The Penultimate Pranks of Peddyworth T. Puckett
Disclaimer: I own none of these characters, they are
the sole property of Joss Whedon, UPN, FOX, and the rest. It is simply
out of the grace of their hearts that I am allowed to even begin to write
this. BUT the story is mine, so plagiarize and I will beat you to death
with a halibut.
Distribution: http://mysticmuse.net, http://www.kennedyfanfic.com/fanfic/
As long as I get the street cred, toss this baby anywhere.
Spoilers: Everything in the series. This takes place after my fics " Mirror,Mirror " and " The Thrill is Gone ", so while not necessary, it would help to read these.
Feedback: I would love to hear from any adoring fans I might have.. Anybody? Hello?
Author's Notes: But just when you thought it was safe to work out your problems like adults, here comes the Mexican Pro-Wrestling Demons, the vampire mafioso, and the weapon of mass destruction that looks suspiciously like an ill-tempered squirrel. A journey into darkness against the backdrop of a farcical crime caper.
Summary: Kennedy accidentally unleashes a group of faeries from their prison. Being faeries, they do the only logical thing: begin rhyming and demand a bride.
Walk the Prank
Books. There were books everywhere. On the floors, on the shelves lining the tables, books on every conceivable surface. Many books were set in leaning tower of Pisa style piles that were of sufficient height to require a footstool to get the uppermost ones, and a complicated game of literary Jenga to get at the lower ones. Somehow, most likely through a non-repeatable organic event, an archway of books had managed to form, two volumes of equal size butting against each other at the apex. So there were a lot of books; a plethora of books.
And they weren't just books in the Stephen King, Tom Clancy sense. No, these were books with a capital 'b', Books with clout and prestige. Thick, eighteen-inch long books, the kind of books that God would write if he was in the habit of penning secular texts. Many of these books qualified as tomes they were so old, most of them had deep, mahogany brown leather covers, the silver and gold leaf inlays teased the whole cornucopia with some non-Oxford colors. Some of the books were little more than yellowed and cracked sheaves of paper, a thin leather cover held on by twine cords, the pages angling out at all degrees. In a thousand years, Kennedy could not hope to read all these books.
And if her mind held any real desire to try, the titles alone were enough to drive her off. An open volume that sat on the cleared corner of what once was perhaps a desk but now served as just another impromptu bookshelf bore the intimidating name La Morte Nera. The text within wasn't any more reassuring than the title, written in what Kennedy could only assume was some archaic form of Italian (they call that Latin, she reminded herself) and in a script that would have put Leonardo DaVinci to shame for it's complexity. The smell of the thing was almost indescribable, a heady mixture of mould, dust, brushed leather and cigar smoke that only stood out from the homogenous scent of the room because of its proximity.
She squinted against the yellow glow of the open door, straining into the geometric gloom and trying to recall exactly what it was that Willow and Giles had been so adamant that she get while she was in here. She set the can of Diet Coke on the edge of the table, the caramel liquid fizzing happily against the sides of the can. Coke was a comfort blanket each time she went overseas, a strange reminder of what awaited her stateside: the unending bombardment of huge multinationals and their youth-targeted merchandising schemes. It was as American as apple pie and baseball.
She missed California, even would have missed Cleveland if she had the chance, but as that they'd only been there once, and then only for a weekend, so she couldn't justify spending memes on the missing thereof. England was cool, in that nostalgic edge of culture sort of way, and London as a whole just plain rocked, but she was in the real England, the England made up of farmers grazing their cattle in New Forest (name being ironic in the sense that William the Conqueror dubbed it thus a thousand years ago). This was the England that lived off blood pudding and donkey livers or something. The England where Willow made her recovery, spending time at Stonehenge not thirty miles northwest of the vine covered ranch house that Giles had set up some sort of permanent residence at.
There was no mistaking Giles for anything other than a bachelor. There was some sort of order to the book piles, perhaps only one viewable after repeated drinks, but the chaos was less chaotic past its surface. The towers of books were just too regularly spaced to be anything other than a mad extrapolation on the Dewey Decimal system.
The rest of the house was no better, and its clutter was only marked by a lower density than that of the library. Everything did have a comfortable feel, like a tweed jacket on a cold day. The sole fireplace was always in the stage of dying, embers dimly glowing. In the two days she had been here, Kennedy had not once seen the fireplace blazing. The kitchen was an island, half-empty bottles of fine liquors (none of which gathered dust) rested on the tasteful hardwood countertop. Giles was apparently something of an amateur chef; the cabinets fully stocked with all manner of herbs, spices, and condiments.
The bedroom Andrew claimed as his own had once been a rec room, and the backgammon table that was the center piece of the room was covered with a mishmash of DVDs, role playing games, and occult tomes, none of which were in anything resembling any state of order, not even the chaotic order of Giles's library. The half-second glance she had spared into the Pit, as Giles called it, confirmed all her suspicions of Andrew: he owned a Cats poster. Love of Broadway musicals pretty much sealed it.
Giles had moved all his musical equipment into his own room, the amp and Rickenbakker guitar, the mic stand, and the acoustics all occupied a corner uncomfortably. Poor Giles had somehow managed to make room for the attention-demanding boy, and the signs of their conflict were everywhere.
To boot, Dawn was in town. Buffy had dropped her off at Giles's the day before Giles, Andrew, Willow and she actually got back in town. Buffy was on a mission to hunt down her delinquent father, and supposedly was going to send back for Dawn when she found him. This was, by all accounts, a flimsy excuse for the twenty-something woman to have a week to herself to enjoy the sights of Europe. No one blamed her though. Dawn didn't even skulk for more than an hour. Giles owned horses, three in all, and his neighbor, Mr. Cotsworth, ran the ranch where he stabled them. That is where Dawn spent the majority of her time. She came in for lunch, tea and dinner smelling like a horse, hands covered in grime, plop exhausted into a chair, and talk for the entire meal about how Clapton did the cutest thing, or how fast Bruce (or was it Baker?) ran, or whatever story she had that always began with 'you'll never believe.'
Nevertheless, Kennedy liked Dawn, in a weird sort of way. She had given her hell when she first started dating (or trying to date, more accurately) Willow. Once the two girls started to get to know one another, they had realized that despite Dawn's horrific taste in music, they actually got on fairly well. This was something Giles was thankful for in a truly monumental way: he really was in no condition to baby-sit a seventeen year old. Dawn was staying in the living room for now, anyway, bagging it with Willow and she. This was not a good thing, as that the Kennedy/Willow relationship was in something of a redefinition after the events of the last month. This redefinition, if Kennedy was to understand it, involved her being more giving emotionally and Willow having lots and lots of sex. Which of course she couldn't do now that they were rooming with Mini B.
But Willow was enjoying the visit. She must have had a horrible time during her last extended vacation here, but she didn't seem to associate the house with anything other than safety. She and Giles had taken up shoptalk, but the more she saw, the more she realized that for Willow, shoptalk was her passion. Giles was happily discussing a strange mixture of old bands and old bands of wizards. It was during the latest rap session, cordial in hand and feet on the coffee table, that he asked Kennedy to fetch something called.called.the Ijzercirckel.
