the bunny warren v. Faith

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A Familiar Face

Author: Meltha
Rating: I’ll say PG, just cuz, well, a bit angsty in places
Feedback: Twould be nice, that would.
Spoilers: If you know what happened at the end of Season 5/beginning of Season 6, you’re set.
Distribution: Here. If for some reason you would like it, please ask me.
Summary: Angel and Buffy meet once more… finally.
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.
Dedication: To all the poor B/A shippers who have been hanging on for dear life for sooooo long.

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Gold and russet leaves were drifting with the gentle autumn breeze on a warm October afternoon in Sunnydale that day. Buffy snuggled more deeply into her peach wool throw and took another sip of steaming tea as her hazel eyes inspected the landscape through the window. Everything was peaceful. Peaceful and quiet. Very quiet. In fact, she realized, it was too quiet.

With a muttered curse, she heaved herself out of her favorite, comfortable chair by the window and shuffled back to her room. After flipping on the light switch, she fumbled through her bedside table until she retrieved the item she had forgotten once again: her hearing aid. She looked around her bare little bedroom, which was painted what had once been a cheerful shade of yellow but had since aged to a rather sickly manila, and plopped down on the bed. Her one, tiny window threw a small ray of sunlight across half of the faded blue floral bedspread.

“Summers, how did you ever wind up here?” she said aloud to no one. She had developed quite a habit of talking to herself. Perhaps it was because she so rarely had anyone else to converse with.

Suddenly, her Slayer instincts, what was left of them, kicked in. She knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that someone was watching her through the doorway behind her.

“Look, Larry, I already took my medication today,” she replied in her cracking voice without even bothering to turn around. “Why don’t you go see if Mrs. Bunston is trying to drag race with Mr. Kemp again? Ever since she got that souped-up electric wheelchair, she’s turned into a contender for the Indy 500.”

For a long moment, there was no response. Then, so quietly that she could barely make it out, she heard again a voice that she still knew at once even though it had been sixty years since the last time she had heard it.

“Hello, Buffy.”

Her breath caught for a moment, and she was overwhelmed by a rush of different emotions, all of them terribly confusing. Swallowing hard, she turned her head and saw him standing in the shadowy doorway.

“Angel?”

Time had, of course, done nothing to him. His handsome face was as smooth and youthful as it had been when she was sixteen. Warm brown eyes were smiling at her without a hint of the many years of existence they had seen. His hands… she remembered now that she had always loved his hands… were the same as they had always been, like perfectly sculpted white marble. He smiled at her in greeting, a smile full of affection.

“No,” she whispered under her breath. “No, you can’t be real. I’m dreaming again, and when I wake up, I’ll be alone.”

“I’m very much real,” he said as he moved towards her and sat down on the half of the bed that was still in shadow. The springs creaked slightly under his weight, and Buffy turned away from him with tears in her eyes.

“What is it?” he asked gently, concern making his velvet voice even more tender than usual.

With a small sob, Buffy stood up and covered her face with her hands, preparing to run from the room. Angel caught her by the arm and stopped her, pulling her close to him and wrapping his arms around her, enfolding her form completely as she began to shake with tears.

“Tell me what’s wrong,” he urged as he placed a gentle kiss on the top of her head.

“What’s wrong?” she responded, sounding unmistakably bitter. “Don’t you mean what isn’t wrong? Angel, look at me! Would you even have recognized me if you saw me on the street?”

She stepped back from him and waited. His eyes took in the orthopedic shoes on her no longer dainty feet, the sixty or so pounds she’d put on, her liver-spotted hands, the wrinkles that radiated from her eyes and lips, the thick glasses that covered her eyes, and the short, steel gray hair that hung limply around her face.

“I would know you even if I was blind,” he chided her. “And none of this matters. You’re still as beautiful to me as you ever were. Maybe even more so.”

She choked back a bittersweet laugh. “You’re lying. But you lie pretty well for an old, dead guy. So, why are you here? I’ve been retired for about forty years now, so if there’s some big nasty to be fought, you’ve come to the wrong place.”

He shook his head. “I just came to be with you.”

Buffy blinked her eyes in surprise. After all this time he just showed up on her doorstep? Part of her said she should be angry with him, but the other part of her quickly told it to shut up. From the moment he’d stepped into the room she’d felt the old bond between them. Never, not for one day of her life, had she ever stopped loving him.

“Tell me about yourself. It’s been a long time,” he said as he sat back down on the bed. She perched herself on a small chair that stood in a corner of the room facing him. “What have you been up to since I saw you last?”

This time Buffy really did laugh. “You mean since that night out in the desert after I came back? Well, let’s see. Willow and Tara, I don’t think you ever met her, wound up as life-partners. I was godmother to the two children they adopted: Crystal and Rupert. Giles was pretty pleased about that,” she said with a wistful smile. “They’re both married now and have two kids apiece. I call them my grandchildren.”

“And Willow and… Tara, is it?” Angel asked. “How are they doing?”

“Willow passed on about fifteen years ago, and Tara followed not long after,” Buffy replied with a catch in her voice. “I still miss them every day. Especially Willow. I never would have guessed that the girl I met on my first day at Sunnydale High being pushed around by Cordelia would turn out to be a friendship that would last so long.”

Angel nodded silently. “She always was a special girl. How about Xander?”

Buffy’s face took on a pained expression for a moment. “He died not long after the last time I saw you. A Grogoth demon got him. It was going after his girlfriend Anya, who was pregnant at the time, and he managed to kill it but…” her voice drifted away.

Angel reached out a hand and stroked her arm comfortingly.

“The baby was a girl. Anya named her Alexandra, and who became absolutely smitten with the little darling but your own grandchilde Spike. Geez, he doted on her. Spike actually fell in love with Anya and ended up marrying her, something I will never get over until my dying day,” Buffy said with a laugh. “He brought up Xander’s daughter as if she were his own. Spike and I stayed good friends for the rest of his life. When Anya died five years ago, though, he didn’t handle it very well. He started trying to kill every evil demon in a fifty-mile radius, and he managed it pretty well until the last one got him, which was probably what he wanted. The population of nasties is still way down thanks to him. Idiot. I miss him,” she mumbled.

“And Giles?”

“He moved back to England about a year after Xan died. He visited Sunnydale a lot, though. He finally found a girlfriend and got married when he was forty. They never had any children, but he was very happy. He died at ninety.”

“Dawn?”

“She’s living in Miami Beach now with her husband. I call her every Sunday at six. After the whole Glory-Key business nothing ever really went out of the ordinary for her again.”

“What about you?”

“Well, for starters, I’m the first recorded Slayer who lived long enough to retire. When I was about thirty-eight, my powers started to decrease. Two years later, another Slayer was called up even though I wasn’t dead. Unbelievably, the Council appointed me as her Watcher. Which was nice, because I was really sick of working the Welcome Desk at Wal-Mart.”

Angel laughed whole-heartedly. It was a wonderful sound, one that she didn’t remember ever having heard before. “I bet you were a great Watcher.”

“Anita might tell you otherwise. But, hey, she’s currently alive and kicking and training her own replacement, so I couldn’t have been too bad. But what about you? What’s been going on with your end of things?”

“Oh, Cordelia surprised the heck out of everyone by marrying Jonathon, the kid you went to high school with. They’ve had so many children I’ve actually lost count at this point. There’s Ali, Joe, Ryan, Kate, Stephanie, Angela, Eleanor, Nate,” he listed as he ticked them off on his fingers. “I’m forgetting somebody. Oh, wait! The weird little one! Joss!”

Buffy’s eyes were huge. “Cordy actually agreed to get fat nine times?”

“Well, some of them were adopted. I always forget which ones. And, happily, so do they. I’m godfather to three of them. I’m guessing you know about Wesley?”

“He was the head of the Council for almost thirty years. Retired to Tibet with his wife, didn’t he? What was her name again?”

“Annabelle,” Angel answered. “Yes, he’s still living in a little village over there.”

“Anyone else?”

“A couple of my co-workers got married: Gunn and Fred. I don’t think you ever met them. They died a few years ago,” Angel said.

“So, you’re still carrying on the good fight back in L.A.?” she asked.

Angel gave her a little smile. “Yes and no. I’ve kind of gone through a few changes.”

Angel and changes didn’t necessarily go well together as she recalled all too clearly. With a tiny bit of suspicion, she gazed at him warily and questioned, “Such as?”

Very slowly, so as not to frighten her, he stood up and walked deliberately into the sunlight. Absolutely nothing happened to him. Her jaw dropped.

“You’re not on fire,” she said in disbelief. Then a realization struck her. “And I didn’t invite you in.”

Angel shook his head and gave her a wink. Buffy, however, was not the least bit amused. In fact, she looked positively livid.

“Now! They do this for you now?” she actually yelled as tears began to stream down her weathered face. “The Powers turn you human when it’s no longer even vaguely possible for us to be together? Do you know how many years I hoped and prayed for this to happen? For us to finally live happily ever after? There was never, ever anyone I loved the way I loved you. Eventually I just gave up trying to find my soul mate because I knew I’d already found him, and he was the one man I couldn’t have. I tried to remember I was lucky since so many people never experience love at all, but,” she began to sob, “but now, to dangle this in front of me, what I wanted for so long, and we can’t…” Her words broke off raggedly as he knelt beside her and touched her hand.

“Shhh,” he comforted her. “No, Buffy, you’ve got it all wrong.”

“But, you are human now, right?”

“No.”

The answer startled her so much that she actually stopped crying. “You’re still a vampire?”

“No again,” he chuckled.

“You’ve completely lost me,” she said with more than a hint of exasperation in her voice.

“Buffy, do you remember what we said that last time we saw each other so long?”

“How could I forget. We were both so torn apart by what had happened that we decided we wouldn’t see each other again unless we never had to say goodbye. And now you’re finally here, but it’s too late,” she half-whispered. Then, a sudden thought sprang into her mind. “Angel, if you’re not a human, but you’re not a vampire, what exactly are you?”

His smile became absolutely dazzling. “You might say my name has become particularly appropriate.”

“Angel?”

“Bingo,” he smirked.

She blinked as she tried to figure out exactly what he meant. Taking pity on her, he filled her in.

“Two years ago, I was battling a Fresnek ogre when it threw me out a twentieth story window at one o’clock in the afternoon on a particularly sunny day. At least there was no mess for anyone to clean up afterwards. Instant ashes.”

“You’re dead? So what are you doing… here…” She looked at him as realization dawned on her.

“They let me come to be with you when it happens.” He took her hand in both of his and kissed it softly. At the same moment, Buffy felt a sudden weight settle over the center of her chest and her breathing became labored. “It’s a heart attack, Buffy. I know it’s painful, but it’ll be over in a few minutes.”

“Stay with me,” she gasped out, terrified in spite of herself.

“I’m not going anywhere without you,” he promised as he cradled her head tenderly against his chest. “You’re not alone.”

She gripped his hand with the tiny bit of strength she still possessed as her rib cage seemed ready to burst from the pressure. Everything was spinning, and she felt as though she were about to black out. With a great effort, she managed to speak.

“I love you,” she said so softly that even a vampire’s ears wouldn’t have heard her. But Angel’s did.

Suddenly, the pain stopped as abruptly as it had begun. Angel had never let go of her hand, and now, once again, he brought it to his lips as he silently guided her to her feet.

It was then that she noticed her own hand. It was now smooth and white and slim, the hand she had possessed when she was a girl. She glanced down and saw the same white dress she had worn so many years ago when she had defeated the Master, her body once more young and perfect.

Angel’s eyes were filled with tears of happiness as he brought out of his pocket the same claddagh ring he had given her on her seventeenth birthday. He looked at her, and she smiled at him with just as many teardrops in her own hazel eyes aso once again the ring was placed on her finger, the heart pointing towards her.

“My soul mate.”

With that, he grabbed her around the waist and spun her through the air, her long blonde hair fanning behind her, the walls of the dingy retirement home and her discarded body melting away like snow in the July sun. He set her back down and kissed her, their lips moving together with a bliss neither had ever known in life. Then, with a grace she didn’t know he possessed, Angel slipped one hand around her waist and caught her right hand in his left. He began to dance with her to a waltz played by the stars that had begun to come out, and as they whirled to the heavenly music, each step brought them higher into the air, leaving the earth behind.

“You know,” he whispered into her ear, “you have a whole lot of friends waiting to see you.”

Buffy gave him a mischievous smile. “I think they’ll understand if we’re a little late.”

They were very late, indeed.


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A Highly Fluffy Story

Author: Meltha
Rating: G
Feedback: Yes, thank you.
Spoilers: Through Ats's season 5 "Conviction."
Distribution: Fanfiction.net and the Blackberry Patch. If you're interested, please let me know.
Summary: In the move from the Hyperion to Wolfram & Hart, Angel and Lorne do some… ehm… bonding. Extremely silly.
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.
Author's Note: In response ot Lunanne’s fluffathon challenge: Angel and Lorne friendship, a silly misunderstanding, and pink fuzzy slippers, no mention of Angelus, the soul, Spike, or Buffy

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The hustle and bustle of moving things from the Hyperion to the new staff quarters at Wolfram & Hart was beginning to reach chaotic proportions. Of course, Lilah had smoothly offered a moving service to the Angel Investigations crew, but all of them had immediately turned her down with a choral “No!” There was no possible way the mass of evil lawyers were to be trusted with their personal effects.

Currently, Gunn, his truck laden to bursting, was making his fifth trip to the new building. Wesley was at his own apartment, boxing up his books and weapons, and wondering why on earth he had a bucket in his closet. Fred had decided it was high time for someone to get lunch, and she had headed out on foot to the Mexican restaurant down the block, intent on bringing back enough food to feed a starving army.

Angel and Lorne, the Hyperion’s only occupants for the moment, were still going through their rooms, packing up the last of their belongings. Lorne had just found a whole pile of old 45s he hadn’t realized had even survived the explosion of Caritas. Grinning madly, he pulled out a small turntable he’d already stowed in a crate, plugged it in, and was just about to fill the air with the sounds of the Temptations when he became aware of Angel shuffling around in his own room on the other side of the hallway. The tired sound of the footsteps gave Lorne pause enough to think maybe Motown would be out of place just now.

Lorne knew Angel had been in a strange mood lately, quiet and sullen. Well, he supposed, that really wasn’t all that new. It would be far more alarming if Angel had suddenly started wearing chartreuse and doing a snappy soft-shoe routine, but still, Lorne was bothered that he couldn’t quite put his finger on why the vampire seemed so withdrawn. The demon had told himself a thousand times that he should just let this group work out their own problems without sticking his nose in, but his nose seemed to have a mind of its own. Well, technically, his nose did have a mind of its own, but Pylean anatomy aside, he cared about these kids, and that included the quarter-millennium-old kid across the hall.

Sucking in his gut and painting on his happiest grin, he sauntered into Angel’s room with a cheery, “Hey, ya big apple dumplin’, have you happened to see my orange and pink top hat lying about anywhere? Can’t seem to find it.”

Angel looked up at him with an odd expression on his face. “I think I’d remember seeing that if I had, and no.”

“Hmm, drat,” the demon said, coming fully into the room and watching Angel’s progress in packing. “Thought maybe you’d borrowed it, but it was probably Wes.”

Angel stared at him, but the demon just winked, willing him to smile even a little. No dice.

“I’ll let you know if I see it,” he said, turning his back and folding what appeared to be Angel’s thirty-fifth black shirt.

“Angel, honeybun, do you even own something in a non-neutral tone? A red, maybe, or a nice sunny yellow? I mean, just the color wouldn’t make you catch fire, would it?” Lorne asked as he noticed the predominately black, gray, and, oh yes, still more black wardrobe that was still scattered around the room.

“No, Lorne,” he answered, but whether it was to if he owned anything vaguely cheery or if yellow had vampire-incendiary properties, Lorne couldn’t tell.

The green demon frowned slightly, then looked at the bottom of Angel’s closet and broke into a wide grin at what he saw. Sitting there as though waiting for Angel to sit down before bed with a friendly book were an obviously comfy, wildly fuzzy pair of shockingly pink slippers.

“Well, now, those are definitely a step in the right direction!” Lorne said, bending down and picking them up.

“Those aren’t mine,” Angel said in a slightly offended tone. “I assumed they were yours. I’d put them aside to give back to you but hadn’t gotten around to it. What are your slippers doing in my closet, anyway?”

“My slippers? Au contraire, big boss, these little footsie wraps aren’t mine, though they are adorable!” Lorne said as he examined them.

It happened in a flash. One of the slippers opened up a very large pair of toothy jaws and lunged at Lorne’s hand, missing only by millimeters.

“GYAH!” he yelled, dropping the remaining one to the floor and jumping in a swift movement onto Angel’s stripped mattress. “Demon slippers!”

Angel stared in disbelief at the flamingo-colored pieces of fluff that were currently circling the room and making noises not unlike Smurfs on acid. They also had the disconcerting ability to run up the walls and across the ceilings, and one of them had decided to attack Lorne from above.

“Hero-type person!” Lorne shouted, swatting at the creature as it attempted biting his horns. “You wanna get your derriere in gear over there! Not exactly a damsel in distress, but definitely in need of some rescuing!”

Breaking out of his stupor of shock, Angel grabbed a nearby umbrella (color: black) he’d been about to shove into a box and tried spearing the fluffy menace with it. To his surprise, it grabbed the umbrella with a pair of previously unseen tentacles and began whacking Angel about the head.

“Good!” Lorne hollered. “You’re distracting him great!”

“Great?” Angel yelled back, narrowly missing a sharp thrust of the umbrella’s wooden handle at his heart. “Are you insane?!”

Meanwhile, the slipper’s mate took a mighty leap and began eating Lorne’s baby blue satin shirttails.

“Get your incisors off my Isaac Mizrahi!” he screamed in a war cry, whirling around quickly enough to throw the slipper off with centrifugal force.

The slipper, however, was undaunted, and came back again, paying close attention to Lorne’s ankles. Angel continued to battle its twin as it stuck a series of holes into the mattress he was standing on, filling the room with a blizzard of feathers from the rips. As ridiculous as it seemed, they appeared to be losing.

That’s when the second unexpected thing happened: Lorne’s adversary, by nipping sharply at his ankles, had gotten the green demon hopping from foot to foot. As he raised one foot, the slipper hurled itself at it, quickly sheathing his foot so he was now wearing the slipper on his left foot.

“What in the name of Manolo Blahnik!” he cried as the slipper began moving his leg around in what was unmistakably the opening steps of a one-legged Can Can. “Angel! Help!”

“Kinda having problems of my own here,” he grunted as the slipper made a particularly vicious jab with the umbrella handle, knocking Angel onto his back, then performed a rather impressive back flip off the ceiling, coming to rest at his feet and forcing itself onto his right foot.

Before Angel knew what was happening, the slippered foot was making him hop across the room to where Lorne was currently doing a one man version of a kick line, which abruptly became a two man kick line as Angel found himself compelled to link arms with the demon and mirror his steps, though in the opposite direction since he had on the opposite shoe. Consequently, Angel and Lorne were kicking the heck out of each other’s shins.

“Ow! Watch it!” Lorne shot angrily as the vampire’s foot connected with his knee.

“You think if I had any control over this at all I’d be doing a scene from Moulin Rouge with you right now?” Angel growled at him.

Helpless, the two of them kick-ball-changed their way down the hall and towards the main lobby of the hotel, fighting and losing to the demonic slippers every step of the way. It wasn’t until they were within sight of the balcony railing above the lobby itself that they realized two things and exchanged horrified looks, neither of them sure which was more terrifying: the fact that the slippers were obviously going to hurl them down the steep stairs to at least one of their dooms, or that the others had returned and were talking cheerfully in the lobby below.

Angel looked skyward and mumbled between high kicks, “You really hate me, don’t you?”

“Uh, Angel-cakes,” Lorne asked, a tremble in his voice, “any ideas?”

“Just one,” Angel said. “Hang on tight!”

With that, Angel did the last thing slipper one, slipper two, or Lorne expected and used his free leg to leap over the balcony railing and out into thin air, covering the ten-foot distance to the large chandelier hanging above the lobby. There they swung, clutching the swaying and decidedly ancient lighting fixture, their feet still attempting to dance though they were dangling in mid-air.

Wes, Gunn, and Fred looked up, their mouths agape in shock at the spectacle above them.

“Man,” Gunn finally said in an awed voice, “y’all the weirdest bunch of people I ever been around, and that includes the homeless guy my crew bunked with that one summer who thought he was Madonna.”

“Wes,” Angel said, attempting to regain his dignity in spite of the fact he was hanging off a chandelier, wearing a fuzzy pink slipper, and Can Canning better than Nicole Kidman, “the slippers are cursed. You want to try to find a way to break the spell before the electrical cord pulls out of the ceiling and we plummet twenty feet?”

Wes blinked a moment at the odd picture, then seemed to realize he wasn’t watching an extremely odd episode of reality TV. “Right. I should have a book somewhere in the office that will do the trick,” he said, dashing out of sight.

Fred continued to look at the two of them swaying precariously above, her brows knit together in disbelief, apparently completely unable to speak, a taco still stuck in her mouth.

“So,” Lorne said conversationally to Angel as they continued to dance sporadically, occasionally bashing their limbs into various large crystals on the chandelier, “how about those Lakers?”

Angel sighed heavily.

It took Wesley just under half an hour to find the proper spell to make the demonic possession leave the slippers, allowing them to fall harmlessly to the floor. Apparently, one of their old enemies had not only tried to kill them, but had tried to do so in the most laughable way he could think of. Unfortunately, it took Gunn an additional hour to find a ladder tall enough to reach the chandelier. By that time, Lorne had gone through half his repertoire of the greatest hits of the 1970s and was just belting out a lovely rendition of the Carpenters’ “Close to You,” which Angel had disturbingly found himself singing along with under his breath.

About three weeks later, Angel walked into his office one morning to find a large gift bag on desk. Cautiously, he reached inside and produced…

With a surprisingly high-pitched shriek of terror, Angel grabbed a battle-ax off the wall behind him and proceeded to hack the fuzzy pink slippers into fluffy oblivion. Finally satisfied that the slippers couldn’t possibly do any more damage, he sat back, exhausted.

“Um, boss?” Harmony asked, poking her head through the door, “Everything okay in here?”

“Fine, Harmony, fine,” he said. “Get maintenance to deliver a new desk up here though.”

“Righty-oh,” she said cheerily, disappearing though the door once more. He could almost hear her roll her eyes.

It wasn’t until that moment that he saw the envelope, chopped neatly in half now, sitting on top of the remains of his desk calendar. It should have been rather hard to miss considering it was brilliant orange and had his name written on it in blue glitter pen. Carefully piecing the contents back together, he groaned. It read:

Angel-Crumpet,

You still DO need some color in your wardrobe, so I got you these. Don’t worry; they aren’t inhabited by anything nasty. And thanks for the dance, Twinkle Toes!

Stay fabulous,

Lorne

Angel buzzed Harmony on the intercom.

“Yeah, boss?”

“How soon am I due for a vacation?”


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Above and Beyond the Call of Duty

Author: Meltha
Rating: Good old G
Feedback: Twould be nice, that would.
Spoilers: Set sometime in Season 5, before “The Body”
Distribution: Here. If for some reason you would like it, please ask me.
Summary: It’s about time Dawn started learning to drive. Take a wild guess who gets conned into teaching her.
Author’s Note: I’ll be quite frank. I don’t like Spike/Dawn shippage. It gives me the creeps. But I dearly love Spike’s big brother attitude towards her, and I’ve written a few fics about that.
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.
Awards: View, View 2nd award

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“Right then. Let’s get a few things straight right off the bat. First, you ever tell anyone about this and I’ll make sure your mum finds out. Got it?”

“Yeah. Mouth sealed.”

“Second, you put the tiniest scratch in my baby, I’ll…” he paused to think of something the chip would actually permit him to do that she would find unspeakably terrifying, “… I’ll run your training bra up Sunnydale High’s flagpole.”

Her eyes widened in horror. Chip or no chip, he thought smugly, he still had it.

“Okay, okay, no dings.”

“Finally, you do exactly what I say. Don’t give me any lip. Clear?”

“Fine. Let’s get started before your list lasts until sun up.”

He rolled his eyes. How on earth had he ever gotten himself into this? The Slayer, he thought glumly. She’d asked, he’d jumped at the chance to impress her, and that had wound him up right where he was now: giving Dawn her first driving lesson.

“’Kay. Put the key in the ignition,” he coached her. Inside, he whispered a silent prayer to whomever or whatever might be willing to protect his precious De Soto. Please, he internally begged, don’t let this child turn my pride and joy into a pretzel.

“Which key?”

“Little one next to your thumb.”

“What are all these other ones for?” she asked, examining the dozens of keys that jingled from the ring.

“They’re the keys to the rooms where I left the bodies of annoying little adolescent girls who pried into my private business. Now stick the bloody key in the bloody ignition!”

“All right, all right, don’t get your knickers in a twist,” she said, unaware she was starting to talk like the blond vampire. She shoved the key into the ignition and turned it, making the huge black car growl into life. Wow. She’d done that. Cool.

“This concludes our lesson,” he said as he attempted to take the keys back.

“What?!?”

“You learned to start the engine. Good enough for day one. Tomorrow, if you’re lucky, you learn how to work the windshield wipers.”

Dawn stared at him in disbelief. “The windows are all painted black. What would washing them even do?”

“Now that you mention it, not a lot. On second thought, no lesson tomorrow.”

That did it. Her glare made her look almost as demonic as Angelus in a full rage.

“We. Are. Going. To. Drive.” She said, enunciating each word so clearly that they were like stakes in the vampire’s ears.

“Oh, all right! Don’t get all psychotic on me.” Spike looked around the vacant lot he had chosen as the safest possible place to entrust his De Soto to a fifteen year old. There were no buildings, no trees, no other cars… in fact, nothing at all, considering he had driven her out to the middle of nowhere. What trouble could she possibly get into? “Step on the brake and shift from park to drive.”

Dawn promptly hit the gas and switched to reverse, earning an angry groan from the car and a surprisingly high-pitched scream from Spike.

“Not that one! The other one, you nitwit!”

Panicking, she threw the car into neutral.

“Hit the brake when you wanna change gears. The brake! THE BRAKE! THE OTHER BLEEDING PEDAL!”

“Ooops,” she mumbled. “How was I supposed to know which was which?”

“Any idiot knows where the brake is!”

“Well this one doesn’t,” she said, starting to tear up. “I’m doing the best I can!”

Spike sighed. Yeah, that’s exactly what you want to do, mate: give the Slayer’s kid sister an inferiority complex while she’s behind the wheel of your car.

“Look, I’m sorry I snapped, nibblet. Let’s try this again. What do you know already about driving?” he said in what he hoped was a reassuring tone.

“That’s the headlights, right?” she said, pointing tentatively.

“No,” he said as gently as he could, considering his teeth were gritted. “That’s the cruise control.”

“Oh. Well then, is this the headlights?”

“You’re getting warmer. That’s the windshield wipers we were talking about earlier,” Spike intoned, wishing like mad that he’d managed to get the keys away from her the first time.

“Um, here?”

“Yes, that’s them. Go ahead, turn ‘em on.”

She nervously flicked the lights on.

“There you go! You’re startin to get the hang of it already. Dru was with me for over twenty years in this car and she never figured out how to do that.” She beamed happily. Spike suddenly remembered something and made a mental note that he needed to remove some of Dru’s more colorful mementos of past victories from under the seat. He’d been wondering what that smell was.

“Okay, since you’ve figured out the brake and the gas and the headlights and windshield wipers and the cruise control, what do you reckon that is?” he asked, indicating something to her left.

“Uh, turn signal?” she ventured.

“Got it in one that time. Push down for left, up for right.” Maybe if I just keep introducing her to all the gadgets, she’ll forget about making the car actually move, he thought hopefully. “Now the radio’s over here…”

“Spike, I can turn on a radio. I want to drive.”

So much for that theory.

“Just take it very, very slow. Now, step on the wider pedal. Good. Now move the lever to D for drive. Right. Now ease off the brake and…”

“And hit the gas,” she said happily. Her foot stomped on the accelerator, making the car lurch forward at almost sixty miles an hour.

“WHOA! WHOA!” Spike had automatically slipped back to his years as a mortal, yelping at the car like a horse that had shied and was starting to bolt. “Easy there! Let up on the gas and press the brake down slo…” she practically put her foot through the floor in her attempt to stop. The car lurched to a halt violently, making a series of offended noises and throwing the occupants forward. “...ly.” For once, he was glad he was actually wearing a seatbelt. His head going through the windshield couldn’t kill him, but he was thrilled that the glass hadn’t shattered.

“You’ll need to work on being a bit more delicate, pet. You don’t have to jab your foot down to the pavement like Fred Flintstone to get her to stop. Just take it slow and easy.”

“Since when do you watch the Flintstones?”

“What’d you think I do all day long? Don’t need as much sleep as humans do. Just think about not wanting to dirty your shoes on the grunge on the floor of my car.”

“What is that stuff anyway,” she asked warily, looking at the filthy floor.

“Whatever you’re thinking, you’re probably right.”

“Eew,” she whined, wrinkling her nose up in disgust.

Spike grinned. Honestly all he’d done was spill a cup of coffee a few weeks ago, but he was happy that he’d finally found a way to get her to ease up.

“Alright then, you’re going to try making a right turn. Ease off the brake, there’s a girl. Now put your turn signal on.” Good, she’d remembered where it was at. “Now, remembering all the nasty stuff under your tootsies, give her a bit of speed.”

With surprising delicacy, she managed to give his darling just the proper amount of gas to get her moving.

“Now, start to turn the wheel to the right.”

What happened next took a few moments to recover from.

“Okay,” he said in a very shaken voice. “You made three mistakes there. First, you turned left.”

“But the bottom of the wheel was going to the right…”

“Pay attention to the top of the wheel only. Second, you don’t have to spin the wheel like you’re a contestant on The Price is Right shooting for the ruddy dollar spot.”

“Check. Little movement better than big movement. Gotcha.”

“Finally, you once again hit the gas as though your foot was made of iron and the pedal was a magnet. Remember, icky, eewy floor.”

She nodded.

Dawn had, in fact, almost succeeded in getting them airborne, tearing the car in half, and yanking the wheel out of the steering column in one fell swoop. What she had actually accomplished was driving completely in a circle and tearing massive amounts of turf out underneath the wheels.

“Spike, I hope you don’t think I’m a wimp or anything, but would you mind if we called it a night? I don’t think I’m up for this just now.”

He was about to literally stand up and cheer when he suddenly realized something. The tone of her voice told him she was extremely discouraged and very possibly would never be getting into the driver’s seat of any vehicle ever again. Come on, he told himself, the kid’s had it. Get out of here, ditch the demonic driver, and take your car back to the safety of your garage. Unfortunately, that tiny little voice that had been causing him so much trouble lately wouldn’t stop its yammering.

“Fine, little one. But before that, I just want to see you drive once, in a straight line from here to,” he looked around desperately for a landmark, “to that tall bit of grass over there.”

She looked at him in shock. “Really?”

“Yeah. Give it one more go.” When her gaze shifted back to the windshield, he quickly crossed all his fingers, his arms, his legs, and as many of his toes as his Doc Martins permitted.

With a look of determination, Dawn gently lifted her foot from the brake, tapped lightly on the gas, and steered the car forward with tremendous concentration. Another twenty feet… fifteen… ten… five…

“I did it!” she shrieked gleefully as she pressed on the brake and shifted back to park.

Her wild triumph didn’t quite cover the other sound from Spike’s vampiric hearing. It was a low, soft, hissing noise. Practically ripping the car door off its hinges, he collapsed onto his belly to survey the damage.

“What’d I do? What’d I do?” Dawn kept repeating in a terrified whisper.

Spike’s eyes rolled up in his head. Nails. There were at least five rusty nails imbedded in the right front tire. They’d been hidden in the high grass when he’d scouted out the site for any possible problems earlier that night. He sighed and patted the car’s fender sympathetically before returning to Dawn.

“Not your fault, pet. We’ve got a puncture.”

“Can you fix it?”

“Got a spare in the boot.”

“The what?”

“The trunk. You’ll have to get out a second.”

His strength meant a jack was unnecessary, and within moments he had replaced the tire. He wondered blandly if he could get the Slayer to pay for a replacement, then decided he shouldn’t push his luck. He threw the already nearly airless tire into the trunk, then turned his attention back to Dawn.

“Hop in. Let’s go home.”

“I’m sorry,” she managed to squeak out before completely dissolving into tears.

“Now, now, none of that,” he said awkwardly. Oh, why not. It wouldn’t be the first lie he’d even told. “You didn’t do so horrible.”

“I didn’t know where the brake was, I didn’t know right from left, and I made your tire blow up!” she sobbed miserably.

“Yeah, well, still not as bad as my first time out.” She looked up in curiosity. “Don’t ask. There were farm animals. It wasn’t pretty.” He neglected to mention that he was referring to his first time riding a horse. There had indeed been farm animals, but they had merely gazed at him stupidly while he tried to make the old mare do something other than stand there like a very large, rather smelly rock.

“Really?” she sniffled.

“You’ll get better. Just takes practice is all. Now come on; let’s get you home before that sister of yours puts a bounty out on my head for kidnapping.”

Twenty minutes later, the car pulled up in front of Buffy’s home. Dawn scurried out the door and around to the driver’s window.

“Thanks Spike. You’re the greatest!” she gushed before dashing up the front steps.

