SB_Fag_Ends

 
 

So, there’s the awesome community on LJ called SB_Fag_Ends (Spike/Buffy, British for cigarette butts.) I rarely contribute because I’m not quick enough to jump on the prompts, but every once in while I get inspired or lucky. Because the ficlets are so short, but too long to be drabbles, I’m going to put them on one page and hope people can find them.


#1 - this was a food prompt: Breakfast in Bed




Let Me Take Care of You


“Spike, I have to go home.” Buffy shook her head and sighed. “I’m so tired of having this conversation. I can’t stay here. You know it and I know it.”


“Give me one good reason,” he growled. “The bit’s at her dodgy friend’s house, Red can do her moping and mojoing just fine without you.  There’s no good reason why you need to leave before daylight.”


“Why should I stay? I’m exhausted. Even you have to be tired by now.” She glared at him and flopped back on the bed perfectly comfortable in her nudity.


“All the more reason to stay, love.” His voice had dropped to a soft rumble, and he stretched out beside her, touching her face with one tentative hand.  “Just rest. Get some sleep. Let me take care of you for once.” There was just a trace of a plea in his voice.


“I won’t have time to eat breakfast before work if I stay,” she said, her eyes shutting in spite of herself.  Spike pulled the blankets up and wrapped his arm around her.


