Halloween Fairies by JackOfSpikes
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Halloween Fairies

Joyce almost skipped through the front door; she couldn't believe it had ended up being so simple; a little chemical imbalance that could be corrected with the new tablets first and a change in diet second. She was a little embarrassed that the entire situation had been caused by an overindulgence of caffeine; she had no doubts that her daughters were going to give her grief for what she'd put them through but the relief she felt from the constant pounding was monumental.

She wanted to do something to celebrate feeling better than she had in years. She checked the calendar and smiled. A Halloween party would be just the thing for everybody; it was also the perfect place to put her other plans in motion.

The mother of the Slayer grabbed a pad and pen and seated herself at the breakfast bar in the kitchen. She had a mission to focus on and the Summers women's ability to let nothing stand in their way.

It took two hours for Joyce to work out her plan of action and after a quick trip to the stationary shop for invitations she was ready for phase one: getting everyone to agree.

~*~*~

"Oh! No, dear. I'll pick up all the costumes, all I need is your size and I'll drop it off to you the day of the party so you can get ready." Joyce informed each person who called upon receiving their invitation.

~*~*~

"Well, sure, Mrs Summers. I trust you completely," Riley Finn assured the mother of his girlfriend.

~*~*~

"Are you sure, Joyce? I don't mind putting together my own...well, as long as you're sure it's no imposition," Giles agreed, not really convinced that he wasn't letting himself in for a potentially embarrassing evening.

~*~*~

"Sounds like an excellent Scooby adventure," Xander joked. "You can count me and Ahn in."

~*~*~

"Wow that sounds great, Mrs Summers. Are you sure there's nothing Tara and I can bring? ‘Cause we really wouldn't mind," Willow gushed.

~*~*~

"Okay, but I want a cool costume this time, mom," Dawn demanded when Joyce approached her.

~*~*~

"Moooom," Buffy whined. "Why do you have to pick my costume?" ‘Well CRAP!' she pouted to herself.

~*~*~

"Hey, Joyce. Nibblet said you needed to talk to me," Spike greeted the Summers matriarch as he entered the house through the kitchen door.

Joyce smiled serenely; it was time to finalize phase one and begin phase two.

~*~*~

"You want me to wear a costume?" Spike asked, incredulous that he, master vampire that he was, would EVER be put in this position.

"Yes, dear, I do. And you are going to do it. This is one time I will not take ‘no' for an answer and before you even consider trying to get out of this I'm going to give you a few reasons why you are not only going to agree with my choice of costume but will also promise to be on your best behaviour," Joyce announced smugly.

Spike lifted an eyebrow and shared his sceptical expression with the woman. He really didn't think there was anything that Joyce could say that would convince him to dress up for Halloween and play nice with the kiddies.

"I know that you're in love with my daughter, Spike." Joyce grinned at his landed fish impression. "While I stand by my opinion that Angel was all wrong for Buffy, I no longer believe that a human man would be the best partner for her. The fact that I think Riley is entirely too interested in playing the hero is beside the point entirely. I think any human will eventually bore Buffy to tears not to mention ultimately endanger her. She needs more." Moving to the stove as she talked, Joyce made them both a mug of hot chocolate. Laying Spike's in front of him she continued. "Now, you, on the other hand? Oh I don't doubt that you could keep Buffy on her toes and never in fear of boredom but convincing my incredibly stubborn daughter that you would be better for her than Riley is not going to be an easy task. However, with me on side you certainly stand a better chance than you would on your own."

A thousand thoughts and emotions raced through Spike at Joyce's words; awe and gratitude held a prominent place. If Joyce could help him win Buffy from the cardboard commando, then he fully intended to follow any and all suggestions she offered. "What do you want me to do?"

Joyce grinned conspiratorially. "Listen carefully..."

