The Trouble We're In
RATING: NC-17 overall
PAIRINGS: B/A, A/N, B/S, A/S, S/N, slight B/N
SUMMARY: Post-Chosen/NFA. B/A overall, though everyone sleeps with... pretty much everyone. Eventually. Buffy & Spike are on a mission together in Cancun. Undercover at a masquerade ball, Buffy encounters an alluring woman who reunites her with someone she never thought she'd see again.
NOTES: I finally figured out, this fic? Always gonna be odd. But it's good. Way better than I thought it was back when I wrote it. Plus? Porntastic!
The Trouble We’re In
That's the game
It's the reason that we lost when we played
It's the sleep
That I lose
It's a lifetime spent avoiding the news
But did I tell you that?
Nothing matters but the momentary touch of your hand
Nothing matters but the times you do as much as you can
Nothing matters but the softness of your skin
And you're really not aware of the trouble that we're in
~The Trouble We’re In, Mesh
Seeking Slayers has taken her around the world, to places she'd never dreamed she'd see, and in a lifetime of dark surprises and stone-faced death, it's amazing to realize there are still things that can take her breath away, leave her giddy and wide-eyed in wonder.
The ceiling curves high above her head, intricately carved cathedral arches rising up between gargoyles that snarl and grimace from their perch atop massive pillars. They gaze down from the spaces between stained glass skylights that swell in graceful domes toward the sky, and she can imagine how beautiful the room must be when the sun shone through them, painting the whole room with scattered prisms of rainbow light. Chandeliers drip from the center of the room, huge crystals set into place like the petals of a flower inverted, flashing with warm yellow light as couples twirl and spin beneath them on the ballroom floor. Costumes sparkle and shimmer in dizzying waves, men and women in elegant textures of silk and velvet, bedecked in glittering jewels and crowned with elegant plumage. Men in tuxedoes edge carefully around the crowd, their faces obscured by plain black masks, carrying trays of glasses filled with sparkling amber and an array of hors de oeuvre’s she can’t even pronounce, much less afford.
Petticoats swirl about her legs, whispering like quiet ghosts, and she imagines herself a princess in a fairy tale, graceful swaying of frothing lace. Hair pulled up in curls that spill from the crown of her head in shower of burnished gold, wispy blue ribbon barely restraining them. She stares out at the panoramic scene before her through the eyes of her feathered mask and breathes deep, feeling her chest swell against the confines of her dress.
Vampires flit among the throngs of people like circling sharks, bodies slippery and smooth, gliding shadows and meaningful smiles. She watches them twist like flames dancing in the darkness, powerful and possessed of preternatural grace.
And one among them that moves with restless fluidity, golden and proud as a lion.
Spike meets her eyes from across the room, and she turns away from vibrant blue that burns, searing deep, begging her to lay bare the secrets of her heart. Always open, always aching, love imagined and half-remembered in the shadowed lines of his face.
His presence always kept near enough to remember what love feels like, far enough to keep herself safe from it.
She moves her feet toward the bar and away from truths she cannot face, skirts rustling and frothing around her legs.
She scarcely notices the man who looks at her sideways as she approaches, eyes deep brown and twinkling, as if attempting charm.
“Hey, Little Miss Muffet. Wanna sit on my tuffet?” he asks, as if it might be the cleverest line any man had ever uttered to a woman. Dressed in full Vampire Lestat regalia, he is middle-aged and paunchy, a ridiculous package of yellowed lace tied up in ribbons of gold. Above the bat shaped mask that houses his beady eyes, his brows wriggle like two newborn caterpillars.
Buffy breathes deep, praying for patience, and brandishes the prop she’s carried in her hands all night.
“Kinky,” he breathes, moving even closer, and now she can smell him; sour musk, sweat, and something darker, meaty. “You wanna use that on me?” he mock-whispers, loud enough for the entire bar to hear.
Her jaw clicks, grinds into place and locks as she turns, prop held in both hands now as she spreads her legs beneath her skirt in a fighting stance. "As a matter of fact—"
"She's not Little Miss Muffet, moron." The crowd behind them parts likes the seas, revealing a rush of a woman in a slinky green dress that surges between them. She wedges herself against the bar as if trying to become part of it, a cigarette held haphazardly in one hand, an empty champagne glass in the other. Metallic snakes weave in and out of her blond hair; supine, iridescent coils that shiver with her every move like tiny nerve endings, their emerald and violet hues in perfect complement to her metallic green sheath dress. Tiny emerald rhinestones ring mischievous blue eyes, in turn ringed by two snakes that dip down gracefully over her face, twining together in an infinity shape that forms her mask. She bestows Buffy with a brilliant smile, then she tips her head toward the door and gives Lestat de Paunchybutt a cool, insouciant grin.
