|Story Title:||Can't Buy Me Love|
Christmas day gets drawn out into the next day … will another unexpected guest ruin it again?
MacKenzie Verity Weckerly born October 9th, 2010
Edmond “Eddie” Giles Rosenberg-Maclay born March 11, 2010
Joshua "JJ" Harris was born on April 21st, 2004
The twins (Danielle Dawn, "Dani" and William Rupert, "Billy") were born on February 12th, 2004.
Annie was born on February 14th, 1999
Spike and Buffy were married in February 1999
Buffy was born January 19th, 1981
William/Spike was turned by Dru in
All the Potentials were endowed with full Slayer power in February 2003.
Buffy and Spike learned of the other dimensions and got the memories from the 'Rome' Universe in May, 2003.
The ‘Wish-World’ lasted from January 19th, 2005 to January, 16th 2010.
Hurry Home, Jason Michael Carroll, http://youtu.be/VWEI8Y91dQ0
Bobby Helms - My Special Angel, http://youtu.be/QdjpEzbUEJo
Macarena - Los del Rio, http://youtu.be/sN62PAKoBfE
ScreenCaps courtesy of ScreenCap Paradise: http://www.screencap-paradise.com/?cat=3
Thanks to 'epd4' for betaing this chapter. Extra special thanks to PaganBaby for her help with 'Betty, the Chocolate Slayer'. Any mistakes are mine because I can't stop fiddling ...
|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.
(Six days ago) Monday, December 20th, 2010, 11:00pm, Renaldo, Oklahoma:
Bess and Sue-Ann sat on the steps of the front porch of the house the strawberry blonde Slayer shared with her brother Sammy, her parent’s house, her childhood home, and watched small puffs of white clouds dart across the dark sky. They were bundled up in heavy winter coats against the chill as the wind began to whistle through the limbs of the ancient black walnut tree in the front yard; a storm would be coming in soon. Sue-Ann tried to talk Bess into staying another day at least … even suggested that she stay for Christmas, but Bess was ready to head back to Cleveland. She’d gone back there when she left Philly and had been working at the vet’s office, paying back her debt to them as well as doing some patrolling at night. It was difficult for the Slayers there to patrol on the most bitterly cold nights, by the time they bundled up in enough clothing to stay warm, they could barely move to fight – that wasn’t a problem for Bess, the cold didn’t really bother her.
As Bess had hoped, Sue-Ann and Sammy had reconciled and she, along with help from the Watcher in Cleveland, had explained everything to her brother. Not that it was an easy thing for him to comprehend or accept, but over the last few weeks he’d come to terms with it and Sue-Ann had come back to Renaldo, at least for a while. There wasn’t a lot of demonic activity here, but she was enjoying being back home and spending time with her brother. After the holidays, she’d head back to Cleveland, as well … but she knew that her brother was here for her whenever she needed him; the dark secret was out in the light, at least with her ‘family’; what the rest of the town didn’t know, wouldn’t hurt them.
Bess had enjoyed spending the last few days with her friend and Sammy, who had always treated her with fairness and honesty. When Bess had gotten back to Cleveland after her trip to Philly, one of the other Slayers had passed on a note from Sue-Ann, telling Bess where she was and inviting her to come for a visit. ‘And yes,’ Sue-Ann had ended the note with, ‘I know you’re a vampire … you’re still invited.’
While Bess was in Renaldo, Sue-Ann had given the Harley a tune-up, including an oil change, and washed it and chastised Bess for not taking better care of it – it was a classic, after all. Bess promised to be nicer to the bike and the girls hugged their goodbyes. Sue-Ann assured Bess she’d join her in Cleveland after Christmas, then the elder Slayer tucked Angelpie into her saddlebag and the Harley roared to life. With one last look and a small wave back, Bess steered out of the driveway and back towards the center of town and the onramp to the interstate that would take her back to Cleveland and the job she had there.
(Six days after Bess left Renaldo. Next day after Spike’s fight with the Granok demon)
Sunday, December 26th, 2010, 3:00pm, Sunnydale:
Buffy had tried in vain to talk Spike out of fighting the Pele Haleakala demon on January 1st … but he wasn’t budging, even with the threat of a fire demon looming over him. He’d started this trek knowing he could face any of a million types of demons … just because he now knew which one he would be facing for once didn’t change anything. Buffy was happy to learn that it wasn't actually the goddess Pele he'd be fighting, but one of her devotees, instead - but still, fire and vampires were notoriously unmixy. Buffy had again talked to Willow about her progress finding or creating an additional Gem of Amarra for Spike, but she’d had no luck decoding the manuscript that she and Giles were fairly certain contained the key to it. She had a few basic protection spells that she wanted to try out on Spike during the coming week, but she honestly wasn’t too confident in them – mostly protection spells tended to not quite work the way you’d think they would, but the success of the protection spell she’d used on all of Buffy’s pregnancies gave her some hope that she could make one work properly. The problem was that the spell she used for Buffy’s fetuses called on the Slayer’s own ancient power and borrowed from Buffy’s own natural healing abilities to keep the baby safe … it really wasn’t the same as trying to protect the whole person with some mystical outside force.
