|Story Title:||Miles To Go Before I Sleep|
Buffy, Annie, and Dawn get home to Sunnydale after their visit with Gertie. Spike has a mission and a surprise waiting for them.
Music Referenced: Harvest Moon, Neil Young http://youtu.be/qVi0UvFu8Yo
Some photographs courtesy of FreeFoto.com
|Thanks:||Thanks to YOU for reading! Without you none of this would mean anything! 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.
Early afternoon that same day, Saturday, September 10th, 2011:
“So, how’d it go, then?” Spike asked as Buffy, Dawn, and Annie climbed into the Blue Bomber outside the high school a few hours later.
“Gertie is awesome!” Annie gushed. “She’s, like, sooo cool and really smart! She knows all this stuff about nature and science and souls and how it all works! She’s just amazing! She’s super nice and she eats mostly stuff she grows and she makes her own electricity! We should make our own electricity! You know, we’re killing the planet by burning all this fossil fuel and if we kill the planet, then where will our souls live? We should get a hybrid car and a windmill and … maybe solar panels or something.
“We need to start recycling too. We have those bins in the garage. We need to bring them in and start sorting stuff into them instead of just trashing everything. What days do they pick up recycling? Never mind – I’ll look it up,” Annie offered brightly when Buffy shook her head.
“There’s a whole town there that just recycles stuff. Trash to treasure, it’s sooo cool, Dad. Maybe we could do that too," Annie continued, barely taking time to breathe.
“Oh! And she’s so tall! Taller than Teddy’s mom, and her eyes change color – which is … whoa – too cool! And she can, like, see right inside you. She could see your soul inside Mom!” Annie told her dad excitedly. “Isn’t that creepy? … but really neat, too!” Annie continued rambling giddily.
She’s a half-baked granola bar with an extra helping of nuts, Buffy sent Spike through the bond as she leaned over from the passenger seat and kissed him hello.
“She says our souls keep coming back, we reincarnate when we die until we, like, graduate. And she says I have a really old soul, and so does Mom, and that Mom actually graduated ‘cos she went to heaven … which is just another realm, really …” Annie continued to blather.
“And she has a cow … well, it’s really not hers, ‘cos, it’s another living being with its own soul, so it doesn’t belong to Gertie, they’re actually just friends. It’s named Mrs. O’Leary. They, like, work together to make vegetables and milk and stuff and I milked her! I actually milked a cow! It was way cool.”
Spike pulled out of the parking lot and began driving back to the mansion as Annie continued talking, her words coming fast and furious. Looks like our girl thought she was a bit of alright, he sent to Buffy through the bond.
Buffy rolled her eyes and nodded.
“And I saw Stonehenge! Have you ever seen Stonehenge, Dad? Oh, you probably have. It’s soo big, but I didn’t really get to look around much. And … oh! I got this cool fossil rock on the coast there in Dorset. Is Troy at the house? ‘Cos I want to show it to him. Oh, did I mention that she grows her own food? We should plant a garden and grow our own food. Do you know how to grow stuff and like … ummm … put it in those jars?”
“No,” Buffy and Spike both answered at once.
Annie frowned momentarily, then brightened. “That’s ok, I can look it up on the internet. I wonder how much food we would need to grow for…”
“More than we have time or space to plant,” Buffy cut her off. “You have no idea how much we eat, Annie. Seriously – did you see all the food she had, and that was just for one person! We have … five … six … how the hell many people do we have eating at our house?”
“Too bloody many,” Spike agreed, trying to mentally count. Him, Buffy, Annie, Dani, Billy, ‘Kenzie, JJ half the time, Bess half the time, Troy sometimes, Faith half the time … how many did that make? Then Clem, Xander, Anya, Giles, and Wes would just pop in sometimes … how could you even calculate that?
“It wasn’t just for her – she gives a lot to Mrs. O’Leary too … and she probably has friends, like Mr. Flannigan, come over,” Annie protested.
“Annie,” Buffy began in her ‘please be reasonable’ tone.
“But, Mom! We know how stuff works now, we can’t just … keep killing the planet and not respecting Mother Earth,” Annie cut her off.
Spike pulled into the driveway of the mansion and put the minivan in ‘Park’. Buffy started to argue with Annie further when Spike put up the universal sign for a timeout, his hands forming a ‘T’.
“I got a mission for you girls,” he told the three travelers. “Can we talk about windmills and … Mother Earth later?”
