August 31, 2012 – Pepper Pot Day

Summary: **Part of the 2012 LiveJournal's Twisted Shorts August Fic-A-Day** series, also known as the 'Wacky Holiday Series'. Two broken people find each other on the Love Boat.

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

Warning: non-canon character death for BtVS. Not for Nicole fans (GG) if there are any.

Timeline: post- AU season 3 for BtVS; vague for TLB; post-season 3 for GG, but change the dates so they line up.

A/N: The actual date for this holiday is December 29th, but that wouldn't make a lot of sense for Buffy and Luke. Sorry if the room assignments don't match the show's boat.

Disclaimer: BtVS/AtS characters belong to Joss Whedon/Mutant Enemy. Gilmore Girls characters belong to Amy Sherman-Palladino and the WB. The Love Boat characters belong to Jeraldine Saunders and CBS Television Distribution. I claim no rights to any copyrighted material. Please do not copy or take this story without my permission.

Onboard the Pacific Princess Cruise Ship


"Welcome to The Pacific Princess, I'm Julie and I'm your Cruise Director," Julie welcomed the couple as they walked into the 'lobby' area on the promenade deck.

The man introduced them, "This is Nicole Leahy and I'm Luke Danes."

Julie checked her list and informed them, "You're on the Aloha deck, in rooms 8012 and 8014."

"Those are adjoining, right?" Nicole asked, almost daring Julie to say no.

Unfortunately, Julie did have to say that. "I'm sorry, they are next to each other, but not adjoining."

"I specifically ordered adjoining!" Nicole barked.

Luke tried to intercede, "It's not that big of a deal, Nicole. We're still next door to each other."

Glaring at her boyfriend, Nicole snapped, "That's not the point, Luke! I have a legally binding contract with them for adjoining rooms-"

Julie looked at her sheet and found that the person in 8015 hadn't boarded yet, so she made a note to switch them to 8014 instead and quickly spoke up, "I can switch the assignments so you are adjoining."

"Thank you," Luke said gratefully.

As he virtually dragged Nicole away, Julie could hear the woman continue to complain, saying something about how it was only right that the rooms were fixed. She walked over to Gopher to let him know about the change.

"I get the feeling she's going to be a real joy on this trip," Julie muttered softly to her colleague, her voice practically dripping in sarcasm. There usually were a few like that woman on every cruise. She just felt bad for the guy with her.

"Maybe she just had a bad morning," Gopher suggested optimistically. Considering the fact he could hear her from across the room, he highly doubted it, though.

"We can dream," Julie quipped before returning to her normal station.

A few minutes later, a young blonde woman approached Julie, carrying a small overnight bag. After getting the standard greeting, she replied, "Hi, Julie, I'm Buffy Summers."

The name rang a bell with the cruise director; this girl was a VIP guest, and the orders were to treat her practically like royalty. "Miss Summers!" Julie gushed somewhat nervously because you could never be sure what these VIPs could be like. "You are in one of our best cabins…the Java Suite on the Riviera deck!" She gestured for Gopher to come over to escort the young lady to her room. "Burl Smith will show you to your room and the Captain would like me to extend a special invitation to dine at his table tonight."

"It really isn't necessary for him to walk me there; I'm sure he's busy with other things," Buffy said softly. A look of sadness came over her face and she added, "Please tell the Captain that I appreciate the invitation, but I really wouldn't be very good company for him or anyone else at his table. To be honest, I'm only taking this cruise at the insistence of my great-aunt. My mom died a few months ago and this is supposed to help me grieve or something."

Julie immediately went into comforting mode. "I'm so sorry to hear that. If there's anything I can do to make this easier for you, just let me know."

"Thanks. I'll probably take my dinners in my room, if that's possible. Oh, and I'll need to do some shopping; according to my aunt, my wardrobe is 'simply dreadful!'" Buffy intoned snootily.

Chuckling lightly at the impression, Julie answered, "We have some nice shops here onboard, and during our port calls, you can find some beautiful clothes at the local stores."

Buffy's trip

As the days went on, Buffy walked every surface available to the guests a couple dozen times, thinking about the last year and what her future held for her. Most of the other guests realized she wanted to be alone and didn't bother her. The few times a guy wanted to hit on her, there miraculously happened to be a cruise worker there to intercede for her.

Her senior year of high school had been a year of gains and losses for her.

She lost Angel, but gained her great-aunt; she lost her mom, but gained a Slayer sister in Faith and also a half-brother – thanks to Ethan's tainted candy and an encounter that she wished she could bleach from her memories when she could read minds temporarily.

