"Oh, my ew." Buffy's nose crinkled as she scanned the Pier lined with crowded, neon-lit corn dog joints, souvenir shops and carnival games. "This might be even skankier than I remember it."
"You gotta look beneath the skank Buffy, and see the innate charm," Willow said.
She paused, concentrating. "Nah... I'm still seeing skank. And ugh, smelling it."
"I love that smell! It's like fried... fried... what is that frying?"
Oz offered, "Shrimp boots?"
"I love the smell of fried shrimp boots." Willow grinned and took her boyfriend's hand.
The back of Buffy's hand grazed Spike's, and she hooked his pinky with hers. Eyebrow arched, he looked down at her.
Willow turned to them. "What do you think, Spike?"
"I like it," he said, pulling Buffy toward him at the waist. "Reminds me of Brighton."
Buffy wrapped an arm around him, and met his gaze with a contagious smile. He set his sights forward to conceal his giddiness.
"I've been to Brighton," Oz said, nodding. "I think they have shrimp boots there too."
"Buffy, look! It's Mr. Whaley!"
She tore her eyes away from Spike. "Oh my god! He's still here?"
Giggling, the girls skipped to the small quarter-powered ride. Sharing a bemused shrug, the boys followed.
"Oz, got a quarter?" Willow asked from atop the purple whale, her untied Converse sneakers swinging merrily.
He dug into his pocket. "I've got three dimes."
Spike produced a quarter, and stuck it into the slot. The whale set into motion.
Buffy looked up at him. "Got a quarter for me?"
"No bloody way. I'm not watching you do that." He pointed at Willow, who laughed as she straddled the jiggling, vibrating ride.
He smirked. "Do I need to draw a picture?"
She glanced down, and back up. "Can I frame it?"
He whispered in her ear, "Bad girl."
Buffy eyed him coquettishly. "I'm not bad. I'm a good girl..."
Spike cocked a brow, anticipating her elaboration.
"I'm very good..." Eyes on his, she rolled her head sensually, took his hand, and grinned. "At ring toss."
It took him a moment to register this, and he chuckled. Tossed me good, you did.
Strolling backwards, she lured him toward the game, challenge sparking in her eyes. "Ten bucks says I beat your ass."
He scoffed. "Make it twenty, and you're on."
* * *
"I'm thinking we should go to Joe's All You Can Eat." Willow pulled useless bits out of the paper towel dispenser. "Oz says he digs their clam rolls." She laughed. "Ha, dig. Clams. Get it? Clam digger... Anyway."
With a smile, Buffy eased out a full sheet for her. "Yeah, well, good luck dragging the boys away from their precious Shoot the Star game."
Willow dried her hands and looked at her friend's reflection thoughtfully. "They really love their shooting, don't they?"
Buffy shrugged and began to reapply her lip gloss. "Boys and guns. It's a thing."
Willow leaned against the sink, and grinned. "So...?"
Buffy paused, lip gloss wand in the air. "So what?"
Gesturing at the enormous Care Bear sitting on the sinktop beside Buffy's purse, Willow said, "With 'He Who Wins You Care Bears'."
"Oh." She rubbed her lips together, closed the tube. "That what. It's nothing. Really. We're just--"
"I know it's been a long time, but I can still tell when you're covering. Besides, you've been touchy-feely-flirty girl all night."
Buffy sighed, a smile tugging at her lips. "Okay, there might be something."
Willow lifted her chin. "I knew it."
"Stop looking so proud of yourself. Nothing has or will happen."
"Because. Because the happening of it is something that shouldn't. Even if I do think he's... kind of gorgeous," she grinned, and began to hop on her feet, hands folded at her chest, "and sweet, and smart and sexy and perfect and even if he writes an amazing song for me--"
Hopping along with her, Willow's eyes widened. "He wrote a song for you?"
"Yeah," she sighed, so glad she finally had someone to talk to about this. "It was amazing."
"He wrote a song for you?"
"He sang it for me too. With the piano."
"Oh... Buffy... He wrote a song for you!"
"Yeah." She looked down. "Pretty cool, huh?"
"Only massively incredibly!"
Buffy laughed. "I know... But I don't know! I feel like it's crazy soon, and... he's just so... so wrong for me but... right, you know?"
Willow put her palms up. "Hey, you said it, not me."
"Yeah you did." She handed the Care Bear to Buffy and picked up her Spongebob Squarepants. "You can't fight that feeling of 'so right' forever, you know..."
"Thank you, REO Speedwagon," Buffy said snidely, opening the bathroom door for her friend.
* * *
"I have no hand-eye coordination, Spike, I mean it--"
"You're a gymnast, how can you have no coordination?"
"Hand-eye, moron. I can't shoot guns, I hate guns, I -- oh, you turned it on!"
"I did," he leaned into her from behind. "Now look through this right here, match it up with a target, and squeeze the trigger."
Every sound around her faded to just his voice, his breath in her ear. "I can't do this if you're gonna lull me."
He chuckled, stepped back. "Sorry. Carry on."
With a sigh, she peered through the viewer, squeezed the trigger and missed. "I told you, I can't do this! You take it. Take it."
"No." He returned the rifle to her grasp. "You're going to learn. You see that guy up there on the piano? He's your man."
"That guy? He's the hardest one! How can you expect me to--"
"Will you stop whinging and just do it?"
"What's a whinge?"
"You." He stood behind her again. "Just let me lull, won't be a second." He pressed his cheek against her temple. "Now focus on that little bull's-eye up there, center it between these two knobby things, right here, keep your elbows steady, and..."
She shut her eyes and squeezed. The wooden piano man went into motion, fingers moving, head swiveling, top hat jumping.
Buffy gasped, incredulous. "Oh my god! I did it! I shot something!"
"Feels good, right?"
Squealing and bouncing against his close close body, she spun around, took his face in her hands, and pulled him in for a swift kiss.
And that's when the rest of the world tipped over and fell off a cliff.
Mirroring her expression of surprise, of trepidation, of intense longing, his hands slid up her bare shoulders, to her face... and with an intake of breath, he pushed her up against the game counter and kissed her, hard.
Yes! Oh, god, yes, his tongue, so soft, soft, and soft...
Fucking candy-coated lips, knew she'd taste like this...
They drew apart in unison, gasping for air, staring into each other's eyes. And then, their mouths met again desperately, all reservations forgotten.
Delectable tingles shot from her neck to her toes and everywhere in between, making her moan and hold him tighter.
The soundtrack in Spike's head struck up in rejoice. Possessively, he raked his fingers through her hair and she held the nape of his neck as their heads tilted with telepathic timing and their bodies melded into one, as if they were tailor-made for each other. As if they were born for just this one purpose. Willow had it right:
And at that thought, Buffy remembered they weren't alone. She pulled back, finger on his lips, and her eyes slid toward their friends.
Oz and Willow were deeper inside the game room by the little bowling machine, hooting as they scored. They probably hadn't seen, and it wasn't as if they'd be terribly shocked if they had. However, everyone else in the vicinity was looking away uncomfortably and diverting their kids' attentions.
"I um," she began.
"Yeah." He stepped back, looked down at the ground. "Sorry. I don't--"
"No." She pulled his jacket lapels toward her. "I just think we should continue this... elsewhere."
He smiled, relieved beyond the telling. "Yeah?"
"Oh yeah," she nodded. "Definitely yeah."