Although Spike had become less ‘magic-adverse’ than he once had been, he was skeptical, I mean, after all, if that worked wouldn’t everyone be doing it? Spike had always been right about magic – it had consequences; little magic (like a glamour to transform a bandstand into their own personal oasis) had little consequences – usually too small to even notice; big magic, like a protection spell, would have big consequences; he was, therefore, not really keen on the idea. There were some things worth the price of the magic, such as bringing Buffy back from the dead; a protection spell, however, wasn’t on his very short list of ‘big magic’ that he’d condone. And, he pointed out, it wouldn’t matter in the fight because protection spells, amulets, etc. weren’t allowed and were, in fact, cleansed before the fighters could enter the ring. Even if he had a Gem, it would likely be exploded by the magical decontamination chamber Mr. Andreev used on every demon immediately before their bouts. This didn’t make Buffy any happier about the whole thing, but she had agreed to give him his chance at the championship and the half million dollars; she wouldn’t go back on her promise – but that didn’t mean she wouldn’t continue to try and talk him out of it right up until the last possible moment.
But now all that was put aside for a little while as the Seventh Annual Crawford Street Christmas Revue played out in the great room of the mansion. The adults had all done their bits – Lorne sang his traditional Christmas song to kick it off, Xander and Anya had done their traditional dance demonstration … even though they didn’t take lessons anymore, Anya made sure Xander stayed in practice and it had become their ‘thing’ for the show, Giles played acoustic guitar and sang a rock ballad … another tradition started on the very first show, and Clem performed his ‘magic’ tricks – awing the youngest children with his amazing powers, like pulling red, fluffy balls and quarters out of their ears.
Clem was glad Buffy and Spike had another baby since Dani, Billy, and JJ were growing up quickly. Another child meant another few years with at least one ‘awe-able’ person in the audience; with Eddie, that would be two – that worked. Willow and Tara had taken to singing together, but now always chose funny songs, leaving the mushy and romantic songs for Spike and Buffy; this year they did ‘You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd’ … the always popular classic originally done by Roger Miller, which the children had never heard before and thought they made up.
As had become the custom, Lorne had picked out a song for Buffy and Spike, although since that first year they didn’t really do ‘impersonations’ so much as just sing as themselves … mainly ‘cos, after Sonny and Cher – where else is there to go but down in the duet impersonation realm? Although Lorne thought he might toss in a song and dance number next year, just to keep the pair on their toes … maybe ‘You’re the One That I Want’ from Grease.
This year the song Lorne picked out was “I’ve Never Had it So Good”, originally done by Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge. Since Spike was still not feeling his best after the previous night’s activities, and his knee still wouldn’t take much weight, they prepared to do the song from their seats on the couch in the audience instead of on the stage. But, when the music started playing from Lorne’s Karaoke machine, it wasn’t the music to the song they had rehearsed. Buffy looked at Spike questioningly but he just smiled as he pulled her microphone from her hands. He’d wanted to dance with her while he sang … but circumstances dictated otherwise.
Spike reached a hand out and softly caressed Buffy’s cheek as he began to sing to his special angel…his wild, crazy angel that had given him a life he’d long given up on and a love that defied logic or reason. A love, like his, that he knew could weather any storm. Buffy sat transfixed as his sweet voice poured words of devotion and adoration over her and his eyes held hers captive; their blue depths sparkling as flames of love danced within them and penetrated her soul, warming her from the inside out.
As the song ended, Buffy gave him a soft, adoring smile and Spike leaned into her, taking her lips in a gentle kiss. He still felt horribly guilty about lying to her, about the whole thing with Mr. Shark and the money; he hoped she had forgiven him for that, he truly had never meant to hurt her and certainly never intended to put his family in any danger. He hoped that all the suffering wouldn’t be for naught when he met the Pele demon next Saturday night … he only wanted to make things better for them – for Buffy and their family. He wanted to do that more than anything in the world; he just wanted to be their hero.
