"I don't know why we do this," Willow said, burying her face in Xander's shoulder, one eye peeking out from behind the curtain of her hair.
"We do it because-eewww," Xander's eyes squinted against the image on the screen.
"Guys," Buffy interrupted, reaching across Xander for the popcorn, which rested on Willow's lap, "we kill demons practically every single day. We can handle a little zombie action."
"I'm not sure I'm desensitized enough for this," Willow moaned, picking her head up off Xander's shoulder. "Ok, that was disgusting."
Buffy smiled delightedly and took a sip of her soda. 'Zombie Hotel' wasn't art, but is sure was gross.
"You'd think that you'd want a little break from all the things that go bump in the night," Xander said, wondering how he might get a little groping action without being too obvious.
"Shhh," someone hissed behind them.
"Oh, like you're going to miss dialogue," Buffy whispered, half to herself and half to the unseen voice behind her. "Halloween sucks without a little demon butt to kick and since they think this is like the demon holy holiday or something, well, a girl's gotta get her excitement where she can."
"I dunno," Willow whispered, leaning across Xander's lap to sip at Buffy's soda, "I kinda don't mind that everyone heads for the hills on Halloween. We should take advantage."
Was that a breast? Xander wondered before he croaked: "Did you see that?"
Willow turned her head just in time to see one of the guests from the zombie hotel get his brains sucked out through his empty eye sockets. "I can't watch this anymore," she hissed. "Buffy?"
Buffy smiled indulgently at her friend and said, "Okay, let's go."
The three friends stood up and amidst a hail of popcorn from the Goths who had been sitting behind them, they picked their way along the sticky aisle and back to the theatre's exit.
The street was eerily silent when Buffy, Xander and Willow stepped out from under the cinema's awning. It was already past ten o'clock, too late for most of the costumed children to be still wandering up and down Sunnydale's residential streets, looking for treats. The coffee shop across the street from the movie theatre was, strangely, closed. There wasn't a car in sight.
"Is it just me--"
"No, definitely creepy," said Xander, zipping up his windbreaker.
Buffy took a final slurp of her soda and deposited her empty cup in the garbage can next to the ticket window.
"Remember Thriller?" she said.
"Is that a movie?" Xander asked, stuffing his hands in his pockets.
"No, you dolt, the Michael Jackson video where pre-surgery Michael and his date got chased by all those zombies," Willow said. She shrugged. "My mother has the album."
"That explains so much," Xander said humorlessly.
"We're all walking together, right?" Willow asked.
"Guys," Buffy said, "it's Halloween. All the goblins are tucked up in bed with their flesh or blood or whatever weird thing they've got working for them. I'll walk you both home, but there's nothing out there."
She stepped off the curb and turned back around to face her friends. "It's crazy. Halloween is the one night of the year that I could have to myself and not worry about Sunnydale's underbelly and all I want to do is kick demon ass. I definitely need therapy."
"It's early," Xander said. "I never did return "The Red Shoe Diaries," to Jumbo. We could, you know, spread out the plastic sheet, mix up a little Jello..."
Buffy and Willow exchanged mock looks of horror and burst into squeals of laughter.
"No question, Xander, you are the scariest thing in Sunnydale tonight," Willow said, shaking her head and joining Buffy on the street. "Come on, I need my Pajamas and cocoa."
Buffy and Willow linked arms and headed off down the street towards Willow's house. Xander trailed behind, admiring the sweet curves of his best friends' butts.
A moth was beating itself senseless against the porch light on Willow's stoop.
"Do you guys wanna come in?" she asked, inserting her key in the lock and pushing the door open.
"Will there be any sort of threesome if I agree?" Xander asked.
"What is wrong with you tonight?" Willow said without venom.
"I'm with the Slayer. I guess I'm just used to the adrenaline rush that comes from dusting vamps," Xander said.
"The adrenaline rush you get from watching Buffy dust vamps you mean," Willow corrected.
Xander's eyes glazed over as he imagined Buffy's lithe form contorting to gain the best advantage against her enemy. He recalled the mist of perspiration that would dust her upper lip, his overwhelming desire to lick it off. Sometimes, on cool nights, he could see the buds of her nipples prickling against her spandex top.
"Oh God," he whispered.
"Xander's thinking dirty thoughts," Willow said conspiratorially to Buffy.
"How can you tell?" Buffy asked, crossing her arms and grazing her eyes over Xander, top to bottom.
"Trust me, I can tell. Are you coming in?"
"No, thanks though. I think I'll just get the perv home and take advantage of the one night all year that Giles doesn't look all constipated with fear."
"Bath and bed, eh?" Willow said.
Buffy smiled. "Come on, Xander, I'll walk you the rest of the way."
Xander's parents were fighting when they arrived at his house. Distantly, Buffy could just make out Mr. Harris yelling, "I see a red door and I want it painted black, you stupid bitch!"
Xander made small talk forever at the door that led down to his basement. Somewhere, Buffy was sure that she could hear glass shatter, but Xander didn't even flinch. Finally, he said goodnight and Buffy had waited until she'd seen the grimy light through the basement window. She could hear Xander's television, The Simpson's at full blast, as she walked away.
Halloween was the one night of the year she could take off without feeling guilty, but Buffy hated it. She didn't know what kept the demons away and wasn't sure she believed the Watcher's Council's bunk about why they didn't venture out on All Hallow's Eve.
She knew that she should relish the peace. She should enjoy the fact that no one would be sneaking up on her and she could have a moment all to herself when she was just Buffy Anne Summers, girl, and not Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
But without constantly worrying about when she might have to dust a vampire or crawl into some stinky cesspool of demon crud, Buffy was forced to contemplate other things. She didn't like it.
This was the one night of the year that Buffy couldn't prevent herself from predicting her life two, five, ten years down the road. Time for a little introspection.
Her own house was dark when she finally made it home. She let herself into the empty house. She didn't bother to switch on the lights; she made her way up the stairs, past her room and into the bathroom, where she lit a stubby candle on the back of the toilet and plugged the tub before starting the water.
In the candlelight, she looked normal. Not tired. Not afraid. Somewhere, in the belly of the house, the furnace clicked on.
Buffy stripped off her clothes and dipped her toe into the steaming water before committing her entire body to its heat. She closed her eyes and tried to empty her head. She tried to force herself to practice defensive positions; she tried to reach for a quiet still place where she just existed; no past, no future, just now.
Peace was fleeting though. And try as she might to fill this one night with the busy work of someone with not a care in the world, Buffy already knew that there were worse things out there than ghosts and goblins.
Halloween was the one night of the year when Buffy had the time to be afraid of life.
Story Index Thoughts
Paint it Black -The Rolling Stones
I see a red door and I want it painted black No colors anymore I want them to turn black I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes I have to turn my head until my darkness goes I see a line of cars and they're all painted black With flowers and my love both never to come back I see people turn their heads and quickly look away Like a new born baby it just happens ev'ry day I look inside myself and see my heart is black I see my red door and it has been painted black Maybe then I'll fade away and not have to face the facts It's not easy facin' up when your whole world is black No more will my green sea go turn a deeper blue I could not foresee this thing happening to you If I look hard enough into the settin' sun My love will laugh with me before the mornin' comes I see a red door and I want it painted black No colors anymore I want them to turn black I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes I have to turn my head until my darkness goes Hmm, hmm, hmm,... I wanna see it painted, painted black Black as night, black as coal I wanna see the sun blotted out from the sky I wanna see it painted, painted, painted, painted black Yeah