So, it's been years since I've written any Buffy fic, but this story has actually been sitting on my hard drive unfinished for a long time now, and since I've been rewatching Buffy again I finally got off my butt and finished it.

It's the third story from my Hot Chocolate series, and I have two more planned before the whole series is finished.


Title: Interlude I : Cocoa
Fandom: BtVS
Characters/Pairings: Willow, Buffy, mentions of Buffy/Pike and Buffy/Spike
Rating: PG
Wordcount: 2000+
Warnings: Post-Series, mentions of character death
Notes: This story mentions parts of the movie as well, but ignores season 8 comics and any other Buffy books. This is the third part of my Hot Chocolate series. Previous stories are Hot Chocolate and Bittersweet.





The café got crowded fast, but they managed to get a table in the back near the window, with a perfect view of the gray, overcast sky, and the torrents of rain they had just escaped. There was a slight draft from the window and Willow tugged at the sleeves on her jacket, trying futilely to get the wet fabric to cover her wrists. Across from her Buffy was looking into the bags.

“What’s the damage?”

“Not too bad,” she declared, peeling back the slightly soggy tissue paper to peer into one of the bags. “But we should probably try to wait out the rain.” She sat back in her chair and smiled wryly at Willow. “Well, before it was cancelled by rain I think the Christmas shopping trip was a success, don’t ya think?”

“Oh, definitely. Finding that comic book store was like striking Xander goldmine, and I really think Dawn will love those boots you bought her.”

“And bonus: Dawn won’t have to keep borrowing mine now.” Buffy kicked out one boot clad foot in emphasis, accidentally tripping the waiter walking to them with their drinks.

It was only Slayer speed that saved them. Before the drinks could even spill Buffy was up out of her seat, one hand reaching out to steady the waiter, the other grabbing the tray before it could tip.

“Sorry,” she laughed a little in embarrassment. “I’m klutz-o girl to today. Or well, every day, I guess. Though you know, I usually do good on Sundays,” Buffy continued to babble once the waiter was standing up straight. “Maybe it’s the whole, um,” she shrugged, the tray still clutched in her hands, “day of rest thing.”

“Yes,” the waiter murmured, sounding dazed. He was looking at Buffy with what Willow recognized as the I’m-Not-Sure-What-Just-Happened-Was-Possible look. She wondered, idly, if Buffy ever got tired of seeing that look on people’s faces.

The waiter seemed to shake himself out of the daze. “Well, thank you, for your, ah, help.”
Buffy shrugged. “No problem. It was my fault you almost became good friends with the floor anyway.”

“Right…” the waiter trailed off. “Well, I brought your drinks.” He took the tray from Buffy and placed the steaming mugs on their table. “Was there anything else you needed?” He barely waited for their negative reply before he was gone, walking swiftly through the other tables back to the front of the café.

Buffy sat back down with a sigh. “Way to go, Buffy,” she muttered. “He was cute, too.”

“Maybe leave him a good tip?” Willow suggested. “Besides,” she continued when Buffy just nodded, “I don’t think he was that cute anyway. It was just the accent. We’ve been in England for five months now, and I don’t think you have gotten over the accent.”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Please. I was over the accent before we came here. Seven years of Giles’ lectures have probably put me off it for good.” She picked up her mug and took a tiny sip.

Willow followed her example, blowing on the hot chocolate a little first. “Mmm..” she hummed. “This is actually pretty good.”

“It’s alright,” Buffy shrugged, taking another sip.

“Oh, I forgot. You’re a hot chocolate snob.”

This,” she held up her mug, “is not hot chocolate. This is cocoa. You can tell it was made with powder.”

“Like I said,” Willow smiled teasingly. “Snob.”

Buffy lifted one shoulder in a shrug. “Once you’ve had the best…”

They fell quiet as they sipped from their mugs, Buffy’s head turned to the window, eyes going hazy as she stared through the rain covered glass.

Willow frowned slightly. Maybe she shouldn’t have made a reference to Joyce. Christmas was coming up soon and Buffy always felt the loss more keenly that time of year. Willow let her eyes wander the packed café, mind scrambling to think of something to say that would distract Buffy.

She found that something on the opposite side of the café, staring at Buffy.

