Alive or Dead!
The story so far: A poker game results in Spike winning a box of goodies from a Fable Demon - the guy who owns all the fairy-stories in the world. Buffy - who is determined not to sleep with Spike any more! - wakes up with him in his crypt, only to find a giant beanstalk is growing outside. Spike tells her they have to climb it, kill the giant who lives at the top and bring his gold back to the ground before the fairy story ends. But the giant captures Spike and Buffy, who has escaped, is confused as to why she is going back to look for him and not escaping!
Chapter Three: A giant problem
"Stupid vamp! I am so going to kick his butt all round Sunnydale when I get him back there," Buffy muttered under her breath as she crawled through the six foot high, bright blue grass towards where she'd last seen the giant and Spike. "How difficult was it not to get caught? All he had to do was run faster. He's old, that's the problem! OK, not so old as Angel, but still old. Getting creaky and ancient and – " She stopped, guiltily remembering that if he hadn't guarded her back with his body the giant would have caught her as well.
Why had he done that? He could have saved himself, left her to her fate. And even as she logically thought that through, she knew with every traitorous nerve in her body that he would never have done that. Because he loved her. And as she crept along the ground, she shouted down the voice in her head that told her why she was now trying to save him.
Then all thoughts vanished as she parted a thick clump of grass and gasped as she saw the giant. He was sitting by a roaring fire, flames of indigo and aquamarine leaping a hundred feet into the air.
A vast metal pot was slung over the fire on a tripod, sapphire and cobalt smoke rising from the bubbling liquid inside it. The giant was busy peeling potatoes, taking them from a vast heap, chopping them up and adding them to the boiling water. He was humming to himself. Buffy pulled a face: she hated men who hummed, even if they were several metres taller than her.
She slid closer, desperately trying to feel if Spike was nearby. "Where the heck are you?" she muttered under her breath. She could always tell when he was close. The little hairs on the back of her neck tried to braid themselves together. Even as she spoke, they began making frantic patterns and suddenly she spotted him, trussed up like a turkey, tied to a wooden pole lying on the ground behind the giant's back.
She could feel the heat from the cauldron stinging her face as she darted from stone to stone, hiding, ducking, praying that she was too small for the giant to notice. The last thing she wanted was to have to fight against the knife he was using. It was the size of a redwood.
Just as she reached the last piece of shelter, there was a rumbling roar from the giant and the ground shook as he stood up and lurched away. Buffy flung herself across the final few yards and skidded to a halt by Spike's bound body.
"What the bloody hell are you doing here, Slayer?" The snapped greeting and angry frown weren't exactly what she'd been expecting.
"Oh nothing, Spike. Just saving your miserable unlife. But don't bother to be grateful. After all, what else have I got to do this morning?"
"Stupid bint! You shouldn't be here," he muttered as she tugged at the ropes binding him to the pole. "Little Cecil is going to pop me in his stew any second. You don't want to stay around to be dessert."
"Cecil? You know him?"
"Well, we haven't been formally introduced, me being all tied up and about to be eaten. But I call him Cecil. He calls me lunch!"
With a final pull, Buffy got him free. "I can't hear him. Where's he gone?"
Spike grinned at her. "To get bloody onions and carrots for the stew, I expect. We need to move fast, Slayer. We must get out of here."
She turned away, then his hand shot out and grasped hers. "Why did you come back for me?"
Buffy stared into the eyes that were asking more than a simple question. Different answers roared through her head. 'Because Dawn will be furious if I let you die.' 'Because fighting a giant is better than being bored at home.' 'Because I love you.' No! That couldn't be the reason because she didn't love him. Not at all. Not even the tiniest bit. At all.
Before she could speak, the thunder of giant footsteps sounded in the distance. "We need to move now, Slayer," Spike said quietly, and she broke her gaze from his, angry with herself for not being able to give him a swift, sensible reply.
They peered out round the side of the cauldron and Buffy groaned with frustration. "He's standing between us and the path back to the beanstalk."
"Oh great. This day is getting better and better. Any second now he'll scent me again. Get ready to run."
"He knows you're here, stupid," Buffy hissed. "He'll expect to – euwwww – smell you!"
Spike turned and smiled at her, his eyes glinting with mischief. "Well, then, he'll probably smell you as well, pet. You did say you needed a bath this morning - and we both know why!"
Buffy glared at him. "We need to distract him." She stared around her, then, "Take off your T-shirt."
Spike raised an eyebrow suggestively. "Pet, I'm game at any time and anywhere, you know that. But even I think that making love at this precise moment isn't the best suggestion you've made recently. What do you want to do, embarrass Cecil to death?"
Buffy glared and pointed to a huge potato that had rolled away from the others. "Wrap the T-shirt round that and throw it into the cauldron. I'm hoping he'll think you got free and fell in."
Spike eyed a vegetable that was the size of a small boulder. 'Turning me into a bloody spud chucker! Pity Peaches isn't here. The Irish like their potatoes." He shrugged and tugged the shirt over his head.
With the boulder wrapped in black cotton, he hefted it up and tossed it as high and hard as he could. For a second Buffy thought he'd missed, but it soared upwards and splashed down in the boiling blue water.
With a roar the giant spun round and strode towards the cauldron. As he peered into it, Buffy and Spike raced past the trodden down heels of the boots that towered above their heads.
Then the were diving into the thick blue grass stalks, pushing their way through, aware that at any second there was going to be a thunderous roar of rage – The air shook and a shower of pollen bullets, all the colour of a summer sky, flew into their faces.
"That didn't fool him for long, pet," Spike grunted. He estimated the distance to the top of the beanstalk. It would be touch and go.
