In answer to Tariq's review, I just want to say that Olivia is actually an official Buffy the Vampire Slayer character: she came on as Giles' old girlfriend, and they eventually ended up getting back together. The most detail I can give you on Olivia is that she's African, dark skin, black hair, and apparently British by birth – but that's as much as I personally know: the rest I just had to build up from there (not exactly the best way to introduce a character, but there's not much I can do about that.)
As for Aaliyah, she's purely original, so I there's no end to the detail I could give on her; but I'll leave that to actually go into the chapter, and not waste space by putting it here. All I'll say regarding appearance is that she's Asian-featured, slightly almond-shaped eyes, dark hair, slender build and golden-shaded skin.
Eledwhen, I considered changing Aaliyah's name after you reviewed, but I just can't see her as anything else just now: but just to erase any confusion between my Aaliyah and the deceased R&B artist, I'll spell it "Aliyah". And, while they are two separate beings altogether, my Aliyah does sort of resemble the way Aaliyah (the R&B artist) used to look, so it doesn't really matter whose mental image you get. And I like unusual names – a name always tells you something about a person or character, and so I always like to think that a unique name suggests a unique personality.
And when it comes to bringing Cordy back in, I'm already waaay ahead of you, Aset. But you'll have to hold on a while: there's a lot I want to put in before Cordy's grand entrance.
Ivy, of course Xander is going to be in this! Spike is coming in a little later (I have a lot to sort out with his new soul), but Tara (just in case you didn't already know) died at the end of season six, so she definitely won't be back. I am considering bringing back Oz, though, since I'm a big Oz (and Seth Green) fan.
I know this fic is written in a different tone from most of my other fics, but I just felt like writing something fun and relatively plotless for once. But I'll try to two-tone this fic, going from the lighter aspects to the deeper thoughts of the characters, just to make it more interesting.
And I know these chapters are very short compared to my usual chapters, and I'll have to apologize for that; but the shorter they are, the more frequently they get posted, after all.
Angel: I'm not really sure what I was expecting, coming back to Sunnydale. I guess I just wanted to get the hell out of LA as fast as possible, and the Hellmouth seemed the best place to go. That sounds strange, but it's true – where else could you find so many lowlife demons in one place?
I wasn't really coming to see Buffy. It just… turned out that way, somehow. I prepared for it; I told myself that if she insisted, we'd stay a week, and then we'd rent a place somewhere and we wouldn't bother her any longer.
But then she came up with the idea of renovating the old mansion, and I just couldn't help agreeing to it.
And, well, it turned out to be quite an experience…
~ ¤ ~
"What is that?" Angel couldn't help the look of horror on his face when he saw the ugly, pasty teal-colored sample tile Anya was holding out.
The whole group, including Xander and Anya, were crowded into the Summers' living room, where they were practically fighting over which building materials would look the best where: they had all been to see the mansion the day before, and Xander had promised to supply the materials needed for the renovation, free of charge. "Hey, after all," he had pointed out, "you really – and I do mean really – need it."
"It's teal," Anya answered Angel promptly. "For the dining room."
"You want teal for the dining room?" Buffy said, seeing the revulsion on Angel's face. "Anya, I don't think that's is a very good choice."
"Well, okay," Anya sighed, putting away the teal tile. Then her face lit up and she picked up a sheaf of sample wallpaper, displaying it proudly. "What about this one? It would be perfect."
Connor actually had to give out a snort of laughter – which Dawn promptly smacked him on the arm for – and Buffy looked just about ready to faint. What Anya was holding out was a vibrant, neon-like lime green paper, so bright it hurt the eyes to look at it.
"Oh, yes," Xander said crisply, "lime is just the color for a two-hundred fifty-year old vampire's dining room, don't you think?"
Even Anya couldn't ignore the sarcasm in his voice, and she glared at her ex-fiancé. "So what do you suggest?" she snapped, "black wallpaper?"
"At least then it wouldn't look like a circus ring," Xander retorted.
