Alive or Dead! by Lilachigh

Author's Note: Thought we could do with something a little lighter and frothier before the next big story. This is set in Season 6 - Buffy discovers there is a lot she doesn't know about the demon world.

Chapter One: Once Upon a Time…

"Are you going to sulk all the way back to the crypt?" Buffy snapped, rounding on the silent vampire who was walking one pace behind her.

"Not sulking, Slayer. Just bloody pissed off."

"And does being 'pissed off' – and by the way, could you find a more revolting expression? – mean you have to keep scuffing your feet and kicking mail boxes?"

"I had fifteen kittens on the table until you went and bet the whole lot on a pair of twos. A pair of twos! What were you thinking about? If you ever think at all."

Buffy shrugged. She'd wanted to spend the evening in the lower chamber of Spike's crypt. OK, very wrong and bad and she'd probably go straight to Hell, but Xander and Anya had taken Dawn bowling and then she was going to stay the night at their place.

Buffy had arrived at Spike's full of wicked thoughts, promising herself that this was the very, very last time she would give in to them. So being dragged out the second she'd arrived to play in a poker tournament had not been high on her agenda. "You didn't leave empty handed," she said. "Look, you've got a whole box full of – things."

Spike growled. God, she was being so bloody annoying tonight. She'd ruined the whole evening: he'd spent half the time apologising for her behaviour to the guys and the other half wanting to kill them for peering down the front of the white lace effort she was almost wearing. And now, instead of a nice basket of kittens, all he had to show for his night's work was a box of rubbish he'd won when some poxy demon had drunkenly used it as his stake money instead of kittens.

The cemetery gate clanged behind them and Buffy zigzagged between the headstones. She couldn't sense any vamps. Which was bad, because the more she killed the better, and good, because all she wanted at the moment was to crawl between the black satin sheets on Spike's bed and – She stopped and turned, impatiently. Jeez, he was as slow as Xander answering a question about algebra. "What are you doing?"

Spike was peering inside the box he was carrying. "Trying to see what's in here."

"You can't see in this light. Give it to me!" She grabbed the edge of the box and tugged. Spike tugged back and the box, which had had a difficult night too, gave up the ghost and disintegrated, showering its contents over the grass.

"Now look what you've done!" Buffy snapped, bending down to pick things up, unfortunately at the same time as Spike so their heads clashed and she saw stars for a second or two.

"Owww! God, Slayer, your head's as hard as a rock," Spike moaned, clutching his forehead.

Buffy, realising that with her luck her head was the only thing that was likely to be hard that evening, kicked the bits of box in temper, then swung a fist at the vampire who grabbed it and angrily dragged her inside the crypt, slamming the door shut on any passing voyeurs.

Whatever they ended up doing inside, the demon's pitiful collection of goodies never crossed their minds again. So they didn't notice that a small paper bag had disintegrated right outside the crypt door and five shiny red beans had fallen onto the earth. Even then all might have been well, but it began to rain and soon roots were forming, twisting deep into the ground, absorbing all the heat and sexual power that was being generated just a few feet beneath them.

The beans burst open, and tendrils began to rise, slowly at first, then twining round each other, thickening, broadening, heading skywards – heading home.

Buffy's internal clock told her it was six in the morning. She opened one bleary eye, then freaked because it was all black and she was buried in a coffin again and couldn't move. Then a trickle of memory returned and she realised she was only buried beneath Spike's sheets and a large portion of naked vampire was lying across her, his nose buried in her belly button.

With a groan she pushed the sheet aside and wriggled free. God, she needed a shower. Or an hour-long scrub in a hot bath. She wondered, not for the first time, why it was that on TV or movies, people woke up together, having had sex the night before, looking clean and tidy and fresh. She was sticky and smelly; she didn't even want to imagine what she was lying in and she hated the silly smile that kept flickering around Spike's lips as he slept. "Spike! Wake up." She nudged him in the ribs with her bare foot. "I've got to go."