“Hey,” she said quietly, forcing Buffy out of her daze. “You may have scared away the cute waiter, but there is a guy at the corner checking you out.”

Buffy perked up. “Really?” In a well-practiced move, she casually turned around, eyes wandering over the café as if idly looking for a server. “Which one?”

“The tall one with dark hair, in the leather jacket.”

“Oh.” She turned back around.

“Oh? That’s all?” Willow looked at him again. “He’s really good looking, Buffy. And he’s still checking you out.”

Buffy shook her head. “I’ve decided to break the pattern of dating guys with leather jackets. No good ever came of that.”

Willow thought for a moment. “I don’t think two makes a pattern.”

Buffy looked down at the mug in her hands, tapping her fingers lightly against the side. “Three,” she said quietly.

“Three?” Willow frowned in confusion. “Well, I suppose Riley sometimes—“

“Not Riley,” Buffy interrupted.

“Then…who?”

Buffy didn’t answer right away. She stared down at the cocoa in her hands, only moving to pull the cup closer to her, as if the heat from the mug was the only thing keeping the chill at bay. “You remember how I burned down a gym full of vampires at my old school?” Willow nodded.

“Well, I had help with that.”

“Your Watcher?” Willow asked softly.

Buffy shook her head. “No… Merrick was dead. Lothos killed him a few nights before.”

“Oh,” Willow murmured. She’d heard bits and pieces of this story, but not much. Buffy didn’t like to talk about her life as a slayer in LA before she came to Sunnydale.

Buffy flicked her eyes up briefly to meet with Willows and then turned her gaze to the window. “After Merrick died I just…gave up. I didn’t want to be the Slayer, I didn’t want death and nightmares of creepy vampire guys waiting in my bed when I went to sleep. I just wanted my old life back: where I was a cheerleader whose biggest problems were that my best friend lost my new jacket and my parents wouldn’t stop fighting. So I quit.” Buffy shrugged one shoulder. “I went shopping, bought a new dress and went to the school dance.”

She shot Willow a wry smile. “I guess it wasn’t going to be the only time I ran away from my problems.”

Willow leaned forward. “So what happened? What made you go back to it?”

Buffy smiled wistfully at her mug. “Pike.”

“Pike?”

Buffy nodded. “He was the first person outside of my Watcher who knew what I was. “ She laughed slightly, “and he could be so obnoxious too. He had the whole from the wrong side of the track thing going. You know, leather jacket, Doc Martins, bike, bad boy attitude…it drove me nuts sometimes.”

Willow raised her eyebrows.

Buffy blushed a little. “Okay , I thought it was hot.”

Willows eyebrows did not go down.

The Slayer huffed and sat back in her seat. “I might have a type, ok? I admit it. Can we just get back to the story now?”

She nodded and waved her hand at Buffy, “Proceed,” she said solemnly, and took a sip of her cocoa.

Buffy’s lips twitched. “Anyway,” she shot Willow a warning look, “He wasn’t just the first person who knew, he was also the first person that fought with me. When I decided to quit he tried to change my mind, and when that didn’t work—“ She looked up and smiled at Willow. “—He showed up at the gym, dressed up and ready to dance.”

Willow couldn’t help the “Aw!” that escaped her mouth. “Buffy, that’s sweet!”

“It was. Too bad the moment was ruined by Lothos and his goons showing up.” She shrugged. “Anyway, you know the rest of that story: we fought, we burned down the gym, I was expelled… I rode off with Pike on his bike.”

“That part you left out,” Willow teased, and Buffy just shrugged in response. “So what happened with Pike? I’d remember if you had a boyfriend when you first came to Sunnydale.”

Buffy looked back down at her cocoa. “Remember when I told you that my parents put me in a mental health institute when I tried to tell them I was the Slayer?”

Willow’s teasing smile fell, surprised. While Buffy didn’t often talk about her life in LA, she never spoke about her time in the mental health clinic. “I remember,” Willow murmured.

“Well, while I was in there Pike insisted that someone had to be out there, fighting the vampires. I couldn’t talk him out of it. He was so determined.” A sad smile crossed Buffy’s lips. “Sometimes I thought it was just the adrenalin rush. He was a little wild, and I knew he loved the fight.”

