By Mint Witch
RATING: PG all chapter. Sorry Guttersnipes, sometimes our
characters must do things other than shag each other into the nearest available
DISTRIBUTION: Previous chapters at http://www.the-sandlot.com/mintwitch/mwfic.html
DISCLAIMER: Joss is my type-monkey; I keep him chained under my
desk. Naughty, Joss, no touching!
NOTE: This chapter is dedicated to the lovelies who kept me from committing
hari kari last week while I had the flu: Shaddyr (sorry it took so long!), Jen,
and as ever, Canada, beta goddess.
FEEDBACK: If I didn't want it, would we even be here?
PREVIOUSLY: Spike gets collared (Yum). Buffy invites Spike to live
out a Ramones song. Xander remains unhappy with Buffy's life choices. Fun with
Dawn runs away to dance with suspicious hippies. Buffy's got a Brachen
beau. Golf balls from Heeeeeaven. Some walking and talking.
Xander gets over it (kinda) and Anya takes pity on his poor
fragile self. Buffy and Dawn exhibit surprising new skills and scare the piss
out of our Spikey. Awww, poor Spikey! The cruel sisters point and laugh. How
Then some smoochies, some snot, and a lame-o epiphany, followed by
sneaking around, Xander torture, and the obligatory dream sequence.
Wow, this part is rapidly exceeding the text for length. Maybe I
should change my name to Robert Jordan.
12. Hotel California
“Pick up the phone, pick up
the phone.” Buffy tried to send urgent psychic messages to Bath, but
apparently they weren’t receiving. Giles’ answering machine clicked on instead,
his plummy British accent directing her “to please leave a message after the
damn it to hell; infernal machine! Is this thing beeeep---”
“Hey, Giles, sorry to bug you
again, this is Buffy by the way, but you probably knew that, huh?” She giggled
nervously. “Um, I just had a pretty darn vivid Slayer dream, and ARE YOU THERE?
Sorry. Call me back, okay?”
Dawn was staring at her, the
banana bran muffin in her mouth completely forgotten. “Schoo ungky ‘uffy?”
“Don’t talk with your mouth
full,” the Slayer replied absently. “And I’m not sure. I had a freaky Slayer
Dawn gulped slimy yellow
protein goo in an attempt to wash down the expanding mass of carbohydrates in
her mouth. The muffins didn’t actually taste all that bad, but one tiny bite
seemed to grow until she felt as if she were having one of those dreams where
she woke up trying to chew her pillow. No wonder Buffy was so skinny; a single
muffin-puck could probably feed a small third world country.
She finally managed to
swallow. “Wanna talk about it? Maybe I can unlock mysterious dreams, too. Was
Buffy smiled. “Sure, I doubt
it, and I don’t know yet. In the dream it all made perfect sense, except it
didn’t. Like I was supposed to do something, and I was this close to knowing
what it was, but I just didn’t quite get it.” She sighed and brightened. “But
hey, you know how you can help me?”
Her sister looked suspicious.
“No, and I’m not sure I want to. Will it involve work?”
“A little, but not much.” She
ripped a page out of her dream journal. “Can you email this to Giles from
“Oooh, is this your dream?”
Buffy nodded. “Cool! Can I read it?”
“Sure, if you wanna. You’d have
to see it for research, eventually. I don’t know if I got it all right, but
that’s what I could remember when I woke up. If you could check the names too,
that would be great. I don’t know if they are people or places or demons or
Dawn scanned her sister’s
crappy handwriting with interest. “Did you spell it the way it sounded in your
dream? I mean, is this phonetic?”
Buffy frowned. “I hope so.
I’m really bad with names.”
“No kidding.” Buffy frowned
harder, looking a little insecure. Dawn hastened to reassure her. “Actually, if
it is phonetic, they look a little familiar to me. Do you mind if I swing by
the Public Library after school?”
“That’s a good idea,
actually. While you’re there, make enough copies for the whole gang.”
“’Kay.” Dawn unwrapped
herself from the stool and hopped down, a move that seemed less necessary every
morning. She stuffed the piece of paper in her knapsack, swinging the bag over
her shoulder as she headed out the door.
“Hey!” Buffy yelled. “Where
are you going? You still have half an hour.”
“I’m gonna stop by the Pro
Shop and turn some straw into gold, if your Wardeness would be so kind as to
let me out on a day-pass.” Dawn could go from happy sister to sulky sister in
The elder Summers grinned.