"We could do with that poxy invisibility spell someone cast on me," Buffy gasped as she vaulted a twig that stood four foot high. "I know you didn't approve of me being all non-seey girl, but it would be so useful – I wish we were both invisible now. "
Spike glanced back at the woman he loved and skidded to a halt. "Buffy! You've vanished!"
She gazed down at her feet – empty space - then looked at Spike – and he wasn't there.
"It's the fairy-story, pet," he whispered and pulled her under the branches of a bush. "I told you, whoever is telling it, the story alters to their wishes."
Buffy frowned. "Huh! Earlier I wished there to be no giant but no one listened then, did they?"
"Well, you wished to be bloody invisible, pet, and now we both are."
"Jeez, remembering how well that ended last time! I – ummp"
Her words were stopped, effectively, by Spike kissing her. She struggled for a couple of seconds, then the sweet power of his mouth relaxed her as she realised the heavy footsteps were coming closer and closer and he was trying to keep her quiet.
It was the weirdest sensation. If she closed her eyes, the feel of his smooth bare chest under her hands was so familiar, so right, that she could almost imagine they were back in the safety of his crypt. The kiss deepened and he pulled her tighter to his body, his hands suddenly rougher, more urgent, possessive. She opened her eyes and there was nothing there. No Spike, no Buffy. She closed them again and gave herself up to - just feeling.
She was vaguely aware of the giant passing them, of the crashing and bellowing as he tried to find them. The 'Fee, Fi, Fo, Fums' were getting fainter – or was it just the thumping of the blood pounding round her veins that made her deaf to everything else?
"We'd better move, Slayer." Spike lifted his head long enough to mutter in her ear. "Imagine us solid again, pet."
Solid. That just about summed up her life, she thought drearily. Solid and mundane. Be a Slayer, see the world. Oh, no, actually you won't. All you'll see is Sunnydale, the Hellmouth and various hell or heaven dimensions, depending on the month of the year.
"Come on, Buffy. Stop playing games. We've got to get the gold down the beanstalk – fast!"
"I – I can't!"
Even though she couldn't see the vampire's face, she could hear the puzzled outrage in his voice. "Why the bloody hell not?"
"I don't – I don't know. I don't know why we went all non-seey to start with. "
Spike groaned. "God, you certainly choose your moments to get stage-fright, pet. OK, look, let's get down to soddin' Sunnydale and sort it out there. Cecil will be back soon, looking for snacks and I'm too young to be the meat inside his sandwich!"
It was weird running through the long grass, not being able to see the man whose hand she was holding, just aware of the pressure of his fingers grasping hers, his bare arm against hers.
Then there was the hollow in the cornflower blue ground where the emerald leaves of the beanstalk were – disappearing fast through the hole in the mist!
"Spike! What's happening?"
The vampire threw himself full length on the ground and slid headfirst into the mist. The beanstalk was disintegrating under his hands. And from a long, long way away, he could hear the thud, thud, thud of an axe.
"Buffy - quick! Some idiot's chopping it down. If it falls, we're bloody well be trapped here in the fairy-story for ever. Take my hand. Hurry!"
"Where are you? Spike, I can't see you!" Buffy skidded to a halt on the edge of the hole. The leaves were already sliding away, shrivelling, vanishing. And for a long moment she was tempted. They could stay here, inside the fairy-story. Make a home somewhere in this blue, blue world. Fight the giant. Have adventures. Live in the fairy-sunlight. Be happy. Be free. Be together.
"Buffy - jump! I'll catch you. Trust me!"
Trust him? Trust a vampire? She could never do that. She turned and took a last swift look at the swirling blue world she knew she would never see again.
And jumped into the now empty hollow in the mist because she loved him.
Two a.m. in the morning. The oldest graveyard in Sunnydale was as quiet as – well, as a grave Buffy thought. There was no sign of the beanstalk now, of course. It had shrivelled into dust when she touched the ground with the fairy-gold in her pockets. And within seconds, that, too, had gone.
She sighed. The second she'd jumped and Spike had caught her, their bodies had become solid again. The sight of Xander swinging the axe, trying to chop down the beanstalk, the shrieks from Willow and Dawn as she and Spike came tumbling down from the sky, Anya's howls of dismay as the glittering gold vanished in front of her eyes – all were now memories.
Spike had been lucky. The thunderclouds above had lasted just long enough for him to race for his crypt and slam the door shut. Buffy hadn't even had time to thank him – she was too busy trying not to explain to the others why the vampire was naked to the waist.
And so her mundane world would continue on its way. Slaying, working, worrying about money. She pulled a face and absentmindedly staked a vamp who leered at her as he rose.
There was no way she was going to see Spike tonight. No way at all. That had been the very last time.
The crypt door opened under her hands but the top room was empty. She could feel her chest tighten and her breathing quicken as she clambered down the ladder into the underground chamber.
Spike was sitting cross-legged on the bed. He looked up and grinned wickedly. "Slayer – to what do I owe this pleasure?"
Buffy shrugged. "Just passing by. Thought you might like to patrol. Kill something. Hit something."
He patted the bed next to him. "I can think of all sorts of somethings I'd like to do, pet. Care to join me?"
She wasn't going to walk across the crypt to his side, definitely wasn't going to kick off her boots and curl up on the bed next to him. And she certainly wasn't going to put her arm round his shoulder and peer down at what he was holding in his hand.
"Look, pet. I found this outside in the grass. It must have come out of the soddin' Fable Demon's box. What do you reckon it is?"
Buffy stared. He was holding an old brass oil lamp, carved with intricate patterns. She took a deep breath as he licked his finger and tried to clean the dirt away that was encrusting the lid.
"Spike - don't touch it. Don't rub it. Put it down!"
But she was too late!
Sequel will follow in a few weeks if you'd like one!