She was busy pulling on what remained of her clothes when he rolled over and yawned himself awake. "You off, pet? What a surprise."

She ignored him and clattered up the ladder into the top crypt as Spike pulled on boots, jeans and T-shirt and followed her. "I've got orange juice in the fridge," he said appealingly. "Stay for breakfast."

Buffy rolled her eyes at him and without replying, opened the crypt door onto a beautiful, fresh, sunlit morning – not!

'What the bloody hell?" Spike peered over her shoulder at the waving leaves and huge trunk that soared up into a sky that was dark with storm.

"It's a tree!"

"Congratulations, Brains. Even I can see it's a tree."

"Well, it can't soddin' well stay there. It's blocking my view."

Buffy flailed at the leaves that tried to wrap themselves round her arms. Long tendrils spun out, catching in her hair. "Spike, you live in a graveyard, not the Grand Canyon! You don't have a view. And anyway, it isn't a tree. It's…it's…"

"A bean stalk!"

"What?"

"A bean stalk, pet. "

"Where did it come from?"

Spike looked shifty. He was trying to remember exactly what kind of demon it had been who'd used his personal possessions as a bet the night before at the kitten poker tournament. He knew Clem had introduced him, but he'd been so irritated by the Slayer's behaviour – she'd been flirting with the Siamese Collector guy - that he hadn't been listening closely. But he had a nasty feeling the wanker had been a Fable Demon. And if that was the case, then this day had just got off to a bloody awful start and was about to get even worse when he explained the situation.

Buffy stared up at the gathering dark clouds. Thunder was beginning to boom in the distance and, even as she watched, a flash of lightning cut across the sky. She could just see where the top of the beanstalk vanished into the gloom. "We'd better chop it down," she said.

"Er – we can't, luv."

"Don't call me luv," Buffy replied automatically. "Why not? Big stalk, sharp axe, one, two, three. All gone."

"It'll grow again."

"What? How do you know?"

Spike shrugged and gazed round desperately for inspiration, seeking a story that would make sense to an irate Slayer and not end up with him getting his arse kicked all round Sunnydale – or what was even worse – seeing the end of her visits to the crypt. Various thoughts flashed through his brain, then he gave up.

"Oh bloody hell, Slayer - it grows from beans that belong to the Fable Demon. He must have been the guy I beat in that last hand of poker. The soddin' beans must have fallen out of the box when you broke it."

"Me! I so did not break the box. And anyway, what's a Fable Demon?"

Spike looked at her, puzzled. "You know, the guy who owns fables and fairy-stories."

Buffy batted away two huge tendrils that were trying to pull her legs from under her. "No one owns fairy-stories, Spike. They're just – well – fairy-stories. Handed down – "

"From generation to generation. Exactly. And who hands them down? Where did they start?"

"Hans Christian Andersen, the Grimm Brothers, Walt Disney?"

Spike was shouting now, to be heard over the thunder that was crashing every few seconds overhead. "And where did they get the ideas? They were given to them by the Fable demon. He does fairy-stories as a sideline. Been quite lucrative over the years, lucky sod. Made a fortune Hansel and Gretl - could have retired after the Little Mermaid and he's still boasting about Snow White and the six Dwarfs."

"Seven."

"What – oh, right. Well, Bashful was based on the Fable Demon's cousin. He wanted to be in a story. There should only have been six."

"You still haven't told me why it'll grow again?"

Spike suddenly leapt upwards, grabbed hold of a branch and swung his legs across it. He reached down and automatically Buffy caught hold of his hand and swung up beside him.

"What are we doing?"

"Got to climb it, pet. Only way. Have to find the giant, steal the gold and get back here before he finds the beanstalk."

"What giant? What gold?"

The branches began to shake as the wind grew stronger and the thunder echoed once more. Spike gestured upwards through the threshing leaves towards the sound. "That giant, pet. Now, climb!"

To be continuted