Great Balls of Fire
Previously: Sweet has departed Sunnydale, leaving the shocked Scoobies behind with the knowledge they tore a despairing Buffy out of heaven. This starts the morning after. . .
One. . . singular sensation. . .
The instant her eyes opened, Anya knew something was wrong. For one thing, it was mid-morning, and Xander’s work clothes and boots were still on the floor of their bedroom. And he wasn’t in bed. Another dead give away was the fact she was humming. She never hummed. Humming was bad. . . very bad. Checking in the bathroom for signs of her missing fiancé, Anya stared in the mirror.
The humming turned into outright singing before she even realized it.
"Up in the morning, look in the mirror, got nothing but a toothbrush hanging in the stand. My love is only getting stronger, love’s gotten such a hold on me. . . . "
OH! No! Not this, please. . . not again.
"He’s gone, oh, I . . . I better get Buffy to regain him."
Anya shook her head, clamping her jaws shut in an effort to make herself stop singing. She was almost afraid to start brushing her teeth because once her mouth opened, she knew more bad lyrics were going to start flowing. Taking the chance, she opened and shoved her toothbrush in, watching as the toothpaste started foaming. Her brain was scrambling, running through a hundred different reasons why she would be singing and why Xander wasn’t home.
None of them were good.
They all came back to one thing. Or rather, one demon.
She spit the toothpaste out, quickly rinsing. I have to get to the Magic Box right now and alert everyone to what’s happened.
Before she had a chance to stop herself, her mouth opened and she wailed out, "He’s gone, oh, I, oh, I, I better learn how to pray. He’s gone." Once more Anya clamped her mouth shut, horrified when the humming started up all over again.
Twenty minutes and two more songs later, Anya flew into the Magic Box as if the hounds of hell were on her heels. "Giles!"
He looked down from the restricted books section, a weighty tome in one hand and his glasses in the other. "Up here, Anya."
She stood at the bottom of the metal stairs, her hands wringing and a distressed look on her face. "Giles, you have to call Buffy."
"I don’t think that’s such a good idea, Anya." He closed the book and placed it back on the shelf. "I haven’t spoken to her since the dreadful revelation of last night."
"Oh. Well, this is important." She was practically bouncing, and he absently noticed that when she wasn’t actively speaking, her jaw was clenched tight.
"I hardly think it’s all that important. I’d really rather not disturb her at this point." He made it to the bottom step in time to see Anya’s face twisted in a grimace. "Really, Anya, what could possibly be this important?"
And to his utter shock and dismay, Anya opened her mouth and started singing. "He’s gone. Oh, Rupert, I can’t stand it. He’s gone, Sweet’s really gone and done it."
Her face took on a ridiculous look and he stood there, stunned when she reached for his hand. "Please, please, help me stop."
"Oh dear." Rupert stared at her, totally at a loss. "Why do you think it was Sweet?"
"Because I’m still singing. Didn’t you hear me just now?" She flounced away from him, determined to force his hand and make him call Buffy. Anya held out the receiver, staring pointedly at him. "Please. I don’t want to sing anymore."
He took the phone from her, reluctantly dialing the Summers’ residence. He had no proof, other than Anya’s rather pleasant singing voice, but, coming as this did right on the heels of Sweet’s rather informative visit and his threat to take Dawn with him, he might as well err on the side of caution.
Anya refused to speak the entire time they waited for Buffy and the other girls to arrive. He’d found it quite amusing when she insisted on writing everything down, taking real delight in her efforts to get around saying ‘thank you’ to the customers. It was, he thought, rather adorable watching her.
Willow and Tara entered the shop, followed closely by a visibly subdued Dawn. Buffy trailed in a few moments later, long enough for Giles to wonder if she was even coming. She didn’t look much happier this morning, in fact, she looked tired and drained. Her hair was pulled back in a loose ponytail and she smiled at him, but the smile didn’t reach her eyes at all.
"Hey guys, what’s up?"
Though the greeting should have sounded upbeat and perky, it was delivered in a monotone, and Buffy’s eyes didn’t focus on anything. Giles sighed inwardly, realizing that even though the truth had emerged, Buffy was no better for the revelation.
"Anya says Xander is missing and she believes Sweet is behind his sudden disappearance."
Willow looked up from her seat at the table, glancing first at Tara. "What? How do you know he’s missing?"
"Because his boots were still in the bedroom and his work clothes were on the floor." Anya’s visible distress got worse, and she pursed her lips in an effort to keep from bursting into song. She tried, clenching her jaw and then, probably because she was trying so hard not to sing, she opened up her mouth and warbled out, "He’s gone, oh, I, I really just can’t stand this. He’s gone, and I, oh, I’d figured only Buffy could undo this. . . . what went wrong?"
Tears sprung to her eyes and Anya fled into the training room, wailing cries trailing behind her.
"Oh, boy. Singing. New sign the world’s gonna end. This so not good." Dawn plopped herself down into the chair beside Tara, dropping her head onto her folded arms. "Remind me why I stayed home from school again?"
"Because none of us woke up on time, Dawnie. Xander was supposed to pick you up in time for school." Willow realized the importance of what she’d just said, clapping a hand over her mouth. "I guess she’s right. Xander is missing."
In all this time, Buffy hadn’t said a word, just listened. When it was apparent they were all waiting for her to say something, she shrugged, and said, "We should probably find out where he is first."
"Right. I’ll get on that." Giles handed off a pair of books to Tara and Willow, motioning Buffy forward a bit, "Buffy, might I have a word with you?"