Dawn, Buffy, and Annie all looked at him darkly. A mission? They’d just gotten back from a mission … of sorts. Now they had to go on another mission? Not even a moment to rest?
Spike pulled some cash out of his wallet and gave each of them several large bills. “Ya need t’ go to the mall and get some fancy new frocks and whatnot. We’re havin’ a party t’night. Dawn’s last night – gonna make it a night t’ remember.”
All three brightened considerably. Now that was a mission they could get into! Shopping!
“Annie, please,” Buffy begged her daughter at the mall later. “Just pick one you like. It doesn’t have to be … organic. You aren’t eating it, for Christ's sake … it’s a dress!”
Annie frowned as she searched the racks for something – anything – that seemed ‘earth friendly’. All the dresses she really liked, the satiny and silky ones, she knew weren’t earth friendly at all. She wasn’t sure about the cotton ones – cotton was renewable, but was it grown and harvested with respect? She had no idea. There were a few things made from ‘100% Natural Bamboo’, which boasted being renewable and organic, but mostly just t-shirts and yoga pants and stuff like that, not dresses. Buffy and Dawn had already gotten their new dresses – four stores ago.
“Annie,” Dawn began. “We just have to do the best we can. Sometimes even Gertie has to make concessions.”
Annie looked at Dawn with a furrowed brow and sighed. “Don’t you believe what she said? About Mother Earth and reincarnation and stuff? You think so much of her, but you don’t, you know, do what she does.”
Dawn shrugged. “I … well … I do what I can, but I’m just not that …” Dawn sighed heavily. “To tell the truth, I just like bacon-cheeseburgers too much to go ‘all in’. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think Gertie is amazing. I really admire her tenacity and I know she’s really smart – she’s helped me sooo much in so many ways. I just don’t have that much will-power.
“One thing you’ll learn later from Gertie is that ‘one step at a time’ is fine. One minute today, two minutes tomorrow. If you do one small thing each day for Mother Earth, then that’s all it takes. It’s a process – you don’t have to do everything all at once. Even she didn’t start out from birth totally … ‘at one with the Mother’,” Dawn explained, using air-quotes at the end. “She got there with small steps. I know how inspiring she is. If it weren’t for her sincerity and belief, I probably would’ve never figured out how to use my power, but even she wouldn’t expect you do change everything overnight.”
Annie bit her bottom lip as she thought that over. Gertie had said something similar to her just that morning. ‘One minute today, two minutes tomorrow.’ She looked at the one dress she really liked. It was a fairly simple sleeveless, A-line dress with a full skirt in a rich royal blue taffeta. The only adornment was a line of hand-rolled taffeta roses in a slightly darker blue that encircled the waist. It was simple and elegant and would look great with her dark hair and complexion.
Annie wondered how silkworms were treated. She realized she had no idea how they lived or what they ate or how long they lived. Were their little souls happy to just make silk for people to use to make clothes? Did it give them a sense of contribution to something larger than themselves, or did it just make them unhappy to do all that work and have it taken away? Two days ago, she would’ve have given the silkworms a single thought.
“The fact that you’re even thinking about silkworms is a step that Gertie would be proud of,” Dawn interjected, as if reading Annie’s mind.
Annie rolled her eyes but allowed a small smile to quirk her lips. “I really like this one,” she admitted, holding the dress up in front of her.
“It’s beautiful,” Buffy interjected, giving her daughter an encouraging smile. “The silkworms can attend the party vicariously through the dress. See? Dancing silkworms! Hey – you could even spill a drop or two of champagne on it for them. How many worms get to go dancing and get drunk? You’re actually doing them a favor buying that dress!”
“Mooom,” Annie moaned, rolling her eyes. “I don’t think it works that way.”
“Why not? I mean … if everything’s all intertwined – all ‘children of the Mother’, then maybe there are little silkworm souls woven through the thread of the dress,” Buffy posited. “It’s just as possible as a beet having a soul.”
Dawn cleared her throat and gave Buffy a ‘shut up’ glare. “I think the point is … that you’re thankful to the silkworms for their efforts and you honor them by appreciating their contribution to your happiness. Maybe to honor them, you could research how they live and how silk is harvested, and do a paper on it at school,” Dawn suggested. “One step at a time,” she repeated, giving Annie a reassuring nod.
