It is technically still the 23rd here in California, so I’m coming in under the wire for my second posting day. I had all these plans about the one-shot I wanted to post today, but, as it happens, things didn’t work out the way I wanted. So, what I’ve got is the first half of the one-shot. I’m going to post the second half on Sunday’s Free-for-all Day.
But to make up for only having half of this now, I have a little treat at the end.
Title: Apology for Declining an Invitation to Dine
Era/season/setting: S5, set immediately after my story, Charms of the Clarion
Author’s Note: The one thing I get comments on the most, even after all these years, is the chocolate sauce story from Charms of the Clarion. Way back in the day (I wrote/posted it in January-May 2003; gah, I’m old), I deliberately chose to fade to black at the end as Spike was telling Buffy what happened, because I figured that anything I came up with wouldn’t be nearly as good as what the reader might imagine. They had a tendency to disagree with me, so the requests for the chocolate sauce story have come in like clockwork ever since. Since this is a special anniversary for Seasonal Spuffy, I decided to get it out there, once and for all.
In the original spirit of Charms, the title is courtesy of Robert Burns.
When she rounded the corner to her room, Willow collided with a very hard, very masculine body. A startled squeak escaped her, but as she fumbled with the stack of books she carried, hands shot out to grab her elbows.
“Steady there, Red.” The familiar cadence of Spike’s voice calmed the surge of adrenaline in her veins, and she looked up to meet his furrowed brow. “Something got you all knotted up, you can’t look where you’re goin’?”
“It was a corner. The same could be said for you.” She matched his frown. “Wait. Why are you here? Were you looking for me?”
Shoving his hands in his pockets, Spike took a step back, giving her the space to get a better look at him. The muscles in his jaw were tight, his shoulders tense. She hadn’t seen him so unhappy since Scotland. “Lookin’ for Buffy, actually. Don’t s’pose you were just with her?”
“No, I was at the library.”
She didn’t think it was possible, but Spike actually stiffened more. “And Tara?”
“Class until ten.” Willow edged closer. “Is everything okay? Did you and Buffy…have a fight?” It wasn’t beyond the realm of possibilities, though if anyone had asked her before Spike showed up at her dorm, Willow would’ve said no way. Spike had proven how far he’d go for Buffy by venturing into the Otherworld without any assurances he’d come back out non-dusty. His devotion was unquestionable. It was too soon for the gild to come off that lily…wasn’t it?
“No, not like that.” His answer was too nonchalant for it not to be true. “Just worried ‘bout what she might’ve decided to take on tonight.”
Willow’s eyes widened. “Oh. Something bad?”
“Did you try the Magic Box?”
Spike nodded. “No luck. She wasn’t at her house or Harris’s, either.”
“What about patrolling? Did you check the cemeteries?”
“No time. Woke up, and she was gone.” He leaned against the wall, banging his head gently against the concrete. “Bugger. Should’ve known she wouldn’t fanny around after I told her.”
“Told her what?”
His gaze slid sideways, though his body remained immobile. The weight of it sent a shiver down her spine, not in the old Spike’s a killer way but more of the crap, I pushed a friend too hard kind of way. Before she could take it back, however, he said, “Buffy mention anything about Truva demons to you?”
Willow racked her brain, but the name didn’t ring a bell. “Are they the problem?”
“They’re always a problem. So…nothing?”
“Nada.” But then something niggled. “Wait. Isn’t that the demon you told Xander had messed up your crypt the other night?” When he nodded, she frowned. “But I thought that was just a ruse.”
“That part was,” Spike conceded. “But Truva demons are all too real. And the reason Buffy bought the story in the first place was because I had a little run-in with ‘em right before we hopped the pond.” He paused. “She didn’t mention that, either?”
“I don’t think so.” She ventured a light touch on his arm in an effort to make him feel better. “If these demons are a threat, maybe we should go find Giles and—”
“No!” The force of his denial startled her into jerking back. It even seemed to startle Spike that he’d responded in such a way. “No,” he repeated, this time more quietly. “I don’t need Rupert knowing the whole mess of a story, too. Bad enough Buffy does.”
“But if she’s in trouble, we need to help her.”
The calculating gleam that appeared in his eyes should’ve been her first warning. “You’re right,” he drawled. “We do.”
Her voice was faint. “You mean we, as in you and me we, don’t you?”
The corner of his mouth lifted. “Oui.”
If whatever Buffy was up to had gotten Spike in this much of a tizzy about finding her, it couldn’t be good. Or safe. Or a whole lot of other adjectives that added up to bad news for Willow. She was still recovering from Scotland. She wasn’t sure she had the get-up-and-go Spike might need. “Even if that means you have to tell me whatever it is you told her?” she tried in a last ditch attempt to get the rest of the gang in on the helping.