After Buffy and Spike’s song … or Spike’s song, as it turned out, the kids put on a skit, ‘Betty, the Chocolate Slayer’ … written by Billy and Annie (with some help from Lorne), performed by the two writers plus Dani, JJ, and featuring Faith as the very evil villain set on depriving the world of chocolate; Xander and Anya helped with the sets. Xander had long ago built a lightweight framework so they could put an actual curtain on the low, temporary stage, which made their little private annual revue seem all the more ‘show-bizzy’ … like an off-Broadway production … waaaay off Broadway.
~*~ Betty, the Chocolate Slayer ~*~
An Original play by Annie Weckerly, Billy Weckerly, and Lorne
Based, in part, on true events. Names have been changed to protect the innocent ... or not so innocent.
All suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Lorne sets the scene for the audience: “Ixcacau, the Goddess of Chocolate, has been kidnapped by an evil sorceress bent on destroying the world. All the cocoa is dying in the fields, threatening the worldwide supply of chocolate and pitting nation against nation, brother against brother, Nestlé against Hershey as the supply dwindles dangerously low. Can they find the answer in time? Can Betty, the Chocolate Slayer, defeat the evil sorceress? Will her Watcher ever say anything other than ‘Dear Lord’? Will Lance have enough sugar to go around?”
~*~ Curtain rises ~*~
Scene 1: The research library, the table piled high with old books. Betty, the Chocolate Slayer, (played by Dani), her husband Lance, the reformed chocoholic demon with a Cockney accent (played by Billy), and Mr. French, the Slayer’s upper-crust English Watcher (played by JJ) are researching the newest apocalyptic threat.
Dani and Billy were sitting at the research table which is piled high with books but they weren’t reading. Dani dropped her head into her hand and moaned slightly …
Betty, weakly: “I’m not sure how much longer I can go on…”
Lance, encouraging: “You can do it, luv. We’re all countin’ on ya, Slayer.”
Mr. French, standing to one side, worried, reading a book: “Dear Lord.”
Betty, fading, moaning in agony: “I c-can’t … I can’t go on without ch-ch-chocolate …”
Billy furrowed his brow and set his jaw determinedly, trying to get his cheek to tic like his father’s did when he was really mad. He moved over to Dani and took her by the shoulders and began shaking her like a rag doll. Dani helped him by just going limp and letting her head teeter back and forth on her shoulders …
Lance, determined: “You can do it, Slayer! You’re the only bloody one that can save us from certain destruction! ‘Ere, eat a carob covered raisin!”
Billy pressed a carob covered raisin between her lips and Dani chewed it slowly, as if it was painful and she had no strength at all.
Mr. French, still studying his book intently: “Dear Lord.”
Betty, still weak: “It’s … no good … must … have … chocolate…” (Dani had obviously been to the William Shatner/Captain Kirk school of acting.)
Billy jumped up suddenly and started pacing back and forth, running a hand through his curls and letting his bite-sized, black duster billow out behind him and swish around in a wide arc with each sharp turn he made. Billy pursed his lips in frustration and anger, his cheeks hollowed, accentuating his high cheek bones.
Buffy put her hand over her mouth to suppress a too loud laugh. She glanced over at Spike and thought it was sweet, in a scary kinda way, how much attention the kids obviously paid to everything their parents did. Maybe more scary than sweet, actually. Spike’s lips were also pursed, in a classic example of art imitating life, as he watched his son impersonate him. He sooo did not pace like that … the coat was too swishy … Spike’s pacing was much more manly.
Lance, getting angrier: “Bloody hell, Slayer! Where’s your magical M&M pretzel sword?”
Mr. French, shaking his head now as he looks at the same book: “Dear Lord.”
Betty … fading further, her head down on the table now: “We can’t use it … must save it for the … final battle…”
Lance throws open a weapon’s chest and pulls out the magical sword and presses it into Betty’s hand. “This is the final bloody battle, Slayer! Well … for t’day, at any rate.”
Mr. French, finally looking up: “I said, ‘Dear Lord!’ I might as well be talking to the bloody walls! Don’t you lot ever listen to me?”
Lance, agitated: “You always say ‘Dear-bloody-Lord’, Watcher!”
Mr. French, insulted: “Well, it’s always important! I have the answer here in my very smelly and dusty old book!”
Scene 2: The evil sorceress’ lair. The evil sorceress (played by Faith) waves her hand over a cauldron of bubbling chocolate (or dry ice, as it were) as her wicked plan plays out over the world. Ixcacau, the Goddess of Chocolate (played by Annie) is tied up on the floor near the cauldron.
