Summary: AU Comedy/Adventure. Buffy and Spike must learn to rely on each other as they hunt the deadly Jabberwock through a strange and wondrous world fraught with peril (and bad jokes).
A/N: Thank you to EnigmaticBlues for the beta work. Although this is my own bizarre version of Wonderland, some quotes and characters are courtesy of Alice in Wonderland and Jabberwocky, both written by the very gifted Lewis Carroll. Chapter titles courtesy of the song White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane. Mr. Carroll please don’t spin-was merely for fun.
Disclosure: None of these characters are mine, nor will I make money from them. They belong solely to the imaginative pens of Joss Whedon and Lewis Carroll– I just wanted to watch Buffy and Spike wrest information from a Dormouse.
Rating: G 22,500 words complete
Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!
Buffy: “Speak English, not whatever they speak in, um….”
Some Assembly Required
Off With Her Head
The path cleared the last of the woods and widened into a thick gravel road which in turn led to a high brick wall with an enormous hinged iron gate. The gate was wide open. Happy at having the good fortune of not having to scale the wall or gate, they cautiously slipped through and onto the palace grounds.
Along with the gravel road that continued forward through the rolling hills as far as the eye could see, the grounds were comprised of a pretty, bluish-green well-tended grass lawn edged with large bushy topiaries trained into heart shapes.
Red rose bushes also dotted the landscape here and there, along with their companions, the ubiquitous elm trees.
The sheep baa’d excitedly at the sight of the lawn, immediately spreading out to graze on the lush grass.
Buffy cast a worried look at the flock of sheep reducing the perfectly manicured lawn to brown stubble. “I don’t think we should be letting them do that.”
Spike snorted. “And we’re going to stop ‘em how exactly?”
“Good point.” She bit her lip. After all they couldn’t even get the sheep to stop following them, much less make them stop doing something as elemental as grazing. Admiring the delicately trimmed topiaries, she decided it could have been far worse– the spell could have produced lots of goats.
Finally after following the gravel road for a couple more miles, they heard the sound of a trumpet fanfair. Following the sound they came over a small hill and discovered a large crowd of villagers waiting, lined up along both sides of the road. Just as in the book, they were shaped like playing cards–mostly Spades and Clubs. There were even a diamonds sprinkled among the throng– but disappointingly not one single royal heart.
Before she could ask someone where they might be, an excited murmur rippled through the crowd. “She’s coming! The Queen’s coming! All hail the Queen of Hearts!”
Buffy and Spike exchanged glances. “Spike this is going to be a lot harder than we thought.”
“Yeah I think you’re right.” How could they get close to someone who traveled everywhere in a parade?
Hoping that inspiration would strike they waited with the villagers. From the same direction as the blaring trumpets, they heard a deep male voice shouting, “Move aside. Make way for the Queen. Her Royal Majesty, the Queen of Hearts!”
The crowd pressed back, pulling Buffy and Spike and several sheep with them before dropping to their knees beside the road. In the name of remaining incognito they reluctantly joined the villagers in the dirt.
Lifting her head Buffy found to her delight that she could still see everything–the cards were all shorter than her. It was a heady feeling. She settled in to watch the procession when Spike leaned over and whispered in her ear. “She’ll be the one without any shit on her.”
“We’ve got to keep a low profile here. Now is so not the time for more Python one-liners,” she hissed.
She shot him a glare that would have combusted a lesser vamp. Great, now he’d pissed her off again. “Sorry, Slayer. I’ll just try to find that angle to work, shall I?”
Nodding curtly, she turned her attention back to the procession.
The trumpets–now abreast of that portion of crowd that contained Buffy and Spike–continued to loudly proclaim the monarch’s arrival. Small, scarlet flags tied to each fluttered in the light breeze.
Marching in formation, several dozen mustached, diamond-suited soldiers followed the trumpeters. They wore long ivory colored linen tunics with scarlet hearts woven into each breastplate. The bronze helmets, each sporting one large, perfect scarlet feather conformed tightly to every soldier’s head.