“Yeah, tell the Slayer that, will you?” he muttered under his breath after she was safely out of earshot. Then he turned his attentions back to the car. “Come on, precious, let’s get you back to the crypt. I’m so sorry, baby. Did she hurt you? Can you ever forgive me?”

He continued to apologize to his car the entire way home and wound up sleeping on the floor next to it in the garage out of pure, mind-numbing guilt.


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Alfresco

Author: Meltha
Rating: PG
Feedback: Yes, thank you. Melpomenethalia@aol.com
Spoilers: Through Buffy season 3’s “Amends”
Distribution: The Blackberry Patch and Fanfiction.net. If you’re interested, please let me know.
Summary: Willow and Xander’s betrayal has left Oz feeling hollow. Giles won’t stand for it.
Author’s Note: Written for the lovely Bunny as a late birthday present, including sushi, a park, and Giles/Oz. Uh, it’s not really shippery, though.
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.
Author's note: Please, please let that website have told the truth about sushi...

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A month had passed since the debacle with Spike had outed Willow’s relationship with Xander. Giles had watched the fallout from the painful revelation with silent anger and sympathy. The group had been split, probably permanently so. Willow and Xander both seemed honestly remorseful for what they had done, and they were getting the support they needed from Buffy. Cordelia’s plight was much worse. Hospitalized, emotionally crushed, and ostracized by her popular “friends,” she had become bitter. Giles had made an attempt to see her, only to have a vase of tulips thrown at his head, shattering against the door, as she yelled, “I don’t want to see any of you freaks!” He had not attempted a repeat visit.

But the one left squarely on the sidelines, the one no one seemed to think about, was Oz. Maybe it was because of his quiet nature, his lack of histrionics or internal bleeding for that matter, but no one noticed that the young man was obviously in pain. Except Giles, of course. The watcher had been trained to notice small things others passed over, and when he studied Oz, it was plain to see how damaged he was. It showed in a dozen little ways: his band no longer played the Bronze, his rainbow-colored hair had lapsed to its natural rusty state, but more than that his posture had closed in on itself, making him blend seamlessly into the cement block high school.

Giles wouldn’t have that.

Oz didn’t know what to make of it when the note on school stationary was delivered to him by a school runner in his third hour music class. It was the only one he showed up for with any degree of regularity anymore. However, instead of Snyder’s cramped handwriting telling him to clean out his locker for shirking responsibility, it read “please meet me in the library during lunch. G.”

Oz blinked slowly, stuffing the paper into his ratty spiral notebook and considering his options. He could ignore it, and a large part of him wanted to do just that. He didn’t want to see Willow yet. Brief glimpses of her in the school corridors were already almost too much to handle, and if Xander was there he wasn’t sure what he’d do to him. Seeing him brought out the wolf’s most dangerous aspects. Still, a nagging part at the back of his mind whispered that maybe people’s lives were at stake, and if anybody died because he decided he didn’t want to show up, it wouldn’t be right.

The clock ticked. Music led into history, which he realized he hadn’t been to in over a week, and then the bell rang for lunch. With the smooth ability of a long-time practitioner of the art of simply becoming part of the background, he edged his way towards the library, hoping he hadn’t made a mistake in coming. He stood for a moment outside the swinging doors, taking a deep breath and readying himself before walking in.

The library was completely empty. No Scoobies were grouped around the main table. There weren’t even any large, dusty books sitting around in haphazard piles. Instead, there was only a white plastic bag on the counter along with a red and white-checkered tablecloth.

The sound of a door shutting nearly made him jump, and he looked up to see Giles locking his office door.

“Oz, oh, yes, good afternoon. I see you got my note.”

“Yeah. What’s up? Where are the others?”

Giles pocketed his keys and shook his head. “No others. We’re taking a lunch break.”


“A… what?”

“Lunch, Oz. It’s a custom common in most civilized countries. Rather like tea,” he said, picking up the bag and the tablecloth, “only for some reason the Americans got hold of this one.”

“I don’t really… follow…,” Oz said, baffled.

Giles sighed, then said, “I should like you to have lunch with me today. Is that all right, or do you have other plans?”

“No. I mean, no other plans. Yeah, we can do lunch,” Oz said, shifting his backpack.

Giles nodded as he put a sign in the library window saying he would be out for an hour. Then he led the way out through the stacks and to his Citroen, fumbling with his keys once more to get into the car. Oz watched him thoughtfully.

“You have a lot of keys,” he finally said. “Must be hard to find the right one, especially in the dark.”

“Yes, well, it’s an occupational hazard, I’m afraid,” Giles said, finally unlocking the door. “A watcher does tend to have to keep a lot of things locked up.”

“Yeah, I get that,”Oz said in a flat tone. “So, where we going?”

“You’ll see when we get there,” Giles said, hoping to coax a smile out of him but failing.

After a drive of perhaps ten minutes, the Citroen rumbled to a stop in a suburban section of Sunnydale. Actually, all sections of Sunnydale seemed to be suburbs, but this was a place where it was particularly difficult to think of vampires and werewolves and the rest of the creepy cavalcade that made up their daily lives. It was green and lush, with large trees and a small brook running underneath a stone footbridge. On closer inspection, Oz found that a small sign declared the open space before them to be the Wilkins Nature Park.

By this time, Giles had exited the car and looked over his shoulder at the teenager still slumped in his front seat.

“We’re here,” he said, rather pointlessly.

“Yeah,” Oz said. “Okay.”

To Giles’s relief, he opened the car door and followed him over the bridge. The path led them over a small hill, and on the other side nestled a shaded picnic table as well as a children’s play park. It was deserted now at mid-day, though it was easy to imagine kids climbing over the monkey bars and daring each other to go higher and higher on the swings in a few hours after school let out.

By this time, Giles had neatly covered the graffiti painted and weather-scarred wooden table with the cloth and had taken several small, white cardboard containers out of the bag.

“Chinese?” Oz asked, sitting across from him.

“No, actually,” Giles said, opening one of them. “Sushi. There’s a small restaurant not far from my home. I’ve developed something of an obsession over it lately. Ehm… do you like sushi?”

Oz regarded the boxes with a slightly suspicious expression. “Depends what kind it is.”

“No California rolls, though I admit a perverse fondness for them regardless of their being labeled for amateurs only,” Giles said, and the tiniest upturn of Oz’s mouth rewarded him. “I have some unagi, kani, tekkamaki, kappamaki, edamame, soy sauce, pickled ginger, and, of course, wasabi.”
By now the table was littered with small boxes and containers, and Oz’s eyes were wide.

“Man, they actually let you order that as take out?”

“I know the itamae quite well by now,” Giles said, wincing slightly at the number of times he had been to that sushi bar by himself in the last year. “It’s highly irregular, of course, but he did me the favor. I do hope it won’t be spoiled.”

Oz picked up the chopsticks and snapped them apart like a pro, immediately threading them through his fingers. Giles hid a sigh of relief. At the very least, he hadn’t guessed wrong about Oz’s experimental nature when it came to food.

“Thanks. This is really cool of you,” Oz said, deftly picking up the unagi and popping it in his mouth. He chewed thoughtfully. “Eel. Not bad. You know, for it being… eel.”

“I rather prefer not to think about it prior to its current form,” Giles agreed. “The kappamaki is quite good.”

“Not exactly the kind of cucumber sandwiches I picture you eating normally,” Oz said, and there was a definite smile now.

The meal continued in relative silence, but it was a silence that wasn’t at all as leaden as the one in the car had been. The crab and tuna disappeared as well, Oz taking almost insanely large portions of wasabi on his sushi.

“You ever have fugu?” Oz asked out of the blue.

“What? Poisonous blowfish? Yes, actually,” Giles said between sips of green tea. “When I was in college, I had some on a dare.”

“Worth it?”

“Worth risking cardiovascular and nervous system shutdown for a piece of fish? Not particularly, no. However, it was worth it to see the look on Ethan’s face when I faked gagging halfway through. The itamae nearly had a heart attack. We were thrown out and black listed from every sushi bar in London,” Giles laughed. It was only after he’d done so that he realized just how long it had been since the last time he’d laughed.

Oz quirked his head to one side and regarded the librarian. “You’ve got layers.”

At last, the emptied boxes were piled into a nearby garbage bin, and Giles simply stared at Oz. He had no idea how to say what needed to be said, or if there was even any point in saying anything at all.

“That was good,” Oz said. “Thanks.”

“Yes, well, I’ve been concerned about you, you see,” Giles said, stammering a bit. In a movement that was now so ingrained into him that it was becoming cartoonish, he slipped off his glasses and cleaned them on his pocket-handkerchief. “Since things have happened.”

“Yeah. Things,” Oz said, and Giles immediately regretted having said anything as his face became tense again.

“Have you, ehm, spoken with Willow?” Giles asked as delicately as he could.

“Did she ask you to talk to me?” Oz said, his head whipping towards him abruptly.

“No,” Giles said softly.

Oz nodded, trusting him. “No. I’m not… ready yet.”

“Will you ever be?”

“I’m just not… I need time to think,” Oz said, gazing off to some horizon Giles couldn’t see.

“Fair enough,” Giles said. “But in the meantime, I’m still worried about the effect this has had on you. You’re isolating yourself.”

Oz glanced back to Giles’s face. “And you don’t?”

“Excuse me?”

“Giles, you’re about the most isolated person I’ve ever met. When was the last time you didn’t eat alone before this?”

Giles blinked uncomfortably. “I don’t recall.”

“Right. So have you got room to throw stones? Because I’m thinking no,” Oz said, a trace of irritation in his voice.

“I’m not throwing stones,” Giles said, exasperated, pushing his glasses on again. “I’m saying that I’ve done what you’re doing, and I assure you, it will not make you happy.”

Oz remained silent for a moment, then looked back at Giles. “Saw and we talk.”

“What?”

Oz nodded towards the empty seesaw.

“You want me to sit on a child’s toy in broad daylight to have a conversation?” Giles asked.

“Distraction. I don’t have glasses to clean,” Oz said as he got up and walked over to the old wooden plank, seating himself on the low end pulling the beam up so that it was level. “On?”

Giles squinted his face together in discomfort, then muttered, “Oh, why the bloody hell not?” before sitting on the other end.

“Kay,” Oz said, beginning the slow, soothing motion. “It’s like this. I still love Willow.”

Giles nodded, not wanting to break Oz’s tentatively begun words.

“But it hurts, you know? Trust got broken, and then Xander was a friend, and now that’s messed up too, right?”

The seesaw continued its movement, making them switch back and forth between low and high, worldviews changing and then slowly moving back. This method of communication wasn’t easy for the boy, and Giles knew it. Music, perhaps, but words were not his friends.

“What do you want to do?” Giles asked him, risking breaking the quiet.

“See, that’s it,” Oz said softly. “I don’t want this to have happened, but it did.”

“You could try forgiving her,” Giles suggested softly.

“I could,” Oz said. More silence followed.

“Do you want to forgive her?” Giles asked.

Oz didn’t respond for a long minute, stopping their progress with him at the seesaw’s lowest point. Giles could see the conflicting emotions warring on his face: betrayal, anger, fear.

“Yeah,” Oz finally said, moving again, the board going upwards.

“Then do it,” Giles said. “I wish I would have sooner with Jenny. We’re on a Hellmouth, Oz. Anything can happen. It’s not a place to waste time.”
Oz didn’t say anything, and the soft movement of the seesaw continued unabated.

“Okay,” Oz said. “I’ll talk to her today. Thanks. I feel clearer.”

“Good,” Giles said, and though the conversation had ended, they continued to seesaw in silence for a few more minutes.

“You ever wish you were a kid again?” Oz finally asked.

Giles thought of all he’d seen, all he’d lost, all the scars that had accumulated since he had become a watcher. “Yes,” he said frankly.

“Me too,” Oz said, then patted the seesaw fondly. “School?”

“Hmm? Oh, yes, I suppose we should be going, shouldn’t we, before Snyder sends out the police or some nonsense,” Giles agreed.

It took them a moment to work out how they could both dismount the seesaw with some level of dignity, but they managed it. The drive back to the high school was predictably quiet, and as the parking lot came into view, Giles had a strangely heavy feeling come over his heart. For an hour or so, they’d been away from this place and all the strain it symbolized, but now they were back. Life continued.

The Citroen’s motor died away, and they fumbled open the car doors, Giles vaguely wondering if he should even bother to lock the ludicrous thing. They went through the back door of the library and through the stacks to the site of so many evenings.

“Do have a good day, Oz,” Giles said, as the boy began to go through the swinging doors and back into the whirlpool of teenage life.

Oz stopped and turned around. “Giles, what’s your first name?”

“Ehm, Rupert,” he said, surprised.

“Rupert,” he repeated. Oz looked at him. “Daniel.”

It took Giles a moment to realize that Oz had just told him his first name as well, to take in the fact he’d never even realized Oz wasn’t his first name, but by the time the thought had traveled all the way through his brain, the doors had swung shut.


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Consequences

Author: Meltha
Rating: PG-13 for some disturbing imagery
Feedback: Yes, thank you.
Spoilers: I suppose "Fool for Love"
Distribution: Fanfiction.net and the Bunny Warren. If you're interested, please let me know.
Summary: It's 1885 in Venice, and William, tired of Angelus and his rules, rebels. The repercussions last far longer than anyone would have expected.
Author's Note: This fic is a few shades darker than usual, so fair warning.
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.
Dedication: A very big thank you to my faster-that-a-speeding-bullet Beta, Lanie.

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William had more than had his fill of obedience. Angelus had threatened him, but he was far past the point of caring about the older vampire's words. For twenty-two mortal years he had lived in fear of one person or another, always with the looming promise that if he stepped out of line, if he didn't keep his mouth shut, if he didn't do exactly as he was told, if he caused any fuss, he'd catch hell for it.

Well, hell had already caught him, and as far as he could see, he had nothing left to lose.

"If you touch her, I swear that you'll regret it, boy."

He could still see the dark look on the face of the taller man… demon… being… whatever he wished to be called. It had been utterly benign: an expression that would have been at home at a Sunday school picnic if he'd been asking the vicar about his new roses. The muscular body had been relaxed and at ease as he pulled off his boots before the fire after a night of preying in the wet streets of Venice, but the eyes had been quite different. The fire had flashed in them for a moment, and they were as yellow as a wolf's. Angelus kept what was his for himself alone. There had been vague hints that if William behaved properly, if he proved himself so completely that even Angelus would be forced to admit he had become one of them, then, only then, would Drusilla be free to choose him.

It sickened him in a way he couldn't begin to describe that the beautiful brunette was held under the older vampire's rules. It was perfectly obvious to anyone who spent five minutes in the same room with Drusilla and William that he was painfully in love with her. Angelus, on the other hand, used the girl and abused her, usually keeping her from the more violent punishments that Darla could devise for her though he quite often visited them on his childe himself later. But there was a secret growing.

When William had first risen to his new life, Drusilla had clapped her hands prettily at her new toy and beamed, but then she had wandered off to see to her daddy. As weeks had drawn on, things had very subtly begun to change. The girl had never been shown the tenderness or devotion that William now lavished upon her, and he suspected that she never even knew that anyone could care for her so deeply as he did. He had begun to eclipse Angelus, just barely, for now she understood. Just as a candle can be thought bright in a dark room, she had doted on the occasional kindnesses and backhanded compliments of her sire. Now, though, William was showing her the sun, and that little flame was beginning to look pale in comparison.

And Angelus had begun to realize it.

Two hours had passed since Angelus had retired to his room with Darla, the door pointedly shut. It had been just over half an hour since William's ears had ceased hearing any signs of consciousness from the duo, and after the evening's activities and the lateness… or perhaps earliness… of the hour, he was certain they wouldn't stir again for hours. With a cautious and silent tread, he made his way deftly down to the far end of the hallway and to Drusilla's room.

Her door was open, and he found her gazing out the window towards the east at the lightening blue. For a long moment he simply stood still and adored her. She wore a long dressing gown of white satin edged in lace and ribbon, the back trailing behind her in a short train. Her face was turned towards the stars overhead as she watched them slowly vanishing into the growing light. Her luxuriant black hair, glossy as onyx, was dressed in masses of curls that reached all the way to the small of her back. Even from the other side of the room he could catch the faint scent of the violet perfume dabbed daintily behind her ears.

It was then that she looked towards the door and saw him standing there, gaping at her like a schoolboy. For a moment he was embarrassed, but then she smiled at him so gently that every other thought was drowned from his mind but the perfect beauty before him. She moved across the room to him, her tiny footsteps silent as petals dropping from a rose, and it was all he could do not to melt into the floor.

"William," she said in the softest whisper when she was only an arm's breadth from him, "what are you doing here so late?"

Words. Words would be good, he repeated to himself fervently. He wasn't sure of his own name at the moment, let alone why he'd dared to broach the sanctity of her boudoir. Therefore, he blurted out the first thing that came to mind.

"Sun. Coming up. You don't want to be by the window then," he mumbled quickly.

She nodded gravely at him, then turned around once more and shut the thick drapes tightly against the oncoming day.

"Thank you," she said politely as she came back to him. "I forget, sometimes."

Her eyes glowed, reflecting the soft gaslights that burned with a gentle rushing sound in the chandelier above them. Despite the fact he'd been a vampire for nearly five years, completely free of any compunctions of conscience, he felt himself growing shy in her presence. How could she make him feel like he was on fire and dipped in ice at the same time?

"Drusilla," he breathed in the stillness. It was her name, nothing more, but it was the most perfect word he could think of.

"William," she asked in the long pause that followed, "what do you feel for me?"

One trembling hand reached out to brush against her face as he spoke the simple answer.

"I love you."

She began to walk past him, towards the door, and for one awful moment he was again William the poet, spurned by the woman he loved, left to stand alone in the middle of the room with her silence far louder than any rebuke could be. But then, from behind him, he heard the sharp click of the door being shut and the lock turned.

He faced her once again with almost comic quickness, and indeed, she was still standing there, her gaze on the carpet at her feet.

"I love you too," she whispered. "I know I mustn't, but I can't help it. Angelus shall be most displeased with me. I'm a bad girl."

Unable to move, unable to speak, he stared at her. She loved him? Not merely didn't mind him caring for her, not that she was fond of him, but she actually loved him? It took a moment for it to sink in completely, but when it did, the bliss he felt was almost painful in its perfection. He moved towards her with lightning speed, intent on taking her in his arms and showing her how deeply he cherished her in a thousand ways words never could, but she flinched away from him and he came to a dead stop inches from her.

"What is it? You're not afraid of me, are you?" he asked in complete confusion.

She wrung her hands distractedly in a gesture he'd long ago realized meant she was on the verge of tears. "No, my pretty one, not you. Daddy. I'm not to… we're not to be…"

"Dru, he doesn't own you, you know, no matter what he's told you. Run away with me. There's no reason for us to stay here. I'll care for you myself. Please, love," he said desperately.

"He'd find me. No matter where I hide, he always finds me. Always," she half-cried. "Always."

William wasn't exactly clear about what had happened before Drusilla had been turned, but he wasn't stupid either. He was certain Angelus had been completely obsessed with her, and he knew from watching him exactly how relentless he could be. If Angelus took it into his massive head to hunt them down, he very well might.

"Please, Dru," he said desperately, "I don't think I can go on like this. Let me stay with you today. Whatever consequences Angelus gives me, I won't care. Even if I can't make love to you, please, just let me lie beside you. Let me hold you?"

She looked up at him for a moment almost timidly before her eyes shone with a spark of determined rebellion.

"Yes."

His hand reached out to stroke a wayward curl that had slipped over her shoulder, and his fingers felt electrified by the thrill of the simple yet forbidden contact. He wound his fingers around the smooth, gleaming strand, loving the feel of it, relishing being connected to her, and Drusilla moved still closer to him, her eyes shut in a moment of stolen ecstasy. For this moment, this single time, all that existed in the world was this room, the two of them, the feelings coursing through them. He brought his hand around to the back of her neck and grasped her curls, burying his face on the top of her head and breathing in her scent deeply, rubbing his cheek softly against her hair, lost to everything but her, the dizzying nearness of her. He wanted more, but if this was all they could have, he'd make do. It could be enough.

"Pretty picture this. Quite moving. Have to sketch it sometime or other."

Both of them went completely rigid at the sound of the sarcastically purring Irish brogue, but William didn't release his hold on her.

"Drusilla, I've come to spend the rest of the day with you. Darla is rather fatigued, and I have an excess of energy and some to spare. Imagine my surprise to find you're already busy entertaining another gentleman. Poor manners, my girl," he said in a casual tone as he twirled the door key around his finger lazily, -- the tone he usually reserved for those who were about to die horribly.

"You're not touching her," William stated blankly, his arms still around her.

"I believe it was I who said that to you," Angelus countered as his face shifted in a split second from human to demon.

"Please," Dru begged quietly, "it's alright, William. Don't let's make Daddy angrier. The song is starting to play all out of tune."

"I'm not a wet behind the ears pup," he growled at the other man as his face quickly mirrored the other's change. "She's not your property anymore. Never was."

The two males glared at one another through golden eyes, waiting.

Who attacked first would have been impossible for a mortal to tell. Savage growls split the air like a thunderstorm, broken occasionally only by the tearing sound of fangs in flesh, biting bone deep. An end table was broken into matchsticks, and the cream carpet was turning crimson beneath them in a wide circle. Though the younger vampire was lithe and determined, Angelus had him in experience and sheer size. There was little doubt who would eventually win when a scream ripped from William's throat as the other vampire plunged razor-sharp claws into his abdomen and twisted his hand in a vicious movement that would have instantly killed him if he had still been alive.

Drusilla had not stood idly by, though. Insane as she was, she still knew that Angelus would kill William before her eyes if she didn't act quickly. For a moment, she glanced at the remains of the broken wooden table, it's wooden legs within her grasp, but she couldn't bring herself to try to stake the one who, in spite of his abuse and his threats and his cruelty, was still somehow in her mind part of the only family she had left. Inside her own twisted heart, she couldn't help loving him regardless of how little sense it made. Instead, she grabbed up her heavy, metal dressing table chair and lifted it high above her head, aiming for her sire's unprotected back.

Unfortunately, she'd completely forgotten about Darla. The sounds of the fight had disturbed her sleep, and she had decided it might be amusing to watch the brawl. The blonde knocked her off balance with a surprise lunge through the doorway, and the chair fell harmlessly to the floor. Drusilla put up quite a mighty struggle, but the brunette was pinned under hands that, despite their fragile appearance, were imbued with well over two hundred and fifty years of strength, hands that had managed to bring even Angelus to the ground more than once. Whimpering pathetically, Drusilla fought in vain as Darla held her down.

By this time, William's valiant attempts to continue the battle were beginning to annoy Angelus more than anything else. He took advantage of the weapon Dru had planned for him and cracked the chair across William's head, knocking him unconscious. His body was splayed lifelessly across the floor like one of Drusilla's broken dolls, and his face smoothed back into its human form once more.

"Well, that wasn't exactly how I intended to spend the night, but it'll do for a start," he said, kicking the vampire's bleeding stomach forcefully. "No, Dru, I won't kill him this time," he yawned as he stretched languidly, answering the girl's silently questioning eyes.

"And why not?" Darla shot over her shoulder imperiously. "He's been nothing but trouble since the day he was made. We'd finally get a little peace around here."

"Now, now, my dove, William is family, after all. He's an unruly, disrespectful brat, of course, but then he's young. There's time to train him to know who his master is. And if not, I can always kill him later. Besides," Angelus said as he wiped blood from his jaw, "he has his uses. Entertainment, for one thing."

Darla turned her eyes towards the ceiling in exasperation at Angelus's malicious grin. Out of all the men in the world, why had she turned this one who had a ridiculous fixation on mind games? Probably, she answered herself, because you find them almost as amusing as he does.

"How exactly are you planning on controlling him, though? Beat him even more senseless than he already is? Brand your name on him? Starve him until he's as insane as this one," Darla said as she gestured with her head towards the girl still trapped beneath her.

"T'would do no good, none of it. I can't do a thing to him that he wouldn't ignore just to spite me. Headstrong, but he's got his one weakness, as most do, myself excluded of course."

Darla regarded him curiously before the obvious answer came to her.

"Darlin', would you be after leaving me and my wayward childe alone, then?" Angelus requested silkily.

"And miss all the fun?" she laughed.

"Nay, you'll miss little. T'will be a lovely surprise for you when you wake up from a long day's slumber."

"Now you've got me curious. All right then, my Angel, I'll leave you. But I do hope you know what you're doing. I don't relish the thought of waking up in a dustbin."

Darla finally let go of Drusilla, who had gone completely limp, and disappeared down the hallway. The brunette, ugly purple bruises already forming on her wrists, crawled to her fallen William and was about to touch his face when Angelus abruptly picked up the limp body and tossed him into the hallway like a sack of meal. He slammed the door behind him and turned the lock once more before rounding on Drusilla furiously.

"Did I tell you that you could have him?" he asked angrily.

"But, we didn't. We did nothing," she pleaded brokenly, sobbing. "Forgive me for I have sinned!"

"I heard everything, you naughty girl. I know exactly what you didn't do. What bothers me is what you did let him do," he explained in a deceptively calm tone as he righted the chair in the middle of the floor. "I told you not to let him touch you, and you disobeyed me. Unless you want me to grant Darla's dearest wish and turn that boy of yours to dust, you will do exactly as I say. Do you understand me, Drusilla?"

She nodded resignedly.

"Good. Sit, and do not turn around," he said, indicating the chair in the middle of the floor.

She did as she was told and sat facing the dying embers in the fireplace as he moved around the room behind her. She could hear him searching through the drawer of her bureau until at last he found what he had been looking for. The drawer slid shut sharply, and then she felt his presence behind her, one hand resting lightly on her shoulder.

"Don't move," he ordered quietly close to her ear, "and don't speak either. Do you see this?"

He held the object in front of her, and tears filled her eyes as she realized what he was going to do. She nodded her head once again in answer.

"Well, then, let's begin. Let's see, where should I start? There's so much to work with," he said in a pleased voice.

Snip.

"There we are. What do you think of that, my pretty thing?" he asked as he held the severed curl in front of her face. A tear rolled silently down her cheek.

"Oh, yes, I agree. Your hair has gotten far too long, Dru. Why, I believe poor William had caught his fingers in it, hadn't he? We'll just fix that then," he purred softly as he sectioned off another glistening coil at her temple.

Snip. Drusilla could see the rough ends of her hair out of the corner of her eye. They rested against the hollow of her cheek, and in a moment they darkened with her tears.

"Yes, far too long here as well," Angelus commented gleefully as he took another curl, this one from the top of her head, in his hands and closed the shears around it only an inch from her scalp. "And here, too," he said as the glorious curls spilled over the silk of her dressing gown and slid to the floor in a pile.

Snip. Snip. Snip. Each closing of the blade cut off another of her tresses, one by one. He purposely chose small strands so that it would take far longer, prolonging the process. Drusilla's hair had been very thick, and he delighted in the time it took to so utterly destroy a thing of such perfect beauty. By the time it had been half cut off, Drusilla was crying freely, and her head had begun to shake from the force of her sobs.

"I told you not to move, Drusilla. You're making your lovely new coiffure come out all lopsided," he taunted her as he brought the long hair above forehead before her face and snipped it off inch by inch in front of her eyes until it was no more than stubble at the top of her brow.

There was no rhyme or reason to his cutting, and by the time he had finally grown bored with the game, a few long strands still clung mockingly to her nape while the rest had been reduced to different, uneven lengths all over her head. Drusilla could not see the result, but when he finally left the room and the weeping vampire behind, her fingers felt well enough what she must look like.

It was another two hours before William, still lying in the hallway, awoke to the sound of muffled crying. Blearily, he got to his feet. Many of his wounds were beginning to heal, but several of them still hurt horribly, particularly his stomach. He grasped the doorframe in an effort to remain standing, then lurched unsteadily into the room.

"Dru? You here?" he questioned softly. Please be here. Please don't let him have hurt her, he repeated to himself desperately, not even sure whom he was begging.

There was a small cry from the floor on the far side of the bed and a sudden movement of the tumbled blankets. He made his way carefully towards the misshapen pile of bedclothes and collapsed beside them. From the shape and the scent he could tell she was beneath them and that she was still able to move, for which he was insanely grateful.

"Did he hurt you, love?" he asked tentatively as he reached a hand towards her.

She moved further away from him at the question, and his relief quickly turned to concern.

"He did, didn't he? Come now, let me see. Let me help you," he coaxed gently in a voice he had once reserved for speaking to his timid little sister. Inwardly, anger was boiling in the pit of his stomach, but for now it was secondary to making certain she was all right. With a cautious hand, he touched the bundle before him and slowly began to draw it back.

"No!" Too late, she tried to cover her head once more and hide from the eyes that were surely looking with disgust at how ugly she was now. "I was a bad girl. I was a bad girl. I was a bad girl," she repeated over and over, sobbing quietly.

Gently, he pulled the cover away again and looked at her again, full in the face, forcing her to meet his gaze. His demon was screaming silently at the sight that met him, his girl crying and holding one of her curls in her hands, twisting it desperately. In spite of her haphazardly shorn tresses, she was still utterly beautiful to him. In a moment, Angelus be damned, she was gathered into his arms, kisses being rained upon the course remains of her hair.

"Don't cry, pet. Please don't cry. Shh, now, it's alright. It'll grow back again, and even as you are you're still my best beauty. It doesn't matter at all, my love. Please don't cry. My beautiful Drusilla, you're still the loveliest thing I've ever seen. I love you, my sweet. Shush now."

Eventually, after many long minutes in his embrace, the feeble crying stopped and she drew back from him reluctantly.

"He did this because I touched you. This is my fault. I'll keep my distance from you from now on, I promise."

He rose to leave, but a small hand reached out for him, catching his sleeve firmly in her grasp.

"William," she said quietly, looking at him from beneath her lashes, "it was worth it."

He didn't know whether to weep or smile. After he had tucked her safely into her own bed with the promise of a new dress and armloads of jasmine and she was soundly asleep, he went directly to Angelus's bedroom, breaking the doorframe to get in.

"Well," Darla cooed from her place on the otherwise empty bed, "looks like sleeping beauty finally woke up."

"Where's Angelus?"

"Downstairs, in the parlor. He had some crazy craving for brandy, so," she began, but stopped when she realized she was speaking to empty air. "Now that was plain rude."

Angelus was indeed sitting in the front parlor, sipping a snifter of brandy and prodding the fire when William stormed in.

"Have a good nap, did you, lad?"

"Why would you do that to her? You know full well that hair and nails don't grow any faster on us than they do on a human since cutting them isn't really an injury. She's going to look like hell for at least a year, Angelus. Was one little embrace worth that?"

He raised an eyebrow at the younger man. "No. But her disobedience, and yours, was."

William lunged at him, but his injuries worked against him and Angelus was able to merely bat him away like a pesky mosquito.

"I hate you."

"Yes, I suppose you do. But you love her, don't you?" he sneered.

"Something you wouldn't be able to understand, you empty-hearted jackass," he spat out, clutching his side.

"Never call me that again. Do you see this picture," he said, gesturing towards a delicately done portrait of Drusilla on the wall. He carefully took it from its nail and brought it toward the injured vampire. "Here, take a closer look."

"I'm not blind."

"No, not yet, though I may choose to remedy that situation if you keep acting like an imbecile. This is an absolute masterpiece of mine. A great deal of hard work went into it. I spent months finding just the proper pose for her, just the right lighting, just the perfect dress. Then, the actual drawing, well, it took me a solid month. Finally, I had made her just as I wanted her to be, my flawless creation. Don't you agree? Isn't she superb?"

The blue eyes took in the portrait of Drusilla, and it was indeed so lifelike that it was nearly frightening. The eyes, in particular, seemed almost alive. "It's her. What else would it be but perfect?"

"Quite true from your opinion. Now, my boy, watch this," he said off-handedly as he threw the portrait into the fire.

The frame blackened in a few moments and the flames quickly ate across the paper, devouring the image with startling speed. In less than a minute, there was nothing left of it but a handful of ash glowing on the stone hearth.

"If you ever try to defy me again, ever try to get her to leave me again, in spite of the great pains I have taken to make her as she is, it won't be a portrait that goes up in flames, boy. You're not strong enough to fight me, and she was completely correct about my ability to find her. You've seen me track prey; you know how it always ends. She will die, and I will make you watch. Are we clear?"

William gritted his teeth forcefully. He knew Angelus wasn't bluffing.

"We're clear."

"Good. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a surprise to deliver to Darla," he said as he left the room.

William looked dully at the embers of the fire, wanting to kill someone: actually, a very specific someone. He heard the loud laughter of Darla from the upper floor and shuddered as he realized what it must be about, but he knew that unless he was willing to risk Drusilla's life there was nothing he could do. Someday Angelus would pay for everything. He'd see to it.

Weeks passed. Darla, with many a snide remark, cut the rest of Drusilla's hair into a short crop, and when the four of them went out into the mortal public, they explained that the pale girl had recently recovered from a brain fever. It was a long time before William felt safe enough to even hold Drusilla's hand in private, but at least he could speak to her.

One night a few months later, as the three of them were at a society party in Paris that was boring William out of his mind, particularly since Dru hadn't felt presentable enough to come, something quite strange happened. As William grabbed his fifth glass of wine from a passing waiter and threw himself heavily onto a petit point covered gilt chair, a woman sat beside him and stared at him intently.

"You," she said, "are not happy."

He blinked in shock at her perfect, accentless English and decided he may just possibly have found dinner for the night. There was something about her that was vaguely familiar, and quite annoying as well.

"Do I know you?" he asked carefully, peering at the woman through slightly bloodshot eyes.