~*~*~

Spike grimaced at the list of things Joyce wanted him to pick up at the store for her while she delivered costumes. His day just seemed to be getting worse when he noticed the sign that announced the store's Halloween gimmick; he rolled his eyes in disgust as he shifted into game face. He knew he couldn't go to Joyce's to pick up his own costume without the party supplies and the store had apparently decided that they were going to get right into the holiday spirit and refuse to sell to anyone not in costume. ‘Oh! How the mighty have fallen!' he thought sarcastically. The irony of a master vampire disguising himself as a human going to a Halloween party dressed as a vampire was not lost on him. He gave a toothy smile to the girl on checkout and politely asked what aisle the candy corn was in. He shook his head and chuckled lightly when she complemented him on his ‘bitchin' costume - the things he did for a Summers woman!

~*~*~

Joyce clapped her hands in delight once she took a good look at her guests. "You all look fabulous," she announced happily, silently congratulating herself on the idea of a movie theme.

Xander and Anya made a wonderful Beauty and the Beast.

Willow's dark wig set off her costume as Velma Kelley from the Musical Chicago and Tara complemented her perfectly as Roxie Hart from the same movie.

Riley had even gone so far as to have his fangs drip blood in his rather outrageous depiction of Dracula while Buffy made a cute brunette in her role as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz.

Dawn was over the moon about her costume, especially after Buffy had suggested that Joyce had accidentally given them each other's and her mother had had to assure the blonde that no mistake had been made. Dawn may not have actually seen the movie her character was from - because Rocky Horror Picture Show was so not blockbuster material- but Magenta was incredibly cool in the teen's eyes. The excited fifteen year old didn't even mind that her mom and Giles were dressed as characters from the same movie but she did think that Brad and Janet seemed like a couple of dorks.

Spike's entrance had had just the reaction Joyce had been aiming for. Convincing him to put a temporary black rinse through his hair had been a chore, but the effect was well worth it when he sauntered through the door looking like he'd just stepped out of the film - Neo from the Matrix was definitely in town. Joyce was so proud of him when he didn't even laugh at Riley, just did a comical double take before quickly walking to the kitchen to get himself a beer.

Everyone ‘oohed' and ‘ahhed' over the carefully chosen decorations; the cotton candy spider webs, plastic arachnid included, the mechanical skeletons and ghosts, the candle in pumpkin lighting and the haunting chain rattles and disembodied moans all got the required attention.

A variety of conversations began as Joyce and Dawn flittered around the room offering snacks and beverages.

When Joyce approached Willow, Tara and Giles she smiled and shook her head in amusement on Giles' informative introduction that they were discussing the various meanings for apocalyptic portents.

"Wait a minute." Willow pursued the subject at hand, not meaning to be rude to her hostess but confused by the ex-librarian's insistence in relation to the specific sign they were dissecting. She was so focused on her need for understanding that it outweighed her normally polite demeanour. "Wasn't the raven called protection?"

"No, Willow. That was the falcon. The raven was called sin." Giles assured her as he smiled apologetically at Joyce, who just wondered if she was supposed to understand their rather cryptic sentences.

Joyce noticed Spike's stony expression as he tried to focus on his conversation with Dawn and Anya. She quickly glanced over at the group behind the vampire and saw the furtive sideways glances Xander was directing towards them. Wanting to nip any trouble in the bud, she moved closer to Xander, Riley and Buffy in order to better hear what they were saying, she had a feeling that whatever it was it was responsible for Spike's expression.

The Summers matriarch pursed her lips in annoyance as Riley's voice reached her ears and some of his words filtered through.

"Oh, he's a monster...pure psychopath...so rare to capture one alive."

"Who are you discussing?" Joyce asked mildly.

Joyce was pleased to note that Buffy had the grace to look sheepish.

"Riley's just telling us what they found out about the evil undead when they had him in a cage," Xander offered cheerily.

"Were you part of the group that, er, worked on Spike, Riley?" Joyce asked with deceptive innocence.

