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The 100% True Story of How Buffy and Mr. Gordo Fixed Everything (and Only Broke a Few Things)

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The five-year-old staring Willow down—hands on her hips, small brow furrowed, look somehow a blend of disappointment and anger—was the perfect mini-me for Buffy.

Which made sense, because she was Buffy.

Just five years old.

And tiny.


Because Buffy was already tiny.

God, was this hyperventilating? Is that what this was? Willow wasn’t sure. Maybe she was panicking. Or hysterics. Could you do all three at once? That sounded like it could be right.

The bell for the Magic Box’s door jingled, and a babble of voices walked in, a babble Willow couldn’t take in between the panicking and the death glare pinning her where she stood.

She had turned Buffy into a child.

Which was admittedly very cool, but bad!

But it wasn’t her fault! She didn’t mean to!

Willow opened her mouth, about to protest her innocence to those accusing green eyes when, “Holy child, Batman! Who’s the kid?”

She had just wanted Buffy to be happy again. Willow knew she had pulled her friend out of heaven, knew Buffy was miserable, knew because a demon had gotten Buffy to sing her heart out rather than Buffy trusting her friends to tell them the truth. And that hurt. A lot. But it wasn’t about her right now; it was about Buffy and doing what was best for Buffy and making her happy again. So when she found a spell that would give someone a childlike joy, she knew immediately that she had to try it. For Buffy’s sake. Except, well . . .

“You really should have known something like this would happen. All your spells go wrong.” Anya’s voice was coolly indifferent as she thumbed through a wedding magazine. Willow glared in offence at her, but Tara and Xander didn’t even look away from Buffy, who had spent Willow’s entire explanation staring mistrustfully at the people around her from the safety of Dawn’s side. Dawn, who had freaked out about being the older sister but who had glowed with pride that she was the only one Buffy seemed to want to have anything to do with.

“Do you know how to turn her back?” Tara’s voice was gentle, breaking the tension in the room, but there was an undercurrent in it that Willow hadn’t noticed before. She frowned slightly before shaking the thought off. “No, I don’t.” Dawn huffed off to her left, and she turned to the girl. “But I will! We’ll research it, and Buffy’ll be back to normal in no time!”

Dawn and Buffy gave her identical looks that said they didn’t have much confidence in her reassurances.

This time it was Xander who broke the awkward tension. “But until then, we’ll just have the cutest little Buffy! And won’t that be fun?” He held out his arms to the girl and walked toward her, clearly meaning to scoop her up, but Buffy walked decisively behind Dawn and wrapped her arms around Dawn’s legs. “Awww, Buff, don’t be like that!”

Dawn shot Xander a withering glare. “If she doesn’t want you touching her, you shouldn’t try to touch her. That’s like, basic rules of politeness.”

“Dawnie,” Xander’s voice came out with the exaggerated patience of a man who thought he was very wise and was graciously sharing his wisdom with someone younger and more ignorant than he. It was kind of . . . condescending. Willow didn’t talk to Dawn like that. Right? She definitely had more respect for other people. “We’re friends. It’s fine.”

“Yeah? Then as your friend, you should respect her wishes and not try and touch her when she doesn’t want you to. Just because she’s a kid doesn’t mean you get to ignore what she wants. You also don’t get to ignore what she wants because she’s your friend. If you care about her, you should listen to what she wants.”

Silence fell heavily again in The Magic Box, and this time, no one seemed willing to break it. Willow for sure wasn’t ready to break it and have both sisters’ glares directed at her again. Also, there were a few things in what Dawn had just said that hit . . . uncomfortably close to home, and Willow really didn’t want to think about them right now. Because really, she was just trying to help Buffy, but she couldn’t do what Buffy wanted if Buffy wouldn’t tell her what she wanted, so she would just have to keep trying. Which was totally different from trying to pick up a kid without the kid’s consent.

Buffy kept pressing herself into Dawn’s legs, and Dawn kept glaring defiantly at the Scoobies, standing between her sister and the people who dragged her out of heaven. It was awkward and uncomfortable, and if anyone had asked Willow—which no one was, of course, because they were all too busy being upset with her which, again, not fair as it really wasn’t her fault—she would have said that nothing could have made it worse.

Which was, of course, when Spike walked in.

Spike didn’t really have any expectations for how his evening would go when he went to The Magic Box. Things could always go sideways with the Slayer. Actually, they almost always did, especially since she kissed him and then fled any time he tried to figure out what that kiss had meant. But his plan was to see if maybe Buffy wanted to patrol, see if she needed to get away from her bleedin’ friends. Now that they knew they had pulled her out of heaven, he wanted to think that maybe they would let her heal and come back at her own pace, but he didn’t have a lot of faith in the idiots and he wanted to keep an eye on the girl, make sure she didn’t do anything rash.

Maybe tonight would be the night she would want to talk about that kiss.

Although, based upon the green eyes staring fearlessly into his from two feet lower to the ground than usual, body clearly radiating out signals of “Slayer” and “Buffy” to him despite the fact that she was now a child, he clearly should have been keeping an eye on her friends rather than her.

“What the—” Sodding hell, was she an actual kid or just Buffy in a smaller body? Could he swear in front of her? “What’s going on here?”

“None of your concern, Evil Dead.”

“The Slayer’s pint-sized!”

He’d never seen it on her before, but Dawn clearly had the same protective glare both Joyce and Buffy had, and she was training it on Xander and Willow with equal force even while she answered Spike. “Willow did a spell, it backfired, and now Buffy’s five years old until they can figure out how to undo it.”

“Ahh, well then. Shouldn’t you all be hitting the books rather than standing around staring at each other like a bunch of gits?”

Xander all but snarled at him. “And what’ll you be doing? Going out to drink and carouse with all your demon buddies because Buffy isn’t around to keep you in line?”

Spike finally turned his attention away from the Summers girls to look incredulously at the small, mean-minded boy standing in front of him. “The Slayer’s pint-sized, isn’t she? I’ll be going out to patrol; keep the beasties down.”

The boy’s mouth goldfished, clearly trying to think up a suitable comeback to that when Buffy spoke up: “Dawnie? I’m tired. I wanna go home.”

Her voice was young, small but trying desperately hard not to be small. He could hear the tiredness in it, hear the hint of fear and the fact that she was clearly holding back tears. Post-resurrection, Buffy already brought out all of his protective instincts, but this bitty Buffy trying so hard to be brave and trembling with the effort of it magnified those instincts by a thousand. Chip or no chip, he was going to rip Red’s head off for this one.

“Right! It’s late. Of course you’re tired, Buffy.” Dawn glanced quickly around the room before nodding decisively. “I’ll take you home now. They can stay here and fix this.”

Willow finally spoke up. “Dawn, you shouldn’t walk her home alone. We can come with you; make sure you’re both safe.”

“No!” Buffy’s voice had gone from small and sad to loud and demanding. “Don’t want you all! Just Dawn!"

Dawn’s face flashed with pride and terror, and Tara smoothly stepped up to the plate: “Buffy, you need to take an adult with you. We don’t all need to come, but one of us needs to be with you. Dawn’s a great sister, but she’s not yet ready to be in charge of you until we can get you back to normal. So which of us would you like to come with you?”

Buffy looked doubtfully around the room of concerned faces, clearly unimpressed with her choices for grown-ups. Until her eyes met his.

“Spike. Spike can come with us.”

Spike couldn’t have guessed that she’d choose him, but he could definitely have predicted the explosion from Xander and Willow. Anya didn’t care, couldn’t be bothered even to set down her girly magazine, and Tara seemed willing to respect Buffy’s wishes, but Willow began her flustered hen routine while Xander bellowed about evil undeads and soulless vampires and how you can’t trust them.

Adult Buffy would have backtracked under that pressure. He loved the girl, but she couldn’t stand up to their disapproval, couldn’t bear to upset them. But this five-year-old Buffy who was up past her bedtime and had quickly moved from scared and overwhelmed to tired and cranky? She stomped past both of her friends, stopping only long enough to kick Xander hard in the shins, a move that brought the man four times Buffy’s current size to the ground, and then stood at the door, waiting for Spike and Dawn to take her home.