She giggled strangely. "I get around quite a bit, but I guess I just have one of those faces."

"Yes, right. Must be that," he told himself out loud. Still, if he squinted just right, she almost looked like…

"Anyway, you looked so completely tired with everyone here, and so am I, so, I thought I'd just join you for a little chat," she babbled as she pulled her chair a mite closer. "Now, what exactly is the problem?"

"Problem?" Who was this girl?

She tipped her head to one side and then the other questioningly. "There's always a problem, isn't there? So, tell me why you hate that man over there so much," she said, gesturing offhandedly at Angelus, who was currently laughing loudly at some pathetic joke of an important-looking figure.

"S'that obvious, is it?" he shrugged. Well, what could it hurt? She wasn't going to live to see the dawn anyway. "You might call him… my father, in a very strange way."

"Uh huh," she said, completely unaffected by the fact the dark haired man looked no more than five years older than him. "So, you're angry at your father. What did he do?"

"Won't let me have the girl I love. Wants her all to himself, he does," he slurred a bit as he downed the wine in a single gulp.

"Oh, my, now that's just terrible. I bet you really wish you could do something about it, don't you?"

William looked at the woman again. There was just something off about her, but he couldn't place what. Of course, it would help if the room would stay in focus, but it was patently refusing to do so.

"Know what that old boy deserves? I wish that he'd fall head over heels in love with his soul mate and never be able to touch her. Let him see what it feels like first hand. That'd be rich, that would," William said angrily. "Then he can go straight to hell."

The woman looked at Angelus thoughtfully, a troubled expression on her face as she quietly mumbled, "Now there's a problem I haven't run across before."

"What's that?"

"Hmmm. It's possible, but it's going to take a while. Well, William, your wish will be granted someday, I'm sure of it. Just be a little patient," she said as she patted him on the arm. Then, with a strange flourish of her arms, she disappeared completely.

"Huh. Well, that was interesting. How'd she know me name?" he wondered, squinting drunkenly at the vacant spot before he drifted off to sleep, dismissing the entire strange conversation as a hallucination.


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Free Falling

Author: Meltha
Rating: PG… it's impossible for Faith to be G, isn't it?
Feedback: Yes, thank you. Melpomenethalia[at]aol.com
Spoilers: Through Buffy season three's Graduation Day 1. This takes place prior to her arrival in Sunnydale or her finding out she's a Slayer.
Distribution: Fanfiction.net, the Bunny Warren, and the 500 Club. If you're interested, please let me know.
Summary: In Boston, Faith experiences a moment of balance and power.
Author's Note: The ninth in the Jewel Box series, a collection of 500 word fics (in response to The 500 Club) and an idea taken from Challenge in a Can. In this case, it's Faith, jewelry, and elated. I'm playing with the term jewelry a bit loosely here.
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.
Dedication: Well, this one must go to Kate, must it not?
Awards: View, View 2nd award

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Faith never wore shoes if she could help it. July evening heat shimmered off the pavement, creating unreal images of the rock quarry, so she had begrudgingly worn sandals to avoid scorching her feet. But when asphalt ended in sand and gravel, she kicked them off, savoring the feeling of warm, rough stone. It had rained earlier, and in the shade of the larger boulders the wet sand made her feet deliciously cool.

Grimacing, she noticed the usual crowd of cheerleaders and jocks had already arrived. She loathed them as much as they loathed her, and she wished she could be alone.

"Love the outfit," said Mindy, one of the popular girls lounging near the quarry pond and dressed in bright, provocative bikinis, in a voice of false sweetness.

"Thought I'd leave the Malibu Barbie look to you," Faith replied, conscious of her worn cut-offs and faded black tank.

Mindy flipped her blonde hair irritably. "Whatever, freak," she muttered.

"Wanna repeat that? Didn't quite catch it," Faith said, her tone promising a fat lip if she did.

"Nothing," Mindy said, wandering away with her hangers-on.

The distraction erased, Faith turned her attention to her real goal. The cliff rose threateningly out of the water. No one had dared to climb its rough face, let alone dive. Biting her lip, she eased her way up the side, dimly aware the others had stopped talking.

She'd realized there was something different about her, but she didn't have a name for it yet. Usually she hated it, but there were moments when she slid into her power like a velvet glove was encasing her skin. Those were the times it felt right, and this was one of them.

Finally, she stood on the edge of the cliff and looked into the cool, dark water below. The sultry air caressed her lovingly, as though she were made of the night as well, and she felt a belonging beyond anything she had known.

Her feet met empty air, and her body knifed through the darkness. The rush of wind in her ears was the sweetest music she had ever heard. The descent felt like blissful ages as the water drew nearer.

The tips of her fingers broke the mirrored surface first, followed by the rest of her body until the water closed over her toes, wrapping her in its chilly embrace. Her hands explored the quarry's bottom, her palm closing around a perfectly smooth black stone veined with gray.

A few kicks brought her to the surface. Walking out of the water, her drenched clothing clinging more erotically than anything Mindy could buy at the mall, she met stares of shock and hidden admiration.

"She's crazy," Mindy said under her breath.

Faith didn't pretend not to hear, walking to her with a tigress gait. She tossed the stone in her hand, catching it directly under the girl's nose.

"Don't forget it," she said as she prowled away, her fist clutching her new treasure.


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Goldilocks and the Three Vamps

Author: Meltha
Rating: PG for some good, old-fashioned fairytale violence
Feedback: That would be ever so nice, thank you.
Spoilers: I suppose “Innocence”
Distribution: Here. If you’re interested, please let me know.
Summary: Second in Fairytales from the Hellmouth. A weirded out retelling of Goldilocks.
Author’s Note: Yes. I am insane. I enjoy it very much.
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose charcters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.
Dedication: For Ryan, a.k.a., Dial One Boy.

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Once upon a time, not very long ago, in a lovely little cottage at the edge of the woods around Sunnydale, there lived three very happy vampires.

“Wait a minute. How happy is happy?”

Break out your leather pants, honey buns. No brooding for you in this story.

“Whoo hoo!”

Anyway, as I was saying before we were so rudely interrupted, these three vampires lived surrounded by peace and harmony.

“Now I’m breaking in. She’s not going to be in this one, is she? I swear, if I have to hear her bloody chewing gum pop one more time…”

No, I wouldn’t do that to you.

“Thanks, luv.”

This time. Anyway, peace and harmony for vampires looks a heck of a lot like open warfare to humans, so things weren’t really all that placid in the charming bungalow. The big daddy vampire, the petite mummy vampire, and the itsy-bitsy baby…

“Don’t you dare finish that sentence! I’m the Big Bad!”

Fine, fine. The really-nasty-but-still-youngest-vampire…

“That was almost too easy.”

Shut up, Blondie, or I’ll make you wear a lacy bib and a propeller beanie for the rest of the story.

“I’m quiet.”

You’d better be, because I thought was a pretty interesting image. Anyway, the three of them were all gathered around the kitchen table one evening, preparing for breakfast.

“Daddy, I’m tired of blood bags. Can’t we go out and find something warm tonight?” asked the mummy vampire peevishly.

“Love to, but Junior over there still has that chip in his head, so he’s kind of stuck eating in for the duration. And even though I think he’s a spineless little wimp, I can’t let him croak. He’d be a real mess to clean up.”

“Can you feel the love tonight,” the vampire in question warbled off-key. He added in a low murmur, “What I wouldn’t give for Peaches to run into a good, old-fashioned wildebeast stampede…”

“But if we did all the bludgeoning, wouldn’t the nasty old chip let him be?”

“Cor, pet, that’s a great idea!”

“Hmm, yeah, that does sound like a plan. Well, let’s just go out for a walk and see who we run in to.”

With that, the three vampires walked out the front door and melted into the shadows. Don’t ask me how they did that. It happens again and again in all the fan fiction. I’ve never really understood it, either.

Not long after, Goldilocks, who was a pretty, blonde little girl…

“Hey, I’m not a little girl! I’m twenty years old!”

You’re five foot two, Slayer. That’s little.

“Well, when you put it that way, I see your point.”

As I was saying, the girl came across the vampires’ home and, noticing the odd lack of any windows, decided to investigate. She knocked on the front door, and when there was no answer, she cautiously went inside, breaking any number of laws, both criminal and etiquette-wise.

“Nice digs,” she said, taking in the extremely expensive and highly sophisticated furnishings. Her eyes fell on the cozy little kitchen nook.

“Looks like somebody left right in the middle of a coffee break,” she muttered to herself as she saw three steaming mugs lined up on the mahogany kitchen table.

Goldilocks picked up the first mug, which was jet black and emblazoned with the phrase “IRISH FOREVER… LITERALLY” in eye-searing red. She took one whiff of the contents and darn near spewed.

“Ewww! Hemoglobin ahoy!” she sputtered as she slapped the mug back down on the table. “So obviously we got a minimum of one vampire living here.”

She moved on to the second mug, which was shocking pink and had “DADDY’S FAVORITE LITTLE PSYCHO” scrawled across it in frighteningly disjointed handwriting. Spying contents identical to the first one’s, the Slayer tallied up yet another undead occupant.

The third and final mug was plain white and had no inscription on it at all since its owner had grown extremely weary of novelty mugs during his stay at a certain librarian’s. Expecting yet another Bloody Mary minus the Mary, Goldilocks peered inside and found…

“Hot chocolate! And the little marshmallows are all nice and smooshy!”

With one gulp, she drained the whole thing. Then, deciding to be nice, she grabbed three coasters from the kitchen counter and set the hot mugs on them so the lovely mahogany finish on the table wouldn’t be ruined.

“Huh?”

I had to rent the furniture from another fan fiction: you know the kind, one where vampires are always inexplicably wealthy. I lose my security deposit if there’s any damage.

“Sheesh. All right.”

Feeling pleasantly drowsy after her little snack, Goldilocks wandered back into the living room. She noticed three chairs standing in a row in front of the massive, roaring fireplace. Granted, it wasn’t exactly intelligent for the vampires to leave with the fire still blazing away, but hey, they liked to live dangerously. The first chair she came to was a massive wingback upholstered in black leather. She sat down in it, but simply couldn’t get comfortable because her feet were a good eight inches off the floor.

“Big dang vampire,” she noted, deciding to try the next chair instead. This one was a lovely little Victorian chair covered in red silk and fluffy pillows.

“Now this is more like it,” Goldilocks sighed as she eased into the dainty little seat. However, she quickly sprang back up again.

“What in the…” she began, feeling something decidedly lumpy underneath one of the cushions. Lifting it up she, she found…

“Ewww! A heart of the no-longer-beating variety!” she managed croak out as she turned a nasty shade of green that didn’t match her shoes.

Slamming the cushion back down, she moved on to chair number three. This one was a nice, unassuming seat.

“That’s an understatement. It’s a metal folding chair like the kind you find at a church basement bingo parlor!”

How would you know that?

“When I ran away after season two, I swung by a few to pick up a little extra cash. But that’s not the point. I mean, heck, the seat’s dented in, and it’s covered in rust for crying out loud!”

Do you remember the original story?

“Yeah.”

Remember what I said about the security deposit on the furniture?

“Yeah.”

Well, I couldn’t very well afford the King of England’s throne if it’s going to be “smashed all to pieces,” now could I?

“I am not even going to consider parking my keister on that thing.”

Fine. Do me one favor.

“What?”

Exhale on it.

“You’re nuts, but okay.”

With that, the chair fell over and was indeed smashed all to pieces. With that plot device neatly handled, Goldilocks decided to venture up the stairs to where the vampires slept during the day. The first bed she saw was enormous and draped from canopy to dust ruffle in black.

“He has a dust ruffle?!?”

Yup. Feel free to use this as an opportunity for later verbal torment towards said vamp. In any case, the second bed was covered in so many dolls that the color of the bedspread was entirely obscured. At least three hundred of the porcelain lovelies were staring at her, as well as one short alien who was sitting very still and trying to blend in. He must have done a good job, because the Slayer moved on to bed number three.

This one was a simple, ordinary bed, but there was one thing about it that was unusual. It hadn’t been made. The sheets were all rumpled up and the pillows were askew. Feeling herself starting to become even drowsier than before, Goldilocks decided to take a little nap in…

“The doll-covered bed.”

Wait a minute; that’s not how this goes.

“Narrator, I’ve already figured out who all three of these vamps are, and there is no way on the good green earth that I am climbing into you-know-who’s bed!”

With that, the Slayer quickly dumped the dolls on the floor, sending the poor little web-footed alien shrieking into the night to find Steven Spielberg, double checked the bedding for any major organs, and snuggled down for a quick forty winks.

“You know, before I doze off, I just have to say that…”

I know; purposely falling asleep in a vampire lair is among the dumbest things it is possible to do. Point taken. Now snooze already.

Not long after, the three vampires arrived back at their humble abode, all of them glaring at each other silently. The tension was so thick you could have cut it with a stake.

“It wasn’t my fault!” blurted the daddy vamp suddenly.

“Pop, every single victim we picked out tonight got a 300 yard start on us because of your fashion victim wardrobe,” sneered the youngest vamp.

“Okay, I admit I should have broken the new pants in a little bit before wearing them to hunt,” he began to explain.

“You couldn’t run more than two paces without collapsing and whining about them cutting off your circulation! You’re dead, man; you don’t have a circulatory system anymore!” griped the youngest vampire as he made his way into the kitchen, resigned to nuking yet another dinner. However, he came to an abrupt halt.

“Someone’s been in here,” he said in a low, dangerous voice as he beckoned the other two vampires to come closer.

“Somebody’s put a coaster under my mug!” shouted the daddy vampire angrily.

“Somebody’s put a coaster under my mug as well,” added the mummy vampire vaguely.

“Well, somebody put a bloody coaster under my mug too, and whoever it was went and drank my hot cocoa and marshmallows,” he declared in fury. Nobody messed with Junior’s cuppa.

“Coasters? Who broke in? Martha Stewart?” the daddy vampire asked in confusion.

“Oh, I don’t like her,” whispered the mummy vampire fearfully. “She’s too evil for me.”

The other two vampires nodded in solemn agreement. If it turned out that Martha was indeed the burglar, they would simply leave the house without a fight. There are some things so horrible that even a full-fledged creature of the night can’t face them.

The little family wandered over to the fire, the mummy vampire still haunted by images of color-coordinated spice racks. This time, it was the daddy vampire who noticed something was wrong first.

“Somebody’s been sitting in my chair!” he roared in fury as he noted that the pillows were slightly moved.

“Somebody’s been sitting in my chair as well!” cried the mummy vampire frantically. She started digging through the cushions like a deranged woodchuck, then fished out the heart.

“Oh, thank evilness. I thought they’d stolen the remote control,” she said as she sat back in her chair. She proceeded to stare at the fire before her as she held the heart and occasionally pushed at it with her thumb. The other two vampires exchanged looks.

“Um, pet? That’s your late night snack. We don’t own a telly. They won’t even be invented for several hundred years yet. You only know about them because you’re a seer, remember?”

“Oh, yeah. I forgot. I was wondering why all the channels were showing the same thing. Sorry,” she said as she threw the heart at him. It bounced off his head.

“Great. Once again, I get conked in the gourd with an organ. Just lovely. And hey, look at this,” he said, finally noticing his own chair. “Somebody’s been sitting in my chair, and it’s smashed all to pieces!”

He paused for a moment, considering the rusty remains of the folding chair.

“Maybe I should write whoever did it a thank you note,” he mused thoughtfully.

Deciding that they should check to see if the intruder was still there, they cautiously crept up the stairs to their sleeping quarters.

“Well, somebody hasn’t been in my bed,” said the daddy vampire. “And here I thought I was irresistible to women! That means our burglar must either be a male or Willow.”

The youngest vampire rolled his eyes in disgust.

“Besides which, I know how this story goes,” he said, practically bouncing off the walls in anticipation of being able to say the infamous line, but mummy vampire beat him to it.

“Somebody’s been sleeping in my bed, and there she is!” she squealed. “And she’s not Martha Stewart after all. Can we eat her, Daddy?”

“Now hold on just one ruddy minute there, narrator!”

You got a problem, oh blond one?

“Darn tootin’! That delinquent drank my hot chocolate, broke my chair, and I don’t get to have her pick my bed!”

Yup.

“Well, I just won’t stand for that.”

Junior, I’m warning you; you’re two seconds away from serious consequences.

“I’m not afraid of you, you second-rate, two bit, cheap imitation of Hans Christian Anderson!”

Oh really? With that, the lacy bib and beanie propeller hat from earlier suddenly materialized on the vampire.

“Now that’s rich,” the daddy vampire said as he spun the little propeller on his childe’s head. “That is just too perfect!”

The mummy vampire had fallen to the floor in a fit of hysterical giggles at the sight of him.

“Get this bloody thing off of me!” the now none-too-threatening looking vampire yelled as he tried to pry the firmly placed hat from atop his peroxided tresses. It did no good.

Suddenly, Goldilocks woke up, which was no wonder considering the brouhaha that was going on right under her nose.

“Hey, the gang’s all here,” she yawned as she opened her hazel eyes. “Whoa, nice chapeau.”

Unable to stand his sire’s smirk for another moment, the younger vamp leapt across the room, knocked him to the floor, and began to pummel him mercilessly. Mummy vampire and Goldilocks looked on in avid interest at the display of domestic fury.

“And this is for taking my girlfriend away,” the blond yelled as he landed a left hook to the other vampire’s jaw. “And this is for all those ‘sit and spin’ comments, and this is for making me sit on a ruddy folding chair, and this is for sending me to bed early on my one hundred and sixteenth birthday, and this is for cutting up my duster to make those bloody pants!” By this time, daddy vampire was seeing little stars that mummy vampire heard singing the “Star Spangled Banner.”

Wait a minute. Junior, can you hold up on the assault and battery for a second?

“What in blazes do you want now!”

Did you just say that he made those pants out of your duster?

“Yeah, he did.”

That’s what I thought you said. Now that is just going too far.

“Oh, I like the gleam in your eyes, pet.”

Hold on to your bib, because it only gets better. As the two vampires continued to thrash each other, daddy vampire was suddenly thrown against his bed. The force of the blow knocked several pillows to the floor with a dull thunk.

“Now hold on just one second! I know where you’re going with this, and…”

You touched the duster. You knew you were going to have to pay sooner or later, so button your overbite. There, underneath one of the pillows, lay the daddy vampire’s little secret.

“Um, Pop, what is this?” asked his childe with false innocence as he held the object up.

“Give me that!” the older vampire cried out in panic.

His childe had absolutely no intention of letting go of the golden brown, fluffy teddy bear that had been revealed. Mummy vampire’s eyes crossed in confusion.

“Why do you have a teddy?” she asked in a perplexed voice.

“Yeah, well, why do you have tea parties with hundreds of dolls?” he countered defensively.

“Because she’s more than a bit round the bend, you doddering nitwit. Oh, this is just too good. The Scourge of Europe wants back his wittle… wait a minute. What’s its name?”

“Hand it over or I swear…”

“Not unless you tell me its name,” replied his child in an annoying singsong, holding the bear just out of reach. The other vampire sighed.

“Mstetwnke.”

“How’s that?”

“HIS NAME BE MISTER TWINKIE! NOW GIVE TA BEAR BACK, OR I’M LIABLE TA CRACK YOUR BLOOMIN’ ENGLISH SKULL IN TWA!”

“Whoa,” Goldilocks declared in an impressed tone of voice. “You freaked him out so much he reverted to his bad Irish accent!”

“I’ll take that as a compliment, luv. Catch me if you can!” yelped the now bibless and beanieless teddy-napper as he darted down the stairs, closely pursued by a very ticked off daddy vampire who was soon clutching his waist in agony from running in his far-too-tight leather pants.

Mummy vampire and Goldilocks looked at each other in amusement.

“Well, looks like the boys may just finish each other off. Makes my job a whole lot easier,” Goldilocks said as she pulled a stake out of the sleeve of her little gingham dress.

“Oh, don’t let’s fight,” mummy vampire implored. “It’s been ages since I’ve had had some girl talk. Far too much testosterone in the house. Want to go downstairs and have some cocoa with me and Miss Edith?”

Goldilocks regarded her for a moment, then said “What the heck? Why not?”

As the two females went back down the staircase, the Slayer took one look back over her shoulder.

“A dust ruffle? Who knew?”


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Happy Anniversary

Author: Meltha
Rating: G, nothing objectionable
Feedback: Yes, thank you. Melpomenethalia[at]aol.com
Spoilers: Through the entire series of Buffy.
Distribution: Fanfiction.net and the Bunny Warren. If you're interested, please let me know.
Summary: A year after the events of "Chosen," there have been a lot of changes, but some things remain the same.
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.
Dedication: I think RyAn may possibly like this one.

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It was just another ordinary Tuesday for most of the world. There was no holiday, school wouldn't let out for a few more weeks, and people went to their jobs as usual. A few news reports mentioned it since it was such a slow day: the first anniversary of the giant sinkhole that had swallowed Sunnydale, California, whole. That was, of course, the story everyone believed. Denial wasn't limited only to the denizens of the now defunct city.

Willow shoved her hair behind her ear as she stared at the computer screen, trying to weave her way through the labyrinth of codes for the web page she was building as her final college project. In a month's time, she'd hear "Pomp and Circumstance" play as she walked across the unniversity's auditorium to receive her diploma. It was a year late, but considering how many times she'd had to avert the apocalypse in those five years, she thought she'd managed pretty well.

Things were so quiet that it was almost distracting. She was living alone in an off-campus apartment in Boston. She was almost willing the phone to ring with Buffy on the other end, or Xander or Giles. The lives of the remaining Scoobies had scattered them to the four winds after the demise of Sunnydale, but that hadn't kept them from staying in touch with each other. Still, ever since Kennedy had left six months ago, there were times Willow couldn't help feeling awfully lonely. The thought of her ex-girlfriend intruding upon her thoughts decided the matter.

"Time for a hot chocolate break," she said firmly as she got out of her desk chair, cracking her back as she did so. She glanced at the clock and realized she'd been working for nearly six hours straight. Groaning slightly, she stumbled into her kitchenette and took out her favorite coffee mug. Dawn had sent it to her for her last birthday. In wildly decorative script, it loudly declared "Don't mess with me or I'll incinerate the earth!" That it could be a joke now gave her a good feeling.

She filled the mug with milk and Hershey's syrup, then popped it in the microwave and watched the cup turn around and around inside. After several months of this she'd become an old pro, never once getting a skin on the milk anymore or ending up with luke-warm hot chocolate. When the timer rang, she pulled out her mug and flipped in a few little marshmallows. The marshmallows were actually kind of odd. She never remembered buying them, but they were always there in her cupboard. She shrugged and chalked it up to one of the more pleasant supernatural occurrences in her life as she sipped her drink.

The wafting steam made her feel sleepy as she watched it rise slowly and evaporate, and her thoughts wandered again, though not to a particularly happy place. Kennedy. It hadn't taken Willow long to realize that the other girl did, indeed, usually get what she wanted. Unfortunately, when they'd moved to Boston together, it turned out what she wanted was the underwear model down the hall. The brunette had been rather shocked when Willow had confronted her about the other woman. Apparently, Kennedy had been under the impression that living together didn't automatically mean they were exclusively seeing one another. She'd actually suggested that maybe Willow might want to see other people too although they could still have "fun" together. The witch had shaken her head in disbelief at how self-centered Kennedy had proven to be and had firmly stated that the other girl needed to move out by the end of the week. It had broken her heart, but it seemed to be for the best now.

Buffy had come in from Cleveland to visit her for a while as she handled the situation. It had been good to see her again. The Slayer, who was now no longer quite so alone in fighting the forces of evil, looked healthier than Willow remembered her being for a very long time. She'd put on a little weight, just enough so that she wasn't all angles, and she smiled more, all the way up to her eyes. Things were finally going well for her friend. She, Dawn, and Xander had all taken up residence at the other Hellmouth after Sunnydale imploded, setting up a training facility for the Slayers who had been called. Of course, to the rest of the world, Buffy was just an aerobics instructor, but after hours she taught a handful of girls at a time how to survive. Dawn was in her last year of high school and would be going to college in a few months. She'd already picked her profession: Watcher. There were a few members of the Council who hadn't been there when the headquarters was blown up, most of them Watchers who had been on the outs with the Council due to their rebellious behavior. Although being a Watcher usually ran in families, with so many Slayers called all over the world, they weren't about to be choosy. Dawn would be going to school at Oxford, taking a few extra classes that weren't on the normal curriculum while majoring in ancient languages and mythology. Giles did his best to appear utterly unmoved by the situation, but Willow was sure he was more than a little proud and would probably be quite happy to have Dawn drop by his flat in Bath occasionally.

Buffy had been able to sympathize with Willow over the end of an ill-fated relationship. She and Xander had tried to make a go of it in Cleveland, but things didn't really go according to plan. It became plain after a while that, while Buffy and Xander did love each other, they weren't in love with each other. They did manage to remain close friends, though, and when Buffy had come to visit, it was Xander who checked in on Dawn while she was gone. He was working for a cabinetmaker in the city and moving up rapidly through the company, and, almost unbelievably, was dating a perfectly normal girl who was not a demon. At least, she said she wasn't. Willow couldn't help wondering about her slightly pointed ears.

Faith, who was now going by the name Diana, had settled in Phoenix. She'd taken a cue from Buffy and begun teaching some of the new Slayers the ropes. Exactly how she managed to elude the police was a matter only she and Angel, who seemed to suddenly be remarkably well connected, knew. It was strange, but the near-apocalypse washed away much of the bad blood between her and the rest of the group. It wasn't uncommon for Willow to get a phone call at 3:00 in the morning only to hear "Dude, how the hell do you use a search engine again?" on the other end of the line. She might have reformed, but that didn't necessarily make her polite.

So here was Willow, alone as usual these days, staring at a cooling cup of hot chocolate. It wasn't a bad life, but occasionally, she'd have liked a hug. Still, it was good to know everyone was okay.

A knock on the door broke her out of her reverie, and Willow jumped, spilling the last of her hot chocolate on her sleeve. It was nearly midnight, and she obviously wasn't expecting anyone. Cautiously, she looked through the peephole in the door and saw the last person she'd ever expected waiting on the doorstep and wearing a pensive expression. She undid the door chain and fumbled with the lock in her haste before she swung open the door.

"Hey."

"Oz!" she squealed. "Come on in!"

The currently purple-haired bass player half-smiled and walked inside, looking around the room curiously.

"Um, so, what are you doing here?" Willow asked. "Not that I don't like having you here, because, well, big happy to see you."

Oz sat down on the couch and took a deep breath. "I was living in a little village in the Amazon rainforest for a while. Nice place. Lots of trees. Shaman there helped me out a lot with the wolf. Didn't hear about Sunnydale until a group of tourists came through five months afterwards."

Willow's eyes got very large as she realized what must have happened. "You didn't know if we were okay, did you?"

"Not exactly. I tried calling Angel after I hitchhiked into Rio, but he'd moved and there wasn't a new number, so I went to L.A. and tracked him down. Took me a while. Not really where I expected him to be. He told me where to find you," he said softly. "I knew you weren't dead. I mean, I just would have known, you know?"

"Yeah, I know," Willow said. "So, you want a cup of hot chocolate?"

"Sounds good," Oz said with a smile. "But can I have a hug first? Is that, like, okay?"

Willow smiled back happily. "Yeah. Yeah, that's okay."

They embraced tightly for a moment, Oz reassuring himself that she was really there, really safe. Eventually, they let go and sat down over cocoa. A pleasant silence filled the room. Neither was sure about anything in the future, but for the moment, it was just nice to be near one another again.


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Hell Froze Over

Author: Meltha
Rating: I'd go with R on this one for some odd reason…
Feedback: Yes, thank you. Melpomenethalia@aol.com
Spoilers: For Angel season five's "Conviction"
Distribution: Fanfiction.net and the Bunny Warren. If you're interested, please let me know.
Summary: Angel reacts to the return of Spike.
Author's Note: The title? Is appropriate for more than one reason. I don't believe I did this…
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.

Read This Fic »

"Evacuate the entire floor," Angel growled out, his eyes fixed on the form of Spike that had just emerged from the amulet. The blond man had collapsed to the floor, apparently insensible, following the end of his screaming. "Now."

"Okay," Harmony said immediately and half-ran from the room, her heels clicking a staccato tempo across the polished floor. Angel looked angry, and she wasn't that stupid.

"I quite agree," Wesley said firmly. "We've no idea what's going on. I shall make certain the only ones who remain are…"

"Me and him. That's it. You're out too," Angel shot quickly over his shoulder.

"Angel, man, I don't think that's too smart," Gunn reasoned. "This dude is dangerous, right, Wes?"

"Indubitably," Wes said, nodding. "My studies at the Watchers' Institute cite him as being one of the worst, most violent, most formidable vampires to exist in the last five centuries. You really shouldn't confront him alone, Angel."

Angel took in the shuddering form on the floor, then turned to fully face his co-workers, a glint in his eyes. "What part of 'now' did you have trouble comprehending?"

"Just a moment," Wesley said, taken aback. "You have no authority over me at this firm. You are not my boss."

"No, but this is a family matter," he said in a tone neither Gunn nor Wes had heard since the Darla incident… an incident they couldn't really remember the end of at the moment, not that it was important, they both thought in a strangely automatic tandem. "Take the day off. This isn't your concern."

"Okay. You wanna become Mr. Risky again, I say fine by me. I'm outta here," Gunn said, a challenge in his eyes as he disappeared through the door. "You coming, Wes, or you plannin' on arguin' with tall, dark, and damn-near psychotic in there? Cuz I ain't moppin' up what's left of you afterwards."

"This is foolish," Wesley snapped, "but, if you insist on handling this sort of thing alone, then it's your business, Angel. Call if you need us. We shant be far."

A few moments later, the door of Angel's office slammed firmly shut, leaving him alone with the trembling, Spike-shaped puddle on the floor. Three firm steps to the back wall and Angel's coat hung across the lens of the security camera he knew was hidden behind a seam in the paneling. Tiny, metallic snaps echoed through the room as he systematically went around it, destroying each of the listening bugs that he was perfectly aware were planted in half a dozen places. A final crunching of metal and the tracking device that Wolfram and Hart had covertly sewn into the collar of his shirt lay on the carpeting, no more than a pile of rough glitter.

The leather duster against the floor of the office made it look as though Spike was a very large, hapless bat who had wandered into the building, and, unable to find his way out again, had lain down to die. Aside from the spasms that occasionally wracked his body, no sign of life betrayed him. Angel glided towards the form, kneeling down beside it, then carefully grasping the head in his hands, lifting it gently from the carpet, looking at the features intently, studying them, noting that the skin was freezing cold.

Then Angel slugged him in the nose for all he was worth, earning a very loud yowl for his trouble.

"You aren't Spike," he shouted at the form. "Spike is dead! He was obliterated when Sunnydale collapsed. You're something the Senior Partners sent to drive me crazy."

A low laugh came from the blond man sprawled on the carpet, echoing oddly in the mostly empty room.

"I won't argue with you about how well that plan would have worked, but it's obvious that the one here who isn't real is you, mate," he coughed, wiping the blood from his nose, still shivering. "I'm dead, I'm in hell, and I'm stuck here with some fake you. Only explanation."

Angel stared into the eyes of the other man for a long moment, squinting slightly.

"You aren't dead," he said slowly.

Spike tilted his head, considering the situation. "I'm beginning to think I'm not… well, no more so than for the last hundred and twenty-odd years, at any rate. Last thing I remember is an odd burning sensation and seeing the ceiling collapsing. What the hell happened?"

Angel was standing stock still about a yard from him, an unreadable expression on his face. Slowly, a tear formed in the corner of the taller man's eye, running silently down his cheek.

"No," Spike whispered in horror. "No. No, she can't be dead."

The dark-haired man shook his head slightly to clear it, and then realized what Spike meant.

"Buffy's okay, Spike. She's alive and well."

The still-bleeding vampire let out a sigh of relief. "Niblet? Xander? Anya? Faith? Watcher? Red? Rest of the girls?"

"Anya died, and so did a few of the new Slayers, but most of them got out okay," Angel said in a flat voice, and the tear remained unwiped, glistening in the light.

"Sorry to hear about demon-girl. Liked her I did. Deserved better than that," Spike said, sitting up wearily against the desk. "Bloody hell, it's cold in here. What are you still crying for?"

"You aren't dead," Angel responded automatically, the single thought wedged in his head.

"Sorry to disappoint you so badly with my continued existence that you slip into a sobbing spree," he scoffed.

"You aren't dead," Angel repeated again.

"Um, yeah, we covered that," Spike said, speaking slowly. "I'll just get out of your hair… what the blue blazes did you do to that mop, by the way? I know we don't have reflections, Angel, but even you've got to know that looks stupid."

Angel continued to stare at Spike, and it was at this point that a matching tear fell from his other eye.

"You aren't dead," he said again, with a hitch in his voice.

Spike's looked at the strange picture his grandsire made. "No," he said, without a trace of cynicism. "No, I'm not."

"You're shivering," Angel realized suddenly. He quickly went to the couch and pulled a blanket from behind it, one he had stashed there should he ever need to sleep in the office. Strong arms wrapped around Spike's body, swathing him in the woven wool, pulling it tightly around him. He found himself being gently lifted from the floor and seated on top of Angel's desk, looking into the deep, autumn brown eyes that were still brimming with unshed tears. Not only the blanket, but also the arms remained around him.

"You feeling alright?" Spike asked with a bit of surprise.

"What?" Angel said, breaking out of his reverie. "Oh. Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine."

