Title: HIDDEN WELLS
Author: Ivytree
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: All characters belong to Joss Whedon, UPN, Mutant Enemy, etc.
Feedback: Please!
Summary: Spike lends a hand
Setting: The Summers house, November 25-28, 2002

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HIDDEN WELLS


"So what am I doing again?" Spike asked.

"You're helping me," Buffy said plaintively.

He looked with disfavor at a tumbled pile of table linens fresh from the dryer.

"Spike!" Buffy pouted, "there's no one else! Dawn's at school, Xander and Anya are working, Giles and Willow haven't arrived yet. Thanksgiving is in three days. I've got a ton of people coming, and I have to know how many of Mom's linen napkins I've got. There should be at least twelve of each color, but I bet there aren't."

"How many do you need?" Spike said, reluctantly committing himself. She knew perfectly well he couldn't resist that lip.

With hostess-y zeal, she counted on her fingers, going around more than just once. "Well, there's Dawn and me, Xander and his mom, Anya, Willow, Giles, Sophie, Clem and his mom, Jonathan, and you. So I NEED twelve."

"What's with all the mums?"

"Well, Clem's mom is a widow, and they usually go out to a restaurant, so when I invited him I asked her too; and Mr. Harris -"

"Trouble?"

"Well, he moved out of the house," she said in a lowered voice, "and not exactly voluntarily. So Xander didn't want her to be alone."

Actually, he didn't mind the chore - hell, he did this kind of thing for Dru for a century. She liked things to look nice, poor mad cow, but hadn't a clue how to make them that way. He sighed. Sympathy was a bitch. He felt sorry for everyone nowadays. He did have one problem with this, though. "Okay, Slayer, just don't spread it 'round I did this, right? I've got enough trouble with the whole soul thing."

Buffy gave him her most dazzling smile. "Of COURSE not, Spike! Your secret is safe with me," she cooed. "Now I've got to get the good china from the basement, and then we can wash the turkey platter!"

"Goody," he said, turning sourly to the enormous pile of laundry.

She disappeared downstairs to see to her mother's quality tableware. Everything seemed to be present and accounted for, barring the inexplicable loss of the gravy-boat lid. After about forty-five minutes of inventory, she thought she'd see how Spike was coming along.

On reaching the dining room, Buffy had to congratulate herself. She'd suspected Spike would be darn useful at this sort of activity, what with the elegant way he'd always kept his crypt, and she'd been right. Entering into the spirit of the thing, he'd commandeered the entire table for a major sorting job. Three large tablecloths and several stacks of napkins were neatly folded in color-coordinated piles, and holiday-themed dishtowels, bright with gamboling turkeys and autumn leaves, were set off to the side.

"Hey! Cool!" she said gaily. She really enjoyed holiday preparations, even thought she was lousy at it compared to Mom. "So whadda we got?"

He folded his arms across his chest in a professional manner. "Well, you were right, love; you've got eight green ones, nine of those sort of rosey ones, eleven peach ones, and eleven blue ones."

"Darn! I knew it! Where the heck do they go? There were twelve of each when I put them in the washing machine, I swear."

"Linen-eating demons?"

"Ha, ha." She was pouting again. "Rats. I wanted to use Mom's things, not get new ones."

"Mix 'em up."

"Huh?"

"Make it a theme. Use four each of the peach, green, and rose, alternating colors, use the cream tablecloth, get a centerpiece and candles to match, and bob's yer uncle. Martha bloody Stewart was here."

She stared at him for a moment, her face lighting up. Why did she totally suck at this, when he was so good at it? He was a genius. "You're a genius!" she said. "Mission one accomplished."

He preened himself discreetly. Birds always appreciated this sort of thing; it was blokes knowing about it you had to avoid. "Don't mention it, love." Mission one?

"Now you can get the turkey platter down from the shelf for me!" she said happily.



It was Thanksgiving Day. The house smelled wonderful. Buffy had planned her dinner for five o'clock, and all her guests were here, sipping nice glasses of wine (provided by Giles), happy, sociable, and hungry. She looked around the room with satisfaction. Mrs. Harris and Clem's mom (who was almost undistinguishable from Clem except that she dressed like a lady, wore earrings, and seemed to have a Romanian accent) had bonded, in a mom-like way, and were discussing their sons' accomplishments. Willow was chatting perfectly amicably with Jonathan, of all people, who hardly looked scared at all. Dawn was giggling with Sophie, Clem and Xander, and Giles was talking with Anya and, more surprisingly, Spike.

She thought she'd better circulate for a few moments, saying a few words to everyone before starting to serve. She wouldn't mind a glass of wine, either; she'd been cooking for days.

"Everything looks lovely, Buffy dear," Mrs. Harris said.

"Yes, is very beautiful," Clem's mom agreed.

Jonathan was evidently finishing a funny story. "So the sorcerer says, sorry, pal, that's no phoenix - that's a cockatrice, and I've got the weasel that can prove it!"

Willow exploded into snickers; spotting Buffy, she said, "Hey, Buff! Everything smells great!"

"Can I help with anything?" Jonathan said politely.

"Everything's under control, thanks," she replied with a smile.

"Hey, Buffster, the Dawnmeister here tells me she made a pie!"

Buffy put an arm around her sister proudly. "She sure did! From scratch! Canned pumpkin and all!"

"Thanks so much for inviting us," Clem said sincerely, holding Sophie's hand.

"We're happy to have you both, Clem," she said warmly.

"My dear Buffy, you've outdone yourself," Giles told her expansively, "the table, the candles, the flowere; it's really very clever."

"It's very tasteful," Anya agreed. "Did you do it all by yourself?"

Seeing Spike's suddenly wary expression, Buffy said with a glint in her eye, "Oh, I had help!"

"Who helped you?"

She grinned. "Martha bloody Stewart, who else?"

Giles leaned over to murmer quietly in her ear. "Don't you think you might be spending too much time with Spike, Buffy? You're starting to talk like him."


END

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"MILES and miles of quiet houses, every house a harbour,
Each for some unquiet soul a haven and a home,
Pleasant fires for winter nights, for sun the trellised arbour,
Earth the solid underfoot, and heaven for a dome.

Washed by storms of cleansing rain, and sweetened with affliction,
The hidden wells of Love are heard in one low-murmuring voice
That rises from this close-meshed life so like a benediction
That, listening to it, in my heart I almost dare rejoice."

Enid Derham, The Suburbs