|Story Title:||Miles To Go Before I Sleep|
Fortune Favors the Brave
Spike makes a pact with Billy but then must stick to it as he takes on the Quidnuncious demon.
Music Referenced: Fortune Favors the Brave from Aida sung by Adam Pascal http://youtu.be/F2TBJtyDf7o
|Thanks:||Thanks to YOU for reading! Without you none of this would mean anything! Thanks and hugs to Magnus for introducing me to Dame Edna, whom I'd never heard of before, but is a perfect ringer for Mrs. Katz! Wow! Cue Twilight Zone music! Giant thanks also to Anona for betaing this chapter, including her grammatical and punctuation corrections, wonderful commentary, and final review. Also thanks to Capella42 for her insightful suggestions that made the whole story better. All mistakes are mine because I simply cannot stop fiddling right up to the very last moment.|
|Rating / Warnings:||
NC17. Content is only suitable for mature adults. Contains explicit language, sex, adult themes, and other adult situations that some people may find objectionable. If you are under the age of 17 or find any of these themes objectionable – GO AWAY.
Later that evening, Wednesday, September 7th, 2011:
Billy lay on his back in his bed and stared blankly at the white ceiling above him. His eye really hurt, but it hadn’t swollen shut or anything like that. He’d seen his dad with much worse – he wasn’t sure how anyone could stand much worse.
He’d kept ice on it all afternoon. Changing the ice pack or going to the bathroom were the only two reasons he could come out of his room. Grounded. He was grounded. It hardly seemed possible. He was always the one keeping Dani out of trouble; he was the voice of reason, the level head, but he was the first of the two of them to be grounded … ever. The world must’ve flipped on its axis today.
A knock on his door pulled his eyes away from the ceiling. “Come in,” he called half-heartedly, not moving.
Spike came in carrying a tray with Billy’s dinner on it. He set the food down on the dresser and looked at his son. He couldn’t help the small well of pride that bloomed inside him, despite Buffy’s contention that fighting over nothing but words was ‘not of the good’.
“How’s the shiner?” Spike asked, sitting down on the edge of Billy’s bed.
Billy pushed up and leaned his back against the headboard. “Ok, I guess.”
“First time I got a black eye, I thought my bloody eyeball was gonna explode outta the socket,” Spike offered.
Billy touched a finger just under his eye and winced. “I guess that’s why it swells, to keep your eyeball inside.”
Spike chuckled lightly and nodded. “Reckon so.”
“Is Mama still mad at me?”
“She’s not mad at you, Junior. She just thinks there’re some things worth fightin’ over and some things that aren’t. Your mum thinks us blokes should be more … selective in what we come t’ blows over.”
“Sticks and stones…” Billy offered solemnly, looking down at the knuckles of his left hand, which were also a bit bruised.
Spike shrugged. “I reckon there’s a reason that saying’s been around so bloody long.”
“I know,” Billy agreed grudgingly. “But you didn’t hear him. If you had been there, you would’ve beaten him up too. Jason’s a big ole jerk. It wasn’t Mama’s fault when she got scared of the bats … no one understands about … stuff.”
“Reckon that’s true enough. Also relative sure you’re right … I woulda laid the boy over my bloody knee ‘til he found a new song t’ sing. But, your mum woulda grounded me too, if I’d a’ done that.”
Billy smiled a little and looked up at his father. “You’re too big for Mama to ground,” he asserted.
Spike snorted. “We’re talking about your mum … she could ground King-bloody-Kong.”
Billy laughed a bit, but stopped when pain shot from his eyeball into his brain.
Spike sobered a bit and handed Billy a couple of children’s pain-killers and the glass of milk off his dinner tray to wash them down with.
“Can’t say what you did was … justified, William, but it was brave, defending your mum’s honor. ‘Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once,’” Spike quoted another William.
“Your mum tells me that sometimes the bravest thing is to just walk away.” Spike shrugged a little. “Don’t have much first-hand experience with that, but I reckon she could be right.”
