Chp 12 Puzzles
Three for a Secret
Chp 12: Puzzles
The inside of the Magic Box was quiet and comfortable. A warm breeze blew in through the half open door, bringing the scent of flowers. Willow and Xander were sitting at the table, one reading a book, the other a comic. Without looking up, Willow turned a page with one hand and pushed a bag of chips she’d found under the counter towards her friend.
Xander took a handful, not taking his gaze from the latest Harry Potter.
Willow sighed and closed the comic. “I wish our lives were as simple as these guys,” she murmured. “Kpaow! Bang! Everyone bad is dead and the heroes fly off into the night.”
Xander grinned at her. It felt good sitting here with his best friend, knowing that whatever he said, she would understand, even if it came out wrong. When he was with Anya, he always had the sneaking suspicion she was analysing every word he said for sense and grammar.
‘Well, as far as we know, our heroes have flown off into the night as well.”
“Without telling us? Hey, yes, you could be right.” She paused, then looked up at him from under her tangled red hair. “Do you sometimes get the feeling that we’re just the walk on parts in Buffy’s little play?”
Xander frowned. Trust Will to put into words what he’d been feeling for months.
“I mean, why did she want us to stay here in the shop? What damage did she think we would do to this world? And why is it OK for Anya and that Div’vid to wander around on their own?”
Xander shut his book with a snap and walked across to the door. He stood, hands jammed in pockets, gazing out. He realized, with a start, that he had no great desire to go and explore any more. Did he feel left out? Yes, but there was nothing new about that sensation.
The odd trailing edge of a thought flickered through his mind and he clutched at it, trying to make sense of what he was thinking.
When the truth hit him, he physically rocked on his heels. He was bored! Bored, bored, bored. By the whole vampire, demon scene. Bored at always being the back-up guy who was useful in an emergency, could be relied on to help put Buffy’s plans into action, but was never, as Willow had just said, more than a bit part player.
He realized that he’d enjoyed the last hour, sitting chatting with Willow, more than anything that had happened to him for ages. No Anya, no Buffy, no Spike or Dawn. Just him and his best friend.
Xander turned and stared at the redhead who had picked up the comic again. He’d always known, of course, that somewhere along the way, when he should have taken the obvious path, he hadn’t.
Then there’d be Cordelia, Oz, Tara and Anya. But – and the blazing thought was there and wouldn’t go away – all of that was wrong. He and Willow – that was what was meant.
They’d all been treating life like some jigsaw puzzle, where they’d pushed pieces together to try and make a pattern. And they nearly did – but it wasn’t quite right. He and Willow – that was right.
He sat down again, heavily. He felt weird. He felt happy.
Willow could feel hot colour flooding up into her face. She got up and pretended to search for something on the shelves behind the counter.
What on earth was happening to her? She loved Tara. She was gay. Oz had been – well, part of growing up, but she knew who and what she was now. So why had she just looked across at Xander – Xander! – and wanted to – felt that – realised that Oz and Tara didn’t matter. Her destiny was sitting there in front of her. And, what was even more disturbing, knowing this made her feel happy!
Out on the hillside a couple of miles away, Anya and Div’vid were relaxing, gazing out over the empty world. To Anya’s relief it had stopped raining and two vast rainbows were cutting across the sky. It was such a beautiful world and would make such a lot of money if packaged and sold correctly as building plots for holiday homes. She knew hundreds of demons who might be persuaded to buy. And Div’vid was such a good partner to have. Not only did he have good ideas, but he appreciated the value of money almost as much as she did.
She was working out in her mind exactly where they could build a mall when Div’vid sighed, his breath parting the long grass in front of them like a small tornado.
Anya patted his vast green hand sympathetically. She wasn’t usually touched by emotions, even though now being human, she often had them herself. But the mournful expression on this demon’s face had upset her. At least his skin was returning from that nasty sickly green to a lovely deep emerald shade. She wanted nothing more than to comfort him, but she wasn’t quite sure why he was upset.
“You sound sad. Was it something I said?”
Div’vid shook his head, his little cow ears waggling. “No, Anya. I feel – I feel as if I’ve forgotten something important, but can’t quite remember what.”
“Oh, that’s quite common amongst us business people,” Anya said cheerfully, feeling better now she knew she wasn’t to blame. “We lead busy lives and have a lot on our minds. And I expect you’ve been travelling a lot and not eating properly. I’m not surprised you’re feeling absentminded.”
Div’vid looked down at her and smiled. She was very sweet, this ex-demon girl. Caring, clever and very sexy. “You’re quite right. It’s been hours since I ate a good meal. My stomachs are all empty and I can’t regurgitate anything.”
Anya tutted crossly. She knew as well as the next girl that Regurgitating Frovlax demons needed to eat every two hours. “If you want to eat, just go ahead. It won’t bother me.”
Div’vid hesitated. He had the oddest feeling that other people, well, one other person but he couldn’t remember who, hated to see him eating in public, always insisted that he only did so when he was alone. He gazed longingly at the acres of sweet, clover filled grasses around him.
“Well, if you’re sure – ”
Anya watched, pleased and proud as he grazed, his massive jaws chewing the grass with loud chomping noises. So, perhaps he wasn’t facially the best-looking demon she had ever accounted, but he had a great body and she’d always liked her men to be – well – big! And in that department she had no doubts at all.
And OK, he looked like a cow, but she didn’t find that unattractive. She liked cows. And looks weren’t the person. She’d always known that Xander had hated her demon veins. It was odd, but somehow she knew Div’vid would find them quite becoming.
