Chp 1 Once Upon a Time.... or never play Poker with a Fable Demon
Alive or Dead! by Lilachigh
“Are you going to sulk all the way back to the crypt?” Buffy snapped, rounding on the silent vampire who was walking one pace behind her.
“Not sulking, Slayer. Just bloody pissed off.”
“And does being ‘pissed off’ – and by the way, could you find a more revolting expression? – mean you have to keep scuffing your feet and kicking mail boxes!”
“I had fifteen kittens on the table until you went and bet the whole lot on a pair of twos. A pair of twos! What were you thinking about? If you ever think at all.”
Buffy shrugged. She‘d wanted to spend the evening in the lower chamber of Spike’s crypt. OK, very wrong and bad and she’d probably go straight to Hell, but Xander and Anya had taken Dawn bowling and then she was going to stay the night at their place.
Buffy had arrived at Spike’s full of wicked thoughts, promising herself that this was the very, very last time she would give in to them. So being dragged out the second she’d arrived to play in a poker tournament had not been high on her agenda. “You didn’t leave empty handed,” she said. “Look, you’ve got a whole box full of – things.”
Spike growled. God, she was being so bloody annoying tonight. She’d ruined the whole evening: he’d spent half the time apologising for her behaviour to the guys and the other half wanting to kill them for peering down the front of the white lace effort she was almost wearing.
And now, instead of a nice basket of kittens, all he had to show for his night’s work was a box of rubbish he’d won when some poxy demon had drunkenly used it as his stake money instead of kittens.
The cemetery gate clanged behind them and Buffy zigzagged between the headstones. She couldn’t sense any vamps. Which was bad, because the more she killed the better, and good, because all she wanted at the moment was to crawl between the black satin sheets on Spike’s bed and –
She stopped and turned, impatiently. Jeez, he was as slow as Xander answering a question about algebra. “What are you doing?”
Spike was peering inside the box he was carrying. “Trying to see what’s in here.”
“Oh for god’s sake. You can’t see in this light. Give it to me!”
She grabbed the edge of the box and tugged. Spike tugged back and the box, which had had a difficult night too, gave up the ghost and disintegrated, showering its contents over the grass.
“Now look what you’ve done!” Buffy snapped, bending down to pick things up, unfortunately at the same time as Spike so their heads clashed and she saw stars for a second or two.
“Owww! God, Slayer, your head’s as hard as a rock,” Spike moaned, clutching his forehead.
Buffy, realising that with her luck her head was the only thing that was likely to be hard that evening, kicked the bits of box in temper, then swung a fist at the vampire who grabbed it and angrily dragged her inside the crypt, slamming the door shut on any passing voyeurs.
Whatever they ended up doing inside, the demon’s pitiful collection of goodies never crossed their minds again. So they didn’t notice that a small paper bag had disintegrated right outside the crypt door and five shiny red beans had fallen onto the earth.
Even then all might have been well, but it began to rain and soon roots were forming, twisting deep into the ground, absorbing all the heat and sexual power that was being generated just a few feet beneath them.
The beans burst open, and tendrils began to rise, slowly at first, then twining round each other, thickening, broadening, heading skywards – heading home.
Buffy’s internal clock told her it was six in the morning. She opened one bleary eye, then freaked because it was all black and she was buried in a coffin again and couldn’t move. Then a trickle of memory returned and she realised she was only buried beneath Spike’s sheets and a large portion of naked vampire was lying across her, his nose buried in her belly button.
With a groan she pushed the sheet aside and wriggled free. God, she needed a shower. Or an hour-long scrub in a hot bath. She wondered, not for the first time, why it was that on TV or movies, people woke up together, having had sex the night before, looking clean and tidy and fresh.
She was sticky and smelly; she didn’t even want to imagine what she was lying in and she hated the silly smile that kept flickering around Spike’s lips as he slept.
“Spike! Wake up!” She nudged him in the ribs with her bare foot. “I’ve got to go.”
She was busy pulling on what remained of her clothes when he rolled over and yawned himself awake. “You off, pet? What a surprise.”
She ignored him and clattered up the ladder into the top crypt as Spike pulled on boots, jeans and T-shirt and followed her. “I’ve got orange juice in the fridge,” he said appealingly. “Stay for breakfast.”
Buffy rolled her eyes at him and without replying, opened the crypt door onto a beautiful, fresh, sunlit morning – not!