And now Kennedy was humming old Queen tunes and trying to find a light switch. She was almost certain that there had to be one hidden behind a particularly wide wall of literature. She peered into the darkness, correctly surmising that there must be a lamp somewhere in this mess. Her brain clicked its own light on then (which only illuminated the room in a figurative sense, unfortunately). There was a desk lamp on the desk of all places. Kennedy spun around, reaching for the lamp.
She was not yet accustomed to slayer speed, and her momentum was something to consider. She tapped the lamp, a black little thing with a bendable neck, and it went toppling over the edge of the desk. Thankfully, slayer reactions were still in full effect. Kennedy spun, dropping low to catch the lamp by its metal throat. With a confident nod, she set the offender down on the table.
The tiniest vibration, the minutest of minute taps, and the whole thing came down.
The stack on the desk began to teeter dangerously towards the center of the room. Kennedy hopped up on her tiptoes, trying to tap the toppling volumes back into place. The book directly above her fingertips shot over her head, colliding into the stack behind her, knocking a load bearing text into instability.
That stack seemed to fold in half. Kennedy turned to that one, hand still supporting the first stack, and shoved herself bodily into the crumbling structure, her back an archway. As was inevitable, one or two of the books on either side of her fell off her makeshift support, pages flapping like escaped pigeons as they clattered to the carpeted floor. One of them landed face up, sliding against the leg of the desk. The impact ran up the table leg, harmonizing with the already oscillating books there. Another book fell.
This one landed edge down on the table, stood on its side for a second, then, like Goliath felled by the sling stone, landed hard on the open volume. It slid down the decline formed by the pages of La Morte Nera, swooshing like an Olympic skier, and directly into Kennedy's can of Coke.
The Coke tipped over the edge, brown liquid splashing from the drinking hole. Kennedy had no choice: she had to abandon her post. As she twisted out from under the books to her back, ignoring the cacophonous clatter of leather on paper as her hand darted out to catch the wayward can.
She reached, and stretched, and grunted in exertion, and caught the can halfway in its journey.
So there was a huge mess to be cleaned up. At least there wasn't any real damage done, she thought. The books behind her were still settling, one of them bumping into her leg. She glanced down, and sighed loudly.
A puddle of errant Coke had somehow formed on the page of the open book. Kennedy reached down, gingerly picking up the surprisingly heavy tome off the ground. She tipped it over, spilling the excess liquid onto the carpet, which she guessed Giles would be less inclined to kill her should her find it stained. There was still an incriminating wet spot on the page. Kennedy briefly considered just setting the book down and claiming ignorance when Giles would inevitably burst into the room, screaming British epithets. This wouldn't work at all. She was the only one in here, and a blind person could see she was guilty. Better to just bite the bullet and tell the truth. Kennedy pulled the hem of her t-shirt from her jeans and wiped off the page.
Most of the ink came off with it. Kennedy went faint. In this house, there was no greater sin than the destruction of a book. Moreover, this was an old book. A really, really old book. Then the page began to sparkle.
On a list of not good things, a sparkling ruined book was right below trying to vaporize the eastern hemisphere. The little snaps and pops were greens and blues, sizzling tingles that removed the homey smell and replaced it with daffodils and orange peels. That's when they came.
Five of them, tiny and stick-frail, gossamer wings and glimmering trails making tight circles in the dim room. Kennedy was no expert on the occult-she knew her demons, knew how to kill them, and that was about it. She didn't need to go to Willow to identify these creatures.
"Crap," Kennedy said.
A Faerily Interesting Day
It zipped up to her, bright blue eyes blinking like an awakening child.
"'Tis true, fair boys, our home 'tis not
prithee, look here, a righteous plot
methinks this land's not faerie kind
This dark-tress'd lass looks left behind."
The creatures twirled around her, flitting in and out like hyperactive dragonflies. The speaker had deep blue paint (or perhaps tattoos) all over its body, far too dense a pattern to decipher in this light. Kennedy gaped dumbly, her brow knitting in worry.
"Willow's gonna kill me," she squeaked. "No, Giles will kill me. Willow will just help." A red-tinged, mildly overweight faerie, no taller than the palm of her hand, pulled up along side to give her the once over.
"Despite me best judgments
I fear Puckett speaks true
But give no begrudge-ments
For his fault it's not due."
A green-winged pixie floated next to the red one, sparkles the color of springtime forests blending with the multihued light already washing over Kennedy's dark features.
"Tommy Scarlett is friends to all women
He knows what to say just to get 'em
In the matter at hand
His instincts are quite grand
I think this wee girl done the sinnin'"
Kennedy heard the irregular, hobbling footsteps of Giles and the rapid ones of Willow as the two raced towards the source of the racket. This was so, so, so amazingly bad. Forget the mess. This was a disaster.
"Listen, uh, guys?" she asked as her eyes darted from faerie to faerie. "Could you maybe get back in the book? I'd be really grateful, and not just because I don't want Willow to kill me."
A light violet pixie meandered towards the other three, its face long and slender, a magnificent nose extending like a pipe from the middle of its pinched features. It opened its tired eyes at her and smiled a wide, toothless grin.
"Sweet lady, why should we go from here?
Your island home is much more near
And you'd make a fine queen, I'd say
Oh wait- I think that you're gay."
The last pixie, yellow and pale, nodded thoughtfully. Kennedy sweated. She held the open book in one hand, the mass almost pulling it from her limp fingers. Willow was calling her name. The yellow pixie stroked his tiny blonde goatee.
"A spring lamb brought home
Warrior not born
Magic touches a great heart."
"What?" the slayer barked, half at the pixie and half at Willow. The four other faeries shrugged, and the first blue faerie, Puckett, thumbed towards him.
"Always with the haikus; I guess it's his thing
but look at it this way: at least we don't sing."
Kennedy shrugged. "Well, there is that. wait!"
The five faeries turned in unison as a pair of long shadows approached the doorway.
"That's it," she murmured, "We're in trouble now."
Puckett giggled with tinkling glee, holding his sides and spiraling with his quatrain of pixie friends higher and higher into the air, until they skipped across the smooth wooden ceiling like stones on an upside down pond.
Kennedy leapt for one, hoping to catch it by its poncy little faerie wings and perhaps squeeze some answers out of it. It could explain to Willow and Giles that it was all their fault and they'd use their faerie magic to help clean up, just like Mary Poppins! Okay, it was a long shot, but as she swatted at the laughing pixies, she realized it was no more so than actually catching one of the little buggers!
With a wind chime ring and a childish grin, the five dancing lights zipped in single-file line away from the flailing slayer and disappeared into the vent in the wall.
The shadows all too quickly pooled into the forms of Giles and Willow. Kennedy stopped her swatting cold, slowly turning her head to shoot the surely mightily peeved off bookworms her best smile.
Willow's reaction was predictable, as predictable as Willow's reactions ever were. Her large eyes impossibly got even larger, and her jaw dropped open in shock. Kennedy knew that the chiding was forthcoming, but the length and severity could be bargained with.