It took them a bit longer to actually get out the door than it took Buffy to get to it. Xander was furious Buffy wanted Spike and indignant that Tara, Anya, and Dawn would go along with what she wanted. He was also offended that Buffy would use her Slayer strength on him. As always, he made his displeasure loudly known. Spike was prepared to settle in for the two hours the argument would take—Xander on one side, Tara and Dawn on the other, Willow waffling in the middle but leaning toward “Spike is terrible and must be stopped,” Anya bored off to the side—but he hadn’t counted on bitty Buffy. When her increasingly loud announcements that she wanted Spike were ignored, Buffy started up a high-pitched scream until Xander threw up his hands and yelled that they could take Spike if they wanted to.

While he appreciated the chit standing up for him, Spike was convinced his ears would never be the same again. He thought the Niblet could get high-pitched; she had nothing on the set of lungs that this bitty Buffy had.

They were two blocks away from the Magic Shop when the petulance that was powering Buffy began to noticeably flag. She began stumbling and falling behind their pace. Realizing she couldn’t make it much farther, Spike squatted on his haunches to look at her. “Slayer? Would you like me to carry you?”

The girl looked at the long ribbon of sidewalk in front of him, glanced at Dawn, looked back at him, and then looked back at the sidewalk again before looking down. “Yes, please.”

He scooped her up gently, holding the precious slight weight of her close and letting her wrap her arms around his neck. He and Dawn continued to walk in silence, and before another block had passed Spike realized that Buffy was asleep in his arms.

When they got to the house, Dawn led Spike up to Buffy’s bedroom and stood by his side while he untangled Buffy’s arms from around his neck and gently set her on the bed.

“Can you stay with her while I find something else for her to wear?”

Spike nodded and sat next to Buffy, gently stroking her hair while Dawn darted out to her own room. He thought of tiny Buffy, hiding behind her sister’s legs, her face bright red as she screamed to make her wishes heard. He thought of Buffy from a few days ago, singing and dancing out her pain before kissing him frantically, the kiss of a drowning woman desperate for any lifeline. “Oh, love, they just don’t let you rest, do they?”

He slipped out of the room when Dawn came back holding a T-shirt that looked too small for Dawn but large enough to swamp Buffy. He then went downstairs and waited for Dawn to crash.

Which began the second she joined him in the living room.

“Spike. I can’t do this.” Dawn cried. “I can’t be the big sister. I can’t be—I can’t be in charge of Buffy!”

“Yes, you can. You’ve done good so far, yeah? Got her all tucked into her beddy-by, into some pajamas rather than just her clothes shrunk down to fit her, got her away from everyone she didn’t want to be with and where she needed to be. You’re doin’ great, Bit.”

“But I can’t be the adult! And she doesn’t want any of the other adults! And what if this isn’t just for a few hours? What if she’s like this for days? Weeks? What if this is permanent?”

Spike grabbed Dawn and pulled her close. “Breathe, Niblet. Just breathe. It’ll be fine. It won’t be permanent, and she’ll come around on the others. Maybe not Xander, but Tara, yeah. And until then, I’ll help. Bitty Buffy seems to like me more than regular Buffy does. We’ll be just fine.”

And even if bitty Buffy woke up tomorrow and decided she didn’t like him, he’d still take care of her and Dawn. He always took care of his girls.

She slipped quietly down the stairs; she and Mr. Gordo had to get away from the big, dark room, and Mr. Gordo had seen flashes of light coming from down the stairs. He was a very smart pig. The flashes of light led her to Spike, sitting on the couch in front of the television and turning to look at her.

“Buffy? What are you doin’ up?”

She stared at the ground, clutching Mr. Gordo tight in her arms. “Bad dream.”

“Oh. Umm. Can I get you something? Water? Night light? A knife to stab the monsters with?”

She looked at him, eyes dark with her fears yet still broadcasting how unimpressed she was with his suggestions. Mr. Gordo was also unimpressed; he and Buffy weren’t big enough to use knives anymore; if Mommy were here, she would have told Spike that. However, Spike was still awake and safe, even though he didn’t know what was appropriate for little kids and their pigs. So she walked up to him, crawled into the space available on his right side, and cuddled into him, tiny feet kicking his thigh and pointy elbow getting him right in the kidney as she got comfortable. “Stay.”

Spike grabbed the blanket off the corner of the couch and wrapped it around her. Ten minutes later, Buffy was asleep to the sounds of a Spanish-dubbed Leave It to Beaver episode and the knowledge that the monsters couldn’t get her or Mr. Gordo any more.

They had their own monster to keep them safe.


“Wha—?” Spike jolted awake. He could feel his heart attempting to beat again so it could immediately go into cardiac arrest.

Green eyes stared into his. “It’s morning time!”

The eyes disappeared in favor of small hands grabbing one of his. “It’s time to play!”

Spike groaned and thumped his head against the back of the couch, where he had apparently fallen asleep sometime early in the morning. “I know it’s morning, kitten. But morning is time for all good li’l vampires to sleep, not play.”

“But you’re not a good vampire. You’re an evil vampire. That means you can play.”

Spike cracked an eye open to see the hands on hips and stubborn chin tilt that marked Buffy when she felt righteous and determined in her calling. Spike groaned again, knowing that if the bitty Buffy had even half the determination of adult Buffy when giving that look, there was no way he was getting any more rest.

“Come on, Spike.”

“Right, right, I’m up. What’re we playin’?”

“Vampires and slayers! I’m the vampire, you’re the Slayer, and I’m gonna kill you!”

Buffy leapt for his legs, and between the stress and the early morning wake-up call, Spike could feel himself losing his center of gravity as he fell sideways. Oh, bollocks.

Mom and Buffy had told Dawn for years that she could sleep through anything, and Dawn had always sassed back that it was a good thing she could what with Buffy coming in and out at all hours. The morning after a kid-version of Buffy had been thrust into her care was no different than normal. She stumbled out of her room sometime after nine and crossed the hall to check on Buffy. Who wasn’t there. Dawn blinked a few times, panic slowly pulling her brain out of the sleep-fog and making her aware of the growling and high-pitched screeching coming from the living room.

Dawn flew down the stairs, visions of demons attacking her sister and her being too heavy a sleeper to save her nipping at her heels. Visions that immediately fled when she saw Spike spinning in circles in the middle of the living room as he tried to grab Buffy off his shoulder where it looked like she was trying to . . . bite his neck?

“What are you two doing?”

The answers came at her at the same time: “I’m a vampire!” “Niblet, get her off me.” “Gotta kill the Slayer!” “Niblet, I swear I’ll rip your head off if you don’t—” “Rawr!”

Dawn hurried up to them and snagged Buffy around her stomach. “Buffy! What are you doing?”

“I told you, Dawnie! We’re playin’ vampires and slayers. Spike’s the Slayer, so I gotta kill him.”

Dawn repressed her laughter at Buffy’s wide-eyed earnestness and Spike’s glower. “And how long have you been trying to kill the Slayer?”

“Two. Hours. Bit. And this vampire needs his breakfast.” Spike stomped off to the kitchen, leaving Buffy with Dawn.

“Oooh, can this vampire have her breakfast?”

“Uh, yeah, of course, Buffy. What do you want to eat?”

Buffy looked at her like she was an idiot. “Dawnie, everyone knows vampires eat blood.”

“Uh, right. But, um, I think we only have enough blood for Spike. So do you think Vampire Buffy can eat cereal instead? Maybe Lucky Charms?”

Dawn had followed Spike into the kitchen, carrying Buffy the entire way—which so wasn’t fair because she didn’t have any super strength and Buffy, while tiny, was heavy—and Buffy could see Spike pouring his blood into a mug. She looked between the mug and the box of Lucky Charms that Dawn had left out on the counter yesterday morning. “I think I’m a marshmallow vampire. Like Count Chocula.”

Spike snorted, while Dawn sighed in relief. “Right. Marshmallow vampire. You go sit at the table, and I’ll get your cereal ready.”

Breakfast was a quiet affair, with Buffy content to devour her cereal after offering the first few bites to Mr. Gordo. It wasn’t until after breakfast that the little tyrant put in another appearance: “We’re gonna play house. I’ll be the mommy, and Dawnie will be the baby, and Spike can be the daddy.”

Spike looked at her for a moment before sighing. “Right. House. I can play house.” That’s all he had done some weeks when Dru was heavy in her visions and focusing all her attention on her dolls. Only those playtimes were a lot more painful than anything Buffy could ever think up. Probably. Maybe. Maybe he needed to look into getting some unlife insurance if the Slayer stayed tiny much longer. “What should I do?”

“You need to leave, because that’s what daddies do, and mommies stay with the babies and drink special juice babies can’t have.”