Billy pursed his lips and began his ritual of moving them from side to side as he considered this. He finally nodded, his lips still pursed in thought. “I never really hit anyone before … well … except for Dani and JJ. But I never hit anyone in the face like that. It kinda hurt,” he admitted, holding up his left hand.
Spike looked at his son’s bruised knuckles and nodded. “Yeah, not like they show on TV. Hitting people in the mouth can be right painful. All them sharp bloody teeth there, just waiting to cut ya. Best t’ go for the nose – bleeds easier an’ not as hard on the digits.”
Billy nodded and flexed his hand. “It hurt him more, though. He was bleeding … split his lip and he fell down. He won’t be singing anymore, I bet.”
Spike smothered a victorious, proud smirk. Keeping his expression neutral, he said, “How about we make a pact, you and me? Sticks and Stones.”
“Shake on it,” Spike offered his hand and Billy shook it. “Right then,” Spike began, standing up. “Your mum says ya gotta stay in your room the rest of the night … no computer, music, games, or books. But that’s it … tomorrow’ll be back to normal.”
Billy sighed in relief and nodded happily, his mass of flaxen curls jostling vigorously around his face. He’d only have to stare at the blank ceiling a little while longer.
Next Day, Thursday, September 8th, 2011:
Spike crept out of the house in the pre-dawn twilight, intent on his mission. The sky was a deep gray, just starting to tinge with blue as he made his way toward his objective. It wasn’t as high on the danger-scale as, say, slaying a dragon, but it was no walk in the park, either. Retrieving the newspaper from the driveway had become an obstacle-course fraught with potential for disaster since the Quidnuncious demon had moved in next door. Getting the mail was bad enough, but at least there were hedges along the front walk for cover; the driveway was as wide-open as mid-western prairie in comparison, and anyone crossing the vast wasteland of brick pavers could be easily seen from the house next door.
Buffy had hired a landscape company to take out the lawn that covered the narrow area between the driveway and the property line. They replaced it with some fast-growing Oleander bushes for cover, but they weren’t that fast-growing. After they’d been planted, Buffy had joked if all else failed, she could boil some leaves of the poisonous bushes and invite Mrs. Katz over for tea one day. In the meantime, as they waited for the plants to grow, retrieving the morning paper had become a mission akin to traversing a mine field. One wrong move and you were history … or it felt that way, at least.
Spike had just picked up the paper and begun the treacherous trek back to the garden steps when a Claymore mine exploded in his ears. “Mr. Waverly! Yoo-hooo! Mr. Waverly!” The demon-woman’s voice cut the still morning air like a hail of shrill gun-fire.
Spike could hear her feet already pattering on the pavers of the driveway; he could smell the nauseating perfume which she apparently bathed in morning, noon, and night. He stiffened and stood up from the half-crouch he’d been in, turning to face the oncoming threat – it was too late to flee now.
“Lady Macbeth,” Spike greeted her with a low, barely-audible growl, bowing slightly from the hip.
“Oh, I’m so glad I caught you! You folks do seem to be always scurrying around so quickly. You really must learn to slow down – we don’t live forever, you know,” Mrs. Katz continued in her nasally whine, apparently not hearing or understanding Spike’s greeting.
“Some might meet their end sooner than others,” Spike agreed. Anyone paying attention would’ve heard the threat in his voice – Mrs. Katz did not.
“Oh yes – we simply never know, do we?” she agreed cheerily as she invaded Spike’s personal space before she stopped moving forward.
Spike glowered at her a moment, but she remained unfazed. He was forced to take a step back or risk being fumigated by her halo of perfume. Even if Buffy would’ve condoned killing her, he wasn’t sure he could actually get close enough to her through the haze of eye-watering, sinus-burning, skin-peeling, napalm-like fragrance.
His mind wandered off a moment, envisioning ways of slaying the obnoxious demon from a distance. A gun would work, but was a bit noisy … perhaps he should go with the tried-and-true crossbow. It would be better if it looked like an accident. Maybe he could run her over with a stolen car or crash a plane into her house…
“Which is why…” she continued talking, holding out several canary-yellow papers towards him, “…we should make the most of every single day. And why it would behoove you, as the man of the house, to make sure your home is up to the standards of this neighborhood. You wouldn’t want to leave a burden for your family to clean up, now, would you? The loss of the head of the house, the bread-winner, the king of the castle would be devastating all by itself," she continued, her voice solemn now. "But it would be made that much more devastating if your dear, thin, sickly wife were saddled with having to bring your home into compliance with the bylaws of the Sunnydale Homeowners Resisting Unsightliness Guild if you were to suddenly meet an untimely demise.”