Was she being unfaithful to Xander? She reached up and patted Div’vid on the back as he burped on a particularly rich and thorny weed. Xander wouldn’t care, she realised. Xander had Willow and it wasn’t as if Div’vid was attached to anyone…
She sighed happily. It was weird, but she felt as if she’d been trying to do one of those silly puzzles and suddenly all the pieces had fallen neatly into place.
It was Spike’s voice that woke Buffy from what seemed like a long, relaxing sleep.
“Buffy! Slayer! Wake up, pet. You really need to open your eyes!”
Buffy grunted, buried her face in the soft cotton of what she knew was his T-shirt, feeling the hardness of the muscles underneath.
“Perhaps she’s dead.”
All sleep vanished. That was Arabella’s light, English voice, clipping out the words in what sounded like a hopeful tone.
Buffy opened her eyes and sat up. The three of them were lying on the ground in – words vanished from her mind to describe where they were. Too vast for a room, a white space stretching on and up, shining and beautiful. The very air seemed to shimmer around them.
“Right here, pet. Wherever here is!”
“The chipmunks – they were holding the pendant, the gold one. I touched it, touched them – and then – ”
“It’s magic. I hate magic!” Arabella stood up and brushed down her immaculate skirt. “It’s so irresponsible and unreliable. We could be anywhere.”
Spike pulled Buffy to her feet and stood, his arm round her shoulder. His eyes darkened from blue to midnight. “Do you reckon this is where Hope came when Darla sent her here? It’s bloody big – and she was very small.”
Buffy squeezed the hand that lay on her shoulder. “Can I just check we’re all seeing the same place – big white area, very shiny?”
The two vampires nodded. “Have you still got the gold pendant?” Spike asked.
Buffy nodded. The chain had been tangled around her fingers as she’d touched the “chipmunks” or whatever they had been. She raised her other hand and the pendant swung glittering in the brilliant light.
Spike dug into his duster pocket and pulled out the carved silver locket. He took the gold one from Buffy and the two pieces of jewellery swung together. “One for silver, two for gold, three for a secret that shall never be told,” he said uneasily.
His voice rang out into the endless white space surrounding them and the air shimmered violently again.
Arabella shuddered. “Don’t!” she snapped. She tossed back her long brown curls. “I hate this place. It’s dangerous. Can’t you feel it? We should go. The Slayer brought us here. She wants us dead. Well, I’m not staying around just to oblige her. I want to go back. William – are you listening to me. I – want – to – go – now!”
“I’m not going anywhere until I find out what happened to my little sister.”
Buffy glanced at him. That was the first time she had heard him use that tone of voice to his cousin. Arabella reacted immediately and vamped into game face.
“Who died and made you King?” she snarled. “I want to go. This place is magical and horrible. I don’t care what happened to Hope. She died a long time ago, William. I’m sorry and all that, but you might as well accept the fact that she’s gone.”
Spike vamped out and glared at his cousin. “I thought you wanted me to find her. Why did you tell me about Darla and the pendant if you didn’t want me to know?”
Arabella shrugged angrily. She was feeling weird, scared and irritated. This trip wasn’t turning out as she’d hoped. Cousin William was obviously still besotted with the Slayer, they were standing in some mystical, magical world, waiting for god knew what and she would have sold her soul if she’d had one for a hot shower and a good manicure.
Buffy glanced from one glaring vampire to the other and sighed. She wasn’t sure which she preferred; Spike and his cousin being all over each other or threatening to fight to the death. What was weird, though, was that she didn’t feel jealous of Arabella any more. She knew that Spike loved her: even when they were apart, that love wrapped round her like a warm cloak.
And what was even weirder was that she knew without any doubts that she loved him. Why the heck had she been trying to deny it all this time? It didn’t make any sense. She and Spike might not be the perfect partnership of all time, but they were right together.
She reached out now to touch the ridges across his glaring eyes and he vamped back into human form. He looked at her and, for a second his gaze was bewildered, then his eyes smiled and another piece of the puzzle snapped into place.
“All okay, then?” he said and she didn’t even need to speak, just nodded and moved towards him.
Arabella backed away, scared, feeling a strange power surging between the two of them. A black dread flooded into her mind. She didn’t understand what was happening. It had all seemed so simple; tell Spike about Hope, find out what had happened to the child by using the pendants, and bask in William’s love and gratitude.
Div’vid – a name, a memory of a large green demon floated through her brain. But he wasn’t important; he meant nothing to her. What was important was her survival. Because this dreadful place was destroying all her hopes and dreams. She didn’t belong here, didn’t belong anywhere. She felt lost and bereft, wanted her mother and father and sisters, all long dead, killed by the man who stood there, love for a Slayer blazing out of his eyes.
She couldn’t stay with them. She knew, without knowing how, that staying would mean her death. She turned and ran – and no one stopped her.
Spike and Buffy didn’t even notice Arabella had gone. Her hands were clasped around his neck as he moulded her body against his. The kiss was long and deep; not just from passion, although that was there, but from commitment, need and love.
When they finally broke apart, they stood, locked in each other’s arms. The very air around them seemed to feel and taste differently, it shimmered and moved and –
“I can see them, Buffy.”
Standing on either side of them were two figures, tall, white shapes, constantly shifting, brilliant colours rippling across the surface of their bodies. The pendants had called them and whatever they were, they’d now arrived.
The last instalment coming up!
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