"Louis's outside eating poodles again. You better go stop him."
This conferred in a congenial, confidential tone, and then a toss of golden hair and writhing snakes collides with his face as she turns deliberately back to Buffy. She smiles like a diamond, and her blue eyes sparkle with amusement that outshines even her beauty.
"And... three, two, one..."
Bewildered and blinking, Monsieur Lestat takes a shaky step backward and is swallowed by the crowd like a hungry shark, gulped down in a whirlwind of colors.
"Men," the woman says, blue eyes rolling heavenward with a mystified shake of her coils. "The way you were wielding that weapon, I figured I'd better help him get a clue. I'm Regina, by the way," she adds, holding out a hand.
Buffy takes it in her own, feeling warm, soft flesh press gently against delicate bone. But there is strength in that grip, bone-deep and soul-stubborn.
“I'm Joan.” She winces inside, feeling her mind flinch away from the lie. Giles had told her like, a gazillion times not to use her own name.
When Hellhouse Monthly is calling you to do a photo shoot...
She lets Giles's voice fade away and focuses on Regina instead.
“Nice to meet you.” Her voice is low, sultry, like a late summer afternoon, and she’s everything Buffy has ever wanted to be; gorgeous, sexy, perfect, confident, comfortable, witty and charming.
“That's my boyfriend over there.” Regina takes a breath, her breasts (God, even her breasts are perfect) heaving and threatening to bubble over. “Rico!” She turns and waves a manicured hand, and at the end of the bar a man in a red and black matador suit waves back, his cuff twinkling with a blinding flash of red rhinestones. In a twist of mangled and badly misplaced irony, his face is almost entirely obscured by a snarling bull's mask--also in red, and sprinkled liberally with glitter. Two long horns poke out from the side of the mask, one of them bent nearly in half, the point dangling flaccidly.
Blue eyes ringed in glittering green look at her knowingly, leaning close and conferring, “He thought it would be clever.” She chuckles and Buffy feels laughter well up in her own chest. “Like I said; men.”
Tall, broad-shouldered and dark-haired, most of his handsomeness obscured by his ridiculous costume... and yet, there’s a flicker of a feeling. The quick, bright flame of a candle before winking out.
Something in the way he moves...
Loose-limbed and goofy on the surface, but beneath that... something darker. Almost predatory. Slayer sense tickles at the back of her mind, flickering tendrils of smoke that coalesce into a single, sudden thought.
The Slayer inside her sings, low and black steady hum--but it's all wrong, all tangled up and twisted with shards of memory and fire that dances like liquid on the air. A half-remembered dream, a fleeting sense of recognition, familiar for an instant before it skitters away.
“You know,” Regina was saying, drinking from her own glass. “You're with somebody two years, you think you know everything about them. But he never stops surprising me.” A wondering shake of shivering coils. She laughs, and the corners of her eyes crinkle with a smile that makes Buffy catch her breath. “Even if it is with silly costumes.”
Slayer sense, awake and hungry; ears pricked like a dog who thinks it hears its master calling. Regina. Beautiful and charming, sensuality implicit in her every move, possessed of a grace that leaves Buffy feeling awkward just sitting in her presence. But she lacks the serpentine flow of limbs and tongue that underscores every vampire's moves, and Slayer blood sings with nothing more than jealousy and a flash of something brighter, sharper, less recognizable, just beneath. Her skin is warm as it brushes against Buffy’s with the texture of cream and silk.
“Well, you have to give him points for bravery.” Somewhere, she knows, sheltered and concealed, another set of blue eyes is watching her. “I'm... here with a friend.”
“What's he wearing?” Regina asks, completely oblivious to her inner turmoil.
Or maybe I’ve just gotten that good at hiding it.
Buffy leans close, tells her, and Regina claps a hand over bubbling laughter, her eyes going wide. “Oh my God! I saw him! He looks like a giant cottonball!”
They laugh together, close and warm, shoulders rubbing. Like sisters, Buffy thinks—and then—No, not like sisters at all.
“He must really love you, to wear that.” Regina’s eyes are blue; open, honest, and they burn in an entirely different way.
“Oh... no. I mean... we're just friends,” Buffy stutters. “I mean, there was this time where we—-but you know, not really and it just—-Oh look! Where's Rico going?”
A dark-haired, fiery-eyed beauty in a red Spanish dress puts her hand on Rico’s waist, smiling up at him before they slip out a side door together.
