Cinderfella meets Goldilocks.
Spike looked around in stunned confusion. He was standing in a sunny living room and NOT going up in flames.
He did a comical double take when Darla walked into the room. "Aren't you dust?"
"Don't' be ridiculous, Cinderfella. You know very well that you're supposed to do the dusting," Darla retorted, pursing her lips with a little moue of disgust. "Speaking of which, get on with it, you still have to get to the market and back in time to make dinner."
Spike was still trying to get over his shock when Angelus and a small balding man that he didn't recognise skipped into the room.
"Mother, can't Snidey and I go to the market, too? The season's latest fashions came out today and I also desperately need to restock my hair products," Angelus beseeched Darla.
"Whatever my darling boy wants." Darla smiled indulgently. "We'll all go."
Angelus waited for his mother to leave the room before turning to sneer at Spike. "Too bad you can't afford anything, Cinders. Such a shame your daddy left everything to my mother."
"I'm the Big Bad," Spike snarled, still very much off kilter. "I can just take what I want."
"Please," Angelus said with a grin. "Mini-Troll here is badder than you, Poet Boy."
"Yes I am. Yes I am." Snyder agreed in his oily way, then put up his hands in a mock boxing pose. "I can take you, yes I can, yes I can, you useless wanker." The balding little weasel giggled insanely.
Spike rolled his eyes in irritation at the posturing nit. When he attempted to morph into gameface in order to scare baldy's hair back, the vampire was rocked to discover that he couldn't change.
He was seriously starting to panic.
Before Spike could begin a full scale bout of hysteria, Darla swept back into the room and imperiously demanded that they all leave. She tossed her bag to Spike and instructed him to carry it.
As they all made their way out of the house Spike mused the possibility of pissing in the bag.
Buffy looked down at the green and white gingham, knee length dress she was wearing, along with a snowy white apron, ankle socks and shiny black Mary Janes.
She had no doubt that she was dreaming, but she didn't remember ever having a slayer dream that was this weird.
She glanced around the room, taking a good look at her surroundings.
The large room was apparently kitchen, dining room and living room, all in one. The dining table was surrounded by four chairs...three of them very strange indeed. One was large, one medium and one small in height. All three were also wider than the fourth, normal looking chair.
In the living room the same pattern arose, three sofas and one comfy armchair. Buffy tried the largest sofa and felt like she was sinking into it. Yeah, it was soft, but maybe just a little on the excessive side. The medium sofa was perfect, or would have been if hadn't made her feel like she was sitting on something that was so expensive she could cause it to devalue just by being in the same room!
The smallest sofa was way too hard. She wryly thought that a stone sarcophagus would be more comfortable.
Buffy grinned as she looked towards the open doorway that, she assumed, led to the bedrooms. "I hope the bears are friendly," she muttered with a chuckle.
As the perky blonde focused on the doorway that led deeper into the house, the front door opened.
Buffy spun on the spot and assumed a defensive position.
"Yo, Goldster! Lookin' good."
Buffy simply stared at the vision before her.
Xander and Cordelia stood holding hands, dressed fashionably in a matching chocolate brown ensemble. Willow and Oz, who were also holding hands, were sporting casual clothes in green. Most surprisingly, Buffy's mother and Watcher were garbed in elegant royal blue...and holding hands seemed to be contagious.
"Goldilocks?" Giles looked at her with concern.
"Are you okay, honey?" Joyce asked frowning.
‘Goldilocks and the Three Pairs!? Are you kidding me?'
Buffy started laughing. She couldn't help herself.
Buffy wandered around the town that was deceptive in its size. To all outward appearances it seemed tiny, but the maze of streets and variety of shops put the lie to that concept.
The weirdest part about the dream was the familiarity she felt with her surroundings. She knew full well that she'd never visited a place like it before and yet she knew exactly where she was. She knew how to get to the butcher's where she and her two female friends had left her mother. She knew that the crystal shop where she and Cordelia had parted company with Willow was five streets over, to the right of the pastry shop she was just passing, and the dress shop where Cordelia had been left was three streets over in the opposite direction. Technically, she was in the town square, and home - or at least the place she was temporarily calling home - was about five miles north of her present location.
As Buffy mused about the duality of her knowledge, she failed to notice the heavily burdened individual who had unknowingly stepped into her direct path. Boxes rained down around them when the unexpected collision took place.