"Good," Spike said, his eyebrow raised. "Good, glad to hear that."

The arms, Spike noticed with growing amazement, were still there. Angel, meanwhile, was having a very loud internal conversation with himself. When he had heard of Spike's demise, no one had seen his reaction. Buffy told him about it on the phone, never once thinking that the final death of the wisecracking English vampire would have any effect at all on him. He was glad he had been alone at the time. After the click of the receiver, an unearthly howling had filled the empty Hyperion until he was so hoarse that his throat bled. He hadn't expected that reaction from himself. Spike was the thorn in his side, the epitome of everything that grated on him. He was evil. He was unconscionable. He was ruthless. He was unwavering. He was loyal. He was passionate. He was beautiful. He was family.

In that moment, Angel had realized he was perfect: not perfect in the halo and wings way, but perfect as he was. And now, he had thought, he was dead.

"But not anymore," Angel said softly. "Not anymore."

"Not anymore what?" Spike asked, his lip curling into a frown. "You get a bump to the head recently?"

"Shut up," he said without any anger. His eyes closed slightly as he looked at the younger vampire so close to him. "So beautiful…"

Spike's eyes opened very wide for a moment. Angel hadn't looked at him that way in more than a century, not since that night in Romany, long after Darla and Drusilla had fallen asleep upstairs -- that night with the wine and the soft clopping of horse hoofs from the cobbled street outside and the taste of dark, cream-filled chocolates fed to each other before the blazing fire in the hearth.

"Angel?" he asked carefully.

"I made you bleed," the other man said quietly, drawing one hand up to the chiseled face of his lover from so long ago, his fingertip lightly touching the red stain on his lips.

"Don't," Spike said suddenly, trembling from another reason besides the cold as he pulled back as far as he could. "Don't do this to me. Not if you don't mean."

"Who said I don't?" Angel asked with a smile as he played teasingly with the other man's lips, running his finger over them lightly before closing the distance between them and sealing the mouth against his own, moving achingly slowly, licking the last remnants of blood away and nearly fainting dead away at the taste that he hadn't had on his tongue since years started in eighteen. Spike had stayed motionless at first, but at length he responded, surrendering, pressing himself closer to the massive chest in front of him. A pair of low groans broke the silence, harmonizing in perfect accord.

Even when neither one of the participants needs to breath, a kiss must eventually end. Spike lurched backward suddenly, almost as though he had been burned, glaring at Angel.

"What kind of mind game are you playing here, pet?" he asked bitterly. "Your soul…"

"Is right where it's supposed to be, just like yours," he answered, drawing a heart languidly across the smaller man's chest. "And it's not going to leave any time soon."

"Right then," Spike said, hiding his hurt at the rejection that had slipped so easily from the vampire's lips. "I'll be going."

"No, you won't," Angel said commandingly. "I thought you were dead. I'm not about to lose you again."

"Yeah, well, I thought you were dead for about a century, so now you know how it feels a bit," Spike countered. "I'm not about to stick around and torture myself by being near you. Not after this. I couldn't stand it."

Angel's face scrunched in confusion, then the obvious conclusion dawned across his mind, and he began to laugh. It started as a small giggle, but quickly grew into a voluminous belly laugh that had the older vampire shaking so hard that he actually let go of his prize to clasp his hands to his stomach in near pain.

It wasn't until he realized that Spike was halfway across the room that he abruptly stopped laughing and grabbed the leather sleeve as it shot past him, spinning the blue eyes to meet his, suspiciously moist blue eyes that he could tell in an instant had misunderstood the reason for his mirth.

"No, Will," he said apologetically. "No, I wasn't laughing at you. No, it wasn't a game. It's just… you're so completely wrong, Will."

An eyebrow rose at the use of the name he hadn't heard in so long. "What wrong? If you're happy, the soul leaves."

"Not going to happen," Angel said, pulling Spike closer to him, enfolding his slighter body with his own as he rested his large hands on his grandchilde's shoulders, insistently pushing the leather from lean, well-muscled shoulders. "You're still so cold. Let me warm you."

Spike bit his lip and shook his head. "No, pet. Much as I'd like this to happen, I'm not going to go through this again. I'm not going to make love to someone who doesn't love me. If I can't make you happy enough to lose the soul, if it's not perfect for you, then I'd rather not torture myself."

"Oh, my sweet, sweet William," Angel breathed out as he nuzzled the hand that rested on his chest. "No. Part of the deal I made with Wolfram and Hart was that my soul be anchored to me permanently. Now I know that it worked. If it hadn't, Angelus would have returned the moment I knew you were alive."

Spike blinked at him in shock. "You… just that would have been enough for you to lose it?"

"Yes," he said honestly. "Just finding out that I could see your face again." A grin slowly curled his lips. "Of course, I'd really like to see a lot more than your face at the moment, Will."

Spike's duster finally slid free of his arms. He felt cool hands pulling at the fabric of his T-shirt, and a smile lit his face.

"Same here," he purred, loosening the buttons of Angel's shirt and kissing each inch of skin he revealed. "Say, Angel?"

"Hmm?" replied the other man, who was currently running his hands up the newly bared back of his lover.

"You're sure I'm not dead?" he asked, giving a mock-concerned look.

"Oh, I'd say all systems are responding, so yeah, I'm sure," he declared with a smirk. "Why?"

"Cause this sure looks like heaven to me," he said trailing a hand along the back of Angel's neck. "Except for the hair."

Angel rolled his eyes. "Shut up, Spike."

"Make me."

And, for the next six hours, that's precisely what Angel did.


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Lighting the Way

Author: Meltha
Rating: G
Feedback: Yes, thank you. Melpomenethalia@aol.com
Spoilers: Through the series finale.
Distribution: Fanfiction.net and the Bunny Warren. If you're interested, please let me know.
Summary: Willow's spell left a few unanswered questions. What was actually happening there?
Author's Note: Warning, multiple character deaths.
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.
Dedication: For everybody who cried mightily during the finale.
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Willow was tense. That, actually, was the understatement of the millennium. Possibly a couple of them. The entire fate of the world basically depended on her being able to not only do a spell of so much power that it made restoring Angel's soul look as easy as making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but not becoming so possessed with the power that she turned evil and destroyed the every living thing on the planet all on her own. It was going to be like walking on a tightrope as thin as a cobweb. Then again, hadn't she read once that cobwebs were actually stronger than steel? Here's hoping this one is extra steely, she thought wryly.

Kennedy was sitting about ten feet from her, looking at her expectantly but with a tiny trace of disbelief still marring the corners of her eyes. Willow understood. She'd been doing spells for six years now and she still had trouble believing she was about to try to make every potential in the world a full-fledged Slayer in spite of thousands of years worth of tradition. It was inconceivable, really.

She didn't know exactly how to connect with the scythe, but some part of her had told her to trust her instincts. Taking one last deep breath, she held her palms over the ancient weapon and spread her fingers wide, feeling the power that emanated from it like ocean waves in a hurricane. Willow concentrated all of her thoughts together and tried to sort through the confusion and the fear and delve down to the center of it all. Unexpectedly, a feeling of intense calm flooded her, and she suddenly knew exactly what she needed to do.

Arcane languages or powerful words or any of the herbs she'd brought were unnecessary. With a feeling as simple as turning the knob on a door, she opened her heart and poured forth into the atmosphere one, simple thought.

"Please," she mentally implored, "please help us."

No sooner were the words formed her mind than a feeling unlike anything she had ever experienced filled every pore of her being. The power was unbelievable: strong, swift, and utterly, purely good. It was beyond goodness in the same way the sun was beyond a candle flame. It was perfection itself.

"Oh… my… goddess…" Willow gasped in ecstasy as her head was thrown back and her face was bathed in light.

The world stopped. Time held perfectly still around her as the core of all that was right and pure and sacred funneled itself through her, and she knew the place from which it all came, the place that had opened above her and was using her to carry out its goal, even before she saw the shape that slowly resolved in front of her upturned face.

Tears started to her eyes as she felt the power ripple through her out to every corner of the globe towards all the young girls who were being called at once. But in that one moment that was suspended, the instant when the Slayer line was forever changed from one lonely girl to a group, Willow was crying tears that took in more than their inevitable victory over darkness, the knowledge that evil would be defeated. She was looking into eyes she'd never thought she'd see again.

"Tara," her mind breathed in rapture. "Tara!"

It was not Tara as she had been in life, precisely. There was the outer form of the woman she loved, to be sure, but her face! Never in this world could there have been a face with such an expression of unadulterated joy. Her smile was breathtaking, and Willow doubted whether she would be able to survive the beauty of it without her heart bursting from happiness. A gentle hand stroked her face, and the palm was warm and soft as she had known it in life.

"I'm so proud of you, Willow," said the dearly remembered voice, and fresh teardrops sprang to the living witch's eyes at the sound. "I've always been here. I would never leave you alone. I'm so proud of you all. If you could only see what I do, Willow. Oh, if you could only see!"

"I see you," Willow thought at Tara. "I see you, and that's enough."

"Listen closely. We don't have much time, but we've been given this gift for a reason. The Slayers have been called, and the battle will be won," Tara said softly as Willow's hair billowed back in white waves from her face, "but there will be losses. I want you to let the others know that it's going to be all right. You've all fought so hard for so long, and you need to understand that none of it has been or will be in vain."

Overwhelmed by the sensations filling her, Willow could only nod mutely at her lover's beautiful face. It would have been too much for her to bear, but there was something else keeping her going, letting her handle anything she had to. It was humbling and thrilling at the same time.

"I love you so very much," Tara whispered as a tear fell from her own eyes onto Willow's cheek, "and I'm so happy I was chosen to be the one to guide you through this and to bring the others home. You're never alone, Willow. Not one of you is ever alone."

As suddenly as it had come to her, the connection was broken, and Willow felt the world begin to move again. She vaguely heard herself telling Kennedy to take the scythe to Buffy, and then she felt herself fall sideways across the floor.

"That was nifty," she mumbled, turning "Willow was tense" into the second biggest understatement ever.

As the fight went on, first a young, newly-called Slayer fell. She had seemed so unimportant in life that few of the others even knew her name, but when her soul broke free, Tara called that name gently and took her in her arms, pointing the way for the girl's soul to travel. When Anya was cleaved by a Bringer, the one who had been so greedy and self-centered at times and yet who was, in the end, willing to save the life of someone else, someone she didn't even particularly like, at the cost of her own, Tara gave her a hand up from the floor, embraced her, and showed her the path. Amanda, who had thought herself a freak in life, died in battle, and when the witch's warm smile greeted her a moment afterwards, she knew at once that there was no such thing as a freak where she was going, only love. And in that final moment when Spike's face flamed in the sunlight and his skin became ash, there was a chuckle on his lips, for he saw the shy girl standing before him, laughing in delight and holding out her hands to him. This had to be some joke, he thought in amusement. But as Tara grasped his hand and led the unlikely demon who had saved the world into a light which did not burn him, he realized there was no mistake.

At long last, he was going home.


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Mirror Images

Author: Meltha
Rating: PG
Feedback: Yes, thank you. Melpomenethalia[at]aol.com
Spoilers: I suppose for Labyrinth and perhaps seasons five and six of Buffy in vague way.
Distribution: Fanfiction.net and the Bunny Warren. If you're interested, please let me know.
Summary: Drusilla and Spike take a trip abroad to a most unusual place where Drusilla sees the outcome of not one romance, but two.
Author's Note: The main image of this one struck me a while ago, very much like a painting. Odd pairing of fandoms, I know, but what the hey.
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.
Dedication: This one must be for Bunny. Took me long enough!

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"She's coming, you know," said a sad voice that shattered the perfect, velvety black silence of the room.

Abruptly raising his head, the man who sat in the chair at the other end of the long chamber blinked at the woman who was making her way towards him over the highly polished obsidian floor of his private chambers. Her footsteps were completely silent despite the ceiling's vast echoing height and the general emptiness of the place that could make even the smallest sound obvious to his ears. He watched her form seem to float in the darkness, the crimson silk of her gown and the white of her skin not reflecting in the mirror-smooth stone.

"Indeed," he said softly, a sigh lingering in his words as he stood to receive her. "Are you quite comfortable? I didn't expect you to still be up. It's nearly dawn."

"Oh, the rooms are very beautiful, but the pixies woke me," she said with a smile.

"Pixies dared enter your bedchamber? I gave them explicit warnings to give the two of you perfect privacy; they'll be flogged on the morrow. You have my apologies," he said with a courteous bow as he kissed her hand.

She giggled, a strangely disjointed sound. "No, not those ones. I mean the ones flittering around inside your head. They were singing her name so loudly that they woke me. They're all pretty and full of sword tips and pins, dancing in a ring around your heart and poke-poke-poking."

"Were they? Well, then I apologize all the more for breaking your rest myself," he said with an imperious grin but without a trace of disbelief. "I shall not, however, order myself flogged in penance, dearest Drusilla."

"You're no fun anymore," she pouted, but still took the arm he offered her.

"Tell me, is Spike awake as well?" he asked, a look of very slight concern on his face. Of course, the vampire's powers paled in comparison to his own, but he didn't particularly fancy another conflict at the moment, and Spike was notoriously jealous.

"No. He's long away in happy dreams, lovely ones of China and fire and all sorts of naughty things," she said, licking her teeth. "Will you dance with me for a bit?"

In truth, he was more than a little tired of dancing for one night. That was what had landed him here in the first place, having grown strangely saddened at the prospect of his latest human toy rejecting the dream world he had offered her. Still, it wouldn't do to be discourteous to his guest, and perhaps it would help to clear his already whirling mind.

"I should be delighted," he responded gallantly and, although it was silent in the room, he wrapped his arm around her waist and held one of her hands in his as he led her in a slow, fluid waltz around the floor.

"I know you weren't here, you know," she said mysteriously, but her eyes weren't mocking him.

"Whatever do you mean?" he asked innocently, the tails of his coat fanning out behind him.

"Shh. No games, my pretty one," she hissed. "I know that was no ghosty or shimmery figment with her in that dream. You went yourself. To be with her. And she broke it all to pieces."

The mismatched pair of eyes looked down at her with an expression of mild surprise. Of course, she had the Sight, so it was only to be expected. When he had first learned that one of his cousins had married with a mortal two centuries ago, he had been rather appalled. The Fay had made dire predictions of children with two heads or horns, and Jareth himself had been utterly at a loss to understand why his sparkling kinswoman had chosen a man doomed to age and die to be her mate. However, mate with him she did, a thing unheard of, and their daughter was quite ordinary, almost shockingly so. It hadn't been until that daughter married and had children of her own and those children in turn had children that something unusual had happened, and the result had been Drusilla. Fay ran very strong in her bloodlines as a mortal, and it had been what had gifted her with the Sight. As a vampire, she had amused Jareth, and he had formed a strange friendship with her and her paramour Spike almost a century past.

When they had turned up a few days ago, he had promised them jolly sport as only the Underground could offer them. As sunlight and moonrise were entirely different here than in the world above, they could walk in the light to their unbeating hearts' content, which was perhaps why they did visit him at least once every twenty years or so. Usually, the couple spent an inordinate amount of time in the gardens, creating their own private diversions in the novelty of daylight and often leaving with remarkably good tans over every square inch of their bodies. This time, though, they had the pleasure of seeing someone run the labyrinth. It had amused Jareth to no end to see the two of them so utterly wrapped up in the event. Spike had even seen fit to put a hand into the proceedings quite literally. As Sarah had fallen down the pit of hands, Spike's had been one of the hands that caught her.

It was also this incident that had brought an unpleasant discomfort to the Goblin King's mind. With Drusilla absent for the moment to talk to the fairies at the outer gate, Spike had taken the opportunity, male that he was, to grab the girl's denim-clad thigh. What had happened startled the king entirely. The Fay had sent a sudden, swift bolt of pain to the vampire's hand, causing him to let go. It hadn't been premeditated. It was pure instinct on his part. For some reason, he didn't want anyone, even Spike, to lay an inappropriate finger on Sarah. The level of protectiveness that had swamped him was highly disconcerting, though Spike had smiled at him and winked knowingly.

"All right, then. No games, little one," Jareth agreed as he continued his pace, his steps having briefly faltered. "It was I in the crystal. The illusion was the 'me' that was here at the time."

She nodded in satisfaction at his confession. "And if she had chosen to remain there?"

"But she did not," he said with a studied smile as he continued to thread a maze of nonexistent dancers.

"No," his companion agreed, "but if she had?"

"Then I suppose I would have remained with her there," he answered.

"That was your wish, was it not, Jareth my dove?" she said in his ear, as though the walls were listening.

He refused to answer, leading their steps onto the terrace so Drusilla could be treated to the sight of dawn breaking over the paths of the labyrinth, hoping it might distract her. For a moment, he thought his plan had worked as she cooed happily at the spreading sunrise and clapped her hands for joy, forgetting the dance for a moment.

"Yes, quite nice, I must say," he commented. "Pity you two aren't able to enjoy it in your world."

"She's won," she said, turning her head over her shoulder to look at him.

"I still have her brother," he said almost peevishly. "There's doubt about that outcome yet."

"No," she said, turning away from the sunset and looking at him fully in the face. "She's won the game." Her hand reached out to his chest and stroked the medallion there for a moment before moving it aside to rest her palm on his skin. "Broke it all to pieces," she repeated with a strangely innocent smile.

Jareth pulled back as though burned. "I came here to be rid of my ever-present, snickering, foolish goblins, Drusilla, not to be accused of such a ridiculous, ludicrous, utterly far-fetched…"

"Don't be angry," Drusilla soothed him as she played with the jeweled hem of his coat. "It rarely goes well for the likes of us when we try to kill mortals before we court them."

"I never tried to kill her," Jareth quickly corrected her. "I might have locked her up in an oubliette for a few weeks, but I would have freed her eventually."

"Silly Jareth," she said. "She doesn't know that. She feels her heart is betraying her, drawing her to a creature of evil who has done nothing but harm her as far as she can tell. She had one dance with you, and though part of her still wishes she was in your arms, she'll never let herself stay there because of what she thinks you are."

The Goblin King cocked his head to the side and regarded her, his eyes blazing. "You're wrong, Drusilla. She'll love me even yet. You'll see."

He strode through the room and opened the great double doors wide, slamming them against the walls in his tirade of power. What had started as a way to rid himself of his obsession had only made him all the more determined to have her. Changing his clothing for the umpteenth time that day, a sure sign of his frustration, he calmed himself before he stepped nonchalantly into his goblin-strewn throne room and casually took the baby from his place on the floor, dandling him elegantly on his lap, and waited for the inevitable call from his watchman that Sarah had broached the city walls. There would be a final scene between them, of that he was certain. A shadow crept into his eyes, though, as he realized the outcome would probably be just as his kinswoman hjad described, but he intended to see it through to the end.

Drusilla, for her part, still stood on the balcony for a while, drinking in the colors of the dawn over the strange landscape. When she turned slowly back to the black room, her expression was troubled. She stood quietly in the middle of the chamber, swaying slightly as the full import of her words was revealed to her.

"And just as yours will be, so will his," she whispered to the ghosts who always surrounded her. Her eyes looked sadly at the colors dancing outside, then she left the room to lie beside her Spike while she still could.


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Never Send Mom and Sis to a Vamp

Author: Meltha
Rating: G
Feedback: That would be very kind of you.
Spoilers: Takes place during “Checkpoint” in season 5.
Distribution: Here. If you’re interested, please let me know.
Summary: We never did find out exactly what happened after Buffy left Dawn and Joyce in Spike’s crypt, did we? One possibility…
Author’s Note: This fic is insane. I am aware that any number of things that happen during it go against the laws of reality. Tis for comedy’s sake, so it tis.
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose charcters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.

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Buffy had done her best to hurry back to Spike’s after her meeting with the Council. She had, in fact, left them there for only six hours when she once again crossed the crypt’s threshold. The picture that greeted her told her she had been gone about five hours and fifty-nine minutes too long.

“What the…” she began as she looked at the chaotic scene before her.

“Here. Too. Traumatized. To. Talk.” The vampire slipped a few pieces of paper into her hand, then sank into a fetal position at her feet. This is what she read.

I have begun to keep a log of exactly what these two are putting me through, since any sane human being would agree I deserve combat pay. I swear on my undead life that I am not making any of this up.

8:15 Passions has finished and Joyce and I were having a perfectly civil conversation when the bite-sized one announced that she was bored. I suppose I should learn her name before she leaves here. I told her to go read a book.

8:30 I found Dawn (the kid’s name) reading my diary from 1914. There are a lot of pretty graphic passages in that book about some of Dru’s and my exploits, and I’m not just talking about murder and mayhem, if you catch my drift. I took it away from her and warned her severely not to read my personal stuff again. I could actually hear her mouth move as she mimicked me behind my back. She is beginning to irk me. She appears to be scribbling in her notebook now, but somehow I still don’t trust her.

9:00 Joyce has fallen asleep after taking a couple pills. Poor thing is still recovering from that surgery. Whatever those things were, they knocked her completely unconscious. A rampaging elephant wouldn’t wake that woman. I looked over Dawn’s shoulder and found she had drawn a remarkably crude picture of me with a stake through my heart, with the words “I hate you! Die! Die! Die!” scrawled across the page. That wasn’t what threw me. She’d used every last drop of my black nail polish to create this masterpiece. I snatched the polish away from her and told her to bloody well find something to keep herself occupied. I have decided to ignore her completely.

10:00 Ignoring a thirteen year old is a tremendously dangerous idea. While I was watching a horror flick on the telly, the little hellion did a number on my crypt. I don’t have any idea how she managed to cram all that stuff into her one small backpack, but almost every wall is now completely covered with posters of the Backstreet Boys. They are the single most frightening beings I have ever seen in my unlife. The eyes, they’re following me…

10:15 She has headphones on and is listening to the most appalling excuse for music that I have ever heard. Of course, with my hearing, every note is ringing clear as crystal in my ears. She’s staring at me. She knows I can hear it. The grin on her face… cor, she looked like Angelus for a second there. I have slammed two blood bags over my ears in an attempt to blot out the “music.”

10:30 All I did was suggest it might be time for her to turn in. I was planning on giving her the pick of any coffin in the place (see how nice I can be, Slayer?), but she threw a fit. I am once again washing my hands of her. She’ll probably just fall asleep anyway. That’s what the little tykes always do in books, isn’t it?

10:45 She got into my peroxide. The little witch got into my peroxide. Not even Dru was allowed to touch the peroxide. She pored the entire bottle out the front door while my back was turned. Does she have no pity?

11:00 Answer to above question: not one drop. Now Buffy, you’re going to hear some crazy story about a mannequin that the kid found stashed behind one of the sarcophagi. I’ve been using it as a sort of practice dummy. She seems to think it resembles you. Pay no attention to the child. None at all.

11:15 Just when I thought she could sink no lower. She has actually broken open one of the coffins and is quoting the “Ah, Yorick! I knew him well, Horatio!” speech from Hamlet using a real human head! Normally I would actually find this endearing, but somehow it disturbed me deeply, considering she’s human. I must be getting soft. Your mum is continuing to snore. Talk about a sound sleeper. I tried to explain that taking a dead person’s head is naughty, and she pitched the skull at me, conking me in the forehead. I don’t like having body parts tossed at me.

11:30 I tried to engage the precious child in conversation. I figured she couldn’t get into too much trouble if I had my eye on her incessantly. If I hear the words “like” or “you know” once more, I am afraid my brain will turn into mush and run out my ear. The next time I see Harmony I will praise her conversational skills to the skies. What I wouldn’t give right now for a game of twenty questions, even if she does pick a breadbox again.

11:45 The walls are closing in. My head is aching like a crushed walnut and I haven’t even done a thing to her… yet. She has switched the CD to Ricky Martin. I need aspirin. Please. Someone. Stake me now.

12:00 I CAN’T TAKE ANYMORE! GOODBYE, CRUEL WORLD!

12:01 She hid my stake! For crying out loud, she won’t even let me die again in peace!

12:05 The child is asleep. Glory hallelujah. After all I’ve been through tonight, I could do with a bit of shut eye myself. Just a brief nap, mind you. After all, the kid must be out until at least sun-up.

12:45 I have developed a facial tic as a result of what has just happened. How in the name of anything and everything did she move that fast? In a matter of forty minutes, the monster in human guise has dumped all the blood in the fridge down the storm drain and removed any and all traces of masculinity in my ruddy home. I woke up in the middle of what appeared to be a cross between a Disney movie and Barbie’s dream house. Stuffed animals litter every horizontal surface. White lace curtains hang from my only window. When I awoke, she was in the process of painting one of the walls PINK. I have come to the conclusion she must be related to Mary Poppins in order to have brought all this in the one bag (and do not ask me how I saw that movie… it was all Dru’s idea). Her mother sleeps blithley on. I am beginning to understand why.

1:15 I thought it could get no worse. It has. Harmony was here. I was hoping she might actually help me out with this problem, not killing her, you understand, just, maybe, tying her up and gagging her. That’s not too much to ask for, is it? But no, they hit it off beautifully. For half an hour, they chatted about eyeliner. How can anyone talk for half an hour about eyeliner? Harm never actually addressed a single word to me.

1:30 There is a limit, and I am now beyond it. She took my duster and used a Bedazzler on it. I cannot bear to look at what is emblazoned across the back of my beloved leather. I cannot do it. No way. Not going to happen.

1:45 NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

2:00 Mumy, kan I go hom now? I be a good boy. Dawn bad.

The Slayer looked at the apparently angelic face of her sleeping little sister, then around at the disaster area that was once Spike’s lair. A tremulous whimpering reminded her that the vampire was still coiled into a ball at her feet.

“It’s okay, Spike. I’ll buy you another bottle of peroxide, you big baby.”

Suddenly, her eyes were drawn to the black leather coat that was clutched in one of his hands. She gently pried his hand away from the fabric and examined the back of the duster. Her eyes widened in horror.

“I’m going to have to speak to that child,” she said as she tried to soothingly pat the nearly unconscious William the Bloody, fearsome creature of the night.

There, spread across the coat’s back, big silver rivets formed a pattern of flowers and peace signs around the words “N*Sync Rules.”

“Spike, it looks like you’ve finally been destroyed… by the arrival of Dawn.”


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No Special Reason

Author: Meltha
Rating: PG for one very low scale curse
Feedback: Yes, thank you.
Spoilers: Through "Help" in season 7.
Distribution: Fanfiction.net and the Bunny Warren. If you're interested, please let me know.
Summary: Willow takes a moment to remember Tara on a very normal day.
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.
Dedication: For everyone who wishes the show would deal with Tara's death a little more directly.

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Your birthday is over, and it's not an anniversary or a holiday or anything like that, but I woke up missing you today.

The others have been good about things, but they don't understand, not really. Or maybe they don't want to. There are times when I become aware of your absence so painfully it almost brings me to my knees. But I can't talk about it with them. It brings up memories of all the other things that happened then, when I lost myself.

Giles and I spent most of our time discussing how I was progressing with controlling my magic. It was important, and it still is, but there were times I wished he'd say your name or that I'd have the courage to. But I didn't. They're afraid if I grieve I'm going to go dark again. Maybe they're right; the feeling is overpowering, and I don't like being out of control. But sometimes it feels like if I don't acknowledge that you're gone, I'll be just as crazed.

Dawn and Buffy lost their mother. When it first happened, they grieved, but then Glory became the center of everything and the whole world turned on its ear and, next thing I knew, we had someone else to grieve. Then she came back, sort of. And we had to deal with grieving her being alive instead, so Joyce was pretty much forgotten, I guess, in all the commotion. If I try to mention you, I feel guilty, like I'm not supposed to say anything because they have enough to deal with and they handled it without crying on my shoulder, so I should be able to, too.

Except it doesn't work like that.

This morning, my physics class was cancelled. Dawn was at school, and Buffy was doing her new counseling gig. It was the first time I've been here alone without having some major catastrophe to avert. So I went up here to our room. It's Buffy's now. When I came back from England, she'd already moved in. I think she was trying to save me from having to sleep in the same room where it happened, but I wish she'd asked me first. It's like they're trying to pretend you were never here, and it hurts sometimes. I know she means well, but I'm going to hurt one way or the other, and it's like they don't want to realize it.

I'm looking out the backyard window. The glass has been replaced, but I can't help having my eyes be drawn to the place where the bullet hole was. It's November now, and the sky is that really strange shade of white; you know how it is, when there are clouds covering everything and the light filters through them, and everything feels sort of faded and tired? Sweatshirt weather. There's a wind coming in from the west, and it's just a little bitter for California. And I'm missing you.

There's a throw rug on the floor now, and I haven't looked at the stain underneath it, but I know it's there. There are lots of stains under lots of rugs in this house, and each one of them is walked on every day, and we all pretend they aren't there, just under the surface, staring up at us underneath patterns of roses and paisley and colored whorls of cloth. But, Tara, I'm really sick of pretending.

I'm sick of waking up each morning and having all the covers to myself. I'm sick of knowing which toothbrush is mine because no one else has a pink one. I'm sick of the extra closet space that, no matter how much I spread out my hangers, I can't fill up. I'm sick of not buying pancake syrup at least once a week. I'm sick of saying I'm fine over and over again when I'm not, I'm really not, and I don't think I will be again.

It's not that today is something special. I think it's that today isn't anything special at all. It's a normal day, and I miss normal you. So, I'm going to go down to the kitchen now and make pancakes for myself and eat them off an actual plate instead of something made of paper, and I'm going to smell the maple syrup and the melted butter, and yes, I'm probably going to cry.

But before I do that, I'm going to burn every last damn throw rug in this house.


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Not Quite

Author: Meltha
Rating: PG as it is possible that Spike’s intentions towards the ‘bot may not have been entirely honorable…
Feedback: That would be ever so nice, thank you.
Spoilers: Season 5’s “Crush”
Distribution: Here. If you’re interested, please let me know.
Summary: Written during the long lapse between the time Spike placed his order and the delivery of the goods. Something just isn’t quite right.
Author’s Note: Doesn’t jibe with “Intervention” in the least.
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose charcters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.

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“Alone at last!” Spike fairly yelled as he kicked open the door of his crypt. He was carrying a large bundle draped in an old tarp. If anyone had examined the object carefully, a dainty, high-heeled foot would have been noticed peeking from the edge of the covering.

He quickly put his burden down on the moth-eaten sofa in his lair and whipped the canvas away to reveal a perfect duplicate of Buffy Summers.

“Warren, mate, you are one phenomenal artist,” he said in appreciation as his eyes roved over the robot. If the real Slayer wouldn’t give him the time of day, he’d make his own fun. And, best of all, since his new toy wasn’t human, he could even spar with her without the fear of a mind-numbing migraine. Unlife was starting to look pretty darn good again. Strangely, though, he was feeling a bit nervous about his first encounter with the robot.

“Cor, Spike,” he said to himself, a habit he’d acquired since he was living alone and the Scoobies would no longer speak to him, “get a grip and just flip the silly switch. It’s not like she’s going to reject you… again.”

He took a deep breath then quickly clicked the tiny switch behind the Slayer’s right ear. Instantly, her eyes opened.

“Hello, luv. Had a nice rest?” he purred at the now conscious living doll.

“Yes. I am fully rested,” she responded in a strangely even tone.

Spike sat beside her on the couch and gazed into her hazel eyes, realizing that he could finally have what he’d wanted for so many months. A smile flickered briefly on his face, but it was quickly replaced by a frown. There was something wrong. Without ceremony, he turned off the robot, threw the tarp over it, slung the dead weight over his shoulder, and went back out into the night.

“WARREN!” Spike hollered as he beat on the door. “GET OUT HERE!”

A few moments later a terrified Warren opened the door a crack.

“Is there, uh, a problem?”

“Yes, there’s a bloody problem! You need to fix her!”

Warren was startled that something had gone wrong with his work. His professional honor, what there was of it, in question, he opened the door and allowed Spike in. Spike plopped the pseudo-Slayer on the couch and glared at the other man.

“What’s wrong with her?”

“Her eyes! They’re the wrong color!”

Warren activated the robot and looked carefully into its eyes. “They’re hazel, just like in the photograph.”

“No, they’re not. There’s too much brown and not enough green,” Spike said as though he were explaining something a two-year-old would have noticed.

“Oh. Well, I can do something about that,” Warren said as he silently thought that the other man had completely lost his marbles.

About an hour later, Spike was back in his crypt with the newly repaired robot. Once again, he flipped the switch behind her right ear.

“There we are. Much better,” Spike said as he looked into perfect replicas of Buffy’s eyes. “Well, now that’s settled, what would you like to do tonight, Slayer?”

“Whatever you want to do is what I want to do,” she replied in a very cheerful tone of voice.

He certainly couldn’t find fault with that response. Sliding beside her on the couch, he gently ran his hand over her blonde hair. She looked just lovely in the candlelight. Just… he frowned.

“WARREN!” Spike roared as he once more pounded on the door.

The robot’s inventor was quite startled to find the blond man on his doorstep once again.

“Um, yes?”

“You’ve got another alteration to make,” Spike said as he pushed past him into the living room, dropping the robot onto the couch again.

“The eyes still aren’t right?”

“No, the eyes are fine,” he said in exasperation. “It’s the hair.”

Warren looked at it critically. “I’m sorry, but I can’t see what exactly is wrong with it.”

“Her roots aren’t showing. They should be about a third of an inch long,” Spike complained. “And not only that, but hers is shinier, with a bit more bounce to it. And it’s softer. And more goldeny. This robot’s got a mop like straw!”

