FIC: Never annoy a Pharee

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As we all know, Seasonal Spuffy ended yesterday, but because I missed my posting date (note to self: you really do need to wear your glasses while reading emails), the wonderful enigmaticblues, Queen of Seasonal Spuffy universe, has kindly suggested that I post today instead, for which much thanks (and still I only just made it). And for the community. Which remains wonderful.


Title: Never annoy a Pharee
Set: Season 5 – pre “Crush”
Rating: PG, but only because Spike will swear
Comments: Fluffy fluff of the fluffiest order I’m afraid. Life wouldn’t allow anything more challenging.
Apologies: for the unpolishedness. You all deserve better.

The Pharee demon was having a bad night.

The party she’d come here for hadn’t turned out to be half as exciting as she’d hoped, especially as the cute demon with the orange hair hadn’t turned up as he’d promised, and because of that she’d overindulged in the punch to drown the disappointment and now her wings seemed to have gone wonky and she’d been forced to take a rest and clear her head in this cold, dark dimension which she’d never liked anyway (apart from the wine, which was pretty good, especially the fizzy stuff which made her giggle). And to top it all, she’d just been sat on.

She wriggled herself free of the leather-clad rump that was pinning her to the worn, moss-covered surface of the tombstone where she’d been resting quietly and fluttered up crossly to settle on the top of a nearby crypt. Scales from her battered wings flew around her in a cloud of dust that sparkled and flashed prettily in the moonlight as she smoothed her ruffled hair and creased dress. Luckily the two figures on the ground were far to absorbed in each other to notice. She glared down at them. One female. One male. Both involved in an intense and exclusive glare-match of their own. The tension surrounding them was almost palpable. The Pharee demon perked up a little – she always enjoyed a good fight, and that was something this dimension did do particularly well. Maybe the night wasn’t wasted after all. She settled down to watch.

“Will you stop already!” Buffy folded her arms and glared at Spike.

“I’m just sayin’!” Spike smirked reasonably.

“Well, don’t say! Whatever you have to say is so not worth the hearing.”

“Few home truths is all. Soldier boy clearly just isn’t man enough for the job.”

“Riley is more of a man than you’ll ever be!”

“You think?” Spike moved closer and leaned over her. He picked up a lock of her hair and ran it through his fingers, looking up at her through lowered lashes. “Wanna try me for size?” he leered.

“Do I…” There was an infinitesimal pause before Buffy rallied her senses and slapped his hand away crossly. “You know, you are so close big-pile-of-dusthood…”

The significance of that pause wasn’t lost on the Pharee demon, even if the female seemed to be deep in denial. She frowned grumpily. Turned out that the tension she was picking up from these two wasn’t the sort she had hoped for. What was it with these human creatures? Sex, sex, sex. Completely obsessed with physical attraction, and where these two got off with pretending it wasn’t happening was pathetic in the extreme. It all made her even crosser than she’d been before. Well, she had a good use for all this energy, and honestly, they deserved all they had coming to them, if only because the female had sat on her. Concentrating hard against the developing pain between her eyes – she really must learn when to stop with the wine – she closed her eyes, hoped the wine wouldn’t affect her aim too much, and shifted dimensions.

“You know something? I’ve really had… Whoa!” Buffy paused in mid-rant and looked around. “Wha..?” She blinked, resisted the urge to rub her eyes and looked at Spike who’s face was a picture of comic-book surprise that she felt probably pretty much matched her own. “Wha…? Where did all the trees come from?” she managed eventually.

“You see them, too?” Spike whispered.

“I…yeah…” Buffy reached out a tentative finger and prodded a nearby tree trunk. “They’re real,” she said nervously. She turned on Spike, eyes flashing. “Did you do this? Because if this is some sort of plan to get me…”

“Will you get over yourself!” Spike glared at her. “Even if I could why the bloody hell would I want to strand myself in the middle of some bleedin’ wood with a stroppy, ungrateful bint of a slayer who…”

“Stroppy! I am so not stroppy… whatever that means…”

“It means Buffylike,” he supplied sarcastically. “Bad-tempered and unreasonable and grumpy and … ah-ah…” He caught Buffy’s flying fist inches from his nose. ”… and way too quick to hit first and ask questions later.”

Buffy glowered, pulled her hand free and turned away, striding through the trees determinedly. “OK. It’s a dream. No – a nightmare. Any minute now I’m gonna wake up in my bed…”

Spike dropped into step next to her. “Captain Cardboard snorin’ by your side…”

“Riley doesn’t…” Buffy took a deep breath and refused to rise to the bait. “Yep, a bad dream.” She glared at Spike. “A really, really bad dream.”

