Title: The Judgment of Spike
Disclaimer: All series characters and good stuff belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, etc. I am responsible for the lame dialogue and most of the plot.
Summary: This story was supposed to be a subplot of the story I posted earlier this round, “The Trouble with Harriet,” but the subplot kept moving away from the main plot, so I’m presenting it as a standalone. This is set in my cheerful, AU version of Season 6 where everyone sort of gets along and Spike and Buffy are a couple.
Dawn gets a job. And she’s making surprisingly good money. How could that possibly lead to problems?
Thanks: to revdorothyl for the beta and to enigmaticblues for maintaining the comm.
“Dawn, how did you get this?” Buffy held out the leather coat that she’d found tossed carelessly on the sofa.
“Not by stealing!” Dawn snatched it out of her hands. “I bought it.”
“A coat like that must have cost a lot. Where would you get that much money?”
Dawn was pulling the coat on and heading for the door. “I have a job!”
Buffy followed her. “You work at the cosmetics counter in a department store! I’ve had enough jobs to have a good idea how little that pays.”
“I work on commission!” Dawn yanked open her purse and shoved a slip of paper at her sister. “Look, that’s my pay stub.”
By the time Buffy’s brain had fully absorbed the significance of the numbers on the paper, the front door had slammed.
Buffy ran to the door and opened it, ready to chase after Dawn. But she found herself nose-to-nose with a vampire who had his hand raised to knock on the door. She wondered for a moment if he was one of Spike’s friends, but he still had graveyard dirt clinging to his clothes and the clueless look of the newly-fledged.
By the time she’d stabbed him with the coat rack, Dawn had disappeared.
She held out Dawn’s pay slip. He took it, and gave a low whistle. “What’s she doing to earn this?”
“Selling cosmetics at the mall two nights a week and Saturday afternoons.”
His scarred eyebrow shot up. “Unless she’s the reincarnation of Mary Kay, I don’t know how she could manage that. Not legally.”
She was towing him towards downtown Sunnydale. “That’s what I thought, so I went to the mall. They told me she’s not working tonight, but they wished she was because she’s the only one who can sell this stuff.”
“It’s called…” Buffy’s nose scrunched up adorably as she tried to recall. “A Daffy Ditty? It says something about a goddess on the label.”
Spike grinned. “Could that be ‘Aphrodite’, Slayer?”
“Maybe.” She pouted a little. “All I know is that I wouldn’t buy it. I hated the colors of the makeup.” She held out her wrist. “I tried some of the perfume, too.”
Spike sniffed. “Is that what that stink is? I thought you’d stepped in manure.”
“So, it’s not just me. Dawn shouldn’t be able to sell this stuff to anyone with a working sense of smell.” She stopped as they reached Main Street. “She’s not at work or visiting any of her friends that I know about, and she’s not in the Bronze. So use your superhuman sense of smell and find her for me.”
Spike sat across from her, looking confused. “I can see that, but I don’t smell that, Slayer.”
“What does that mean?” Buffy looked down at the menu and squeaked. “And unless you have lots of money on you, we’re only ordering appetizers. The cheapest appetizers. And water.”
Spike swiveled in his chair and focused on a couple sitting a few tables to his left. The woman had her back to them. Her companion was a well-dressed man who was staring at her as if he’d been stunned. “That smells like Dawn.”
Buffy frowned. “Well, it’s not. Unless Dawn managed to dye her hair red and change into a slinky black dress since she ran out of the house.”
“I can see that, Buffy.” He got up and strolled around the room, pausing momentarily at the table in question, all with a casualness that attracted the attention of almost everyone in the room. He slid back into his chair. “She smells like Dawn and like someone else at the same time.” He grimaced. “With a thin layer of that Aphrodite nastiness underneath.”
“She smells like two people?”
Spike was frowning. “Something’s wrong. The Dawn scent is fading.”
And so, Buffy noticed, was the look of awe on the face of the woman’s date. Suddenly, the woman jumped up and tottered off to the restroom as fast as her high heels would carry her.
Buffy followed, after a snarled reminder to Spike not to order anything expensive.