Buffy's eyes widened in alarm; she would know that tone anywhere, but there was no way she could warn her oblivious boyfriend of the dangerous territory he was approaching.

Riley grinned his fangy smile and happily recounted his part in the activities. "I was actually in charge of experimentation. Hostile 17 is lucky I wasn't in charge of security, too; there's no way he would have tricked me and escaped, Mrs Summers."

"Anyone would think that you were proud of what you did to my friend, Riley, but I'm sure that can't be right," Joyce offered lightly, her eyes narrowing in anger.

"Your friend?!" Riley exclaimed.

"That's right, Riley, my friend. Someone who I've known a very long time," Joyce answered, the heat in her voice causing the others in the room to move closer.

The psychology student soon changed tactics in view of her rising ire. "Mrs Summers, I'm sure you think you know him, but you need to understand that it's all an act. Vampires are animals. They don't have souls," he offered with a placating tone.

Joyce lifted her eyes in disbelief before turning to Buffy to ask the question that her astounded mind wasn't able to fully comprehend. "Did he just patronise me?"

Alarm bells started going off in Xander's mind; he was fairly sure that he never wanted to know if Buffy's temper was inherited or a part of the whole slayer package. "No! Really. No. There was no patronising said, thought or attempted; big ‘no' with the whole patronization idea. Giles patronises, never Riley... and I'm shutting up right now."

"Good choice," Dawn muttered with a stifled giggle as she thought ‘go mom'. She was so totally sick of the way these idiots treated her friend.

"Tell me, Riley," Joyce demanded. "How exactly is it that you discern the presence of a soul?"

"Joyce," Giles interrupted feeling the need to offer his own knowledge on the subject.

"Excuse me, Rupert, but I didn't ask for your opinion. I have every intention of dealing with your unsupported theories next. Right now, I would like Riley to tell me the irrefutable source that allows him to make that sort of declaration with complete confidence."

Joyce seriously doubted that Riley had any real knowledge on the subject, he had always struck her as someone more trusting of technology than the mystical and she was fairly certain that no soul detecting instruments had ever been even considered let alone created.

"Um, Buffy told me," the floundering ex-soldier admitted.

"Yes, well, I believe Buffy also told you the Angel wasn't evil and was in possession of a soul but you didn't seem to be at all convinced that the soul made any difference in his case, so you really don't have the right to use it in an argument against Spike. You also keep referring to vampires and other demons as animals. Do you know what that tells me, Riley?" she asked rhetorically before continuing. "It tells me that you are an advocate of animal cruelty and shouldn't be ever allowed to own a pet. And you!" Joyce surprised them all by turning on the suddenly cringing watcher.

"I am so disappointed in you, Rupert. For years you have talked about vampires all being the same - killing machines with no ability to feel remorse, regret or love; minions of evil without the capacity to have even an ounce of good in them. Well let me tell you right now. You. Are. Wrong.'

Joyce looked around the room taking in their varied expressions. "Unlike the rest of you, I haven't had access to the prejudicial and one-sided council tomes that have you all spouting the same rubbish. My knowledge comes from personal experience. I've actually had contact with four master vampires and while I am the first to admit that Angelus is a text book copy of the council teachings, Darla certainly wasn't; her main goal in that entire awful situation was to get her childe to come back to her.

"That horrid vampire with the mother fixation that the Council felt my daughter should face -without her powers, I might add - was exactly the same in vampire form as he was as a human - that all important soul intact. In life he had been a serial killer before he was institutionalized."

She took a deep breath and stopped to smile at Spike before continuing. "Finally, there's Spike."

"You all think that Spike is just a restrained killer, the Slayer of Slayers, but I've spent countless hours talking to him and he is so much more than that." She implored them to listen to her. "Did any of you know that he is fluent in over forty languages? Or that he could discern the difference between a painting by Titian and a copy by one of his students just by the brush strokes? That Spike plays the guitar and piano? That he's a virtual encyclopaedia on classical literature? Did you know that he volunteers to help Dawn with her homework or that he worries about Willow and her increasing dependence on magic? Did you know that the fact that all of you ignore Anya, her history and the wealth of information she could offer infuriates him?"