“Want me to pinch you?” Spike offered hopefully. “See if you wake up?”

“Want me to stake you?” Buffy didn’t break stride. ”In the hope you never do?”

“Hey, only tryin’ to help!”

“Well, don’t, because your sort of help? So could do without it.” Buffy stopped and stared around her. “Have we been here before? These trees look kinda familiar.”

“Familiar?” Spike peered at the trees blankly. “They’re trees. All look alike to me.”

“That one.” Buffy pointed at a large oak tree. “The pattern on it looks like Giles…”

Spike followed her finger. “Hey! So it does! Must be all the wrinkles.”

“Giles doesn’t have wrinkles. They’re laughter lines. He told me so,”

“Nothin’s that bloody funny.” Spike muttered.

Buffy suppressed a traitorous smile. “All these trees, we could easily be walking in circles.” She bit her lip in thought. “Oh! I know! Maybe we should leave a trail. Breadcrumbs or something.”

“Breadcrumbs? What, you’re Gretel all of a sudden? Never works. Bird’s eat ‘em. Don’t you know anythin’?” Spike shook his head disparagingly. “’Sides, you actually got any bread on you?”

She frowned uncomfortably. “Well, no…”

Spike sniffed. “Thought not.”

“I don’t hear you coming up with a better idea.” Buffy turned away crossly.

“Well, it’ll be hard to think of a worse one. No matter – we’ll be comin’ across a gingerbread house anytime soon I dare say.” Spike fell into step alongside Buffy. “We could ask the wicked old witch the way. Whoa!” He stopped suddenly. “Wouldn’t go that way if I were you.”

“Well, I’m not you. And I can go where I like.” She took a few bad-tempered steps along a side-track.

“Well, your choice an’ all. Just sayin’… You go right ahead.” Spike shrugged. “They might not eat you.”

She hesitated. “Eat me?”

“Uh-huh.” Spike was peering at the ground, nodding knowledgably. “Bear tracks.”

“Bears?” Buffy squeaked, glancing around nervously.

“Three of ‘em.” He followed the tracks off the path and into the undergrowth. “Two big ones and a cub by the looka, an’… Oh, bloody hell!”

“Whats up?” Buffy looked back nervously to see Spike picking his way back to the path.

“You know that question? About bears an’ the woods? Well, I just found the answer.” He wiped the side of his boot against a clump of grass, grimacing with distaste. “This is why I never liked the whole back to nature thing.”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “I’m going that way.” She pointed in the opposite direction to the bear tracks. “That way looks good. Don’t feel you have to come with.”

“Well, pardon me for savin’ you from bein’ torn limb from limb!” Spike resumed his place at her side. “Won’t bother next time. Let the buggers eat you.”

“Do you ever shut up?” Buffy growled through clenched teeth.

“Little bit of thanks wouldn’t go amiss is all.” Spike muttered. Buffy ignored him determinedly and they walked on in sullen silence. The path stretched in front of them, softly carpeted with emerald grass studded with woodland flowers and lined with an almost impenetrable wall of tree trunks that allowed only brief glimpses of a stygian gloom beyond their massed ranks. The branches of the tree lining the path arched over their heads, meeting in a cathedral-like roof of leaves backlight by sunlight, bathing the track in a gentle green light. In other circumstances, Buffy felt she could almost enjoy this rural ramble. Spike, on the other hand was looking increasingly uncomfortable, suddenly stopping to glare at the trees or frown back at the track or to cock his head as if listening for something.

After half an hour or so of studiously ignoring his behaviour, Buffy had had enough. “What?!” She turned on Spike, who had stopped again to look back at track.

“Didn’t say a thing!”

“What’s with all the stopping and frowning and cat-on-a-hot-tin-roofness?” A sudden thought hit her and she moved nervously to his side. “You don’t think the bears are back?”

“No, it’s just, “Spike paused awkwardly. “Somethin’s not right.”

“Such as?”

“Well, for a start, it’s too bloody quiet. No birds.”

“Birds.” Buffy looked at him blankly.

“Woods. Should be birds. An’ no sign of any furry little woodland creatures, ‘part from the bear tracks. Rabbits, squirrels, that sort of thing.”

“The significance of which is…?”

“Just odd is all. Plus there’ll be nothin’ to eat when we get peckish.”

Buffy glared at him. “You’re disgusting, you know that, right?”