Dani and Billy, as Betty and Lance, tiptoe into the edge of the scene as if searching for the lair, but can’t see it. Betty holds the magical M&M covered pretzel sword in one hand, over half the M&Ms are now missing …
Lance in a whisper: “What’s the plan, luv? Follow m’ chocoholic nose to Willy Wonka’s … rush in, fondue forks at the ready?”
Betty, with an eye roll: “Didn’t you hear Mr. French? We have a plan!”
Mr. French, from off stage, worried: “Dear Lord.”
Lance: “A plan, is it? Never been big on plans m’self. Double boilers and fondue forks always been more m’ style, luv.”
Betty: “It’s a good plan, he got it from the Buffy Croaker Picture Cookbook…”
Billy’s eyes went wide with horror and he put his hands up on both sides of his head as if to keep his brain from exploding.
Lance, clearly alarmed: “Bloody hell, woman! You have t’ … cook?!”
Mr. French, from off stage: “Oh, dear Lord. We’re doomed.”
The audience erupted in laughter … well, maybe everyone but Buffy, who folded her arms over her chest and glared at Spike who was holding the baby and trying to contain in his mirth … but the tears forming in his eyes gave him away. Why does everyone have to make fun of my cooking? I don’t see them refusing to eat…
Dani gave her best Summers pout as she picked another magical M&M (which for her were actually a candy called ‘Whizzers’ … a milk-free version of M&Ms) from her pretzel sword and popped it into her mouth then held up Spike’s ‘Kiss the Cook’ apron …
Betty, confident: “It’s ok, I have your apron … and my magical sword. No one’s gonna go without chocolate on my watch! I’m the Slayer! The Chosen One! The one girl in all the world that will wield the strength and skill to fight the forces of good nutrition; to stop the spread of the demonic food pyramid … which, by the way, doesn’t even have chocolate on it. What’s up with that?”
Lance, concerned: “By the looks of it, won’t be any chocolate left in your bloody magical sword by the time we find the beastie. You’re gobbling that up like it was soddin’ candy! Need a chocolate intervention, you do, Slayer. I’m callin’ the Oooma-Loompas for you, pet, ‘fore you toddle round the bloody bend…”
Everyone in the audience laughed again and looked at Spike who was, once again, looking less than happy with his son’s portrayal of him. “I’ve never said ‘toddle’ in my soddin’ life…” Spike complained dryly, his lips pursed together indignantly. “He’d better not say ‘crikey’ or ‘blimey’ at any point – I’ve never said those either.”
Betty, brightly, eating another M&M: “Oh! Do you think they’d bring me one of those giant golden eggs?”
Mr. French, from off stage: “Dear Lord. We’re completely doomed.”
Everyone burst into laughter again, looking at Giles, who was also not looking entirely thrilled. “I don’t say it that often…” he defended dourly. “And it is always important.”
Evil sorceress, waving her hand over the steaming cauldron begins to chant: “Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble. The world will soon be piles of rubble… ”
Ixcacau, angry, indignant: “You’ll never get away with it, you evil fiend! The Chocolate Slayer will save me! She’ll save the world from the horrors of a chocolate-less existence!”
The evil sorceress threw her head back and began laughing …uhhh … evilly, sounding a lot like the Wicked Witch of the West.
Evil sorceress, overly confident: “Not this time, my pretty! The world is on the brink of destruction … my cauldron never lies! As we speak, the last Reese’s Cup is being devoured in the streets of Hershey, Pennsylvania, the last Wispa bar is being lapped up in London, the last Cadbury Dairy Milk bar is being gobbled up in Sydney, the last bon-bon is being bitten in Borneo, the last Krunch bar is being crunched in Caan, the last …”
Ixcacau, sigh, eye-roll, bored: “Yeah, we get it, already.”
Evil sorceress, gleefully evil, spinning a circle with arms open wide: “Soon chaos will reign supreme as the world’s chocolate cravings spiral out of control!”
In the audience, Buffy shuddered slightly – Faith’s spinning and maniacal laughing reminded her a lot of insano Dru; Faith played that part perhaps a little too well.
Ixcacau, determined: “The Slayer will never let that happen! She’ll stop your diabolical plan!”
Evil sorceress, eyes gleaming with … uhh, ok, evil: “You think I am unprepared for the Slayer?! You think me such a fool? The only way she could stop me is to produce a perfect chocolate soufflé … if it falls … so shall she!” Faith laughed shrilly, tossing her head back and letting her long hair fall down her back.