It obviously hadn’t been a need to pee that had driven the woman to the rest room. She was leaning over the mirror and had dumped a small pile of beauty aids on the vanity. All bore the Aphrodite label.
Buffy watched in fascination as the woman slathered on foundation, added a coat of powder, and began to daub her eyelids with color. She would have been pretty without the makeup, but with it she was hideous. The foundation was all wrong for her skin and the eye shadow was garish. Buffy winced as the woman took out a tube of Pepto-Bismol pink lipstick and applied it. She looked like a clown…until she didn’t.
Buffy stepped back as the woman’s face smoothed and began to glow. Her hair was suddenly more lustrous, and Buffy swore her bust increased two cup sizes. Either she was standing a lot straighter or she was suddenly taller as well.
The woman smiled in satisfaction, and was starting to put the cosmetics back in her bag when she froze and reversed the action. “Need more,” she muttered.
Buffy couldn’t help commenting. “I really don’t think so.”
The woman met her eyes in the mirror, looking through Buffy with a level of distain that only one other person had ever summoned. Slowly, she picked up a bottle and sprayed perfume until the droplets surrounded her like a cloud, and somehow the scent was heavenly. As she turned around, Buffy saw she had changed again.
She wasn’t just beautiful now. She was freakily beautiful. Inhuman.
“What are you?”
The creature smiled. “A goddess, little girl.”
“Damn, not another one!”
The perfect brow barely wrinkled with a frown. “Aren’t you the one who called me?”
“I didn’t even have your number. But I think I’m getting it!”
The apparent goddess swept out of the room. Buffy followed and nearly plowed into the back of her quarry, who had stopped just inside the dining room to attract the gaze of admirers. These included just about everyone in the restaurant, including Spike, who had been about to take a sip of something that looked like an expensive bar drink.
Buffy glared at him and reached out for the goddess’ arm. It was snatched away with an indignant, “How dare you?”
“Like this!” Buffy tackled her, surprised to find that she was much easier to fight than Glory. She shrieked and tried to push Buffy’s hands away with little effect.
“Slayer, what are you doing?” Spike had run up, looking bewildered and still holding his drink.”
“It’s demon makeup!” Buffy winced at a lucky blow and stopped being cautious. She knocked her opponent out with one punch and grabbed a handful of gown. It was soon covered with goop as Buffy wiped off the layers of cosmetics. Slowly, the body beneath her changed from a creature of unearthly beauty into an ordinary young woman with a growing shiner.
But a gauzy cloud rose from the body, hovering in the air and hissing. “You think you can banish me when so many are calling me into existence?” The voice faded away as the image dispersed into the air. “I will simply find another hostess.”
“Huh.” Spike sipped his drink thoughtfully. “Sounds a bit sinister, that.”
“Goddess.” Buffy sat at the table at the back of the Magic Box, brooding. “She’s the kind that would insist on the feminine version.”
“Let’s figure out which one she is.” Tara and Willow were gathering up books. “I’m sure it’s not Hecate, and Diana…”
“Is right out.” Spike interrupted. “Realized on the way over here. She said she was called by name, so it must be Aphrodite.” He held up the lipstick and compact that Buffy had wrested away from the formerly-possessed woman in the restaurant.
“That’s the stuff I sell!” Dawn bounded in the door. “Hey, Spike, do you need some eyeliner? Because I…” She stopped, realizing that everyone was staring at her accusingly.
“Yes, Dawn, and exactly how are you selling something that looks like stage makeup and smells like old socks?” Buffy stood up and faced her sister.
“Um, I’m a natural saleswoman?” Dawn looked around the room, counted the number of folded arms and stern gazes. When she saw even Xander was shaking his head, she realized that the jig was up. “Look, I had to do something. No one would buy that crap without a little, um, incentive.”
“And what precisely was this incentive?” Giles had his handkerchief out in anticipation of a need for eyeglass cleaning.
“It was just a little spell.” Dawn cringed at the chorus of Scooby groans. “But I was really careful. I read everything in Tara’s book before I used it. It’s just a glamour that makes women look a little prettier. It doesn’t even last, which turned out to be really good because that meant they kept coming back to buy more.”