Buffy noticed that every single soldier wore a thin black leather belt cinched tightly around his square card-like middle and on the left side of each belt hung a small dagger polished to a high gloss. The lethal weapons glinted in the noonday sun.
Shoulders back, heads forward, jackboots struck the gravel in perfect synchronicity, raising a small cloud of dust in their wake. It was an impressive sight.
Shading her eyes with one hand Buffy watched, fervently hoping they wouldn’t have to engage in hand to hand combat with the Queen’s soldiers in some kind of fight to the death for the sword. If only they could find some other, easier way….
The soldiers finally marched past the crowd and after a lengthy pause that left Buffy wondering if the Queen was really going to show up, several small, child-like playing cards came over the hill. Wearing white tunics, they had red heart emblems sewn on the front and carried woven baskets. They took turns strewing rose petals from their baskets along the road.
They had barely passed in front of Buffy and Spike before three dozen white horses appeared at the top of the rise. The villagers shifted and murmured among themselves, their excitement palpable.
The Queen and her retinue had arrived.
Prancing sideways, the spirited horses tossed their heads, threatening to dislodge their scarlet feathered headdresses. Spike realized the royal party had to be extremely good equestrians to handle such high strung beasts. He and Buffy watched with interest as the first few came abreast of the waiting crowd.
Riding astride the first few horses were the Queen’s personal guard. They wore the same ivory tunics as the foot soldiers, but with two scarlet hearts twined together woven onto their breastplates instead of one and they were heavily armed.
The next several horses held the extended royal family which appeared to be comprised of heart cards of various ages, from the elderly to a few small children riding pillion behind the older family members. Everyone, including the children, ignored the excited crowd who’d waited for hours in the sun.
“What utter gits,”
Watching them pointedly diss the people in the crowd, Buffy agreed with him. They were behaving like stuck-up jerks.
Finally riding across the crest of the hill astride the largest and most spirited stallion of the entire group, rode her Majesty, the Queen of Hearts. But before the Queen rode down the hill and afforded Buffy her first close up view of the Monarch, the entire procession suddenly stopped.
She felt the crowd’s attention shift from the Queen and drawn back toward the beginning of the procession again. Questions and comments swirled around her as the villagers murmured among themselves.
Craning her neck, she tried to see farther down the line to the front of the procession, but it was a lost cause– it was too far away.
“Spike, what’s going on? Can you see anything?” she asked, taking care to speak beneath the excited babble.
He shook his head. “But it can’t be good– this crowd smells blood.”
Finally a small contingent of foot soldiers from the earlier portion of the procession walked back into view. As they passed, Buffy could see that they were half carrying, half dragging two older diamond cards up the rise to the Queen. One of the prisoners–she couldn’t think of them in any other way since they’d obviously been arrested–carried a small paint bucket full of red paint and a paint brush. With each violent pull on his manacled arms, droplets from the bucket would splash, leaving a spotty trail that resembled blood.
“Oh, I remember this scene from the book,” she whispered to Spike. “They’re gardeners who’d accidentally planted white roses and got caught trying to cover it up by painting the roses red.”
Before Spike could wrap his head around their offense–it sounded as mad as something the March Hare would have come up with– the soldiers threw the two gardeners down at the Queen’s feet.
She was too far away to be seen accurately but not too far away to be heard– evidently she had a loud, carrying voice or else the wind was just right because everyone in the crowd heard her screamed response.
“OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!!!!”
Matter-of-factly one of the soldiers stepped forward and whipped out a broad ax. Before Buffy had time to wonder where that had been hidden all this time, the blade whooshed down. Two other soldiers immediately picked up the dead bodies and tossed them to the side of the road while another soldier kicked the dismembered heads out of the way.
Finishing their grisly task, the soldiers stepped smartly back into line and the procession gathered steam, grinding forward again.
Spike shook his head. “Those two were beheaded faster than Marie Antoinette and King Louis.”
“That was a whole lot more gruesome than I remembered from the book.”