Mrs. Katz smiled sweetly as she waved the papers in front of Spike’s face, fanning the eau du napalm over him. Spike grabbed them, just to get her to stop sending the noxious smog at him, and took another step back.
He looked down at the stack of bright papers. There were large, red letters across the top of each one declaring them an ‘Official Notice of Noncompliance’. He scanned down the top sheet until he found the section proclaiming what the offense was. The first paper declared that oil stains on the driveway needed to be cleaned and ‘vegetation growing in the cracks of all hard surfaces must be removed’. The second said that their lawn, like Syd and Ted’s, had an unacceptable level of ‘non-compliant vegetation’, specifically ‘dollarweed, bindweed, and chickweed’. Huh, looked like they beat out Syd and Ted with three offending weeds, not just one. The third notice said that their oversized mailbox was noncompliant and needed to be replaced. It gave the specific model, color, and size that was acceptable. The fourth, and final, notice indicated that the mansion needed to be painted, as it had been over fifteen years since it had been done.
“How the bloody hell do you know the last time the soddin’ house was painted – you just moved in,” Spike demanded, looking up at the pinch-faced woman.
Mrs. Katz’s plastic smile never wavered. “It’s beginning to get chalky – an obvious sign of neglect,” she replied matter-of-factly.
“That’s the bloody effect we were goin’ for! There’s nothing wrong with the soddin’ paint! In fact, all this is a load of bollocks,” Spike asserted, waving the papers at her like she’d waved them at him.
“I’m so glad you agree,” Mrs. Katz beamed, her voice grating on Spike’s eardrums like a dentist’s drill. “I know you’ll have everything fixed within the ten day limit.
“Oh dear, look at the time! I must get my Abner’s breakfast ready. He gets so cranky if he doesn’t have his coffee first thing,” the demon-woman offered, turning and heading back down the driveway.
“Reckon I’d need a bloody sight more than coffee to get me past cranky if I lived with the likes of you,” Spike growled after her.
“Have a lovely day!” she called back over her shoulder, giving Spike a backwards wave as she tottered off, her pink, fuzzy slippers scuffling over the oil-stained pavers and non-compliant vegetation that grew in spots between them.
“Buffy!” Spike wailed as he got back into the house. “BUF…” he began again even louder just as she stepped out of the kitchen doorway.
“Shhh! The baby’s still sleeping!” she admonished him. “What?”
Spike waved the papers at her. They still smelled like Mrs. Katz and the odor spread across the whole room, hitting Buffy before she even got close to them. “Oh shit…” she muttered, moving forward to take them from him.
“That woman is not human. I say we slay her, immediately if not sooner,” Spike asserted angrily.
Buffy rolled her eyes and began looking at the papers. “You know very well she’s human. No respectable demon could smell this bad…” she muttered, holding the papers as far a away from her nose as possible as she read. She tried to take shallow breaths and began to breath through her mouth to minimize the damage to her olfactory senses.
Spike snorted. “No human could live in that cloud o’ noxious fumes she’s got around her. She’s a bloody demon, plain and simple.”
The kids, as well as Dawn, who had been having breakfast in the kitchen when Spike came in, trailed out into the great room to see what was going on.
“Oil stains!” Buffy exclaimed. “Is she serious? It’s a driveway, for God's sake! Our mailbox?! Our mail won’t fit in one of those little boxes! And what difference do weeds make? They’re well-fed, watered, and green! We keep them mowed – they look like grass! PAINT? There’s nothing wrong with the paint!” Buffy ranted as she looked over the papers.
She looked up and met Spike’s eyes. “Maybe, just this once, we could make an exception to the no slaying humans rule.”