“You seen any Golden Arches lately? We get stuck here a while, you’re gonna be grateful for a nice bunny to chomp on.”

“Could you even catch a rabbit?”

Spike sniffed. “Nothin’ to it. There was this time me an’ Dru got stuck out in the middle of nowhere – bit of a disagreement with the locals after Dru…” He glanced at Buffy and side-tracked rapidly. “Well, no matter. Anyway, wandered around for days, Nothin’ but mountains and forests an’ the like. Bloody boring. Managed to catch us an otter. Very tasty.” His eyes misted nostalgically. “Those were the days.”

“I did mention disgusting, right?”

Spike ignored her. “There’s somethin’ – just get the impression – like we’re bein’ herded along somehow.” He frowned at the track behind them.

“Herded.” Buffy raised an eyebrow. “By?”

“By… I dunno… trees.” Spike shrugged uncomfortably.

“Trees.” The eyebrow was raised even higher.

“Well… yeah.”

“Riiiight…Because trees are famous for their ability to make like sheepdogs.” The raised eyebrow was followed by a fine display of eye rolling.

“Do that again and I’ll thump you, chip or no chip.” Spike growled. He gestured behind them. “Look at the track we’ve just come along.” He nodded toward the path ahead of them. “An’ ahead. Notice anythin’?”

Buffy peered along the track blankly. “What’s to see? It’s a grassy track. With a side order of trees. You know, I think you’re losing it. Maybe it’s all this wood… all those potential stakes just waiting to be…”

“No.” Spike gritted his teeth against the urge to carry out his threat. “Look. Path ahead kinda wide and smooth an’ all. Been like that all the time, yeah? Now look behind. Don’t you think it looks kinda different?”

“Oh, for…!” Buffy set off determinedly back along the track. “Look, it’s a perfectly good path! Just the same as… Oh.” She hadn’t gone far before the path dwindled to nothing, her progress blocked by dense undergrowth and the entwined branches of the trees. She turned to where Spike was watching, the smooth green track stretching ahead of him and hurried back nervously, her eyes flitting uneasily across the trees. “We must’ve… taken a wrong turning… missed the track…”

“Yeah.” Spike frowned. “Maybe.” He sniffed and squared his shoulders. “I’m gonna break off, see if I can find another way through. You comin’?”

Buffy looked at the tangle of undergrowth and trees lining the path. “Let me get this straight. You want me leave this nice, clear track all with the pretty flowers and soft green grass that, given it’s a track, presumably leads somewhere, and push through that.” She pointed into the darkness. “With the scratchy thorny stuff and the gloom and the potential for bear-type encounters. Oh, that’s a hard one.”

“Somethin’s not right. I’m not being told where to go by…” Spike hesitated.

“A bunch of trees. Yeah, you said.”

“Look, somethin’ or someone wants us to go that way.” He pointed down the track ahead. “No-one,” Spike said slowly and carefully through gritted teeth, “Tells me what to do.”

Buffy gave a disparaging snort. “So go! Oh, no you can’t now, can you, because I told you to, and no-one tells you…”

“I’m going! You wanna take your chances with,” He hesitated “Whatever it is, you go right ahead. Do way better without you treadin’ on my heels anyway.” He turned away crossly and stalked off. “Just mind the bears,” he sneered as he disappeared into the undergrowth.

“Bears would be better company!” Buffy shouted after him. She folded her arms and watched the place where he’d entered the trees, confidently expecting him to reappear after a few seconds of doing battle with nature. The undergrowth sprang back quickly, obliterating his path and encroaching trees swallowed the sound of any movement within moments. He didn’t reappear. The silence stretched on and Buffy began to feel very, very much alone. She glanced nervously at the trees behind her then shook her head impatiently. They were just trees, goddamn it! “Stupid vampire,” she muttered under her breath, setting off along the track at a brisk walk. “Who needs him anyway?” Despite her determination, Buffy became increasingly uneasy. There was a constant suspicion of movement at the periphery of her vision that made her stop and spin around to be faced by a solidly static wall of tree trunks. Loathe as she was to admit it, maybe Spike had a point. She shook her head in exasperation. Spike never had a point worth the making; the tree thing was just stupid paranoia. She stomped on crossly, keeping her eyes fixed firmly ahead. However, unnerving as the relentless silence and the restless trees were, it was when the noises began that Buffy became seriously worried. Something was crashing around in the woods and whatever it was sounded big. And it was getting closer. Buffy looked frantically around. Weren’t you supposed to climb a tree or something to escape bears? The smooth trunks of the trees near the track offered no obvious purchase and the nearest substantial branches were beyond her reach. She was beginning to wonder whether she could outrun a bear if she got a head start when the ‘whatever it was’ hurtled suddenly out of the trees, tripped over a bramble and fell at her feet. Spike picked himself up, dusted himself off, disentangled a twig from his hair and frowned at her. “How the hell did that happen? I’m bloody sure I was headin’ in completely the opposite direction.” He glared at the trees.