The instant the muffled ‘bloody hell!' was heard, Buffy recognized the other party and instinct took over. Strangely, it was Buffy instinct rather than slayer instinct.
Buffy lunged for the vampire, grabbing him by the lapels of his duster and unceremoniously hauling him under the nearest shop awning. She then calmly picked up his packages and brought them to him.
"Are you completely nuts or just suicidal?" Buffy hissed. "Sun equals dusty-Spike!"
"You know who I am?" he asked desperately, grabbing her forearms forcefully.
Buffy easily shrugged off his grip. "Kinda hard to miss, what with the, oh, say, multiple instances of me kicking your butt. Although why, exactly, you're in my dream has me of the stumped variety."
Spike narrowed his eyes. "Let me get this straight," he started in an accusatory tone. "This is all a dream? Your dream?"
"Please! Like I'd actually wear gingham at any other time!"
"So, what you're sayin' is that not only are you responsible for the facts that in real life you've put me in a wheelchair and released the bastard that's been doin' the dirty with my woman, but you've also decided to foist your bloody dream world on me? What the hell did I ever do to you that would deserve that?" Spike whined unhappily.
"Hello! Did you miss the ‘tried to kill me' part of our relationship?" Buffy quipped with amusement. "And what are you so pissed about, it's not like you have to play Goldilocks and wear a table cloth as an excuse for a dress! At least you're not stuck in the wheelchair here!"
"I can also bloody well stand in the sun without goin' up like a roman candle," Spike pouted miserably. "But that doesn't make up for the fact that I can't go into gameface, I've got Darla the Undusty playin' the part of my wicked stepmum, tall, dark and brooding and short, bald and irritating as my step-siblings, there's no sign of Dru and I have to answer to the soddin' name of Cinderfella."
Buffy gaped at distressed blond vampire.
"Don't' you bloody dare start laughin', Slayer!"
Buffy bit her lip in an attempt to stop from upsetting Spike any more than he already was. The entire situation had a surreal feel to it. The most astounding aspect was that the Slayer absolutely hated seeing Spike so miserable. It was completely out of character for the vampire she knew. She tried to change the focus of their conversation. "Who's ‘short, bald and irritating'?"
Spike dejectedly pointed to the apothecary. "I've seen him before, but I couldn't tell you where, pet."
Buffy followed his gesture and spotted the man standing next to Angelus. "Oh! My! God! You have got to be kidding me!"
"You know him then?"
"That's Principle Snyder. He's the bane of my school life."
"Want I should off him when I get my feet back, Slayer?" Spike offered sincerely.
Buffy snickered with evil glee at the fantasy. "Better not. They may take my slayer badge away if I let you do that."
Spike snorted in resigned amusement. "Wanna tell me how we get home, Dorothy?"
"It's got all the markings of a slayer dream, Spike, which usually means it'll end when it ends," she quietly informed him. "If it's any consolation, I'm sorry you got dragged into it. But, on the up side, if your part follows the script, Dru might play the part of the, um, in your case, Princess, which means you end up together," she offered hopefully, urged by her strange need to turn his frown upside down.
Spike's features blossomed into a genuine smile of delight. "You just bought yourself, your family and your friends a space on my safe list, luv."
Buffy smiled in bemusement as the hyperactive vampire picked up his packages and bounced off towards the other side of the town square where Darla was imperiously calling for him.
Spike kept his body primed in anticipation for the first sign of his impending visitor.
The Slayer had been right on the money so far. As per the original fairytale the invitation to the ball for the meet and greet with Princess Drusilla had arrived and sent the poof and the troll into a frantic frenzy of preparation. Spike's only regret was that it wasn't possible to take and keep a picture from a dream. The captured image of Angelus in a hot pink vest, bright orange britches and a lavender tail coat would have given the bleached blond years of blackmail material. The vision was fully worth the beating he'd received from Darla for his snickers.
As their carriage moved out of sight Spike remained in the garden - waiting.
Spike spun in the direction of the sound.
"What are you doing?" Buffy asked quietly.
The tiny blonde slayer hadn't really been surprised to discover that not only did Cinderfella's family live next door to hers but that her mother had a soft spot for the ‘poor mistreated boy' and a healthy dislike of the rest of the family.
"Waitin' for my fairy godmother or godfather, as the case may be," Spike responded with a grin. "Dru's throwin' her bloody Ball!"
