It’s been such a pleasure to be involved with this new Community. I’ve been loving the daily dose of Spuffyness (I am in awe of the banner and icon makers – SO much talent!). Anyway, here is my contribution, and I hope you find it enjoyable.
Summary: Did y’ever wonder what would have happened if Xander had waited a few more hours before breaking on Willow’s Tabula Rasa crystal?
Love to my betas, spiralleds and married_n_mich. Without them, I wouldn’t be here.
Also thanks to my children, who inspired both the title and the ending.
And now, on to…
“Alex, you all right?”
“I’m fine, Dawn. I’m just hoping there aren’t anymore of those guys down here.”
“What’s that?” She picked up something black by his foot. “It looks like some kind of glass thingy.”
“Let me see it.” Glass thingy was a good description. “Some kind of crystal, I guess. I wonder what it’s doing down here.”
“We can take it to Mr. Giles. He might know, being a magic shop owner and all.”
“Good idea,” he said, dropping the crystal into his pocket. “Remind me, okay?”
She grinned. “I will if I remember.”
“Yeah, we really need to do something about that rampaging senility that’s going around.” He squinted into the murky tunnel. “Where are Willow and Tara?”
Dawn pointed ahead. “I know they were up there. I didn’t see any vampires, but I was kinda busy here.”
“Yeah, me too,” he said. “Willow? Are you still here?” he called.
Willow broke off the deep kiss she’d been enjoying with Tara. Such a beautiful name, like her. All she wanted to do was kiss her again, but someone was calling her name. Go away someone, there were soft lips waiting – and soft other things. Hmm, Tara. She could be a goddess.
“We’re here! Everything’s okay.”
“Alex killed the vamp. He was great!” Dawn said proudly.
Yeah, great. Tara seemed to be pretty great too. Maybe they could find another vamp or two and go hide in a corner. There was nothing like a well thought out plan.
“We’re all ready to move on?” Willow asked.
“More than ready,” Alexander said. He moved up really close and put his arm around her. “Stay close to me, I’ll keep you safe.”
Phooey again. Coat or no coat, there was no way this guy was with her. “Hello, hands!” she said, giving him a shove. Too late, Tara had already moved on down the tunnel. So maybe they could hook up later, if they ever found their way out of here. She’d just tell the guy that they were over. Since he didn’t seem to be too upset about the way she’d pushed him away, she doubted he’d mind too much.
Giles pulled Anya closer and lifted his head for air. “How long do you think it will be before the others return?”
“Let’s not waste more time wondering,” she said. She grabbed his hand and pulled him behind the counter.
“Don’t mess with Joan the Vampire Staker!” Joan announced as she kicked fugly guy number four in the neck. He fell back and Randy jammed his stake home.
“You’re pretty good with that thing,” she told him.
“I seem to have had a lot of practice… with my thing.”
“Oh, brother.” She rolled her eyes.
“Mr. Sssspike,” the dude with fish breath approached them. The last two vamps backed him up, waiting for an attack.
“Spike? His name is Spike?”
“Ssstill cute, I see. The job offer remains open.”
Joan ignored him. “What do you want?”
“Same thing I’ve been asssking for,” he said. “My forty Siamese.”
“We’re talking about kittens again?” Joan asked. “What do you think he’s done with your kittens?”
“Hey, I don’t care about his personal peccadilloes; I just want what’s owed me.”
“And what’re you gonna do if he doesn’t pay up?”
The shark backed up and laughed. “Ssslayer, you have friends and I have friends, and if they should happen to meet up in a certain sewer before I have what I want… let’s just say that one of usss will be short a few comrades.”
“Now, wait just a minute.” Randy pushed around her. “If your beef is with me, leave the rest out of it.”
The shark laughed again. “Too late, Mr. Spike. When you have my kittens, you know where to find me. You have until midnight.”
He turned and left, somehow disappearing into the shadows. His minions hooted and pointed and ran away after him.
“So much for your great plan,” Randy muttered. “It seems that ‘slay her’ refers to you.”
“Do you think your name really is Spike?”
“Oh, please! And I suppose you’re really called Muffin.”
Joan shrugged. “It could happen.”
Deep doo-doo, that’s what this was. Alexander and the three girls were surrounded by demons. He was going to die.