She paused again, and glared around at her captive audience, ignoring the embarrassed vampire who was trying to edge his way out of the room.

"Do any of you care that he's been loosing sleep over his concern for Tara and whatever it is that's been worrying her lately? Don't you realise that he views all of us, with the understandable exception of Riley, as his family, and that he longs to be considered one of the group? He is willing to change his entire nature for us and that is with almost no encouragement. Do you have any idea what could be achieved if you just gave him a chance? Maybe treated him with a modicum of respect? How can you consider yourselves champions of good if you can't even offer someone forgiveness? Or, at the very least, a new start?"

The statuesque blonde mother of two was pleased to note the looks of shame on almost every face. "I really wish that you would all stop hiding your true natures and start telling the truth..."

The sudden appearance and accompanying flash of light by the tiny glowing winged creature in the middle of the group startled Joyce so much that she failed to complete her sentence.

"Wish granted," the tiny voice echoed before another flash of light signalled her departure.

"Well,crap!" Anya snapped in irritation.

"What was that?" Xander asked, not really sure if he was more shocked, surprised or curious.

"A Halloween Fairy," Anya replied with an accompanying roll of her eyes as she moved to the sofa wanting to sit out the spell.

Giles followed the girl's movements with his eyes; he thought it might just be time to show Joyce that he, at least, could show he's learned something from what had been said. "Anya, dear, what can you tell us about this creature?"

"Well for starters, she'd be really pissed to hear you call her a creature," Anya reported dryly.

"Of course," Giles conceded looking chagrined.

"Fairies are benevolent, and they only associate with humans on Halloween. They grant wishes; but, unfortunately, sometimes you have to deal with a lot of bad before you get to the good. It totally depends on the wording of the wish. It will last until midnight so we're all stuck here until then; and before you suggest it, no amount of magic can stop a Fairy spell while it's in action." Turning to Joyce, Anya voiced her complaint. "You'd think that after living on the Hellmouth for so long you'd know better than to use the word ‘wish'. You are so lucky there wasn't a vengeance demon in the area."

"But how bad could it be?" Xander shrugged, unconcerned.

"You do realise that Joyce wished for us all to show our true natures and to speak truthfully, don't you, Xander," Giles replied in irritation. The foolish boy had no idea how dangerous something like this could be.

"Xander," Anya huffed in exasperation. "Fairies are notorious for going to any lengths to ensure one of their spells will work exactly. Any lengths. Do you realise how quickly fear can bring out the truth or a person's true nature. I mean have you taken a good look at the spider webs?"

Willow screeched in terror as she automatically glanced over at the web on the doorway and noticed the HUGE black hairy spider that was now moving. "Did I mention the whole arachnophobia thing I had going?" she whimpered as she darted to stand behind the strongest male in the room.

Spike's eyes widened with startled shock as the redheaded witch chose him to be her protector.

"Oh! What an excellent day for an exorcism." Anya snorted in amusement as she watched the skeleton moonwalk down the hallway.

The blasé attitude of the ex-vengeance demon was beginning to wear on the technologically minded ex-commando. There were skeletons dancing and ghosts floating and plastic spiders coming to life with no logical explanation in sight. But he wasn't going to panic. No siree bob, there would be no panicking of the soldier. "Um, why is Dawn green?" Maybe a little panicking was called for after all.

"I'm green? I'm green! OH. MY. GOD. I'm GREEN!" Dawn screeched in horror. "Get it off! Get it off! Get it off!"

Spike cringed at the painful decibels his Nibblet was reaching. As he moved to reach the hyperventilating girl, his recently acquired Willow shadow grabbed his arm desperately and pleaded with him to stay with her. "She's a teenager. She just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven't you?" she asked with a touch of hysteria in her voice.