Spike brightened. “Brilliant! I was thinkin’, we could crash a plane into ‘er house … make it look like a freak accident.”
Buffy’s brows went up. “Oooo … how big a plane do you think we’d need?”
Spike shrugged. “Not too big – we’ll put some explosives in it for good measure.”
“Not too many,” Buffy warned. “We don’t want to blow our house up too.”
“Right …” Spike agreed, thinking. “Do we have any Slayers that have worked with explosives that we could … you know … get to help?”
Buffy furrowed her brow in thought.
“What happened to ‘Sticks and Stones’?” Billy asked, looking up at Spike thoughtfully, his head tilted to one side. The skin around the boy’s eye was now a deep, angry purple, although it wasn’t as swollen as it had been the previous night.
Spike blanched, the excitement fading from his features.
Buffy sighed. “We were just kidding,” she assured their son, tousling his curls which bounced nearly to his shoulders.
Spike raised his brows. He wasn’t kidding a bit! There was not one molecule of kidding, not one tiny atom, not one speck of infinitesimal DNA in him that was kidding. “Yeah … right … kidding,” he stammered out reluctantly.
“C’mon,” Buffy called to the kids. “We’re gonna be late for the bus.”
Buffy handed the yellow papers back to Spike as she shepherded Annie, Dani, and Billy out the front door. Annie hated to go – she wanted to spend the day with Dawn again – but she’d missed two days already; she’d have to settle for spending the afternoon and evening with her.
Spike sighed as he looked down at their violations. He really wanted to hit something and apparently that something couldn’t be the demon-woman next door.
“Feel like a little sparring session?” Dawn asked him, pulling him from his thoughts. “I’ve never gotten to spar against a real vampire before.”
Spike looked up at her and a small smile quirked his lips. “Sounds brilliant.”
By the time the kids got home from school, Spike had a plan for dealing with SHRUG. It was a good plan … and he hadn’t even gotten bored yet. He hoped that his plan would send Lady Macbeth running in repulsion, never to return, or simply keel her over dead where she stood. He wasn’t sure Buffy would support his plan, but, as chance had it, she and MacKenzie had a wellness checkup today. What she wasn’t there to stop wouldn’t hurt him … until later. Then it would be too late to stop, anyway.
“C’mon! We got work t’ do!” he encouraged Dani, Billy, and JJ excitedly as they got off the bus. Annie was already there waiting with Spike since her bus arrived first.
“What are we doing?” Dani asked, eyes bright, her long, blonde ponytail whipping jovially behind her as she hurried with her brother and cousin to catch up to Annie and Spike.
“Painting the house,” he told them, an evil gleam in his eyes.
“What?” they all asked at once, their expressions turning gloomy.
“Painting the house,” Spike repeated. “It’s gonna be brilliant fun,” he assured them as they walked briskly down the sidewalk, following in his wake. They looked unconvinced.
When the small army of painters got home, Spike and his accomplice, Dawn, already had drop-cloths draped over all the shrubs and the walkways at the front of the house and all the windows covered with plastic. Spike was sure that Bess would’ve been happy to help with his plan too, but she was at Troy’s, a place she’d been spending more and more time lately. It was probably just as well since, with only one Gem, she wouldn’t have been able to join them in the sun.
On the front lawn were several buckets of house paint and a large collection of brushes and rollers. He actually had more painting tools than he had painters. In addition to the normal painting implements, there were also mops and long-handled scrub-brushes, several large water guns, and even more paintball guns, leftovers from the Slayer Olympics.
“Right then,” he began eagerly. “You lot go change into something that can be tossed out without your mum caring, yeah? We’ll have everything ready when you get back down here.”
The kids looked dubious, but headed inside to change.
“Hats!” Dawn called after them. “Wear hats too!”
A few minutes later, the Weckerly clan plus JJ, but minus Buffy and ‘Kenzie, was assembled in their oldest, rattiest clothes on the front lawn. They all had on some type of hat or do-rag covering their hair, too.
“Right,” Spike began, standing in front of them like a drill sergeant addressing new recruits. “Here’s what we’re doing: pick a color, pick a weapon, attack.”