And thanks to her wealthy relative who was trying to win her over for some reason, Buffy had the money to afford a nice vacation like this as well as an Ivy League education in the fall. She really shouldn't have been admitted, but the family name carried some weight with the people in admissions.

It would be a good chance to start over and have that normal life she always wanted. Still, she'd gladly go back to slaying in Sunnydale if it meant her mom was still alive. Stupid aneurysm that came out of nowhere and made her half-brother be born over a month premature! At least Giles was being smart about it and took little Nathan back to England to raise the next generation of Giles. She couldn't stand the idea of her brother living on the Hellmouth.

Even though she had a few moments when she saw something she wanted to tell her mom about, Buffy could actually feel the difference in her level of grief from when she first boarded to her current level. She was actually healing. When she saw her aunt again, she'd have to give her a big thanks for the trip.

That's when disaster struck.

It was their last port call and Buffy was walking past a small shop when she saw the clerk hanging a new painting up in the window. It was similar to a reproduction of one of her mom's favorite watercolors. She went in and bought it immediately. It didn't sink in until she got back to the ship that she bought a present for a dead woman.

Suddenly she felt the need to get drunk.

Buffy grabbed Faith's going away present: a fake ID that should pass any inspection they had on the ship, and headed to one of the quieter bars where she shouldn't get hit on too much.

Luck was with her because it was a new bartender and not the regular, Isaac, who was working in that particular lounge that particular evening.

When her stomach grumbled, Buffy asked if they had any food to eat and was told that in honor of the Revolutionary War, they had theme drinks and foods. She ordered an Independence Day Tea (Long Island Iced Tea with a patriotic flag stuck into the lemon wedge) and a bowl of their Pepper Pot stew – which she was told was slightly different from the recipe used in the old days. After she was told that the old recipe included tripe, she was grateful for that fact.

Several teas later, her acute pang of grief was dulled and she didn't immediately snap at the man who came up to talk to her about why she was drinking so much…Luke something or other. Turned out he had his own kind of sorrows to drown.

Luke and Nicole's trip

Maybe the mistake in their accommodations should have been an omen that this trip was doomed. But Luke didn't believe in omens; that was Lorelai's quirk.

"You're thinking about her again, aren't you?" Nicole demanded. "I had hoped that getting away from that town would make things better for us, but you just can't stop thinking about her!"

Luke made the mistake of not denying her accusation, but he was smart enough to realize that he shouldn't explain why he thought of Lorelai.

Somewhere between trying to avoid yet another fight and hearing a couple celebrating their 50th anniversary nearby – as well as too many beers to keep track of – Luke found himself engaged and about to be married in a few hours in a group wedding ceremony that was scheduled.

Oddly enough, it was something he said to Lorelai when she was engaged to Max that came back to haunt him. All the questions he thought she should know about her married life were things he couldn't answer about his. When he asked them of Nicole, it became really clear how wrong they were for each other.

The look of horror on her face when he said he wanted to live in Stars Hollow – in his dad's house – was enough to call off the wedding and the fight that happened after that took care of ending the relationship entirely. To give her space, he went to a bar to 'celebrate' his reclaimed bachelorhood.

After some more beers and a conversation about the stew they had as their special, Luke looked around the bar and saw a girl about Rory's age drinking. He walked over to her and asked, "Are you sure you should be drinking so much? Are you even old enough to drink?"

Buffy's cabin

The next morning…

As soon as she woke up, Buffy knew something was horribly wrong.

The big clue was the naked male arm draped over her naked chest.

Oh god! This was bad…really, really bad!

She carefully eased out of the bed and put a robe on, then turned to look at the guy she brought back to her suite. Yes, she had a suite, even though it was big enough for like six people and she was alone; her aunt insisted on the very best accommodations for her and this was the best.

It was the guy who questioned whether she was old enough to be drinking. She wondered what he would think if he found out that he slept with somebody who lost her jailbait status seven months ago. Then she wondered how old he was. He certainly looked fit for whatever age he was. She blushed when she realized where her mind was going. At the very least, she guessed he had to be in his 30s somewhere.

This was an awkward situation she didn't want to deal with on her last day onboard, so she quietly packed up her stuff and snuck out to wait until they hit land again. Hopefully he wouldn't find her before then.

And she was never telling Faith about this…ever!

A/N: Someday I will come back and flesh this out into a full story (I already have 2+ chapters written for it). I just couldn't pass up the chance to use The Love Boat as the cruise ship in my story.