Annie considered this a moment and nodded her agreement. That would be something she could do – she could let other people know what silkworms did, how they lived, and how they contributed to the world. She was good at research and writing papers – it was a perfect way for Annie to honor them.
Buffy blew out a relieved breath at Annie’s decision. Finally!
Annie went to try the dress on, Buffy and Dawn following behind her. “You know, I really should kill you for bringing Annie to meet that nut-case,” Buffy told Dawn in a low voice.
Dawn smiled. “I told you she was a little over the top and quirky,” she defended. “You said she would fit right in.”
“A little over the top and quirky?” Buffy questioned sarcastically. “She makes Euell Gibbons eating pinecones look perfectly normal and sane!”
“I think he ate pine nuts… and Grape Nuts,” Dawn corrected.
“Same difference,” Buffy retorted, waving an arm dismissively. “Annie thinks Gertie’s like … Gandhi or Mother Theresa or something: all knowing. That witch doesn’t know any more than anyone else. She’s no different than any other religious zealot – she takes stuff on faith and states it as fact. She believes – she doesn’t know. No one knows, not even Gandhi. But Annie thinks she does – she thinks everything Gertie said is fact. There is no fact in faith – that’s why it’s called faith and discussed in these things called Bibles and Korans and rainbow-colored, New Age websites, not the damn Encyclopedia Britannica.”
Dawn shrugged. “There’s nothing wrong with a little faith, Buffy. And what Gertie believes is just as reasonable as anyone else’s faith. And even you have to admit that the idea of different realms and your soul moving through them is something you can believe in. You have firsthand experience with that … gee, that’s kinda like … knowing.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Fine. Realms … I get it – do good, go forward; do bad, go backwards; do mediocre, try again. I can buy that. But even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Even the craziest people can make some good points. It doesn’t mean that you have to take everything they say as truth. Annie doesn’t understand that. She’s too young and impressionable to really get that it’s ok to take what makes sense, but weed out what’s just … gobbledygook. I’m sorry, but beets do not have souls.”
“You don’t know that,” Dawn argued. “And, regardless of that, is there really anything wrong with Annie thinking about the impact of her actions on other living things? The impact on the environment?”
“Yeah, well, I notice you didn’t think twice about silkworms or the environment before buying that dress of yours,” Buffy pointed out, eyeing the garment bag Dawn had slung over her shoulder.
“True – but when I first met Gertie I was a lot like Annie. I tried really hard to follow her ideals. I still do what I can, but I don’t have her unwavering will-power … or, to be honest, her faith. Annie will mellow, trust me. She’ll get bored trying to eat nothing but organic, vegan stuff. If you want to really bring her back to earth, let her try to grow a garden!” Dawn snorted softly. “That’ll wake her right up! It did me! Man, that was a total disaster! You know, Anya was totally right about bunnies: they are evil little creatures. If they have souls, they’re demonic little souls … like vampires in training.”
Buffy laughed and nodded, letting her agitation fade. “Been there, done that … got the t-shirt.”
Annie came out of the dressing room and turned in a circle for her mom and Dawn. “Oh, Annie! That’s so beautiful! You look so grown up! Your dad’s gonna melt when he sees you in that,” Buffy gushed.
Annie’s smile widened and her eyes glittered at the thought of her dad melting. She giggled and turned to go back into the dressing room. “I need new shoes to go with it – heels!” she called back over her shoulder.
“See?” Dawn said, knocking her shoulder against Buffy’s lightly. “She already forgot that most shoes are made out of cow hide and petroleum-based plastic which has a half-life of a thousand years or more.”
Buffy laughed lightly and rolled her eyes. Despite Annie’s eco-faux pas, why did Buffy still have the feeling that the solar panel and windmill discussion wasn’t over yet? And she knew those recycle bins, which had been in the garage, unused for three years, would be in the house no later than Sunday. Oh yes, their eldest daughter could be just as stubborn as her parents when she got an idea in her head.
“Stop fidgeting,” Buffy admonished Dani as she worked to tame the girl’s long blonde hair into a classic chignon. Dani stomped an impatient foot down on the floor of the bathroom and tugged at the skirt of her new dress – again. A giant sigh fell from her throat, her chest heaving dramatically with the effort.