Giles, well, Giles rewrote the rules for overreacting. His mouth worked the air for a few seconds, chewing invisible cud. He was blinking furiously, as if he couldn't process the enormity of the situation. Kennedy feared for the older man's heart, and decided to clear up this whole mess right away.
"I know what you're thinking, guys," she blurted, "but it wasn't me. It was the faeries."
Giles and Willow just crossed their arms simultaneously.
Flying Freakin' Faeries
"Faeries?" Giles nearly shot the word with a violent spasm of his head. "Faeries, bloody dancing about sugar plum sodding faeries destroyed my ENTIRE BLEEDING LIBRARY?!?!?"
"YES!" Kennedy enunciated with a splaying of her fingers and a craning of her neck. "Well, no, not exactly."
"Not exactly?" Giles repeated, body shuddering in apoplexy. "Not exactly? Ftt-gdaaaa!!!" At that point, Giles's vocabulary failed him, and a string of indecipherable syllables poured forth from his sputtering lips.
Willow stepped forward, cringing as she passed the furious Englishman who was at that moment grinding his cane into the floor while helplessly surveying the hated disorder in his library. This was his home, his shelter from the insanity that ruled Sunnydale and nearly every waking moment of his life for the past seven years. She moved to block Giles's line of sight to the target of his anger, hoping that like an ostrich, once the threat was out of sight, the rage would abate.
"Sweetie," Willow spoke slowly but loudly, mostly to drown out the insistent ranting. "Tell me what happened."
"Okay, I bumped the table, and the books started falling, and I caught the Coke, but the faeries already got out."
"But it could be wor-" Kennedy clapped her hand over her mouth, eyes wide with fear. "Oh, god. It's spreading!"
"What is spreading?" Willow grabbed her woman's shoulders, thumbs making soothing circles.
"The rhyming!" Kennedy whispered conspiratorially. Even Giles stopped ranting, having to squint and cock his head at the paranoid slayer. Kennedy stepped briskly away from Willow, looking at the vent in which the faeries escaped.
"No! Don't touch me, you might get infected!"
Willow shook her head, scrunching her mouth to one side: "I don't feel like I need to rhyme."
"But you will in due time!" Kennedy's breath caught in her throat, her hand grasping at her throat like a choking victim as she stumbled against a stack of books. "I can't stop!" she mouthed to Willow. Giles sighed, striding foreword.
"That's enough. If you don't want to fess up to destroying months of work, then fine, but this, this charade is getting just a tad ridiculous."
"Giles, I'm not lying!" Kennedy stood up taller. "They were faeries! They rhymed, and were sparkling, and had really amazing gaydar!"
"You're not rhyming," Giles grumbled as he peered over his glasses.
"Oh," Kennedy touched her throat, coughing experimentally. "I guess it must be temporary, or something."
"Giles," Willow touched his fuzzy tan sweater. "She's not lying. There were Fae here."
"Really?" Giles raised an eyebrow in interest. "And how can you tell?"
"I'm not sure, actually," Willow answered honestly. "It's like I can tell that there's like, a whole bunch of pure magic floating around. It's just a gut feeling, you know?."
"Like gaydar," Kennedy pointed out with a nod.
"Well, they *are* faeries," Willow shrugged and grinned.
"That still doesn't explain how they got here," Giles entered full Watcher-mode: the glasses came off, the wiping went on, and the pondering began.
"Um, ha, funny thing about that." Kennedy pointed a single, silent finger at the open book she left on the floor, a black smudge of melted text on its Coke-stained page. Giles reached down, lifting it gently off the floor and replacing his glasses to read the worn spine.
"You have a knack for serendipity," he muttered, "It's the Ijzercirckel."
"The Circle of Iron," Willow nodded knowingly. Her nods stopped suddenly, and then she slapped her forehead. "It's easy! All we gotta do is get them all in one place, cast a little dimensional warp spell, and voila, no more fine faerie friends!"
"That's all?" Kennedy squeezed her eyebrows together, two dark arches trying to meet in the middle.
"Well, okay, I know-tough, but still, it's something, which is more than no-"
Willow's babble was interrupted by the piercing cry of one Dawn Summers.
Puckett was not lost. He had simply misplaced himself. He skipped along the cool metal floor of these strange tunnels, tapping his toes in a tiny jig when the mood caught him.
"Blonde Bim, you be wise, so I invite
Tell me, do we go left or right?"
He tapped his toes again, enjoying the little plonks his footfalls made. Blonde Bim peered down one way of the 'T' junction, then the other. He stroked his goatee, and 'humharum'ed to himself.
"A fine young lass waits
thought into being
a worthy queen for our king."
Tom Scarlett plodded up, his wings barely keeping him aloft. He started down the right hand corridor, turned another corner, then came upon another grate. He touched the grate, his Faerie magic turning it no more yielding than the open air. The five pixies, darted down towards the long haired young woman, pulling up in front of her suddenly.
Peddyworth Theodyne Puckett presented himself with a flourish, bowing deeply in mid-air at the beauteous creature before him. When he heard no response save the snickering of his fellows, he raised his eyes, peering through blue locks. The woman had her eyes closed, her hands covering her ears, bobbing her head and was whispering the most.interesting rhymes..
"Entertainment is changin', intertwinin' with gangsta's
In the land of the killers, a sinner's mind is a sanctum
Holy or unholy, only have one homie
Only this gun, lonely cause don't anyone know me"
Jack tapped his green hand on the gaping Puckett, grinning at the brunette human. He saw the metal band that ran across her head, and the thin black rope that lead to the circular box. He flew high, diving like a World War One barnstormer, grabbing the headphones and climbing hard.
Dawn opened her eyes as her headphones were ripped off, ready to punch Andrew as hard as she could. Instead, a six-inch high floating blue man was smiling over his long nose. Dawn wasn't exactly sure what the right response was. She started back, almost scurrying away, but stopped when the little man didn't move aggressively towards her in any way. She tentatively raised a hand, waving 'hi' with a sheepish grin.
"Greetings, fair lady and sweet muse
I be called Puckett, and if you so choose
Our queen you will be, as fine as Lady Mab
So come with us, and give it a -"
Puckett stopped his couplet as Tom Scarlett grabbed his arm, whispering in his sharply pointed ear. They whispered back and forth, casting glances at the befuddled young woman. Dawn watched her MP3 player circle languidly above her head, a sparkling green pixie dragging it by the headphones. The blue one, Puckett, it was called, hovered in front of her.
"Excuse me, my dear, if my questions seem lame
but this has never happened, not once by my name
for what we can't tell, as it were obscured by noise
perhaps you could enlighten us: do you prefer girls or boys?"
That was when Dawn screamed. The five faeries panicked, flitting back and forth, all screaming as well. Green Tom was the first to bolt, dragging the MP3 player behind him and through the open window. The other four took the hint, following so closely that their wings kept bumping into each other. They flew as far as they could, falling exhausted in to a tree hollow. A squirrel chirped angrily, then went back to hording it's nuts.