“Alex.” Dawn moved next to him, grasping his arm with her icy fingers. “What are we going to do?”
He swallowed hard. That was a good question.
Giles sat up, smoothed his hair and reached for his shirt. Anya squirmed.
“Where are you going?”
“I thought the others might be coming back.”
“I don’t hear them.”
“Nor do I. I wonder if they’ve run into difficulty.”
She sat up and draped her arms around him. “We could wait a little while and then go look for them. I mean, nothing’s really going to happen in the next fifteen or twenty minutes, is it?”
He removed his glasses and dropped his shirt.
“So what is the plan now, Slayer?” He shook his head and the ridges of his face smoothed into his human features. Rather nice human features, she had to admit, even if he was turning out to be nothing but trouble.
“Why do I have to be the one with the plan? You’re the one who got us into this mess!”
“Seems to me it was your first plan that got us into this bloody mess.”
“Oh, that’s just like you – shirking all the responsibility.”
“How would you know if this is just like me?”
He was exasperating. “You took his kittens! Forty of them. Who does that?”
“You’re going to believe the guy with the shark head and not me?”
Unbelievable. “I don’t even know you.”
“You seemed to know me just fine when you were straddling me over there.” The tip of his tongue appeared between his lips as he waggled his eyebrows at her.
“That wasn’t straddling. I was trying to kill you.”
“And that’s why you were using your hips instead of your stake?”
Did he ever quit? “Shut up! Just shut up and tell me where we’re going to find these kittens we’re looking for. You must have stashed them somewhere.”
“Have you stopped for a moment to ask yourself why I’d take someone’s kittens?”
“Have you stopped to ask why you’re wearing such an ugly suit?”
“Ah, not only is the girl bossy, she’s a bitch to boot.”
She glowered at him. “Why do I get the feeling that I hate you?”
He moved up against her, bending into her face. “And why do I get the feeling that you don’t?”
The vampires herded Alex and company into a cage and secured the door with a large lock. The guy with the key dropped himself onto a nearby chair and leaned back, watching them intently. The others moved back up the tunnel and began speaking in low voices. Alex ran his fingers through his disheveled hair and let out his pent up frustration in a loud sigh.
“Wow, they didn’t eat us.”
It was Willow. He turned to look for the others. Dawn was sitting by Tara with her head on the older girl’s shoulder. Nobody was bleeding, so he supposed that was good. Certainly better than the alternative.
“But why didn’t they eat us?” she asked.
“I don’t know. I guess they’re going to use us as bait or something.”
“Do you suppose this means that Joan and Randy are okay? I mean, otherwise they’d kill us, right?”
She wasn’t dumb. He was glad he had good taste in girlfriends. “Good point.”
“I wish we had some stuff from that magic store down here. We could do a spell or something.”
“What did you have in mind?”
“Ball of fire. Poof, vampire candles.”
“I heard that,” the guy in the chair said.
Giles pulled up his pants. “I’m concerned, darling. It’s been over an hour.”
“I guess we should look for them,” she reluctantly agreed.
“I want you to stay here, safe.”
“That is so sweet!” She kissed him enthusiastically. “I can clearly understand why I’d commit myself to a long term relationship with someone who is so much older.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“You’re very handsome, for a man in your age group.”
“I’ve rethought this matter, and perhaps you should come with me.”
Her eyes grew wide. “Oh, now that hurt! How could you?”
He closed his eyes and counted to ten. “Dearest, will you please hand me that magic book over there and gather some of the ingredients on the shelves behind you? I don’t know what I’ll encounter down there, but it’s best to be prepared.”
“I’m sorry,” she said. “You’re getting ready to march off to certain death, and all I can think about is myself. I’ll get your things.”
He sighed. “That would be helpful.”
“Rupie.” She looked up at him with her large, doe eyes. “Wouldn’t you rather use the aged ginger root? It’s on sale.”
Joan struggled for something to say. All thoughts had vanished when Randy had invaded her space. Considering that he’d been rolling around on the ground in that musty old suit, he smelled really good.
“Kittens,” he whispered.
“We need to find kittens.”
“That’s right.” She moved away from him to give her senses a chance to clear. They were on a kitten hunt. “Where do we go to find forty Siamese kittens?”
“Hell if I know.”