“Oh, they’re... probably just going to talk about business.” Regina fiddles with her glass, glancing out at the crowd for a long second. Then she turns to Buffy with another brilliant smile.
“I should probably...”
“Go make sure he doesn't get sidetracked,” Buffy supplies, flustered with relief, disappointment and sympathy all at once.
“Yeah. He's always...” She makes a reaching gesture. “With the business,” she finishes with small laugh.
“It was nice meeting you, Joan,” she says, looking Buffy straight in the eye. A brief touch of her hand, and then she disappears into the crowd, leaving behind warmth in Buffy's fingers and the scent of orchids on the air.
Two minutes to midnight and fifteen glasses of champagne later, Buffy spots Rico again. The Spanish Diva is nowhere to be seen, but another girl--dark-haired and fairer skinned—hangs on his arm and his every word as they laugh and talk.
“Oh, Rico. You're so sexy,” the woman exhales, breathless and rapt. Anger courses through Buffy’s veins, swift and inexplicable, and she sweeps between them, skirts swirling like a tempest, before she even thinks about it.
“Two-timing snake,” Buffy hisses, poking Rico in the chest. She's suddenly glad for the white satin mask that hides most of her upper face, feeling her cheeks burn hot beneath the cool fabric.
He stares at her, eyes perplexed beneath his mask.
“Don't I know you from somewh--?”
“Excuse me,” the brunette says, pushing her way back in. Tiny, perfectly manicured fingers rise to the hips of her mermaid skirt, and she looks Buffy up and down like a piece of trash someone forgot to throw away. “We were talking.”
“Oh please!” Buffy snorts, ignoring the woman completely as she pushes around her again. “How many women have you actually hooked with that line?”
He doesn't say a word, just stares at her, dumbfounded.
“Okay, Little Miss Muffet,” the brunette begins, her voice thick with pretension, dripping derision. “Why don't you just—“
“I'm not Little Miss Muffet.” Impatience and annoyance finally boil over, flowing derision in her own voice. “Look! I’m carrying a shepherd’s staff!”
“Rico! There you are!” Regina’s voice, thick and rich like honey and she pours onto the scene, fingers curling in the hem of his matador cape. “I've been looking everywhere for you.”
The brunette deflates, sullen and pouty.
“Oh... Rheaaaana,” Regina positively oozes, and Buffy watches in wonder while she shapes sarcasm into honest pleasure and pushes it out the other side like a form of Zen. Regina's hands light on the other woman’s face, fingertips holding her gently. “How wonderful to see you.” Then, she leans close—too close—to the other woman, whispering as she winks and confides, “She's Little Bo Peep, by the way.”
Glittering smile like a dagger, the force of all Regina’s formidable charm behind it, Rheanna clearly, and wisely, seems to decide to set out for greener and less taken pastures.
Without missing a beat, Regina straightens and smiles at Rico. “Honey, have you met Joan?”
He's staring at her.
And if he thinks those confused, puppy-dog eyes and that mouth, sad and turned down at the corners like... like—
With those eyes. Those maddening, infuriatingly familiar eyes.
And the key turns, and the lock clicks free.
Two people kiss in a graveyard, playing like children at adult games, their laughter echoing off stern, disapproving angels that rise like ghosts from the ground mist. And then the sky opens, pouring rain down on them, and the ground falls away, and they run together, hand in hand, heart to heart, one pounding like thunder, the other still.
“I think maybe I have.”
His voice. It slips inside her, sinuous and dissonant, the sound of memory ringing clear.
The most inevitable of dalliances; the sweetest of all moments. A girl's first time should be everything she’s always dreamed about, all the things she’s ever imagined. It should be pounding hearts and sweating palms and trembling lips and warmth and the secrets of skin—and for a moment, for one, single, thrilling moment, it is all those things.
A grandfather clock sounds the hour from somewhere faint and far away, and Buffy turns her head toward the sound.
“Midnight,” Regina says.
All around them, people pull off their masks, laughing in surprise and delight, and champagne glasses rise like an armada to the sky.
Another beat of her heart, and the hollowing of another. Words that are not his filling her, confusing her, and he is changing, he is becoming, and he is gone and she is alone but she doesn’t know what alone really means until he comes back and trembling hands plunge a sword into the heart of her beloved, sending him into the arms of Hell itself...
Close your eyes
As if that would make a difference. As if it ever had.
As if in a dream, she carefully pulls the mask from her face, and turns to look at him.
she is alone—
“Oh, God,” he breathes.
Go to Part II
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