Back at the house, Dawn rushed towards the library.
"Willow! Giles! Kennedy!" She called as she slid into the door. "Whoa, what happened here? Nevermind! A bunch of little floaty things stole my MP3 player, asked me some weird question about my sexuality, and took off out the window. And guys, this could be serious: they had mullets."
Pranks for the Memories
"So what do you mean 'questions'?" Kennedy asked.
"What is it with creatures wanting to make me their queen?" Dawn ignored the question. "I mean it is flattering in a sort of creepy way, but I am not queen material."
"I think you'd make a good queen," Willow soothed.
"We should be getting the spell ready, Willow," Giles busied himself with picking through the sprawled library. He held up his hand, scowling in disgust as he touched a sticky Coke stain on his carpet.
"You mean they couldn't tell which way you swing?" Kennedy pressed the question. "That's kinda weird."
Dawn scrunched her nose in Kennedy's direction. "Why is that weird?"
"They sort of pegged me right out of the gate. It was like their special pixie power."
"Well, you do sort of give off a lesbo vibe." Dawn tried to rationalize.
"No, she really doesn't, now can we just go catch the little blighters?"
"See? Giles doesn't think I give off a butchy vibe."
"I never said butchy, I just said gay. Maybe straight people don't have a vibe."
"Oh, no," Willow interjected as she glanced up from the Circle of Iron text, "straight has a vibe. Buffy, for instance: major vibage."
"Oh, she's a total breeder," Kennedy agreed. Thank god. The thought of the emotional damage that girl could inflict on the datable population was truly scary.
"Then why am I confusing?" Dawn's voice began to get shrill. "Do I give off some gay vibe? I like boys, I date boys! Okay, so I only dated two boys, but that counts for something, right?"
"One was a vampire," Giles reminded her, flipping through a tome entitled The Fair Folke.
"And the other was casting a spell on you," Willow bubbled.
"Guys, I'm not gay!" Dawn was yelling, looking desperately to Willow for some kind of confirmation.
"Hey, Willow didn't even know she was until college," Kennedy smugly smiled. This was getting to be too much fun.
"Who didn't know what until college?" Andrew walked into the library, half-eaten ham and cheese sandwich in hand.
"Willow, lesbian," Kennedy replied. Andrew nodded thoughtfully, then looked up at the slayer, his telltale quizzical expression already plastered on his smooth features. Kennedy pre-empted his usual annoying questions.
"Dawn is freaking out because the faeries that I accidentally summoned couldn't lock their gaydar on her and they stole her MP3 player so we're going to figure out how to send them back to their happy hunting ground or where ever they come from."
"Oh. Maybe I've been hanging out with the Scoobies too long, but that actually made a lot of sense."
"Hurm," Giles bit the arm of his glasses.
"That was a bad noise," Willow correctly surmised.
"Well, according to what I'm reading, the Rhyming Pixie is more or less immune to all forms of human wielded magic. They can make solid objects incorporeal, and that makes them, well, for all intents and purposes, invincible."
"Still waiting for the good new, Giles," Kennedy flatly stated.
"Well, it says that they can be banished by defeating them in a contest of their choosing, and that they are extremely easily influenced by the local culture."
"Dawnie," Willow asked, her voice swathed in worry, "what was on that mix you were listening to?"
"Let's see," she tapped off the names on her slender fingers, "Tupac, 50 Cent, Eminem, and Snoop Dogg."
"My friends," Andrew announced, "I think the fae are now living the thug life."
In the hollow of a tree sat a squirrel. He was a good squirrel. He had many nuts, and the female squirrels swooned in their squirrelette way over him. He was a very successful squirrel. He even resisted the call of their god all those days ago. Many of his brethren swam into the great ocean and drown.
And he has absolutely nothing to do with the story.
No, the real focus is on tiny winged men, twig noses and twig limbs, some with beer bellies and some with belly buttons, all a different hue. The fountain of lights that flowed around them sputtered here and there, ebbing with thoughts that changed as rapidly as a moth changes vector.
They huddled around the odd contraption that had until so recently produced rhymes for them. It had stopped, and Blonde Bim tickled his chin whiskers in thought as he puzzled out the whys and the wherefores of its operation. He stepped wide, slow steps, spidery fingers experimentally touching the metal trailer. There were crevasses in it, and silvery ledges, and a glass window that glowed with faerie fire. Bim tapped the window, waited, but no one was home. He turned to his friends, and shrugged. With a tinny sigh, he leaned his weight on the box. It sprung to life.
"A secret unbou-"
Peddyworth T. Puckett silenced the haiku-laden fae with a single azure hand. He drew a line to the headphones, and the thub-thumping bass line. Such was the rhythms of the satyrs, and the rapid speech of all fae. But the subject matter was foreign; it lacked the whimsy and flights of fancy that all faerie-kind took from time to time. This spoke of and glorified the banalities of a world gone mad. Puckett stepped closer to the headphones, and sat in front of them, leaning into the sound.
It wasn't long before Green Tom, Tommy Scarlett, Blonde Bim, and the other one, whose name was long forgotten, sat in a semicircle and listen to twisted campfire stories delivered by the most ardent materialists and nihilists the world has ever produced. They nodded and smiled at each other, then learned that smiling isn't done, and scowled and nodded at each other. The player rumbled on, the fae learning and imitating more and more with each lyric barked out and angry. The songs ended, and there was silence for a very long moment. The squirrel chittered. No one moved until Puckett stood up and spoke.
"Yo, check this- I got twisted shizzit in my head
you want to play this game I'll wind you up dead
So what you standin' round like a buncha weak punks fo'?
I got's ya in the sights of my Glock, buck buck so
My boys an' me are gonna drop it, don't thank me
Don't wanna play? You about to get pranked, see?"
Blonde Bim looked back in the direction of the house from which they flew. With his usual succinct manner, he summed it up thusly:
"Fo' shizzle, my nizzle."
National Pranking and Loan
In retrospect, it all happened so fast. That was the sort of thing that victims of accidents say: it all happened so fast! I never saw the eighteen-wheeler speed down the road and turn little Timmy into a fine red mist! It is such a cliché that they made clichés about how clichéd it is.
It was the truth though. One second Kennedy, Willow, Andrew, Dawn and Giles were walking through the town, looking for the sparkling trails of the fae, and the next, Kennedy was without her underwear.
Normally, Kennedy would welcome a chance to be without her underpants. When those came off, lots and lots of fun usually followed. So she had an odd reaction when they vanished. She yelled "woo hoo" at the top of her lungs. It quickly became apparent that this was the wrong reaction to the loss of underpants. There were a few clues the tipped her off.
One: She was in a large, public area. Not a bad thing, or even a definite no-go, but not really her bag either. Two: She was surrounded by people. See reason One for more info. Three, and this was the kicker: Said people by whom she was surrounded were Andrew, Giles, and Dawn. On a list of people she never wanted to see or be seen in that affect, they were second only to her father and the pope.
"Woo hoo" being a poor response, the best her brain could come up with was, "Hey, that guy's got my underwear!"