Spike had absolutely no idea how it had happened. One minute he's chatting to the Slayer and the next he's surrounded by a group of do-gooders intent on turning him into their Ken doll.
The two younger males, introduced to Spike as Xander and Oz, came up with a large pumpkin and eight white mice which the Watcher turned into a carriage with six white horses, a driver and a footman.
The leggy brunette, Cordelia, considered him thoughtfully then proceeded to rattle off a list of instructions so fast that she had the vampire's head almost spinning. He managed to catch phrases like ‘silk brocade', ‘Italian kid leather', ‘basic black with a dash of sapphire' and ‘for God's sake, Goldilocks, do something about the helmet hair'.
The little redhead, Willow, turned out to be a bit of a witch and used her abilities to create the look the forceful brunette was dictating.
The Slayer reached up and lightly tousled his hair before stepping back and smiling in satisfaction.
Spike barely had time to notice the Slayer's double take at something behind him before her mum, Joyce, had spun him around to see his image for the first time in over a hundred and twenty years.
"Dead and taken," Buffy muttered, pouting.
"All the best one's usually are, dear," Joyce commiserated.
"My life so sucks!"
Spike's eyes danced with amusement as he listened to the Slayer's unintended flattery. He couldn't fault her though...ruffled shirt or no, he did look bloody good and at least it was black.
Buffy sat in her comfy chair and thought about the events of the dream so far. She had discovered a strange phenomenon of her dream world - she was unable to retreat into denial. No matter how hard she tried not to, she was forced to face facts and she was a little surprised at how easy it was getting for her.
The first fact that was thrust upon her was the realisation that Angel couldn't possibly have loved her the way she had loved him. She'd always seen him clearly, but had loved him anyway. He was a vampire, and regardless of the soul his demon was always there. Had he ever given her the chance she would have tried to love the demon, too. Well, she would have tried, right up until the time she got to know him; because there was no stretch of the imagination that could convince her that she could ever develop favourable emotions towards that bastard. Angelus was definitely not of the huggly snugly variety.
Once Buffy realised that she could in no way love Angel's demon, she was forced to face the fact that she didn't actually love Angel in the way she had previously believed. She didn't love all of him, and it was pretty clear on meeting Angelus that not all of Angel had loved her either.
So where did that leave her?
If all of Angel didn't love her, and she didn't love all of Angel, then it was pretty clear that he couldn't be the forever love that she dreamed of all her life. That guy was still out there, and the sooner she moved on from the whole Angel equals destiny frame of mind the sooner she could start looking for her true soul mate.
An image of Spike and how he had looked before he left for the Ball had Buffy smiling. Buffy didn't even register the possibility of not having to look too far for her destiny and that maybe finding him was as simple as realising what she was actually looking at. She may not be able to follow her usual urge to swim in Egypt but she apparently had no similar escape from obtuseness.
Buffy briefly thought about her three pairs and hoped they were having a great time at the Ball, too, although she was a little confused by why they had been invited in the first place, since the whole ‘pairs' thing made sure that none of the guys actually fell under the category of ‘single'. Then again, Dru was a big ho in Buffy's opinion, so maybe ‘single' was her euphemism for one at a time?
While Buffy might have, as in totally and completely, believed that Spike deserved better than Drusilla, she honestly hoped he got his happy ending. In her opinion, anyone who could love as completely and loyally as Spike had not only earned their fairytale romance but offered her the belief that she might get one too.
The little blonde slayer was surprised to have her musings interrupted by the arrival of her three pairs and an extremely distressed vampire.
"What happened?" the Slayer demanded.
Joyce ushered Spike to Buffy's seat at the table; Willow and Oz sat with him, the little redhead alternatively patting his hand or rubbing his back while Joyce made some hot chocolate. Giles, Xander and Cordelia pulled Buffy to the far end of the room and in hushed tones explained what had happened.
At some point, after Spike had made his entrance at the Ball and Drusilla had appeared suitably impressed, the fairytale re-enactment had veered horribly off course. Drusilla had outed Spike by loudly calling him Cinderfella. Angelus had heard and come to investigate. Recognising his step brother, Angelus had then regaled the guests with mocking recitations of a number of poems that Spike had apparently written. He had gone on to tell the group that Cinderfella got his name from the massive amount of cinders that were left when his reams of poetry were burnt.