Warren sighed and went to work making the requested modifications. The guy wanted a girl with her roots up? Yup, definitely bonkers.

“Take three of ‘A Night of Passion’,” Spike muttered to himself as he once more crossed the threshold of his home, Robo-Buffy in tow. Once again he plopped himself down on the couch next to his new companion and activated her.

“There now, that’s a bit more like it,” he said as he stroked her newly refurbished locks. “How you doing, pet?”

“I am fine. It is very considerate of you to ask,” she replied in her chipper voice.

“Well, now, where were we?” he said as he focused on her lips. Her lips… oh, dash it all!

“WARREN!”

For the third time that night, Warren confronted the strange customer on his porch.

“There’s another problem, I take it?” he said in a voice that, despite his fear of the weirdo, was beginning to sound unmistakably aggravated.

“No, I keep walking over here to get my exercise. Once again, Warren, you have goofed,” Spike said as he dumped the Slayer on the couch. “Her lips. Wrong color, wrong shape.”

“But I followed the photograph…” he started to say before Spike cut him off.

“Her lips are poutier, and they’re a deeper shade of red. More like claret wine,” Spike barked as he began to pace back and forth in frustration while waiting for Warren to work on her.

“Alright, this time everything is going to be perfect,” Spike promised himself as he once again entered his lair. The robot started up perfectly. Eyes, check. Hair, check. Lips, check. He sighed in contentment.

“Well now, that should be our last interruption. Here, let me slip off your shoes and give you a little foot massage,” he said as he removed her pink stilettos. Her toes were absolutely perfect, feeling wonderful in his hands. Except… oh, bloody hell…

“WARREN!”

He hadn’t even bothered to go back to bed after the last visit. “What is it this time?”

“You’ve given her feet like boats! They must be at least two sizes too big. Not only that, but I know for a fact she has a mole on the bottom of her left foot. Saw it when she kicked me last summer without her shoes on.”

Warren sighed. It was going to be a long night.

Spike had inspected the robot before he left Warren’s home in order to make another trip to the inventor’s home unnecessary. He had also insisted that the elbows were too bony, the ankles not chubby enough, the neck too long by a quarter of an inch, and the nail polish a shade that the Slayer wouldn’t be caught dead in. After bidding Warren a none too fond adieu, he had whisked his new possession back to his lair once again. She was now an absolutely perfect physical replica of Buffy.

“Hello again, cutie,” he cooed as her hazel eyes fluttered open. “That should be the last mad dash tonight. Now, why don’t we have a bit of a chat, just you and me. Get acquainted, like.”

“Okey-dokey.” He frowned at the choice of words but decided that one little vocabulary problem wasn’t going to send him running back to Dr. Frankenstein yet again. “What would you like to talk about?”

A woman who let him pick the topic of conversation? Warren, he thought silently, I take it all back. You are a miracle worker.

“Well, why don’t we start with how you feel about me?” he said, knowing she had been programmed to find him irresistible.

“You are Spike. You are my boyfriend. You are the most perfect specimen of mankind on the planet,” she intoned in a singsong.

Oh, this was going to be a wonderful evening.

“Please, continue,” he said, relishing her complete adoration.

“You are wonderful, superb, breathtaking, astonishing, amazing, fantastic…” she continued to give synonyms for perfection until she ran out of adjectives.

It should have been exactly what he wanted to hear, but something was already starting to bother him: her voice. She sounded like a cross between a chipmunk and a kindergarten teacher. His eyes slowly started to glaze over as he began to realize she was listing off his qualities in the same tone of voice as that woman on “Romper Room” used to say “I see Billy and Tommy and Susie and…” He shivered involuntarily as he added “Spikey” to the list. This was worse than Harmony.

“WARREN! MAKE HER TALK LIKE AN EFFIN’ HUMAN BEING!”

After the impromptu surgery which succeeded in giving the robot a slightly less annoying tone to her voice, Spike was feeling incredibly overwrought. The evening, to say the least, was not going as planned. He sat next to the once-again-activated robot and rubbed his temples.

“I am thoroughly tense,” he pouted.

“Oh, poor baby,” the look-alike said sympathetically. “Would you like to…”

The next words out of her lips made Spike’s eyes increase to three times their normal size as he gave a giant blink of shock.

“WARREN!”

“Oh for crying out loud, what is it now?” Warren said, throwing caution to the wind. It was obvious he was probably going to die from sleep deprivation anyway.

“What were you thinking when you made this thing!”

“Alright, slowly, what is it this time?”

Spike had already deposited the robot on the kitchen floor and was rubbing his lower back. Hefting the Slayer around town was starting to twist his spine into knots.

“Well, uh…” he paused and would have blushed if it had been possible.

“Spit it out already.”

“She… she… propositioned me,” he said so quietly the words were almost inaudible.

Warren looked at him in disbelief. “This is a problem? What did you want her to do? Your bookkeeping?”

“Look, I’ve dealt with professional girls who used a less direct approach. Couldn’t you give her a bit of… modesty or something? I mean, the Slayer isn’t some bimbo.”

“You know, I don’t think this is working out too well for you. How about I return your money and we drop the whole thing?”

“I never gave you any money,” Spike said shortly.

“Then I’ll pay you to go away,” Warren said desperately.

Spike shook his head slowly. He simply couldn’t take the possibility that he would be going back to his empty crypt, knowing full well that not one creature on the face of the earth cared whether he continued to exist or not. “I’m sorry I’ve been so rude to you. Please, would you just try one more time? I give you my word I won’t bother you again.” His words were so soft that they were actually more painful to the heart than tears would have been.

“She must be some girl,” Warren said as he began to reprogram the robot once again.

“Yeah. That she is, mate. That she is.”

It had been two weeks since Spike had gotten the robot. Absolutely nothing had happened between them, and that’s the way he wanted it to stay. There were moments he could fool himself into believing she actually cared about him, but they were few and far between. Slowly but surely, the robot became a constant reminder that he was, in fact, utterly alone. There were times he found himself thinking of Drusilla. Had she chosen the companionship of her dolls because she needed desperately to be loved in a way he hadn’t been able to? Would he eventually become as deranged as she was? He sighed quietly.

“Are you okay?” said a familiar voice.

“Yeah, pet. Just a bit lonely. Why not come over and sit by me for a minute?”

Buffy looked at him in disbelief.

“Spike, have you lost your mind?”

It took him a moment to register what had actually happened. He turned around to find the real Buffy standing in the doorway. Her robotic replacement was still in the basement of the crypt.

“What do you want with me? Looking for somebody to use as an emotional tackling dummy again?” he said bitterly.

“I… I haven’t seen you around in a while, and, as bizarre as this sounds, I started to worry about you. Did you actually say you were lonely a minute ago?” she said as she did, in fact, sit down next to him.

No. Warren could never hope to get the light behind her eyes right. He doubted that Da Vinci could have.

“I…”

“Look, I still don’t trust you, and I am deeply of the not happy about that whole chaining-me-up-and-having-Drusilla-kill-me thing.”

He winced. That had definitely not been his most shining hour. He’d regretted it immediately, not that that fixed things.

“But, I was thinking about it, and I realized you’d done a heck of a lot of kind things for me and the rest of the gang and I never once bothered to thank you for any of them. Look, if you give me your word that you won’t do anything like that ever again, the Scoobies and I are prepared to call a truce again. You break your word, chip or not, no one will be able to tell you from your cigarette ashes. Agreed?”

As much as Spike would have liked to play it cool, he was too thrilled not to respond immediately with “agreed.”

“Fine. Be at the Magic Box tonight at 8:00,” she said as she walked out the door.

Spike couldn’t bring himself to destroy the robot who had been his only friend, but he also knew he couldn’t keep her around. He gave it an affectionate pat on the head and tried to think of a pleasant retirement for the not quite human. Suddenly, a grin spread across his face as he had the perfect idea.

The next weekend, a very odd thing happened. A brand new audio animatronic robot showed up in the Haunted House ride at Disneyland: a blonde teenager who appeared to be fighting the imaginary ghosts and goblins. Nobody could explain how it had gotten there, but one thing was certain. The female robot seemed perfectly happy making the park’s guests smile.


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Quiet Strength

Author: Meltha
Rating: G, nothing objectionable
Feedback: Yes, thank you.
Spoilers: I suppose "Hush," although technically there's one for "The Body" as well.
Distribution: Fanfiction.net and the Bunny Warren. If you're interested, please let me know.
Summary: Tara is heading to UC Sunnydale and reflects on her life.
Author's Note: The sixth in the Jewel Box series, a collection of 500 word fics (in response to The 500 Club) and an idea taken from Challenge in a Can www.dymphna.challenge.com. In this case, it's Tara, jewelry, and strength.
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.

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Bus rides weren't her favorite thing… never knowing who might sit in the next seat, the wheels never cushioning the bumps in the road. Tara knew she'd have a sore back by the time she got to California, but she didn't care. Looking out the window at the passing roadside restaurants and two-bit gas stations, she noticed that no sooner had she seen them than they were part of the past and behind her. She liked that feeling.

Optimistic might not quite describe her mood. After all, she knew no one in the state. Her fingers gently pulled the slender silver chain around her neck until she held the pendant between fingers, and she remembered the day it had been given to her.

"Happy birthday, honey!" her mother had called in the autumn morning air.

Tara's tenth birthday had dawned clear and radiant, the sun sparkling through the yellow birch tree in the yard. Her mother had known to look for her outside not because of the beauty of the day but due to her father's drinking the night before. He had come home reeking of whisky, and the loud fight that followed frightened the girl. Tara had heard it through the thin walls and never fallen asleep afterwards. At sunrise, she had climbed out her bedroom window and sat in the hencoop, feeling safer in the tiny shed.

Tara came running, though, when she heard her mother's voice. No matter how many times she heard her father scream "demon" and "damned" and "worthless" or how often she heard her mother cry, when morning came Tara knew Momma wasn't evil; Momma sometimes seemed like the only person she knew who wasn't.

"Here's a special present for my girl," she'd said, giving her a small box wrapped in colorful paper. Eagerly, she'd opened the gift and found inside it a miniscule stone as golden as the autumn sun.

"That's a topaz, November's birthstone. I saved the egg money a good while for it, but I couldn't afford a chain," the woman had explained apologetically.

"That's okay, momma. I love it!" Tara had said happily, holding the flashing stone up to the light.

"Carry that with you. The topaz symbolizes strength, just like the kind that lies deep inside you, sweetheart."

When momma died a few years later, the stone was in Tara's pocket. The little money that her mother had put aside for her went partly to buy the chain that encircled her neck. She didn't wear it all the time, but she always kept it near her. She had worn it to take the scholarship test for UC Sunnydale, and she was wearing it again today as another part of her life opened.

The bus hit a nasty bump, and Tara was jolted back to reality. She'd be there soon. What she'd find when she reached her new "home" was uncertain, but she remembered what her mother had told her and was filled with a strange, cautious hope.


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Rejuvenation

Author: Meltha
Feedback: Please. This is my first piece on the net, and I’m very, very nervous.
Rating: PG (not-too-graphic violence, someone dies)
Distribution: At this point, here. If you’re interested, please let me know.
Spoilers: If you know what “the chip” is, you should be fine.
Author’s note: Takes place the summer after season four. Although I like her, Tara does not exist in this story.
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose charcters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.
Dedication: To the fabulousness that is the Green Bunny Goddess. Now go read Venus Blue’s fic. Go on now! Scat!

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Willow had desperately needed a vacation for months. Now, at last, after spending countless hours pouring over musty volumes in Giles’s library and taking far more credit hours than any sane person would consider healthy, summer was here. True, there had been one disturbing round of unexplained demonic activity in the last few weeks, but Buffy had put her foot down with her best friend.

“Will, I’m the Slayer. You’ve done all the research you can, and it just doesn’t look like your magic is going to help us out with this one. Besides, you need a break. Go someplace undemony for a while. Just chill.”

“Like where? Money is not exactly plentiful just now. In fact, I can spend about, oh, nothing.”

“How about that abandoned cabin Spike found last spring? He even rigged up electricity for it. It’s peaceful, nothing but trees for miles in all directions. Also, it’s free. Just go there and relax. And no bringing along any books that weigh more than you do!”

It had seemed like a great idea at the time: nothing but the occasional Bambi look-alike to spoil the pristine quiet, plenty of time to do nothing, and, to top it off, the cabin was in one of the prettiest spots Willow had ever seen. In fact, she was so inspired by the idea that she hastily packed a bag, borrowed Giles’s funky little Citroen, and headed off to her own private vacation wonderland that same afternoon.

After stopping at a roadside gas station/convenience store to pick up food and other essentials, Willow arrived at the deserted cabin just at dusk. Perhaps other girls would have been nervous about entering the empty building, but Willow had been in so many highly dangerous situations by now that this seemed perfectly normal. After quickly performing a spell to make certain that the cabin contained no unwelcome visitors, she happily emptied the tiny car of the few bags she would need for the next two weeks and made herself at home. Her first night was everything she had hoped: quiet, uneventful, and peaceful.

Rosy light was just starting to beckon from the east when the sound of glass shattering outside her bedroom window woke Willow very early the next morning. Cautiously, she peered through the curtains and saw that a dark shape had collapsed about thirty feet from her doorstep. It took her a few moments to process what had happened before she leapt into action.

Lightning fast she ran through the front door and grabbed the intruder under his arms, kicking the broken whiskey bottle out of her way as she dragged him towards the cabin with all the strength she could muster.

“Just in case it isn’t completely obvious, I’m inviting you in, Spike,” she said through gritted teeth as she heaved him across the yard. “Geez, ever think of switching to low-cal blood?”

However, the joke was lost on him since he wasn’t conscious. Truthfully, Willow was more than a little frightened. The sun was very obviously starting to rise and it was only the shade of a few trees that had kept him from bursting into flame already. She momentarily considered the implications for herself if he caught fire while she was dragging him, but shoved the thought away. With one last heave, she pulled his inert form across the threshold and slammed the door on the invading sunbeams. The toes of his boots were singed.

Willow stared down at her unplanned visitor. Judging from the smell that reached her nostrils, he’d either been drinking or fallen into a vat of whiskey. Possibly both. With a sigh, she began the process of blacking out the windows with extra blankets.

“So much for a peaceful vacation,” she said aloud, stretching her now sore back.

Spike gave out a low moan but did not regain consciousness. Well, if she had been worried about being bored, that certainly wasn’t a problem anymore. However, the day passed uneventfully until late afternoon when Spike finally started to show some signs of coming around.

“No,” was the first intelligible word he whispered. It came out as a groan.

“Oh yes, and I’ll bet you’ve got one major headache right about now.”

He slowly dragged himself off the floor and onto the dilapidated couch and looked confusedly about the room. The haze of alcohol had almost completely lifted.

“Red?” he asked uncertainly.

“Yes.”

“What in blue blazes are you doing here?”

“I’m on vacation. What’s you’re excuse?”

“How did I get in here?”

“The first part of your journey remains a mystery, but I dragged your surprisingly heavy corpse the last thirty yards.”

“What you do that for?” he said in a strangely colorless voice.

“Either that or let the sun get you,” she responded, starting to feel something was wrong.

“Should have let me burn.”

“Come on, the hangover can’t be that bad,” she started to kid him, but the look on his face stopped her cold. “You’re serious, aren’t you?”

He turned away.

“I thought you were trying to get in and stumbled off when you couldn’t cross the barrier, but you weren’t, were you? You were trying to…”

“Don’t go doing me any favors saving my worthless hide. I’m a monster. I’m not worth it,” he intoned in a completely flat voice.

“Don’t say things like that! What happened?” Willow was honestly concerned. During the previous year Spike and she had grown quite close. He had become surprisingly kind to her, especially in the last few months.

He refused to speak.

“Look, I don’t know what’s going on, but I don’t want you to even think of anything like that again.”

“I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to frighten you. I’ll be on my way,” he almost whispered as he started towards the door. She promptly stepped in front of it.

“You’re only getting out of here over my dead body, which that chip isn’t about to let happen,” she said with her resolve face firmly in place. “Now go in the bathroom and take a shower. You smell like a brewery.”

He stood for a moment, apparently considering his options.

“Scoot!” she shot at him.

With a resigned look, he turned to the bathroom and shut the door. Willow was relieved when she remembered the room had no windows. In a few moments, she heard the sound of the shower come on.

Unsure of what else to do, Willow started to build a fire in the old grate. It often got cool in the evenings up here. Soon brightly colored flames were crackling away in the hearth. Willow was unpleasantly reminded of what could have happened to Spike earlier that day and immediately wished she hadn’t lit the fire. Before she could perform a dousing spell, Spike opened the bathroom door and entered the room, gazing at the fireplace. He said nothing.

“I, uh, don’t have anything for you, you know, for dinner,” she said feeling suddenly awkward.

“S’alright. I put a few bags in the refrigerator last month. Should still be fine,” he said as he went into the kitchen.

Willow couldn’t believe that she hadn’t noticed this when she’d unloaded the groceries. Apparently she’d become so used to seeing the blood bags in Giles’s refrigerator that she hadn’t even found it odd.

Spike returned with a bag a few moments later and set it on the hearth to warm. He stared into the fire with a look of emotional exhaustion on his face.

“Sit down, please,” she said after she’d finally worked up the nerve to break the silence. “I can’t stand seeing you this way,” she blurted out before she could stop herself.

He looked up at her. “Sorry, pet.”

“Why don’t you just tell me what happened?”

His eyes locked with hers. In place of their usual mischievous sparkle was an almost tangible heaviness. “Why do you do that?”

“Do what?”

“Treat me like a human being. I’m not you know. You don’t have to be nice to me.”

“I know I don’t have to. I want to. Spike,” she paused a moment before deciding to take the risk, “I like you. I like having you as friend. I’d never want anything to happen to you, so please don’t ever think of doing anything like that ever again” or you’ll tear my heart into pieces, she silently added.

At last he sat next to her on the couch. “You’ll know soon enough, I suppose. Dru is dead.”

Willow was surprised by the news but not exactly saddened by it. Drusilla was, after all, a maniacally insane vampire with a tremendous appetite for cruelty. Her turning into a big pile of dust didn’t rank as a major tragedy in Willow’s book. Still, she knew that Spike had loved her for over a century. It had to hurt him.

“I’m sorry,” she said, but she couldn’t help the uncertainty about that proclamation that crept into her voice. “When did it happen?”

“Last night. In Sunnydale.”

“Was it Buffy?”

“No. It was me.” When he raised his eyes off the floor, she realized there were silent tears tracing faintly red lines down his face.

She had no idea what to say to him, so she said nothing instead. The two of them sat there on the couch for a long time without speaking. Finally, unable to stop herself any longer, she reached forward and put her arms around him gently. It was several minutes before he did the same to her. Slowly, his grip around her tightened until he was holding her so closely it was almost painful. She felt her shoulder growing damp from his soundless tears.

At long last he let go of her and turned to the fireplace. Picking up the warmed bag, he brought it into the kitchen. He didn’t want to drink it in front of her. For the first time the taste, even the thought, of it sickened him. Willow waited patiently for him, bewildered about what to do when he came back.

When he did return, he sat at the furthest end of the couch from her.

“Are you okay?” she asked uncertainly, knowing it was a stupid question.

“Not really.”

“Would it help to have someone listen?”

He looked at her kindly for a moment, then moved closer to her. “Why do you care so much?”

“I said before you’re a friend, and I meant it,” she said simply.

“Friend. Now there’s one word that should never be applied to the likes of me. Demon. Fiend. Inhuman pile of garbage, perhaps. But not friend,” was his bitter reply.

This just wasn’t like him. It was a bit like Angel, but not him. Willow was getting very worried.

“Yes, friend. And friends tell each other when something hurts.”

He looked at her intently for a moment, then seemed to make a decision.

“Alright, you want to know, I’ll tell you. That demonic activity that Giles has been picking up on for the last few weeks? That was her. I didn’t realize until day before yesterday. She didn’t let me see her until then.”

“But the victims didn’t seem to be dying from vampire bites.”

“No. Covering her tracks a bit. Wasn’t killing ‘em for food. Her way of playing, poor, demented thing that she was.”

“Why did she come back here?”

“Me. Apparently she got rather lonely after she wandered around Brazil and started missing the old days. I never would have believed it, but she wanted me back. Would have made me the happiest demon in the world once upon a time. But it was too late for that. When she came to me, I told her I was out of the violence business permanently. Sent her round the bend even more than usual.”

“You told her about the chip?”

“No,” he looked up at her with a strange expression on his face. “I told her I didn’t want to kill anymore. Willow, the chip stopped doing anything about three months ago. That’s your tax dollars at work. Cheap government issue parts. It’s been me holding myself back since then.”

Her jaw dropped and her eyes increased to twice their usual size. Even Angel hadn’t been able to control his demon until he’d gotten a soul, something Spike didn’t have. The level of his will power must have been incredible.

“Three months?” She found herself visualizing all the instances she had been alone with him on patrol in that time. He could have killed her, or any of the others for that matter, whenever he felt like it.

“Don’t blame you if you want to revoke the invite. I’m not safe anymore.”

“Spike, are you telling me you haven’t hurt anybody in all that time?”

“It’s three months, Red. I spent over a hundred years doing plenty of damage. Don’t make it sound like I’m a saint. I’m about the furthest thing there is from that.”

“Don’t you dare downplay this! Spike, why didn’t you tell us!”

“Because I didn’t fancy being staked by the slayer. You know she would have.”

Willow couldn’t argue with that. It was quite true.

“So,” she said, trying to return to the original topic, “what did Dru do when she found out?”

“Went ballistic, naturally. Said the slayer had made me all marshmallowy. Said she was going to turn me back to normal.” He shook his head. “Normal meaning a raging psychopathic murderer, of course.”

“So you staked her?”

“Not then. I couldn’t do it. I haven’t really been in love with her for a long time, but there were still feelings there. Maybe I should have, though.”

“Which brings us to last night?” she asked tentatively.

“I was walking home from Giles’s when I happened to see her. Could be she planned it that way. It was the next street over from Buffy’s. Dru was standing silhouetted in an open door frame. Some kid was inside, maybe five years old. You know how charming Drusilla could be when she wanted to. It didn’t take her long to get him to invite her inside.”

Willow could picture the scene frighteningly well. Once Dru was inside, the life expectancy of anyone in that house was probably about three minutes, and that was if they were lucky.

“So she…”

“That was her plan. Kid ran when her face switched over, but she caught him fast. The mother showed up, which distracted her for a bit. Being hit over the head with a lamp has a tendency to do that. Unfortunately, it just made her angry. Dru flung her through the living room window then started in on the kid. I don’t know what it was, but I suddenly realized it was the sickest thing I’d ever seen. And it could just as easily have been me doing it.”

“But it wasn’t.”

“Not this time, no. But I have killed, Red. When I saw what an animal she had become, it was like looking into a mirror and seeing my own reflection, the way I had been before.”

She couldn’t argue that point. Spike at his worst had been Drusilla’s equal, no question about it.

“But you are different from her now. The minute you realized that you didn’t want to be that anymore, and actually succeeded in controlling yourself, you stopped being what she is… was.”

He looked at her sadly. How could she possibly understand? The worst thing she had ever done in her entire life was kiss Xander, which he had to admit he didn’t really understand. Killing him, yes, but kissing him?

“Willow, I’m stained. Bad. Nothing can take those stains out. The only thing to do with me is pitch me into the sunlight and wait for it to burn off.”

“I said don’t ever think anything like that again!” Willow was completely furious. Her green eyes flashed with more intensity than the crackling fire. Spike was mildly stunned by just how angry she had become.

“I…”

“You think letting yourself combust is just going to take away all the pain? You’re being selfish. You’d just be hurting more people again!”

“How is that possible?”

“I couldn’t bear it if I lost you!” It was out before she knew she’d spoken. Immediately, she turned nearly as red as her hair. “I mean, uh… oops.”

He stared at her in disbelief. “What did you just say?”

“Absolutely nothing. Rewind, erase, hit delete, never mind. Let’s get back to what happened last night.”

He decided that ignoring what was obviously only her concern and pity speaking was the best plan.

“Right. The mother was still alive and fortunately conscious enough to call for help. Counted as an invite. I clambered through the broken window and managed to pry Dru off the boy. She looked so confused, disappointed even, like someone had taken away her favorite doll. ‘There’s enough for both of us,’ she said. ‘I don’t mind sharing with you. Come back to me.’”

“Was he dead?”

“No. She hadn’t had enough time to drain him,” he turned to face the fire with a look of profound misery. “Her eyes were still beautiful, even when she was in full demon face. There always seemed to be a bit of her human self lost behind them somewhere. Maybe that’s what drove her mad.”

“You really loved her, didn’t you?”

He paused.

“It came back to me then. Every moment the two of us had ever spent together, every word that passed between us, every feeling she’d ever stirred in me, every night…” his voice drifted off in memory. “I knew I could have her again if I wanted. I knew I could return to the life I’d led. There was absolutely nothing to stop me. If that wasn’t enough, she started in kissing me. But I think it was the taste of blood on her lips that did it.”

“Umm… did what?” Willow asked with some fear in her voice.

“I knew that I didn’t want that anymore. I pulled back from her and told her to leave, now. She gave me that agonized, little-girl look of hers, then started to pick up the boy. ‘No,’ I said. ‘He stays.’ I remember her eyes becoming very narrow, then she slashed at me with her nails. It couldn’t have killed me, but it was obvious she didn’t plan on walking out of there without some take away.”

“Take away?” Willow interrupted in confusion.

“Sorry, pet. You Americans say carry-out.”

“Oh. Got you.”

“Naturally a fight ensued. I’ve still got the bruises, which is saying something. At one point she came near to ripping my head off with a pair of salad tongs.” This particular image stayed with Willow for a while.

“But, you won…”

“Yeah, I won,” he said darkly. “I ended up staking what had once been the love of my unlife with… well, it isn’t important what it was,” It had actually been a chopstick, but it seemed somehow disrespectful to her to admit she’d died from something so ordinary. “In that split second before she disintegrated into dust, I saw such a pitiful look on her face. She’s been haunting me ever since.”

“Literally?” she asked with more than a touch of panic. She’d lived on the Hellmouth too long to take anything for granted as impossible, and a vampire’s ghost didn’t sound too good.

“No, love, not literally. She’s just in my head is all. Probably will be forever.”

“So then you got drunk and decided to watch the sunrise?”

“No. I called 911, stopped the kid and his mother from bleeding to death, and stuck around until the ambulance arrived. They’ll be okay. Then I got drunk and decided to watch the sunrise, as you so delicately put it.”

“Because you killed Dru.”

“No, although that did hurt like hell. Because I knew, and still know, that nothing I’ll ever do for the rest of my life will change me from being what I am – what she was – a blood sucking, inhuman, soulless monster. I saw myself in her, and I don’t want to be that. But I am.” His expression was almost unbelievably pained.

Willow had never seen anyone like this, not even Angel in the depths of his worst depression. Drastic action needed to be taken. Realizing that if she was wrong she was as good as dead, Willow decided to gamble everything on her trust that Spike had changed.

“You think you’re a monster? Fine. Prove it.”

“What’s that?”

Willow undid the top button of her blouse and exposed the tender, ivory curve of her neck to him.

“Go ahead, if you’re so unredeemable. Now that the chip’s dead you could snap me like a Popsicle stick. We’re stuck out in the middle of the woods without a single person to hear me scream for ten miles in any direction.”

“Red, don’t tempt me like that,” he said with a warning note in his voice. He could hear her heartbeat increasing, but aside from that he would never have know she had the slightest fear of him. Her white chocolate neck was maddening him.

“Why not? If you are what you say you are, then you shouldn’t be thinking of me as anything more important than the plastic bag that held your dinner tonight. Crunch me up and throw me in the trash when you’re done. It’s not like you have a conscience, right?”

She was driving him right to the edge and she knew it. Clenching his fists, every muscle in his body tightened, he fought his demon with everything he had, but he was starting to lose the battle. Without warning he grabbed her close and his face rapidly switched. Willow’s eyes widened as he stared at her through his changed eyes, his mouth inches from her throat. She steeled herself for what might well be her final words.

“Come on. Get it over with.”

This one always did have more nerve than the rest of the pack put together, thought some corner of his mind. He had never wanted to drink more than he did now. It had been over a year. Her scent was delicious, innocence tinged with fear, absolutely delectable. He lowered his mouth to her neck.

Willow was expecting the sharp jab of his fangs, but it never came. Instead, she felt his lips giving her an almost indescribably tender kiss just below her ear. Then he pulled away, turning his back to her. She released her breath, not even aware she had been holding it.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that,” came his voice as his features slid smoothly back into place while he faced the fire.

“Umm, Spike, you kissed me instead of biting me. You don’t exactly have to apologize for that.”

“I almost…”

“But you didn’t,” she interrupted as she darted between him and the fire, forcing him to look at her. “When it came down to it, you didn’t do it. Admit it Spike. You aren’t what you used to be. You’ve,” she searched for the right word, “evolved.”

He couldn’t help laughing a bit at her choice of words. Evolved? It made it sound like he was a fish sprouting flippers. He looked at her and shook his head.

“Alright. Maybe I have. But that doesn’t change what I am.” He couldn’t help noticing how she looked with the firelight playing over her hair, the delicate contours of her face emphasized by the flickering shadows. She was beauty personified. He had been slowly falling in love with the girl for what felt like ages, which he considered to be further proof of just how depraved he was. How could someone like him even dare to dream of someone as wonderful as her? That kiss he had just stolen was, in his mind, a horrible insult to her. He was surprised she hadn’t slapped his foul mouth for it. He was completely unprepared for what happened next.

Without a sign of warning, Willow wrapped her arms around him and launched herself in an endearingly awkward way at his lips. Her mouth was startlingly warm to his cold flesh. After a few moments he began to return the kiss passionately, holding her tightly against him, lost to everything, every thought, every reality but the warmth of her. Then, as suddenly as the kiss had begun, Spike stopped it, breaking away from her.

“No.” He realized he was actually shaking. “No, Willow. You don’t know what you’re doing.”

“Yes, I do. What I said before, about not being able to bear it if I lost you? Okay, I didn’t mean to say it, I thought I was just thinking it really loud, and then my lips were moving and words were coming out and I heard myself saying them. I have a really bad habit of doing that. But I meant it,” she said in a rush. Then she took a deep breath. “Spike, I’m in love with you. I have been for a long time.”

Under any other circumstances those words would have made him divinely happy, but all he could feel was pain. The most wonderful woman he had ever met was in love with him? It simply wasn’t possible.

“Red, you’re still hurting from that thing with Oz. It’s understandable that you’d get confused after that whole mess. You’re just…”

“Don’t you dare tell me how I feel or don’t feel!”

“Don’t love me. Just don’t.” Please don’t, he added silently. I could only hurt you.

Slowly, a horrible thought crept across Willow’s mind. I’ve just made a fool out of myself! He can’t stand me! I need to crawl under a rock, right now! For the second time that night embarrassment made itself plain across her face as she turned a vivid shade of crimson. He realized what had happened and couldn’t stand seeing her so obviously ashamed.

“No, pet. It’s not that,” he said as he gingerly touched her face. “I’ve been fantasizing about you doing that for so long. And no fantasy could even hold a candle to the reality. I’ve never in my life tasted anyone as sweet as you, or anyone I wanted more. But I can’t let this happen. Have you really thought about what it would mean? If you think it was hard to live with wolf boy locked in a cage for three nights out of the month, imagine what it would be like to never see each other by daylight.”

“Buffy survived it,” she said quietly.

“Barely, as I recall. And we both know how that turned out.”

“Can’t we at least try?” she asked as tears started to fill her green eyes. “Please?”

“Even if you could learn to put up with the separation, you’re still forgetting something. I may not have bitten you tonight, but the truth is I’m still… what was it you said… unredeemable. No soul to save. I know it’s a cliché, but I’m just not worthy of you.”

“But…” she started.

“Love,” he said, addressing her by the term for the first time with a completely different meaning, “you’re the dearest girl in the world. I don’t even have a heartbeat. I’m not even Angel, out trying to gain redemption by saving the innocent and all that,” he couldn’t resist adding, “the big pouf.”

“Yeah, well, staking Drusilla to save that kid was pretty darn pouffy of you if you ask me. Maybe…”

“Willow, it would take a not-so-minor miracle to make me believe that I had the right to love you. And I don’t see that happening for the likes of me. Look, I promise, no more attempted sun bathing. Why don’t you go to bed? You’ve had a long night.”

“Yeah,” she said dejectedly. There was no way to change his mind. His resolve face was even more resolved than hers, which was saying something. “It has.”

Feeling like she was carrying at least fifty pounds of lead around her heart, she crossed the room to her bedroom door.

“Goodnight, Red.”

“Night, Spike. See you in the morning?”

He gave her a reassuring nod and the slightest of smiles.

Once the bedroom door was firmly closed, Willow crawled under the covers like a small child. What a lovely vacation this had turned out to be! She did her best to muffle the sounds of her inevitable crying. Unfortunately, one of the so-called bonuses of being a vampire is phenomenal hearing. Spike wasn’t fooled for a moment. He hunkered down on the old couch and watched the fire die away. It took every ounce of self-control he had not to go into her room and kiss away her tears. Eventually her stifled sobs faded and he heard her breathing take on the regular rhythm of sleep.

Lying down, he stared up at the ceiling and started to consider his options. Willow had been right about one thing: immolating himself wasn’t going to solve anything. He thought briefly about leaving now, just disappearing into the night, but he knew that it would be taking the easy way out for himself. Desertion had already happened to her, and he didn’t want her to have to experience that again. Girl would start to get a complex if that kept up. He didn’t know what to do, when he suddenly had a wildly improbable thought leap into his mind. It was ridiculous, even insane, but it seemed to be the only option he hadn’t tried, and if nothing happened, well, at least no one would be the wiser.