Spike shrugged. “Way I see it, you could’ve let on about my poem and didn’t. I trust you can keep this under wraps, too.”
Though it was still a little weird to know Spike trusted her, Willow let it all go. He wouldn’t drag her into something she couldn’t handle. He was part of the gang now. And if it helped Buffy…
“All right. Let’s hear it.”
Quick trip for blood and smokes, and then he could park himself in his crypt and rewatch the vids he’d taken of Buffy when he’d first arrived in Sunnydale and wanted to study her form. They hadn’t had much play lately. For reasons. First, Harmony had been a sufficient distraction. After that, he’d had the real deal. But Buffy had caught him watching her on patrol the other night, and while he could handle her tongue-lashing—even if it wasn’t the sort he fancied—he didn’t want to get her suspicions up about his ongoing presence.
That meant taking a short break from the full Technicolor version and settling for the grainy, slightly out-of-focus Slayer on his cheap telly. But even that was more than enough to get his rocks off.
In the alley behind the butcher’s, however, a menacing growl ground him to a halt. He stepped into the shadows and tilted his head to get a better listen at what was going on.
“It’s true, I’m telling you.” The voice was too high to be the source of the growl, but while its intonation was quick and clipped, the fear it was trying to relay was phony. “You want to get anything done in this town, she’s the one you have to deal with.”
“You’re saying a little girl is more dangerous than a goddess?” Ah, that was the growl’s owner. Gravel must line the wanker’s throat.
“An ex-hell goddess,” the first voice clarified. “One without any real power these days. Just a lot of minions to boss around, but if you ask me, they spend more time shedding scabs and oozing pus than actually accomplishing anything useful.”
“Still scarier than a Slayer.”
At mention of Buffy, Spike stiffened.
“Not this Slayer,” the first voice said. “You know, she’s stopped at least three apocalypses? Three. Including a real live Ascension. That takes more than a little moxie.”
“An Ascension, huh?”
Spike didn’t like the silence that followed. Whatever was going through True Grit’s head couldn’t be good. What did he want to do in this hellhole that meant going through Buffy? Nothing she’d approve of, that was for certain. Spike didn’t care less, but if there was even the slightest possibility the Slayer was going to get hurt…well, he had to tell her about the threat.
It wasn’t like Buffy would believe him without any proof. In fact, she’d probably get brassed off at him for relaying the message. Which was argument enough for him to walk away and just let her deal with it on her own.
Spike slumped against the wall. He was buggered, no matter what he did. He might as well find out what True Grit’s business was and see for himself how much of a threat the demon really posed.
He waited for them to make a move. The one doing the hard sell on Buffy scurried away first, a slight figure in a long coat with what looked like a tail flicking beneath its hem. When the second emerged, though, he swore under his breath. A bloody Truva. Since when did Truva demons bother with Sunnydale? They tended to prefer big cities, with all the neon and noise and flammable rubbish. They couldn’t very well blend in, not with towering over just about any crowd that might consume them, but he’d never known a Truva to care about that. They just played Bonfire Night with anyone who might object to their presence. Which was one reason why Spike had always actively avoided them.
No dice this time. He had no choice but to follow when the Truva stalked away from the butcher and toward the docks.
He ended up outside a warehouse, surprisingly devoid of any of the usual wildlife that usually hung around the shore. No birds winging it from rooftop to telephone line. No feral cats racing from shadow to shadow. Not even a rat skittering into a drain. The entire area was plucked clean, like they knew something Spike didn’t.
He hesitated. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, after all.
A huge hand clamped down on his shoulder, heat searing through his coat. “You’re trespassing,” True Grit said. “Wanna tell me why?”
Though Spike tried to yank himself free, the Truva’s grip was too strong. “Last I heard, this was public property,” he said, forcing nonchalance.
“Something’s wrong with your ears, then.” He shoved Spike toward the warehouse. “Let’s go.”
Well, he wanted to know what the Truva was up to. This was one way to get in and find out.
A sleek limo nearly disappeared in the darkness by the warehouse’s entrance. Spike barely had time to glance at it before the Truva pulled the door open to blind him with bright light as he was thrust over the threshold. Spike had to blink more than once to clear the spots dancing in his vision, but the interior still made absolutely no sense when he could finally see straight.
It was a restaurant. A gaudy, over the top, empty of patrons, restaurant. The clang of pots and pans echoed from an exposed galley kitchen off to the right, while a long buffet bar ran along the rear wall. Tables dotted the gilded floor, all the chairs aimed in the direction of the raised stage off to the left, and at their center was a ten-foot fountain, sculpted in the shape of Charo, complete with chocolate flowing from her loftily held maracas.
“Bloody hell,” Spike muttered.