Mr. French, from off stage: “Dear Lord ...”
Ixcacau, with another dramatic sigh and an eye roll: “…We’re doomed.”
Scene 3: Betty and Lance in a kitchen, the Buffy Croaker Picture Cookbook open, pots and pans cover the tabletop.
Dani moved back and forth frantically picking up pots and pans as if searching for something …the magical sword in her hand and Spike’s ‘Kiss the Cook’ apron hanging nearly to the floor around her neck.
Betty, in a panic: “A ramekin! A ramekin! My kingdom for a ramekin!”
Betty, softer, confused, brows furrowed: “…What’s a ramekin?”
Lance, with an eye roll and a heavy sigh: “Bloody hell, Slayer! You don’t 'ave a ramekin!? What kinda bloody Chocolate Slayer are you?!”
Betty, with a classic Summers pout: “A ramekin-less one?”
Mr. French, from off stage: “Dear Lord.”
Lance takes the ‘Kiss the Cook’ apron from Betty, slips it over his head, and begins banging pots and pans around on the table in earnest as Betty sits down, shrugs and blithely starts eating more of the M&Ms off the magical sword…
Scene 4: Back in the evil sorceress’ lair. The evil sorceress is still waving her hand over a cauldron of bubbling chocolate and Ixcacau, the Goddess of Chocolate, is still tied up nearby.
Lance and Betty rush into the evil sorceress’ lair bravely (or foolishly … however you want to look at it) like Batman and Robin would from the original TV show, hands on hips, Lance’s duster flying out behind him like a cape.
Evil sorceress, surprised but smug: “Slayer! You are too late!”
Betty, confident: “No! Never! See? I still have three M&Ms on my magical sword.”
Evil sorceress, unfazed: “You silly fool! Your sword cannot stop me! I am immune to your dark-chocolate pretzel magic!”
Betty, with an arm flourish towards Lance who is now behind her: “But are you immune to … soufflé!?”
Evil sorceress, victorious, snorts indignantly: “Soufflé? Pffffft! You couldn’t make a soufflé if the world depended on it … which it does! Admit it Slayer – you have been defeated! I will rule the world with my cauldron of chocolate! I have won! I am the queen of the world!”
Faith holds both arms up in victory, her head tossed back again as more evil laughing ensues from the villainous sorceress …
Mr. French, from off stage: “Dear Lord.”
Lance, pulling a perfect chocolate soufflé from behind his back and holding it up: “Your evil plan has one fatal flaw … as all evil plans written by six-year-olds do.”
Evil sorceress, looking at Lance with wide, frightened eyes: “NO!”
Lance, cocky: “Yes! You forgot the ramekin the Slayer was using as the cat’s bloody water bowl!”
Mr. French, from off stage: “Dear Lord.”
Lance, victorious: “You have been defeated! There is no problem which cannot be solved with chocolate!”
Betty, hand over mouth, looking a little green from eating all the magical M&Ms: “I think I’m gonna barf.”
Lance, with an eye roll: “I stand corrected.”
Evil sorceress, sinking slowly down to her knees: “I’m melting … I’m melting …”
Betty, smugly to the audience: “Let this be a lesson to all you kiddies out there. Get your daily minimum requirement of M&Ms to ward off evil melting.”
Ixcacau, breaking free of her restraints and rushing towards Lance: “The world is saved! My hero!”
Betty, angrily moving towards Lance and Ixcacau: “Hey – hands off my soufflé, sister!”
Lance, smiling smugly, a Slayer on one side, a goddess on the other, his arms around each of their backs: “Now then, sweet bits, no need to fight … there’s enough sugar t’ go ‘round…”
Mr. French, from off stage, emphatically: “Oh, dear Lord.”
~*~ Curtain Falls ~*~
Everyone burst out in applause and laughter as the actors all came center stage and took their bows … well, everyone except perhaps Giles, who intoned, “Dear Lord…” as he removed his glasses and scrubbed them with his handkerchief, which only sent the audience rolling in more raucous laughter. Then, even Giles had to laugh in spite of himself.
Billy jumped down off the low stage and presented the chocolate soufflé, which was a real chocolate soufflé that Lorne had made, to his mother.
“Do you think giving me that is gonna make me forgive you for that utter abomination and slander of the Slayer name?” his mother asked sternly, her brow furrowed.
Billy shrugged and gave her his most innocent look, utilizing the Summers pout effectively as he put on a lost puppy air. “Well … yeah.”