Spike had been left standing, humiliated, as the group laughed at him, while Drusilla giggled and clapped with delight.
The Pairs had come to his rescue as soon as they had seen what was happening and brought him to their Goldilocks.
Buffy couldn't believe it. It made no sense. She didn't believe that the Powers would be deliberately cruel, but she couldn't understand why Spike had been forced to go though such a tortuous experience. Angelus deserved it, but Spike didn't.
Not knowing what else to do, Buffy moved to Spikes side and slipped her arms around his shoulders to give him a gentle hug. As if he had been waiting for her to do just that, Spike twisted in her arms and returned the embrace with a hint of desperation and need for comfort.
A few hours and several cups of hot chocolate later, Buffy and Spike sat in companionable silence in the two seater swing on the back porch of the cottage; each lost in thought. Their hug had changed to the simple act of holding hands.
When Buffy finally felt that Spike was calm enough to handle the subject, she gave his hand a gentle squeeze to gain his attention. "I don't know why the Powers made you go through that tonight, but I think I understand a part of why they brought us here in the first place."
"Why's that then, pet?" Spike asked quietly, his voice still raspy from his earlier emotional breakdown.
"Okay, first I gotta say that I know this isn't all about me. I mean, I believe that it has to be about you, too, otherwise why make you aware of who you are? Why have you not remember your waking unlife if it was just about me? You get what I'm saying?" With his cautious nod, Buffy continued. "My guess is that just like I worked out what they were trying to tell me, maybe you need to work out what they want you to know. But that can't be all there is to it, because if it was, they could have just sent us individual dreams."
"You think that there's something more we need to learn? Something we need to learn together?" Spike queried, getting interested despite his pain.
Buffy nodded eagerly. "Exactly." She bounced with excitement, suddenly feeling close to something - some sort of breakthrough.
"What was your message?" Spike reasoned that if he knew how Buffy had worked out her message, maybe he could work out his own.
"I'd built up this whole forever love fantasy over Angel and I was devastated when I discovered that his demon hated me. I went through all these ‘what's wrong with me' and ‘why doesn't he still love me' thoughts, but really I was asking the wrong questions; focusing on the wrong ideas. I thought that Angel loved me and that I loved Angel, but I didn't realise I needed to take the demon into account. Angel liked to pretend he didn't have one, so he ignored that part of him. Even with the soul, the demon is there; so when Angel said he loved me he wasn't talking about all of him. I loved the soul, but not the rest of him; and the soul was the only part of him that loved me. That's not the kind of love I'd been dreaming of. It's not the type of love that lasts forever. That was my message, but I needed you here to finally have it sink in."
"ME?!" Spike responded in shock.
"You're the one who showed me that a demon can love and that helped me see Angel clearly. Angelus doesn't hate me because he can't love, he just didn't love me because he always hated me. So you see, you helped me let go of an illusion that could have quite possibly got me killed, or, at least, emotionally scar me for life."
Spike looked out into the night while he blinked rapidly in an attempt to hold back the tears that threatened to fall. He was moved by her summation of his effect on her and unnaturally proud that she had given him such credit. She stirred something deep within him that desired to become a better ‘man' and to live up to the image that she had of him.
For the first time in his entire existence, Spike felt like a hero, and he was astounded to find that he liked the feeling. Sitting up a little straighter, he made an attempt to emotionally distance himself from the pain of Drusilla's perfidy and try to see things clearly.
"In my entire existence, you're the first person, other than my mum, to show me genuine kindness. In twenty-four hours you've treated me better than Drusilla did in over a hundred years."
Buffy watched Spike as he verbally worked his way though things. She didn't want to disturb his thought process but she needed to let him know she was listening so she gave his hand an encouraging squeeze.
"Before he got cursed Angelus was always with us, and I knew I was her second choice, but I loved her so much I didn't bloody care. When Angelus left, I had her all too myself. A hundred years. A hundred years of worship and I'm still not enough for her." Spike muttered with sad resignation.
Buffy watched as he tilted his head to the side and seemed lost in concentration. His brow creased and his eyes narrowed. The tiny blonde felt a rush of excitement as her anticipation built. He was doing it. He was making the internal connections that the Powers wanted him to make. She knew it - she just didn't know how she knew it.
