandle him. Sometimes though, with the really high-handed ones, he would lean in and do that thing where his head exploded into all manner of tentacles and gooey things just like that scene in the Twilight Zone movie. That usually convinced even the die-hards.

She started to walk towards him, but then found herself being turned around by a couple of the producer's minions. "You're on, you're on," they chanted. "We're rolling. Go, go, go."

She sighed and let herself be hauled onto the stage. Took a moment to paste on her professional smile and then stepped forward, bouncing on the balls of her feet and waving to the crowd. She was freezing, her cracked ribs from the last vamp nest discovery hadn't entirely healed and she had a zit the size of a small hellmouth on her chin, but hey. The show must go on, right?

She turned her smile up and her brain down, letting her training take over. Smile, wave, sparkle. These days it was almost as familiar and automatic as spin, kick, stake.

Giles was already on the stage, his giant projector screens in place and showing a montage of vampire action. She smiled wider. Vampires again. Great. It seemed like the English just couldn't get enough of vampires.

Everyone seemed to be dressed up. She lost count of the number of Draculas, ghosts and little horned devils. Even one of two min-Clems, she noted. He was going to be so proud.

She executed a few acrobatic moves for attention, and Giles began running through his piece. Luckily her enthralled, attentive expression was as easily pasted on as the smile, and she was able to let her mind drift behind it.

Giles was thoroughly enjoying himself, she could tell. He always did, almost as much as Xander. He wouldn't admit it - still talked about public service and the need for education - but she knew he loved his captive audiences. Thousands of people – millions even, for the taped studio shows – hanging on his every word. What's not for a Watcher to love? He was good at it too, she had to admit. The camera adored him, and she wasn't the only one to get underwear in the mail.

Sometimes, she thought she was the only one who hankered for the old days – the days of secrecy and solo slaying. The others had moved into the spotlight of public life with so much more grace than she'd managed. Xander had his pick of supermodels, Giles had his MBE and Willow had never got over seeing her name on academic texts. Even Dawn, away at Harvard, often rang up squealing with excitement at having been interviewed by a magazine or news programme. The government was still frantically trying to get legislation together that allowed for this brave new world, and Dawn knew she'd have her pick of jobs as soon as she was qualified.

And Buffy had – well, what did Buffy have? Financial security, yes. That was nice. No more dead end jobs in fast food hell, no more worries about paying for Dawn's education. And the help, of course. That was also nice. Really bad outbreaks of vampires were dealt with these days by her special forces teams, armed with flame throwers. She had plenty of money, plenty of nice clothes and plenty of nice dates with nice men. Nice men, rich men, good men - she had her choice. She had it good, sure she did, and it wasn't an issue at all if none of them measured up to –

She clamped down on that thought. To who? No-one. She didn't compare any of her nice men to – well, to anyone, really. Anyone at all. She didn't think about anyone else. She didn't think about black leather and blond hair and blue eyes and a voice as rough and warm as bourbon. She especially didn't think about knowing hands and wild, desperate sex. Those things weren't nice, so she didn't think about them. Every single day for the last five years, she didn't think about them.

She forced her mind back to the job. They'd done the fight re-enactment, with Xander hamming it up outrageously as a dying Fyarl demon to huge applause, and the guest spot – a local witch, who kept the audience entranced with ancient folk tales of fey, otherwordly creatures.

Fey. That was a good word. It brought to mind images of insubstantial, ethereal wisps, hovering just out of the eye's reach. Images of beautiful, bright-haired vampires.

She shook herself, but the image wouldn't leave her. A heartbeat later, and she realised that was because it was real.

Almost lost in the crowd, but it was real. Her breath caught in her throat and she stumbled. Giles turned to her, a worried expression on his face, but she just pumped up the smile and waved him off. He gave her a quizzical look but nodded.

The show must go on.

She looked again, and it – he – was gone. She swallowed and tried to steady herself. Stupid. Seeing things. Seeing vampires. And why not? There was a whole crowd of vampire costumes out there tonight.

Giles was still looking at her oddly. "I'm fine," she said. "Just – cold." It came out as lame as it sounded in her head, but it was the best she could do on short notice.

"Are you okay to carry on?" he said.

Where had they got to? The wheels spun for a second, but then she caught up. The audience participation slot. Invite the star-struck onto the stage for a lesson from the Slayer.

She nodded. "Sure. Let's do it."

Giles signalled to Xander, who'd been checking out the wannabes. Funny how many pretty young girls were always the ones most desperate to meet her. She closed her eyes for a second. Focus, focus. Pull it together.

She opened them again and walked to the front of the stage, holding out a hand to pull up Xander's choice. Surprise, a very pretty brunette with a hint of early Cordelia about her.

She reached down into the crowd, and felt her hand gripped. A shockingly strong, rough grip for a girl. She pulled, and a figure in black seemed to flow up the side of the stage to stand in front of her.

She froze. Everyone froze. The pretty brunette, still stuck in the crowd, was saying something, but Buffy couldn't hear it. She couldn't hear anything.

He hadn't changed. He looked just the same as she remembered, as the image that seemed to be burned into the back of her eyelids so that it was all she ever saw when she closed her eyes. She realised that she was still holding his hand, and the touch of his skin felt just the same too. Felt like five years meant nothing.

"Spike," she said.

Giles and Xander were both staring at them. Giles and Xander and twenty thousand people in a Somerset field.

He smiled at her, and that lazy hot grin hadn't changed either. It still had the power to liquefy her insides. "Heard you had a gig in town," he said. "Heard a body could get up close and personal with the Slayer."

He dropped her hand and stood, balancing lightly on booted feet. His whole body was tense, muscles primed to move, to lash out, to run. It dawned on her that he expected a fight.

The silence lengthened. Twenty thousand people held their breath in sympathy, and finally he did begin to look different. To look first uncertain and then disbelieving and then lit with an almost painful kind of hope. "Slayer?" he said, then: "Buffy?"

Somewhere back in the real world she could hear the producer screaming for every camera they had to pull in for a close-up. She paid it no attention. She took a step forward and so did he, and then there was nothing but the kiss.

And the crowd went wild.

-- end --