Giles watched the purple faerie trail twinkle away, the bombing run a successful one. The Watcher turned to look at the young woman pointing into the sky, then down to her completely undisturbed pants.
"How." he pointed at the woman's jeans, curling a lip in thought, "erm, well.how did...pants. Hurm."
"That's one helluva wedgie," Dawn whistled in awe.
Kennedy furrowed her brow in confusion, noticing Willow conspicuously walking away from the conversation and in the direction the flittering faerie flew off.
"What are you talking about?"
Giles stammered a moment longer, and Dawn found her own expression shifting to one of confusion as she kept a finger trained on the slayer's pants. Andrew stepped forward, steepling his fingers and squinting in a way that he hoped made him seem like Sherlock Holmes, or barring that, First Officer Riker.
"Kennedy," he inquired, "you say the faerie stole your underwear. Is that true?"
"Andrew," Kennedy mimicked the tone, "do you want me to kick your ass? Yes."
"Mmm," Andrew pondered this for a moment, then looked at the sky with a sigh that sounded like a cough. "I see."
"And how, pray tell, did the little devil get to your pilfered panties?"
Giles blinked and quivered in half nods, Dawn's dark half circle eyebrows tried to meet her bangs. Both leaned towards the short woman, making her lean back, until the whole scene looked like a crooked picture.
"They.grabbed them and flew off," Kennedy gave her guarded reply. She glanced back to Willow, the redhead hiding her face with scarlet tresses. She looked up to the motley crew she tried to leave behind and blurted in frustration:
"She doesn't *wear* them!"
All four turned to gawk, all in varying types of shock. Giles wasn't terribly surprised, but found it odd and a bit uncomfortable. Dawn was oddly intrigued by the idea of going commando, but packed the thought away with a reflexive 'eww'. Andrew wanted to know if she saved money on underwear, and if so, how much. Would it be enough to say, afford seven extra comics a week? Kennedy was shocked that Willow both had the bravery to say that in public, and the temerity to do the same.
"She won't wear them," Willow continued, "no matter where or when, she will figure out a way to get them off her. It's like her kryptonite. Underwear renders my girlfriend, the slayer, incapable of any thought save the elaborate plans to get them off. She carries them in her pocket."
"Not all of them!" Kennedy protested.
"Oh, no!" Willow rolled her eyes and slapped her thighs limply, "No, she only carries her *lucky* pair with her. Everywhere she goes, its 'la dee da, nothing can hurt me 'cause I've got my *lucky* panties'. Can we get 'em now?"
"Jeez," Kennedy grumbled, "if I'd known you had that much of a problem with it, I'd've left Aquaman at home."
Andrew's geek sense perked up: "Excuse me, did you just say Aquaman? As in Aquaman underoos?"
"Yeah," the slayer grimaced, "is there a problem with that?"
"No, no. It's just, of all the superheroes in underwear form, you picked Aquaman."
"I *like* Aquaman," Kennedy patted her empty pocket remorsefully, "he can talk to fish, and he has a nice shirt."
"Shhyah!" Andrew nearly gave himself whiplash his disbelief and dorky ire rose so high. "Aquaman was only cool in the new Justice League show. And even then he got royally stomped by some weenie bad guy. And that was in his element. You take him out of the water, and he dries out like a turkey three weeks after thanksgiving."
"Guys," Dawn wormed her way between the two seething near combatants. "Would it be too much to ask for us to try and save the name calling until after we catch the little glowy things?"
The four followed Willow's lead, walking farther and farther into the bucolic English countryside. Willow veered around, occasionally stopping to scratch her head, look around, then confidently step in another direction. The rolling green grasses gave way to a copse of small trees, then larger trees, the trunks as thick as a man's shoulders. A thousand different shades of green filtered the ambient light into an ethereal glow. Moss covered large rocks, an organic miniature shag carpet. Willow reached the edge of the forest, her tiny china doll hand feeling some invisible force that wafted from the old forest.
"Is this it?" Giles asked.
"Yup. Their energy leads into this chunk-o-woods."
Kennedy walked up to the witch, brushing her shoulder up against her girlfriend, testing her tension level.
"Does it really bother you that much?"
"Does what?" Willow was lost in some thought or another.
"The whole underwear unwearing fiasco."
"No," Willow ruefully admitted, "I didn't mean to freak out on you like that. I just got some stuff I've been a'ponderin' today."
"Wanna talk about it?" Kennedy wrapped her arm around Willow's waist, the warmth of a denim jacket containing her girlfriend melting into her.
"After," she gestured to the eldritch forest.
"After," Kennedy squeezed Willow, both a promise and a guarantee.
Dawn walked next to her two dating friends, peering into the depths of the forest.
"Is that the-"
Kennedy and Willow dove in opposite directions, each screaming "incoming" at the top of their lungs as a pair of fae, blue and red, barreled straight for the center of the group, a pair of Aquaman underoos held like a net between them.
Tommy Scarlett and Puckett had planned this for all of thirty-seven seconds, which for a pixie plan was something of a record. Even then, well over two-thirds of that time was spent with repetitious "yeah"s and "uh-huh"s. This new form of rhyming was fascinating, but took such a long time to get to a point. So the plan was fairly rudimentary. But thus far, it was working out perfectly.
Dawn was suddenly blind. She tried to call out, but her voice was muffled by something tight and cloth across her face. She clawed at her eyes, feeling around the object that was wrapped around her head. Her hair was shoved through the leg holes of the tiny underwear, and she just knew that the stretched and deformed face of Aquaman was laughing at her at this very moment.
Puckett (or Master Flash P as he called himself now) stood atop a tree limb, strutting over the humans regaining their composure.
"Yo, scope these suckas want ta flex
An' take the break to get correct
Wrecked ya, takin' yo grill to tha deck
One to 'o', what's the dillio and I check
So here comes the judge, come to budge
An' the bitches need a nudge in the way
Come and play but don't stay 'cause you bin' pranked."
With that line, he zipped deeper into the forest, flickering pixie lights pulsing with some imaginary bass beat.
Dawn grabbed the leg hole, rotating around to her eye. Kennedy, Willow, Andrew and Giles all looked at her with rapt amazement, trying to understand the geometry of Dawn's new headgear. The tiny pair of underoos was stretched and deformed, a reverse wedgie. Dawn's sole visible eye burnt with Summers rage.
"Youb umferthand, thif meeb war."
"Just, if I put my foot here," Giles gripped the edge of the underwear come headgear as he planted his foot on Dawn's knee. He pulled back with all his strength, his knee brace supporting all his weight. The waistband stretched like a high-tension cable, but Dawn's head came forward, pulled until it was planted in the older man's chest as he grunted and jerked her around like a deep-sea angler reeling in Jaws.
Dawn cried out, a muffled whine as she wrestled free of his powerful grasp. The underwear rotated a half turn, revealing the girl's eyes and nose, as well as her severe irritation. She reached up to touch her head like a man adjusting his hat, then looked over to Kennedy, who was torn between concern for Dawn and a growing sense of bemusement.
"Nu you haf any fissors?"