“Let me take care of you,” he whispered. “Just let me...” A soft snore was the only answer.  He watched her sleep until the candle guttered out, then curled himself in behind her where he could feel her breathing and inhale her scent.


~~~~~~~~~


Buffy opened her eyes, blinked until she remembered where she was, sat up and stared around.  The underground room was filled with light from a dozen candles placed around the bed. Spike was standing just inside the entrance to the tunnels holding two large bags and looking at her with dismay.


“Thought you’d sleep longer,” he said, coming in and setting the bags down carefully. “Don’t suppose you’d be willing to pretend you were still asleep for another minute or two?”


“Don’t be silly.” Buffy started to get up, but he rushed to her side and gently pushed her back.


“No, wait. Please?”  He pulled all the pillows up against the back of the bed and urged her to lean against them.  “Give me just a few minutes, then you can scamper off if you want to. I swear.”


With a sigh of defeat, Buffy relaxed back against the pillows and watched with curiosity as Spike pulled a large tray from behind a bookcase. He set it on the dresser and began taking things from the bags.  With his back to her, it was hard for Buffy to see what he was doing, so she closed her eyes and allowed her mind to drift to somewhere that was not an underground bedroom and where she was not sleeping in a vampire’s bed.


“Here, love.” His voice brought her eyes snapping open to find him holding the tray, which now contained a small juice package, a large cup of still hot coffee, a plate of pancakes and a bowl of cereal. In one corner was a small plate holding several doughnuts. A neatly folded napkin and old, but real, utensils completed the picture. Somewhat tentatively, he placed the tray on her lap and stood back, his expression wavering between pleased and terrified.


Buffy was fairly sure her expression was pretty much the same. Her heart melted at the lovely gesture, and she was terrified to let him know how touched she was. She picked up the coffee and removed the lid, smiling at the scent coming from the still-steaming liquid. “How did you know what I like?” she asked, immediately wishing she hadn’t when he stared at her incredulously before turning away to hide the pain in his eyes.


“I’m sorry, Spike.” It was a tossup which of them was more shocked – the vampire who whirled around to see if he’d heard correctly or the wide-eyed girl on the bed. With every ounce of courage she possessed, Buffy continued. “That was a stupid thing to say. I know the answer.” 


She stuffed a piece of pancake in her mouth before she could say anything else that he might interpret to mean this was ever going to happen again.  Without looking at him, she polished off all the pancakes, the cereal and one of the doughnuts.  Still without meeting his eyes, she shoved the plate in his direction. “Doughnut?”


“Only if you don’t want any more.”


“I’m not going to eat anymore,” she said, patting the sheet where it covered her stomach. “I think you’re trying to make me fat.”


He laughed and grabbed the jelly doughnut.  “Just helping you keep your strength up, pet.” He wiggled his eyebrows and leered at her. “Tonight’s another night, yeah?”


She shook her head and set the tray aside, getting up to find her clothes neatly folded on the bottom of the bed. She raised an eyebrow at him, smiling when she didn’t find her underwear in the little pile. “You’re incorrigible,” she said as she got dressed.  “And insatiable.”


He shrugged, his expression wary when she walked over to him, saying, “I think I like that in a man.”  She kissed his cheek, whispered a “Thank you, Spike” and ran up the ladder and out into the sun, leaving him holding his cheek and staring after her.



#2 - This next series was the only one where I kept up on a daily basis. The overall theme was Halloween (spooky stuff). I think the daily individual prompts will be fairly obvious. All takes place in some imaginary season five or so:


Something Wicked This Way Comes


Skeletons


“Spike, bones!”


“Bones? What about them, Slayer?  Thought we were here to stop the— Did you want to jump mine?”


“What? Ewww! No, you…  No, I meant, watch out, Spike, there are bones and they— oops?”


She giggled as Spike went down from a blow delivered by a skeleton wielding a club. Her amusement was short-lived as another of the animated skeletons swung a sword at her head and she had to duck away, rolling far enough that she could come up swinging her own sword and taking off the head of her attacker.  When the headless skeleton kept moving, she sighed and began whacking at the arms still reaching for her.


“Wonderful! It’s the Terminator all over again, and me without a big squishing machine handy.”


“Break them, love,” Spike said, shaking off pieces of bone as he emerged from pile of no longer moving skeletons.  “When they’re broken they stop moving. It’s kinda fun.” He grinned and met the next wave of attackers with a whoop of joy.  “Bring it, you walking Halloween decorations!” he said, wading into them to the accompaniment of snapping and cracking sounds.  With a shudder, Buffy began using her sword as a club and soon had amassed her own pile of broken bones.


When the only moving things left on the field of battle were Buffy and Spike, they took a moment to enjoy the victory before starting the walk home.  He nudged her arm. “So, back to my original question…”





Zombies


“Crisis averted,” Buffy said with satisfaction as she dropped her sword near the door. “We turned them all into piles of broken bones.  Yay us!”  She looked around the room at the solemn faces staring back at her.  “What? We did good; Skeleton army all gone.”  She turned to Spike, loitering in the hallway.  “Right? We got them all?”


“Not what the long faces in here are sayin’, Slayer.” He fixed a hard eye on Giles. “Holdin’ out on us, were you, Rupert?”


“Nonsense!” Giles said, glaring at the unrepentant vampire. “I’ve just received more information that indicates….”


Buffy threw herself on the couch with a groan.  “You’re about to ruin my day, aren’t you?”


“Possibly the rest of the week…” Willow put in timidly.  Buffy straightened and stood as Spike came to stand by her and glare at Giles.


“What?”


“What the bloody hell?”


Glaring back at Spike, Giles said, “It seems that the skeletons were only the first wave. The next batch of animated dead fighters is going to be—”


“Please tell me you’re going to say ‘vampires’,” Buffy begged. “If the next word out of your mouth is—”


“Zombies!” Xander offered with a helpful wave.


“That was the word I didn’t want to hear.  I HATE zombies!”


Xander shifted his eyes to Spike. “Isn’t that kind of what evil undead there is? A corpse that won’t stay lying down?”


Spike growled and bared his teeth. “I don’t eat brains,” he said, clearly offended. “And none of my body parts are fallin’ off.”


“If you don’t get your hand off my ass, you could be losing an important body part,” Buffy hissed in his ear. “I thought we agreed you’d keep your hands to yourself in front of… well, everybody.”


“Sorry, love. It was just right there in front of me and I forgot….” He straightened up, announcing, “All right, then. The slayer and I will head back out to slay zombies.”  He turned to Giles. “How do we do it?”


“Um… well, we were just researching that…” He glanced at Buffy. “How did you do it before?”


“I smashed that stupid mask that Mom brought home.”


“I see. So, you will need to locate the object that is being used to animate them and destroy it.”


“Or I could just set fire to them,” Buffy said, taking Spike’s lighter from his pocket and flicking it on and off.


“Well, yes, that could—”


“We’ll need gasoline, luv. Lots of it. Best leave now to start organizing our weapons.”  He tried to encourage Buffy in the direction of the door.  “You lot just concentrate on figuring out what the object might be and where it is. Slayer and I are going out to set bonfires.”


