Disclaimer: Not mine. There'd be a good amount of changes if it were. Though, I do have to say, while I don't always like where it's been, I'm very exciting with where it's heading. In any case...
This story was nominated for Round 27 at The Sunnydale Memorial Fanfiction Awards for the following categories: Best Characterization, Best Comedy, and Best Fluff. Thanks to anyone who voted for me.
Buffy is in Heaven.
It's a retail based Heaven that is packed full of people and the never-ending tile walkways are lined with places for clearance sales and designer shoes. Also, heaven smells a lot like soft pretzels.
See, there's this trick to making the Sunnydale Mall into Heaven, and mostly it involves ignoring all the red and pink posters, Valentine's day specials, and couples that are happy and haven't been broken up because of some hundred year old curse that turns one partner into a homicidal stalker who runs off to their schizophrenic whore of an ex-girlfriend. There are no Angels here in Heaven. See? Puns. Puns are a good sign of a mentally stable, not-moping person.
Yup, no Angel. No thoughts of Angel. No thinking about what she could have given him for Valentine's Day, or what things he would have gotten her. Or how unfair it is that Willow and Xander are finally in relationships and now she isn't, so they can't hang out together and eat ice cream and share the pain of being single and in high school.
Actually, on second thought, this Heaven idea isn't really panning out so well. Especially since she's just spotted one of Angel's new evil cohorts through one of the large glass windows.
Buffy flings the door open with considerably more force than necessary and storms in. She's not really sure what she's going to do, staking vampires in the middle of fine jewellery stores isn't really an ideal situation, but sometimes things like this are necessary when the evil vampire in question is—buying fine jewellery?
Buffy comes to a stop just behind him and tries to wrap her head around this. He's not even stealing or anything, he's just leaning his elbows against the display case and peering in as the clerk behind the counter shows off some rather expensive looking necklaces.
"Hullo, Slayer," he says without turning around. She wonders if he smelled her coming, or if he saw her reflection in the glass, or if vampires have a Slayer sense in the same way that Slayers have a vampire sense. Should have a vampire sense.
"Spike," she says, still struggling to understand the situation in full. "You're buying jewellery."
This time he does turn around. Well, no, he sort of twists around and looks at her over his shoulder. "Very good," he says with a patronising smile, speaking to her as if she were a small child.
Buffy does not appreciate this in the least and she lets him know by folding her arms firmly over her chest and glowering down at him. Her fingers twist into the plastic bags she holds, filled with her new purchases. Spike only smirks, unthreatened, and turns back to the woman behind the counter who has been watching their short dialogue with a somewhat lost expression.
"Here," he jabs a finger, the nail coated with chipping black polish, at one of the necklaces still in the case. "Let's see this one again." The worker hurries to comply and holds it up for his inspection. Spike brushes it with his fingertips and tilts his head to the side, inspecting his choice. There's a little moment of silence while he studies it and Buffy gets the weird feeling that Spike knows what he's doing. Which is way weird.
"Yeah, let's go with this one," Spike decides finally and the woman scurries off to package it and ring him up.
"It's very pretty," Buffy says approvingly, because it is. It's gold, with a little intricate, loopy design and some sort of jewels. Okay, so maybe Buffy doesn't really know what he's doing.
Spike looks startled, like he can't believe that the Vampire Slayer is standing there complimenting his taste in women's jewellery. Which is a fairly understandable reaction, especially considering exactly how surprised she is by this as well.
Buffy really hadn't noticed how tense Spike's shoulders had been until he relaxes and settles back into his chair. "Ta, pet," he says, and Buffy realises that he really had been expecting a fight of some sort, or maybe even just an execution.
She doesn't think she could execute Spike. It'd be like putting down an injured puppy, only instead of a puppy it's an annoying, vicious attack dog. But a injured annoying, vicious attack dog nonetheless.
Spike wheels himself over to the register and Buffy is left to watch in a stunned silence as he removes a wallet from his coat pocket and counts out several hundreds in bills and hands them over. He drops the bag into his lap and head for the door, but stops when he discovers Buffy still standing where he left her.
"What are you doing?" he asks.
"Shopping," Buffy answers immediately, holding up her bags as proof. She waves them in his face a little.
"In here," Spike clarifies, not without a note of impatience. He gestures around at the store's interior.
Buffy shrugs. "I saw you from out there," she points back out the door and out at the crowded walkway. "You're not that inconspicuous, you know. Radioactive hair, long black coat, wheelchair. You kinda stand out in a crowd—I mean, not stand out," she flusters quickly, thoroughly embarrassed. Spike, on the other hand, smirks at her, looking rather amused. "Uh, stand apart— but, no standing… um, what's with the coat anyway?" Buffy hurries to switch topics. She'd always though the long dark coats were there for the purpose of adding an air of mystery, the way they'd swirl around one's legs. But the swirling was kind of defeated if you were sitting on the coattails all the time instead.