“Alright,” he whispered quietly. “To say I’m not a church-going man is an understatement, but if You do happen to be up there and haven’t already sent a lightning bolt hurling down to crack my evil skull in two, there’s someone down here in trouble. I ain’t askin’ for me. That’d be stupid, that. I deserve any suffering I get and worse, and I know I’m going to end up roasting like a Thanksgiving turkey eventually for all I’ve done. But,” he took a deep breath, fully expecting to be struck down even deader than he already was, “I am sorry for it all. Can You please help Willow? I didn’t mean to hurt her, but it seems that’s all I’m good for, and I can’t see any way out of this. She’s good, that one. Not like me. Could You just straighten her out a bit? Make her see I’m not worth it? So’s she’s not in pain, like. I’d say I’d never kill again if You do, but I’ve heard You’re none to fond of bargains, and anyway I don’t plan on doing any murdering again. Well, that’s about it.” He rolled over on his side to get some sleep, then suddenly sat bolt upright. “Meant to say amen! Sorry, haven’t done this in over a century.”

Eventually, he too drifted asleep.

Neither one of them heard the dull thud of the heavy blanket as it fell, leaving one window completely bare.

Willow woke up shortly after dawn. She got out of bed and started to get dressed, remembering her bizarre dream of the night before: Spike killing Dru, almost getting burned to a crisp, and, most unbelievable of all, declaring his love for her. Xander had been right; she really did need this vacation. Still, she couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t quite right. When she opened her bedroom door, she actually screamed.

The ear-piercing shriek woke Spike immediately. He abruptly stood up and stared at her.

“What the…” he started but was cut off by Willow tackling him back onto the couch.

“Don’t move! Oh boy, oh, what are we going to do?”

A few ideas randomly flashed across his mind’s eye, but he pushed them out of the way to ask the obvious question.

“Have you gone mad?”

“You promised me you weren’t going to do that again!”

“Do what?!?”

“The sunlight thing!”

“I haven’t done anything! I was lying here fast asleep until you decided to do an imitation of a banshee. What’s going on?”

She realized he really didn’t know. When she had walked out of the bedroom, she had seen a shaft of sunlight falling almost directly on him. The only thing keeping it from touching Spike had been the thin shadow cast by the couch’s back. When he’d stood up, he had been directly in the sunlight for a moment, although apparently not long enough to do any damage. She explained the situation to him quickly, keeping her body on top of his to protect him from any stray sunbeams.

“I’ll just make a run for it into the kitchen, then if you’d be so kind as to put the blanket back in place, there shouldn’t be a problem. It’ll be alright,” he said trying to sound normal, but what he couldn’t help thinking was that he’d gotten his answer. He was toast.

“You’re not fooling me, you know. I can tell how scared you are.”

“No, I’m not,” he lied.

“Forget the con job. I know you are. Your heart is pounding like a jackhammer.” In fact her hand, which was resting on his chest, was practically bouncing with the strong rhythm.

He couldn’t help laughing out loud over her statement. “Love, if you’re feeling a heartbeat, it’s your own. I haven’t had one in the last century.”

“Umm, Spike,” she said in a slightly scared voice, “I’m pretty sure it’s not mine.”

He rolled his eyes and then, to prove her wrong, put his own hand on his chest. What he felt absolutely bewildered him. But it was impossible! That would mean…

His mind was racing wildly, but he decided to try a very simple test. He closed his mouth tightly and, in spite of the fact he knew he would look ridiculous, pinched his nose shut. Nothing happened at first, and then slowly he became aware of a strange sensation, almost as though a metal band were tightening over his chest. Before he knew what he was doing, he opened his mouth and took a deep gasp of air, filling his lungs.

“What are you doing?” asked Willow in a cross between amusement and confusion.

“I’m… breathing,” he said in disbelief.

“That’s not possible.”

“Yeah, well, I am.”

A thought occurred to him, but it seemed preposterous. There was only one way to be sure. Cautiously, he lifted his little finger above his head until the tip was directly in the sunlight and waited for the sudden, burning pain to begin. Nothing happened. He wiggled the digit a bit, again expecting it to start smoking or even turn into a mini-cigarette lighter. Still nothing happened. Willow stared at it in amazement, beginning to realize what might have happened.

“Pet, would you stand up a second, please,” he said in a shaking voice.

Wordlessly, she got to her feet, poised to run for the fallen blanket at the first sign of trouble. Then, very slowly, Spike also stood. The morning sunlight completely covered him. Again, absolutely nothing happened.

“What the…”

He just stood there in the light with his eyes as wide as saucers. Then, quite suddenly, he ran into the bathroom. The next thing Willow heard was a scream that rivaled her earlier one. Afraid that he had at last started experiencing some adverse effects of the sun, she skidded to a halt next to him.

“It’s okay, we’ll put you out!”

He was white as a ghost, but she couldn’t see what the problem was. There weren’t any smoke or flames. Then she realized she was seeing, not one, but two Spikes.

“I’ve got a reflection!”

Willow’s eyes darted from the mirror to Spike and back again. It was true.

“I don’t understand any of this,” she said in a very small voice.

He hadn’t seen himself in so many years he wasn’t completely sure at first if the reflection actually belonged to him. But it mimicked every last movement he made.

“I feel like Peter Pan finding his bloody shadow!”

The realization of what had actually happened very slowly started to seep in for both of them.

“You said it would take a not-so-minor miracle for you to believe you had the right to love me,” she said quietly. “I’d say this qualifies, wouldn’t you?”

“Oh my God. I’m human. Do you have any idea what this means?”

She shook her head nervously. After all, he’d just lost his immortality. This might not exactly be good news to him.

“I’d say it means this!” he roared as he swooped her up in his arms and ran out the front door with her. He swung her around in countless dizzying circles in the morning light, both of them laughing uncontrollably.

At long last, he set her back on her feet, took her hands in his and gazed into her eyes. The color of her hair in the sunlight was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.

“I don’t know how I was lucky enough to have this happen, but I’m grateful. Deeply grateful.” Tears were starting to collect in both their eyes. “Willow, I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

He kissed her tenderly. The two of them walked, hand in hand, through the soft green grass covered in morning dew. Neither one had ever been so happy. Well, thought Willow, this vacation may not have been such a bad idea after all.


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Righting Wrongs

Author: Meltha
Rating: PG for some language
Feedback: Thank you.
Spoilers: Through the season six finale “Grave”
Distribution: The Warren and Fanfiction.net. If you’re interested, please let me know.
Summary: Angel receives a letter from the last person he’d expect.
Dedication: It’s been a rough year for B/A’ers. It’s been a rough year for redemptionistas. Heck, it’s just been a rough year all round. For everyone whose ship of choice sunk faster than the Titanic.
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.

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Angel,

I wonder if you’ve even bothered to read beyond your name before ripping this paper to shreds. A lot of things about me have changed, but my handwriting, the illegible scrawl that it is, remains the same. If you have managed not to turn this into confetti yet, I have something to say to you.

I hate you.

I hate you for stealing Drusilla’s heart. I hate you for using her to cause me pain. I hate you for disappearing into the night without a word to either of us, treating us like something dirty and disgusting that you didn’t want to admit existed. I hate you for having the strength to handle getting your soul back better than I could ever hope to. I hate you for falling in love with Buffy. I hate you for meeting her at a time when she was still unjaded enough and vulnerable enough to love you back completely. I hate you for leaving her. And I hate you because I know you’re the only one who will ever be able to make her happy, the one thing in this miserable life I want to be able to do.

What’s that, you say? Did Spike just say he was in love with Buffy? Yes, you miserable old sod, I did. And I am. I’ve held her when she cried. I’ve fought beside her against supposedly unbeatable enemies. I’ve kissed her. I’ve even shagged her. And every single half-smile she gave me filled me with a joy and a sadness that I’ve never experienced before or since. I would die for her. But that’s not enough anymore.

What I’m about to tell you will probably sign my death warrant, but you need to know what’s what. Late last spring, she broke things off with me. Granted, she’d broken things off with me before more times than I can count. Hell, she’d broken more of my bones than I could count, and still she always came back to me. There was something about me she needed, but she never seemed to realize that I needed her every bit as desperately. Losing her the year before had made a part of me die, and losing her again this way, seeing her and not being able to ever touch her heart… I was a demon, pure and simple. I snapped, and I did something unforgivable. I knew I couldn’t force her to love me with her heart, so I tried to force her to love me with her body. It was cruel, it was brutal, and it was disgusting.

She stopped me, or course. Thank God. If I’d succeeded… well, you wouldn’t have gotten this letter unless dust learned to hold a pen. But something bloody odd happened after that. I felt guilty. You know as well as I do that vampires know when they’ve done something evil. We understand good and bad; we just don’t care about it is all. But that night, for whatever reason, it dawned on me that what I’d done was vile, and I actually felt remorse. It about drove me mad. And I did something drastic.

Congratulate me, peaches. I’ve joined the soul crowd. That’s right, yours truly is once again occupied by the spirit of one William Brently, bloody awful poet extraordinaire. I thought that, maybe, if I got my soul back, she might find it in her heart to trust me the way she did you. It backfired on me.

Now I don’t trust me either.

I’m sickened by myself night and day. I spent my first month drunk as a skunk, the second weeping like a newborn babe, and the third wandering from village to village, raving more crazily than Dru ever did. Then, I went home, because that’s what Sunnydale is to me now: home. I kept to the darkness and watched the goings on. A lot had happened in those few months, far more than I knew how to deal with. But I expect you’ll find that out for yourself.

What I noticed most, though, was Buffy. She’s trying to put her life back together after all that she’s been through, and you know as well as I do that considering what that entails, it’s amazing she can even get out of bed in the mornings. She’s fighting, Angel. She’s tried her damnedest to repair the damage of the last year, and she’s winning, but I could see it from thirty yards off.

She’s not happy. She’s settling. To her mind, this is the best life will ever be, and she’s willing herself to lower her standards and accept her life as a twenty-one year old single mother of a teenager daughter, a burger-flipping college-reject, a woman who walks through each day emotionally as dead as she was physically dead a year ago. Hurts too much for her to hope for more because it’s always getting snatched away from her.

I watched her fight in that cemetery, unobserved behind a tombstone. I saw the color of her eyes and the flash of moonlight on her hair, the way her breath quickened as she pummeled the vamp she was fighting. The air was full of her, a scent like vanilla and cinnamon. You remember that scent, don’t you Angel? You wake up in the middle of the day surrounded by the memory of that perfume that’s uniquely hers and hers alone. I know I do. I’d never felt the depth of love for her that I felt at that moment. It was probably the soul. Unlike you and Angelus, I was in love with her demon and soul, so the feeling became even more overwhelming when I returned. But it was then I had my revelation.

She’s the one I need. But I’m not who she needs. She needs you. She always needed you. Every relationship she ever attempted – that stupid Parker git, that idiot soldier boy who could have passed for you in a darkened room, and yes, me – we were all just proxies for you. We were never anything but attempts to fill up the gaping hole you left in her heart when you walked out on her so that she could have a real life.

You may not know that Joyce and I were quite close. We had many a cuppa after I came back to Sunnydale, and we talked about quite a few things. Not surprisingly, your name came up. She told me she went to talk to you about Buffy deserving children and a normal life and someone to walk in the sun with, and that you’d left soon after. Joyce thought she’d done the best thing for her daughter.

Joyce was a good woman, but, unfortunately, she was also heavily in denial on the issue of her daughter being the Slayer.

Let’s get something straight, hairboy. Buffy and normal do not belong in the same sentence. It does not matter that Joyce wanted her to have an idyllic “Leave It to Beaver” life, nor does it matter that you want her to have the human life you were deprived of. She’s not ever going to get it. You know as well as I do that it’s just shy of unbelievable that Buffy is still walking around. Most Slayers measure their lives after they’re called up in weeks, not years. She’s twenty-one now. I remember reading in one of the Watcher’s books that there have only been six or seven Slayers who ever managed to reach that age. Joyce died much too young, but chances are good that her daughter is going to die far sooner.

Allow me to put it another way. Maybe the reason she found her soul mate so early was because the girl is entitled to spend as much time with him as she can before her number is called up. Quit the bloody rationalization. Buffy’s raising Dawn. She’s got the kids bit already done. Anyone who’s killing vampires every night isn’t going to be able to have a normal life, and any guy she tries to do the typical-relationship-thing with is going to have a rough time dealing with the fact he’s dating a superhero. It’ll never work. As for walking in the sunlight, it’ll give her premature wrinkles and skin cancer.

I said before that I want to make her happy, so I’m going to, even though it means losing her forever. It’s like ripping my heart out with my bare hands to do this, so bloody well pay attention. Go to Kenya. Flowing through the city of Umbazi is a river. Follow it fifteen miles downstream, then turn left at the oasis with the market town. Far in the distance, you’ll see a small range of mountains. Walk straight towards the spot between the two tallest peaks. You’ll find a small collection of tin shacks. At the edge of the village is a cave. The demon there has the ability to anchor your soul to you permanently. Course, you’ll have to pass a few tests that could kill you deader than you already are. Might I suggest bringing a very large can of Raid?

I’m going back to Sunnydale now, though none of them will know that. See, I don’t happen to trust you. If you decide you’d rather spend the rest of your unending years being guilt-ridden and condemn that girl to a life of loneliness and emotional death, then I’m sodding well going to do what I can to help her. On the other hand, if for once in your pathetic life you decide to put someone else’s happiness above your own need for self-flagellation, she’ll never see hide nor hair of me again.

Now, as to how you can tell if I’m being on the level with you, it’s quite simple. Ask that ex-cheerleader with the visions if I’m being honest or contact Dru. I know very well you know exactly where she is. She’ll tell you right enough I’ve got my soul back. Just do what I say, and make it fast. Buffy’s waited too long for you as it is.

I love her, you potato eating idiot. This is killing me. But the only thing that might possibly make this existence tolerable is knowing that I’m responsible for making her happy. It’s not the way I wanted to do it, but I’ll take what I can get.

Get on the ruddy plane already.

William


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Season Six's Big Bad

Author: Meltha
Rating: G
Feedback: Thank you, Melpomenethalia[at]aol.com
Spoilers: Through Normal Again. It completely ignores everything that happened after that.
Distribution: Here. If you’re interested, please let me know.
Summary: The true big bad of season six is finally revealed… and the characters are horrified.
Author’s Note: I love the show. I really, truly do. I just have huge problems dealing with what’s happening this season.
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.

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It was a nice, quiet evening at Giles’s lovely little apartment. The various Scoobies had their respective noses buried in big, comfortable-looking leather bound tomes, and the kettle on the stove had just started to whistle. The peaceful, almost sleepy scene was quickly shattered when the never-locked-as-usual front door slammed against the wall and Spike, a panicked look on his face, rushed into the room, clutching a sheaf of paper.

“You’re not going to bloody believe this,” he gasped out. “We are in some deeply serious trouble.”

Giles looked up in alarm from the kettle and stared at Spike; “You actually look paler than usual… which I didn’t think was humanly… ehm, demonly possible. What on earth is happening?”

The vampire’s blue eyes stared in almost speechless fear for a moment and a half, then he quietly whispered, “They’re rewriting us.”

“WHAT?!?!” shrieked Willow. “How… what… where…?”

“S’what I said, Red,” he moaned as he collapsed on the couch. “Apparently, someone thinks we aren’t dark enough.”

“But, well, it can’t be that bad, c-c-c-can it?” Tara ventured timidly. “I m-mean, that guy will step in if things get too out of hand, right? You know, that one guy?”

“That one guy, as you so charmingly put it, is off doing demon knows what all. We’re helpless, I’m tellin’ ya!” Spike nearly shrieked in hysteria.

Giles quickly grabbed the papers that Spike was still clutching in his shaking hands and began to read, his expression changing from one of guarded concern to outright horror. “Oh dear.”

“Giles, you’re making me get nervous, fluttery feelings in my tummy. What’s it say?” Buffy asked. Seeing her Watcher looking dang near shell-shocked was a new and unpleasant experience.

“Well… I’m leaving.”

Xander blinked dazedly. “What? You can’t go anywhere! You’re the one who actually knows stuff!”

“Apparently I am supposed to think that Buffy being raised from the dead and forced to raised her fifteen year old sister at the ripe old age of twenty due to her mother dying less than a year ago and her absentee father abandoning her whilst she is dealing with being pulled from heaven and risking her life on a nightly basis without pay in order to save the world has been such a pampering experience that she must be shown the harsher side of life,” Giles intoned in a dead voice as he dropped down next to Spike on the couch.

“That’s… that’s…” Xander tried to form a coherent thought.

“A lot better than some of you lot are going to get. Wills, congratulations, you’re a drug addict,” Spike explained with a roll of his eyes.

“A what? But I don’t do drugs!”

“No, but you do magic. And apparently, magic is a drug, as you are going to a dealer in order to get your fix, quickly followed by a driving-while-high incident that results in you wrapping a car around cement yet having Dawn walk away with only minor injuries despite having no seat belts fastened,” Giles read in a tone of utter disbelief. “You also wipe out Tara’s memory temporarily, and she… she leaves you.”

“I-I what?” Tara grabbed the paper. “Willow, you’d never do this to me! I mean, yeah, I’d break up with somebody who decided to erase my brain like a big Etch-a-Sketch, but you’d never do that!”

“Especially not after Glory went prodding around in your mind!” Willow fairly yelled. “That’s just… I can’t do that!”

“You do give up magic, it says, but you go through all the physical symptoms of drug withdrawal, as well,” the Watcher informed her gravely.

“So Tara has to stop doing spells? Cuz, if it’s addictive…” Anya wondered aloud.

“No, she, it seems, is not addicted. And yes, it makes no sense at all. She simply disappears for a while,” Giles sputtered.

“So Giles and Tara get the boot and Willow’s a druggie. What happens to me? Do I wind up in a pit of bunnies after all my money gets taken away?” Anya questioned, holding onto the fireplace mantle for support.

“Um, no, but Xander refuses to tell us you’re engaged until Halloween, then he jilts you at the altar,” Giles said sympathetically.

“You’re going to do what to me?” Anya hollered as she rounded on Xander. “That’s… well, really rude is a start.”

“Gotta agree with ya there,” the groom-not-to-be mumbled gloomily.

“Oh, it’s a soddin’ lot worse than that. Not only do you ditch her, but you leave her to make the announcement to your family while you turn tail and run like a big sissy,” Spike added. “And get this; none of you stick around to help demon girl. And when butt-monkey over there returns home, everybody says mistakes will happen and don’t even mention that he acted like the biggest Neanderthal this side of the caveman days.”

“This is getting way scary,” Dawn squeaked in a freaked-out tone. “I’m kind of afraid to ask… do I get run over by a truck or something?”

“No, Nibblet. But it looks like the whole point of the season is to make the audience think that would be a good thing,” Spike answered. “You pretty much start behaving like a world-class whiner. And I don’t seem to have anything at all to do with you after Buffy comes back, so all the bonding we did and me saving your life? Apparently, I was just bored or obsessed with a dead woman or some equally moronic excuse.”

“Uh… what about me…” Buffy shakily realized that she was probably in for the worst of it. “I think I want to sit down.”

“Pet, you better actually lay down. You’re depressed, apathetic, emotionally stunted, self-pitying,” Spike began to list off on his fingers, “masochistic, flipping burgers for a living, then you and me do a little on the extracurricular front and you beat me to within an inch of my unlife.”

“Wait, I beat the guy I’m dating nearly senseless?”

“We don’t actually date. You just keep coming down to my crypt and… well, I’m blushing and I’m a vampire, so you get the picture, luv. Oh, and for some odd reason you hack off your hair and your color becomes sort of… well… grayish-brownish-blonde. Cuz we can’t possibly have even one little ray of happy color mucking up the sea of mind-numbingly out of character depressing predicaments.”

“Is there… at least, I’m hoping… a decent big bad?” Willow said as she patted Buffy’s shoulder sadly.

“You’re fighting Jonathon, Warren, and some fellow we’ve never seen before,” Giles’s voice said from somewhere behind his hands that were supporting his down turned face.

“And me… know how I was on the road to being a decent enough fellow? Self-sacrificing, a rarity among vampires, good to Dawn, able to tolerate your friends?”

“Yeah?” Buffy said weakly.

“They ignore it. Completely. They want me to go back to being Mr. Two-Dimensional Evil Vampire Guy, cuz of course that provides so much bleeding room for character development. It either means dust or following Giles into the wild blue yonder. May as well start packin’ me duds. I’m leaving you my duster, Sweet Bit.”

Everyone sat in heavy silence for a good ten minutes before Spike added, “Oh, and Slayer, you’re insane and in the loony bin and none of the rest of us exist.”

Another two hours of silence passed as the gang tried to comprehend this pearl of wisdom.

“This is disturbing,” Willow finally managed.

“You know, Giles, I think you’ve got it wrong,” Buffy said with an edge of determination in her voice. “The three dweebs… I’m assuming the third guy is also a dweeb?”

“Correct. Quite, ehm, dweeby.”

“Right. The three dweebs aren’t the real enemies this season.” She turned and faced the audience directly. “It’s the writers.”


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Slayer White

Author: Meltha
Rating: PG for, what else, fairy tale violence
Feedback: Yes, thank you kindly.
Distribution: Um, here. If you want it somewhere, I’d really appreciate it if you would let me know, please.
Spoilers: Not a blessed one.
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose charcters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.
Dedication: This one goes to Ali, the person who has been reading my fic the longest. Stay as sweet as you are!
Author’s Note: A complete and total alternate reality. This is on the edge of Drusilla level insanity. You have been warned.

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Once upon a time, not very long ago, in a kingdom named Sunnydale, there lived a very beautiful but very wicked vampire queen. Every day she would gaze into her magic mirror and repeat the same words in a sultry voice that sounded rather like a female Jack Nicholson.

“Dang, I still can’t see myself?”

No, the other set of words.

“Right. So tell me, baby, I’m still the hottest blonde chick in California, aren’t I?”

Are you sure that’s the right incantation?

“Subtlety is over-rated. Think I proved that when I was trying to seduce you-know-who.”

Far be it from me to question the characters. Anyway, back to our story. Every day the queen would ask the same question, and every day she heard the ex-demon in the mirror say the same words in response.

“I would have to agree that you are attractive, although you are very preoccupied with issues of appearance. There, now that proves I’m a useful member of society, doesn’t it?”

And every time the queen would throw a shoe at the mirror, but since it was magic, it didn’t break.

“So why do I keep throwing shoes?”

Probably because you’re a little psychotic. That, and it’s an excuse to buy more shoes.

“I can live with that answer.”

Returning to our plotline, one day the answer the queen got was different.

“Sorry, queen, but you are no longer the fairest blonde in California. That title goes to your stepdaughter, the Slayer. After all, you are over four hundred years old and the centuries are starting to affect you a little. As this is not my fault, I don’t think you should throw more shoes at me. They’re starting to leave scuff marks.”

Actually, the blonde vampiress had almost completely forgotten about her stepdaughter. She’d only married Hank, the girl’s father, so she could have a big party and wear a gorgeous dress and make everyone give her blenders and toasters and silverware. After the reception, she’d drained him dry. The girl went to work in the rat-infested kitchens of her enormous palace, without pay, which meant the queen was breaking many union rules. She decided to have the girl killed. Right after she tossed a very large leather boot at the mirror.

“Minions, send in the royal huntsman-slash-commando guy.”

Immediately a strapping yet wholesome looking young man entered the room.

“Ten-four, I copy that squadron leader. What’s the assignment?”

“I want you to kill the Slayer. Lead her out into the woods and cut out her heart with this ax. Then bring it back to me.”

“The ax or the heart?”

“Both, honey. Not too bright, are you?”

“Not particularly, ma’m.”

“You’re cute, though. Remind me why I haven’t turned you again.”

“Because I’m from Iowa and you think my blood might taste like potatoes.”

“Oh yeah. Anyway, go and kill her.”

“I’ll rendezvous back here after the objective has been accomplished.”

With that, the strapping yet wholesome man left, taking the ax with him. His heart was heavy because he didn’t want to kill the Slayer. He liked her, even though he knew she didn’t love him. Which was sad, since he was a pretty nice guy.

“Aw, golly, thanks.”

No problem. So, the huntsman-slash-commando guy went down to the kitchen and found the Slayer busily washing the dishes… which was odd since the queen was a vampire and didn’t need plates… in fact, now that I think of it, technically she didn’t need a kitchen. Or all those toasters and blenders and silverware from her wedding. Hmmm. Well, anyway, in spite of the teensy continuity problem, the Slayer was scouring a frying pan when he found her.

“Slayer, why don’t you take a walk with me out in the woods? The pans can wait a little while.”

“Okey-dokey,” she said, happily throwing the steel wool into the fireplace. “What’s with the ax?”

“I’m supposed to cut your heart out with it. Oh, wait, I shouldn’t have told you that, should I?”

“I’m guessing a big not to that.”

“But I’m not gonna do it.”

“That’s nice, not that I was planning on letting you. Why?”

“Because I’m a decent, all-American, mom and apple pie boy.”

“You’re sweet.”

Huntsman-slash-commando guy blushed red. But he still knew she didn’t love him. Poor guy. We feel for ya, buddy.

“Aw, golly, thanks again.”

You’re welcome. He took her into the deepest part of the forest and told her to run far away.

“But I’m the Slayer. I could just go back to the castle and stake her. No big.”

Yeah, but then there’d be no story.

“Oh. Alright.”

With that plot point explained, the Slayer tripped lightly over the forest path, singing tra-la-la and being followed by a parade of cute, big-eyed bunnies that would have terrified the mirror into hysterics.

The huntsman-slash-commando guy used the ax to kill a dear and cut out its heart, thereby losing most of the pity he had gotten for the unrequited love bit.

“But I had to bring back something!”

You just axed Bambi’s mom. Your sympathy level has dwindled to zip. Sorry, but that’s the way it goes. He brought the heart back to the castle and the evil queen was happy for two reasons. One, the Slayer was dead. Two, the heart was a very tasty snack. Then she made the huntsman-slash-commando guy dance around with his shirt off for a few hours.

“But I’m wholesome!”

“Yeah, but I’m not. Now boogie down.”

Meanwhile, the Slayer had traveled very far from the queen’s castle and found herself outside an almost unbelievably adorable cottage that had all its windows blacked out. Being curious, she knocked on the door. When there was no answer, she pulled out a stake and crept quietly inside.

“Isn’t this breaking and entering?”

Technically yes, but you’re the Slayer. It’s okay. And even if it weren’t, it never stops the females in any other fairy tales from just barging in uninvited.

“You’ve got a point.”

As I was saying, the Slayer silently made her way around the house, which was a complete mess. There was nobody there. Since she was very tired, she decided to take a nap in one of the seven beds she found. She collapsed onto the big, feathery mattress and began to snore loudly.

“I did not!”

Yes, you did. Just like a buzz saw. It even frightened away all the cute bunnies. Anyway, hours passed and, after the sun set, the seven owners of the house came back. They were very surprised to find the petite blonde girl sleeping in one of their beds.

“Cor, I didn’t have any problem with it. My bed, after all.”

Wait until you are properly introduced before you start talking to the nice people, okay?

“Right. Carry on then.”

Thank you. The Slayer woke up with a major wiggins because she knew there were vampires in the room. She grabbed her stake and jumped up, staring wildly around.

“Please, calm down. We have no intention of-of harming you,” said one of the people in the room

“Who are you?” she asked in alarm.

“I’m thinkin’ that should be our question to you,” answered someone else.

“Sorry. I’m the Slayer.”

Three of the room’s occupants suddenly became quite nervous since they happened to be vampires.

“Well, there’s a no-slaying policy in this house, so we’d appreciate it if you’d put the stake away.”

She considered this request for a moment, then lowered her stake. “Who are you?”

“I suppose we should introduce ourselves. My name is Smarty,” said the first man who had spoken to her. He had a charming English accent and was dressed entirely in tweed. He nervously cleaned his glasses as he spoke.

“I’m Dorky,” said the man next to him. He certainly looked it, dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and striped pants. He was obviously ogling her.

“You can call me Wolfy,” was the response of the next man. This guy looked fairly normal. He had a guitar slung over his shoulder and an expression that seemed never to change no matter what happened.

“I’m Witchy,” said the petite, reheaded girl standing next to Wolfy. She gave the Slayer a friendly smile and waved happily in a slightly spastic way.

“My name is the Dark Princess of the Night, but the others all call me Loony,” pouted the brunette next to Witchy in an oddly dreamy Cockney accent. Her eyes were half-closed, and her trailing crimson satin dress swept around her as she swayed back and forth in place. Witchy gave her a sympathetic pat on the shoulder.

“Name’s Bloody. Last name Hell,” said a rather dangerous looking blond man who had his arm draped over Loony’s shoulders. He also had an English accent, as well as an incredibly sexy grin on his face. “By the way, that’s my bed you’re in.”

She blushed scarlet.

“Sorry.”

There was still one occupant of the room who hadn’t spoken up yet because he was too busy being guilt-ridden. Come on, it’s time for you to say something.

“But I’m lurking.”

De-lurk and open your yap. Now, before I write you out of this story.

“Okay, okay. I’m Broody,” said the very shy man who had come forward from the shadows. He was extremely handsome, with dark brown eyes and hair that seemed to be chiseled into place. Oddly, even though he was Irish, he didn’t speak in a brogue. Guess the Powers that Be thought that it would be one accent above the legal limit. The Slayer couldn’t help thinking he was cute. Since she was already bright red, she started to blush an interesting grape-juice like shade.

“Oh, come on! Purple? How am I supposed to blush purple? Has anyone ever seen anybody who has blushed purple?”

Happens in fan fictions over and over again. Must be a Slayer thing. Now turn lilac and get on with the scene.

“May I ask what you’re doing here,” Smarty inquired delicately.

“Oh, I know,” Loony crowed excitedly. “The stars say she’s running away from Grandmummy! Also, they say that the White Sox will win in the ninth.”

Everybody stared at her.

“Um, actually she’s my stepmummy, er, mother,” the Slayer answered in confusion.

“Well, she got half of it right! I’m going to call my bookie and place a bet. Dang, Loonsville, that’s the most coherent thing you’ve ever said! Thanks for the tip!” Dorky said as he slapped her on the back, making the tiny brunette teeter violently, and darted out the door to use the phone.

“That was coherent?” the Slayer said disbelievingly.

“For her, yes,” Witchy replied with an apologetic grin. “So, who’s your stepmother?”

“The queen.”

“Princess, you were right on that one too! If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a bet to place with Dorky’s bookie,” said Bloody as he dashed out the door.

“So, why’d you skip town?” asked Wolfy as he calmly sat down on the bed and started to play a few chords.

“She wanted to cut out my heart with an ax.”

“An ax? That’s harsh,” the guitarist replied in a nonplussed voice.

“Vampires are an evil lot. They don’t have any ability to feel guilt at all. Except for me,” said Broody as he re-emerged from the shadows with a pained look on his face. At least they thought it was a pained look. It was actually the way he always looked, so it could be that he just had chronic heartburn. “I think we should let her stay. Maybe it’ll reverse some of my karma.”

“If you care to stay, we will be perfectly happy to-to afford you the opportunity,” said the pleasantly attractive, tweed-covered man kindly.

“That’s sweet of you. Thanks. Maybe I can clean up around here for you.”

So began a lovely set of living arrangements. The Slayer, using her enhanced strength, was able to successfully battle the legions of dust bunnies that had taken up residence under the furniture in the last several centuries.

“Take that, you undead fiends!” she squealed as she staked dust bunnies left and right. Don’t tell her you don’t need to stake them. It’ll ruin all her fun. Besides, the mirror would still be frightened of them.

Every day, the seven other occupants went off to work in a diamond mine before sun up. The vampires liked this quite a lot, since there was absolutely no chance of them getting offed by a stray beam of sunlight several hundred feet below ground. Still, the group had their problems. For example, Loony would occasionally become confused and think the others’ eyes were diamonds glittering in the dark and attempt to take her pickaxe to them. Dorky seemed to be smuggling armloads of gems out of the mine and shipping all of them off to somebody everyone referred to as “the brain-dead cheerleader.” Witchy would sometimes attempt to speed up the mining process using magic, which unfortunately usually resulted in massive cave-ins requiring Broody and Bloody, who couldn’t stand each other, to work together to remove the tons of fallen debris. Smarty would simply stand and sigh in a very dramatic, yet somehow soulfully soothing, way.

Even after the Slayer found out that Wolfy earned his name every full moon by becoming a big old bloodthirsty carnivore, she was pretty well content with her new life. And of course, as you kind people know, that is just when trouble pops back up. Cue the evil vampiress queen.

“Right where you left me, watchin’ wholesome boy shake his money maker.”

“Your royal highness, I’m really tired. Could I stop for a while? Please?

“Let me think…. No!”

With that huntsman-slash-commando guy passed out cold on the floor.

“Now what am I supposed to do to pass the time?”

How about your good old mirror?

“Hey, not a bad idea. Mirror, now that the Slayer’s past tense, why don’t you tell me how gorgeous I am?”

The ex-demon in the mirror, who was still quite annoyed from having that boot thrown at her, answered the queen bluntly.

“She isn’t dead. You’re still not the fairest. Get over it already.”