He blinked a few times, before turning to Dawn. “Please tell me that Joyce was a stay-at-home mum when you were kids.”

Dawn shook her head. “No, she wasn’t.”

“Right then. If your dad ever gets his parental arse in gear and calls again, let him know that if he ever steps foot in this town I’m gonna rip his head off.”

“Spike! You’re supposed to leave!”

Spike squatted down so he could be eye-level with the tiny angel running and ruining and breaking and healing his life. “I’m gonna go away now, since that’s the rules, but Buffy, I never leave. Nothin’ could keep me away from you and the Bit, you hear me? I’ll be back. Evil vampire, remember? Don’t rightly like to do what I’m s’posed to.” He stood and turned to Dawn. “I’ll be in the basement gettin’ some kip. Holler if anything happens, and I’ll come runnin’.” He walked toward the stairs, but then paused. “Unless she’s playin’ vamps and slayers again. Leave me out of that.”

The next few hours were gloriously quiet once Spike started a load of laundry that muffled all the noises coming from upstairs.

The next morning, the witches still hadn’t come back. Dawn and Spike were talking about it in the weird hours after breakfast and before lunch. Buffy had woken Spike up bright and early again, only this time it was because the floor was lava and they had to hop between the furniture in an effort to escape it. Spike hoped that when Buffy was big again, she wouldn’t be too upset about the rocking chair that would rock no more. Then Dawn had come downstairs and insisted they all eat breakfast, and now Buffy was off having a serious conversation with Mr. Gordo at the table while Dawn and Spike talked in the kitchen, worried about what they were going to do with one small yet still super powered Slayer and a Hellmouth that never quit.

“I can go on patrols,” Spike said. “Keep the nasties down until Buffy’s an adult again. Done it enough times over the summer.”

“And leave us alone?” Dawn panicked. “Me, by myself, in charge of Buffy? Who broke the oak chair our great-grandfather carved?”

Spike winced. Buffy probably would be upset about the chair’s untimely demise then. “’F the witches aren’t back by tonight, we’ll call someone to come stay with you.”

“Who?” Dawn practically screeched. “Buffy didn’t want to have anything to do with anyone we would call!”

“Bit, that was two days ago. Late at that. Buffy was tired. I bet we could call Tara up, and Buffy’d be right chuffed to see the girl.”

Dawn gave him an eye roll straight out of the Buffy Book of Bratitude: “Except you know if we call Tara that Willow will come too.”

“Well, yeah, but—”

Spike wasn’t able to even start his rejoinder to that one before “Don’t want Willow” interrupted him from the table. Apparently, the conversation with Mr. Gordo wasn’t as all-consuming as he had thought.

Spike looked over at Dawn before walking to the table to sit down. “Why not, pet?”

“She plays mean games, makes people do what they don’t want to do. I don’t want to play with her any more.”

Well, yeah, he could see where the chit was coming from on that one.

“What about Xander?” Spike knew he was grasping at straws, but the Hellmouth needed to be patrolled and Dawn couldn’t be left in charge of Buffy by herself. “Don’t you want to see him?”

Buffy shook her head emphatically and grabbed Mr. Gordo from the chair he had been reclining in to hold him tightly against her chest. “Don’t like Xander. He says mean things and one time he turned into a big animal and tried to touch me the way daddies touch mommies and he didn’t listen when I said no and then he lied about it. He’s a liar and a, a meany-head.”

Spike always had the ability to be very still. Corpses don’t move—no breath, no blinking, no unconscious little muscle ticks reminding you you’re still alive. He, like any other vampire, could be still; he just generally eschewed that ability in favor of always being on the move. But when he heard what Buffy had to say about Xander, he froze. The edges of his vision went black as his entire being focused on the words that had come out of Buffy’s mouth, on “he tried to touch me” and “he didn’t listen when I said no.” “Bit,” he ground out, trying to focus on anything that would keep him from going out and finding Xander and seeing how much pain he could inflict before the chip put him out of commission, “do you know what she’s talking about?”

Dawn looked frantically between Buffy and the vampire who had unconsciously gone into game face. “I don’t think so? No?”

Buffy frowned up at her sister. “What’re those cats that laugh? From the lion movie that we don’t watch ’cause it’s sad.”

“What lion mo—The Lion King? Do you mean the hyenas?”

“Right. That. Xander got schwooped up by a heeny-na.”

Dawn’s eyes went big. “Hyena spirit. Our first year here. A bunch of kids got possessed by hyena spirits at the zoo. They ate the principal.”

“Xander found me,” the little girl said, holding tight to her friend. “I had to lock him up.”

Spike growled. “We can do a lot more than lock him up.”

Buffy tilted her head curiously. “Like put worms in his doughnuts?”

“I was thinkin’ more along the lines of rippin’ his head off, but yeah, that could work.”

“Okay! I’m gonna go find some worms!” At that, a streak of blonde and her fuzzy pink shadow flashed out of the house and into the backyard.

Silence reigned for a moment. “Niblet, when Big Sis gets to be Big Sis again, what do you say we kidnap her, get her away from her bleedin’ friends?”

Dawn’s wide, horrified eyes met his. “Yeah, that might be a good idea.”

Spike didn’t patrol that night. Or the next one. Part of him knew that the town would be rotten with fledges by now, by the rest of him didn’t dare leave his girls alone even for an hour or two. What would Dawn and Buffy do if any demons learned Buffy was pint-sized and prime for the picking? Especially since baby Buffy didn’t have anything like a healthy sense of fear or an understanding of her own limits, throwing herself at anything she wanted or was in her way with abandon and stopping only when she got what she wanted or turned her focus to something new at the suggestion of her porcine companion.

(The couch had a decided downward slant on one end now, and several newel posts on the stair banister were cracked from when Buffy had pretended to be an owl leaping from her perch onto any unsuspecting prey. Spike hoped Buffy either didn’t notice the changes to her house or didn’t mind when she came back to herself.)

But now, the fourth evening after Willow had performed her little magic trick on Buffy, the Scoobies had finally shown. Tara looked worn and drawn, as if she hadn’t been sleeping much and had also been in the middle of a lover’s tiff in addition to doing research to fix Buffy. Willow looked tired but not humbled. Anya, as always, looked vaguely bored, and Xander was the same belligerent git as always. He had strode into the living room and immediately began accusing Spike of anything that crossed his mind. Spike had taken refuge in considering all the ways he could have Xander killed that wouldn’t set off his chip, until Willow finally broke into Xander’s rant to tell what they had learned in their days of research.

Which was, basically, that none of the books they had held a way to undo the spell.

Apparently, sometime around day two, the other three had finally convinced Willow she had to call Giles in England and ask for his help. Willow looked sheepish at that, but it was unclear whether it was from having to lower herself to ask for help or due to the dressing-down the Watcher had hopefully given her at her latest mistake, one that had, again, impacted and harmed people around her but not herself. After he had been made aware of the situation, the Watcher’d consulted his books, and now they finally had a solution, albeit one that required a few ingredients that wouldn’t arrive until tomorrow.

It was when Dawn asked if they were really sure this would fix Buffy that things got really tense, with protestations of innocence and sarcastic comments and exclamations that they were just doing this for Buffy flying everywhere. It was a bit much for anyone to handle, let alone a kid who was actually an adult who had recently been pulled from heaven and was depressed as hell over it, so Spike wasn’t surprised when Buffy stood up in the middle of all that.

“I need quiet time.” As with all her announcements since becoming pint-sized, this one came from Buffy with all the confidence that the adult version of herself had lost over time. The Scoobies all looked at her in shock, like they couldn’t imagine why she wouldn’t want to stick around for all their self-righteous prattling.

Except, of course, for Tara, who took it in stride. “You can go up to your room if you need quiet time.”

Buffy nodded firmly and then wavered. Spike didn’t know whether it was being alone or being in her room that was frightening her, but the three nights she had been pint-sized hadn’t seen her sleep through the night in her room once even after he had scrounged up a nightlight for her; instead, she always snuck down in the dark to fall asleep next to him. Tara, bright lady that she was, seemed to notice Buffy’s reticence: “Can I come with you? I think I could also use some quiet time.”

Buffy nodded gratefully and led the way up to her room like the royalty she was.