“I prefer to think of it as a little slice of heaven.” A new voice commanded Spike’s attention, and he tore his gaze away from Charo’s abundance to see a new demon approaching from the kitchen. This one wasn’t another Truva, thank God, but Spike had no idea what species it was. It had the head of a shark and the suit of a Sinatra. The way the Truva tightened his hold on Spike meant this new guy was the real threat. “And who might you be?”
“I found him in the parking lot, boss,” True Grit said behind him. “Want me to take care of him for you?”
“Before we know what his business is?” The boss shook his head. “We do not want to lose a potential patron, now do we?”
Spike swept his gaze back over the restaurant. “Doesn’t look like you’re open for business yet, anyway.”
“You have a good eye, Mr. Spike. We are not. So perhaps my associate is correct and you have a nefarious purpose for lurking about.”
He was going to be flambéed before he had the chance to warn Buffy. “Nothin’ nefarious in lookin’ for work.”
“You said you thought this was public property,” the Truva rumbled.
“Only because I thought the outside would match the in, you nit.”
The shark demon chuckled. “And draw undue attention before we get a true assessment of how lucrative the Hellmouth can be? You sell my business acumen short.”
“What kind of dosh are we talkin’?”
“More than you could possibly imagine,” came the reply.
“Not with a fancy restaurant.”
“The restaurant is just the first step.” The shark swept an arm around the interior. “Once this takes off, I plan on bringing all of the best attractions from Vegas. Gambling. Shows. This town is going to be big. I can feel it in my cartilage.”
That’s why the Truva had been asking about Buffy. Because there was no way the Slayer would stand that level of demon debauchery in her town. Now he simply had to get out and let her know.
“Well, when you’re ready to hire dealers, gimme a ring.” Spike wrenched again, trying to get away from the Truva, but only managed to twist his shoulder. “Know I’m a catch and all, but this is takin’ it a bit far, don’t you think?”
“Now that I think about it, Mr. Spike, we might have an opening for you now.” The shark motioned to someone behind them, but Spike couldn’t see who it was until a pale woman in a long, dark robe joined them. “Leora, my dear, meet Mr. Spike. Mr. Spike, this is Leora, our headliner. She is in need of a new assistant. What do you think, Leora?”
The eyes that turned to him were completely opaque, but Spike had no doubts she could see all too well. When she moved closer, her entire body seemed to float. Wait. Scratch that. She literally was floating as she rose an extra six inches to stare directly into Spike’s face.
“He’s very pretty,” she whispered. Dainty fingers came up to stroke his cheek, but as they dragged down his skin, they left an itchy sensation in their wake. “It would almost be a shame to hire him.”
That was a new one. Usually, his looks opened doors, not the other way around. “Ah, well, my loss.”
“Although…” She drew back, her gaze drifting downward to his hips. Her hand immediately followed, and Spike jerked when she ran her fingers over his crotch. “He would fill the costume nicely.”
The shark laughed. “Not like poor Dewey.”
“What happened to poor Dewey?” Spike asked before he could think not to.
Leora smiled. “He didn’t approve of the grand finale.”
Spike did not want to know any more details, especially if the way the Truva was chuckling at his back was any indication. “Look, I’m flattered and all—”
“Get the costume,” the shark said. “That will settle it.”
In a flash, Leora was gone.
“You think Buffy’s gone after this loan shark demon?”
They’d taken the storytelling hour into hers and Tara’s room, with Spike pacing around as he spoke and Willow sitting cross-legged on the end of the bed. He hadn’t stopped once since starting, and even now, he couldn’t quite meet her eyes. She didn’t know why. She thought it was all kind of sweet so far. Spike had taken off after a demon who’d been a threat to Buffy, way before Buffy would’ve been receptive to such an overture. If that didn’t prove his feelings for her, she didn’t know what could.
“It’s the only thing that makes sense,” he shot back. “She doesn’t get how dangerous that Truva demon actually is.”
“But you got away all right.”
“Because I wasn’t daft enough to get caught up in the fire.”
“Well, you are kind of flammable.”
Spike came to a halt. “At the end of the day, so is Buffy.”
He had a point.
Unfolding her legs, Willow rose and crossed to the bookshelf and all her magical supplies. “Then what are we waiting around here for? Let’s go find Buffy and stop her before she goes poof.”
“First smart thing you’ve said all night,” Spike muttered.
“You can finish the story on the way.” She shot him a brilliant smile over her shoulder. “Something tells me, the best part is yet to come.”
To be concluded in Part 2…
And because you have to wait for the second half, I’m going to share something I’ve never shared online before (with permission from the mods). A few years ago, someone made me art for Charms. Specifically, they created a picture of Spike in all his chocolate glory. They went by the name of Sam, but their tumblr has been deleted, so I have no idea where they are now. But I love this picture to death, and I’ve literally never shown anybody because at that point, I was only just coming back into the fandom. So I hope it’s a treat for you as much as it was for me.
Originally posted at https://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/715516.html