She’d gotten the least frilly dress her dad would allow when she’d gone shopping with him and Billy the previous day while Buffy, Dawn, and Annie were at Gertie’s. It was a floor-length, sleeveless, satin princess dress with a rounded collar and an empire waist. The top was white; the flared skirt was black with a white, lacy, dust-ruffle on the bottom. Where the white and black met at her waist, there was a wide red sash. The sash had had a big, flouncy bow on it that sat on her left hip when they bought it. It didn’t have the bow anymore. It was still too prissy for her.
“I don’t like dresses. They’re too … girly,” she complained. “I don’t know why I have to wear a dress. Billy doesn’t have to wear a dress – he gets to wear pants.”
“Billy’s a boy,” Buffy explained as if this was some news to Dani. “Boys wear suits to fancy parties, girls wear dresses.”
“That’s a stupid rule. Who made up that rule? Boys, probably,” Dani complained dourly, folding her arms over her chest in disgust.
Buffy sighed as Dani’s long, voluminous mass of hair fell out of the up-do. Each individual hair was fine and soft, and the girl had a lot of it. Her silken tresses were simply too heavy for the pins and bands to hold it all up for very long. The glossy locks just slipped right through their would-be captors like Houdini slipped out of handcuffs.
“Ok, how about a French braid, then?” Buffy suggested, more to herself than Dani.
“Whatever…” Dani moaned. “Why can’t I just wear it down? Billy doesn’t have to have his hair up.”
“Billy’s a boy,” Buffy explained again.
Dani rolled her eyes in the mirror over the sink as her mom removed the ineffectual pins and began to brush her daughter’s hair out again. “Then he should have to cut his hair shorter, like a boy,” Dani snarled the last word like it left a sour taste in her mouth.
“His hair isn’t that long,” Buffy argued as she divided her daughter’s hair into three strands between her fingers and began to braid.
“It’s not as short as Papa’s,” Dani shot back, her whole body swaying as her mother pulled her strands of hair tight with one hand, then the other, weaving them into a braid.
“And it’s not as long as your buddy David Beckham’s,” Buffy pointed out. “So, what’s your point?”
Dani rolled her eyes again. “Maybe I could get my hair cut short, then I wouldn’t have to wear it up,” she suggested.
“Oh, but your hair’s so pretty. And your papa really likes it long,” Buffy cajoled. She knew better than to just say, ‘No, you can’t cut your hair,’ to Dani. That would be like daring her to cut it herself with a pair of pinking shears or a kitchen knife or something.
“If Papa likes long hair, then why do I have to wear it up?” Dani argued as Buffy finished the braid, tucking the tail up and under the French braid itself and pinning it in place.
“There!” Buffy announced finally, ignoring her daughter’s question, to which she really didn’t have an answer. “Beautiful. Like a proper lady.”
Dani rolled her eyes again. Her only consolation was that none of her schoolmates or teammates from soccer or her minor league baseball team would be at the party.
When we were strangers
I watched you from afar
When we were lovers
I loved you with all my heart.
~Harvest Moon, Neil Young
The party was supposed to start at eight that evening. Buffy was late, as usual. It didn’t help that she had to get Dani ready and help Annie, as well as get herself all gussied up. At least Spike had taken it on himself to help Billy get into his miniature tuxedo and he’d gotten ‘Kenzie tucked into her crib, taking those responsibilities off Buffy’s shoulders.
Now Spike and Billy, along with Bess, Dawn, and the rest of their friends, all dressed to the nines, waited downstairs for the remaining Weckerly women to emerge. Dawn’s party couldn’t officially begin until the rest of the family made their entrance. Of course, the warm-up party was in full swing – everyone had a drink of one type or another as they talked and waited in the great room for the real party to begin.
When Buffy, Annie, and Dani finally appeared at the top of the stairs, Spike couldn’t stop the goofy grin that spread across his lips. His girls were a vision in their finery. He rarely got to see them so dressed up – they really needed to have fancy-dress parties more often. Buffy returned his smile as the three of them started down, and Spike and Billy moved away from their guests to meet the ladies at the foot of the stairs.
Annie and Dani were lovely in their satin and lace, looking like the reflections of the beautiful women they’d one day be. But Buffy outshone then both; she was dazzling – stunning, really – in her shimmering, golden, beaded, and bejeweled dress. Between her inner-glow and the reflections which bounced off the sequins and beads of her form-fitting gown, Spike was bathed, nearly drowned, in her effulgence. The spaghetti straps of the gown and the tea-length scarf-hem, from which more strands of golden beads fell, dancing against her legs as she moved, allowed enough skin to show to make him want to reach out and touch her.
