Author’s Notes: A/N: framefolly issued a challenge with a request for adventures in Costco (or any other store that is so huge, it must have swallowed the steroid factory), preferably involving an ensemble of characters, some comic moments, and some demonic presence (beyond the usual). I hope this works.
“Okay, does everyone know what they’re after?”
There were nods from all the Potentials, but Andrew piped up, as Buffy suspected that he might. “I don’t. Tell me what you want me to do, O Great Slayer.”
Buffy sighed. “Go with Dawn.” She shot her sister an apologetic look. “You can help her carry the paper goods.”
Dawn looked a little more cheerful at the idea of using Andrew as a packhorse; Buffy didn’t blame her. Andrew seemed to be easier to deal with when he had a task to perform. “Rona, Kennedy, stick to the sales. We need fruits and vegetables, but we don’t have that much money. Vi, Amanda, ground beef and chicken.”
“We have the lists, Buffy,” Kennedy said, sounding impatient.
Buffy stopped herself from snapping. “Okay. Go. We’ll meet up by the registers when you’re done.”
The girls—and Andrew—scattered to the four corners of the store; Buffy wondered if she was making a mistake by splitting up. Costco was as big as the high school football field, and full of places where the Bringers could be hiding.
As though reading her mind, Spike muttered, “Might be alright if some of them got picked off.”
Buffy barely stifled her snicker. “Spike!”
“Sorry. Didn’t mean it.”
“Yes, you did,” she said, a smile teasing the corners of her lips. “And I don’t blame you. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that if we lost one, it would be the one that I liked.”
“Which one is that?” he asked, falling into step next to her as she pushed the cart along the broad aisles.
Buffy considered his question. “Amanda is okay.”
“Yeah, she’s alright. Vi’s got some spunk, too.”
“What about Dawn?” Buffy asked. “Have you guys made up yet?”
He shrugged. “Don’t think she’s ready to forgive me yet.”
“Do you want me to talk to her?”
“No, she’ll come around when she’s good an’ ready. Dawn’s stubborn.” He gave her a sly, sideways look. “Like someone else I know.”
Buffy snorted. “Pot, kettle, much?” She glanced up. “Would you get that case of mac and cheese?”
She watched as he reached for it—the six inches or so that he had on her sometimes came in handy—and she saw him wince. “Spike—”
“Got it,” he grunted as he handed it down to her.
“You’re still hurting.”
When she met his eyes, something passed between them in that moment, much as it had the other night in the cemetery, when she’d checked him over in front of the Potentials. They didn’t have the luxury to be hurt, and they both knew it. “When this is all over, I say we take a vacation,” Buffy said. “Preferably somewhere beach-like.”
“So I can turn into a big pile of dust?” he asked with a wry grin.
She shrugged. “Moonlit beaches are just as nice.”
Spike’s smile this time was genuine, a sweet smile that hadn’t made much of an appearance lately. So much had been going on, and Buffy just wanted to slow things down, to have some time to heal wounds and mend fences.
“Spike—” she began, wanting to tell him that when this was all over, they would work things out between them.
The sound of pounding feet alerted both of them to trouble, and they immediately dropped into defensive postures. Rona skidded to a stop in front of them. “Kennedy’s in trouble. We spotted two Bringers. She told me to get you, and she was going to face them.”
“Bloody hell,” Spike said. “Where?”
Rona didn’t reply, instead just taking off at a run in the direction she’d come from. Buffy cursed their rotten luck under her breath. All she’d wanted was a few groceries to get them through the week, and buying in bulk was the best way to do it.
Too bad they seemed to attract trouble in bulk, as well.
Kennedy was holding her own when they found her, using cans of beans as projectiles. The Bringers were stubborn, however, and they were attempting to shield themselves with their arms while gaining ground.