‘What the bloody hell?” Spike peered over her shoulder at the waving leaves and huge trunk that soared up into a sky that was dark with storm.
“It’s a tree!”
“Congratulations, Brains. Even I can see it’s a tree.”
“Well, it can’t soddin’ well stay there. It’s blocking my view.”
Buffy flailed at the leaves that tried to wrap themselves round her arms. Long tendrils spun out, catching in her hair. “Spike, you live in a graveyard, not the Grand Canyon! You don’t have a view! And anyway, it isn’t a tree. It’s…it’s…”
“A bean stalk!”
“A bean stalk, pet. ”
“Where did it come from?”
Spike looked shifty. He was trying to remember exactly what the demon had been who’d used his personal possessions as a bet the night before at the kitten poker tournament. He knew Clem had introduced him, but he’d been so irritated by the Slayer’s behaviour – she’d been flirting with the Siamese Collector guy - that he hadn’t been listening closely. But he had a nasty feeling the wanker had been a Fable Demon. And if that was the case, then this day had just got off to a bloody awful start and was about to get even worse when he explained the situation to the Slayer.
Buffy stared up at the gathering dark clouds. Thunder was beginning to boom in the distance and, even as she watched, a flash of lightning cut across the sky. She could just see where the top of the beanstalk vanished into the gloom.
“We’d better chop it down,” she said.
“Er – we can’t, luv.”
“Don’t call me luv,” Buffy replied automatically. “Why not? Big stalk, sharp axe, one, two, three. All gone.”
“It’ll grow again.”
“What? How do you know?”
Spike shrugged and gazed round desperately for inspiration, seeking a story that would make sense to an irate Slayer and not end up with him getting his arse kicked all round Sunnydale – or what was even worse – seeing the end of her visits to the crypt. Various thoughts flashed through his brain, then he gave up.
“Oh sod it, Slayer! It grows from beans that belong to the Fable Demon. He must have been the guy I beat in that last hand of poker. The soddin’ beans must have fallen out of the box when you broke it.”
“Me! I so did not break the box. And anyway, what’s a Fable Demon?”
Spike looked at her, puzzled. “You know, the guy who owns fables and fairy-stories.”
Buffy batted away two huge tendrils that were trying to pull her legs from under her. “No one owns fairy-stories, Spike. They’re just – well – fairy-stories. Handed down – ”
“From generation to generation. Exactly. And who hands them down? Where did they start?”
“Hans Christian Andersen, the Grimm Brothers, Walt Disney?”
Spike was shouting now, to be heard over the thunder that was crashing every few seconds overhead. “And where did they get the ideas? They were given to them by the Fable demon. He does fairy-stories as a sideline. Quite lucrative, lucky sod. Made a fortune with the Little Mermaid and he’s still boasting about Snow White and the six Dwarfs.”
“What – oh, right. Well, Bashful was based on the Fable Demon’s cousin. There should only have been six.”
“You still haven’t told me why it’ll grow again?”
Spike suddenly leapt upwards, grabbed hold of a branch and swung his legs across it. He reached down and automatically Buffy caught hold of his hand and swung up beside him.
“What are we doing?”
“Got to climb it, pet. Only way. Have to find the giant, steal the gold and get back here before he finds the beanstalk.”
“What giant? What gold?”
The branches began to shake as the wind grew stronger and the thunder echoed once more. Spike gestured upwards through the threshing leaves towards the sound. “That giant, pet. Now, climb!”
Buffy clambered through the swaying branches of the beanstalk, following Spike as he hauled himself effortlessly upwards. She gazed down once, and gulped.
Heights didn’t bother her, but they were now hundreds of feet over Sunnydale and still the beanstalk stretched above them, disappearing into the dark, thunderous clouds.
“Need a rest, Slayer?” Spike teased.
“At the same time you do!” she shouted up at him.
“Thought you might be tired after last night.”
Buffy pushed off with her feet, leapt in the air and caught the branch he was holding. Her weight bent it almost double and with a roar Spike was catapulted off and only just managed to stop himself falling to the ground by grabbing hold of a lower branch.
“What were you saying?” she called down sweetly as she worked her
way nimbly through the leaves.
Spike growled, then grinned. He knew when he was loosing the fight. Mind
you, he bloody well wouldn‘t tell the Slayer that.
Buffy suddenly stopped and let him catch her up. “Do you really think we need
to do this?”