Willow’s eyes grew wide. “I knew there was something strange about that job! I should have said something.”
Tara’s brow wrinkled. “Do you mean the little spell book I keep on my dresser?” When Dawn nodded, she said, “I don’t understand. That really shouldn’t be dangerous.”
Anya gave a hoot of laughter. “Let me see. It’s just an ordinary glamour, a simple spell…that happens to have been cast by the Key over a Hellmouth full of power?” She rolled her eyes. “And you are surprised that it called the goddess whose name Dawn invoked?”
They turned to stare at Dawn, who looked down and scuffed a sneaker on the floor. “I thought I was just a normal kid now.”
“Not a chance, Bit.” Spike gave her a little hug. “But don’t worry, big sis and I will fix it.”
Buffy rolled her eyes.
Xander went for donuts, and Anya predicted doom.
It was several hours later that they left the Magic Box with a list of names and a potion that Tara assured them would force Aphrodite to vacate whatever body she was currently inhabiting. “She’ll try to steal someone’s life permanently. But if we can get her out of everyone who’s used the charmed makeup, she will have to disperse.”
“Disperse? Is that Witch for bugger off to Olympus?” Spike was staring at his share of the list. “How many of these bints did you con, Bit?”
“More than I realized.” Dawn was still looking woeful. “Will you be my tracking buddy?”
Spike smiled. “Sure. Come along, pet.”
Buffy watched them go before setting off with Giles beside her. “She only wants to go with him because he can’t stay mad at her.”
“I must admit, Buffy, I worry that he’s a bad influence on her.”
“Really? I worry about her influence on him.”
“And were all the other bitches as pissed off as the ones we found?” Spike was frowning as he tried to sort out the hundreds of scents that filled the room.
“Pretty much. I’m going to have to do everyone’s chores for, like, a month. And I’m never going to sell a bottle of perfume again. Do you think they’ll let me transfer to the shoe department?”
“If you’re smart, you won’t show your face inside that store again.” Spike was focused on the balcony. “She’s up there. Wait for me here, Bit.” He took the steps quickly, giving her no time to follow. Aphrodite’s spirit had been banished from all the other women who had bought makeup from Dawn. Now, there was only one body she could be inhabiting.
Aphrodite waved a hand at them, and Buffy and Giles froze in place. Clearly, she was very close to full control not only of the body she wore, but of anyone who saw her. Buffy forced herself to remember that if the goddess wasn’t exorcized, an innocent victim of Dawn’s sales pitch would cease to exist. But Buffy’s limbs wouldn’t move.
She forced her gaze away and saw Spike. He was on his knees at the center of the group of worshippers and struggling to rise. She heard his voice, raspy but defiant. “Can’t keep a good man down, bitch.” He was fumbling for the pocket of his duster. “You can just leave on the clamshell you rode in on!”
“What if I make you an offer you can’t refuse?” The goddess bent over and whispered something in Spike’s ear.
He staggered to his feet and met the divine gaze. “That’s all you’ve got?” With a harsh laugh, he tossed Tara’s potion into her peerless blue eyes, and she faded into a pretty, if not particularly remarkable, young woman, who squeaked in surprise and fainted away on the couch.
Buffy relaxed at last and smiled back at her friends. “Thanks. I just needed to be sure.”
“It’s okay for sure.” Willow smiled. “Goddess all gone. Who wants pizza? Dawnie?”
When Dawn, Willow, Tara, Xander, and Anya had left, Giles turned to Spike. “What did she promise you?”
Spike shrugged. “The usual.”
“The…” Giles grew thoughtful. “Ah, I see.” He looked from Spike to Buffy and smiled thinly. “She did miscalculate with that, didn’t she?”
Spike shrugged again, put his arm around Buffy’s shoulders, and led his girl out onto the street.
She twisted her neck to look up at him. “Spike, what’s Aphid Nighty’s ‘usual’ promise?”
“Something I already have.”
Buffy snickered. “She may have been beautiful, but I knew she was short on brains. Seriously, what did she offer you?”
He stopped, took her face in his hands and smiled down at her with the expression that never failed to take her breath away. “The most beautiful woman in the world.”
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/413958.html