“Yep, I just like to know
where you’re going. Have a good day and call me before you go anywhere other
than school or the library, okay?”
Dawn saluted. “Aye-aye. Can I
“Yes, out of my sight, you
ingrate.” Dawn bounced down the porch steps, waving over her shoulder at her
sister’s shouted, “and be careful!”
Buffy closed the door behind
her and checked the clock. For once she had plenty of time to get ready.
Really, it was the little things, sometimes. An extra five minutes of bonding
with the shower was heaven on a stick. Detachable showerhead with pulsing
massage action, beware: randy Slayer on the loose! Resistance is futile.
As she made her way upstairs,
Buffy considered the notion that she’d been spending too much time with Xander
recently. The sci-fi quotage was getting out of hand.
He was sleeping. It was
daytime, Spike was a vampire; thus, he was sleeping. If he was sleeping, then
this was a dream. A nightmare even, but not real. Nope. Not real, because there
was no way his crypt had been turned into a soup kitchen for homeless demons.
The head of Restfield
security had stopped by before sunrise to tell him the RV would have to go and
that the night watchman position was still available, if he wanted it. And he
did, but so far he was refusing to acknowledge the RV problem, which could
undermine his credibility.
Great, now he was thinking
about a sodding job.
Spike closed his eyes and
refused to breathe. Hattie was not cooking bean and rat stew in his kitchen. It
was a dream, all a dream. Except someone was invading his personal space in the
“Dude, you up?”
Spike cracked an irritated
eyelid at Gil, looming about an inch away, then shut it again. “No, I’m
sleeping, and this is a dream.”
“Oh, okay.” The other
vampire’s voice retreated to the corner occupied by Hattie and Spike’s hot
“He’s still sleeping.” Spike
could actually hear Gil’s head rattle when he shook it. “These baby vamps, man,
they sleep all the time.”
He resisted the urge to get
up, just to prove the elder vampire wrong. It was a dream; there was no need to
argue with a figment of his imagination.
The odor of Cheetos
approached his slab, and Spike stifled a groan. What now?
He answered without opening
his eyes. “Clem.”
“Do you have any extra towels?”
“Do I look like the day
manager of the Holiday Inn, mate?” Bloody buggering hell, there was no way he
was going to get any sleep, here, today. Spike surged off the sarcophagus with
an impartial snarl, startling a family of Tomko demons playing pick-up-sticks
and an aged Gorgon knitting a very large and hideously yellow cap with her
“Do I? No, I bloody well
didn’t think so! The lot of you, sod off. I want this place empty when I get
back. Not a single sodding thing, living or dead, is using my towels.”
Spike grabbed the pink and
purple batik cover from his bed and stomped down the stairs, heading for the
deepest, darkest, smelliest cesspool he could find. Maybe there he could get
some fucking sleep.
Xander nearly rear-ended the
neighbor’s SUV when he pulled up to 1630
Revello Drive. Buffy had never, ever,
in all the years he had known her, been waiting at the curb for anything. She
ran like the devil, she leapt short stairways in a single bound, and she
occasionally didn’t show up at all, but she never stood coyly waiting for her
ride, neatly dressed and ready to roll. Not even for slayage.
It was Pod Buffy: that was
the only explanation. Xander peered through the car window, waiting for the
really real Buffy to haul down the porch stairs and kick Pod Person’s ass.
Instead, Pod Buffy opened the
passenger door, slid into the seat, and smoothed her skirt over her thighs,
favoring him with a glowing smile. “Thanks Xander. I wasn’t sure you would
show. I really appreciate the ride.”
“Who are you and what have
you done with Buffy?”
Pod Buffy cocked her head
winsomely. “Xander, have you been smoking something I should know about?
Because I know you’re an adult and all, but it’s probably not a good idea to
drive under the influence.”
He stared at her. “Okay,
you’re Buffy.” He put the car in drive and pulled out into traffic. “I was just
surprised, that’s all. You’re never ready and waiting.”
She laughed and buckled her
seat belt, avoiding coffee stains only through the magic of Slayer reflexes.
“Oh, that! I woke up early with a Slayer dream, the spooky prophetic kind. So,
I figured as long as I was awake, I might as well make with the readiness.”
Xander nearly rear-ended
another car. It was definitely Pod Buffy. “You had a Slayer dream, but you’re
laughing? How many fingers am I holding up and take me to your master!”
Buffy blushed, and mumbled
something about getting reacquainted with household appliances and the joy of
hot rollers. So not going there.