Image after image flashed through Spike's mind as his epiphany hit home. His eyes widened in shocked realisation. "She's not the one," he gasped in astonishment. "That's what they're tryin' to tell me, Slayer."
Spike turned to face Buffy, his features etched with wonder. "If she can't love me in a fairytale; if she can't choose me here - then she never will."
The blond vampire couldn't believe the freedom he felt when the realisation hit him. He surged to his feet, pulling his companion with him. His excitement escalated as another emotional chain fell from his body. "Not because I'm not enough demon for her but because I'm not Angelus."
"No, you're not," Buffy agreed wholeheartedly. "You're nothing like Angelus."
"But, pet, don't you see...I don't want to be. I don't want to be anything like him. For the woman I love, I'd be willing to change, to become what she wanted...needed. Dru wants Angelus, I don't want to be like Angelus and that can only mean one thing."
"You don't love Dru," Buffy gasped.
"She's not the one," he agreed. Turning to his audience, Spike gripped Buffy's upper arms firmly but gently as his excitement rose. "It's got nothin' to do with me not being good enough and everything to do with her loving him."
Spike felt it like a physical release when the last chains of his despondency over his feelings of inadequacy released their grip on him. With a shout of joy, the vampire spontaneously pulled the Slayer to him and kissed her soundly on the lips.
A bolt of electrical energy surged through both blondes the instant their lips touched, momentarily startling the pair into breaking the connection. Their eyes locked as their sudden awareness of each other blossomed.
Both felt the magnetic pull of their dawning attraction and their heads slowly gravitated closer. As their lips touched in hesitant exploration, each wondered if this was why the Powers had brought them together. With the deepening of the kiss the spark of hope ignited and the kernel of love bloomed.
Buffy stretched languidly, still luxuriating in the sensual pleasures that her dream had inspired, and reached for Spike.
The cold emptiness beside her hit her like a physical blow. Loss; confusion; disappointment; emotions assaulted her as the realization that it had all been a dream dawned with aching certainty.
Images of their intimate union flashed through her mind with unrelenting insistence, and she was struck with the unfairness of their separation. It felt like a limb had been removed - like half of her was missing.
The tinkle of something metallic hitting the floor grabbed her attention and she automatically looked to see when had made the noise.
On the floor at the foot of her bed lay the gold inlay jockstrap that had been part of the outfit that Willow had created for Spike. The last time Buffy had seen it was in her dream, when she helped him remove it. Her slayer dream.
With determination born of desperation, Buffy dressed quickly. She had a vampire to retrieve.
Buffy felt hope bloom as she raced towards the factory. Her mom had retained her part in the dream. Buffy silently prayed that Spike had too.
She smiled as she remembered the conversation she'd shared with her mother. The Summers matriarch had more than encouraged her daughter, she had all but demanded the tiny blonde go and collect her guy.
The Slayer moved with the precision of the eternal elements, silently dusting the three sentries before entering the building. She carefully evaded detection as she allowed her inner Spikedar to lead her to the vamp of her dreams.
"You're walking," she gasped in shock at her first view of the vampire in question.
"I'm packin'," he corrected with a grin.
"You're leaving?" Buffy whispered; her heart breaking. "Where are you going?"
Using vamp speed, Spike instantly reached her side and gently gripped her upper arms as he leaned in to press his forehead to hers. "Wherever my Goldilocks wants me," he whispered tenderly.
Buffy's smile lit up the room.
"SPIKE!!!!" Angelus' impatient roar echoed through the factory.
The blond vampire instantly released his slayer and grabbed his bag. Holding out his hand to Buffy he silently urged her to move. "My guess is that the poofter woke up with his memories of the dream. That'd be our cue to scarper, pet."
Buffy didn't need to be told twice. She grabbed his hand and together they dashed through the door, Spike leading the way to his DeSoto.
"Buckle up, kitten, this might be a little rough," Spike directed as he fired up the powerful engine and sent the car barrelling through the main bay's wooden doors.
Spike basked in the acceptance of the group surrounding him. Joyce and Giles treated him like a son. Willow, Oz, Cordelia and Xander like a brother.
"Only Buffy could dream up something as lame as ‘Goldilocks and the Three Pairs'," Xander joked lightly.
Spike grabbed his girl and swept her into a deep dip. "Four Pairs," he announced smugly as he kissed the giggling blonde.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY KARYN.