Spike didn’t know when he and the Bit had gotten good at unspoken communication in regards to Buffy—probably sometime their second evening of having a tiny Buffy when they had had to figure out how to get her into the tub after she had smeared spaghetti sauce all over herself—but the brief eye contact crystallized their plan: she would listen to the Scoobies for anything that might come up concerning Buffy, including how exactly they were going to break this spell, and he would listen to Tara and Buffy. Not that he didn’t trust Tara, but if Buffy tried to escape, her Slayer strength and devious ingenuity would make it difficult for the witch to hold her.

The slight noises coming from the upstairs indicated that they had settled on the bed.

“This quiet time, it’s nice.”

“Yeah,” came Buffy’s little voice.

“Can you tell me why you needed quiet time?”

There was silence from the upstairs for a moment, and then, “Don’t like people talking about me like I’m not there. Don’t like them saying there’s something wrong with me they need to fix.”

“That makes sense, but Buffy, sweetie, there is something wrong with you right now.”

“I know that.” Spike could almost see the exact look of “no, duh,” that had to be painting her face right now. “But they do that all the time anymore. Even when I’m Big Buffy. It makes Big Buffy hurt. And blue. It makes Big Buffy blue.”

“Yeah? And how does Big Buffy normally feel?”

Buffy’s voice was small when she spoke, and Spike had to strain to hear her: “Gray. Big Buffy feels gray.”

“Is that all Big Buffy feels?”

“Sometimes she feels blue. Sometimes red. But usually just gray.”

The quiet fell again, probably Tara trying to figure out what to say next, before Buffy spoke up again: “Big Buffy kissed Spike. She didn’t feel gray then. She felt . . . she felt pink and orange and yellow. It was nice.” Then, voice strong again: “And kind of ooky. Adults are gross. Kissing’s gross.”

Tara giggled at that. “Yeah, kissing can be kind of gross, hunh? But also nice, when adults want to do that.”

A tiny, unbelieving sniff was the response to that.

“Umm, d-do you think Big Buffy will want to kiss Spike more since it makes her feel, umm, pink and orange and yellow?”

“She can’t kiss him again. Xander and Willow will be mad.”

“Why does it matter what Xander and Willow think?” Spike could kiss the witch for that comment.

“They’re her friends. She wants them to be happy.”

“Isn’t it more important that she does what makes Buffy happy? So long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, why should Xander and Willow care?”

“They’ll try to fix her again.”

“Well, if it’s what she wants, I can talk to Willow and tell her to leave Buffy alone.”

It was quiet again for a moment, as if Buffy didn’t know what to say to that. She probably didn’t; for all that she had Buffy’s memories, she was only five now. But then . . . “She also can’t kiss him again because Big Buffy’s scared.”

“What—what is she scared of?

“People who tell Buffy they love her leave. Daddy, Angel, Riley, Mommy, Gilesie. If Spike loves Buffy, he’ll leave Buffy. Then Buffy will be all alone and gray.”

And if hearing that wasn’t a kick in the balls. The room he was sitting in with the arguing Scoobies and worried Dawn had completely disappeared from his perception; all Spike could focus on was a conversation happening above his head and how of course his girl was pushing him away when she was an adult because of that kiss, of course it wasn’t about him at all but about how everyone she had ever relied on and loved had left her, and so in her head, if she didn’t allow herself to rely on him or love him then he wouldn’t leave.

“I d-don’t think Spike would leave. He stayed all summer while you, while you were gone, Buffy.”

“People like Buffy when she’s not around. That’s why they leave. They don’t want to play with her any more, and they leave so they can say they still like her.”

It was quiet again, for all that the Scoobies were still yammering on, because, well, how the fuck did anyone respond to that? To a kid saying people only like her when they’re away from her? To the fact that the adult version of this kid believed that on some level? Tara’s silence seemed to indicate that she didn’t have an idea, but he hoped at the least the girl was giving his girl a hug. She needed it.

“Tara, I’m bored. Can I go play again?” Or maybe she needed to work off some more energy. Girl was like the soddin’ Energizer Bunny, and wouldn’t that comparison terrify Anya.

“S-sure, Buffy.”

“Yay! I wanna play vampires and slayers!” She clattered back down the stairs before even vampire speed could rescue Spike.

“Who wants to play with me?” The queen stood on the bottom step, her fluffy pink advisor at her side, and surveyed the people in the living room.

“I’d love to play with you, Buffy.”

Xander stood up, all ease and charm. Buffy looked at him skeptically, then nodded.

“What are we playing then? Tag? Hide and seek?”

“Vampires and slayers.”

Xander’s face lit up. “Oh ho! Are we the slayers? Going to dust annoying, bleach-blond vampires?”

“’Snot how this game is played, Harris,” Spike said, all the while keeping his eyes on the girl at the bottom of the stairs and the witch coming down them behind her, a witch who somehow looked even more conflicted than when she had first showed up at the house.

“Shut up, Spike.”

“Oooh, that’s a bad word.” Buffy’s voice hit a tattling, sing-song edge. Spike tried to keep his glee from broadcasting all over his face. “You’re a bad slayer. And do you know what happens to bad slayers?”

Xander looked at Buffy. “What happens?”

“They get eaten by vampires!” At that, she flung herself at him, teeth and clawed fingers first. The man collapsed like a sack of potatoes with a frightened shout, and Spike tried hard not to cry from all his laughing. But, well, he was still evil so, “Remember, Vampire Buffy, that slayer isn’t very strong. You need to be gentle as you kill him for a nummy treat.”

“Okay, Spike!”

Buffy and Mr. Gordo had slipped downstairs to stay with Spike again. It was still scary and dark in their room, and Spike kept away the nightmares.

Not that Mr. Gordo had nightmares, of course. He was too brave to have them. But if Buffy had them then he had to stay awake to comfort her, and if he was awake all night then he couldn’t get his sleep, and Mommy had once told Buffy how important it was that pigs get their sleep. So they needed to go see Spike, who stayed awake all night anyway and would keep them safe.

Besides, Buffy and Mr. Gordo had another worry tonight that they needed to talk with an adult about.

“Buffy? That you, kitten?”

Of course, their confidante was awfully confused about whether Buffy was a girl or a kitten, which was not a good thing for an adult to be. “I’m not a kitten; I’m a girl. And Mr. Gordo is a pig.”

Spike rubbed his face. “Right. Know that, don’t I? ’S just a pet na—a nickname. You know. Like you call Dawn ‘Dawnie.’”

Buffy and Mr. Gordo conferred for a moment. “Okay then. You can call me ‘kitten.’ But you have to find a different name for Mr. Gordo, because he is,” she looked to Mr. Gordo for clarification on the long word, “un-com-for-ta-ble with that name.”

“What would he like to be called then, kitten?”

Buffy and Mr. Gordo conferred again. “Mr. Gordo.”

Spike smiled at them. “That’s not a nickname, though. That’s just his name.”

“Mr. Gordo says he isn’t good at thinking up nicknames and that that is your job and until you think up one good enough for a brave and smart pig like him, you should just call him Mr. Gordo.”

“I’ll do that, pet, Mr. Gordo. Now, why have you two come down to visit me? You’re a bit young to be wantin’ to catch up on Letterman.”

Buffy and Mr. Gordo crawled up on the couch so they could look Spike in the eyes. This was serious, and they couldn’t be looking up at him for it. “Willow wants to do a spell. Will it hurt us?”

“Ah. I see. No, pet. I’ll keep an eye on the witch the entire time, yeah? I don’t know much about magic, but I know enough to know how things are supposed to work and when they seem like they’re going off the rails. Tara will be there too. We’ll keep you safe.”

That was one concern, but Mr. Gordo had another one that he had shared with Buffy. “And when I’m big again, will I be sad again? Big Buffy doesn’t like being sad. Mr. Gordo doesn’t like it when Buffy’s sad, but he can’t do anything to help when Buffy’s big and sad, only when she’s little and sad.”

Spike gently rubbed one of Mr. Gordo’s ears. Mr. Gordo had given Spike permission to touch his head or his trotters after he had made macaroni and cheese for dinner, their favorite, and Spike had properly understood that this was an honor. “Mr. Gordo takes good care of you, doesn’t he?”

“Of course he does,” Buffy sniffed. “He is a very caring pig.”

“He is. He’s also your friend, yeah?”

Buffy looked warily at Spike. This felt a bit like a trap, like when Mommy used to ask her about whether she had brushed her teeth, but Buffy had brushed her teeth so she didn’t know what the trap might be. “He’s my best friend.”

“Best friend. Right. And best friends take care of each other, right?”


“Then maybe when you’re Big Buffy again, you need to talk to Willow and Xander. They’re supposed to be your best friends, which means they should care for you like Mr. Gordo does.”