"It's my coat," Spike says, just a tad defensively. "So, you saw me and thought, what, you'd just come in and chat?" He gives her a little leer. "Check up on your boyfriend?"
It takes about all of Buffy's willpower not to have an Angel related breakdown right there in the jewellery store. "I was just making sure you weren't killing anyone," Buffy defends.
Spike looks rather pleased by this answer. "Oh," he says. "Well, that's all right, then." Like, it doesn't matter if he's actually causing trouble and mayhem, just so long as people don't forget that that is a perfectly plausible possibility.
He exits the store and it isn't until they are about four stores down the walkway that he stops again and sighs. "What do you want?" he asks.
Buffy gives up on tailing him all sneaky and cop-like, even though that's what her aptitude's at, and goes to stand by his side, glaring down at him with all the righteousness and disapproval she can muster. "Piano lessons," she says. "Birthday presents that aren't arms. My parents getting un-divorced. Some really stylish yet affordable shoes made to accommodate a girl on the slay." A boyfriend who doesn't go postal and try to use a giant blue monster to take over the world. "But I'll settle for you leaving and never coming back."
Spike glares at her. "You can't just ban vampires from your little shopping centre, Slayer," he says. "I'll go to the mall if I bloody well please." He pronounces it all British and Buffy kind of wants to punch him for it. Only, for obvious reasons, Giles probably wouldn't approve of that as a justification for the possible ensuing mall-wide panic. She can sort of picture it now, a headline reading something like, "High School Girl Attacks Disabled." Yeah, that probably wouldn't play out so well for her.
Still, he's got a point, sort of, so she sighs her momentary defeat. "Fine, whatever, Spike," she says. But it isn't like she's going to let him wander around the mall unsupervised.
Wander doesn't imply actually using one's legs does it? It sort of sounds like it does, but she doesn't think it really does in reality.
Spike gives her a funny look and Buffy realises she must have zoned out slightly as she pondered this. She hurries back into dangerous Slayer mode. "Not like I've got better things to do than follow you around anyway, right?"
Spike rolls his shoulders. "That right?" he asks, but in the tone of voice that says he's knows that that's right and he's just being an asshole. Stupid vampire. Stupid morals. "Well, was heading in that direction," he says, gesturing in the direction he clearly had been heading in. He gives her a look that makes her feel dirty. "Was feeling a bit peckish."
"What?" Buffy squeaks. No, she demands. In a very dangerous, Slayerlike tone of voice.
He so did not just admit that to her. Even Spike can't be dumb enough to announce plans for a murder in front of the Slayer. Wow. So much for the letting-him-go-free plan. Buffy immediately begins to search for a suitable weapon to stab through his unbeating heart.
But as she does, Spike continues, "Yeah. Think the Mrs. Fields stand has got some holiday discounts going."
Buffy stops and stares at him. "You… want to eat cookies?" she asks, slowly.
"Sure," Spike says. He's got this smug little grin on his face. Bastard. He was totally baiting her.
"Vampire's don't eat, Spike," Buffy grits out. "I know these things. Vampire Slayer, remember?"
"No," Spike says, glaring at her and speaking slowly again. "Angel doesn't eat," he corrects. He looks a little annoyed and stops looking at her, glaring in the direction of the food court instead now. "Don't know how heartless one's got to be not to appreciate chocolate chip."
"You're heartless, Spike," Buffy points out.
"Wrong," he says. He starts moving again, abruptly, and Buffy has no choice but to follow. "I'm soulless. There's a difference."
Honestly, Buffy doesn't believe him about the eating until he's on his second cookie with a little smear of melted chocolate on his lower lip. Buffy picks at her own without even half of his enthusiasm.
She's sitting across from him at the edge of the food court, seated in a grated metal chair that is trying for the world record of most uncomfortable chair in existence. Her butt started going numb about thirty seconds into the experience, but she isn't about to voice this complaint to this particular companion. Sometimes Buffy ends up in situations she doesn't understand, for reasons she can't really comprehend, but at least she can be sure that she hasn't completely lost her mind so long as she manages to retain more tact than Cordelia.
The mall is weirdly crowded considering what happened hardly two weeks prior. But after a year of living in Sunnydale, Buffy's starting to wonder if there isn't something in the air, or the water. Something the townspeople are gulping down that keeps them blissfully unaware of everything she goes through to keep them safe. Case in point, sitting in uncomfortable chairs sharing tables with the evil undead.
"What's that supposed to mean, anyways?" she demands suddenly.
Spike gives her a questioning look with a touch of annoyance.
"That An—that you're not heartless," she says. "You're evil. And you kill people."
"Yeah," Spike smirks, looking smug in spite of the chocolate smudge. Buffy decides she's not going to tell him about it, just for that expression. "It's fun. But that's the soulless part." He lifts up the bag containing his purchase from the jewellery store and drops it on the table between them. "Still fall in love, though. That's where the heart comes in."