“Aren’t you the one who lost them? Where would a vampire stash that many cats?”
He frowned. “I don’t think I have them stashed anywhere.”
He pulled at his suit jacket. “No little fuzzy hairs. And I can’t smell anything on me. I don’t think I have any cats.”
“So now we’re back to square one. We have to come up with a bunch of kittens, and we’re running out of time.” She turned and headed up the street.
“Joan, where are you going?” he called out after her.
Giles kept close to the tunnel walls as he followed the path of footsteps and broken debris here and there. Hopefully he’d come across the others before the sewer split into more directions. They’d been gone for so long they might even be above ground by now. Why had he let them go, unarmed and unprepared? He really hadn’t planned on becoming so distracted by his lovely, and infuriating, fiancée. He paused along his route and smiled. She was a rather enjoyable distraction, his Anya. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d…
Of course he couldn’t remember; none of them could. He was getting dotty. Rechecking his satchel of supplies, he continued on.
Joan tried to peer through the darkness on the other side of the glass. She couldn’t make out anything. It would be just her luck that the moment she broke the window, the cops would show up.
“Pet shop’s closed.”
Ah! She jumped and turned to see the aggravating smirk of Mr. Randy Spike. “I can see that for myself, you idiot.”
“Charming,” he said, bending to check out the doorknob. He began to fiddle with the lock using a thin piece of metal.
She put her hands on her hips. “Where did you get a lock pick?”
“Dunno. It was in my pocket.”
So, the obnoxious vampire was a mass kittennapper and a burglar to boot. “Are you sure you have a soul?”
“Haven’t drained you yet, have I?”
“That’s because I’d stake you first.”
“Bring it on, Muffin.”
She gritted her teeth. How could someone she didn’t even remember knowing infuriate her so much? Running off with him to distract the vamp squad had seemed like such a good idea at the shop. Now it all seemed pointless. She’d been reduced to consorting with the enemy and breaking into Kirby’s Kuddlers. “Do you have it open yet?” she asked.
He stood and turned the knob, pushing the door open. “After you, pet.”
She turned her shoulders to avoid contact with him on the way in. Stupid vampire. He followed her down the aisle, to the storeroom in the back. “In here,” she said.
She flipped on the lights and located the cages holding the cats. “Six?” she said. “They only have six kittens?”
“Seem to be the hot commodity.”
“Now what are we going to do? We have forty five more minutes and we’re still short almost three dozen cats!”
“Hey, look at this one,” he said, lifting up a white fuzzy kitten. “It looks sweet.”
“It’s not even a Siamese!” she wailed. “They’re all going to die and it will be my fault.”
“Joan,” his voice was calm as he made his way toward her. “You have to know we’re not going to be able to pay that guy.”
She plopped down onto the floor. “I know.” She took the kitten from him. “This one is cute, all white and fuzzy. It looks like an angel.” She held the kitten up and looked into its blue eyes. “That’s your name, little fella, Angel.”
Randy shook his head. “That’s a bloody stupid name.”
“Good,” she said, “then it stays.”
He slid down the wall to sit beside her. “Do I really get under your skin that much?”
She looked up at him, the anxiety she’d been feeling softening as she took in his worried face. “I’m sorry. I guess I’m just being prickly. It’s not like you know how this all happened. Now I have to figure out what’s next.”
He reached a hand toward her, and she didn’t pull away as he smoothed her hair away from her face. His fingertips lingered at the curve of her cheek. “You’re a fetching one, Joan, with all that fire inside. Spit and vinegar all wrapped up in a pretty little package.”
Her breath caught and his finger dipped to lightly touch her bottom lip. Dear God, she wanted him to kiss her. Her eyes fluttered closed as he bent his head toward hers. His hand moved behind her head to tangle in her hair as she raised her face. “We could just trade you in instead,” she said.
“What?” He pulled away, confused eyes searching her features.
“That’s what the shark guy wants, right? You?”
“So we give you to him, and then he goes away.”
He pushed himself up and away from her, pacing around in agitation. “So after all this, you’re going to just…”
“Set a trap,” she said. She put the kitten down and stood to meet him. “We get the others, we go find this guy, I tell him that I’m turning you in, and we take them all out.”
He smiled at her. “Do you think the others will be up for that?”