Buffy scrunched her face up. It was confusing, having all of Big Buffy’s thoughts and memories in her head and hiding in her dreams. It was like having a little ghost following her. Like Casper. Only sad. A sad ghost who wanted to play, so Buffy and Mr. Gordo had to play even harder than they did when Buffy was little the first time to see if they could get Big Buffy to play with them and be happy again. “But Xander and Willow just want Buffy to be happy.”

“Can Big Buffy tell them what would make her happy?”

Buffy thought she might have found the trap. How was Big Buffy supposed to tell people what would make her happy when Big Buffy didn’t know what made her happy? Buffy knew what would make her happy—lots of things, like ice skating and Lucky Charms and going to the park and swinging on the swings and playing in the sand box and stomping in mud puddles—but adults were difficult. And weird. And they focused on all the boring things instead of the cool stuff. Like, she could probably do a complete loop around the swings now that she’s the Slayer, but Big Buffy never once thought of that. Or maybe she could jump so high on the bed that she went through the ceiling and into the clouds where she would float like a bird, but Dawnie had reminded her she wasn’t allowed to jump on the beds.

If she were big again, Buffy bet she would be able to jump on the beds. Maybe she needed to leave a note to remind her to try it when she was big again. Mr. Gordo might need to help her spell some words though. But maybe jumping on the bed would make Big Buffy smile. If not, she should definitely try doing loops around the swing set.

“What’s goin’ on in your head, pet?”

“Do you think Xander and Willow would be fun again if we went to the park? I could push them on the swings.”

Spike blinked at her. Tilted his head. Blinked a few more times. Maybe there was something in his eye? Or he needed glasses. Like Gilesie. Maybe boys just had problems with their eyes? Oooh, she should warn Xander that he might need glasses.

Wait, did that mean Mr. Gordo needed glasses? No, he was a pig. They didn’t need glasses.

“That’s an idea,” Spike finally said. “Quality time is . . . good for friendships. If you don’t want to do the Bronze with your friends, you can watch movies at home with them. Or you can go to the mall with Willow. Xander too. Get your girly talk and girly shopping done. He can hold you bags. I can give you some money for shopping, if you want. Can get it from the rest of the Amara treasure.”

Buffy’s eyes grew big as she grabbed onto Spike. “Oooh, treasure? You have treasure?”

“Yeah. Got buried with that little earthquake we had, but I can dig it out again.”

Buffy and Mr. Gordo looked at each other. Then back at Spike. “You have buried treasure? That’s so cool! We can dig it up! And we can get all dirty and we can’t even get in trouble because you’re supposed to get dirty when you dig up treasure!”

“Right. Well. You might not be so keen to get dirty once you’re big again. And I’m not taking tot-sized Buffy to a cave. The bats in there are bigger than you.”

“Spike, I’m not afraid of bats. And even if I were, you wouldn’t let the bats hurt me.”

Spike started tilting his head again. But instead of blinking, he was squinting this time. He must really need glasses. When she was big again, Buffy would have to take him to the eye doctor. “You believe I want to keep you safe, Buffy?”

She rolled her eyes. Adults were so dumb. “Duh. You won’t let me jump off the stairs because you say I’ll break my legs. Or off the roof. Or climb up the big tree next to my bedroom even though Big Buffy used to do it all the time. If you won’t let me do fun things like that, you definitely won’t let a bunch of bats eat me.”

Spike got a weird smile on his face at that, which Buffy totally didn’t understand. She’d have to ask Mr. Gordo if he knew what was going on later. Maybe the vampire somehow knew she wanted to make sure he got glasses? Or maybe he was just weird.

“You’ll be fine, Buffy.” He finally said. “When you’re big again? You’ll be fine. Just tell people what you want, like you’re doing now. When you need quiet time, you can ask for it. Or when you need people around, you can ask for that too. If you want to come dig up buried treasure with me, I’d love to have your help. Or you can stay home and do your nails with the Bit, get in some girly bonding time. Just give it time, and tell people what you need, yeah?”

Buffy looked at Mr. Gordo. And maybe leaned a bit against Spike’s arm while she did it. Not that she was getting sleepy. Her head was just heavy. But Mr. Gordo seemed to think that Spike’s idea was a good idea. And he was a very smart pig, so . . . “Okay, Spike. But you should maybe write Big Buffy a note to remind her. Because I’m not good at spelling yet. And tell her to do a loop around the swings.”

It was the next night when Dawn, Spike, and Buffy went to The Magic Box to meet the Scoobies, who finally had a potion guaranteed to make Buffy her regular age again.

Despite her heart-to-heart with Spike the night before, Buffy was very skeptical.

“Is this gonna make me tiny like Alice?”

“Buffster, I hate to tell you, but you’re already tiny.”

Buffy glared up at Xander while Mr. Gordo muttered about illiterate boys who couldn’t even get their education from Mr. Disney.

“No, Buffy,” Tara said, distracting Buffy from thinking about where she could find more worms to introduce Xander to. Xaner hadn’t brought doughnuts yesterday, so all her worm hunting the other day had been wasted. “This won’t make you tiny. It will make you your normal Buffy-size again. And Buffy-age.”

“And it won’t do anything else, right?” Dawn seemed nervous, which meant Buffy had to be the brave one. Which, since there weren’t any bad guys around beside Spike, who watched the home shopping network late at night to mock what they were trying to sell and who was definitely evil but wasn’t really bad, meant glaring at the Scoobies some more. They had to know she meant business. “Buffy will be back to how she was before Willow screwed up again?”

“Hey! I—”

Tara interrupted her girlfriend: “Yes. Buffy will be back to how she was last week. Nothing else will change.”

Mommy had always told her interrupting people was mean, but Buffy was relieved to hear that from Tara, so she and Mr. Gordo would let that slip this time. So, with Spike smiling in encouragement at her and Mr. Gordo firmly holding her hand, Buffy took the potion from Tara, scrunched her nose up at the cherry smell, and swallowed it in one big gulp.


“I’m going home. We’ll talk tomorrow night. Here. At eight.”

Buffy walked to the door of The Magic Box, where she paused. “Spike? Dawnie? Are you two coming?”

And with her sister and her vampire at her side and Mr. Gordo clutched tightly to her chest, an adult Buffy walked out the door.

It was quiet when they got home. Quiet as Buffy slipped into the night for a quick patrol—“Just so the vamps don’t think I’ve run off again,” she explained as she asked Spike to stay with Dawn. Quiet as Dawn got ready for bed, as Buffy slipped home and got ready for bed herself. Quiet as they settled in for the night and Spike was left alone, watching telly in the living room. Except for the brief patrol, it could have been any of the last five nights when Buffy had been tiny, but it was this night, when Buffy was her normal age again, and when she slipped down the stairs to sit next to him on the couch, without Mr. Gordo in hand this time, Spike was scared out of his mind.

She didn’t say anything, just sat there as the light and colors from the screen played over her face. It took about two minutes for the quiet to wear him down. “Pet? What’s goin’ on in that noggin of yours?”

“Were you serious about the buried treasure?”

“Course. Anything you need, pet.”

“Okay.” With that, miracle of miracles, Buffy pulled the blanket she had slept under the last few days off the arm of the couch and curled up next to him with her head on his shoulder.


“Yeah, pet?”

“You don’t need glasses, do you?”

Spike looked down in confusion at the tousled head of hair leaning on him. He couldn’t follow how the chit’s bloody mind worked no matter what age she was. “Vampire, pet. Got the eyes of a predator. Don’t need any poncy glasses.”

“Good. Because we really need to use the treasure to buy a new couch. You let me break this one.”

Spike was working out how to explain that he was innocent in that—he’d like to see Buffy try to contain the holy terror that was her five-year-old Slayer self—when he realized she had fallen asleep.

Dawn had no idea what to expect as she walked to The Magic Box with Spike and Buffy. She had woke up to Spike asleep on their couch and Buffy drinking coffee at the dining room table. There was a notebook in front of her that Buffy was ignoring to stare out the window, but she still seemed more alert—more Buffy—than she had since she’d been back. But for all that she was more alert, Buffy still didn’t talk much all day, especially compared to the chattering she did when she and Mr. Gordo had been plotting, except for a few mysterious phone calls that she had made. But Buffy hadn’t hidden in her room, she had scribbled in that notebook all day, she ate every single meal, and when either Dawn or Spike talked to her, Buffy always responded.