“Anyway, I left a message for
Giles, but I’d like to have a Scooby meeting tonight. Can you be at the Box
before sundown, maybe 7ish?”
“Sure, Buff, no problemo. The
Xan-man is there.” Should he mention his encounter with Spike? Only it wasn’t
an encounter, because that made it sound like there were orgasms and manly
cries of passion, which there weren’t. Ever. His confrontation with Spike: that
was manly sounding, without the orgasms. Yeah. Confrontation was the word.
Except, he and Spike had
agreed the Slayer didn’t need to know. Yeah, but Spike was evil, so maybe he’d
gone back and told her in order to score points. No, if he’d told her, she’d be
pissed. Unless it was all some twisted game, to catch him in a sordid web of
lies. Except there was nothing sordid about it, because hey! No orgasms.
Time for a little indirect
interrogation: a subtle steering of the conversation with the single manly goal
of finding out if she was about to break him like a potato chip. “So, Buffster,
Buffino, Bufforama: will Spike be there?”
She shrugged, but blushed a
little pinker. “I don’t know, I haven’t seen him since last night. Well, early
this morning, really. But do you think he would come if I asked him? I mean, if
I happened to see him to ask him?”
Okay, that conversation took
a left turn at the interstate. Xander shot a wary glance at his passenger: Pod
Buffy was slowly choking the life out of her chubby mug. “Um, I really couldn’t
She nodded and looked out the
window, chewing her lip. “Xander, can I ask you something?”
Uh-oh, here it came. The
least she could do is wait until the car was stopped to kill him. “Sure, Buffy,
“Did Anya ever… cry on you?”
Xander glanced at her, but she was still looking out at the traffic.
“Well, yeah.” Her head
whipped in his direction, and his brief glance at her face revealed an almost
desperate expression. “You know, when she was having that time of the month, or
the cash register was short, or… well, a lot.”
“No, I mean, like total
weepy, snot on shirt, make it all better, cry-fest?”
“Yeah, Buff, I get it.” His
mouth twisted with wry affection. “For An, those things are world ending. As an
ex-demon, she was surprisingly emotional.”
He shrugged. “I kinda liked
it, you know? I miss it. It made me feel like I could do something for her,
something no one else could. I could be there when she needed me.”
“Oh.” Xander looked over at
his friend. Her eyes were swimmy and wide, suffused with emotion. “Oh god. You
liked it? Really? It’s… normal?”
“Yeah, it’s normal.” Xander
pulled up before Buffy’s building, and put the car in park. “Why do you ask?”
“No reason.” She looked down
at her lap. “No, that’s a lie. I… I never cried on anyone, before, anyone
guy-like, I mean. Or at least, not for a long time. I didn’t know I could. I
thought it would make me… weak. Not the Slayer.”
“Oh.” Xander sat back,
thinking over her words. “Did you cry on… Spike? Last night, maybe?”
She nodded, toying with her
hem. “Did you feel better?” Another nod. Oh, god, this was awkward. This was
Spike. This was so beyond surreal that Rosencrantz was in line behind him at
“Well, if it made you feel
better, that’s what counts, right?” She looked up at him, grateful.
“Thanks, Xander. I’m sorry.”
Her eyes dropped to her lap again, and Xander wondered what could send her back
into her shell so quickly.
“Why are you sorry?” He
reached across the seat for her hand. “I love you, Buffy, you know that, right?
You’re one of my best friends, and I want you to be happy.”
He squeezed her hand. “I
can’t say that I’m thrilled about the Spike thing, but as long as we’re being
honest, I wasn’t keen on Angel either. I still wish things had worked out with
She flashed him a shamefaced
look from under her lashes. “Oh. You never?”
“I never.” She shook her
head. “I just couldn’t.”
“It’s okay, Buff.” Xander
screwed his courage to the sticking place and reached out towards his friend,
lifting her chin with his free hand. Screw twenty-minute load-and-unload zones.
This was important. “If he couldn’t be what you needed, then you’re better off.
I love you for who you are, bad boyfriends and all.”
Xander dropped his hand and
looked at her thoughtfully. “You know, Buff, you’re not my hero anymore.”
Her eyes flew up to meet his,
hurt, and he smiled. “You fell off the pedestal a while ago, and I’m glad. I
don’t need heroes, I need friends. The paragon thing? Well, it doesn’t last.