He sounded just like Spike, Willow thought. But she didn’t say anything, instead letting Buffy continue with her story.

“But he would visit me. Every week. And by talking to him I knew that he really did believe in what he was doing, that he really was trying to save people while I was in there.” She gave a small chuckle. “You know, I think his visits were the only thing keeping me sane while I was in there. With everyone--the nurses, the doctors, my family—all of them telling me that what I knew wasn’t real, he was the only one who knew different. Who knew the truth and who could assure me that I wasn’t as crazy as they all thought I was.”

“I’m glad you had him there, then.” Willow said softly.

Buffy gave her small smile in acknowledgement, but then looked back down at the table, expression serious again. “After a few weeks his visits stopped. No one knew why. He didn’t call the clinic and leave a message for me, and my parents didn’t even know how to get in contact with him. It wasn’t until after I finally left that I found out what happened.”
Buffy finally looked up and caught Willow’s eyes. “He died while I was in there. Fighting a vampire.”

Willow gasped. “Oh no, Buffy. He wasn’t turned…” she trailed off. The horror of that idea too much to finish the sentence.

Buffy shook her head. “No. They just killed him. He was found in the park, blood drained. Same as all the others. By the time I got out of the clinic the only thing left of Pike was a grave and the leather jacket he gave me.”

Willow remembered the bulky leather jacket Buffy used to wear when she patrolled for the first month or so after she came to Sunnydale. She’d assumed it was Angel’s, until Buffy started wearing a different one that she told Willow he’d given her. Willow never gave that other jacket another thought.

“Whatever happened to it?” she asked before she could think better of it. She could have hit herself afterwards, because even as the words were leaving her mouth Willow realized that she already knew.

A slight bitter smile twisted the Slayer’s lips as she answered. “The jacket’s at the bottom of the crater than now is our home town.”

Along with the other two.

It didn’t need saying.

Willow realized that her attempt to distract Buffy actually led her friend down an even sadder road—Pike, Angel, Spike. Especially Spike. Though Buffy didn’t talk much about him these days, Willow knew that they had become close again during those last weeks before the final battle with the First. How close exactly, she couldn’t say for sure, but it didn’t take a genius to see that Buffy was still mourning him.

So once again Willow searched for something to lighten the mood.

“Okay,” she said, voice deliberately bright. “No more leather jackets. Got it. How about…” She gazed around the café, which was clearing out now that the rain had slowed down. “Oo! There we go!” She discretely pointed over Buffy’s right shoulder. “Sweater vest guy. He’s been checking you out too. And he looks completely safe, leather--jacket wise.”

Buffy twisted her neck to peer over her shoulder, before whipping back around, nose scrunched. “Uh, I don’t think so, Will. I know I said I need to change my taste in men, but I don’t think I need to be that drastic.”

“Don’t be so harsh,” Willow told her. “You never know, he could be the love of your life.”

“He has his napkin tucked into his collar to prevent coffee stains. How will he be able to handle my life?”

Willow pretended to ponder this. “You may have a point.”

Buffy smirked. “May have?”

“Okay so he looks like one good demon attack would break him. Still: book, cover—you know the saying.”

She rolled her eyes. “Whatever you say, Will.” She lifted her mug to take a sip and immediately put it down again, grimacing. “It’s cold.”

“That’s what happens when you don’t drink it in time.” Willow grinned when Buffy just glared at her, happy that her second distraction was a success and her friend was in a better mood. She glanced out the window. “The rain’s stopped. Why don’t we go back to your flat and you can fix us some of your ‘real’ hot chocolate.”

“You like calling it my flat, don’t you,” Buffy observed as she got up from the table and started putting on her coat.

Willow took out her wallet and pulled out enough money to cover the drinks. She hesitated and then added a little bit more for the tip—the poor guy did almost face plant on the floor after all. “I do,” she replied as she zipped up her bag. “It reminds me that we’re in another country. It’s exciting.” She fell into step with Buffy as they made their way to the door.

“Because being in another country isn’t enough to remind you that we are in another country.”

“Still! You should learn to use the vernacular of the country you’re in! It’s only right.”

Buffy shot Willow a grin over her shoulder, eyes light as she pushed open the door. “Whatever you say, Will,” she repeated.

They exited café and went out into the street.

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