The villagers were dropping back to the ground in preparation for the Queen’s arrival, so Buffy and Spike followed suit.
A few moments later the Queen of Hearts reached the bottom of the hill and they got their first close-up view of the Monarch. Unlike the rest of the royal family, her eyes continually swept the crowd, but showed zero actual interest in the villagers– not one lively spark of curiosity, no hint of suppressed excitement or real emotion at all. Her eyes were flat, black obelisks. Dead eyes.
Buffy mentally shrugged. This was certainly no benevolent leader and the character in the book hadn’t been either, so no real surprise there, although it would make their task that much more difficult.
She took another, longer apprising look at the Monarch wearing the gaudy gold crown astride the white stallion. The Queen was an expert horsewoman–she easily controlled a powerful, temperamental animal– but that was the only compliment the Slayer could pay. As someone who dealt with demons day in and day out, Buffy recognized when outer appearance reflected a horrible personality within.
Back straight, nose in the air and hardened frown lines etched permanently across her forehead, the Queen wore her cheesy Burger King-like crown easily, projecting an air of true despot.
Although she’d only seen the Queen in profile so far– the Monarch was unusually interested in the other side of the road for some unknown reason–Buffy could tell she was no great beauty either. Her harsh attitude had the face to match. Leathery skin on a round moon face was coupled with a prominent forehead and large protruding eyes. Together with the almost nonexistent nose set between two pouchy, gerbil-like cheekbones, she immediately reminded Buffy of–
“A bloody flemdrek demon.”Spike said, interrupted her line of thought.
She studied the Monarch’s profile again. Yeah, a Flemdrek alright. One of the demons living in the Sunnydale sewer system, they gave the Slayer fits on an almost daily basis. The vicious flemdrek was easily identifiable due to its nasty temper and an uncanny resemblance to Bufo Fowleri, the common garden variety toad.
The Queen finally turned to the left, and Buffy got her first full-on frontal view of the Monarch.
Her eyes widened. The skin above the Queen’s darkly mustached upper lip on the left side sported an enormous, hairy mole. When she leaned forward to speak with one of her guards, Buffy swore it twitched.
Next to her Spike was laughing outright, trying to hide it behind a fake coughing spell.
She imagined Johnny Depp–razor in hand–striding from the crowd with an offer to shave the royal mustache and trim the royal mole.
Agog, she continued staring at the Queen’s face and she couldn’t seem to stop. Her eyes were glued there. She kept waiting for the mole to move, like it was just resting, and anytime now it would get up, stretch, and crawl away, dragging the mustache along with it.
Still snickering, it took several minutes before she realized the crowd had grown agitated again.
Murmuring loudly, they were starting to stand up again, shifting to look at something out of her field of vision. What now? Was it Johnny Depp?
She watched one of the Queen’s soldiers whisper something to the monarch. Her eyes bulged more–was that even possible?– and then she screeched at a decibel level sure to deafen everyone within close proximity. “Whose creatures are they???”
Spike–having forced apart the two villagers in front of him at the first hint of trouble with a deep throated growl and the promise of future violence– spoke over his shoulder, telling her the one thing she didn’t want to hear.
“It’s the sheep makin’ Her Toadship screech like a banshee.”
This was not of the good. Buffy leaned forward and whispered in his ear. “We have to do something fast, some of these villagers saw them following us.”
She cut her eyes to the left and sure enough, several of the villagers were looking in their direction. It was only a matter of time before someone got the courage to say something to Queen Bitch. Grabbing Spike’s hand, she tugged him over to the edge of the crowd.
Checking that they were alone, she said, “You need to provide a distraction for the Queen so I can look around the palace. I’m the one the book expects to locate the sword.”
“Me? What am I supposed to do?” The Slayer had an odd glint in her eye that made him uneasy.
“She’s a woman, isn’t she?”
“I’m pretty certain that’s debatable,” he hedged, not liking the direction this conversation had taken. In his opinion it had swerved completely around the bend, and at the end of the curve was an enormous Flemdrek-lookin’ bint with a mole the size of Utah.