The friend thing? It seems to be working. Don’t try so hard, Buffy, it’ll be
She huffed out a breath and
squared her shoulders. “Yeah. Everything will be okay.” She faced him. “Thanks
Xander. You’re a good friend.”
“Thank you. I’m trying.” He
watched her fumble out of her seatbelt, far less poised than she had been when
she got into the car. He should remember that: messy Buffy was normal. Sharp
Buffy was a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He wondered if all women
were like that.
Xander Harris smiled to
himself and stuck his hand out the window to signal, as he prepared to merge
back into traffic. He learned something new every day. Now he just needed to
remember to get the turn signal replaced. Xander sighed. The learning new
things bit would be more impressive if he could remember the old stuff.
Swinging her briefcase, Buffy
disappeared into the 9:00 AM herd of office-bots. She ducked and wove as groups
of the bots clustered in front of the elevators, working her way to the rear
wall. With a sharp left turn at the ugliest piece of corporate art on the
planet, she was standing in front of a nondescript gray steel door.
She quickly checked over her
shoulder to make sure no one was around, and then slipped through, silently
easing the heavy door closed behind her. Endless concrete stairs loomed, and a
sly smile flickered across the Slayer’s face. Eat your heart out Suzanne, this
Summers has buns of titanium.
Fifty-six floors and
thirty-nine minutes later, Buffy skipped to a halt before another gray steel
door, barely breathing hard. She leaned against the wall and toed off her
trainers, trading them for the heels lurking in her briefcase. She could
totally take the stairs in pumps, but she’d learned the first day she’d tried
this that the shoes crapped out long before she did.
Buffy exited the fire stairs
and entered the executive suite, fully togged for corporate America. Well,
actually a couple of secretaries and the random tourist or three. It was kinda
mean, but she really enjoyed sitting at the reception desk. The glass wall of
the suite had a freaking amazing view of the bay: several times a day she got
to tell camera-wielding couples from Iowa that this floor was not open to the
public and if they didn’t remove themselves im-meeeed-i-atly, she would be
forced to call security.
Buffy smirked, unconsciously
mimicking Spike. Oh, she was eeeevil.
Our vampy hero was coming to
the end of his own, less vertical, journey. Without really thinking about it,
he had ended up at The Magic Box. He looked up at the stairs warily, not sure
if he should be expecting fireballs or not. Nothing had attacked him the first
time he’d come here, but the episode last night had made him cautious.
Anya stuck her head through
the door. “It’s not warded against you, Spike, just strangers. Unless you plan
to steal something?”
He attempted to look mad,
bad, and dangerous to know, and sauntered toward the stairs. The image was
slightly undermined by the big purple blankie trailing behind him. “Just
looking for a place to crash, Anyanka. You don’t mind if I use the sofa in
back, do you, pet?”
Shaking her head in
irritation, Anya shut the basement door as he passed through. “You do realize
that this is a business, not a half-way house?”
“Yes, well, it’s not my first
choice, either. Just tell me yes or no.” Spike tapped his foot, and gathered
his blanket up into wad, cradling the bundle against his chest defensively.
“What’s wrong with your
crypt?” Suspicious, Anya stared at him, still not relenting.
Spike sighed. “Nothing’s
wrong with my crypt, it’s just a wee bit noisy with every fucking demon on the
west coast,” his voice spiraled into the danger zone, “using my fucking
“Uh huh.” Anya nodded
encouragingly. Spike on a tear was well worth the entertainment dollar.
“I have plans for the
evening, you know? I gotta rest up, be ready.” He gave her a beseeching look.
“It’s not like I can just rip out hearts and tear off heads night and day, day
and night: I’m not a sodding’ robot, am I? A vamp needs his beauty sleep, now
and again, right?”
“Yes.” Anya smiled and patted
Spike’s shoulder in a reassuring manner that signaled fellowship between
demons. Or she hoped that’s what it signaled, and not ‘I would like to have sex
with you.’ She snatched her hand back, worried.
He cocked his head. “Yes?”
“You may sleep on the sofa.
But don’t snore or do anything that might disturb the customers,” she warned,
“or I’ll have to ask you to leave.”
Spike looked offended and
stomped towards the back room. “I don’t bloody snore.”
Anya sniffed. “All men
“Not a man, pet, vampire. I
don’t breathe, and I don’t snore.” He slammed the door pointedly behind him,
ignoring her disbelieving snort.
The vengeance demon smiled.
All men snored, even vampires: she knew that for a fact. Male snoring was the
single most common reason women made wishes.