After the queen succeeded in dragging a baby grand piano up to her chambers and launching it at the mirror at full tilt, she decided on a very weird, warped, twisted plan. She wrapped herself up in a dark cloak to protect herself from the sunlight and cast a spell to make her look like a helpless little old lady. With that, she launched herself out the front door of the castle, bent on revenge.

“Can I get up now?”

Yes, huntsman-slash-commando boy. Go get a glass of water and fly off to Brazil or something. We won’t be needing you again.

“Golly, thanks!”

Meanwhile, the wicked queen had arrived outside the adorable cottage. She gently knocked on the door and waited for the perky blonde to answer.

“Hi. Who’re you?”

“I am a poor little old woman who has become lost in the forest. Will you let me inside?”

With that, the Slayer willingly invited the old lady into the cottage, sealing her doom.

“Hey! I’m not that stupid! I don’t just go around inviting in strangers! I mean, hello, grew up in Sunnydale, the land of no welcome mats! Besides, shouldn’t she have made me have a wiggins since she’s a vampire?”

Um, you were having an off day?

“Not buying it!”

Uh, she hypnotized you into inviting her in, and she cast a spell that prevented you from gettin’ wiggy with it?

“Well, I’ll let that one pass, even though that’s more like Loony’s MO. But I still say it’s a weak point in your plotline.”

I’m not Shakespeare; so sue me. Anyway, as the Slayer turned to get the poor old lady a glass of water, the wicked queen sank her fangs into the girl’s neck and drained her almost dry before the front door opened.

“Hey! Get your fangs off of her, you foul old hag!” yelled Bloody, bashing her over the head with a footstool. This startled her into breaking the aging spell and appearing in her true form.

“Well, well, if it ain’t the blonde bimbo who sired Broody! Tryin’ to kill the Slayer, are ya? Hands off! I’ve taken a fancy to her!”

Loony looked at him in surprise and made a bizarre quivering noise in her throat; however, nobody paid any attention to her since she did that all the time for no reason at all. She quietly left the room, dragging Dorky with her.

The queen let the girl drop to the ground and proceeded to get into a major donnybrook with her great-grandchilde. After reducing most of the furniture to tinder, he finally managed to stake her with a rolling pin the Slayer had been using to make elderberry pies.

“A rolling pin? Couldn’t you have picked something more manly?”

It’s wooden, it’s pointy, and it would logically be in an adorable cottage. Don’t get snappy with me or I’ll make your roots show.

“Rolling pin. Got ya.”

Running to where the Slayer lay in a crumpled heap on the floor, Bloody rapidly figured out that she was done for unless somebody sired her. He quickly bit his wrist and was about to make her drink when Broody grabbed him by the collar of his leather duster and flung him into the spinning wheel.

“We have a spinning wheel?”

Yes, Broody. It came with the adorable cottage. They all have them, just like everybody in suburbia has those cement geese. Now kindly rescue the love of your unlife.

“Huh?”

Sire her, you nitwit!

“Oh! Right!”

With that, Broody bit into his massive bicep and coaxed the Slayer into drinking deeply.

“Did you just say I have massive biceps?”

I was feeling a little bad about the nitwit comment. Anyway, the Slayer slowly opened her hazel eyes, even though it normally takes several hours to become a vampire, and looked around.

“Broody! You saved me!”

“Hey, that was me!” Bloody yelled in fury. “I did all the hard work, and he still gets the girl?”

As Broody kissed the Slayer deeply, paying absolutely no attention to his grandchilde, just about everybody in the room let out a loud “Awww!”

“Wait!” Witchy suddenly shrieked. “What about the soul thing? For both of them!”

Broody and the Slayer abruptly broke apart, Bloody got an evil grin on his face, and Wolfy looked unpreturbed, as usual. But Smarty smiled broadly.

“Since the Slayer is now a vampire,” he explained, “Broody no longer has to worry about losing his soul. That can only happen with a human. And, happily, since she has been sired by a vampire with a soul, the Slayer has not lost hers.”

And there was much rejoicing. Broody swept the Slayer up into his arms, carried her out the front door, and the two of them rode away on a gallant white horse into the night and lived happily ever after.

That left our six other friends without a housekeeper or a brooder, but don’t think things ended unhappily for them, either. Loony suddenly reappeared with Dorky, who had a huge grin plastered across his face.

“We’re to be married!” Loony cried rapturously to the remaining housemates.

“Huh?” said Bloody in shock.

“It’s like this, blondie,” Dorky said in a patronizing tone. “Loony and I have been crazy about each other for months, but she didn’t want to break your heart. However, since you just threw her over in front of everybody, she decided that wasn’t exactly her top priority anymore. Don’t worry, you’re invited.”

With that, Loony and Dorky fell into a passionate embrace.

“Lampshades and kitty cats are running through my noggin,” cooed Loony.

“Umm, I love you too, Loony?” Dorky replied uncertainly.

Then they rode off into the night after Broody and the Slayer, riding Dorky’s 10-speed with Loony sitting in the flowered wicker basket.

“What about the poor brain-dead cheerleader?” asked Witchy in concern. “She’ll be disappointed when Dorky stops sending her diamonds.”

“Don’t think so,” replied Wolfy. “Had a thing for her for a while. Seeing as the full moon is about to rise, I think I’ll mosey over to see her. No offense, Witchy.”

“None taken,” she replied sadly, looking lost and alone. Once the front door slammed shut, she added “She’s a major bitca anyway. He’ll be completely miserable with her. Serves him right, the dog!”

“Witchy! I’ve never seen you so vengeful before,” said Bloody in awe as he ambled towards her. “You’re cute when you’re nasty. Say, do you think…”

“Heck yeah!” she said roughly as she grabbed him by his black t-shirt and kissed him dang near senseless.

“Now that’s what I call an improvement! Instead of a lunatic I get a pretty little witch to play with. Thank you, narrator!”

My pleasure. Witchy pulled Bloody out the front door and the two of them rode off into the night in his black De Soto, going completely the opposite way of the other two couples since it would be impossible for Broody and Bloody to both live happily ever after within a fifty mile radius of each other.

“That leaves just little old me,” sighed Smarty as he took off his glasses and slowly massaged the bridge of his nose. “Alone again, as usual. The writers never give me anyone to live happily ever after with.” He heaved a heavy sigh.

Tap, tap.

“I suppose I shall live the rest of my life alone with my books.”

Tap, tap, tap.

“Nobody seems to want to be with a silly old librarian.”

TAP, TAP, TAP, TAP!

“Who keeps tapping me on the shoulder? There’s no one left here.”

Ahem.

“I don’t understand.”

You seem to be forgetting about your lovable old narrator.

“Wait a moment… Are you suggesting…?”

With that, the narrator slammed her lips against Smarty’s incredibly attractive, sweet little English mouth to get him to shut up.

“Good heavens!” he said when I finally let him up for air.

Trust me, we lived very, very happily ever after.


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Sympathy for Spike

Author: Meltha
Rating: PG, cuz there’s just the tiniest possible suggestion of slash…
Feedback: I’d like that very much, thank you.
Spoilers: Hmm. If you’ve seen season four, you’re good to go.
Distribution: Here. If you’re interested, please let me know.
Summary: Spike searches for his one true love… over and over and over and over…
Author’s Note: I’ve actually seen Spike believably paired with everyone mentioned in this fic (with one exception), but I just wanted to sort of parody us, the fic writers, who have in fact stuck him with every possible person.
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose charcters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.
Dedications: To all the wonderful writers out there. This is not meant as an insult to anyone’s ship of choice.

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Spike the perfectly gorgeous vampire was walking down the main street of Sunnydale one fine summer evening. He grinned seductively, making all the females in the universe weak at the knees.

Spike was in love. Of course, Spike was always in love. Spike equals lover. With great bliss, he thought of his dark princess Drusilla.

“Ah, Dru, my evil unsouledmate,” he murmured to himself though absolutely no one was around to hear. “How I adore her!”

Without warning, he turned a corner and there was Drusilla, sitting on a park bench, waiting for him.

“Spike,” she said in that tone of voice that every male dreads, “I have something to tell you.”

“What is it, my little fallen angel?”

“I don’t love you. I’m leaving you. Goodbye.”

All the other females in the universe gasped in disbelief at the insanity of the vampiress for letting the perfect man slip through her fingers.

“But my ripe wicked plum, my queen of the night, my naughty duck!” he cried in dismay. “Why are you leaving me so forsaken?”

“I don’t like the way your aura turns different colors in the moonlight,” she whispered esoterically, then vanished.

Spike was heartbroken. He sat on the park bench and wept, making all the females in the universe curse his former love. Just as he was about to stake himself in grief, who should walk past but Buffy. His eyes suddenly lit up with tenderness.

“Buffy!” he called out. “I’ve realized I am head over Doc Martens in love with you. You are perfection, Slayer, from your dyed blonde head down to your stilletoed feet. I shall spontaneously combust if you will not return my affections!”

“Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!” uttered the Slayer. In fact, she uttered it for a lot longer than that. The e’s and the w’s could go on for pages and pages. While she was ewwing, the sun rose and set five times, and Spike was forced to seek protection from its deadly rays under a stray piece of newspaper.

“So, you don’t like me, then?” he asked tentatively.

Buffy threw up on his shoes, and then ran away.

“I’ll take that as a no.”

Spike settled back down on the park bench and a single tear drifted down his perfect cheekbone, causing all the females in the universe to sob hysterically. Just as he had decided to watch the sunrise, who should walk past but Willow. Once more, his blue eyes filled with boundless passion.

“Willow!” he said as he fell down at the hacker’s feet. “I am deeply, irrevokably in love with you! Your intelligence, your beauty, your wit, your kindness, your chocolate chip cookie recipe… they have won my devotion forevermore! Make me the happiest vampire in the world and say you will be mine!”

Willow’s green eyes lit up briefly, but then she her expression changed to one of deep regret.

“Sorry, Spike, but, well, you know, I’m kind of gay now, so it really wouldn’t work out between the two of us. If you ever undergo a sudden sex change, call me, though,” she said in a consoling tone, patting him sympathetically on his leather-clad shoulder before walking away.

Once more, a grief stricken Spike plopped back onto the bench and raised his glorious cobalt orbs to the heavens, mourning the death of another deathless love. All the women in the universe stared slack-jawed at the retreating back of the witch. One women named Ellen called out, “Hey, there’s a point where even I’d switch!” Spike had decided to decapitiate himself with a nail file when who should walk by but Jenny Calendar. As though the breath of life had just filled his long-dead lungs, his eyes sparkled with passionate feeling.

“Jenny!” he begged as he caught the edge of her long peasant skirt and kissed it fervantly. “Although I know I am too evil to even be considered by the likes of such a goddess as thee, know that my heart, did it beat, would chorus the name Jenny with each pulse, ringing that seraphic sound to the stars above! Dear, sweet Jenny, say that you might one day feel even a small mite of this emotion that sweeps over me like a hurricane!”

The computer teacher stared in disbelief at the hem-smooching vampire. “Do I even know you?”

“I’m Spike. We’ve met,” he said in a hurt tone.

“Well, you’re cute and everything, but sorry, nope. I’m dead,” she explained as she resolved into mist.

“So am I! Don’t you see! We have so much in common,” he yelled into the dissipating vapor.

Once more Spike collapsed onto the park bench, his face hidden under his black-polished fingernails as endearing little muffled sniffs escaped from his pouty lips. The women of the universe declared Jenny a fool for not getting herself reborn simply to date the blond vampire. Spike had come to the conclusion to end it all by guzzling a gallon of holy water, when who should walk by but Cordelia. His heart beat with renewed fervor, well, metaphorically at least, and he leapt to his feet and caught her round the shoulders.

“Cordelia!” he whispered into her ear. “I am so enamoured of you that the world could fall away and I would not notice if I could but gaze into your lovely chocolate eyes! I shall perish if I cannot have you!”

“Well, duh, you’re already dead,” she snarked. “And get your mitts off of me. There is no way I’m dating a guy who’s stuck in a 1982 Billy Joel phase.”

“That’s Billy Idol,” he shot defensively.

“Whatever. No way, lame brain.” With that, she teetered off into the night on her 5-inch heels.

Yet again Spike retreated to the comfort of his park bench. This time, he threw himself headlong across the seat, burying his face in the pine boards so that all that was visible of him was his blond hair and his long leather duster. The women of the universe declared Cordelia a stuck-up snob who should be forced to wear narrow horizontal stripes for a year. Spike had come to the conclusion the only way to end his pain was to impale himself on a shish kabob when who should walk by but Angel.

“What the hey?” he muttered to himself. “All the females have dumped me. Might as well try the other side. Angel! Hey, broody boy, you fancy a bit of snogging?”

The uppercut Angel dealt to Spike’s chin sent him sprawling thirty feet away.

“Is that a no?” he called to the other vampire’s retreating form.

Spike had given up hope of ever finding his true love. With a soul shuddering sigh, he returned to the park bench, his head hanging in defeat. And that’s exactly what he saw: de feet of someone standing right in front of him.

Slowly he raised his indescribably handsome face upwards to find himself looking into the face of …

“Tara? What you doin’ here? Shouldn’t you be off with Willow, floating blissfully at the Bronze?”

“Spike, I am completely in love with you,” the blonde shyly admitted. “I have been, for weeks and weeks. Your name is written upon the face of my soul, and no amount of tears have been able to expunge it. Could you possibly even consider…”

Spike regarded her critically for a moment, then said, “You know, you’re not a bad looking bird. Yeah, all right, I’ll give you a whirl.”

And all the women in the universe hated Tara forever, because she was the one lucky enough to get Spike….

At least until the next episode, where she was suddenly put out of comission when a grand piano dropped on her head, forcing Spike to once again begin searching for his true love.

Sigh.


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Tea and Company

Author: Meltha
Rating: Oh, we’ll say PG to be safe, but it’s probably just G
Feedback: Thank you kindly.
Spoilers: Brief mention of Angel’s little curse problem.
Distribution: Here. If you’re interested, please let me know.
Summary: Two highly unlikely friends meet for an evening and trade a few tales.
Author’s Note: Takes place sometime during season five. Just assume you-know-who (no, not Voldemort) arrived a little early in Sunnydale.
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.

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“More tea?” asked the prim voice in a delicate English accent.

“No, thank you. I’m near full up,” came the low and rather grunty response.

The little lady sighed quietly, not wishing to be impolite. After all, her guest had already eaten his way through at least a dozen of her strawberry tarts and was busy finishing off a particularly succulent lemon pound cake. When he had finally slurped down the rest of the tea dainties, he gave a stifled belch and smiled at her. There was chocolate smeared across his prominent nose.

“Now that’s what I call a good meal. So, why did you invite me over? I don’t think I’ve ever been so surprised in my life… except possibly that time when Buffy threw me across the room.” He gave a little snort of laughter.

“Yes, well, I’m glad you came. I just thought that we might have a little chat considering we have quite a bit in common. How do you find life with the Slayer?”

“Oh, I don’t have it so bad. She’s a good sort. Picks me up and gives me a look outside from time to time, lets me sleep on her pillow…. She still talks to me quite a bit, especially since Riley left her,” he said with a look of pride. He was important to her and he knew it. “How about you? Yours is rather, um, different, isn’t she?”

The petite woman sighed once again and got a faraway look in her eyes. Yes, one could hardly call Drusilla normal. “Oh, she tries. I’m actually one of the few things she does care about. Still, if she brews one more teapot of AB negative, sometimes I feel like I’ll go mad myself.”

She looked at the pig sitting across from her and gave him a half-smile. She was glad she’d decided to invite Mr. Gordo over for a cuppa. After all, how many other toys understood what it was like to be the confidante of someone who was up to their eyeballs in the supernatural?

“So tell me, Miss Edith, what’s the tightest spot you’ve ever been in with Drusilla?” asked the pig.

“Well, I’d have to say that would be when she left me behind when she went to Brazil.”

“She forgot to bring you? That’s not very nice,” the pig said huffily.

“It wasn’t really her fault. She was unconscious at the time, you see. When she realized I was still in Sunnydale, she sent a few minions to collect me. Sort of like a guard of honor. Still, I was dreadfully worried,” she said, her voice becoming distant.

“That you’d be stuck here forever?”

“No, about Drusilla. She may be a very naughty girl, but at times I think I’m the only thing in her life that really gives her comfort. She still cries herself to sleep some days. That Angelus was quite horrid to her before she was turned. She’s told me all about it hundreds of times.”

“Now that’s too bad. Angel and I have been introduced. He picked me up once when he was visiting. Gave me a nice smile and a pat. Seems like a decent enough guy when he’s got a soul. Still, he made my Buffy awfully sad a lot of times. She used to hug me and cry something fierce after he turned into Angelus. Saw him then, too. Sat at the end of the bed and drew her while she was sleeping. Wanted to bite him, and I might have, too, if he’d tried anything. Poor girl.”

“It is difficult, isn’t it, always trying to make them feel better and knowing we can’t do much but provide a sympathetic ear?” The doll looked a bit more wistful than usual as she smoothed her silken ruffles.

“We do what we can. There’s been more than one time I’ve wanted to give Buffy a little snuggle back or at least nod at her to show I’m listening when she’s pouring her heart out, but I suppose that would give her a wiggins. She’d think I was possessed or something.”

The doll’s china face looked at him questioningly. “What is a wiggins?”

The pig snorted in laughter. “Sorry. That’s her word for when she’s feeling something’s wrong in the ghosts-and-goblins-and-vampires way.”

“Then I’m afraid Drusilla has probably given me a permanent wiggins. It’s not easy being a vampire’s companion. I’ve seen some things that would make my hair curl even if it wasn’t already. Sometimes I think she knows I’m listening to her. She knows more than anybody thinks she does. Of course, if she ever said anything about it, they’d just think she was insane. Which she is. Still, there are times I’ve wanted to give her a little reassuring pat on the back or a kind word, and it simply isn’t possible.”

“It is difficult,” the hog said gently. “We don’t exactly have an easy calling in life either.”

“No, I suppose we don’t,” Miss Edith said with a smile. “Still, they both need someone to love them, whether they know it or not.”

“Have you ever, you know,” the pig said in a secretive whisper, “used today to meddle with things?”

“Honestly? I know we’re not supposed to, but I did once, yes. My Drusilla had lost her favorite hair ribbon. It was a lovely deep green velvet one with little pink satin rosebuds embroidered on it. I’d seen it fall underneath the bed, and I knew she’d never think to look for it there. It happened to be the feast, and after she left for the night, I rooted around in the dust bunnies until I found it, then put it back on her dresser. I didn’t think she’d notice, but I happened to get just a teensy bit dirty. It really puzzled her, but then she decided that Spike must have used me to knock the ribbon out from under the bed. Thank goodness he never set her straight!” Of course, she blushingly recalled, Drusilla’s rather vigorous expression of gratitude towards the other vampire probably didn’t encourage him to admit he’d had nothing to do with it. “How about you, Mr. Gordo? Have you ever interfered on the day of the feast?”

“Yup,” he said with a dopey grin. “It was just after my Buffy’s seventeenth birthday, right after Angel went bad. Her mother knew something was upsetting her, and I saw her searching the room for Buffy’s diary so she could read what she’d been up to. I knew there was a lot of very top-secret, Slayer’s-eyes-only type information in there. Back then, she didn’t even know her daughter was one. Anyway, just as she was about to look under the mattress where Buffy hid it, the doorbell rang and she left to answer it. I took the opportunity to grab the book and hide it in a place she’d already looked. When she came back, she looked around a little more and gave up. Then I put it back under the mattress.”

“I don’t think anyone can blame you for that.” The pretty little doll looked up at the clock and made a pouty face that was almost worthy of her mistress. “Oh dear, it’s already 11:00! I suppose you must be going. It will take you a while to go all the way back across town, won’t it?”

“’Fraid so, Miss Edith. Thanks again for the grub. I’m glad we finally got a chance to meet.”

“Me, too. Perhaps, if we’re both still in town next year, we can do this again?”

“Sounds good to me. Next time, you can come over to Buffy’s and I’ll make some double fudge brownies. Deal?”

“Deal,” the doll laughed.

With that, the pink plush piggy wiggled out the door of the abandoned factory and made his way quickly back to Buffy’s bedroom.

“Well, now, this is odd,” Giles said in a bemused voice. “I’ve never heard of this before.”

“Is that ‘We’re All Gonna Die’ odd or just ‘Some Demons Bleed Plaid’ odd?” asked Xander from the other side of Giles’s living room.

“Today… yesterday, actually, as it’s 1:00 a.m. now, was a rather unusual holiday.”

“Was it a holiday where I needed to stick pointy stakes into something?” Buffy asked warily. “’Cause you shouldn’t refer to that as a holiday.”

“No, actually. It was the Feast of Ludus Motis. According to the legend, this is the one day in the year when playthings can move about of their own free will. Quite extraordinary.”

“Let me get this straight. You’re saying that all the toys in the world can just go out and party tonight?” Buffy asked.

“It’s only a legend, but certainly a more pleasant one than most we run across. Besides, according to this, they can do no harm and are only animated until midnight. Pretty little tale. Too bad it appears to be based in nothing but fantasy.”

Later that night, Buffy trudged up to her room and flopped down on her bed. It had been a long research session, and she was completely exhausted. Still, the silly story that Giles had come up with brought a smile to her face.

“Well,” she said, picking up Mr. Gordo from the floor. “It looks like this little piggy stayed home.” She gave him a squeeze and tucked him into bed next to her, settling in for the night.

Suddenly, she sat bolt upright.

“I left you on the bed! How did you get down on the floor?”

The pig just continued to smile at her. After eating all of Miss Edith’s tarts, he hadn’t been able to jump quite that high.

“I’m home, Miss Edith. Did you miss your mummy?” Drusilla sang out in her usual childish tones.

The doll sat just where Drusilla had left her, nestled among countless lacy pillows on her bed. She picked her up and gave her a little kiss on the cheek. Then, her eyes widened.

“Miss Edith, why do you smell like strawberry tarts?” she asked in amazement.

The doll just returned her gaze silently, a twinkle in her eyes.


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The Tale of the Toasted Telephoner

Author: Meltha
Rating: I’ll say PG since Giles overindulges a bit.
Feedback: That would be nice, that would.
Spoilers: I’ll say season five, just to be on the safe side.
Distribution: Here. If for some reason you would like it, please ask me.
Summary: Giles gets fed up, downs a few too many potent potables, and winds up being far too honest.
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.
Dedication: To all of us who miss Giles terribly.

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It was on a humid Wednesday eve
When Sunnydale was fast asleep
That Rupert Giles, ex-librarian,
Lit in to some brandy cheap.

He was fed up with Xander Harris
And his blundering, bumbling wit.
He was fed up with the Council
Always calling him a twit.

“Just a half a glass of brandy”
He had muttered to himself,
But one glass turned into many
Before the bottle was back up on the shelf.

Old Ripper, he was loaded,
Fairly floating at the gills,
When he had a sudden urge
To run up several huge phone bills.

At one a.m. he called up Xander
Sleeping in his basement drab.
“What the heck,” he thought bemusedly
“He always talks my ear off with his gab.”

“Xander,” he slurred quite drunkenly,
But with a fetching British tone,
“Just thought I’d let you know, my boy,
That you’re dumber than a stone.”

“Huh?” was Xander’s dazed response
“Is this Giles? Wait a minute, are you drunk?”
“Most definitely,” he responded
As he put the phone down with a thunk.

His next call went out to Buffy
Who was sleeping without care
When suddenly the phone rang
Which she answered with a glare.

“Buffy,” he mumbled sloppily
As his brain continued to reel,
“One of these nights out on patrol
You’re going to get staked with your own high heel.”

“Giles? What do you think you’re doing?
It’s way past midnight. Go to sleep.
I’m going to knock your block off
If you say another peep!”

The phone went dead, but Giles dialed on.
He had many calls to make.
The next phone to ring was in a crypt.
Its owner was already wide awake.

“Shpike,” Giles maudlinly sputtered out,
“I kinda missed you when you left.
But return my radio and my TV
Or I’ll have you charged with theft.”

“What the bloody…” Spike began
But was cut off when Giles hung up.
“Wait, did that blighter say he MISSED me?
Cor, now I’ve got to go throw up!”

Ring! Ring! Went yet another phone,
But this one was not found in Sunnydale.
Instead “Angel Investigations. What’s your deal?” greeted him
Before he blew up like a gale.

“Cordelia, dear, you’re very pretty,
But your brain is far too thin.
If intelligence were motorcars,
You’d only have a Schwinn.”

“Umm, hang on a second,” she replied.
It’s better to get even than get mad.
“Hey Angel,” Cordy innocently shouted out.
“Pick up the phone. And about the brooding? It’s just sad.”

“Yeah,” the vamp spoke in the phone
“Why Angel, what a shimply shplendid treat!”
“Giles, is that you? What’s wrong? Is Buffy hurt?”
He was shaking from his gelled head down to his feet.

“No, you moron. Now listen good
Because I’m only going to say this once.
Why in blue blazes did you leave that girl?
In addition to psychotic, are you a dunce?”

Angel’s eyes were crossed with shock
As the phone line it went dead.
But Giles, he kept a-dialing.
This time he woke Willow from her bed.

“Willow, pay attention. This is Giles.”
The redhead bolted upright, fearing an apocalypse.
“Calm down. There is no problem. I just called to say
I’ve always thought you have nice lips.”

“Eeep,” the hacker weakly squeaked
But Giles had already moved on.
This time he called long distance
To the Watcher’s Council in London.

“I’ve no idea what time it is there,”
He intoned politely o’er the line,
“But I’ve a thing or two to say
Before the California sun does shine.

You people are pathetic,
Stuffier than the Queen herself.
I’m surprised you aren’t covered in dust.
You wouldn’t know a vampire from an elf.

I’m actually glad you sacked me
‘Cause I didn’t want to remain
Connected to a group of ruddy fools.”
“Mr. Giles, will you please contain…”

Yourself was what he meant to say
Put the phone line it went click,
As good old Giles passed out on the floor.
In the morning, whoa, was he ever sick.

He woke up when his doorbell
Gave out a clamorous ding-dong.
He opened up the door and gazed about,
(His breath would have stunned King Kong).

Standing there were some of his phone pals:
Buffy, Xander, Willow and a lump
Covered head to toe in blankets
Which bellowed loudly “Let me in, you chump!”

As they entered he remembered
All the dealings of last night
And his green face turned to fuscia.
He wished he could get out of their sight.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, I’m so sorry.
I don’t know what got into me.”
“I’d say quite a bit of cheap liquor,”
Spike sneered in vampish glee.

“Can the three of you forgive me?
Oh, I’m going to have to call Angel too!
And Cordelia, and the Council, and…
Good grief I’m in a stew!”

"I take it I’m the one you’re leaving out,”
The fair-haired vampire shot at him.
“And last night you said you missed me!
Why I should tear you limb from limb!”

“It’s okay,” the Slayer cooed softly
To her Watcher in comforting tones deep.
“We all forgive you, it’s forgotten.
Why don’t you go get some sleep?”

“Thank you Buffy, I think I will.
I’ll just go upstairs and turn in.”
He left quickly without turning ‘round,
And missed the Slayer’s evil grin.

“All right guys, let’s get started,”
She crowed in devilish spite.
They reshelved his books all out of order.
It took him four weeks to set it back aright.

The moral of this hokey story is
Don’t mess with cheap brandy or you’ll pay,
Both in terms of friendship and occupation,
And in the sky-high phone bill on its way.


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Tootsies

Author: Meltha
Rating: PG
Feedback: That would be kind, thank you. Melpomenethalia[at]aol.com
Spoilers: Not a thing.
Distribution: Here. If you’re interested, please let me know.
Summary: Spike loses a bet to Willow sometime in an alternate season 4. Now he has to pay up. Utterly fluffy fluff. Quite pointless.
Author’s Note: I actually had this particular thing happen to me for the first time recently and enjoyed it tremendously. I remember the thought of “how could it get any better than this?” going through my brain… it was immediately followed by a mental image of a certain peroxide blond.
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.
Awards: View

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“Um, Spike, really, I’d rather not do any breaking and entering tonight. I mean, the whole bet thing, it’s okay, you don’t have to pay up,” Willow half-squeaked as they approached the back door of the darkened building.

“Pet, when I lose, which, I grant you, is a rare occurrence, I lose gracefully. And we’re not breaking in. I know the woman. She owes me. We’re expected,” the vampire explained none-too-patiently. For pity’s sake, you’d think I was taking her to be tortured, he thought in annoyance.

This is going to be torture, the redhead thought morosely.

It had all started out innocently enough. Spike had been free from Giles’s appartment for over a month now, but he still dropped by on occasion to see if they needed any help, basically because he was always up for a scrap. Somehow or other, along the way, the vampire had begun to be tentatively accepted in the group. After the witch’s boyfriend had run off and left her, Spike couldn’t help feeling a bit of sympathy for her. She was always decent to him. As time had passed, he’d been pleased to see her slowly starting to smile and laugh again, quite often over something he’d said. Quite honestly, she was fun to play with.

On patrol the previous week, the whole gang had been struck with a fit of the giggles over the ludicrous-looking fiend they had to face. Called a Fooshel demon, it resembled nothing so much as a two-foot tall dustbunny. Unfortunately, the dustbunny also happened to have six-inch, razor sharp teeth and a voracious appetite for human kneecaps.

As Buffy cornered the oddly fluffy adversary in a vacant alleyway, Willow had whispered conspiritorially to Spike, “Bet you she makes a pun about having to kill a Muppet.”

“No way, pet. She’s going to go for Sunnydale-needs-a-cleaning-service-instead-of-a-Slayer witty retort,” was his self-assured reply.

As Buffy’s scimitar swung home, cleaving the Fooshel in two and sending a jet of violently orange liquid shooting into the air and spattering the sidewalk, she called out, “Well, guess we better call Elmo and tell him his next of kin just went to the big Creature Shop in the sky!”

Willow laughed heartily as Spike rolled his eyeballs until only the white showed.

“Well, Red, you won fair and square. Guess I’m just going to have to pay up.”

Willow stopped laughing abruptly. “But, it was just for fun. You don’t really owe me anything.”

“Course I do. And since we didn’t specify exactly what you’d be winning, I’d say the choice is up to me, innit?”

Willow gulped audibly at the wicked grin that spread over his face and the twinkle of mischief behind his eyes. Oh, did he have plans in mind for her!

Which brought them to where they were now, standing at ten o’clock in the evening in the alley behind the only luxurious day spa in the whole of Sunnydale. Spike rapped loudly on the door with his knuckles, and it opened to reveal a smiling, somewhat plump lady in her mid-forties with a nametag that read “Giselle.”

“Evening, Gizzy. How’s the business going,” the blond purred at her in a smooth voice that would have melted butter.

“Not bad at all, Spike, especially since you drove off those Sravok demons who were living in the store room,” Giselle answered with a smile.

“Couldn’t have them running off the only place in this town that carries my favorite brand of peroxide, now could I?” he replied with a wink. “Everything all set?”

“The room’s just round the corner. Everyone else has cleared out for the night, so you don’t have to worry about your little reflection problem, and I’m just leaving now myself. Make sure you lock up on the way out. The key’s on the hook next to the door.” She turned her attention to Willow. “You’re in for quite a treat, dearie. Have fun! Night!”

With that, the woman picked up her purse from beside the door and walked out, leaving the two of them quite alone.

“Um, Spike, what exactly are we going to ‘have fun’ doing?” Willow asked nervously.

“Come see for yourself, pet,” he said, slightly relishing her timidness. He stepped behind her, rested his hands on her shoulders, and propelled her through a doorway to their right.

Willow’s eyes widened slightly as she took in the small, comfortable room she had entered. It was painted in lovely, muted shades of blue and lilac to look like an early evening sky speckled with stars. Soft strains of classical music played over hidden speakers, scented candles filled the air with the fragrance of cinnamon and vanilla, and the lights, although still quite bright, lent a warm glow to the space. But this wasn’t what immediately struck Willow’s attention. What startled and dang near terrified her was the presence in the center of the room of a very large, raised, black chair that appeared to have a basin at its foot and loads of buttons and dials.

“You’re planning on electricuting me?” she asked in confusion.

Spike smothered a laugh before answering, “No, Will. I’m planning on giving you a pedicure. You’ve never had one before?”

“I’ve painted my toenails, sure, but no one’s ever done it for me,” Willow trailed off uncertainly. Quite frankly, she had always been a bit embarassed about her feet. There really wasn’t anything wrong with them; they were fine as feet went: ten toes, no bunions, everything in working order. Still, she could never quite shake the feeling that they weren’t exactly her best feature.

“Pull off your shoes and socks and hop up in the chair,” he instructed as he turned a tap that began to fill the basin with bubbling, steaming, churning water. To his surprise, when he turned around, she was still in the same spot and most definitely still shod. “What’s the matter, pet? Can’t get your laces untied?”

Willow shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other, twisting her hands behind her back. “I… uh…”

“Oh, sod it,” Spike muttered, kneeled down at her feet, and began undoing the bows of her shocking-pink tennis shoes himself. “Bashful or not, you are going to get this pedicure, Red. I’m a morally depraved vampire. Trust me when I say I’ve seen far more shocking things in my life then your bare tootsies.”

By this time, he’d flung the first shocking pink tennis shoe, purple flowered sock still attached, over his shoulder. It thunked against the wall with a dull kerplop. Willow’s green eyes stared fixedly up at the fake-star painted ceiling as he completed the same operation on the other foot.

“Much better,” he said in a self-satisfied voice. He’d been right. She did have cute feet under the clunky shoes she always wore. He offered her his hand and helped her up to the swiveling, black, vaguely-menacing chair.