Spike nodded gloomily. “Afraid so, pet. Otherwise the giant will come down the
beanstalk, then all hell will break loose.”
“I’m trying to remember the story. Didn’t Jack climb up and down several times? There were golden coins and golden eggs, weren’t there? I remember reading it to Dawn when she was little. Well, I didn‘t, of course, but you know what I mean.”
Spike looked even gloomier. “That’s the trouble with sodding fairy-stories. Every time they‘re told, they take on a character of their own. It depends who’s telling them.”
“So if I don’t want there to be a giant, there might not be one?” Buffy said hopefully.
A crashing noise close by shook the beanstalk. Now it was easy to
understand that it was footsteps they could hear, not thunder. Spike frowned. He had a nasty feeling that if this fairy-story was being influenced by the Slayer’s brain, then it could be very different from the usual fun and games and happily-ever-after rubbish. There could be blood and death and destruction – probably his!
Buffy frowned. “Hey. What if it’s sunny up there?”
“Worried about my ashes floating down on Sunnydale, pet?”
Buffy struggled to pull off some waving emerald bean tendrils that were tangling in her hair, then was forced to stay still as the vampire reached across to free her. She glared into the blue eyes that were suddenly so close to her.
“Anyone who doesn’t know that he’s playing cards with a demon who’s that dangerous deserves all he gets!”
“You were there, too!” Spike protested. “You saw him. Tall bloke, long cloak. Very drunk. You could have warned me. Anyway – ” He shrugged cheerfully, “It’ll be fairy-sunlight. Can’t hurt me. Don’t often get the chance of experiencing it. Dru and me did once when we fell into The Little Match Girl story, but there was loads of snow, too, and Dru killed her before she lit the matches so – ”
Buffy stared at him in horror, then turned and grimly began to climb again, sure that it was the damp clouds that were wet against her face, not tears.
“What?” Spike shouted up after her. “What? Hey, vampire here, Slayer. Always have been. Always will.”
Buffy pushed her way through dark mist and bright green leaves, angry with herself for being angry with him. She was having to face the fact that what annoyed her wasn’t Spike carelessly ignoring what the Fable Demon could do, but that he’d had an adventure with Drusilla. Their years together shouldn’t have worried her, but like a mosquito bite, all she wanted to do was scratch the itch.
Which was ridiculous because she wasn’t in love with Spike, she was only having sex with him, trying to find some feeling in a world that seemed endlessly distant since Willow had brought her back from the dead. But sleeping with Spike was turning into an enormous problem that she didn’t know how to solve.
She could imagine what her friends would say if they discovered her secret. They’d so think she’d lost her mind!
Suddenly, the tendrils grew shorter, the leaves smaller and Buffy found herself scrabbling off the end of the beanstalk, onto bright blue earth. She felt the thud of Spike’s body next to hers as she rolled over and peered around.
To her amazement, everything was blue – the ground, the grass – which swayed feet above her head, bushes the size of trees and trees the size of skyscrapers. The only green in this world came from where the top of the beanstalk could be seen, torn shreds of mist swirling around it.
She fet she’d been catapulted once more into a strange new world and almost welcomed it. She couldn’t remember what her heaven had been like, but this soft blue light was oddly comforting.
“What do we do next?” she whispered.
Spike lifted his head and peered around. “Find the giant. I reckon he’ll stay close to the gold. We grab the cash, then leg it down the beanstalk, back to Sunnyhell. Once the gold is down there, that will be the end of the story, the beanstalk will shrivel up and we can all get back to normal.”
Buffy stared at him suspiciously. “This isn’t just a plan to get your hands on some cash, is it?”
Spike rolled his eyes at her. “Oh yes, Slayer. I really love climbing sodding hundreds of feet into some bloody fairy-tale before I’ve had my morning blood! Anyway, it’ll be fairy-gold. Not real.”
“Well, where is the giant?” she hissed in return.
Just then the air quivered and the grasses over their heads shuddered and flailed as a roaring noise resounded around them, then a long high pitched whistle tore at their ears and a wind threatened to blow them back down the beanstalk.
Buffy clapped her hands over her ears as the roaring and whistling sounded again and again. “Jeez! Spike! What is that!”?
Spike stood up cautiously, fighting against the wind that was trying to blow him over. Buffy gazed up at him. To her astonishment he was laughing. “I think we’ve found the giant, pet.”
“Where?” She stood up, grabbing hold of his arm as the roaring came again followed by the whistling wind.
