August 28, 2012 – You're Welcome Day – the day after Thanksgiving

Summary: **Part of the 2012 LiveJournal's Twisted Shorts August Fic-A-Day** series, also known as the 'Wacky Holiday Series'. Buffy and Merrick save her cousin from a Peter Pan spell.

Challenge: for the livejournal 2012 August Fic-a-Day Challenge.

Warning: unexpected villains for this story. I happen to like them, but the chance use them as the 'bad guys' for this ficlet was too good to pass up.

Timeline: pre-series for BtVS; during one of the like 10 years they were juniors for SVH, but change the dates so they line up.

A/N: Sorry, I was in a rush to finish this before starting my new job, so I might have screwed some stuff for SVH.

Disclaimer: BtVS/AtS characters belong to Joss Whedon/Mutant Enemy. Sweet Valley High characters belong to Francine Pascal. I claim no rights to any copyrighted material. Please do not copy or take this story without my permission.


A few days before Nov 23rd

"You must train for Lothos!" Merrick demanded of the new Slayer.

Buffy shrugged her shoulders and replied, "Sorry, but it's not as if I can explain to my family that I have to miss Thanksgiving because some vampire wants to kill me."

Growling in frustration, Merrick asked, "How far away is this family gathering? I'll just follow you there."

"Neg!" Buffy snapped. "Sweet Valley isn't like LA; you'll stand out even more there than you do here."

She was making this so difficult for him. Still, it was his sacred duty to train her. "Then I'll stay just outside of town and you can come to me to train," he suggested as a compromise.

"I'm not going to win, am I?" Buffy said in resignation.

Merrick breathed a sigh of relief. "This argument? No. Against Lothos? That depends on whether you start taking your training seriously."

"Fine, but I get Thanksgiving Day with my family, got it? I can probably sneak you a plate of something, though," she offered, not realizing he grew up in a country that didn't celebrate the holiday.

As they were pulling into town, Buffy felt a…wave of something wash over her. Since she never felt it before on their visits, it was either the weirdest case of motion sickness ever, or it was something Slayery causing it. It wasn't cramps, so she figured that at least ruled out vampires.

God, Merrick would never let her live it down that she actually needed him on her vacation. She was almost tempted not to tell him, but her family was in this town, so if something evil was here, she had to get rid of it before it hurt them.

After he investigated Buffy's feeling, Merrick did some quick research on the town. On the surface, it was a typical California town – although there was almost a compulsive 'good looks' requirement to live there. The 'ugly' people in this town would easily pass for attractive in other places.

His concern came from a magical scan of the area. It was as if they were in a variation of a time loop. The calendar year would tick forward, but the residents weren't aging at a normal rate. And based on Buffy's conscious memories, family members outside of the town didn't find that strange.

It was hard to tell how long it actually took the people to age, but when Merrick questioned Buffy under hypnosis, she remembered her cousin, Olivia, celebrating her 16th birthday at least eight times. Even stranger than that, Olivia's father used to be Buffy's great-uncle, but as her mother's age grew closer to his, they began to believe they were cousins. If it continued, he believed they would think Buffy's mother was the aunt.

On the pretense of touring the town with her cousin, he had Buffy pay special attention to any places or people that felt off to her. Fortunately, Olivia was fairly popular, so Buffy got the chance to meet a lot of the teenagers the day before Thanksgiving.

Two in particular made her feel extra 'wiggy'.

Late Thanksgiving night, he had her meet him down the street from the house where those two lived. He found granite tablets surrounding the house buried in the lawn. Inscribed on them were runes that he made rubbings of for later study. When he assured himself it was relatively safe to do so, he had Buffy break the tablets to end the magic that covered the town.

Unfortunately, Buffy hadn't been quite as stealthy as she thought she was when she snuck out and Olivia demanded to know what she was doing with a creepy guy outside one of her best friend's house.

Against his better judgment, Merrick allowed Buffy to explain her Calling when they got back to his hotel room. While she was doing that, he translated the runes in more detail.

"What about being at the Wakefields' house?" Olivia asked after Buffy finished proving as much as she could without a vampire to slay. "They can't be vampires because I've seen them all out in the sun!"

Setting aside his books, Merrick explained what he learned about the spell, "One or both of the daughter cast a slow-aging, charisma-enhancing spell. It focuses mainly on their family – especially for the second part – but the longer it went on, the greater the area it covered grew, until it stopped at the city limits for some reason…at least for a while."

Olivia looked stunned. "Liz and Jessica? How can you say they're involved?!" Okay, so a small part of her could actually see Jessica pulling something like this, but Liz?

"This about it for a moment," Merrick suggested reasonably. "Whenever something big is going on, who is usually at the center of it? Or if not specifically at the center, then close enough to be a major player?"

"Well, there was that time when-" Olivia cut herself off mid-sentence, then muttered to herself, "Hmm, no…Liz ended up solving that mess. But there was that party where-" she stopped abruptly again, then added, "I forgot that Jess was behind that. That's weird…I can't think of anything now."

Merrick took pity on her and said, "It's not to say that everything revolves around them. They just have more involvement in events than they should, statistically speaking."

Interrupting for the first time since her explanation, Buffy asked, "What about the aging thing? Olivia isn't going to suddenly age a bunch of years overnight, is she?"

He shook his head, "No, if that were the case, I believe we would already be seeing evidence of that happening. More likely, everyone in town will start aging normally from this point on."

Next day…

Olivia woke Buffy up by sitting on her bed the next morning and started talking, "You know I've stayed up all night, thinking about it, and while it might sound cool in theory not to age, I'm glad we'll age at the same rate now. I just can't believe that Liz could be involved, though."

"And we don't know that she is; maybe it's her sister…or somebody else in that family who wants the girls to be the center of attention," Buffy conceded.

Smiling at her cousin, Olivia said, "It's a day late, but I'm thankful that you're a Slayer and you stopped them – whoever it was."

"Merrick said something about making sure it couldn't be cast again in this area. And even though he wasn't happy about telling you, I'll say 'you're welcome' on his behalf." Buffy chuckled, then continued, "I'm just glad I live in a normal city like LA instead of some quiet town that's completely crazy and nobody realizes it."

A/N: The holiday wasn't mentioned in the story, but I put it in during the last exchange.