"Are they always like this?" Connor stage-whispered to Dawn.
"Yeah, most of the time," Dawn answered, in the same stage-whisper tone. She grinned. "You should just see them fight over the remote control."
~ ¤ ~
Finally, after quite a few hours of arguing, compromising, threatening and pleading, the materials were decided on: the floors would be carpeted in dark crimson, deep cream, elegant slate-gray and midnight-blue, and the walls were to match: subtle clarets and crimsons, warm peaches and oranges, deep, inky blues and silvery grays. The materials were gorgeous, thanks to Xander's expertise and numerous contacts in the building and interior design business, and everyone wanted to lend a hand.
Willow and Aliyah were especially eager to try out a few new color-appliance magicks they had been practicing on – so far, they had managed to magick the wallpaper in their room to changing color whenever the door was opened, and the effect was quite incredible.
When it was finally time to leave the group split in half, with Xander driving one group and Giles driving the other: Angel's old mansion wasn't far away, a bare twenty-minute drive.
The mansion looked just like it had when Angel left: tall and stately, but dusty and worn-down with age. The garden outside was overgrown with weeds and wild vines, and the windows were dark and boarded up, revealing nothing of the inside building. The sun had just started to set, and the effect of the dusky orange and purple sky behind the dark mansion was quite striking.
Giles couldn't help feeling nervous around the place – he hadn't been there ever since Angelus had kidnapped him, and the memory of it still haunted him by night.
Olivia didn't know the details of Giles' kidnapping – or the ensuing torture – but she squeezed his hand reassuringly once she saw the tension in his face. "Don't worry about it. We'll be in and out in no time," she comforted.
Giles just smiled faintly. "Thanks, Livvie."
The renovation work started almost instantly, beginning with cleaning: the Scooby Gang had come armed with furniture-polish, window-spray, brooms, mops, air fresheners, a dustbuster, a feather-duster and several all-purpose stain removers.
Anya took care of the dusting, waving the feather-duster around like some sort of baton and breaking more things than she cleaned; Connor and Dawn got window-cleaning duty, which they did well except for the fact that they splattered each other in a constant accidentally-on-purpose manner; Buffy wielded the broom like a lethal weapon, ruthlessly getting rid of all dust and dirt on the floor, and Olivia was quick to follow with a mop; Xander polished furniture like a pro, Angel moved around the heavier furniture so that they could be cleaned under and Aliyah and Willow took turns magickally wiping off and sanding the ceiling and walls in preparation for painting: the two would even send pieces of sandpaper flying and then make them skate across the ceiling, just for the fun of it.
"Um, Angel?" Olivia suddenly called uncertainly, her voice strangely high-pitched.
"Yes?" Angel glanced up from the portrait he was straightening.
"When… when you were here last, were there any… rats?"
Angel frowned slightly, trying to remember. "Rats? In here? Yeah, maybe… I'm not really sure. Why?"
"There's some sort of weird squeaking noise over coming from your fireplace." Olivia looked terrified; she had a mortal fear of rats, and just the thought of one clogged up her breathing.
She moved away hurriedly from the fireplace, staring at the place where the squeaking was coming from. "Oh god, something's scratching at the grate!" Olivia practically threw herself into Giles' arms, shivering.
Xander arched an eyebrow, listening intently. "It sounds too loud to be just one rat."
"Oh, yeah, Xand, that's bound to make us feel better about it," Buffy shot at him. Then she moved forward and inspected the fireplace. "I don't see anything in here," she declared.
"Well, something is certainly in there," Giles noted. "The problem is, how do we get rid of it?" He was actually quite amused by Olivia's sudden terror, but wouldn't have shown it to her for all the world.
"Use a broom," Connor suggested. "One good thwap, and you've got 'em squished for good."
"That's gross!" Dawn squealed, shuddering at the mental image.
"Yeah, but it would be effective," Buffy said, still peering into the sooty fireplace, where the squeaking noises were getting louder.