“Oh, well, in that case – you’re right,” Buffy laughed as she took a bite of the sweet, chocolaty goodness and moaned in pleasure.
“Looks like somebody finally figured out who the bloody hero is ‘round ‘ere and it ain’t the chocoholic Slayer…” Spike smirked. “She’s off eatin’ soddin’ M&Ms while the reformed demon’s saving the bloody world…”
Buffy laughed and nodded as she took another bite of the soufflé. “I think the men in this family have delusions of grandeur … How much did you pay Billy and Annie to write it that way?”
“I’m deeply hurt and offended! I’ll have you know I didn’t pay the mini-Shakespeares one red cent!” Spike huffed indignantly.
“Oh … paper money, huh?” Buffy guessed.
“Ten bloody dollars each…” Spike admitted, rolling his eyes. “Our bits’ loyalties don’t come cheap…”
Buffy laughed again as the second ‘mini-Shakespeare’ came up to her and Spike. “Did you like it?” Annie asked her parents, her eyes wide with glee.
“Bloody brilliant! Got Macbeth and Richard the Third in there … very posh!” Spike told her proudly.
“Next time Lance should be the one kidnapped … and the Slayer will sit on her duff eating M&Ms and let him rot,” Buffy suggested with a sideways glance at Spike.
“Bet she’ll come rescue him right quick if you put only green M&Ms on the soddin’ magic pretzel sword…” Spike smirked.
“Daaaaaaad!” Annie whined, rolling her eyes. “You’re bad.”
Spike shrugged, still bouncing ‘Kenzie lightly in his arms. “Reformed demon … can’t help m’self.”
“Apparently, you’re not all that reformed,” Annie countered smugly as she turned to Buffy and gave her a little wink making Buffy laugh again.
“You two are getting to be a right pair … corrupting her, you are!” Spike accused with pursed lips.
“Moi?” Buffy asked with wide, innocent eyes, one hand going to her chest. “You’re the unreformed demon in the house suggesting only green M&Ms…”
As had become the
tradition, the last ‘act’ for the show was the group dance. Billy helped Annie
pick out the song this year, Buffy might’ve made a suggestion or two also, but
now the two that got ‘credit’ for picking it out stood in the center of the
floor and began… the Macarena. Even the windows in the house seemed to moan…
Spike had never been more happy to be injured in his entire life.
Annie and Billy started doing the dance, Billy still in his ‘Lance’ outfit with black jeans, black t-shirt and a long black duster. Spike moaned and dropped his head backwards, looking up to the ceiling for strength when Billy swiveled his hips around – it was bad enough Annie doing that, but Billy, looking like a mini-Spike … Bloody hell…
“You aren’t getting out of this that easily, buster,” Buffy insisted as she took the baby from Spike’s arms and put her down in her playpen.
“Injured, luv … sorry,” he protested, waving a hand at his battered knee.
“Yeah, I know … poor baby. Your arms aren’t injured,” she insisted as Faith brought a chair from the research table out to the middle of the ‘dance floor’ and Buffy pulled Spike up off the couch.
“Gotta save m’ strength, luv … Pele demon, remember?” Spike argued as she guided him gently towards the chair while the song continued and even Giles joined in with the rest of the crazies on the dance floor. All for one and one for all … and all that rot.
Buffy sat him down in the chair and stood in front of him as she picked up the dance. Spike folded his arms over his chest and glared at her. Buffy leaned forward, her mouth next to his ear. “I’ve got a whole bag of green M&Ms upstairs just waiting for the best vampire Macarena-er…” she teased.
Spike cocked a brow at her as she backed up and continued, turning with a jump and starting the dance again in a different direction. If you want to see this hip swirl revved up on a bag of green M&Ms later, you better start dancing, she sent through the bond and his eyes dropped down to her hips as they curved round and round seductively. Spike licked his lips and gave in. He would always and forever be love’s bitch.
Just as Buffy made it all the way back around to face him and the dance started yet again, she felt a prickle down her spine … not from Spike. She frowned and looked at him, from the look in his eyes, he’d felt it too. Spike looked towards the garden doors … well, the plastic that covered the opening to the garden since the actual doors were in the dust bin, with trepidation – what the bloody hell now? He was far from 100%, even though Buffy had given him some blood a few hours ago, he hadn’t had time to heal yet. Spike let out a long breath of relief and his heart swelled with joy as he found the cause of the warning that tingled down his spine. Bess.