Buffy put the enormous surge of pleasure and relief she felt down to the fact that, in the end, even Spike’s company was preferable to a hungry grizzly, and shook her head. “Well, you’re here now. Look, whatever’s going on,” she began.

“Oh, so you agree there’s somethin’ goin’ on now, do you?” Spike interrupted triumphantly.

“Yeah, whatever.” Buffy was determined to stay reasonable rather than risk having to tramp on through the forest alone. “Nothing to be gained by splitting up. We should probably stick together.” She took Spike’s shrug as agreement and they set off again. “So, did you find anything?”

“Trees mainly.” Spike fell into step and they set off along the track.

“You don’t say.” Buffy sighed. “You know, I’m really getting tired of all these trees. Get’s kinda monotonous.”

“Yeah, well, still say these aren’t normal trees.” Spike sniffed.

“Talking about monotonous…”

“Just sayin’. Seen plenty of trees, been in plenty of forests, never come across anythin’ like this before.”

“Can you give it a rest with the tree fixation? Please? Because if you don’t… Oh!” Buffy stumbled to a halt as the path suddenly stopped. Ahead of them was a perfect circle of green among the tall trees of the woods, a sunlit clearing of close-cropped velvet-green grass sloping softly down to a silver stream which sparkled prettily with captured shards of sunlight. A rustic bridge spanned the stream, leading to a lush meadow studded with jewel-like flowers of yellow, pink and blue which swept up to merge with the tree line opposite. The sky above the clearing was an arc of summer blue, the sun high and bright, warming the scented air.

“Well, that’s better!” Buffy sighed happily.

“Hmm…” Spike frowned at the meadow suspiciously. “Maybe.”

“Oh, will you stop?” Buffy turned on him. “I’m getting kinda tired of this. What now? Afraid the grass might be out to get us? Bite our ankles, maybe?”

“I’m still capable of thumping you. Moments like this, bit of a headache would be worth it.”

“It’s gotta be easier than all those trees. I’m going that way. See? There’s a track and a gap in the trees over there. Maybe there’s a village or something. With people.” She glanced over at Spike. “Helpful people who aren’t afraid of the vegetation.”


“Right. I’m off.” She squared her shoulders and stepped into the sunshine.

“Wait!” Spike called after her.

Buffy turned back with an impatient sigh. “What now?”

Spike frowned at the bucolic scene in front of him. “I dunno. There’s somethin’… The bridge.”

“It’s a bridge. Over a stream.” Buffy gestured across the meadow.

Spike shook his head uncomfortably. “Yeah. Right.”

“Oh, for… Look, you stand wanna stand there all day, fine by me. You can come or – or go lurk. Oh, wait.” Buffy smiled at him with saccharine sweetness. “You can’t come can you? I was forgetting your sun allergy.” She turned away determinedly and made for the bridge. The soft grass was springy beneath her feet, and Buffy was suddenly filled with an overwhelming urge to take of her shoes and skip across the meadow. Given that Spike was watching, however, and she didn’t want to look a total idiot in front of him, she tried her best to resist the temptation. The sun was warm on her skin after the gloom of the woodland and she closed her eyes and tipped her face up to its caressing rays. Sunshine, flowers, a tinkling stream and no Spike. Things were looking up.


His voice had enough urgency to stop her in her tracks. She turned around to glare at Spike who was watching from the shade of the trees. “What is your problem!” she shouted back crossly.

“Troll!” Spike took a dangerous step toward the sunlight.

“Hey! You’re reduced to name calling now? Sticks and stones may break my bones but words…”

“No, you half-witted bint! Troll! Behind you!”

Buffy turned slowly. “Oh! That troll!” she said, smiling weakly. “Umm. Hi? Nice bridge you got here. Very… homey…”

The troll growled. It struck Buffy that he probably wasn’t in the mood for small talk, so, given her previous experience of his kind, Buffy decided the hit first ask questions later tactic was probably the best option.


