“He didn’t call? At all?”
“No. He was a total no-show.”
Willow frowned. “Well, maybe he’s really busy. Like, with studying?”
“Didn’t you notice? He totally skipped psych. My slayer-sense is definitely tingling.”
Giles glanced up from his book. “What’s this?”
“Missing student,” said Buffy. “Probably. I mean, maybe he’s just had enough of college already and dropped out. And not told me.” She groaned.
Willow patted her arm soothingly and tried to change the subject. “Seen any more of Spike?”
Buffy groaned louder. “No, but I know he’s around. It’s like I can feel him watching me. Super creepy!”
“Maybe he’s, um, you know… I’m really trying to find something comforting here, but I’m kinda fresh out. Giles?”
“What? Oh.” He set his book down. “I’m afraid I can only provide more bad news.”
“Why?” demanded Buffy. “Why now? It’s not even apocalypse season!”
“Buffy,” Giles chided. “You know–”
“That evil doesn’t really run on a schedule and I should be ready to face it any time. Yes, I know, but no fair!” She crossed her arms and slid deeper into the couch.
Giles’ expression turned contemplative. “Is there a reason you feel more… erm, upset than usual?”
From the corner of her eye, Buffy saw Willow shaking her head and making, ‘run away while you still can’ gestures. She sat up straighter and pouted. Before Willow could start babbling about something to cover up for the fact that yet another guy had ditched her, Buffy ignored all of it and pressed on. “You said there was bad news?”
“Ah, yes, well–” he consulted his book again. “Two things: You said Spike referenced a mystical artifact?”
“Yeah.” Buffy reshuffled her thoughts to try and remember the name. “O’Hara, something?”
“I think he may have been referring to the Gem of Amara. It’s a jewel that gives a vampiric wearer immunity from sunlight and is generally considered to be a myth, but I’ve found a text that posits its whereabouts in the ‘valley of the sun’.”
“Oh, goody. So maybe he’s not talking a crock after all. What’s the second thing?”
Giles handed over a newspaper. The headline was all about a train full of dead people arriving in town the day before. “This coincides with the arrival of Drusilla.”
“So Spike didn’t lie,” said Willow, eager to jump on any scrap of good news. “Maybe he really is trying to help. For… some reason?” She suddenly didn’t look so sure.
“Unless the evil, murdering, lying guy actually killed the train people,” said Buffy. “Either way, I should look into it. I’ll try tracking him. Either he’ll lead me to his psycho girlfriend or I’ll find out what he’s up to all by himself.”
Giles took off his glasses to study them intently. “You will be careful, won’t you? Both of them are strong in their own right. If one of them does indeed have the Gem…”
“I’ll be careful. The careful-ist. It’s not like I have a choice. I can’t just ignore it until it goes away.”
“What about the Bronze tonight?” asked Willow, her eyes wide. Pleading. “Lots of Halloween party goodness. You said you’d come.”
Really not in the mood for dancing, it was on the tip of Buffy’s tongue to make her excuses in favor of her sacred duty, expecting nothing but enthusiastic back up from Giles, but he piped up to say that Halloween was usually quiet within the demon community and “perhaps” she should take a break to “cheer” herself instead.
Buffy bristled at the betrayal but was left with no other choice but renew her promise to Willow. Two hours later, when tracking Spike was officially a bust, Buffy donned her Little Red Riding Hood outfit and headed for the Bronze.
Xander greeted both girls with a hug before going off to the bar and Willow disappeared backstage to help Oz set up, leaving Buffy to idle at the edge of the dance floor.
“Nice outfit, Slayer. Anyone ever tell you that red’s your color?”
She whipped around and pinned Spike to the ground with her glare. “Where the hell were you, and what are you doing here?”
Spike smirked. “Looking for me, were you?” Buffy’s jaw ticked. “My, my, if looks could stake. PMSing, are we?”
“What. Are. You. Doing. Here?” Buffy ground out.
He shrugged and glanced around. “Gotta play my part. Heard you were in need of a Big Bad Wolf. Say, where are the three little pigs?”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “That’s not even the same fairytale!”
“Depends which version you’re talkin’ about.” He waggled his eyebrows. “Want me to blow your house down?”
She went to hit him but he danced out of the way with a chuckle. “Come on now, pet. Where’s your sense of fun?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” her hands went to her hips, “Maybe it’s with the train full of dead people.”
Spike’s expression sobered. Buffy could tell he wasn’t putting it on. He genuinely was surprised. Isn’t that interesting. And totally worrying. “Has Drusilla pulled that before?”
Spike cast his eyes downwards. “Look, Buffy–”
“No. Tell me straight. Is she really in town?”
He focused his gaze back on her, eyes now narrowed. “I already told you.”
“And I was, what? Expected to believe you? Just like that?”
Buffy backed up a step at the force of the statement. She eyed him carefully, not able to figure him out at all.
“I’m a lot of things, Slayer, but I’ve not lied to you.”
“Oh, sure, you’re way on the up-and-up.”
Spike scoffed. “We can fight about this all night, but it ain’t gonna change anything. You wanna dance?”
Buffy baulked. “Dance? What’s wrong with you! I’m talking about dead bodies!”
He shrugged and pushed off into the crowd. “Have it your way.”
She went to go after him but caught sight of something from the corner of her eye that made her hesitate. Ignoring Spike, Buffy made her way up to the balcony, led by a niggling instinct and an ever-increasing sense of dread. I know that sweater. Wasn’t he wearing it the other day?
She stepped closer and he turned around. Buffy gasped. “Parker?” He looked like death and she was pretty sure it wasn’t Halloween make up.
“Oh, hi, Buffy. I came to find you.”
Buffy blinked. “Parker. You– you’re okay?”
“Well, I was,” he said, “But then I saw you chatting with your boyfriend. I guess it didn’t take you long to get over me.”
Buffy’s eyes nearly fell out of her head. “What are you–”
“It doesn’t matter,” said Parker easily. “If you’ve got a thing for vamps, I guess I’m still in with a chance, right?”
Before she could start processing that statement, he slipped into game face and lunged.