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
A White Knight is Talking Backwards
“That one’s not clean enough, and you haven’t even dried it.” Buffy waved off the servant carrying the dripping wet, frantically bleating lamb. “I told you–every single one of them must be washed twice and dried completely before I’d even consider using them for dinner.” She shooed the servant back toward the door. “I’m sure the Queen would like her dinner nice and clean.”
That did the trick. Utterly terrified, the servant couldn’t get through the door fast enough.
Satisfied her plan was still working; Buffy went back to searching the kitchen. It was brilliant really, making them wash the sheep first. Now she only saw servants when someone arrived with a lamb they’d finally managed to round up and wash and that didn’t happen too often. The kitchen servants were definitely not Olympic sprinter material; while the sheep, not having Buffy and Spike around to follow anymore, were no longer docile and cooperative– they ran like mad in the other direction every time anyone went into their field. She’d heard one of the dishwashers complaining to a maid that they kicked and bit, too.
Buffy placed a large pot of water on the stove to boil and headed for the next room. If anyone noticed she was no longer in the kitchen, she could always claim she’d gotten lost trying to find a way out to the herb gardens. After all, on T.V. chefs were always putting handfuls of chopped herbs in anything and everything.
“That was a good shot, Sir Spike. You’re quite deft with your pole,” The Queen remarked slyly, sliding closer and murmuring, “I bet you practice a great deal.”
The thought of his pole anywhere within twenty feet of her gave him a splitting headache. He forced a smile and bowed. “Thank you, Milady.”
Under pretense of watching another player at the bottom of the hill he opened a few inches of space between them.
She promptly sidled close again.
He cut his eyes to her. She needed a shave more than he did.
Wishing a quart bottle of Jack would appear like a bolt from the blue, he dug through his pockets for his cigarettes.
Spike had hoped playing croquet would work to keep them apart, but after the first wicket he realized that was not going to happen. All of the players were frightened of Maleficent here, refusing to knock her ball anywhere on the course. Instead everyone carefully putted their ball along behind hers–and his by default–leaving plenty of opportunities for the two of them to remain the front runners by a wide margin. The irony of it was that Spike honestly couldn’t blame any of them–after all who wanted to have their head chopped off over a poncy game?
And it was, too– the game was played differently, but just as insanely as in the actual story, making Spike’s head ache and his nerves fray.
In this game as in the actual story the wickets were card soldiers– forced to bend in an uncomfortable arc at their midsection and remain that way– for such a long time that they continually fell over trying to accommodate the position. They also trembled, mostly from fear of reprisal, and that caused them to lose their footing and fall over, too.
Either way a soldier never lasted long–much less through the entire round of players–and as soon as a shaky wicket fell another soldier jumped right in to take its place. But by that time the original card–frightened to death of reprisal– would be trying to set up again. This caused heated arguments over who was supposed to be where. Finally, one or the other would randomly move over a few feet, creating a second wicket in the same area of play.
The next round of players would arrive, and having no idea what was going on and not caring anyway, they would just play both. At the rate the wickets were multiplying, Spike figured the game would probably continue until sometime next week.
Even without the wicket issue, the players were having other problems of their own. Not one among them was using an actual croquet mallet, but a various and sundry collection of implements– most of them crooked or broken in some way– that would have been at home at any suburban yard sale.
From his vantage point at the top of the hill, Spike saw bent golf clubs, long handled rakes missing tines, even a cricket bat with a chunk missing from one side. He watched as one player even knocked his ball with an elm tree branch, shedding bark and leaves all over the wicket, and causing it to sneeze violently. When the card fell over from the force of the sneeze, a loud argument erupted between it and the player over whether the ball was actually through before the wicket collapsed.
Another soldier ran up and they both pounced on him. Fists and leaves began to fly.
Spike quietly moved over to shield the fight from the Queen’s line of sight, but it wasn’t necessary. Competitiveness in full flower, she was too busy inspecting the lay of the next wicket to lop anyone’s head off. He shared a wink with her servant who had shifted himself and the heavy bag he carried, too.
The Queen changed mallets every wicket from an enormous, leather bag the servant lugged along behind her. After the first couple times, Spike had given up trying to figure out if the servant understood which specific object the Queen was requesting when she held out her hand or if she just wanted something different.
And frankly, he didn’t care. Tiger Woods she wasn’t, and as long as she was busy choosing some daft object to hit the bloody ball with, she wasn’t leaning against him, stroking his arm or far worse, pinching his butt. Good thing he had vampire healing, because his ass was black and blue–not only did the Queen of Hearts look like a dock worker, she had the iron grip of one, too.
He watched as she snapped her pudgy fingers and stifled the urge to snap her neck to match the fingers. He lit a cigarette and watched the overworked servant dutifully reach deeply into the oversized bag for the umpteenth time and pull out an ornately engraved sword.
Nearly swallowing his cigarette, Spike’s eyes bugged out like Roger Rabbit getting a first look at Jessica beneath the house lights.