After leaving Sue-Ann’s house in Renaldo six days ago, Bess made one pit-stop in town, stopping at the butcher shop and sliding an envelope with ten dollars in it under the door – money for the blood she’d stolen during her first stop in this small town. Bess stood next to the Harley under a street lamp and pulled out her well-worn map and checked it one more time, just to make sure she didn’t get lost, then folded it and put it back in her saddle bag. Then she brought Angelpie out and let her walk around on the grass next to the sidewalk for one last potty break before the trip started. Ever since Philadelphia, Angelpie had been good as new and back to her old tricks of ambushing Bess, playing her rough and tumble games and even patrolling with her friend. The vet back in Cleveland said it was amazing … practically a miracle, he honestly thought she’d have that limp forever.
As Bess slipped the kitten back into her cozy saddlebag, she brushed a button on the cell phone she’d purchased at Wal-Mart, which stayed in the bag with Angelpie, and the face lit up. Bess hesitated a moment as the cute picture of her kitten filled the small screen on the phone and cast a warm glow inside Angelpie’s little ‘room’.
Bess bit her lip and picked the phone up and sighed heavily. “Ok … just one more time,” she murmured to herself as she dialed the all too familiar number and pressed ‘send’.
She didn’t really know what she expected to hear. There had been a new announcement on the answering machine at the mansion for a while – Spike talking about owing money and the check being in the mail. She was sorry when the message had been changed, she had liked the feelings Buffy’s message always stirred in her – the memory of that day spent with her siblings and Buffy and the laughter they’d shared. She called the number sporadically ever since Sue-Ann had encouraged her to do so during Bess’ first stay in Cleveland, but she never said anything or left a message on the machine. She wasn’t sure really why she even called there … just to remind herself that they were real, perhaps.
Bess tried to hold onto the confidence Wanda had instilled in her that Buffy and Spike would want her back and would forgive her and did love her. When she left Philadelphia, she had every intention of going back to California right after she repaid her debt to Dr. Lowenbram and made enough money working there to pay her way … home. But, as time went by on the shores of Lake Erie, Bess started doubting again and the fear of rejection started creeping back in. Even with Billy’s assurances that she was welcome there and him telling her they still had her room waiting for her, going back frightened her more than anything she’d ever done, perhaps even more than being taken from her family to be a Slayer. After all, he was just a boy, he couldn’t possibly understand what she had done or the hurtful things she said to Buffy. It was the same fear that made her run in the first place. If you don’t give people the chance to reject you, then you can’t be hurt by them.
Even Buffy’s note that she’d sent with the Thanksgiving dinner did nothing to ease Bess’ fear. The worry was irrational, she knew – but even knowing that, it wouldn’t go away. It seemed so deeply seated within her that she could only overcome it for short periods before the doubt and worry crept back in. It was never long enough to get her to take action; if she could just stay brave long enough to take the first step. The first step, it seemed was the hardest; for her it felt like a leap off an unbelievably high cliff, without a parachute or a net to catch her.
Bess could hear the phone ringing, even without holding it up to her ear or putting it on speaker, and she looked at it intently, as if subconsciously willing it to somehow make her speak this time – to somehow put the right words in her mouth. Maybe if she just said something … maybe Billy was right … at least she’d know for sure if she just said something, just once.
After four rings, the answering machine picked up … the announcement had changed, it was Buffy again…
“You’ve reached the Weckerly’s,” the message began in Buffy’s voice, then each of the children announced their own names excitedly, “Annie! Dani! Billy!” with Buffy adding, “Bess, MacKenzie, and Miss Kitty, along with Spike and Buffy, are away from the phone right now – or we’re just too tired to answer it, which, if you have kids, you’ll understand. If you leave a name and number, someone will call you back – it might be the cat, but you’ll have to take what you can get around here. If this is Santa calling to confirm our Christmas request, yes, please bring Elizabeth Anne Weatherford home … we love her and miss her.” Beeeep.
Bess stood dumbfounded, unmoving, staring wide-eyed down at the small phone in her hand, utterly speechless – again. She finally took a breath and started to speak when the machine beeped again and disconnected. The message time had been used up.
Bess stood there for many minutes, nervously fingering the magical amulet that hung around her neck that kept her hidden from locator spells, as she tried to sort through all the emotions running through her. A soft snow began to fall from the sky and blanketed everything, including her, with a layer of rapidly melting crystals. She looked up at the sky, looking for the courage that Wanda told her was there but that she just couldn't seem to find. Her eyes stopped on the butcher shop's sign that stood atop the building. 'Fortune favors the brave' ... read the black letters in the area of the sign that also announced that hamburger was on sale this week...