“I’ve been thinking,” she said. “I obviously fight these things for a living, and it seems like you’re in it with me. I think the others are too – why else have the magic stuff around? It’s what we do; we just forgot.”
“I can see why you’re the boss.”
“Let’s go, Randy.”
“After you, Joan.”
Giles wondered what a large cage was doing in the sewers. The vampire had left only one guard for the four of them. Surely there were more close by, since he doubted one could have enslaved them all. He pulled the magic book and a pen light from the bag and whispered the incantation he’d highlighted while planning this rescue operation. A rabbit appeared at the feet of the bored looking guard and quickly hopped way. The guard sat up and licked his lips and followed after it eagerly. That had been wonderfully easy. There was some use for Anya’s book after all.
“Stand back,” he told the others. He sprinkled dust on the lock and struck a match. There was a loud bang as the aged metal exploded and the door swung open. “Quickly!”
He didn’t have to repeat the entreaty. The heavy footfalls told him that the vampires were rapidly approaching. He let Alexander, Dawn and Tara file past. “Willow, will you hold the bag? I need a few items.” He could sense something special about this girl.
“Sure. What do you have in mind?”
“A barrier, something to give us time to get back to the shop. Anya’s waiting with a protection spell… if she can pronounce it correctly. We could possibly end up with a petting zoo instead.”
“Okay, so what do you want me to do?”
“Spread the sand across the passageway while I chant. It should do the trick for a short while.”
Barrier in place, they hurried to catch the others.
“Good, everyone’s here,” Joan said.
“You’re timing couldn’t be better,” Giles said.
“We don’t have time for this,” Joan said. “I have a new plan and we have to move. There’s this shark guy who said Randy’s name is Spike and if we don’t give him forty Siamese kittens by midnight he’s going to kill everyone.”
“It’s nice to know that Randy and Joan were busy smoking the wacky weed while we’ve been fighting for our lives!” Alex said.
“And did I mention that Randy’s a vampire?”
“My God. Son!” Giles said.
“I don’t think I belong here,” Dawn said. “This is all too weird.”
Joan moved over to comfort the girl. “It’s okay, Dawn. He has a soul.”
“Indeed?” Giles asked. “And how did that come about?”
“I’d tell you, but I can’t seem to remember, you bleeding dolt.” Randy said.
“Are you absolutely certain you’re my son? You seem to have no discernable manners whatsoever and you’re rather on the short side. The fact that you’re a vampire indicates that you’re probably older than you think.”
“Bloody hell, you are a stuffed shirt, aren’t you?”
“Uh, bickery people?” Willow broke in. “We have vampires beating down the back door!”
“Oh yeah, my plan,” Joan said. “We need to kill them.”
“That is your plan?” Anya asked. “Let me be the first to say duh!”
“Now, you wait just a minute,” Randy began.
“VAMPIRES!” Willow shouted.
“Everybody be quiet and get down,” Giles ordered. “Willow told me she had an idea about a ball of fire, and I’ve assembled everything we need to make it. When I say the word this will happen quickly and I don’t want anyone in the way.”
“Wait,” Willow said, scanning the book Giles had left on the counter. “You forgot the crystal. We need one to throw at the bad guys, as a guide for the flames.”
“Hey, I have one!” Alex pulled the black crystal from his pocket and gave it to her. “I found it in the tunnel.”
“Then we’re all set. Go, Giles!” Willow tossed him the crystal and ducked.
Giles threw it, yelling the words and diving behind the counter. A brilliant light and thundering explosion filled the room.
Buffy stood, surrounded by devastation, finding Giles and seeing the look of regret on his face. “I can’t do this,” she said, and ran from the shop.
Giles went to the door and watched her run away down the street. “Spike,” he said softly. “Go after her. Make sure she’s…”
The bell rang to announce his departure and Giles turned to face the room. “I… I’m sorry everyone. I don’t know how this all happened.”
“It was Willow,” Tara asserted, blinking back the tears in her eyes. “Willow, you did this, to make me forget, didn’t you?”
“Stay away from me. I’m going home to get my things.”
“But please, baby.” Willow tried to stop her, but Tara was gone.
Anya busily tried to tidy up the shop, scrubbing at the glass counter and seemingly oblivious to the missing wall that used to be the back door.