Buffy was still staring at him, foot tapping. Stricken, he realized it was going to be tough to derail the Slayer’s train of thought. She had that same stubborn look across her face she’d had earlier tonight when she’d refused to listen during their demon search. But now she was assessing him in a way that was terrifying. She looked like one of those terriers that sink their sharp little deep into your ankle and refuse to let go, come hell or high water. “Not my ankle, you don’t.”
Buffy ignored Spike’s babbling and concentrated instead on defusing his wary expression. “Come on, Spike, you’re a guy–well, sort of anyway– you can handle her easily.”
“Sort of? What the bloody hell is that supposed to mean? Let me tell you somethin’, Slayer, you’re not going to persuade me to do anythin’ with not-so-subtle insults about my manhood.” He glared at her. “For your information, in over a hundred years I’ve never had any complaints in that department.”
“Jeez, male ego much?” She rolled her eyes. He would latch onto that part of the sentence. “I just meant, with the biting and all. You know, undead vampire, not live guy.”
“She’s a bloody card, so I don’t think that’s an issue, although if I ever saw somethin’ like her pop up during a poker game, I’d quit gamblin’ on the spot. She’s a walkin’ reason to never play cards again.” He scowled. “You know, back in the day, I wouldn’t even bite someone like that and now you want me to romance her? And without any liquor? You’ve got to be jokin’.” Bloody hell, the Slayer was sittin’ there trying to pimp him out.
Spinning on his heels he looked across the crowd at the Queen. She was screaming so loud and hard that her face was redder than her clothes. He surveyed the crowd. Several more of the villagers had turned to look at him and the Slayer while a couple were pointing. They needed to do something. But not this…
He ran his hands through his hair trying one last time. “She’s never gonna go for the likes of me. She’s royal and I’m…not.”
“No one knows us, so lie already. Look, you came here to help and so far you’ve been a lot of help– and this is something only you could do.”
Damn, he hated it when she was right and he didn’t want to screw up her surprising assessment of him, and just when the Slayer had noticed how well it went when she listened to him occasionally, too….
Buffy saw he was weakening and she coaxed harder. “Looking like she does and with that personality, I bet no man ever pays attention to her. Just act charming Spike, and I know you’ll get lucky.”
He shuddered. “Don’t use the words ‘get lucky’ in any sentence that includes the likes of her.”
“Look, I’m not asking you to go that far. We just need to buy a little time. Go for a walk with her in the garden or something. Look for other toads. You know we need an in and this is all we’ve got. Besides the sheep….”
He held a hand up in surrender. “I’ll do it. Just promise you’ll find that sword fast.”
She nodded adamantly. “Absolutely. I’ll sneak in the minute you get her and the soldiers out of the way.”
Straightening his shoulders Spike forced a pleasant expression across his face and pushed his way through the agitated crowd.
He reached the edge of the crowd, and pitched his voice toward the riders. “The sheep are mine. I brought them as a gift.” He shrugged elaborately for the crowd’s benefit. “Unfortunately, both my personal servants and my shepherd seem to have vanished at a most inopportune moment. If we locate them, I’d like to suggest chopping off their heads immediately.”
Suspiciously, the Queen fixed her eyes on the stranger striding toward her. Her mouth thinned.
Buffy watched as the monarch checked Spike out–slowly traveling down past his face to the tight body beneath the black duster, on down the slim legs and then much more slowly back up until reaching chiseled cheekbones, deep blue eyes and blond hair.
A slight smiled played across her face as her expression became speculative and Buffy knew they had her. She’d known the plan would work. Queen Bitch wasn’t blind, and the vamp was hot; Buffy just refused to go down that road, was one complication she so didn’t need.
Meanwhile the Queen lifted a heavily jeweled hand and said, “Why should we accept a gift from you? Who are you?”
Smiling a little more suggestively, Spike stepped closer before bowing. “My name is Sir Spike and I live in the next realm in a place called Sunnydale. I’ve traveled a great distance to bring you these sheep from my personal flock. My country is renowned far and wide for both its wool and succulent meat.”