Spike jerked the robes of one of them, choking him briefly. Buffy used the momentary distraction to turn the knife he held back on him, sending it deep into his stomach. Rona and Kennedy ganged up on the second one, and managed to take him down to the ground. Buffy broke the second Bringer’s neck by stomping down on it.
The four of them stood staring at the bodies, chests heaving from the exertion—for the girls anyway. Spike was clutching his side, though, and Buffy knew he’d likely re-injured his ribs. “Now what?” Kennedy asked.
“Hide the bodies, and get back to what you were doing,” Buffy said.
“What?” Rona asked. “Aren’t we leaving?”
Buffy set her jaw. “We need groceries, and this is the cheapest place to get them.”
“Maybe we should stick together,” Kennedy suggested.
The Slayer shook her head. “You’ll be fine. I doubt there are more Bringers hanging around.”
The two younger girls exchanged a look that clearly said they didn’t believe her. “Okay.”
As Buffy moved off with Spike, he asked in a low voice, “You sure this is a good idea? We could come back later.”
Buffy snorted. “No. I spend all my time with them. I want fifteen minutes to myself.”
He frowned. “I could go with them.”
“If you want the time alone.”
“I don’t want the time away from you,” Buffy replied. “I want the time away from them.”
That same sweet smile formed again. “Oh.”
Buffy took a deep breath and looked at her list again. “Okay. I think we need to head to the back of the store, because we need more towels.”
Dawn stacked the large block of paper towels on top of the plastic-wrapped toilet paper.
“Um, Dawn? I can’t see,” Andrew said.
She shifted the top package to allow him to peer around. “There.”
“These are kind of heavy.”
“Deal with it,” she advised him. “We’re all in this together, Andrew.”
“You wanted to be a part of the team,” she continued. “This is part of it.” Dawn heard him sigh, but she ignored the quiet protest. Andrew annoyed the hell out of her most of the time, but he annoyed her less than anybody else. There were moments when she almost liked him.
“We still need laundry detergent,” Dawn said. “It’s not on the list, but we’re running low.”
“I like the liquid better.”
Dawn didn’t reply; she preferred liquid, too, but price would determine her choice. She remembered the days when money wasn’t quite so tight, and they didn’t have to count every penny. Then again, she also remembered when her mom was alive. Things changed.
Lucky for Andrew—and for her, since she didn’t have to listen to him whine about it—the liquid detergent was on sale. Dawn hefted one of the big jugs and started lugging it towards the front of the store. “I hope Spike and Buffy are ready to go,” she said. “This place gives me the creeps.”
“What kind of creeps?” Andrew asked, struggling with his load.
She tried to put it into words. “I don’t know. It’s like a grocery store on steroids.”
“Anything could be in here,” Andrew agreed. “Bringers, demons—”
“Don’t say that,” Dawn ordered. “You’re just asking for trouble.”
“Speaking of trouble…”
“Crap.” She dropped her groceries on the floor when she saw Vi and Amanda coming at a run. “What’s wrong?”
“We’ve got demons in the meat department,” Amanda gasped out.
Dawn looked at Andrew. “Go find Spike and Buffy!”
She ran after the two Potentials, cursing their rotten luck and Costco’s everywhere.
Andrew knew that Spike and Buffy were going after boxed and canned goods, and so he headed in that direction. Skidding to a stop in front of one aisle, he spotted them standing close together. He recognized the smile that Buffy wore; she was smiling the way a girl did when she was with someone she liked. And Spike was looking more relaxed than he ever had before in Andrew’s memory.
He hesitated, wondering if he should interrupt even though it was obvious that they were sharing a private moment. Andrew had suspected all along that they still loved one another, and now he was seeing confirmation. It really seemed a shame to break into a private moment.
He set his jaw, turning and beginning to run towards the meat department. Andrew wanted to be a part of the team, and that meant fighting the demons, too.
When he arrived near the meat department, he couldn’t see Dawn or any of the Potentials. “Where could they be?” Andrew muttered. “Think. What would Spike do?”