Forcing both eyes back into their sockets he watched the Queen play with the sword. “That’s an extremely handsome sword, Your Highness.”
Slicing the air between them, she replied, “The Vorpal blade went snicker-snack!”
So it was the Vorpal blade. Spike moved closer. Tamping down his natural revulsion, he smiled warmly at her. “May I see it?”
The Queen ran her finger gently down the steel blade. “No, ‘tis not for the likes of you.” She moved away from Spike, obstinately holding the sword on the far side of her ample figure. “It’s mine alone.”
“I see.” Sidling closer, he reached across and placed his hand over hers where it rested on the hilt. “How about a little wager? The winner of the game becomes the owner of the sword.”
“I am already owner of the sword.” She placed her other hand on top of his and squeezed. “What can you offer?”
He laced his fingers with hers. “Me, milady.”
“Done,” she purred, reluctantly disengaging her hand. Handing the sword back to the servant, she said, “Go and retrieve several of my personal guard and a few of those idiots below that call themselves loyal subjects. Sir Spike and I have made a personal wager over the outcome of the game and I should like someone to bear witness as we seal our wager with a kiss.” She smiled broadly and Spike noticed for the first time that she was missing several teeth.
He swallowed hard.
The mole twitched happily.
“Okay, this is nearly ready and boy, does it smell good, it just needs a little something–”
Buffy backed away, slamming the top back down on the bubbling pot, sealing the ungodly stench back inside. She turned to the servants standing there with handkerchiefs over their noses and asked brightly, “Do you have any EVOO?”
Having returned from the field, the Queen’s cook crossed his arms. When she’d raised the lid, Buffy had had trouble seeing his expression while her own eyes were watering so heavily, but she was pretty sure it wasn’t two thumbs up.
The cook seemed to read her mind. He stared down his nose and said, “I believe we will take this soup to the Queen and let her decide whether you should continue on to the main course.”
At his nod, two of the kitchen servants lifted the metal pot from the stove, taking care not to rub their heavily bandaged arms against it.
The sludge inside the pot shifted causing the rock inside to bang against the side. Buffy winced. Maybe she shouldn’t have taken Stone Soup so literally, but she’d been desperate to put something in the pot without actually cutting up lots of vegetables, so the rock filled a void If she could figure out how to unstick the ladle from the middle of the soup, it would loosen the rock and she could get rid of it. So the rock wasn’t really an issue like that unholy smell.
She hadn’t been able to read any of the labels on the jars lined up around the kitchen because hey, stupid Latin again, so after the first five minutes she’d given up channeling Paula or Emeril and started randomly dumping various ingredients in the pot, creating the first soup that could double as a roof tar while smelling like something… well, pretty much indescribable, although Spike could probably come up with something pretty describable to call it.
Wrinkling her nose, she fanned the lingering odor away–that smell was never coming out of these clothes– and decided she’d give Spike a heads up on the missing sword sitch.
She looked over at the cook. “I’m sure the players are hungry; by all means let’s take the soup out to them.”
And if the ladle freed itself, they could fill potholes they discovered along the way.
Buffy watched as the soup pot was placed on a sturdy wooden table someone had erected next to a tent, while nearby the Queen waited impatiently. She was winning and had only had two more wickets before pretty Sir Spike and his talented pole was all hers….
Pretty Sir Spike stood on the other side of the tent watching the soup placement, relief at any pause in the game written across his face. Studying him Buffy thought he looked a little like someone who’d just been handed a free lottery ticket with the current winning numbers already preprinted on the face. What had transpired between him and the smug Queen while she’d been busy scouting around the palace? It certainly looked too juicy to leave alone. Vowing to pull it out of him later she shifted her attention back to the Queen. The ladle was a lost cause, so the cook handed the Monarch a long handled spoon and reached for the lid.
Everyone from the kitchen crew drew back quickly, leaving only the players and the Queen standing at the table.
Buffy slid back a few inches and quietly pulled Spike away by the back of his coat. He was turning to frown at her when the cook lifted the lid. The breeze caught the acrid smell and it quickly spread among the players. They all started coughing and wiping their eyes.
Spike’s frown turned into a delighted grin. Buffy caught his expression and shrugged.
The Queen’s nose had wrinkled and her bulging eyes were watering copiously. She grabbed the lid from the coughing cook, banging it back down on the pot. She managed to choke out an almost intelligible, “Off with her head!!”
Buffy and Spike were trying to slip away before any soldiers realized what she’d actually said and responded, when a loud shriek filled the air.
A large, swiftly moving shadow crossed above them and everyone froze.
Someone screamed as someone else yelled “Beware of the Jubjub!”
The warning galvanized the frozen players and pandemonium ensued. Soldiers ran around in circles crashing into each other, while the players all tried to dive into the tent at the same time, causing an enormous pile up in the doorway.
Spike shoved the Queen of Hearts to the ground and rolled her under the table. Looking at her frightened face, he tried to reassure her. “Sorry about the rough treatment, but don’t worry you’ll be safe as houses under there.”