Well, she wouldn’t tell them what she was writing or who she had called, but Buffy being stubborn instead of apathetic was progress over last week. And basically every week before that.

But as they walked down the street, Dawn could tell she wasn’t the only one who was concerned and uncertain. Spike kept shooting these little glances at Buffy like he was waiting for her to crack. Or to kick him out of their little family group that was walking down the street to make up for how she had kept him close all week. And were they a little family group now? Dawn wanted, needed to know. It had been her and Mom and Buffy for so long, and then her and Buffy, and then her and everyone but no Mom or Buffy, and then her and kind of everyone except Spike but not really everyone and Buffy was there but not really.

Dawn just really wanted to know who was part of the family group. Partially because it would help to know if she had to ask up to six people for permission to spend the night at Janice’s, but mostly because she just wanted to know who was family now that her family had imploded.

Willow was . . . nervous. It was an uncomfortable feeling. Like the feeling you got before a big test if you were Xander, but she always prepared for tests and loved the challenge of proving how much she knew. Only this was a test she hadn’t been able to prepare for, and she really didn’t know what would happen. All she knew was that Buffy had told them to be here at eight and it was eight now and Buffy wasn’t—Buffy was walking in now. With Dawn and . . . Spike. Looking serious. And holding a notebook.

Maybe this would be good, like when she had been called to the office on career day and had met Oz and learned that computer company wanted to recruit her. She had been nervous then, too, and everything had turned out fine. Before the assassins had shown up, that is. But even that turned out fine eventually. Then after things with Buffy turned out fine, maybe she could work out the weirdness that was happening with Tara and things would be okay again.

While she had been little, Buffy and Mr. Gordo had talked. A lot. They had obviously played a lot too, but on day two of Buffy being little, Spike had insisted that she needed an afternoon nap time, which had turned into the perfect time for them to share secrets. Mr. Gordo had missed Buffy. Mr. Gordo had also been watching her the past few years, and being a very smart and caring pig, he had a lot of thoughts on Buffy’s life that he wanted to share with her while she could understand him.

These thoughts were the bulk of the notes Buffy had written down in her notebook.

The crushing weights of sadness, pain, and overwhelm weren’t quite as bad as they had been before being turned into a five year old, but Buffy had no idea how long that would last. Maybe she would be fine now—maybe being little had jolted her free from the heavy black raincloud that had followed her so enthusiastically out of her grave. Or maybe things were about to feel terrible again soon, and this was just a short reprieve. Either way, Buffy knew she had to make changes while her head was clear enough to do so.

“Congratulations, Willow.” Buffy began, looking at her friend. “You managed to incapacitate the slayer for almost a week. The last thing that knocked me out like that was when the Council tried murdering me.”

“Buffy!” Willow looked shocked. “But I didn’t want to do that! I didn’t mean to!”

“But you did,” Buffy said. “I wasn’t able to patrol. Spike wasn’t able to patrol either as he was trying to keep a super-powered five year old from going on a rampage—he’s the only reason you aren’t drowning in worms right now, Xander, so you should really start thanking him—and that’s all because of your spell. I used to check the obituaries each day and feel awful about any suspicious deaths. Then I came back from the dead and haven’t had time to feel awful about those deaths what with the feeling awful about everything else. But I’m not going to do that right now; after all, any deaths I couldn’t stop this past week aren’t my fault; those are on you.”

Xander started to splutter, and Buffy turned her eyes on him. “Speaking of deaths, did you know that twelve people danced themselves to death after you called Sweet to Sunnydale? The last person who used magic and spells to hurt people in Sunnydale didn’t even kill anyone. He just caused mischief, and I still turned him over to the Initiative. So if that’s what I did with someone who was a pain with the potential to hurt people, what should I do with someone who summoned a demon that resulted in people’s death and has repeatedly violated my bodily autonomy and, in the process, made it so I’ve been unable to do my job effectively, a job that is so important it is apparently worth violating the laws of nature to bring me back so I can do it?”

It was so quiet in The Magic Box that you could hear a pin drop. Looking at the faces around her, Buffy felt squirmy and terrible inside. She was being cold and bitchy in ways she hadn’t purposely been in years, not since leaving Hemery a lifetime ago. But Mr. Gordo had reminded her that Mom had gone for tough love when necessary and suggested that maybe she should try it too. After all, if her friends didn’t know that they would get in trouble for being bad, would they ever stop?

“So here’s the deal: if anyone ever does a spell on me again without my consent or does a spell that causes people to get hurt or die, I’m going to have to respond as the Slayer, since my job is so important and all. No more love spells. No more demon summonings. No more ‘see no demon’ spells. No more troll summonings. I love all of you, but I can’t let you guys get away with hurting people, whether you mean to or not, just because you’re my friends.”

Tara looked embarrassed at the reminder of the spell she had once done. Anya looked vaguely bored but also like she would respect Buffy. Willow’s face was a combination of shame and anger. Xander’s was just anger, and anger that was about to explode at that. “Buffy, that’s not fair! We’re your friends; you can’t treat us like this when we make mistakes!”

“Not fair? Who said life is fair? Where is that written?” Buffy asked, heavy irony lacing her words. “If life were fair, you and Willow and Tara would have had better parents. If life were fair, the monks wouldn’t have turned a green ball of energy into a teenage girl without any idea of what she once was. If life were fair, Anya wouldn’t have had an ex who sucked so much she turned him into a troll. If life were fair, I wouldn’t have died twice, my boyfriend wouldn’t have become a monster when I gave him my virginity, my Watcher wouldn’t be on the other side of the world, and I wouldn’t be trying to figure out how to pay off a mortgage when my full-time job pays me nothing but expects me to die for it! Again!” Buffy broke off to take in a calming breath of air. Getting emotional wouldn’t help here, and she needed to make sure Xander understood this. “Life isn’t fair, but I’m going to try and make it as fair as possible for me and Dawn and all the idiots still living on top of a hellmouth. They are my highest priorities. And if that means making sure there are consequences when you fuck up and get twelve people killed, then I will figure out what those consequences are.”

Buffy looked around the room again, only to be caught by the expression on Spike’s face. He looked proud of her and like he would back her up no matter what, which was something she wasn’t going to think about right now as she was pretty sure crying would derail this conversation. “Anya, if you have time, I would like you to go over my bills with me. I’ve been trying to keep on top of it, but it’s confusing and I don’t understand a lot of the notes Mom left behind. Giles tried to help, but, well, you’re the one who makes this business run. You probably know better than I do what he’s like with numbers.”

Anya nodded. “Numbers do not work the way he wants them to work and he doesn’t like to admit that. I can take a look with you.”

“Great. Thanks.” That was a load off Buffy’s mind. Just knowing which of the seven envelopes with huge red letters stamped across them screaming some variation of “urgent” she needed to focus on first would be huge.

“What are you going to do for money, though?” Anya asked. “You don’t have any.”

Buffy winced. “I called the Watcher’s Council earlier today to try to impress on them the importance of their Slayer being able to afford food if she’s going to be of any use to them. They are ‘deliberating the matter,’” Buffy rolled her eyes at that, “and will get back to me. In the meantime, Spike and I are going to dig up the rest of the Amara treasure. Hopefully I’ll have some funds by the end of this week.”

The use of Spike’s name shocked Xander out of whatever reverie he had sunk into. “Spike!” he yelped. “You can’t trust Spike! He’s an evil vampire!”

“Of course he’s an evil vampire. And do you know what evil vampires do?”

“Yeah, Buffy, they try to eat people.”

“Nope,” Buffy rejoined. “They never do what they’re supposed to do.” Somehow, Spike looked harder at Buffy at that, but she was focused on Xander and so could only feel Spike’s stare that bore into her as he obviously remembered his first morning with her tiny self and her glee at announcing how evil he was. “Regular vampires try and eat people. But Spike, as an evil vampire, focused more on trying to kill me. Which, obviously, he wasn’t able to do. And as an evil vampire, he’s going to continue to not do what he’s supposed to do by helping me get out of debt.” Buffy paused for a minute before plowing forward with her plans. “He’s also going to be moving in and making sure Dawn does her homework, because he’s much better at that than anyone else.”

“Don’t Tara and I get a say in this?” Willow snapped. “We live there too!”