They were researching quietly, Willow and Tara flipping methodically through books, searching for any information on Sweet’s home dimension, while Anya alternated between frantically wringing her hands while pacing or mumbling to herself about contacting D’Hoffryn. Buffy had retreated to the training room, and the occasional sound of the punching bag could be heard over Anya’s mutterings.
Giles fought the urge to go speak with her, focusing instead on finding Xander. He had no idea what to say to her in any event, knowing now where she’d been. What do you say to someone who’d been torn from heaven? How do you approach that conversation? Giles was at a loss where to even begin.
Dawn was doing homework, stealing glances at the books Tara was going through, when Anya paced close to the table. "Any luck?"
"Well, I think I have something, but I’m not sure . . . . There’s some mention of Sweet here, so I think this is it." Willow glanced up at the other girl, a grim tired look crossing her face. "I guess we could do a locator spell on Xander, just to make sure."
"Oh, okay. Too bad Xander and I aren’t already married. If we were both demons, he could feel me, and I’d be able to just teleport there." Anya looked down Willow. "How will you do a locator without a map? Is that possible?"
"Didn’t think about that." Willow slumped in her chair, dropping her pencil between the pages of the book.
Anya whirled around, hands clenched together in front of her. "No wind. . . no rain. . . no winter’s storm, can stop me, babe. . . "
Dawn and Tara sat up, their voices echoing Anya’s soft singing, "Baby. . . oh, baby."
"Cause, baby, there ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough, ain’t no river wide enough, to keep me from getting to you." Anya headed for the stairs, sashaying to the beat, "If you need me, call me, no matter where you are, no matter how far. . . Just call my name, I’ll be there in a hurry, cause you won’t have to worry."
The other two girls moved behind her, standing on the upper steps, their voices raised to compliment Anya’s, and together they sang the chorus, "Ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough, ain’t no river wide enough, to keep me from getting to you."
Both girls dropped into a low, crooning ‘ooohhh’, while Anya kept singing, "Remember the day,
you asked of me, I told you, you could always count on me, From that day on we made a vow, I'll be there when you want me, some way, some how."
Breaking into the chorus again, the three girls clasped hands and sang, "'Cause, baby, there ain't no mountain high enough, ain't no valley low enough, ain't no river wide enough, to keep me from getting to you."
Anya hung her head, fighting her emotions. Buffy came in from the training room, though no one saw her, while Willow and Giles stared open-mouthed at the others. A frisson of awareness shot through Buffy and she looked over her shoulder to find Spike standing there, his eyes fixed on the singing girls. He stepped closer, and Buffy averted her eyes. When she looked into the main area of the shop again, Anya had raised her head and the tear tracks were clearly visible under the overhead lighting.
"My love is alive, way down in my heart, although we are miles apart, if you ever need a helping hand, I'll be there on the double, as fast as I can." Anya drew in a deep breath, then launched into the chorus one more time, with the girls joining in again in harmony. "Don't you know that there ain't no mountain high enough, ain't no valley low enough, ain't no river wide enough, to keep me from getting to you."
They kept singing, until Giles interrupted, his tone of voice caught between pride in their abilities and horror at the prospect of more singing. "Right, then. We’ll focus on getting Xander back."
"I can’t believe I’m singing again Although the good news; is they were all number one on the Billboard charts." Anya stepped down from stairs, then slapped her hands on the table. "What I really want to do is find Sweet and make him return my Xander. He can’t have him to be his queen. I know gender role reversals can lead to very intense orgasms, but Xander’s not allowed to have orgasms with anyone but me."
It was a measure of just how wigged everyone was when no one thought to even chastise Anya for speaking so plainly. Even Dawn remained silent, lost in her own thoughts. Buffy turned her back on the shop, forcing Spike to take a step away from her. "Why are you here?"
"Was on my way to Willie’s when I heard two demons serenading each other in the sewers. Figured everythin’ was still all Broadway-bound an’ changed my direction." He watched her carefully, more aware then he’d ever been of how fragile she was. "You okay?"
She shrugged. "Does it matter?"
"Matters to me, Slayer." He followed her over to the punching bag, holding it for her as she half-heartedly swatted it.
"Then you are a majority of one." Buffy gave up, her hands almost touching his on the black leather. "I’m so tired. Everything is exhausting."
"Even with the big unveil, they aren’t going easy?"
"How can they? I don’t think they really understand." She finally looked at him. "Or care."
"They care, pet. Niblet an’ Glinda at least." Spike thought for a moment, then inclined his head toward the shop. "Should talk to Rupes. He’ll listen."
"I don’t wanna talk to any of them." Buffy pushed into the bag, then moved away. "I don’t wanna be here."
"Know it doesn’t mean much, know you don’t care ‘bout my opinion an’ all, but I do care. An’ ‘m sorry they hurt you."
For the first time they’d known each other, Buffy didn’t question Spike’s sincerity. He’d told her more than once that he was sorry they’d ripped her from heaven and that he’d do anything for her, short of getting her back there. But that didn’t help, not really. She was miserable, broken, shattered and really beyond caring what everyone else was thinking about the situation. The only one she could stand being around for more than ten minutes was Spike; everyone else grated on her nerves. Sensing her increased irritation, Spike motioned toward the back door.
"C’mon, pet, let’s go kill some nasties."
Without a backward glance toward the main are of the shop, the two blondes headed outside.
She’s Gone – Hall & Oates, from the Album Abandoned Luncheonette, released 1973; written by Darryl Hall and John Oates.
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – written by Nicholas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, 1966. Recorded by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell in 1967; Diana Ross and the Supremes in 1970 and numerous other artists.