The kids looked at the now-open buckets of paint. There was royal blue, canary yellow, Kelly green, candy-apple red, cotton-candy pink, and sugar-plum purple.
“If ya don’t see the color ya want – mix your own,” Spike continued, waving a hand at some empty buckets and roller trays. “Paint with one color for five minutes, then switch to something else. You lot do the bottom half, I’ll work on the top.”
“But …” Annie stammered, looking at the colors in disbelief. “What are we supposed to be painting?”
Spike furrowed his brow as if considering this question carefully. “I’m picturing an explosion in a Skittles factory … or what your palm looks like when M&Ms melt in it.”
“Coool,” Dani declared excitedly, heading over to pick up one of the water guns that was obviously filled with red paint.
“B-but, Dad … I don’t think …” Annie continued, looking worried. “… Mom might not … like living in a Skittles factory.”
Spike shrugged. “That’s why were only painting my half o’ the house – she can paint her half how she wants.”
Annie remained unconvinced. “And your half is … the front?”
“Bloody right – she can have the back … I’ll even toss in both sides. Hurry up now – got a lot a’ wall to cover before your mum gets home. Chop, chop!” he encouraged them, clapping his hands sharply.
Billy, Dani, and JJ dove in, each picking up one of the large water guns and aiming them at the house. They pumped them up and pulled the triggers, spraying the house in waves of color. Blue, red, and yellow splattered on the wall and ran down in rivulets, mixing with the other colors and giving the impression that a rainbow had puked on the house.
Dawn hurried after them with a wide, dry brush, smoothing out the runs and blending the colors to create thousands of shades of purple, orange, and green.
The younger kids squealed in delight as they sprayed the white walls with their guns, crisscrossing each other’s streams of paint to create whirls and looping patterns of bright colors on the wall. Dawn worked to keep up with them, trying to keep the runs from setting, and blending the colors until no white remained at all.
“Ummm…” Annie said to Dawn as her father climbed up a tall ladder and began his own version of the same thing up higher. “I don’t think this is such a good idea.”
Dawn laughed. “Of course it’s not! It’s Spike’s idea! What do you expect? It’s completely crazy and will send Buffy into a conniption fit to end all fits. It’s absolutely insane.”
Annie frowned. “So … why are you helping him?”
“Because it’s fun! And look! Isn’t it pretty? It’s like a tie-dye house! It’s totally retro! How cool is that?” Dawn explained, still laughing. “It’s like, totally groovy, man,” Dawn said in her best stoner voice.
“Mom is going to kill us,” Annie murmured, looking at the wall as the younger kids each went and got paintball guns and began firing them at the wall, leaving random patterns of splattered color atop the waves and swirls that were already there.
“She can’t,” Dawn assured her. “It’s a whole Slayer thing – she can’t kill humans.”
“There are worse things than death,” Annie scoffed, wincing at the bright colors that the younger kids were shooting on the wall.
“Ahhh, the voice of reason.” Dawn put her arm over Annie’s shoulders and began walking her towards the buckets of paint. “Do you think your dad’s crazy?” Dawn asked her.
“What about your mom … does Buffy ever do anything crazy?”
“Yeah … sometimes.”
“And yet, they still manage to save the world pretty regularly and keep you kids safe and happy, put a roof over your heads and food on the table. They aren’t crazy … they’re passionate. They’re passionate about what they love and what they believe in. They jump into things with both feet and then figure out how to swim.
“Spike really wants to kill that Katz woman … I mean he really does – as in six-feet-under, dead as a doorknob. In his mind, she’s crossed the line from an annoyance to a threat. You may not have noticed, but Spike really hates people telling him what to do and how to live.”
Annie rolled her eyes. She’d noticed.
“That goes double for people like her,” Dawn continued. “People who have no idea what you guys have been through to make this world safe so she can shove her ideas down everyone’s throat.
“This is his way of letting that out. This is his way of taking control back. He knows he can’t actually kill her … but he can annoy the living shit out of her,” Dawn explained.