Spike looked on appreciatively as Buffy laid into the rather startled looking troll. He had to admit that despite her faults – and she had many, which he could list at great length and often did of a quiet evening – the slayer could fight. He nodded approvingly as a well aimed kick sent the troll staggering, frowned, thought about it, decided that his loyalties really shouldn’t be with the slayer and changed his support to root for the currently floored troll. However, when the balance of the fight shifted, and the troll threw a dazed-looking Buffy over his shoulder and headed off at a lumbering lope, Spike was across the clearing with his arms around the creature’s neck before any conscious thought to go to her aid had surfaced in his mind.

Taken by surprise by the sudden and unprovoked attack, the troll dropped his trophy and span around furiously, trying to shake off the annoyingly persistent creature which currently had him in an uncomfortable arm lock. Unfortunately for the troll, Buffy was quickly back on her feet, and the determined and alarmingly well coordinated assault of two small but surprisingly powerful humans was too much for the bewildered creature. He ran for cover, rapidly disappearing from sight in the massed ranks of trees.

Spike let out a whoop of feral joy and turned to Buffy. “Now, that was fun!” He grinned hugely.

“Fun…” Buffy was staring at him open-mouthed.

“Oh, don’t tell me that wasn’t fun!”

“Bu… but…” Buffy stammered.

He frowned at her. “What?”

Buffy blinked at him and pointed at the sky. “Sun!”

“What? Oh, bollocks!” Instinct kicked in and Spike threw his arms over his head and ran for the trees. After a couple of steps he stopped, unfolded his arms and looked at his hands. “Hey! M’ not on fire!”

Buffy folded her arms. “Sadly not.”

“Oh, wait. Oh, no. I’m not…” Spike shrugged into game face briefly. “Nope. That’s a relief.”

“What’s going on?” Buffy glanced up at the sky. “The sun’s up – looks real enough, feels real enough.”

Spike tilted his head back, basking in the warmth. “Does, doesn’t it?” He sighed. “Been so long, forgot what it felt like.”

Buffy felt a sudden twinge of sympathy at the wistfulness in his voice. She stamped on it quickly and shook her head. “I’m sticking with the nightmare theory.” She headed off across the bridge and toward the gap in the tree line, Spike reluctantly trailing after her.

“Been a while since I caught a bit of sun.”

“Yeah, and I remember the last time. Didn’t exactly turn out well, did it?”

“Well don’t need to rely on a stupid bit of bling now, do I? Want a rematch?”

“Tempting as it is, I think I’ll pass.” Buffy kept walking resolutely.

“Oh, c’mon! Slow up! No rush to get back into the gloomy old woods, is there? Have a bit of a break. Little rest in the sun.” Spike coaxed, and despite herself, Buffy felt tempted. She stopped and turned to face him uncertainly. Spike grinned. “We could do a bit of sunbathin’,” he raised an eyebrow and let his eyes travel suggestively over her body. “Get an all-over tan.”

Buffy shook her head in exasperation and turned away. “To that a world of no.” she growled. “You coming?”

“Nope.” Spike threw himself down onto the grass, stretched out and closed his eyes, luxuriating in the sunshine. “Think I’ll just stay here an’ get me that tan. Stay an’ watch if you like.” He called after her retreating back. Apart from a stiffening of her shoulders, Buffy didn’t deign to respond.


The woodland at the opposite side of the clearing was less dense than previously, and shafts of sunlight cut down through the trees to cast dappled pools on light on the woodland floor. The track ahead of Buffy was wider than before, its edges less defined, softened by ferns and white flowered sweet woodruff. Looking ahead, she caught the suggestion of another clearing and within that clearing, partly hidden by the trees, what looked very much like a wall. Civilization! She turned back to the meadow to call for Spike and stopped, open mouthed. He was lying spread-eagled on the grass, duster and shirt discarded, clearly taking his quest for a tan seriously. His eyes were closed, lips slightly parted in a soft smile of pleasure. The sun bathed his pale skin, painting his body with light and shadow, picking out and delineating the lean muscularity of his arms, the smooth expanse of his chest, the suggestion of a hip bone and the well-defined corrugations of his stomach, a slightly darker line leading down toward the dangerously dipping waistband of his jeans.

Suddenly aware that she had left the forest and was heading slowly back across the clearing as if in a dream, Buffy blinked and shook herself. Too much sun after all that woodland shade, she told herself, that’s what caused the surge of heat in her gut and flush of blood to her face. She turned away resolutely and returned briskly to the trees. Things were confusing enough without having to deal with the possibility it was anything more.

