If it’s Tuesday, this must be Sunnydale: Seventh post

This entry is part 7 of 10 in the series If it's Tuesday, this must be Sunnydale
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If it’s Tuesday, this must be Sunnydale

The story begins here.

Disclaimer: All characters are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, etc. Only the lame plots and dialogue herein are mine.

Notes: Set in version of S6 that is so AU it’s nearly angst-free. Buffy either didn’t die at the end of S5 or was happy to come back. Everyone gets along, more or less, at least until someone gets a really nifty notion.

Rating: R, barely

Thanks: to keswindhover and revdorothyl for the beta, not to mention coming up with the plot bunny in the first place. I am wholly to blame for any errors. And thanks to itmustbetuesday for the comm, and because her name prompted me to think of a title at last.

I forgot to acknowledge Katharine Briggs’ Abbey Lubbers, Banshees & Boggarts in some earlier posts. (Wow, look at that price on a new copy! It looks like you can get used ones for a song, though.) I have several of her books of folktales, and after browsing through some of the stories in this one for the first time in many years, I’m tempted to reread the others. Several of the “demons” in my story are stolen borrowed from Briggs’ collection, although I’ve changed their habits, physical characteristics, and even their names to suit my purposes.

For a very different treatment of selkies, see also The Secret of Roan Inish.

Also, I love the title of this chapter to distraction. revdorothyl  came up with it.

 

Mutally Assured Distraction
Monday, Day Six of the Tour

Morning

“Hi!” Buffy opened the door to the Magic Box and peered inside. “You’re open early. I just made a delivery down the street, and—”

She stopped. Today, there were the two men sleeping with their heads on the table. She went up to the one who had given her the slip outside the Bronze the night before and poked him in the shoulder. “Spike?”

But it was Xander who raised his head. He waved at her weakly. “Hi, Buffy.” His head dropped to the table again.

Buffy gave Spike a shake, not very hopefully. She’d had plenty of experience trying to wake this particular dead guy when he’d crashed, and she knew it was next to impossible.

Anya bustled up out of the cellar, saying, “Okay, I’ve got the frogs’ eggs and yak meat packed in ice for tonight, and— Buffy! You’re here again! Why?”

Buffy ignored the question. “Yak meat?”

Anya wave her hand in the air. “Oh, don’t worry about the yak meat!”

“Why not?”

“Because—because it’s kind of gross and I only bought it for some demon customers. Harmless demon customers. Except to yaks, of course.” She looked around the room and beamed as if she’d just had a brainwave. “That’s why Xander and Spike are here. Oh, yes. They were helping me with a new shipment. Wasn’t that nice of them?”

Buffy wasn’t impressed. “Two days in less than a week, Spike comes here early in the morning to help you unpack stuff?”

Anya’s response was indignant. “I might be paying him for it, you know!”

Oh. I never thought of that. Maybe he’s just trying to make a little money and doesn’t want me to know he’s working as a stock boy. Buffy didn’t believe her own thoughts. She knew she was looking for reasons to excuse Spike’s behavior instead of investigating it.

But Spike’s wasn’t the only behavior that needed investigating. “Do you know Xander and Willow were at the Bronze last night?”

“Oh, yes! I was there with them. You just didn’t see me. We were all out just out having fun, fun, fun!”

“Really? I thought Xander and Willow were looking for information about the shapeshifter I’m hunting?”

“Oh. Yes. Of course. Well, you know us Scoobies! We find nothing more fun than helping out our best friend Buffy!”

Buffy cast what she hoped looked like a casual glance around the shop. She didn’t see the Kali statue, but some of the candlesticks that had been in Spike’s bedroom were back on display near the front of the store. There was no sign of the item that had been stolen from her bedroom, of course. She hadn’t expected that finding it would be that easy. But there was a display she hadn’t noticed before. When had Anya started to sell t-shirts? They were lying on a shelf next to a basket. Buffy peeked inside.

“Oh, good, stakes.” She picked one up. “I lost three the other night, and—” She turned the wood over in her hands. “Why does this have ‘Souvenir of the Hellmouth’ carved on the side?”

“Oh, Xander was whittling a few, and you know him.” Anya shrugged much too emphatically. “He just got creative. And a little whimsical, maybe. She slapped Xander’s shoulder.

Xander didn’t bother lifting up his head to reply. “Yep, that’s me. Mr. Whimsicality.”

Buffy inspected the stake more closely. “There’s a price tag on the bottom too. Do people buy these things?”

Anya’s laugh was nervous. “Not people, no. People wouldn’t want those.”

I’m wasting my time. She’s not going to tell me what’s going on any more that Spike will. I might be able to shake it out of Xander if I can get him alone, though. “Well, I’ll just take a few for my own use, if that’s okay with you.”

Anya looked ready to object, but suddenly smiled and nodded. “That’s a great idea. Take as many as you want. Well, not all of them. Just a few. In fact, why don’t you just take that one. Leave plenty in the basket.” She shoved Buffy toward the door. “Why don’t you go looking for vampires to use them on right now?”

“Because it’s 9 o’clock in the morning?”

“Best time. Catch them while they’re off-guard!”