He stared up at her as the three descended the stairs, taking her in – soaking up the beauty of her, letting it fill him with that old feeling that never grew old. He was suddenly back in the Bronze watching her dance, watching her move for the first time – the stirring in the pit of his stomach was exactly the same. The nearer she got, the hotter the fire inside him burned until his heart and soul were engulfed yet again. His trousers had suddenly gotten a bit too snug, and he shifted from foot to foot, trying to ease his discomfort. It wasn’t really working. He met Buffy’s eyes for the briefest of moments; the devilish smile that played on her lips and danced in the depths of her emerald eyes told him that she knew exactly what she was doing to him and that she was enjoying it.
Spike pulled his gaze away from his wife’s and turned his attention to Dani and Annie. Dani was still fiddling uneasily with the sash around her middle as well as the skirt, and looking like she’d rather be absolutely anywhere else. He had to stifle a chuckle at her discomfort – she looked like a little doll, or she would have if she could’ve smiled a bit and stopped fidgeting. Annie, on the other hand, had always been a girly-girl and now she looked like a princess. She walked with the grace of a dancer, carried herself with the knowledge that she looked good, really good – and she certainly did. She was growing up so fast – too fast. Spike was suddenly very glad that it was only ‘family’ here and that blighter she was so enthralled with, Johnny … something-or-other, was not in attendance. He was fairly certain he would’ve had to kill the hormone-charged, pre-teen if the prat had seen this vision of beauty that was their eldest daughter.
Buffy’s breath caught in her throat as Spike and Billy stepped up to the bottom of the stairs to greet them. They both looked so dashing in their matching tuxes: black jackets, black slacks, black ties, white shirts, and red vests. Their vests, Buffy noted, were the same red as the sash on Dani’s dress. Had Spike planned that or had he just gotten lucky? With Spike, you could never actually tell.
Spike looked good in anything – and he looked even better in nothing at all – but in a tux he looked … debonair. He looked like he’d be perfectly at ease rubbing elbows with royalty or prime ministers or presidents. Buffy shrugged to herself – he probably would. After over a century, there weren’t many situations that intimated him. In his duster and jeans, he could fit in with the roughest crowd of humans or demons, pounding back shots and playing pool or shooting darts. In a tux, he could sip champagne and attend an opera or a symphony, or, more likely, a Shakespeare play, with the uppiest of the upper-crust. About the only time she remembered him really coming undone was when MacKenzie was born – in the cemetery at midnight with just the two of them there to handle it. Maybe if he’d been wearing scrubs he could’ve handled it better. The clothes make the man, right?
She smiled down at her two handsome Williams – because dressed like this, they were definitely Williams – not Spike and Billy. Billy looked so serious as he waited with his father, copying Spike’s stance, his manner, even shifting back and forth from foot to foot when Spike did. Buffy bit her bottom lip to keep from laughing as her eyes met Spike’s. She’d seen that uneasy movement before and knew what it meant, even though his jacket covered the front of his slacks and concealed the reason for his discomfort. Of course, Spike could rarely actually stand still, so it was doubtful anyone else would even notice what he was trying to do. It was so cute how Spike met her eyes then looked away, like if he stared at her for too long he’d simply burst … perhaps literally.
As the three of them reached the bottom of the stairs, Buffy leaned into her husband and kissed his cheek.
“You look ravishing,” Spike whispered to her, his breath cool against her skin.
Buffy’s grin widened. “And you look dashing … very 007.”
“Which one?” he asked. “Fair warnin’: if you say Timothy Dalton, I will have to kill you.”
Buffy laughed. “I was thinking classic Bond – Connery or Roger Moore.”
Spike lifted his chin considering this, then nodded, apparently satisfied. He turned to Dani, but continued talking to Buffy. “Where’d ya get this fetching young lass? Don’t recall seeing ‘er ‘round here before.”
“Papaaa,” Dani moaned, rolling her eyes.
“Did you hear that, Slayer? She talks like our Lemon Drop … but she looks like a right little girl,” Spike continued to tease.
Dani rolled her eyes again. “Can we eat now? All this … dressing up made me hungry.”
Spike laughed and nodded. “If you lot didn’t take ten-forevers t’ get ready, ya wouldn’t be wasted away to nothing by the time ya got here.”
“Don’t blame me,” Dani defended. “It wasn’t my idea to spend five years trying to put my hair up. If you like my hair long, then why do I have to put it up, anyway?”