The clearing opened up suddenly at the end of the track and Buffy found herself staring in surprise at what the wall she’d glimpsed earlier turned out to be. A castle. Buffy blinked and resisted the urge to rub her eyes. Didn’t expect that. White walls stretched above her, crisp and clean and pierced with delicate arched windows which glinted in the golden sunlight. At each corner stood a perfect round tower topped with pointed, silver-grey slate roofs over which long silver and blue banners floated gaily. A delicate wooden bridge arched over a sparkling blue moat, leading to an open gateway through which Buffy could just glimpse a courtyard complete with glittering fountain and flower-bedecked walls.

“Oh, pretty!” She couldn’t resist smiling. “Wonder if Prince Charming’s at home?” She crossed to the bridge and called across.” “Hey! Anyone home?”

At the sound of her voice a flock of white doves took off in a flutter from the courtyard to settle, cooing softly, on castle walls. Buffy crossed the delicate span of the bridge and entered the courtyard. The bubbling jet of water in the fountain sparkled prettily in the sunlight above a stone basin in which tiny silver fish swam among pale pink waterlilies. The white walls of the castle were bedecked with climbing roses, their sweet, musky perfume scenting the air. It was all very lovely, but also very deserted. In the wall opposite was a heavy but delicately carved wooden door, invitingly open. Buffy approached it hesitantly and peered inside. “Hello?” she called hopefully. Despite the lack of response there was something strangely inviting about the castle. Deciding that if the castle’s owners didn’t want visitors they wouldn’t have left the door open, Buffy stepped inside.

The door opened into a long, vaulted hall. Sunlight streamed down from the tall, arched windows, casting shafts of light onto the time-worn flagstone floor. Long, brightly coloured silk banners hanging from poles set high on the tapestry-covered walls moved gently in the soft breeze that bore the scent of roses from the courtyard through the open door. Buffy walked slowly forward, the air cool against her sun-warmed skin, entranced by the shifting colours of the flags and the wall hangings which seemed to become brighter and richer as she moved further into the castle. Heavy tables bedecked with copper bowls of jewel-bright flowers sat against the walls, their polished surfaces gleaming softly. Between each table sat solid oak chairs sumptuously upholstered in red and gold. The whole place felt warm, cherished and cared for, but as far as Buffy could see, there was no obvious sign of the carers. Maybe they were all out hunting or whatever the sort of people who owned castles like this did, Buffy thought. Ahead of her, a stone staircase led invitingly upwards, spiralling solidly as it curved its way up one of the corner towers. It occurred to Buffy that, if she could get to the top of the tower, she might get a good view of the surrounding countryside, maybe even spot a way out of the forest. She climbed the twisting staircase, catching glimpses of trees and sky through the small windows that let in shafts of golden light. At the top of the stairs was a single room, light and airy with large windows running around the walls framed by sumptuous drapes. It was clearly a bedroom given that, placed squarely in the middle, was a large bed piled high with a confection of snow-white, lace trimmed bedlinen and surrounded by delicate silk hangings. And that was it. Just the bed. Castle minimalism, Buffy concluded.

She looked out through the delicate arches of the windows onto a sea of green. Trees stretched in an unbroken carpet of leaves as far as her eye could see. From this side of the castle, she couldn’t even see the clearing in which Spike was presumably still sunbathing… virtually naked… She frowned and dragged her thoughts back from where they seemed to be determined to wander, and turned her back on the windows. She wandered over the bed and sat down on the soft cushions with a sigh. Now what? A single pink rose lay on the cushion next to her, its petals gleaming softly as if still touched by morning dew. She picked it up and pressed the cool petals to her nose, breathing the sweet rich perfume deeply. There was no obvious way out of this mess, no clear end to the forest, nowhere obvious to go. She winced as a thorn from the rose drew a jewel of red blood from her fingertip. Figured, given her current run of luck, she thought, yawning suddenly. It really was beautifully warm and bright in the room, a comforting eyrie after the gloom of the forest. The thought of how far she’d walked through the trees made her weary. In fact, she thought, yawning again, she really could do with a nap right now. She looked down at the mountain of soft cushions. It might be an idea to wait until whoever owned the castle came back from wherever they’d gone. Maybe they could help. And she was sure, given the open door, that they really wouldn’t mind if she curled up on the bed for a quick nap. Buffy’s eyes were growing increasingly heavy. Would they? Five minutes, then she’d go get Spike. Decision made, Buffy sank down into the softness of the bed with a sigh of pleasure. Her last drowsy thoughts before sleep rapidly claimed her were whether Spike was still sunbathing… virtually naked…


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