“Annie, believe me when I say that I take my responsibilities seriously and so do your parents, but there are times when you just have to color outside the lines ... literally. If you don’t learn anything else from your parents, learn to live passionately. Jump in with both feet and live life on your terms, by your rules. March to your own drummer, not someone else’s ... even if your drum is actually a screaming, Hendrix-esk, electric guitar.”
Annie looked at the Skittles-colored house and sighed. “I hope Dad can learn to swim really fast when Mom gets home … otherwise we’re all gonna drown in really deep shit.”
Dawn laughed and handed Annie a paint brush. “I’ve seen Spike talk his way out of worse than this. Fortune favors the brave.”
Annie sighed and nodded as she dipped her brush in the pink paint and flung it at the wall.
“Dad!!” Annie called when she saw the Blue Bomber turn the corner at the end of the block. “Mom’s almost here!”
“Right! Off ya go then. Into the house with ya! Dawn, help ‘em get cleaned up,” Spike called down from his perch on the ladder above them.
“Okay,” Dawn agreed, urging the painters to put down their weapons and ushering them into the house.
Spike finished what he’d been doing and climbed down. He backed up to survey their handiwork. The bottom of the house, up about ten feet or so, looked just like what he’d told the kids he wanted: a Skittles factory explosion. It was a rainbow of colors in random patterns. If you stared at it too long your head would start spinning. It was perfect.
He couldn’t really duplicate the tie-dye rainbow effect up above, since it was just him working up there. So, what he did was create the illusion of bubbles of color floating up out of the mishmash down below. Large round orbs of color seemed to be lifting up out of the mixture at the bottom, heading towards the heavens. It was actually a pretty cool effect, if he did say so himself. He’d even managed to give the bubbles a three-dimensional look with some subtle shading and adding a light reflection illusion to them, as if the sun was glinting off the orbs.
“Oh. My. God,” came Buffy’s voice from behind him a moment later. He heard MacKenzie’s carrier hit the sidewalk, perhaps a little harder than needed. The baby let out a small squeal of protest, but Buffy didn't even hear her – the Slayer's brain had started to fry and sizzle from the vision before her. “What the hell have you done, Spike?”
Spike turned around, feeling resolutely satisfied. “Painted the bloody house, as instructed.”
Buffy’s mouth hung open as she looked at the front of the mansion. It had been white when she left. Sedate. Conservative. Unobtrusive. It was no longer any of those things. “Painted the house…” she repeated, trying to process it.
Her mouth opened and closed a few times, trying to find words. “Did you think maybe I would’ve liked a voice in the color scheme?” she asked finally.
“Saved the back for you pet … and the sides. I only want the front … you can have all the rest,” he offered sincerely.
“Oh … well … in that case,” she began, shrugging nonchalantly. Her voice sounded accepting … momentarily, at least. “In that case I won’t stake you! I’ll just flay you and let red ants clean the flesh off your bones! Are you out of your ever-loving mind, Spike? What is this? It looks like a giant box of crayons pooped on our house!"
“Brilliant, yeah?” Spike beamed, ignoring her threat and her not-so-polite description of their craftsmanship.
“Brilliant?! BRILLIANT? No … NOT brilliant! It’s … the complete opposite of brilliant. It’s un-brilliant! Dis-brilliant! Non-brilliant! Brilliant-less," she ranted, her hands clenching into fists.
“I am sooo gonna…” Buffy began, her voice a low, threatening snarl, but she was cut off by a high-pitched scream of utter horror coming from behind her.
She spun around to see Mrs. Katz staring wide-eyed and gape-mouthed at the house. The Quidnuncious demon’s face was frozen in a mask of terror, her chest heaving as she began to hyperventilate.
Spike smirked and sauntered up the walk towards her, passing Buffy as he went. He pulled one of the canary-yellow official notices out of his pocket as he walked. When he reached where she stood, her pink, fuzzy slippers apparently glued to the sidewalk, he extended the paper out towards her, taking care to keep upwind of her haze of noxious perfume.
“House freshly painted, as per your request,” he announced to her in a friendly tone.
Mrs. Katz finally dragged her eyes from the multi-colored hodgepodge of shapes that covered the front of the mansion and looked at Spike. “I … paint … not … code…” she stammered out.