“Sweetie,” Xander said, “Give it up. I think this is more a job for me than you.”
“But you don’t know… you don’t understand what happened here!” she told him. “I… we… I thought that…”
“We all thought wrong things,” he said. “Let’s go home and try to get our heads straight.”
“Yes, Anya, go with Xander. I’ll be fine,” Giles told her.
“I’m sorry Giles. I didn’t…”
“I know, dear. I didn’t either.”
He stood in the mess, knowing that things would never be the same again. It really was time for him to move on. Buffy was hurting, and his presence here only served to make things harder for her. She wasn’t relying on herself, and he couldn’t fix her life. He’d miss her. He’d miss them all.
“What about me?” a small voice behind him said.
“I don’t know where to go. Buffy ran off and Tara’s at the house packing and Willow’s all upset. What am I going to do?”
He moved to her and held her. “I’ll look after you for now, Dawn. We can pick up my things and I’ll drop you by your house. I’m sure Willow will need your company tonight. And Buffy too.”
“Okay,” she said softly. “Giles?”
“Your shirt is buttoned wrong.”
“Buffy, Buffy!” She heard Spike calling, but didn’t want to stop running. She realized he wasn’t going to stop chasing her either.
She slowed and turned. “What do you want?” she yelled. “Just leave me alone.”
“I wish I could. Make my life a lot easier.”
“We had a… an adventure tonight, okay? It doesn’t mean anything.”
“We were working together and you were happy.”
“None of it was real, not even our names.” She turned her back on him and resumed her journey up the street.
“Does it matter? Buffy, don’t run away from me.”
She stopped again. “I’m not running from you. It’s everything. I don’t want to feel like this.”
“Don’t you think I’d stop it if I could?” she asked him, horrified to hear her voice breaking. She was not going to cry in front of him, he already knew enough of her secrets. “God, I hate this. I hate my life. I hate you.”
She grabbed him then, and kissed him hard; her mouth driving into him as though she could somehow transfer some of the agony she felt. He seemed to welcome it, wrapping his arms around her and taking everything she had to give. The kiss went on and on, deepening and building as she poured out her pain and rage and despair. She pulled back for air, seeing his swollen and blood stained lips. His blood, not hers.
“Do you still want me, Spike?” she asked, the words falling bitterly.
“I’ll always want you.”
She pushed away from him and ran into the darkness. This time he didn’t follow her.
Giles had granted Spike one last favor before boarding his plane to leave Sunnydale. He’d brought a certain book from the shop with him – the one Anya favored. The few word changes had been simple enough for a man with his knowledge of the dark arts.
He couldn’t really give a reason for why he was helping a soulless vampire who’d hurt all of them in the past, but he knew that Spike cared about Buffy, and no matter what, he’d look out for her. It certainly hadn’t anything to do with any lingering paternal issues. The very thought!
As Giles closed the book, across town a demon with the head of a shark found himself surrounded by a thousand Siamese kittens. Hungry Siamese kittens.
It was almost morning when Buffy returned home. She checked on Dawn, who was sleeping. Good, her sister was okay. Willow was another story, crying alone in the bed that used to be her mother’s. Buffy was way too exhausted to even begin to offer sympathy. She doubted Willow could be comforted at this point anyway.
She washed her face and brushed her teeth and tumbled into her bed. She could get in a few hours of sleep before facing the next day. And the next. And the next. She closed her eyes and was close to drifting off when a scrabbling noise alerted her to another presence in the room.
She turned on her beside light and spotted the box on her floor. It had holes poked into the top. She brought it up onto the bed, knowing what was inside even before she removed the lid. “Angel?”
The kitten mewled and rubbed its cheek against her hand, settling down in her lap and purring happily. Buffy stroked its soft fur and mused at how Spike had known the kitten would be one thing that she didn’t have to angst over. Except for the part where it was stolen, but she’d just think about that later.
“A few words to the wise,” Buffy whispered. “No using any of my stuff for your litter box, and keep a low profile when Dawn is carrying sharp objects. I’ve seen what can happen and it isn’t pretty.”
Angel purred and Buffy yawned. “One more thing,” she said. “We have to do something about your name. How do you feel about Randy?”
Now that was a good question.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/18518.html