"Huh?" That she managed to respond without breaking out into hysterics was a surprise to her, and most likely anyone within sight.
"Nu-you-hafany-fissors?" She punctuated the sentence with a snipping of imaginary shears.
"Oh!" Kennedy patted her jean pockets, as if there was a chance of a pair of scissors had somehow found their way into her pant. "No, no. Sorry."
Andrew stood behind Dawn, stroking his phantom beard and squinting in his cat-like way. He decided on something with a forceful nod, and reached out to the leg hole at the back of Dawn's head, pulling out a handful of hair. He smoothed out the flowing chocolate mane, taking an appraising step back. Dawn twirled to glare at him, her hands on her hips and her most deadly stare fixated on the sweater-clad gentleman. The look would have been more effective if the orange clad ocean going superhero hadn't been adding color commentary beneath Dawn's nose with an upraised finger.
Giles reached into his back pocket, pulling out a switchblade. It opened with an angry click. Dawn jumped at the sound, her eyes widening in terror as Giles approached her, glinting steel probe testing the air with slow cuts.
"Well just have to cut it off, then," he said, his voice soothingly deadly.
"Hey!" Kennedy dashed to interpose herself between Giles and Dawn. She recoiled slightly at the knife in her face, then gently pushed it aside with one finger. "No one cuts up Aquaman!"
Giles snapped the knife closed and rolled his head back: "Oh, for God's sake, just get that thing of the poor girl's head!"
"Maybe Willow can teleport it.or something?" Andrew offered, gesturing towards the witch who was again wandering away from the spectacle.
Willow's green eyes took in the forest surrounding them, searching the mystical whorls and eddies for a sign of the fae. This was a magical place, old spells of protection and healing mixing in with centuries of bloodletting. Once, this place had been thick with the fae, but the wars with demons and the spells of ancient mages drove them to their glittering realms to stay and forget. So, it was difficult to discern any noticeable magical trail to follow. Willow turned to face her friends, who for some reason were being exceptionally annoying. She wasn't sure why, exactly, but every action they did seemed to drive her a little madder.
"No, I can't do that. Well, I can, but if you're fond of Dawn's head, I wouldn't suggest it."
Kennedy dove towards Willow, pulling the witch onto the moist, cool ground with a rolling tug, using her own body to soften her lover's fall. Giles dropped onto his rear, the most expedious way to hit the deck, while Andrew pulled himself into a fetal ball and screeched. Dawn was in no mood to be caught unawares again, and possibly have some other object jammed on her head, so she dropped into a soft-looking bush, her pony mane a silky waterfall behind her.
An overripe red tomato exploded on the ground between the prostrate companions. Great scarlet chunks showered Andrew's face like a scene from Saving Private Ryan. Andrew leapt up from his position, scraping the pungent vegetable matter off his face, whimpering and whining in an ever-increasing urgency. Another tomato arced to the ground between Andrew's feet. His eyes darted along the wood line, mouth open and lips drawn in panic.
"They're all round us!" he shouted, "Faeries in the trees! Take cover!"
"How many are there?" Giles called as red paste splatted onto his foot. The intermittent tomato had become a full-fledged fullisade, fermented vegetable matter raining down on the pinned troopers like the very messy and mostly harmless wrath of Hell itself.
Kennedy popped up from her knees, sprinting to a large tree, the rough bark crunching as she threw her back into it. A line of tomatoes rat-tat-tatted behind her. She jerked her head around the trunk for a heartbeat, then dropped back to cover. She blinked hard, twice, then repeated her jerk and glance. Satisfied, she stuck out her lower lip in bewilderment.
"Monkeys!" she called to Willow, the witch scampering into a better position.
"What!?!" Willow stopped, standing up to make eye contact with the latino woman. Her head jerked back and to the left, back and to the left, a pink spray misting the air. She went over hard, twigs and leaves scraping her palms.
"WILLOW!!" Kennedy screamed, growling as she leapt the three steps to be beside her fallen lover. She stopped herself an instant before she trampled the poor woman. "Oh, wait. Tomatoes. Right."
"Gross," Willow spat a chunk of veggie, cleaning her tongue with the back of her shirt. She looked up to Kennedy, knowing she must be a miserable sight: hair matted with tomato paste, dirty chin where she wiped it off. Her eyebrows knit in confusion, trying to figure out if she had in fact heard the slayer right the first time. "Monkeys?"
"As in, 'ook ook, eek ekk' monkeys?"
"Oh. No, not oh, why?"
"Uhhh..." Kennedy shrugged, haphazardly dodging a projectile, "magic?"
"Good answer," Willow nodded, pulling Kennedy out of the way of another incoming round.
"Children," Giles called from his hiding spot, "perhaps we should move away from this simian assault and reconsider our plan of attack?"
"Before they ethcalate to poo," Dawn mumbled. Well, yelled, really, but through the warping of Aquaman it came out as a mumble. She wondered if somewhere there were some goldfish getting very strange messages.
Andrew didn't need any encouragement. He rolled over in the dirt, one way, then the other, then stood up, hopped in a circle with his arms akimbo, and then took off away from the forest. Giles caught a tomato in his back as he followed the energetic boy, actually catching up with Andrew as that he spurned the youth's erratic zig zagging pattern.
Dawn was not far behind, pulling the leg hole around her face to afford some kind of peripheral vision. She stopped to shake her fist at the chattering capuchin monkeys in the trees, skipping out of the way of another bombardment before leaving.
Kennedy and Willow made their way out of the foliage, arms around each other's waists.
"Scoobies' Law," Kennedy grunted as a tomato vaporized off her shoulder.
"Lemme guess.a refinement of Murphy's Law?"
"Yup," she nodded, "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, and usually in the strangest possible way."
"Like a horde of vegetable tossing monkeys."
As the friends exited the forest, the five faeries stepped out of their hiding spots, materializing into the woodlands proper. They all exchanged stern and serious looks, for they were hard men. Fae. They were hard fae men. Red-T, formerly Tommy Scarlett, adjusted his bling bling fashioned from a pull-tab and a bit of twine and stepped forward.
"Deuce an' 'o'
steppin' an' checkin' like a motherlovin' ho
they run an' go
prankin' so hard suckas drop stop an' blow
The five threw up their gang sign, a pair of wings formed my interlocking heir thumbs and holding them against their chests. This was their hood now, and no punks were gonna bust it up for them. The monkeys were a stroke of genius, and all it required was teleporting them out of every zoo in a three hundred mile radius. They'd go back, but right now, they were screeching in victory. And rightfully so. For never had so few sacrificed so many tomatoes for so little.
Prankly My Dear, I Don't Give A Damn
The cramped ranch house never felt more like home to any of the erstwhile companions. They limped in, vegetable viscera dripping off them, Andrew leading the somewhat impaired Dawn around to the plush brown sofa by the hand. She dropped into it, practically disappearing in its massive cushions. She toyed with the waistband of her new headgear for a moment, then sighed what should have been loudly.
"Thith thuckth," she said. Andrew agreed as he peeled his jacket off himself.