“Had my … sister-in-law check online for the SHRUG codes for house paintin’,” Spike explained, still holding the paper out towards the woman. “Says the 'trim and door must be in neutral tones: white, off-white, sandstone, cream, gray, tan, or taupe' … don’t say a bloody word ‘bout the walls. You’ll notice the doors and trim are white. It’s all perfectly legal … per your codes.”
“I … uhhhh …” Mrs. Katz stuttered, her breathing becoming even more rapid and shallow.
“Want t’ thank you for pointing out that we needed t’ update the look. I think it really makes a statement, don’t you? I was going for ‘Fornicating M&Ms’ or ‘Orgasmic Rainbow’ … but I think we’ve captured ‘Sixty’s Free-love Hippie Commune’ instead. Bloody brilliant you are, suggestin’ it.
“If you need help with your house, you just let me know. Got a bloody amazing system worked out. We can have that boring sandstone you got replaced in a jiff. You’ll have to wait though, ‘cos Syd and Ted want us to do theirs next. They were thinking o’ something in pinks and purples with big lime-green pentagrams instead of bubbles. Reckon within a week, we’ll have the whole bloody neighborhood done.”
“Whole … neighborhood?” Mrs. Katz stammered, trying to find air. “I … you … can’t be … serious.”
Spike gave her his most charming smile – the one that he used to sell ice-makers to Eskimos. “As a bloody heart attack.”
“But … but …” she continued to stammer, her chest heaving faster as her panic rose.
Spike pulled all the citations she’d given him that morning out of his back pocket. His smile faded and his voice became low and deadly. “Drop SHRUG. We were doing perfectly fine ‘ere without it. This ain't 1984 and we don’t need Big Brother butting into people’s lives. Drop it or every house on this bloody street will look like that,” he threatened, waving a hand at the mansion.
Mrs. Katz looked from Spike, to the house, to the papers he was holding out towards her. Her eyes drifted back to the psychedelic house and, after a few seconds, she began to feel dizzy and disoriented from looking at it. It seemed like the colorful bubbles floating up past the second-story windows were bursting and releasing pure THC into the air she was gulping down.
She looked back at Spike; his face, hair, and clothes were covered in what seemed to be hundreds of colors of paint. She briefly considered changing SHRUG’s code, taking that loophole about house-color out. As Mrs. Katz looked at him, she thought she saw his eyes flash yellow, feral, and dangerous. She recoiled, inhaled sharply, and blinked several times; when she looked again his eyes were blue. The Quidnuncious demon reconsidered.
She snatched the papers from him with a quavering hand. “There is something very wrong with you people,” she informed him in a shaking, shrill voice. With considerable effort of will, she pulled her feet free from the glue that had been holding her in place on the sidewalk, and scampered off towards home.
“Bloody right there is,” he agreed as he watched her flee like a lamb running away from the big, bad wolf.
Spike turned back towards Buffy with a victorious smirk. “Who’s bloody brilliant now?”
Buffy laughed, rolled her eyes, and shook her head in disbelief. “My hero,” she sighed, walking up and wrapping her arms around his neck. Within a moment the pair was swamped with multi-colored, paint-spattered munchkins, all hugging their parents and laughing. The kids hadn’t fled upstairs to clean up, but waited and watched nervously from the front window.
Buffy lifted her gaze up to the house, then looked back at her husband. “‘A Sixty’s Free-love Hippie Commune’, huh? It’s kinda growing on me … especially the gaa-rooo-vy ‘free-love’ part.”
Buffy rose up and dropped a kiss on Spike’s lips as the kids cheered and hugged them tighter.
Fortune favors the brave.
This chapter has turned into one of my very favorites. I hope you enjoyed Spike's victory! I think we'll leave the house painted this way for a while, what do you think?
Next: Billy summons his courage once more; will he be rewarded or rebuffed? Buffy and Annie go with Dawn to meet Gertie Greenbriar, the witch who, in the other dimension, helped Dawn master her Key power.
Fortune Favors the Brave from Aida sung by Adam Pascal
Oh, fortune favors the brave
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