Spike grabbed her hand and pulled her forward, pushing the grass aside. Suddenly he stopped and she peered over his shoulder. At first she couldn’t work out what she was looking at, then realized as a foul wind hit her in the face, that it was a vast mouth, three times taller than her, wide open, full of crooked yellow teeth.
Above two nostrils the size of small caverns contracted, the roaring hurt her ears and she braced herself as the wind came whistling out of the mouth again. The giant was lying in the grass, fast asleep and snoring.
“He’s enormous,” Buffy whispered.
“Giants often are, sweetheart!”
Buffy glared at him. “OK, Mr Smarty Pants, let’s find this gold and get the heck out of here before he wakes up and goes all Kong on us.”
Spike opened his mouth to say, “Hey, that was a fable too at one time,” then decided that perhaps this wasn’t the best time to tell her that they could have fallen into the story of Kong if the statue of the big ape had been in the demon’s box last night.
Cautiously they crept along the length of his arm. From what Buffy could see, he was wearing a leather jacket with short sleeves. The hairs growing out of his skin were as thick as her wrist.
“Where do you think the gold is?” she whispered.
Spike shrugged. He was hungry, irritable and getting a crick in his neck from gazing up at the mounds of heaving flesh. And the snoring was hurting his ears. He hoped bitterly that the sodding Fable Demon was lying in a gutter with a severe hangover this morning. The next time he saw him he’d –
“Look!” Buffy grabbed his arm. Clutched in the giant’s sausage shaped fingers was a floppy bag with a drawstring neck. It was made of some soft red material and bulged alarmingly with hard, coin shaped shapes!
She ran forward, ignoring Spike’s hoarse whispered warning. She tugged at the material, trying to tear it, but whatever it was was too tough. “Have you got a knife?”
Spike froze as the huge fingers twitched, then relaxed again. “Oh yes, Slayer, I always stick a bloody knife in my pocket when I get out of bed.” He reached out and grabbed at the bag. “Pull!” he hissed and as the material stretched tightly between them, he vamped into game face, and brought his fangs down to slice through the strongly woven threads.
“Team work, pet. Works every time.” He shimmered back to human and grinned down at her, frowning as she sent him an odd slanting glance. Then she plunged her hands into the bag and pulled out a handful of coins. They glittered in the odd blue light.
“We’ll never carry it all,” she said under her breath, trying to push coins into her pockets.
Just then the fingers clutching the bag, moved and the world went mad. Buffy and Spike were sent flying through the air to crash down into the grass yards away as the giant rolled over and climbed to his feet.
“Fee, Fi, Fo Fum,
I smell the blood of an Englishman,
Be he alive, or be he dead,
I’ll grind his bones to make my bread!”
The voice roared out, making the very air shake and quiver. Huge feet crunched towards them and hundreds of feet below in Sunnydale, people gazed up at the angry sky and sheltered from the thunder.
“How can he smell you?” Buffy yelled, diving behind a vast sapphire flowering bush and ducking as a midnight blue and violet bee the size of a robin zoomed around her head.
Spike rolled sideways as a vast hand swooped down, missing him by inches.
“Bloody hell, I don’t know, Slayer. Maybe he’s French! Always hated those poxy buggers.”
“Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum,
I smell the blood of an Englishman.”
“Head for the beanstalk,” Buffy yelled and bending low, she zigzagged towards where the green shoots spilt out over the bright blue ground.
She was feet away, with Spike at her back, when a roar shook the air around them. She was flung to the ground, Spike covering her body with his own. Then, even as she squirmed to get free, she felt the vampire being plucked away from her.
She turned to see the giant holding Spike, his legs kicking helplessly. “Spike!”
“Go, Buffy! Take the gold down the beanstalk. It must touch the ground or else the story won’t end - ” His voice broke off as, roaring once more about Englishmen and blood, the giant turned and carried him off.
Buffy slid head first through the gap in the ground, grabbed the beanstalk and swung herself down the first couple of branches. Then stopped. She could feel the gold in her pockets, knew she should slide down to the ground and let the beanstalk disintegrate. She knew she had to leave Spike to his fate. He was a vampire. No one would mourn his passing. Her friends would be glad and it would solve all her problems. She would never have to tell them now that she was sleeping with him. Her personal “giant” problem would be solved. Yes, there was no choice. She had to leave him.
And she reached up and began climbing – upwards.
To be continued
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