“Ahhh, well … proper ladies wear their hair up so that later they can let it down, pet,” Spike explained, giving Buffy a meaningful look.
Dani sighed. “That sounds dumb.”
“One day, you’ll understand,” Buffy assured her.
“We can bloody well hope not,” Spike mumbled, turning his eyes to Annie. “And you look a right vision, Nibblet. What happened t’ my little girl? Seems like just yesterday I took the training wheels off your bike, and look at ya now. You’d stop bloody traffic walking across the street.”
Annie smiled and blushed under his scrutiny. “Thanks, Dad,” she muttered, ducking her head and smoothing imaginary wrinkles from her dress.
“You do realize I’d never let ya leave the house in that dress, yeah? Cause me t’ kill some bloody git, it would.”
Annie laughed and looked back up at him. “What are you gonna do on prom night … or homecoming?”
“Lock ya in the basement,” Spike replied without a moment’s thought, completely serious.
Annie laughed again and slapped his arm lightly. “You are such a liar.”
“I think he’s serious,” Buffy interjected.
“As a bloody heart attack,” he agreed. “But, that’s not t’night,” he continued, his tone lightening. “Tonight, we dance,” he announced as he turned and offered a crooked elbow to Buffy and one to Annie. Each of them stepped forward and laid a hand on his arm, and he began to lead them to the doors at the back of the house.
Billy copied his father and offered his arm to Dani. She ‘tsked’ her tongue at him, planted her hands on her hips, and clomped heavily behind Spike, Buffy, and Annie.
“You’re supposed to take my arm,” he informed his twin, jogging to catch up to her.
“I’m not blind! I don’t need you to lead me around by the arm,” she retorted.
Billy scrunched up his face in frustration and huffed out a breath.
“I’d be honored if you’d escort me,” Dawn offered, coming up beside Billy.
Billy lifted his chin in defiance and gave Dani a ‘so there!’ look before offering his arm to Dawn. He had to lift his elbow up for her to easily reach it, but in just a moment he was mimicking his father, escorting the fair maiden towards the back door.
Spike pushed open the door that led to their back yard and Buffy gasped in surprise as they stepped into the cool, fall air and into a different world. The back yard had been transformed into a candlelit oasis. Soft music played, resonating through unseen speakers that must’ve been hidden in the bushes or behind trees. The walkways were lined with paper lanterns, each with a candle burning within. Off to one side there was a self-serve bar, including bottles of wine and champagne, as well as harder liquor and mixers. A long table of hors d'oeuvres sat to one side of the bar, and yet another table of fancy-looking desserts – the greatest majority being some form of chocolate – was on the other side.
Above them, criss-crossing the yard, strung from tree to tree, were more colorful, paper lanterns. Buffy hoped they didn’t have candles in them, although their soft glow made her think they might. Twinkling, white fairy-lights hung down from the branches of the trees, as well, making the backyard feel as if it were floating much too near the stars. There were scatterings of tables with floor-length, white tablecloths and soft, comfortable chairs placed about the yard. In the back corner, a wooden dance floor had been erected, slightly higher than the surrounding lawn. A few fire-pits were spaced around the yard, all glowing warm with red-orange coals, to take the chill out of the air.
Buffy, Spike, and Annie stopped just outside the door to welcome the rest of the guests into the transformed back garden.
“Wow – you guys! This is … wow!” Dawn gushed as she and Billy made it to them. “You better save me a dance or three,” she told Spike, poking a finger against his chest.
“No worries, got ya penciled in on my dance card, pet,” he told Dawn with a flirty smile. Dawn swooned; that smile still made her legs go weak, even after all this time.
“Can I have a dance too?” Billy asked, looking up at Dawn.
Dawn smiled and nodded. “You can have the very first dance,” she replied as they kept walking.
“Annie, I’d dance with you if you want,” JJ offered nonchalantly as he came by, following Billy and Dawn.
“Do you even know how to dance?” she asked, looking down at him dubiously.
“Of course I do!” JJ asserted before showing off a jerky, robot-dance move.
Annie rolled her eyes but let go of her father’s arm and walked grudgingly with JJ. “I hope that isn’t the only dance you know,” she told him as they moved away.
“Wow, Spike – it came out really cool,” Xander admitted as he and Anya stopped in front of their hosts.
“’Course it did – my bloody idea, wasn’t it?”