“Um, Spike, why does this chair have a remote control?” she asked picking up the small control box hanging from the arm. It was labeled with such odd switches as wave, pulse, and zone.

“Give the ‘on’ button a push and see for yourself,” he suggested with a wink.

Willow quirked an eyebrow and momentarily wondered whether the chip would still activate if she wound up being blown to kingdom come on his suggestion. Eventually, she decided to throw caution to the wind and pushed the button.

“Whoa,” she yelped in surprise as the whole chair started to vibrate. It was actually kind of fun. Deciding to go with it, she started to play with the settings a bit. After a moment or two, she decided her favorite was ‘wave’, which slowly sent a lovely shudder starting behind her shoulders travelling down through the rest of the chair to the backs of her legs and then back up again in an endless massage.

She yelped in surprise again as she felt two strong hands wrap firmly around her ankles and guide them into the very warm water swirling below her.

“Not too hot, is it?”

She shook her head numbly. Oh, this was heaven! Spike added a splash of soap into the water, and the submerged jets immediately made it foam up around the tops of shins, practcally touching the bottoms of her khaki shorts.

“Hee! That tickles!”

“You’re just going to soak in there for a few minutes. Hang on. I’ll be back in a sec.”

Spike turned and exited the room as Willow wiggled her toes in front of the forceful jets in the basin, feeling more relaxed than she had since, well, forever. Easing herself back into the chair, she closed her eyes and let herself go completely limp, the heat from the water creeping up her whole body and making her feel lusciously boneless.

She opened her eyes again when Spike re-entered the room, carrying a tray covered with a white towel. With a flourish, he whisked away the covering, revealing a sinful-looking slice of chocolate mousse pie and a huge cup of mocha café au lait.

“See anything you like, Red,” he asked in amusment as her tongue literally lolled out of her mouth. “Coffee shop next door keeps odd hours. Quite convienent, I must say.”

He set the tray across the arms of the chair, effectively trapping her hands underneath.

“Um, Spike, can’t really eat pie without using a fork… well, I could, but it’d be pretty messy.”

“You, little miss, have been working far too hard. You are not to move one solitary muscle unless it is absolutely necessary. And since I happen to be here, it’s not necessary,” he explained as he took the fork and lifted a bite-sized bit of mousse to her lips, which she hungrily devoured.

When exactly did I fall for this girl, he asked himself as he continued to feed her the pie, occasionally having her sip a bit of mocha through the whipped cream foam. As she smiled up at him with a little smudge of chocolate decorating her nose, he decided it really didn’t matter. He adored her. He adored doing this for her. And he really adored seeing her smile.

“That should be about long enough,” he said with a small hitch in his voice as he plopped the tray on the floor and knealt at her feet again. Slowly, he lifted one foot out of the water and patted it dry with a fluffy, snowy-white towel. Next, he carefully began to work a foot file over her heel, rubbing back and forth, inching his way up towards her toes. After that, he slathered on a thick, grainy gel, working it into her sole and across the tops of her feet. Then, he guided that foot back into the water and repeated the process on the other one.

“This is so nice,” Willow almost moaned, and still she thought that had to be the understatement of the year. He had taken her other foot back out of the water again, and was now slathering it in a lotion that smelled of peppermint. His fingers wove around her toes, pulling and stretching each one in turn, then continued to spread the lotion over the tops of her feet and up and down the lower half of her shins. “Very, very nice.”

“I’m glad you approve,” he smirked at her. He placed the foot on a cushioned rest above the basin, then performed the same magic on her other. An orange stick and brush were used in quick succession.

“So, when do I get to choose the polish?”

“Already picked one out for you, pet.”

“It’s not black, is it?”

“You don’t exactly strike me as the black nail polish type, witch.” He held up a bottle of emerald green paint. “This meet with your approval?”

“Spike! Green? What will people say?”

“Not a thing. After all, it’s February. Who’s gonna see your feet?”

She giggled, then relaxed once again as he held her foot in her hand, covering the nail at the tip of each digit with the rich color. This was very, very nice indeed, she said again to herself. And it wasn’t just the pampering that was nice. Spike was really quite wonderful as well.

“Now for the finishing touch,” he declared as he dropped a single, sparkling crystal on the center of each of her big toenails. “There. All done. But you’ll have to wait a good twenty minutes or so before you can slip your socks back on.”

“Spike, where on earth did you learn this,” Willow asked in bewilderment.

“Drusilla. Rather obsessed with nails, she was,” he answered fondly. “But her feet weren’t quite as pretty as yours are.”

“Nah, mine are all ugly and icky…”

“Bite your tongue, Red! I’d wager there isn’t a square inch of you that isn’t perfectly perfect,” Spike interrupted her.

Willow blinked in shock at his declaration. “Um, thanks.”

“Just tellin’ the truth’s all,” he muttered as he suddenly felt a bit awkward.

Willow smiled shyly at him.

“Oh, to bloody hell with it!” he yelled as he stood up, threw his arms around her shoulders, and kissed her soundly.

After the maximum amount of time it was possible for Willow to go without breathing short of passing out, he drew back from her, his eyes wide with shock at what he’d just allowed himself to do.

“Um, Spike,” Willow managed to get out in a dazed voice.

“What?”

“That was very, very, nice, too,” she said with a grin. “So, twenty more minutes to wait, huh? Gosh, think we can find anything to do to pass the time?”

He gave her a wildly wicked leer.

“Oh, I’m sure we’ll think of something.”


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Valentine's Day

Author: Meltha
Rating: G
Feedback: Yes, thank you.
Spoilers: For "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" in season 2.
Distribution: Fanfiction.net, the 500 Club, and the Bunny Warren. If you're interested, please let me know.
Summary: Spike finally finds the perfect gift for his princess.
Author's Note: From a challenge at Challenge in a Can: Spike, happy, jewelry. The story, from title to end, is exactly 500 words.
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.

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For the first time in what felt like a century, Spike smiled. So things weren't exactly perfect. He was in a wheelchair, his girl was cheating on him with the new, more insane version of her sire, and two Slayers were bopping about on the globe. At the moment he didn't care.

He had begun searching for the ideal gift weeks ago --not an easy task. Since he wanted to keep the present a surprise, he couldn't trust any of the fledges with his errand. That meant, as usual, if he wanted something done right, he had to do it himself. Elluding Angelus, making his way about the virtually rampless Sunnydale, and having to actually buy something rather than kill for it since he wasn't in a position to hunt had been enormous challenges.

But he had licked them all.

He peered through the glass display case at Fabrizio's Jewel Box with a wide grin. Nestled on a bed of ebony silk lay the necklace for his princess. The gold glowed softly under the shop's lights, and the its stones flashed almost as brightly as her sparkling eyes.

"Is this the one?" asked the girl behind the counter as she gestured towards it.

"That'd be it, pet," he responded with a smile as he plopped a wad of cash, newly converted from 19th century English pounds, on the countertop.

"She's a very lucky girl," she remarked as she counted the bills and handed him a receipt.

"Nah, I'm the lucky one," he said with wistful expression on his face. "Can you wrap that up for me?"

She nodded pleasantly and slipped the necklace into a black velvet case, then wrapped it in crimson paper, topping it with a white satin bow before passing it down to him.

"It's been a pleasure doing business with you, sir. Please, stop back again soon."

Spike gave her a wink and rolled out the door, making his way back home carefully so he wouldn't run into Angelus's minions or the Slayer.

A few minutes later, another customer walked into the shop. The girl behind the counter looked up, startled at his arrival.

"We're just about to close up," she said nervously, looking at the tall, broad man with more than a twinge of fear.

"Couldn't you stay open just a little bit longer? My friend was in here earlier. Blond? Short? Wheelchair? Have you seen him?" he said in a strange tone. The words were friendly enough, but the way he said them was almost mocking.

"Yes, he was in to pick up a gift for his girlfriend."

The man smiled broadly, but the grin only made her alarm stronger. "Really? What'd he get her?"

"A necklace," she answered, her voice cracking slightly. "Is there anything I can help you with? I really do need to leave for the night."

"Yeah, I think you can help me," he smirked at her. "I should pick up a little present for Drusilla myself."


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Waking the Muse

Author: Meltha
Rating: I'm gonna go with PG-13, I believe.
Feedback: Yes, thank you. Melpomenethalia[at]aol.com
Spoilers: Through the Buffy series finale "Chosen"
Distribution: Fanfiction.net and the Bunny Warren. If you're interested, please let me know.
Summary: Now now. You didn't really believe that was the end of things for our dear boy, did you?
Author's Note: This fic was inspired by Meg's IM icon (Angel Statue 8) and a rathter insane little conversation with the owner of said icon.
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.
Dedication: Obviously, this one goes to the incomparable Meg. The VW bug is, obviously, parked in his garage.

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Several hours had passed since Rosamond had sniffled her way through the front door of the Paradise Palace. Her wings drooping tragically, she had trudged over to the bar and plopped herself down on a stool. At first, she'd received some stares from the regulars. After all, this was heaven. People weren't supposed to get depressed here. Concerned looks flitted her way, and a few frowns creased the brows of those around her as they wondered what could have happened to make her so miserable.

As time passed, people had long since stopped wondering. Rosamond had a line of drink glasses in front of her at the bar, all empty. Her button nose had turned a shocking shade of scarlet that made her look like an erstwhile Rudolph, while the red tint was matched in her brown doe eyes. Hiccups intermittently shook her form, causing the golden girdle belt she wore around her Grecian-style toga to pop unceremoniously. Her dark blonde locks were usually combed into an intricate bun at her crown, but somewhere between drinks five and six they had fallen down completely in disheveled ringlets. Even her starlight spangled wings were looking mopey and, quite frankly, sloshed.

"And then," she sobbed in a breaking voice to the barkeep, who looked rather at a loss and was wiping down the bar as though his soul depended on it, "they told me I didn't make it into the choir! Again! That's the thirty-sixth audition I've tried, and I've been passed over every time."

A dainty hiccup escaped lips as she played unhappily with the umbrella of her drink.

"Yeah, Rosamond. You've mentioned that - a few times now. Look, you know you can't really get drunk up here unless you want to, so why not just sober up, head back to your cloud, get a good night's rest, and things'll be brighter in the morning," suggested Sam, the rather plump man behind the bar. Truthfully, even his patience was beginning to wane, and that was saying something.

"Don't wanna," she grumped, pouting. "Wanna be in the choir. I've got a good voice, really!" Without further ado, she launched into a vocal rendition that made Sam very concerned the mirror behind the bar was going to shatter into bits.

"Noooooobooooooodyyyyyy knooooooooooowwws the trouuuuuuuuuble I've seeeeeeeeeeeeeen," she warbled in a voice that left no one in the vicinity in any doubt about exactly why the choir had turned her down thirty-six times. "Nooooooooboooooodyyyyyy knoooooooooowwws my sooorrrooooooooooow…"

Shaking his head, it's possible Sammy muttered under his breath "we all know, so shut up already," but we'll say that was merely a nasty rumor for generosity's sake.

At the nearby pool table, a game was in full swing. The decidedly unmelodious notes, though, had made all three participants look up in fascination at the unhappy damsel.

"Sounds like Rosie didn't make the cut again," said Shifty, leaning on his cue and flapping his wings as he took in the scene. "Poor thing."

"Yeah," agreed Snooker Lou, the gentleman to his left, chalking his stick as he spoke and inadvertently getting some of the blue dust on his white robes. "Poor girl. Just can't take a hint. Wants so bad to sing, but her voice has got all the charm of a strangling mongoose."

The third person, who was waiting none too patiently for the close of the current game so he could play the winner, eyed the scene a bit more gravely than the others. Rosamond was currently collapsed over the bar, limp as a wilted daisy, her face pressed into the wood and her arms sprawling in a picture of drunken dejection. The girl wanted to be a singer so desperately, but she kept getting shot down because of lack of talent. Frowning, he could relate.

"Shifty, Lou, I think I'm gonna let this game slide on by tonight," said the third man, putting his favorite cue back in the rack with a fond pat and turning his gaze back on the distressed young miss.

"Do you now?" said Snooker Lou with a raised eyebrow.

"Yup," he responded with a sly grin. "Got me a cherub to comfort, don't I?"

Shifty and Lou watched as the very unusual soul sauntered casually across the room and took a seat right next to the girl… a fairly easy task, as everyone was giving her a six seat berth in either direction.

"Barkeep" said the newcomer familiarly, "two of whatever the lady's drinking, on me."

"You say so," said Sam with a quirk of his mouth. In short order, two Mudslides appeared on the bar.

"Thanks," Rosamond said as she raised her head to look at him. She blinked and found herself rapidly becoming sober again.

He was completely unlike any other angel she'd ever seen and then some. Starting from his feet, which were covered in a pair of beaten-up black leather Doc Martins rather than the usual gold sandals, her eyes slowly traveled over black jeans that fit to a nicety instead of the standard issue white robes, the tightly stretched black t-shirt, and the slightly wicked smile that played around both his lips and his startlingly blue eyes. His halo was a little bent and was sitting on his unnaturally blond hair at a rakish angle, and his wings, which she noted with surprise were charcoal gray and rumpled, poked out of the back of a black leather duster.

"Welcome, sweetness," he said with a roguish smile that was echoed by a subtle ruffling of his gray wings. She realized with a start that they had quite plainly winked at her.

"You're new here, aren't you?" she said uncertainly. "I think I'd remember seeing you before."

A low chuckle answered her. "Been here a few months. Name's Spike."

"But…" she peered at him uncertainly as the bleariness continued to retreat from her eyes, "you are an angel, aren't you?"

He winced at bit, then said, "Technically, yes, but I'd really prefer not to be called the a-word, if you don't mind. Bad associations, pet."

"Huh," she said, shrugging. "Okay, if you say so."

One of the first things Spike had done after his highly surprising arrival outside the Pearly Gates and his absolutely shocking though entirely sincere invitation to enter through them was check out the list of prospective arrivals. Buffy wasn't set to be here for another sixty years. Well and good, he'd thought. Nice, long, preferably happy life for the Slayer and then hopefully a lovely reunion for the two of them. He'd noted with satisfaction that Angel wasn't due to become his own namesake for another two millennia, which had caused Spike to laugh uncontrollably as he'd have "moved past the curse of human features" quite a few centuries before his demise. True, everyone up here was granted the ability to look absolutely perfect, but still, he couldn't help a decidedly non-charitable giggle.

Sixty years was a very, very long time to wait, though, and Spike, practical ang… ehm, winged being that he was, had decided that heaven was supposed to be spent in happiness. In joyous celebration. In pleasure that was physically impossible for any creature with a mortal coil.

"So, the fellas tell me you're Rosie," he said to her, noting with satisfaction that she was subconsciously patting her hair.

"Rosamond, actually. Been here since 509," she responded as she pulled a handkerchief from thin air and blew her nose gracefully.

"Don't seem to happy, Rosebud. What's the problem?" Spike said as he subtly drew his stool a tiny bit closer to hers.

"Oh, the choir won't let me in. I think it's time to just hang it up and pack it in," she said, her tone growing sadder as she spoke and a tear drifting from her eye.

"Now, now," he said, drawing a finger across her cheek and wiping away the droplet, followed by teasingly tapping her still-pink nose. "None of that. You keep at it, sweetheart. Just need a bit of inspiration is all and you'll do fine."

Her lips puckered up at one corner and she took a swig of her Mudslide. "It's been almost 1500 years. If my muse hasn't woken up yet, I think it's died in its sleep."

Spike eyed his own concoction warily, which was laced with ice cream of all things, but decided against drinking it. The word frou-frou appeared to have been coined solely for the contents of his glass. Rosamond didn't notice his distinct lack of imbibing, though. In fact, she was looking dangerously close to going back to her sobbing. Well, he couldn't let that happen.

Accidentally-on-purpose, Spike batted her cocktail napkins, which she'd been morosely folding into little origami hats, onto the floor, and on the pretense of picking them up, just barely brushed against her shoulder and whispered in her ear, "What do you say to getting out of here?"

"And going where?" she asked with a hiccup.

He deftly gave her a small, discreet nuzzle behind her left ear and said in a soft purr, "Feel up to engaging in some aerial acrobatics, if you catch my drift?"
Rosamond's eyes widened comically.

"I'll show you my halo trick if you just stop sobbin' all over the bloody bar," he promised with a grin as his hand found hers still clutching the glass.
There was a brief pause.

"Let's go," she said enthusiastically as she grabbed him by the hand and practically ran out the door.

Lou and Shifty exchanged looks as the two exited the Paradise, post haste.

"He always has a thing for the needy ones, don't he, Lou?" said Shifty with a small shake of his head.

"Yeah," Lou agreed. "Soft spot for 'em. Rack 'em up, Shifty. I'm feeling Spike ain't the only one who's lucky tonight."


"Prabakar, what is that in the sky?" asked a young woman in Pakistan a few minutes later.

He turned to look at the strange sight. Perhaps two hundred feet in the air, hovering over their village, appeared to be a large, strangely undulating cocoon of feathers, one part white and the other gray.

"I don't know, Rhiamar," he said, very puzzled. "Could it be a cloud?"

Abruptly, the cocoon sped off towards the west.


"Louise, look up there!" asked Jean-Luc a few moments later in France.

She glanced at the odd object over the vineyard, and was convinced she heard a voice with a British accent say in a muffled tone as the fluffy UFO took off at great speed, "I told you the earth would move, baby," followed by a faint, girlish, "Weeeeeee!"

Lack of gravity causes some highly interesting side effects.


It was late the next morning when Spike dropped off Rosamond, who was looking completely exhausted but much happier, at her cloud. He arrived at his own home not long after and, hanging up his duster, which miraculously appeared to have no holes for his wings at all, collapsed on the couch in front of the telly and hit the flashing button on his answering machine.

Beep. "Hello, Spike. It's Joyce. Wondering if you want to come over for a cup of cocoa tonight. Tara and your mother will both be here. Remember to wear a sweater if it's chilly. Hope to see you soon."

Spike smiled, crossed off one more day on his sixty year calendar, and decided to take a long nap before going over to Joyce's comfy cloud.


"It's the most amazing change I've ever heard," said Alistair, the choir director in chief, to Margaretta, who looked completely shell shocked. "She couldn't carry a tune in bucket yesterday and for well over a millennium before that, but today? She sounded like a meadowlark."

"Did you ask her what happened?" she asked in astonishment.

"Yes. All she would say is that her 'inspiration had spiked,'" he said utterly baffled.

Margaretta smiled knowingly but didn't say a word.


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Who Died and Made You The Iron Chef?

Author: Meltha
Rating: PG, just cuz, well, it’s Spike, and he uses some Spikish words
Feedback: That would be very nice of you, thank you.
Spoilers: “The Gift” (finale season 5)
Distribution: Here. If you are interested, please ask me.
Summary: Dawn’s on her way home, and Spike is forced to confront something even more evil than himself
Author’s Note: Written during the long, dark days of the summer between season 5 and 6. And no, I don’t like Hank.
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.
Dedication: Oh, I’ll make this one for my sweet, darling little group of readers who have been there since the beginning. Mmmmmwah!

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Steeling himself for the wave of emotions he knew he would feel the moment he passed over the threshold, Spike unlocked the kitchen door of the Summers’s home. He hadn’t been wrong. No sooner did he step foot across the no longer existing barrier than a barrage of memories swept over him. The counter where he’d sat while Joyce babbled on about Greek amphorae and the kitchen table where they’d had cocoa after Drusilla had left him had been painful reminders of loss to him even before Buffy’s death, but now the whole house seemed to echo with the silence of the Slayer’s absence. Everywhere he looked he had some memory of her. Each square inch of the house was still full of the faint traces of her scent.

Shaking himself, he set about what he had come here to do: keep his promise. The Little Bit would be returning home tomorrow from her two week stay with her deadbeat father, who, he was happy to say, had at least had the consideration to legally place her in Giles’s custody rather than some state run foster home. He wanted to be sure everything was set for her homecoming.

He first examined the front door. It was still firmly locked, so no break-ins had occurred. Check. The mail, which had been collected by the next-door neighbor, was now lying on the entryway table, waiting for him to deliver it to the hacker. Check. The house was clean, the linens fresh, and the windows washed, courtesy of Anya, who seemed to deal with grief best by keeping busy. Check. Well, that was everything. He was just about to leave when a sudden thought occurred to him.

On a hunch, he opened the refrigerator.

“I may not remember much about human food, but I’m pretty sure that milk isn’t supposed to be a solid,” he said in disgust as he regarded the contents.

There was something green on the topmost shelf. At first he thought it was a head of lettuce but was startled to realize it was, in fact, the remains of a roast. Opening the various drawers, he found several objects that looked like they belonged in the engravings in the Watcher’s books on demonology, but absolutely nothing that appeared edible. With a grunt, he opened a garbage bag he found under the sink and slopped the entire contents of the fridge into it, then stared into the white, empty appliance.

“Nothing for it,” he muttered. He turned around and walked out the door, locking it behind him.

About fifteen minutes later, his Desoto could be seen screeching into a parking spot not too far from the front door of the local supermarket. With a look of extreme uncomfortableness, he got out of the car and made his way into a building that he never thought he’d be caught dead in. He half-grinned at his own little pun.

Fifteen minutes was the total amount of time he intended to spend inside the store, picking up only the essentials: a little fresh fruit, a couple vegetables, bread, milk and maybe something that would make a decent dinner. Nice, normal, frill-free, healthy stuff. Then, he’d jump back in his car and no one would ever know about his little foray into the suburban Mecca. Yes, even at 127 years old, he was indeed that naive.

His first challenge was getting a shopping cart. Pulling on the blue plastic handle of the first one in the line-up, he attempted to dislodge it from the sixty others piled up behind it. It didn’t even budge. Kicking, swearing, thumping, and punching all did absolutely no good. Winded, he stood back and surveyed the row of silvery contraptions.

At that moment a little old lady shuffled in front of him, removed the cart he had been sweating over without mussing a single blue hair, and scuttled off into the market. He stared at her in disbelief, then let out an atrocious yell and slugged the pile of carts. As though deciding that he’d suffered enough, one cart spontaneously disengaged itself from the others. With a smirk of manly satisfaction, he grabbed the handle and made his way through the main doors, purposely ignoring the one wheel that had decided beyond any shadow of a doubt that it wanted to go the other way.

Immediately his eyes were assaulted by the glare of the florescent lights while his ears were tortured by the sound of Paul Simon’s “Cecelia” being played on a tuba over the intercom system. The place was enormous. For a full ten seconds, he stood stock still in shock as he tried to comprehend the abundancy of aisles, the dozens of displays, and the conundrum of counters scattered around the room that appeared to be the size of New Jersey.

“Get a grip, mate,” he told himself. “It’s only produce. Not like it’s going to attack you.”

He half wished that a giant carrot demon would suddenly start to wreak havoc on the population of Sunnydale just so he’d have a real excuse not to pick up groceries. With a sigh, he decided to start with the first row and work his way to the other end of the market. If he lived that long.

The first section had a huge sign that proclaimed it sold fresh fruits and vegetables. This, he thought, definitely fell under the category of healthy. Joyce would approve of Dawn eating her veggies. How hard could it possibly be?

He spent over half an hour at the apple display alone.

Rome. Granny Smith. Fuji. Golden Delicious. Gala. Macintosh. When he’d been a human, there had been two types of apples: red and green. That was it. Now the little signs in front of each bin told him some were meant for pies, some for salads, and some, oddly enough, only said “eating.”

“Well, what the bloody hell else are you going to do with an apple? Try to split an atom with it?” he complained aloud. The other shoppers had already decided to give the intimidating vampire a wide berth, so no one overheard him.

He decided on getting Granny Smiths and Macintoshes, but then spent the better part of ten minutes trying to find ones that had no bruises, discolorations, or breaks in the skin. At long last, he placed the two plastic bags that had taken him forever to figure out how to open into his cart with extraordinary caution so none of the fruit bruised. Shaking his head, he turned to the next display: citrus fruit.

“Naval oranges. Mandarins. Persimmons. Tangerines. Clementines. Nectarines. Tangelos? What kind of a bloody name is that?”

There had to be at least thirty varieties, not one of which had ever passed his lips since they had been a luxury item in the nineteenth century. He resigned himself to playing another round of “find the least fouled up fruit.”

After wrapping up several lovely specimens of oranges and grapefruits, as well as one pineapple (which had succeeded in scratching up his palms nicely), he moved on to the vegetables. The first thing he saw was…

“Potatoes.” His eyes increased to fifty times their normal size at the shear number of varieties. Adding insult to injury, the potatoes stared back at him with all of their many eyes.

“White. Idaho. Red. Oregon Gold. Irish. Sweet. Yams. New. As opposed to what, old potatoes?”

Swaying back and forth slightly in the air conditioning breeze, he decided he needed help. But who the heck would he know who would be able to tell him about potatoes? The Scoobies were all otherwise occupied for the evening. A thought occurred to him, and it was a mark of just how desperate he was that he only balked at calling him for a moment. Whipping out his cell, he dialed the number quickly before he could change his mind.

“Angel Investigations.”

“Put Peaches on the line,” he said gruffly, making a mental note that he should probably also pick up a few peaches while he was at it.

“Spike? What’s up?” Angel’s careful voice said over the static on the line.

“What kind of potatoes should I get for Dawn?”

There was no mistaking the guffaw of laughter on the other end of the line.

“Why are you asking me?” he finally managed to spit out.

“Because you’re Irish and all they eat is potatoes, so I figured you’d know, and if you don’t stop snickering I’ll find a way to use your pancreas as a soccer ball!”

“Spike, I haven’t eaten a potato in over two hundred years. How should I know?”

“Right, uh, well,” he started dejectedly.

“Oh, okay. If you’re looking for a baked potato, get Idaho. Choose ones without any sprouts coming out of the eyes and with as few bruises as possible.” In truth, nary a Friday night had passed since he’d been turned that he didn’t find himself craving potato farls and bannocks. However, he wasn’t about to openly admit his penchant for what Spike always termed sissy food.

“Is it okay if they’re kind of dirty?” he said as he examined one of the tubers with a look of high suspicion.

“All potatoes are dirty. They grow underground,” the older vampire explained as though talking to a two year old.

“Idaho. Got it.” The line abruptly went dead as Spike shoved four or five Idaho potatoes into a bag and moved on to the next display.

Over three hours later, the vampire was pushing a cart that contained almost painfully selected produce into the bread aisle.

“Now this I remember,” he thought with something akin to glee. “How hard can buying a loaf be?”

Then he saw the dozens of kinds.

“White. Wheat. Italian. Sourdough. Rye. Pumpernickel. Marble. Poppy seed. Challah. Russian black. Cinnamon Raisin.” He repeated the names like a mantra, his voice reaching a high pitch that said he was a mere moment away from snapping. Then his eyes lit up with malice. “Potato Bread! They’re ruddy well following me!”

That settled it. Somehow, all of this was Angel’s fault.

At long last he settled on organically grown whole wheat, fairly certain it was healthy but also equally sure it would taste like cardboard. After plopping the cellophane bag in the cart, he bolted out of the aisle.

With an extremely bad case of jangling nerves, he pushed the cart towards a picture of a cow hanging on the far back wall. For an instant, he dared to hope that this time he would simply be able to pick a bottle off the shelf and move on. But then…

“Skim. Two percent. Five percent. Vitamin A and D fortified. Chocolate. Butter. Half and half. Strawberry. Oh, for crying out loud, the Communists were right! There is too much sodding variety in the American marketplace!”

He finally concluded that, although the skim was probably the healthiest, the fact that it resembled water was probably not a good indication of taste. He lugged a gallon of two percent into the cart, then noted that the expiration date was yesterday. With a feral growl, he flung open the refrigerator door and dug to the back of the cooler, oddly feeling as though he were disemboweling the dairy section and liking it tremendously, re-emerging with milk due ten days from now. He gave the painted cow a cocky grin and kicked the door firmly shut.

One last stop to make and he could vamoose. Approaching the butcher’s counter, he gazed at the different cuts of…

“Beef. Chicken. Pork. Veal. Venison. Turkey. Fish. Dang it, they’re staring at me again!”

He was getting extremely hungry. Trying to restrain himself, he began to run down a mental list of all the nutritional benefits of each item.

“Beef’s got cholesterol. Pork too. Veal is made of baby cows and venison is Bambi-meat; Dawn wouldn’t like that. That turkey’s as big as she is. Chicken. Gotta be chicken.”

He rang the little bell on the counter, gave the butcher his order, and received a whole chicken. After the man left, Spike quietly edged his way behind the counter and proceeded to completely drain five pot roasts. It had been a very rough night indeed. Feeling slightly better, he proceeded to the cash registers.

The “fifteen items or fewer” lane was definitely out. He resigned himself to waiting in line behind six other late-night shoppers. The line inched forward at a speed that made a glacier look like a turbo jet. He found himself contemplating buying gum for no other reason than the fact he’d been staring at the same package for twenty minutes and was beginning to feel somehow emotionally attached to it. At long last, he was able to start loading everything on to the conveyor belt, practically giddy over the idea that an end was in sight. No sooner did the person directly in front of him hand over her cash than the cashier started to put up a “this register closed” sign.

“What do you think you’re doing?” the vampire asked the pimply teenager.

“It’s time for my break.”

That did it. Suddenly in full game face, Spike grabbed the kid by the front of his cheap polyester smock and growled.

“NOT UNTIL YOU RING ME UP!” he insisted none-too-politely. For once, his chip seemed to think he’d put up with enough and didn’t so much as give him a pinch for the many, highly violent thoughts that were running through his head.

It was the fastest bill the checkout boy had ever rung up. After forking over more money than he had thought humanly possible for the food, he sighed with relief that, at long last, he didn’t have to make any more decisions.

“Um, do you want paper or plastic?” the bag boy asked timidly.

The vampire fixed his once-more golden gaze on him and said, with extreme strain, “Just. Pack. The. Bloody. Groceries.”

Only a few minutes later, the Big Bad was tearing down the road in his beloved Desoto, punk blaring from his radio at ear-shattering volume and the air conditioning turned up to near polar proportions to prevent the milk from turning. It had taken him over five hours, but he had finally succeeded in his quest. He hoped.

The back door of the Summers’s home swung open shortly thereafter, revealing what appeared to be a walking pile of brown paper bags balanced atop a pair of black jeans. The vampire set his burden down on the counter top and returned to his car, coming back fully laden again. And again. And once again. He stared in disbelief at the twenty bags on the kitchen island. What had happened to “fruit, vegetables, bread, and milk”?

He shoved the milk and the chicken in the vacant refrigerator first, fearing they would spoil if left out too long. The fruit and vegetables followed them, except for the potatoes, which he crammed into a bin nearby that had been thoughtfully labeled. The bread was stuffed into the breadbox, and the rest of the odds and ends he’d picked up were stowed away in their respective places. As a final touch, he put a tin of cocoa powder and a bag of mini-marshmallows in the cabinet near the sink.

With a last look around, Spike crumpled the bags (which happily relieved a lot of his pent up tension), grabbed the mail off the entryway table to drop off at Willow’s, and was just about to leave when he had an idea. Picking up the pen and paper that were next to the phone, he scrawled a quick note and stuffed it into the fridge. The vampire then left with the approach of false dawn, barely making it back to his crypt before the sun was up.

About six hours later, the Summers’s front door was opened by a very somber little group. Giles, Tara, Willow, and Dawn entered the house quietly, each one feeling the pain of loss sharply once again at its silence.

“We’re really glad to have you home again, Dawn,” Willow said with a half-hearted smile. “We missed you a lot.”

“Yes. Yes, indeed we did,” Giles agreed in a far-away voice.

“So, um, w-would you like to put your suitcase up-up stairs or in the laundry room?” asked Tara, her old stutter returning with the uncomfortable situation.

“Laundry’s probably better,” came the teenager’s lackluster reply.

“How was your trip?” Giles asked in an attempt to make the situation a little less depressing.

“Fine. Unless you count the fact that Dad was away on business for ten of the fourteen days I was there. I spent a lot of time stuck in his apartment.”

“Oh. Well, what about the other four?” Giles asked, trying to hide his ill-concealed anger.

“One day he picked me up at the airport, one day he dropped me off, and the other two his secretary was around most of the time. I think we had dinner together once.” There was an obvious note of pain in her voice.

Giles was very glad the girl was looking at the floor since his face was probably a perfect illustration of murderous intent. Willow found herself trying to remember the words of a spell that would give the girl’s father a particularly nasty rash. Meanwhile Tara, sweet little Tara, actually growled faintly. It was this surprising noise that broke the unpleasant moment as everyone looked up in surprise and Tara grinned apologetically.

“Speaking of growling, are you hungry, Dawny?” Willow asked, glad of the change in topic.

“A little.” Actually, a lot, she thought. She hadn’t eaten since the previous night.

“We could go out and grab something to eat, if you want,” said Willow, fearfully pulling open the door of the fridge, terrified of what she was going to find. “I doubt there’s anything still edible in here.” Her green eyes widened to three times their normal size as she took in the contents. “Or, on the other hand, you could get something from the Farmer’s Market that seems to have set up shop in your kitchen.”

“Huh?”

The others all peered inside the opened refrigerator at the almost ridiculous amount of food.

“Who on earth…?” Giles began.

“Whoever it was, they seem to think you have an army stopping by for lunch,” Tara said as she gawked at the contents.

Dawn’s eyes suddenly spotted a small scrap of paper lying atop a bag of peaches. Unfolding it, she actually smiled at the words.

“Nibbles for the Nibblet.”


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