Buffy shot a look of panic at her watcher. He was the only one she had told the truth about Dawn and she was in no doubt that the green glow was the Key's inner nature. How the hell was she going to explain this to everyone else?

"Sweetie, it might just be a physical manifestation of your natural teenage jealousies," Tara offered the freaked out teen. "I'm sure it's nothing to worry about." Tara wasn't as confident that the appearance of her own true demonic nature would be under the same heading. It was time. She had to tell them all the truth. In this situation it was better that they be warned. "You're not like me, Dawnie."

Concerned by the sad countenance of her love, Willow grabbed Spike and dragged him over to Tara. "What are you talking about, Sweetie?"

The lovely blonde lifted tear filled eyes to the group and whispered the truth. "I'm a demon. All the women in my family are. It's supposed to manifest on my twentieth birthday, but the spell might bring it out early."

"Bollocks," Spike announced harshly. He didn't know who had lied to the gentle girl but the wanker had better not ever show his face around her again.

"Sorry, Tara, but Spike's...um...right," Buffy looked a little surprised at her support of the individual she had for so long considered her mortal enemy. "You don't set my slayer tinglies off."

"I'd smell it if you were a demon, pet."

"If you're so worried, why don't you get Spike to hit you? There's no way you could fool the chip," Riley offered with a shrug. If the girl was actually a demon then having the vampire punch it didn't seem like a bad thing.

Buffy stared at him in shocked disbelief. This was sweet, gentle, Tara they were talking about. Even if she was a demon, Buffy didn't believe she'd ever hurt a fly.

"There is no way that you could force me to touch a hair on this dear girl's head," Spike declared indignantly before realising that his William side was firmly forcing his way to the fore. The vampire silently vowed to keep his mouth firmly shut.

"Spike, please," Tara begged him.

Spike rolled his eyes in frustration. Her big pleading eyes had him tied up in knots.

"It's alright, Spike. No one will hold it against you," Giles offered sympathetically. "She needs to be sure."

"This is jolly awkward," the vampire pouted in defeat before reaching out and sharply tugging a lock of Tara's hair. "OWWWW!"

Riley looked on in disgust as most of the people in the room collected around Spike to check on him. He had no clue what was going on with these people. He couldn't understand why they were showing more concern over the useless vampire than the skeleton and the ghost and the spiders that all seemed to be multiplying - except for Willow, of course, and that was only over the spiders. A normal person would be hysterically trying the door while they screamed in terror. The only person to get slightly loud had been Dawn and that had been more about ego than anything else. How could they take all this weirdness in their stride? He felt like he was floundering in unknown waters and desperately needed to find some direction.

The ex-commando drew closer to Xander, hoping that a little round of kick the Spike would get his equilibrium back on track. "Don't you hate watching them fawn over him?" he whispered in a disgusted tone.

"Actually, you really want to know what I hate, Riley?" Xander turned to the older male, preparing to say his piece and not caring who heard him. For years Xander had put on a show for them all. Xander the Joker. Xander the Clown. But all the while the real Xander Harris had been hiding within and, for the first time ever, he wanted to speak. "I hate that I've lived in Sunnydale all my life but it took meeting Buffy to have my eyes opened about the night life. I hate knowing that if we'd only taken our heads out of the sand, Jesse might still be alive and I wouldn't have had to dust a guy that was like a brother to me. I hate that people assume that because I hate what vamps do that I must hate what they are. I'm not a bigot and I hate being placed in the position that people think I might be. Yes, I hated Angel, but at first that was because Buffy wanted him and not me, not because he was a vampire. Then I got to know him and hated him for being a manipulative liar. I hate that everyone thinks that the reason I act like I hate Spike is because of what he is, when the truth is nothing like that. He's cool. And the cool guys have always treated me like crap. I pretend to hate someone I wish I was more like because I don't want to be rejected. If I hate them first then I'm making sure they'll hate me and won't get that chance to tell me I'm not good enough. There are so many things I hate, Riley, but watching a guy who just helped one of us get a little much deserved TLC is not one of them." Xander took a couple of deep breaths wondering when it was exactly that he had learned Willows ability to talk without air.