Grabbing a baseball bat lying abandoned on the ground, he stood guard between the table and the tent. It would be up to the Slayer to kill the Jubjub.
Keeping one eye on the monstrous bird circling above, Buffy searched the tent for a decent weapon of any kind before Big Bird decided to come in for a landing and a snack.
“Slayer! The Vorpal blade’s in the leather bag over there!”
She hurried to the bag and felt around inside, pulling out the curved broadsword. Jumping on the table top, she planted her feet in a wide stance.
The Jubjub spread yellow wings wide and rode the warm air current, circling around to search for easy prey.
Beady red eyes locked on the sword shining in the noon day sun below and the bird dove– straight toward the Slayer.
Buffy waited until the last possible moment and pivoted a half turn. Swinging the sword two handed, she cleaved the enormous bird’s head cleanly from its shoulders as it passed inches from her.
She hopped down from the table to loud cheering from everyone around them.
“That was good of the Queen to give us the Vorpal Blade. I know it was a tough decision for her.” Buffy stroked the hilt lovingly. She enjoyed receiving swords from people; they were the gift that kept on giving.
“I think it was a tougher decision to leave your head alone, but since you saved her life she felt obligated, but if we’d given Herself too much more time she would have remembered that culinary surprise you whipped up.” he replied.
“Who besides a geologist would have known that stupid rock was sulfur? I mean, sulfur in Wonderland? That’s just wrong on so many levels.” Buffy took an experimental sniff of her shirt and made a face. “Tell me the truth–does this smell worse than the sheep?”
“Nothin’ smells worse than the sheep. As for the cooking, you should have gotten points for presentation–that handle stuck up in the middle of the black sludge gave it a real whimsical air.”
She snorted. “Yeah, that’s the dish I was going for–La Brea with a side of Seuss.”
Buffy changed the subject. “So that was a Jubjub back there. You know, for some reason I expected more of a fight, especially the way everyone kept saying ‘beware of the Jubjub’ everywhere we went. And then it turned out to just be a stupid ‘roid raging Big Bird. I’ve tackled worse in the alley behind Willie’s on any Saturday night. ”
He nodded. He’d been thinking the same thing. Not the big bird on steroids part–only the Slayer could have come up with that analogy– but the rest of her point. It definitely wasn’t logical. Unless…
“Maybe it’s the book’s way of moving the plot forward, giving in gracefully and pavin’ the way for the Jabberwock.”
“I suppose that could be it. After all, the craziness has to end at some point.”
“But not without understanding.” said a voice above their heads. The Cheshire Cat– at least his head–was in the tree above them. He grinned genially at them both.
The head floated serenely above the branch. “I have a message for the owner of the Vorpal Blade.”
Buffy unsheathed the sword and held it up. “And that would now be me.”
“So I see.” The cat’s body slowly appeared, beginning with its tail.
Spike blew out an exasperated breath. He’d had enough the past couple hours and another encounter with the enigmatic floating cat was just too much. “I’d say get on with it, we’re burnin’ daylight, but we’d both know that’s not true.”
The cat ignored Spike, treating him as if he hadn’t spoken. His body, completely corporeal now, still floated six inches above the branch while his eyes narrowed to slits. “The message is of the utmost importance.”
Buffy tried to hurry the exchange. “Who is the message from?”
“Someone you rudely bypassed in your hurry toward the Torpol Wood.”
Spike unfurled the map. “He’s right, Slayer. We had a choice of right or left at the last fork, but this is the most direct route.” He shrugged at the cat. “I made a choice, so sue me.”
“Sometimes a choice may leave someone sooo….unchallenged.”
Even Buffy rolled her eyes at that one before trying to be polite again. “I’m so sorry we missed someone and their, uh, challenge.”
The cat thought it over. Slowly. He finally nodded. “Very well, I shall give you the message but only once you’ve answered the challenge which would have been posed by the Caterpillar.”
“Oh, Spike, I loved the chapter with the caterpillar.” She lowered her voice and confided. “When I was small, I would make my dad read that chapter over and over before bed.” She turned back to the cat with more confidence. “Ask away.”
“Who are you?”
Buffy knew the cat was seeking something more than the obvious answer of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. Thanking her younger self, she replied with Alice’s original response. “I hardly know. I knew who I was when I got up this morning, but I’ve changed since then.”
The cat’s smile broadened. “Exactly so!” His tail twitched a few times. “Although it could be said of everyone.” Floating a bit closer he confided, “The message is “Keep your temper.”
Buffy stared after the vanishing cat. “Those are the caterpillar’s actual words to Alice, but how in the world could they pertain to me, or even you?”
An image of the Slayer punching him in the nose rose unbidden in Spike’s mind, but outwardly, he shrugged. “I’m not sure he knows himself.”
“You’re probably right. We’ll just keep going, and hopefully at some point it will all make sense.”
“I wouldn’t count on that.”
Next Chapter Here
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/339099.html