“Oh, yeah – we all know how great your ideas always turn out,” Xander taunted. “Oh! Food! I hope you have those little pigs-in-a-blanket things – they’re the best!”
“Xander! You don’t serve pigs-in-a-blanket at fancy dress soirees,” Anya chastised him.
“You don’t? Why not? They’re classic! The perfect combination of protein and carbohydrates with a smattering of fatty goodness. All the food groups are covered in one perfect, compact package,” Xander argued as Anya pulled him towards the buffet table.
“You’ve quite outdone yourself, Spike,” Giles offered as he looked around. “It’s quite … festive. If I had known there was an oriental theme, I could’ve worn my traditional, ceremonial Kimono. I so rarely get an opportunity to bring it out of the closet.”
“Shame that,” Spike drawled. “I’ll be sure t’ tell you next time, Rupert – wouldn’t want you keepin’ anything hidden away in the closet.”
As Giles walked away, Buffy whispered, “Do not ever have another oriental-themed party.”
“Hey! Check me out!” Faith beamed at them. She held her hands away from her body and twirled in front of Spike and Buffy. She had on a floor-length, body-hugging, shimmering blue dress. An honest-to-goodness, red-carpet-worthy evening gown! She even had her long hair piled up on top of her head with just a few stray locks falling down to make it look elegantly disheveled.
She handed Buffy her Smartphone. “Take my picture – I want to send it to Lindsey. He’s gonna be sooo freaked out!”
“No doubt,” Spike agreed. “I reckon he’s never got a picture o’ you with clothes on before.”
“Jealous?” Faith drawled, narrowing her eyes at Spike and sticking her tongue out at him just as Buffy clicked the picture.
“Wait! Do one with a smile so at least he’ll know you can act normal for short periods of time,” Buffy teased, holding the phone up again and waiting for Faith to pose properly.
“Thanks, B!” Faith chirped, taking the phone back. She began checking out the pictures and tapping her finger on the phone as she headed for the bar.
“Hey guys! Great party!” Clem greeted them next as he and his date, Cheval, entered the back yard.
“It hasn’t actually started yet, Clement,” Spike pointed out.
Clem shrugged and raised his pre-party beer up in a mock-toast. “It has for me! Oh – you remember Cheval, right … from Willy’s?” he asked, stepping back slightly and waving his free hand toward his date.
“‘Course,” Spike replied. “This is my wife, Buffy … the Vampire Slayer.”
“I think we met one time … at the bar,” Buffy admitted, extending her hand to the woman and trying not to stare at all the long, waving, bluish-white antennae that protruded from her face and head like some kind of sea anemone. She half-expected to see Nemo swim out of them at any moment.
“Were you ever able to get in the Sky Sports Channel on your satellite?” the demon woman asked Buffy, shaking her hand with a cool, damp, limp mitten-like appendage.
“Spike decided he didn’t need it after all,” Buffy told her. “I guess he found something else to occupy his time.”
“Well, if you ever need any help adjusting your satellite, you let me know,” Cheval offered. “I can pick up thousands of channels … in every language you can imagine. You wouldn’t believe some of the things I see! And humans think demons are weird and kinky!” Cheval giggled. Her bluish skin turned a shade of mauve, apparently from embarrassment, and all her antenna seemed to quiver a bit.
Buffy laughed lightly and thanked her as Clem pulled his date away towards the bar. “How can Clem date her? How do you … like ... do anything with all those…” Buffy waved her fingers around her face and head, simulating Cheval’s antenna.
Spike smirked. “What I hear, she’s right talented with those …” Spike waggled his fingers around his face, mimicking Buffy’s impersonation of Cheval.
Buffy cocked a brow at him and he shrugged. “Got no first-hand knowledge, o’ course.”
“Better not…” Buffy warned, trying to make her voice sound threatening – but it fell short.
“Course, the prospect o’ getting twenty-four hour footie on the Sky Sports Channel was right temptin’,” Spike teased.
Buffy snorted and rolled her eyes.
Wes and Fred came in next. “Oh, you guys,” Fred drawled. “This is just so darn pretty! This would be so perfect for a spring weddin’ reception.”
Buffy’s brows shot up. “Are you … getting married?”
Fred shrugged and giggled. “Well, not right now, but, you know, maybe one day.”