Bess looked at the sign, stared at it, let the serendipitous message burn into her brain for a long while untilicy droplets of water running down her face finally pulled her out of her stupor. She slid the phone back into the saddlebag with Angelpie, mounted the bike and rumbled it to life before heading towards the interstate … which way would she go? North or West? Bess took a deep breath when she reached the elevated highway’s onramp and let her gut decide. In that split second to decide to turn right or left, she had been brave – she had taken the first step, she had leapt off the cliff.
Now Bess stood just inside the opening from the sunken garden, watching the crazy people that were, apparently, her family as they did an even crazier dance. That really could explain a lot actually … perhaps, as the saying goes, the crazy apple doesn’t fall far from the crazy tree. What were they doing? Trying to conjure something? It didn’t appear to be working… Bess’ arms were folded over her chest defensively and she tried to make herself as small and unobtrusive as possible with her back against the doorframe. Her eyes darted back towards the plastic covered doors – there was time, she could still escape.
Spike pulled himself up using Buffy’s shoulder and limped slowly over to the doorway, holding a hand up and silently telling Buffy to wait there as the others continued dancing, not noticing the newcomer. Bess bit her bottom lip and fought the urge to run away … again. Brave … she just had to be brave a little while longer. Fortune favors the brave, she repeated to herself over and over again. It had taken her thirty minutes just to walk down the garden stairs … another fifteen to step through the plastic into the house…
As Spike reached her she looked down at the floor, balled her fists where they rested under her crossed arms, and clenched her jaw, drawing on every ounce of courage she possessed just to stand still. One way or another she’d know … would he ask her to stay or to go? Would he scream at her for the horrible things she’d said to Buffy … for stealing his bike or running the Harley out of oil? Would he be angry she came back – invaded their space, interrupted their … ritual crazy-people dance?
A thousand things ran through Spike’s mind, but none came out, as he neared her. Her hair had grown out quite a bit, it was more wavy now that it had more weight to it, but still silky blonde, like Dani’s … well, mostly. There was a single braid hanging down from the part in the middle which was colored red and green – Christmas colors. She still looked like that fourteen-year-old to him and it made him want to pull him into his embrace and just hold her, protect her – but she didn’t need protecting and she wasn’t fourteen. What she needed was acceptance … perhaps approval … definitely love … and above all respect.
“Got over your aversion to multi-colored hair, then, reckon,” he said at last, reaching a hand out and touching the braid.
Bess ducked her head shyly and reached up to touch the braid, pulling it from his hand. Sue-Ann had done it with food coloring … Bess had actually forgotten about it. “But I still don’t care for bubbly Slayers…” she replied sheepishly.
“Apple don’t fall far from the tree, I reckon, pet,” Spike replied softly.
Bess’ eyes went wide and she looked up at him. Had he read her mind earlier? Could he do that? She quickly dropped her gaze back down to the floor and just shrugged, her mind whirling and racing trying to figure out if he’d gotten some new power while she was gone.
The two blondes fell silent again for several long moments, each lost in their own thoughts – neither wanting to mess this up, as they waited for the other to make a move.
“Care t’ dance?” Spike asked at last, waving his arm towards the dance floor. Annie had just started the song over and everyone had loosened up and they were laughing as they jived along to the beat. Well, everyone but Buffy who was standing on the edge of the ‘dance floor’ watching the two blondes by the door, her heart in her throat.
Bess looked back up at him, a mixture of worry and relief washing over her features. Her eyes darted to the people on the dance floor and then back to him, meeting and holding his eyes for the first time.
“Looks …” she shrugged, as a few words popped to mind, finally she said, “…fun.”
“Yeah … fun – if you’re a surly Slayer bent on world domination by making all your enemies laugh themselves to death at your expense…”
Bess shrugged again and looked back at the people on the dance floor. “Sounds like a solid plan.”
Spike shrugged too, following her gaze. “Yeah … as plans go, I’ve had worse …”
Spike turned and offered Bess the crook of his arm and Bess settled her hand on the inside of his elbow. Spike fought the pain in his knee and struggled to walk gracefully, but it wasn’t really working.
“You’re injured…” Bess observed, looking down.
“Yeah, well … apparently we need some help with the world domination plan. You free? It’s dangerous, don’t pay much, the hours are long, and ya haveta do crazy dances every bloody Christmas …”
Bess smiled shyly and looked up at him, shrugging her head and one shoulder slightly. “I could probably clear some time on my calendar…”
Leap and the net will appear.
Hurry Home, Jason Michael Carroll
sitting by the phone since she left
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