"There's got to be a better way to deal with those things," he whined, plopping beside Dawn. He winced as his knees bent. "Ow. I skinned my knees."
"Poor baby," Kennedy bit as a piece of rotten vegetable matter disentangled itself from her hair. She picked a few chunks of tomato off Willow's russet jacket, gingerly tossed them into the ever-putrefying trash bin.
Willow abandoned her jacket with a shrug, bee lining for the ruins of Giles's private library. "I'm on research detail," she announced. Kennedy held the discarded coat between thumb and forefinger, her sable brow knitting as her lover darted away. Giles levered himself off of the barstool wit his cane, careful to hide the grunt of pain as he moved to follow Willow. Kennedy halted his venture with a shake of her head, picking up his vector as she strode to confront the witch.
The room was in the exact same state she had left it in; save for the slight form of a particular redhead seated cross-legged, a thick tome in her lap as she read furiously. Kennedy planted her hand against the doorframe, her other on her hip. She lolled her head to the right, setting her jaw and her irritation at once.
"Well?" She broke the silence, Willow hopping a bit then settling back to her bibliophilic world.
"Well what?" Willow didn't look up, but scanned a passage with her finger.
"Okay, here's how it's gonna be," Kennedy stood up straight, walked over in front of Willow, and sat across from her. She placed both hands on the book, blocking the lines read, and opened her eyes wide to capture Willow's confused gaze.
"I feel like I'm getting excluded from something. I don't know why, but it makes me feel like you don't respect me enough to tell me. And then I'm worried about whatever has you worried, except I don't get to know it so I just let my imagination go crazy. So.what's up?"
"Is this an intervention?" Willow tossed the book into the pile, and truly tried to avoid her girlfriend's gaze, for she knew the trap that lie in wait. She carefully maneuvered her eye line across the floor, looking for another possible helpful book, but then Kennedy squeezed her calf. Willow's green orbs zeroed in on the smooth hands touching her leg, then traveled up her lithe arms. By the time she caught sight of her leanly muscled shoulders, Willow knew she was trapped. Those wonderful eyes were waiting for her, big and dark and inviting, always accepting, and safe. And she was stuck. Kennedy's full lips were pouting in the most inviting way, not an act, but a genuine pout. Willow kissed her, not out of any real depth of meaning, but simply out of a desire to capture those lips in hers. She pulled away, knowing full well that Kennedy's iron cloaked in velvet gaze would still be demanding answers. Defeated, but in a good way, Willow acquiesced.
"Curse you and your pretty face," she grumbled. Her fingers found Kennedy's, soothing herself with the contact. "Sweetie?" she intoned after a moment's respite, "What if Giles was wrong?"
"It wouldn't be the first time," Kennedy guarded her response. "But what are we talking about? And before you answer, let me just say how glad I am that we *are* talking."
"I too am glad. But what if Giles was wrong about, you know, the thing."
"The.mirror thing. You know, 'grr', evil me. What if it wasn't just a side effect from the spell?"
"Where are you going with this? You think it was intentional. You think Amy-oh, she is such a corpse. I'm gonna kick her ass so hard her daddy and his trophy wife are gonna feel it."
Willow snickered: "That's funnier than you know." She shrugged, "I don't know what it means. I don't think The Rat had anything to do with it, but it just doesn't feel unintentional. It's too complex. It just, I don't know, just doesn't feel right."
Kennedy kissed their clasped hands, then furrowed her brow with a tongue stud click. Silently, she lifted a small leather octavo volume from the biblio-rubble, inspecting the spine carefully. Willow watched with rapt attention: her girlfriend was about to do something interesting. She had a knack for cutting through Gordian knots, Alexander the Great struck in female form. No less gay, though.
"Jackpot," she pointed at the title: Weaknesses and Aires of the Fae. "All we have to do is look up 'Gangsta Rapping Faerie McThuglets' in this handy dandy reference guide, and it's clear sailing for the Sorta Scoobies." She thumbed through the pages, moving her lips as she read the fine archaic English print. Of course, they wouldn't have invented an index by then; that would be just too easy. Willow pressed herself against her back, resting her chin on her shoulder and reading with her. After several minutes of reading, and occasional caresses that teased the edge of chaste, Kennedy stabbed a particular passage with her index finger. They both read it, then met each other's gaze with identical looks of incredulousness.
"No way," Kennedy denied.
"I don't know," Willow reread the passage, "It does make faerie good sense."
"Ow," she cringed at the pun. "No, that's just way too easy. It's gotta be Fae-ke."
Willow giggled and shoved her playfully. "So you really want to go there? I'll.bust a cap in your booty." Her delivery couldn't have been more stilted.
"Oh god," Kennedy recoiled in mock disgust, "you are such a goober."
"I didn't just call someone a goober," Willow poked the slayer's nose, then followed it with a light peck. It was tempting to just fall into this passion, this playful air that was almost foreign to her, but...
'But'. Why was there always a 'but' involved, and not just the fine derriere of her lover? Every single time she felt this relaxed, this unguarded, there was always something, some needling emergency that would call her away to disengage from that warmth that Kennedy provided. That comfort. She should blow off all the world's problems for a minute, and languish in the grasp of the strong woman beside her, 'but'.
There were insane and insanely powerful fae on the loose, and true, they were not yet dangerous, but fae had a reputation for quickly becoming very uncontrollable in their twisted pranking. So she lived with this 'but', and stood up to tell the others the plan.
This wouldn't do at all. The lead monkey was unwilling to go back to his home, and had declared himself grand high emperor of the forest for his valiant tossing of the largest tomato at the tallest human. Puckett tried to explain to it that this was their hood, and ain't no suckas gonna flex on his turf. The little capuchin just squealed his cat-like head off, alternating throwing tiny rocks at the fairies and picking at the bark between its feet.
Puckett grew irritated with the shrieks, and took action. He reached behind him, touched the small of his back like he had something stashed there, and whipped his hand back around, index and middle finger cocked sideways, pointing at the monkey. His thumb dropped, and a flash and pop-pop-pop dropped the simian from the tree limb. It landed limbs twisted and unbreathing on the mud below. Puckett's faerie fire darkened, shadowed and seeped.
The other knew this change. Sihde becomes Unseelie, woman becomes witch, god becomes demon. Had they their own wits, they would run from the Puckett, or kill him on the spot, or imprison him within a nutshell. Any option was preferable to what their addled brains did instead.
They idolized him.
A Fae-full of Dollars
"We're going to have to cut it off," Giles said after inspecting the leer of Aquaman for the ninth time. "I'm sorry, Kennedy, but I simply don't see any other way to remove it from, from Dawn's head."
Kennedy kicked the side of the couch, hard enough to send Andrew listing to starboard. He rocked back into his original position, utterly unfazed by the disturbance. Kennedy grinned in child-like glee, kicking the chair again, sending Andrew on another short trip, and drawing a remonstrative glare from Giles.
"Weebils wobble but they won't fall down!" Kennedy almost clapped her amusement. She gave one wistful glance towards her lucky underwear, and nodded solemnly to Giles. Her elder pulled out a pair of scissors, much to Dawn's relief not his switchblade, and snip-snipped the elastic band. The amazing pressure snapped the underwear off Dawn's head, flinging them at Willow who caught them and smoothly pocketed the underoos.