"There has to be some more humane way," Aliyah said, genuinely worried. "We can't just kill it."
Willow nodded. "I agree - it's just a poor defenseless rat. It would be cruel to just… squish it."
"Yeah, but does anybody have any other suggestions?" Xander asked, eyeing the grate. "I mean, for all we know, they might be giant monster rats waiting to attack us. I think we should go with Buffy on this one."
Aliyah smiled, considering Xander's statement. "Point taken – weirder stuff has happened to you guys, after all." Willow had told her a lot about her years as a Slayerette, and the weirdness it entailed. "But just let me and Willow magick them out – that way, whatever it is can't hurt us."
"I don't care what you do to them, just get them out of here!" Olivia exclaimed, taking a nervous step back from the fireplace. The squeaking had turned to scuffling, scratching and high-pitched, whining wails, and the hairs on the back of Olivia's neck were literally standing up.
Willow and Aliyah nodded, raising their hands. "Hecate," they intoned, "hear our cries. Bring forth your creature to us; let it be seen by all eyes. Whether feather or fur, chained or free; as is our will, so mote it be!"
The fireplace shuddered and shook, and suddenly two small furry things, surrounded by pale blue auras, flew out and floated towards the witches, hovering into their outstretched hands.
As soon as they saw what it was, the girls grinned. They had their backs to the others, so no one saw the creatures - but they could all clearly hear the loud, plaintive meowing.
"Cats?" Buffy was stunned. "We made all this deal about a couple of cats?"
"Nooo," Willow said slowly, turning around, "we made all this deal about a couple of kittens. Look, aren't they adorable?"
Everyone was quick to agree that they were indeed adorable, despite the soot that covered them. They were rather small kittens, both with large, shining eyes and silky – if somewhat tousled – fur. One had black fur and vivid, pale green eyes, and the other had tiger-striped ginger fur and ocean-blue eyes. Both had pale pink noses and tongues, and the way blinked around in mild confusion was especially charming.
"Oh, they are so cute!" Dawn cried delightedly, reaching out to rub the black kitten behind the ears. The kitten growled faintly and pawed at Aliyah's blouse, where it had firmly hooked its little claws. The ginger one did the same to Willow when Xander tried to stroke it, and purred pleasantly when Willow cradled it in her arms.
"I think they've gotten attached to you," Olivia said, happy to see kittens instead of rats but still keeping her distance. She was mildly allergic to cat fur, and preferred to keep away from it.
"They've probably imprinted on us," Aliyah agreed, "but not exclusively." The ginger kitten did not seem to mind her, just as the black one did not seem to mind Willow. "I think their mother might be dead, and we're supposed to take her place."
Willow laughed. "I've always wanted to be a mother, and here's my chance."
"I think they're beautiful," Dawn sighed enviously. "I wish there had been three of them, though."
After a quick inspection by Angel – whose numerous experiences ranged to raising cats – the black cat was declared to be male, and the ginger female.
"What are you going to call them?" Xander asked, interested.
Willow shrugged. "I don't know. Something matching." She glanced at Aliyah. "What do you think? Aphrodite and Apollo? Caesar and Cleopatra? Merlin and Morgana?"
"I think we want something simpler. Jazz and Jewel, maybe?" Aliyah suggested.
"You'll think of something," Buffy said. "But are you sure we should take them?"
"Yes," Willow said, stroking the kitten in her arms. "We couldn't leave them here on a clear conscience."
"Well, personally, I don't mind," Dawn said happily. "I mean, the more we are, the merrier it gets, right?"
Connor shook his head, sighing. "Actually, the more we are, the weirder it gets."
~ ¤ ~
Author's Note: I think I'll end it right about there, but before I log off, I'd just like to ask for suggestions – what should I name the kittens? Like Willow said, I'd like something matching, but fairly simple. It's not all that important, I know, but I'd still like some ideas from you.Anyways, the next chapter should be coming up soon.