"Too bloody right, Xander," Giles said as he moved quickly to the young man's side and clapped him on the back in support.

"I certainly would not reject you, Alexander," Spike offered with a solemn nod. "In fact I would be honoured to call you a ‘friend'."

Buffy shared a look of concern with her best female friend. "Why am I thinking this is like band candy revisited?"

"Oh, yes, let's bring up that painful subject. The only time in my life that I have sex with someone I'm not in a relationship with and he doesn't even respect me enough to invite me out to dinner after the spell breaks!" Joyce huffed with equal amounts of hurt and indignance.

"Well that's bloody rich," Giles snapped, showing more emotion than he had in all the years they'd known him. "I left five messages on your answering machine and you never returned my calls."

Joyce sniffed haughtily. "I wanted you to make a personal visit. I think I deserved that much at least."

"Why in bloody hell do you think I was calling?" Giles threw up his hands in exasperation.

"Easy on, old man," Spike interjected.

"Just who are you callin' ‘old', you ponce?

Joyce stormed forward to face the belligerent watcher and placed her hands firmly on her hips in a pose eerily similar to a cranky slayer. "Where the hell do you get off talking to my friend like that?"

Dawn started laughing. She couldn't help herself. "It's Buffy and Spike: The geriatric years!"

Tara tittered, then looked so surprised by her automatic reaction that she set Willow off. Xander soon joined the laughter.

Giles ignored every other person I the room but the fiery blonde in front of him. He stalked forward and swept Joyce into a passionate kiss.

"EWWW," Dawn whined and her sister promptly burst into tears. "Buffy?" Dawn asked with concern, she couldn't remember a time more recent than breakup with Angel that her sister had looked to be in such utter despair.

Buffy's tears had effectively ended the clinch between her mother and her watcher, and both hastened to her side, her friends following immediately.

"Sweetheart, what's wrong?" Joyce gently urged her daughter to speak.

"I'm trying so hard to make sure nobody's disappointed in me, Mom," Buffy started with a sniff once she had herself back under control. "I put on my happy Buffy face and pretend that I'm fine; that everything is fine. But it's not. I'm not. I'm afraid if I don't do and act and say what you all expect me to, you'll leave me...just like Angel...just like dad," she whispered the final words.

"Oh, honey," Joyce comforted softly as she gathered her distressed daughter into her arms. "You should never be forced into hiding how you feel. I love you no matter what and I don't plan on leaving you any time soon. We all love you, and even if we don't approve of all your choices, that doesn't mean we have the right to make them for you or tell you how to live your life. Everybody makes mistakes, sweetheart. But for a person to grow and develop they need to be able to learn from them. Our job is to be there to help you pick up the pieces afterwards or, more importantly, to learn that you were right all along and learn the lesson ourselves."

"Your mom's right, Buffy," Riley agreed. "You need to do what's best for you, not everyone else, and I plan on supporting any decision you make."

"Even if that means breaking up with you?" Buffy almost whispered.

"WHAT?" Riley shouted his dismay.

Buffy cringed at his volume and looked around the room guiltily, surprised that no other voice had added their disapproval to Riley's disbelief. Her heart lifted slightly at the expressions of non-censure that returned her gaze.

"It's okay, honey," Joyce assured the anguished blonde. "Do you feel like sharing why you feel that way?" she persuaded gently.

Buffy shrugged. "It's just..." She started, paused, then sighed deeply. "I know I always said I wanted normal, but...I'm the Slayer, you know? That has to come first." Buffy turned to face Riley, straightened her posture and faced her demons. "I knew the real normal was a pipe dream, but I thought that with you knowing about demons and fighting them that I could get the best of both worlds. But it's not working out that way, Riley. You don't understand what being the Slayer means and it doesn't seem to matter to you how many times I tell you, you still don't get it. I can't put you first and I can't keep catering to your need to be the protector. I know that it upsets you to feel like you're not needed, but you don't seem to be able to tell the difference between emotional and physical need."