“Oh,” was all Buffy could think to say. Wes looked utterly defeated as he and Fred walked away. It looked as if he’d given up on the idea of them actually getting married one day. Buffy wondered if Fred would ever really, permanently leave L.A. and let her attachment to Angel fade. As smart as Fred was, Buffy couldn’t understand how she could not see what type of person the dark vamp was, regardless of the heroics he managed to achieve between bouts of Angelus-itus.
“Hey you two beautiful souls!” Lorne greeted them, sweeping into the garden with a flourish. He was dressed smartly for the party, but still with his usual flair for color. He was a vision of purple, red, and green. His tuxedo jacket and slacks, including long tails and a top hat, was a vibrant purple, while the vest and bow tie he wore were cherry-red and both sparkled with sequins. His skin, of course, added the green. It sort of reminded Buffy of something The Joker in Batman would wear.
“Lorne!” she greeted him, grabbing both his hands in both of hers. “You made it!”
“I wouldn’t miss one of your parties, Sunshine,” he told Buffy. “You guys really know how to have fun! Either that or it’s a complete and disastrous blow-out … literally. Either way, I wouldn’t want to miss it!
“Now, where is my little girlfriend?” he asked, looking around for Annie.
Buffy smiled and pointed at the dance floor where JJ was jerking and popping his joints in approximate time to the music. He was near Annie, but she was mostly just standing there glaring at him.
“Reckon she’d fancy being rescued from a fate worse than death: dancing with the whelp,” Spike encouraged the green demon.
“He’s no MJ…” Lorne admitted, flashing a bright smile at Buffy and Spike before heading off to rescue her.
“Mr. and Mrs. Weckerly,” Troy greeted them as he and Bess came out of the house. Spike extended his hand and shook Troy’s, as did Buffy. She was glad to have a firm, warm, dry hand to shake after Cheval’s limp, wet one. “For being, you know, parents and well … uhhh, older, you folks really know how to throw an awesome party.”
Buffy’s brows shot up. The words, ‘I’m not that old!’ were cut off by Spike. “Well, just lucky Depends makes these new slim fit, but super absorbent, undies nowadays,” Spike said brightly, patting his own firm butt. “No worries ‘bout leakin’ on the dance floor. Can’t even tell we got ‘em on, can ya?” he asked, turning a bit from side to side as if modeling for Troy.
“Uhhh …” Troy stammered, looking from Spike to Buffy, and then to Bess for help.
Bess rolled her eyes, shook her head, and pulled Troy away. “You really can’t tell at all,” he was saying to Bess as she led him to a table.
“Dolt,” Spike growled under his breath.
Buffy sighed and shook her head. “He’s just young.”
“And a dolt,” Spike added.
“And possibly a dolt sometimes,” Buffy agreed. “But Bess likes him … a lot. You should try to be nice to him. He may be your son-in-law one day.”
“Pfffft,” Spike snorted as he watched them heading to the dance floor as a slow, romantic song began playing through the speakers. “Harris has more sense.”
“Harris is already married,” Buffy pointed out.
Spike blew out a breath. “Don’t reckon she’d wait a few years for the whelp.”
Buffy watched Troy fold Bess into his embrace as they danced, their bodies molding together effortlessly. “I wouldn’t count on it.”
Buffy looked around at their friends and family in their finest clothes, all now chatting, eating, drinking, or dancing, and a sudden, strong feeling of déjà vu came over her. She wasn’t sure why it hadn’t hit her before now. Maybe because things were slightly different – different lanterns, different food, and a different musical playlist – but overall, it was a very close reproduction of the party William had thrown her in their hallucination of 1893 London.
“Spike, how did you know to do this?” Buffy asked, looking at her husband with questioning eyes. “I didn’t think you remembered it … from … that time … during that What’s-it-demon hallucination thingy.”
Spike shrugged. “Don’t remember. Saw it, though … in that house you had hidden away up there in your noggin,” he confessed, tapping a finger on her temple. “You looked so bloody happy there, Avengelyne,” Spike admitted, giving her an adoring smile and a quick wink.
Buffy blinked back tears that suddenly stung her eyes and nodded. “It was a magical night – we danced in the moonlight … all night long. Didn’t actually go to bed until dawn.”
Spike looked up at the harvest moon that hung like a sentinel, large and bright, watching over them from the heavens. “Sounds like a bloody brilliant plan, pet.”
More of the party coming up - actually, it will be more the 'after party' moondance next. ;-)
Harvest Moon, Neil Young
Come a little
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