Buffy turned her attention from Xander to Willow. They had similar faces of mulish anger, and while a distant part could understand where they were coming from—this was a lot of change she was throwing at them all at once—the rest of her didn’t care. She was straining to get through this so she could go home and sit in the dark with Spike and the glories of late night television; she didn’t have the capacity for much beyond that. “Do you? You haven’t been there in a few days; you left a five year old to the care of a teenage girl and a vampire you don’t trust.”

“That’s because we were trying to find a way to fix you!”

Tara flinched at those words, and Buffy shot a small smile at the witch. “I’m glad that you were trying to do that, Willow, but I needed more than just to be fixed. I needed to be fed and put to bed and kept from tearing the house down, and you never once checked to make sure those things were happening.”

“You were fine!” Willow announced. “You had Dawn and Spike with you!”

Buffy allowed herself to smirk a little in victory. “Well, then, if Spike is trustworthy enough to be left in charge of me when I was more vulnerable than I’ve been in years, then he’s more than trustworthy to have in the house now that I’m an adult again and can keep an eye on him. Besides,” Buffy steamrolled over the objections about to spill out of Willow, “it’s only fair that he be allowed to live in the house, seeing as how his treasure is going to finish paying off the repairs for the full copper repipe as well as the mortgage.”

“Is that so, pet?” Spike had arched his eyebrow in an effort to affect a skeptical look, but his eyes were sparkling with delight. Delight in her, Buffy realized with a jolt, and how she was laying down the law.

She waved a hand breezily. “You’re already paying for a new couch. Might as well put it in a nicely paid-off house to match.”

“Why is he buying you a new couch?” Anya asked, seeming more interested in this than any other part of the conversation.

“He let me break it.”

“Good thing he kept you at the house then and didn’t bring you here. I don’t think he could afford to buy the entire store out. Although,” Anya eyed Spike speculatively, “If he can pay off a mortgage . . .”

“Can’t do anything yet.” Spike interjected. “Got to dig the stuff up again.”

“When you do—”

“When we do,” Buffy interrupted Anya before the other woman could start dreaming about the stocks and bondages they should be investing in with that money, “I’m thinking Scooby movie night? Celebratory pizza a popcorn?” She had done the hard, boundary setting part; now it was time for the fun part before she could slip back home. “I’m thinking The Mummy. It’ll be thematically appropriate.”

Spike looked at her. “Planning on unleashing a beastie, Slayer?”

“No.” She rolled her eyes. “I’m planning on digging up a lot of fun shiny things.” Buffy thought for a moment. “But knowing my luck, I’ll probably stumble across something that needs to be slayed, even if it doesn’t try to end the world,” she pouted.

“Tell you what, Slayer—you do all the diggin’, and I’ll take care of any nasties that show. Give ’em a right what for.”

“I’d love to watch The Mummy.” Tara spoke up. “I love watching a nerdy woman in a library.”

Buffy smiled at Tara as Willow lit up at the thought of being Tara’s nerdy woman in a library and Xander went on a tangent about the hotness that was Rachel Weisz—who was less hot than Anya of course but still objectively very attractive. She wasn’t sure how things were going to go with her oldest friends, but between Anya’s willingness to help with her finances and Tara’s willingness to actually listen to her, maybe she could work something out still with her newer friends.

He found her on the back porch. Her arms were wrapped around her legs, but not in the tight curl that she was in last week. She looked tired and strained still, but not like she was trying to protect herself from unrelenting foes.

“Fancy meeting you here,” Spike said, sitting down beside Buffy on the step.

Buffy hummed in acknowledgment. The quiet ebbed between them, broken only by the rasp of Spike’s Zippo as he thumbed the wheel and lit his cigarette.

“Proud of you, pet.” Spike finally said. “Know that was hard, you standin’ up to your mates like that. Seems like it was good for you though, yeah?”

Buffy nodded. “Yeah. I . . . well, I had been hoping that if I just did everything they expected, they’d leave me alone and I could be heaven-hangover Buffy in peace.”

“Your mates have never been ones to let something lie.”

A half-smile greeted that observation. “No. They’re very much the gung ho, all-in types.”

“And you love ’em for it.”

“I do, but . . .” Buffy chewed quietly on her lip for a minute. Spike let her take her time, focusing instead on the way the smoke was curling from his cigarette and not how her abuse of her lip was making his trousers tight. If she were taking suggestions, he’d be more than happy to mention a few bits of him that could stand to use that kind of aggressive treatment, give her poor lip a break. “I guess I want them to figure out when to be all gung-ho and when to slow down. Me too, probably. Not everything is an apocalypse; we don’t need all the interventions and magic and fireworks for everything.”

“They’ll figure it out. Or you’ll tell ’em to knock it off and mind their own soddin’ business for once in their lives. Or I’ll tell ’em for you. Don’t have to figure it all out today.”

“Yeah.” Buffy swayed sideways until her head ended up on his shoulder, lighter than a butterfly and more apt to scatter at one wrong move from him. “We’ve figured enough out today. Are Willow and Tara back?”

“Back from the dubious hospitality of the Harris-Jenkins guest room. Can’t believe they’d rather stay there than here. Well, you were a right terror; maybe listening to what Harris gets up to in his free time would be less traumatizing than you and your bloody vampire slaying games.”

“I wasn’t slaying vampires. I was slaying slayers. There’s a difference.”

“The bruises all over my torso from you trying to take me down say otherwise, pet.”

Buffy smacked him in the thigh. Considering what he knew of her strength—both as a child and an adult—it was practically a love tap. It gave him the confidence to slide his right arm around her.

“Do you think they’re going to make it? Willow and Tara? Tara seems . . . upset.”

The cigarette was down to the filter now, so Spike stubbed it out before flicking it away. “Don’t know, pet. Not too thrilled with Red right now myself; can’t imagine how Tara’s feeling, knowing that her girlfriend is doin’ spells on her friends without any kind of respect for what her friends might want. But maybe the dressin’ down the Watcher gave her will sink in eventually.”

“If they do break up,” Buffy said lowly, “I want Tara to stay. If she wants. She helps with Dawnie, and she’s the only one here who can cook more than macaroni and cheese.”

“Hey! I’ll have you know that you and Mr. Gordo seemed right chuffed with my macaroni skills.”

“Mr. Gordo and I were just happy for a break from Dawn’s incessant anchovy experiments.”

“Not to be pointin’ fingers, love, but if you hadn’t bought the damn things, she couldn’t be experimentin’ with ’em.”

That earned him friendly swat in the thigh number two, this time with a little less friendliness. “There was a sale!”

“Doesn’t mean you have to buy the things, pet.”

“You can take shoe sales from me, but you can’t take supermarket ones,” she grumbled in response.

“We dig up the treasure, and we’ll see what we can do to reintroduce to those shoe sales, yeah?”

Buffy didn’t say anything to that, just snuggled in tighter, which was all the thanks Spike could ask for. He’d always been an impatient bastard—he tried his best with his mum, but a century of keeping up with Drusilla’s whims had taken him out of practice and gotten him used to making impulsive decisions and then groveling for forgiveness as needed—until the exhausted, broken slayer who had come out of her grave had required that he learn how to sit and wait on her. And then she had kissed him, and everything he had learned since her resurrection went straight out the window in favor of doing what he could to get more of her. Then she’d been made pint-sized and demanded an entirely new kind of patience from him with her constant needs and hare-brained plots. He wasn’t about to mess up the closeness he had regained with her by forgetting again how to wait for her.

It didn’t fix her, Willow’s spell. Buffy had been able to rally the resources to make some plans, lay down the law, move Spike in, and help him plan Amara Treasure Excavation, Part Two: This Time Without a Side of Attempted Buffy Murder, and then she spent two days in bed, holding Mr. Gordo to her chest and feeling like there was a black hole inside her where all her sadness and fear and anger and hurt lived and it would swallow her completely before it destroyed the world. Spike ended up staying with her so she could get some sleep—the demons in her dreams couldn’t get her when she had her own monster beside her, and he was always there with a shovel to dig her out of her grave—and eventually she was able to rejoin the world again.

Buffy moved forward in fits and starts, but she moved forward, which was more than she had once thought she’d be able to do. She wasn’t good by any stretch of the imagination—she would never again be the sweet girl who had fascinated Angel or the perky coed Riley had cared for—but she was becoming okay, a version of herself who could slay vampires and pay the bills and think about maybe one day forgiving her friends and flirting with Spike while living with the memories of heaven.

She and Anya figured out the bills situation.

She and Spike dug up the treasure and paid off the bills situation as well as the house.

Scooby movie night became a regular occurrence.