"You don't let me in, Buffy," Riley accused petulantly.

"I don't trust you," Buffy whispered. "I haven' since you slept with Faith while she was in my body."

"He did what?" Spike gasped in outrage. "How could you not know that ghastly woman was an impostor? One sentence and I knew that someone of Buffy's class wasn't in charge of her body. Whoever that deplorable strumpet was, she was but a cheap imitation of the real lady."

"Shut up, Spike," Riley snarled. "You're only saying that because you think you might have a chance of getting into her pants."

"Why I NEVER!" Spike replied, outraged.

"Actually, with the way he's been changing his nature, it's more likely that he's in love with her, rather than just wants her for sex," Anya offered, unconcerned. "And congratulations on that, too, Buffy. It's got to be at least five hundred years since the last slayer managed to get a demon of Spike's calibre to fall in love with her."

Riley looked on in horror as the entire group turned to Anya in interest rather than disgust. He couldn't believe it when Giles asked the ex-demon to tell him more. What was it with these people and their need to break in to personal conversations?

"Wait a minute," Dawn piped in. "Doesn't Angel count? He was a demon, too."

"Yeah, but his demon hated my guts," Buffy replied with a snort.

"Can I get back to the conversation I was having with Buffy?" Riley snapped crossly, his control slipping.

"What more is there to say?" Anya asked guilelessly. "Buffy dumped you."

"WHAT KIND OF FREAK ARE YOU?" Riley bellowed as his inability to cope with the situation came to the fore. "We're stuck in a house with ghosts floating all around us, skeletons fucking dancing in the hallway, gigantic spiders surrounding us and you're sitting there like it's nothing out of the ordinary and discussing the unnatural attraction Buffy has to vampires."

"Listen up, you hyped-up Rambo wannabe," Xander snarled, getting right into Riley's face. "If you EVER speak to my girlfriend like that again I'll be taking a leaf out of her book and removing your spleen through your overly large mouth. None of us are seriously fazed by what's going on, because to us it is normal."

"Oh, Xander," Anya gushed as she preened with girlish pride over her boyfriend's protective stance.

A large thunder clap and an accompanying flash of light heralded the end of the spell.

"Bloody hell," Spike whispered in horror as he realised exactly what he had said and how he had acted. He briefly wondered how he was going to get out with his dignity intact.

Willow glanced over at the nearest spider and noted that it was back to its plastic self before she ventured away from her peroxided protector and closer to her girlfriend.

Dawn looked down and gave a great sigh of relief that she was no longer glowing green.

Xander glared at Riley before taking a seat next to his widely smiling girl.

Tara linked arms with Willow, secure in the knowledge that she was not a demon.

"Can we ignore everything that happened?" Riley asked hopefully.

"I'm sorry, Riley, but I meant what I said," Buffy said sadly.

They all watched the dejected ex-soldier leave.

"Joyce, I..."

"Dinner. Thursday. Choose somewhere nice." Joyce ordered abruptly before turning from the group and calmly beginning to clear things away.

"Er, yes, well, certainly," Giles stumbled over his words as he removed his glasses to clean.

With Joyce's actions the majority of the group prepared to leave.

Thoughts of Jesse flittered through Xander's mind as he glanced at the now still form of the ghost. With no trace of animosity he turned to Spike. "Do you think the dead come back and watch the living?"

"You do get that I'm dead, right, Harris?"

Xander giggled sheepishly.

"Spike?" Buffy called out to the vampire as he moved outside.

Spike cringed slightly in trepidation before turning back to warily face the Slayer.

"Dinner. Thursday. Choose somewhere nice."

 

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