Buffy gave up. Anya was obviously capable of making up new lies for hours, and if Buffy didn’t get back to work, she’d have to add unemployment to her list of problems.

Whatever’s happening, it’s not just Spike, or even Spike and Anya. The others are mixed up in this too.

***

Anya locked the door behind the Slayer and marched back to the table, where Xander and Spike were already snoring in uneasy harmony. She began poking her fiancé in the back.

“Xander, get up. I need you to make me more labels for those stakes. I want each of them stamped, ‘Guaranteed used by the Slayer,’ and the price increased by fifteen dollars. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that before!”

***

Evening

Buffy sat on a stool at Willie’s, picking the label off her barely-touched bottle of beer. She’d learned long since never to order anything at Willie’s that had to be drunk from one of his glasses.

At the other end of the bar, Willie was eying her cautiously. She shifted on the stool and played with the hilt of the sword lying across her lap. Several demons sidled out of a booth and out of the bar.

Willie was rubbing one of the bar’s nasty glasses with an equally nasty dishtowel. “Not that I would ever object, Slayer, but just out of curiosity, are you going to sit there all night?”

He doesn’t want me here. Nobody wants me. Everyone’s busy with each other, or sleeping over a friend’s, or leaving messages that they’ll meet me places and then not showing up. “I’m waiting for someone.”

“Don’t suppose there’s any chance he’ll get here before I lose a whole night’s business?”

She gave him a look, and he sighed. She took a sip of beer. A few more demons got up the courage to ease their way out the door.

The phone rang, and Willie went to answer it. “Yeah. She’s right here.”

Buffy lifted her head, but instead of passing the phone to her, Willie said, “Yeah. Okay. Will do,” and hung up before she could snatch the receiver from him. “Spike wants you to meet him at that roadhouse outside of town. The one for humans, not the demon one.”

I’m sure he does. Just like he was going to meet me at home, and then at the Espresso Pump, and then here.

Willie cringed away from her. “I’m just the messenger here, Slayer. Just the messenger.”

She didn’t bother answering. She picked up her purse and her sword and looked around the empty bar. The hell with this.

***

Some distance away, Spike handed Willow’s cell phone back to her. “I did it. Sent her out of town this time.”

“Someplace safe?” asked Dawn. They were sitting at a table in the food court at the mall.

“Yeah, nothing to do with demons. Just a biker bar.”

“I’m not sure Buffy will like that much.”

Spike ran his hands through his hair. “I’m bloody sure the bikers won’t. But I’m running out of ideas.”

Tara joined them. “I think I did it!”

“Please tell me you killed Felix,” said Xander. “Even if I do have a feeling he’d come back eight more times.”

“I hope she didn’t,” said Spike. “I’ve been looking forward to tearing him apart ever since he spied on me and Buffy.”

“No, I think Anya’s chasing him to make him put back all the things he stole from Spencer Gifts. He’s really much too young for some of that stuff.” She rolled out a sheet of paper. “No, I fixed this map with a locator spell, so it will tell us where Buffy is all the time. I got the idea from Harry Potter.”

Dawn took it. “That’s great, Tara. Look, Spike, now we can all work at avoiding her, not just you. See, there she is downtown, and she’s going—”

“In the wrong direction,” said Xander. He looked up. “Hey, you! No touching of humans!”

The selkies at the next table cast him a resentful look and turned back to their slurpies, much to the disappointment of the girls they’d been talking to.

“How long do you think we can keep them here?” asked Willow. “All the Warthogs, I mean, not just the twin menaces.”

“Why?” asked Dawn. “I thought you said the glamour you and Tara cast would keep anyone from noticing they were demons.”

“It’s not that,” said Willow. “They’ve seen the spot where Buffy killed the Judge. What else is there?”

“Are you kidding?” Dawn waved a French fry at the glories surrounding them. “We should have taken them here sooner. Most of the high schoolers are shoplifting in Hot Topic, Maindepeste is buying a suit, Ish turns out to have a shoe fetish, and I saw the Dean heading into Victoria’s Secret. The only downside is that the way the little guys are going, they’ll be so stuffed with nachos and cheese they won’t even be able to touch their grilled yak tonight.” She pulled Tara’s map toward her. “I was going to take them to the video arcade, but I’m more worried about Buffy right now.”

“Selkies heading into restrooms with humans at 10 o’clock!” Xander headed off for yet another intercept. “Tara, Willow, I need backup.”

When they were left alone at the table, Spike moved to sit next to Dawn. “Where is she?”

Dawn’s finger traced her sister’s path. “Nowhere near here. See, she went in there, and— Oh.”

“What?”

“I think I know what’s happening. That’s the ice cream shop, but she wasn’t there long enough to eat anything.”

Their worried eyes met. “Just to buy something,” said Spike.

“Yeah. And now look where she’s going.”

“Home.”

“To sit and eat ice cream all by herself,” agreed Dawn mournfully. “You’re right, Spike. This is getting really serious.”

“Bit, you have to let me tell her!” Spike’s fingers gripped the map so tightly they nearly tore the paper.

“No, Spike, please. You promised.”

Rage, Rage against the Lying in the Night

 

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/167865.html

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