Buffy narrows her eyes. "You can't fall in love," she accuses. "You're a monster. You don't have a soul. You can't love anything."
"Notice that I'm not arguing about the soul thing," Spike says. " Been with Dru over a century, though. Can love very well."
"That's not true," Buffy snaps. She's feeling the desperation pooling inside of her. It can't be true. If you can love without your soul, then why did Angel leave her? If he's capable of loving her, and he doesn't, then it must be her, right? It must be something about her. Something she did, or something she didn't do. Or something about who she is. "You're lying," she says. "All you can feel is lust and hate. Obsession."
Spike snorts dismissively. "Nope, that's just your lover boy," he says. "Rides the short bus when emotions come into it. Him, yeah, the only things he's got going are hate and lust. Sadly for you, he's feeling for you full force." Buffy stares down at the torn apart bits of her cookie, spread out across the little paper bag it had been handed to her in. "And I don't hate you," Spike adds suddenly.
Oh, please. Buffy almost punches him for that one, but he's got the table between them and getting up and going around in the middle of a crowd doesn't seem like a good idea. "You tried to kill me," she points out instead, tone dark.
"I did," Spike agrees. "Like to try it again sometime. But it's got nothing to do with you personally."
"Oh, well that makes it all right then." Buffy comments dryly.
"Hate's a strong word," Spike says. "Ought to hate things like Nazis or," he pauses for a second to think, "I don't know, boys who drown little kitty cats for fun."
Spike actually looks a little pissed at the suggestion. "Why the hell would I do that?"
"You're evil," Buffy points out.
"I am, yeah," he agrees. "But that's not…" he huffs, annoyed. "Look, I take what I like and I go where I bloody well please." He inclines his head towards his body inclusively. "Provided there aren't stairs involved," he amends.
Buffy rolls her eyes. The whole conversation is ridiculous. She's not even sure what point he's trying to make any more.
His eyes darken. "Watch it, missy," he warns.
She wonders if he'd throw the table at her. It sort of seems like the only plausible attack strategy from the positions they're in.
"But the point is," he continues on, pointedly ignoring her expression. "I'm in it for the fight. Looking for a good day," he points to her. "Wanting to kill you, that's not got anything to do with hating you." He shrugs. "You're a bit annoying, yeah, and much too young for… whatever you and Angelus were up to, but I don't really mind you all that much."
Buffy gapes at him, open-mouthed.
Spike frowns. "Didn't your mum teach you that's rude?" he asks before immediately swerving back to the original topic. "Wanting to kill you, that's just about your skills. 's about you being a great fighter. A warrior. I respect that."
Okay, so of all the possible scenarios Buffy's imaged of how her Valentine's Day weekend would go, eating cookies with the guy who crashed her Parent-Teacher night with intents to kill her, and listening to him compliment her? Definitely not one of them.
"You just told me you still plan on killing me," she says once she remembers how to talk.
"I do," Spike confirms.
"So, what's keeping me from killing you here, now that I know this?"
Now it's Spike's turn with the eye roll. "It's not like this is some great surprise," he says. She stares at him and he shrugs. "Honour," he says. "That's what's keeping you."
"Right," Buffy says. "Honour. You're a vampire. What do you know about honour?"
"I'm a good fighter, too," Spike tells her. It's not even like he's boasting, he's just stating a fact. "You know it. It's the same thing as with the kittens, or whatever." He shakes his head as if to clear it. "You respect that. And, deep down, some little part of you needs to know that you can beat me playing fair." He leans forward on his elbows and stares at her. His eyes are very, very blue and very, very intense.
What he's saying, though—it's not true. It's not. Really. He's making stuff up again, like about loving. Which is why he's clearly a pile of dust at the moment and not stealing some of the bigger pieces of her mangled cookie.
"If I killed you, would your wheelchair turn to dust too?" Buffy asks suddenly.
Spike blinks at her, caught off guard. He thinks for a second and chews on a bit of her cookie while he does. "Haven't got a blasted clue," he decides finally.
For whatever reason, this really makes her just want to smile. But she doesn't. Because this is Spike. And he's evil. And his company is not enjoyable.
Buffy twists the paper bag that the cookie came in in her hands. "So, what do we do?" she asks.
One eyebrow draws up his forehead, stretching that little scar of his. She wonders where he got it from. "About what?"
Spike nods understandingly. "Well, I reckon you try not letting Angelus kill you, and we meet up again later on even ground." After a second he rethinks what he's just said and grimaces. "Bloody hell."
And this time, maybe she kind of does laugh. But mostly it's at his expense, so that's okay.
Plus, she's never, ever telling anyone about this little mall time. And neither is he. So, maybe it's okay. Just for a little bit. Besides, it's not like she likes him or anything. He's still just a pain in her already sore ass.
After this, she'll go home, and he'll go back to his abandoned meat packaging facility and they'll heal. And then they'll fight and she'll win and Angel will remember why he loves her, because he can do that, she knows that now, and everything will be okay.