"I guess Aquaman finally has some use after all," Andrew hummed into his Cup-a-Noodle. He rolled his eyes at the blank stares his jest drew. "He got Dawn to shut up? And he, sort of, just now, flew."
Dawn calmly walked next to him, sat demurely on the arm of the couch, leaned into his face, and screamed with all of her sixteen-year-old might. Glass three miles away shattered, and Andrew tensed his entire body into one quivering mass of nerves until the wail ended. Dawn nodded and harrumphed triumphantly, ignoring all the acid filled looks the others were directing towards her haughty exit. Willow smacked her arm as she passed.
Kennedy fought her coming comment for all of two seconds, but caved under the call of her blinding wit: "So Dawn. Now that you've been in another girl's panties, you thinkin' about joining the other team?"
"Eww!" Dawn twisted her face in disgust, smoothing her features at the raised eyebrow Willow sideswiped her with. "I mean, no 'eww', but not 'yum!' either."
"So you're torn," Kennedy teased, "I hear you. You're playing both sides of the fence."
"Sweetie," Willow chided, "leave Dawn alone." She turned to the fuming teenager. "You know we'll love you no matter who you like, right?" Willow tried to be as innocent as possible, but not doubling over in laughter became increasingly difficult.
"God!" Dawn bellowed, "Just leave me alone! You people are making me crazy!"
"We're good at that," Andrew chimed, "It's our calling."
"Now that the drama is over," Willow said, her grin-face giving way to her pensive-face, "Kennedy and I have a plan."
Giles crossed his arms and leaned back against the rustic countertop. He gestured calmly, giving the floor to Willow. Willow smiled her sweetest at one of her oldest friends, always thankful that he managed to bring a sense of order with him wherever he went. Willow fell into her role as a lecturer with ease, stepping into the center of their makeshift circle and clearing her throat. She got two whole words out before the door swung inwards.
Everyone threw themselves to the ground, five dully-pulsing fae-lights exploding in a miasma of action. They furiously flew around the room, breaking glasses, ricocheting off walls, making an elaborate geometry of chaos with their twists, turns, and impacts. Pots and pans bounced off the floor and rolled into the living room in improbable arcs, a heavy, cast iron skillet broke tiles in the kitchen, and Giles whimpered at the thought of repairs. The fae slowed their destruction, spiraling into the center of the room in erratic circles.
No longer were the five pixies things of whimsical beauty and mischievous merriment. Their liripipe noses twisted and blackened, their teeth sharpened. Those that were thin became cadaverous; those that were plump became obese. Their fingers ended in long, needle-thin claws that clacked in a desolate rhythm. The one who had been Puckett swayed to the front, green tongue whetting its black lips.
"I see you're scared, I like it I gotta say
see me come pack your kids and run away
I'm dangerous, with a heart as black as night
I rip your face off, drink your blood and kill your light
You think I play? I've done the rhymes, done the crimes
Drop your ugly ass in the dirt, pull the trigger, and blow your minds!"
Everyone in the room felt the malignance flow from his lips, once sonorous and airy voice now growling and spitting the lyrics out as if they were a poison. He pointed a crooked finger towards Kennedy, twisting an evil shark-toothed grin as he sent a blast of black magic at her.
Kennedy rolled to the side, hissing mana scorching a swath into the carpet. She dashed to cover, leaping over the kitchen counter as another blast sent liquor and glass in the air. Giles bellowed his rage at the cackling unseelie pixies, whipping his switchblade open and hurling it at Puckett with surprising dexterity. The knife turned to oil as it touched him, and he snarled to unsurprised man.
"That was my favorite knife," Giles groused.
Green Tom seeped to Giles, sweat glistening off his slender form.
"The old man here wants to play child
and e'en then he was not meek or mild
he ran too and fro
as a ruffian goes
I'll send thee then, so you may be wild!"
The ancient spell of transformation glowed blue on Tom's hand as he extended it menacingly towards the fallen watcher. Giles scooted backwards, his knee brace preventing any haste on his part.
All five fae turned to see the redheaded witch stand tall, robotically extending her arm to Puckett.
"I challenge you, dark faerie, to a battle of wits!" Willow blinked several times, searching for a good rhyme to finish off her challenge. Why did she have to use all her 'a' material in the first line? "Um, if you can't rhyme the word I speak, you shall go back to you land of.um..."
Puckett raised his spidery hand. "It's okay. Just don't butcher our ways any more than you have to."
"Oh," Willow smiled, then quickly put her resolve-face back on. "Okay then. There is one word that everyone knows has no rhyme. It is this word, pixie, which you must rhyme."
"Get on with it, witch
so I may go back to slaughtering your bitch!"
"Fine!" Willow spat. "The word is: 'orange'! Rhyme that, fairy boy!"
"Door hinge," Puckett inspected his talons. Willow's face fell. She almost readied her battle spells, and nearly spoke the first of a series of binding spells, when a loud 'whoosh' followed by a loud 'pang' changed her mind.
The fae were scattered like tenpins, Kennedy in the middle of them, swinging the cast iron skillet left and right, knocking the pixies from the air. Two exploded into clouds of foul smelling dust as she slammed their bodies across the room. Another two were crushed as Kennedy waded further into the fray, grinning maniacally and pummeling the surprised fae with peals of laughter. In less than a few heartbeats, the only faerie left standing, or, well, crawling, was Puckett, who hissed at his vanquisher.
"I love my job," Kennedy spoke, slamming her skillet of doom down and reducing Puckett into a pile of pixie dust.
A Fae Dollars More
Repairing the homestead took less time than anyone had expected. There was a little property damage, but Giles press-ganged even Andrew into helping with the work. The really fun part came when the library had to be straightened up. After almost thirty-seven jokes about Dawn 'straightening up', a massive screaming match started that ended only when everyone had gone hoarse and forgotten the topic.
And so, Willow and Kennedy headed back to the airport, arrangements for their relocation to Cleveland, Ohio calling them. Giles begged them to take Andrew and Dawn with them, despite the fact that Buffy would be one miffed monkey when she found that Giles had unofficially deported them. The duo had to refuse, stating their preference for staying alive. Giles did have one question that had been bothering him.
"Kennedy," he said, "how did you know how to kill the pixies?"
"Oh, it just sort of came to me," she enigmatically returned, then added an addendum when Willow elbowed her. "Okay, so I used to read fairy tales to my little sister. And I remembered that in all the stories, they couldn't touch cold iron. So-"
"You grabbed the skillet."
"Ain't she keen?" Willow wrapped a proud arm around her waist. The two said their goodbyes, hugged everyone (even Andrew), and boarded the plane.
Somewhere else, in a place filled with waterlogged plants and slithering black shapes, a weathered old plantation house buzzed with activity. Dragonflies lit atop the twisted knuckles of an old swamp-tree. It was almost time.
It was almost time.
© ObliqueReference 2003