She motioned him closer.
He moved next to her. “May I?” Before she could reply, he reached up and gently took her hand in both of his. Caressing her knuckles with his thumb, he stared deeply into her eyes. “It’s an honor to meet you.”
When she didn’t pull her hand away, he continued smoothly. “I’ve heard so much about your equestrian skills that I wanted to meet you; No one told me they were far surpassed by your incomparable beauty.”
Incomparable? Buffy snorted. Spike certainly hadn’t lied.
The frown lines smoothed as she reluctantly removed her hand from Spike’s. Suddenly, the harridan tittered like a young girl!
“My, what pretty words from such a pretty man. We enjoy decorative men, so we will graciously accept your gift. We were just leaving for the croquet lawn, and as a reward for your generosity, you may be our partner in today’s tournament.” She simpered and the mole danced.
Buffy had to give Spike credit, he didn’t even flinch. The vamp was definitely made of stern stuff and although she could tell from the slight rigidity in his shoulders that he was seriously squicked, no one else– least of all the Queen– would notice.
Relaxing a little, Buffy looked around. Now, how could she get in the palace?
With a sweeping bow Spike replied, “I would consider it a great honor to be your partner.”
The queen turned to the soldiers and barked, “Captain, provide a mount for Sir Spike at once.”
Buffy was edging away from the crowd when Spike spoke again. “I have one more gift for you, Majesty.”
She stopped short, frowning in his direction. What was he doing? No improvising. Just complement and contain, Spike. That was the plan. Just look good, don’t try to think. Get fancy and this becomes one massive screw up and I lose my opportunity.
Curious, the Queen was asking, “And pray tell, what would that be, Sir Spike? We do so love gifts.”
“I’ve brought someone else along.”
Buffy gritted her teeth. She was going to kill Spike.
The Queen’s eyes narrowed. “Oh?”
“She’s the finest chef in all our land. I brought her expressly for your personal enjoyment.”
He gestured toward Buffy expansively. The crowd, the Queen’s retinue, her soldiers and the Queen herself all turned to look.
Eyes wide, Buffy stood stock still– caught like Bambi on the Autobahn. Her cheeks burned. He’d called her what? A chef? She couldn’t even boil water for hot chocolate, much less cook anything fancy enough for the Queen. Everyone was still staring, so she forced herself to move forward.
As she walked toward the Queen, the shock began to wear off and she realized that with only a couple simple sentences, Spike had handed her a golden opportunity to get inside the palace. The vamp was smarter than she’d ever given him credit for; this plan was elegant and simple. And if it worked, she knew he’d crow about it forever. Well, turnabout was fair play– maybe she couldn’t cook, but she’d still fed him to the Queen.
Fixing a pleasant smile on her face, she raised her chin higher.
The crowd parted and she found herself standing in front of the Monarch and Spike. He gave her an almost imperceptible nod. She smiled brightly at the Queen and curtseyed.
“Sir Spike has requested my presence here as a special gift for the Queen. What he says is true– I am known throughout all of Sunnydale. My specialty is, uh, sheep and I can prepare them better than anyone else.”
The Queen considered her for a long moment, before shrugging. “Very well, you may cook for the players after the tournament.”
She turned to the soldiers once more. “Secure the sheep and take this chef to the kitchens. We are leaving now for the croquet lawn.”
The Captain handed the reins of a large sorrel gelding to Spike.
“Very nice horse, Ma’am. I’m a great admirer of a good mount.”
“As are we, Sir Spike, as are we,” replied the Queen of Hearts.
He gracefully swung a leg across the horse’s broad back while the Queen pictured herself in the horse’s place.
Turning from the scene, Buffy snickered. Leaving Spike to fend for himself–or in this case fend off Herself– she obediently fell in line behind the Captain and the other soldiers and marched off to play Rachel Ray finds a sword in thirty minutes or less.
Next Chapter Here
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/338936.html