Buffy and Dawn decided to treat grocery shopping every week like they were on a sneaky episode of Supermarket Sweep.

Spike turned out to be a good, albeit adventurous cook, and Tara could rock comfort food like no one’s business. Most importantly, no one died of scurvy. Or food poisoning. Or anything.

Xander freaked about how close Buffy was keeping Spike to her. Tara broke up with Willow after she tried to make Tara forget her concerns about Willow’s magic use, and Willow moved out. Dawn was caught cutting classes. Some dweebs thought sending demons after the slayer was a grand idea. were hard and painful and difficult. And Buffy coped.

Not always well. She messed up and wanted to strangle someone, but the plan she and Mr. Gordo had worked up? The one where they got Spike to help them with money and told people no and took care of Dawnie and let everything else fall where it may?

It worked. Mr. Gordo was, after all, a very smart pig. And Spike always helped her stick to it even when it would have been easier to capitulate to whoever was freaking out at her at the moment.

Every day was hard, and every day hurt, but every day was a little better than the ones that had come before.

Buffy was out on the back porch. It had become her place to think and to be, and by unspoken rule, the only one allowed to disturb her when she was out there, unless there was a literal demon in the living room snacking on Dawn, was Spike.

Seeing as how Whitebread had returned that day, tried to drag Buffy into his “we’re not the Initiative but we kind of are” bollocks, and then yelled at her first when she refused to play by his rules and then again when he learned Spike was living with her, Spike figured Tara and Dawn would figure out a way to deal with even a demon snacking on Dawn by themselves.

Tara could be right feisty when she put her mind to it. And Dawn could scratch out any beastie’s eyes.

“What’s going on in that head o’ yours, pet?” Spike had been sitting quietly next to her long enough that he didn’t feel bad for interrupting her train of thought. If he left her too long, that train might take her someplace barmy; it was better if he derailed it before it could leave the station, lest she start thinking she was taking advantage of him or she needed to repaint the kitchen or whatever else the chit was worrying about today.

Spike was pointedly not thinking about whether she was taking some of the nastier things Riley had said to heart. Whether she was going to kick him to the curb.

She was quiet for a minute, then, “You know, there’s one more part to Mr. Gordo’s plan.”

“Yeah? What’s that?” Buffy had told Spike about her plan with Mr. Gordo shortly after the bitty Buffy fiasco. She had blushed becomingly when she had told him of her pig’s involvement and gone on a long-winded ramble about how she knows the ideas didn’t actually come from Mr. Gordo, she’s not crazy, that it was probably just her subconscious pointing out things adult Buffy hadn’t wanted to admit and using the medium of her stuffed pig to make her listen to them, but, well, it was easier to think it was her and Mr. Gordo’s plan since he had been with her and the voice of reason when she had worked on it and if it was their plan then it wasn’t all her fault if it went screwy and . . .

Spike, admittedly, stopped paying attention to what she was saying partway through; he was more focused on how she was talking with her hands and blushing and looking animated and alive in ways that she hadn’t looked in about a year. Besides, Dru got half of her information from Miss Edith. It wouldn’t bother him at all if Buffy got some ideas from Mr. Gordo. He seemed a decent bloke, after all, while Miss Edith had always been a right bitch.

“Well, first you should know that Mr. Gordo told me I had to wait and make sure all the other bits of the plan were working before I tried the last bit. And make sure I thought it was a good idea then. He was worried if I tried this part of the plan too soon, the Scoobies would convince me not to do it or I’d still be too sad and mess it up somehow. And at the time I agreed because I was five and this seemed super with the unimportant and icky and anything to push it off longer. But, well, now it seems like a good idea? And not icky? But if you don’t want to do it, you don’t have to. You’ve been super great, and I don’t want to make you uncomfortable, so you can totally say no and I’ll try not to make it awkward.”

“Why don’t you let me know what you and Mr. Gordo are thinkin’ is such a good idea, pet, and I’ll let you know what if I’ll do it?”

“Right, right.” She squared her shoulders, all that nervous energy and uncertainty fading in the face of her strength and determination. Christ, but he loved her, even if he had no idea what she was worried about. But since it was part of their plan in the first place to move him in, she probably wasn’t about to kick him back out, right?

Then she opened her mouth again, announced “You should kiss me” like her saying that wasn’t straight out of his fantasies, and knocked him ass over teakettle.

At least he was sitting, so she didn’t actually knock him over like that.

He stared at her, at the blush crawling across her cheeks even as her eyes stayed large and serious and on his. “What?”

“You should kiss me. That’s the final part of the plan. Well, dating is. But it seemed easier to tell you to kiss me than to date me but Mr. Gordo sai—oomph!”

Spike slid his left hand behind her neck and pulled Buffy forward to meet his lips. For all that his actions were aggressive, though, he kept his kiss tentative until he felt her melt into him. Then he slid his other hand behind her, pulling the rest of her close even as he allowed the hand behind her neck to move up, cradling her head and getting his fingers in the silky locks that had haunted his dreams even before he knew he loved her. She made a pleased noise in the back of her throat and somehow managed to pull him even closer, wrapping her arms around him so he could feel her strength along with the hungry way she moved her lips over his, taking everything he had and demanding more.

Eventually, he pulled back just enough to let her breathe, leaving his forehead pressed against hers. Somehow, she had ended up straddling his lap; if it weren’t for how her need for breathe interrupted their kissing, Spike would think he had dusted and somehow gone to heaven. “So, Mr. Gordo thinks we should date, hunh?”

Buffy giggled, a delighted, carefree sound. “Yeah. He thinks you’re good for me. Strong enough to keep up with me, and caring enough to try and keep me out of trouble. And you like my sister.”

“And what does Buffy think?”

“The same. And that you’re, like, stupidly good looking.” She slapped him gently on the arm. “No gloating.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it.” Spike tried to tone down his smirk.

“And that you love me.” Her voice became a bit more serious at that. “You love me, and I . . . I’m not there, not yet, but I think I’m getting there. And it would be good to be with someone who loves me for me and not for whatever idea they have about what I should be.”

“Seen the best and the worst of you, kitten,” Spike murmured as he traced her cheek with a trembling hand. “Love you when you’re fighting, when you’re tired, when you’re happy and joking with your mates, when you’re sad, even when you’re bitchin’ me out for putting blood on my cereal.”

“It’s really gross.”

“Sure this is what you want, pet?” Old insecurities rose up within him and spilled out his mouth. “Sure this isn’t just because you saw your Soldier Boy with the new missus and don’t want to feel lonely?”

Buffy smiled at him, a gentle, understanding thing he never would have dreamed being sent his way. “That’s why I’m sure, actually. He showed up with Sam, and I felt . . . well, not nothing, but it wasn’t sadness. I was pretty angry that he showed up here married after he had made a whole big deal out of me not loving him enough and giving me the ultimatum and making me chase after him. But not sad or like I had missed out or anything else.”

That confession was enough to make him want to start snogging her again, but Buffy kept talking: “Then I thought about how I would feel if you were to leave tomorrow and come back in a year with a wife. Or if Drusilla showed back up and tried to get you to run off with her again.”


“I would be furious. And hurt. So, so hurt. And I would probably try to stake whoever you were with, even if they weren’t a vampire. So yeah, it has to be you, Spike. Not just any guy whom I don’t have to try and explain being the Slayer to, or any vampire on the side of good.” She shrugged, looking up at him through her lashes. “It has to be you.”

“Well then, pet,” Spike pulled her in close for a hard, bruising kiss. “Where would you like to go for our first date? The park? Finally go do that loop around the swings you were yammerin’ on about while all bitty?” The grin splitting his face probably was making him look like a right ponce, but for once, he didn’t care. The girl wanted him for the first time ever. Him. And it wasn’t just any girl, it was Buffy. “And Mr. Gordo: think he’d like a nice trip to the dry cleaners? Get him all fluffy and new?”

Buffy rolled her eyes even as she smiled up at him. “You’re ridiculous.”

“Yeah? I think you like that about me.”

“Maybe.” She gave him a flirty, sideways look. “My previous boyfriends were all so serious. Might be nice to date someone fun for once.”

“Well, if it’s fun you want—”

Buffy pulled him in for another kiss. “It’s you,” she said, after kissing him so thoroughly he almost forgot the entire conversation. “It’s you that I want.”

Spike ran his fingers through her hair and smiled down at his girl. “Then you can have me, Buffy. Think you might have always had me.”

“Good,” she smiled again before pulling him back to her lips.