Spike would likely rush in and find the trouble, then kick its ass, he decided, but he needed a plan. The Vampyre had brawn; he was stuck with brains.
“Well, it’s brains over brawn any day,” he told himself.
Glancing around nervously, Andrew snuck around the meat counter and slipped into the back room. It was almost too bad that Buffy had insisted on coming to the giant warehouse on a weekday; avoiding the crowds was all well and good, but this was just ridiculous. It was like the place was deserted.
Andrew heard a shriek, and although he was tempted to run the opposite direction, he mustered his courage and headed towards the sound.
Amanda was being backed up against a giant meat grinder, which looked very lethal. Dawn and Vi were fighting off another demon, who was large, gray, and very scary looking. He didn’t have to think about his options for very long before leaping on the back of the demon attacking Vi.
“Get off her!” he shouted, trying not to let his voice break in fear.
The momentary distraction he’d provided was all Vi needed to duck under the demon’s grasping hands. The demon threw Andrew off, sending him sliding across the floor, which was covered in things best not thought about. Vi got behind the creature and shoved it into the meat grinder, flipping the switch.
Andrew put a hand over his mouth, trying not to be sick. He’d never seen anything quite that gross before. Stabbing Jonathan had been bad, but this—
The howl from behind him caused Andrew to forget his roiling stomach for a moment. Dawn and Amanda’s demon was heading towards Vi and the grinder, giving the two girls a chance to grab whatever weapons came to hand first.
Dawn had snagged a heavy meat pounder, and Amanda grabbed a large cleaver. Andrew put his hands over his eyes, not wanting to see what happened next.
He didn’t move until he felt a hand on his shoulder. “Come on, Andrew.”
Looking up, he saw Dawn standing over him, a sympathetic expression on her face. “Are they dead?” he squeaked.
“Yeah, they’re dead,” she assured him. “But so are the butchers. I think we should probably get out of here before someone starts wondering about the commotion.”
“And the dead bodies,” Vi added.
Dawn glanced over at him. “You couldn’t find Spike and Buffy?”
Sometimes, Andrew thought, you had to lie in the name of love. “No. I thought I could help.”
“You were a big help,” Vi acknowledged.
“Yeah, good job, Andrew,” Dawn said. “Now, let’s get out of here. This place really gives me the creeps.”
“Where are they?” Buffy asked, looking around anxiously.
“Probably dawdling,” Spike replied. “You did plenty of that when you were younger, I’m sure.”
She sighed. “Yeah, but we’re on a schedule here. There’s patrol tonight, and—”
“And nothing,” Spike said. “The others will survive without us for a few hours.”
Her expression changed to one of incredulity, and Spike turned to see what she was looking at. Rona and Kennedy were approaching with their required items, looking a little disheveled from their run-in with the Bringers, but not too bad.
Dawn, Andrew, Vi, and Amanda straggled along behind them, much the worse for wear. All four were splattered with blood and grime, and Dawn had a red streak down one cheek. “What happened?” Buffy demanded.
“This store is possessed,” Vi announced. “I want to go home.”
Dawn added her voice. “Yeah. It’s not just toilet paper you can get in bulk here; it’s trouble, too.”
“Okay,” Buffy agreed. “But what happened?”
Amanda shook her head. “Demons. The details aren’t important.”
“I’m going to wait in the car,” Kennedy announced.
The other Potentials, Andrew, and Dawn quickly followed suit, lining up their carts behind Spike and Buffy’s. “Well, that was interestin’,” he finally said.
“I guess trouble followed us here,” Buffy said.
Spike shrugged. “At least we weren’t the ones dealing with the emergency for once.”
“Maybe, but I think this is the last time we come here. We don’t need this kind of trouble.”
Looking at the small mountain of supplies, Spike had a feeling that they would be well stocked through the apocalypse.
And even if they didn’t, there was always the chance that Buffy would drag him along on her shopping expedition again. Oddly enough, he’d had fun.