~~~~~~~~~~


Hours later, when Sunnydale was dotted with smoldering piles of dead, decomposing flesh, Buffy and Spike paused to congratulate each other.


“Bloody brilliant of you, pet. Storing the petrol all over town so we always had some handy.”


“Well, I wouldn’t have thought of it if you hadn’t said we could use gasoline to burn bunches of them at one time.”


“Make a bloody good team, don’t we?”


“We do,” she agreed, moving willingly into his embrace.  “And we’ve got some time to kill before you have to go hide from the sun…”


“Could hide in my crypt,” he crooned, nuzzling her ear. “Only dead body there is much more alive than any of these wankers were.”  He pressed the proof of his vitality against her as he whispered in her ear.


“Mmmmmm,” she responded. “Sounds like a plan. Race you there.”




Ghosts


Let me guess,” Buffy said, walking into Giles’s apartment with her vampire shadow beside her. “We’re not done yet. Old Multiplex or whatever his name is has something else up his slimy sleeves.”


That is one way of putting it,” Giles said, frowning at the vampire’s proximity to his slayer.  “I think we can safely assume that he has not given up yet, and he will continue to use his skills as a necromancer to attempt to take over the Hellmouth.”


“Well, he’s done skeletons and zombies, what’s left?”  There was a crashing silence while everyone stared at Spike who was attempting to appear invisible. “What? No. If he was going to use vampires he would’ve started with them… wouldn’t he?” She addressed her question to Spike, who shrugged.


“Vamps have a bit more free will than bones and decomposing bodies, luv. Might be he’s working his way up to us—them.”


“Well then, I don’t see what we—stop that!”


“Stop what?” He seemed genuinely confused.


“You… you goosed me!”


“Did not! Didn’t touch you.”


“Well who did then? I didn’t imagine it.”


Willow pointed over Buffy’s shoulder. “Um, maybe he did?”


Hovering in mid-air was a grinning specter, wiggling his fingers at the enraged Slayer.  When she tried to hit him, he slid out through the wall and vanished. They all stared at the apparently solid wall through which the ghost had disappeared.  Buffy turned and appealed to Spike.


“Seriously? Ghosts?  Goosing ghosts?”


He shrugged. “Makes sense, doesn’t it? All part of the controlling the dead gig.”


“How the hell do I fight a ghost?” 


Buffy was going into a full-blown pout when Xander said, his voice shaking just slightly, “Better make that ghosts, Buffy.”  He pointed to the windows, all of which were now filled with grinning, but transparent faces. Even the windows that were covered had ghostly faces on them, just peering out of the window shades rather than glass.


“Giles?  Willow?”


“Working on it,” Willow muttered, opening her laptop.  Giles was busy snatching books from his shelves and handing them to Xander, Tara and Anya.   As the ghostly manifestations began to fill the room, Buffy retreated to the table around which everyone was sitting.  She could see Spike staring at her with curiosity, and she glared back at him in challenge.


“What? I don’t do ghosts. You can’t hit them, they’re already dead, and they’re spooky.”


“This from the woman who spends her nights prowling graveyards for things that go bump in the night,” he said. He opened his mouth to say something else but interrupted himself to give a very unmanly shriek as he swatted at several female wraiths.  “Stop that, you bloody…. Take your hands off… Oi! Only one woman gets to play with that – and she’s very much alive.”


He quickly retreated to Buffy’s side, holding his hands over the violated part of his anatomy.


“Please move away from the table,” Giles said as the ghosts continued to surround both Spike and Buffy, clearly touching them in inappropriate places to the accompaniment of much swearing and threatening, as well as much waving around of hands and punching of the air.  “In fact, perhaps if you go outside they will follow you and we can get on with our research.”


“Oh, that’s nice. Just push the two people under attack out into the dark.  Way to go, Giles!”  Buffy continued to swat at the hands touching her body, even as she obediently moved toward the door. “Come on, Spike. Let’s just take our ghosts and get out of here.”


“Maybe they’ll stay behind and start molesting the Watcher,” Spike said, glaring at Giles. “Make his day, that would, wouldn’t it, Rupert?”


“Out!”  Giles swatted at one of the female ghosts that had drifted closer to peer over his shoulder.  She turned away when Buffy opened the door and followed the rest of them out through the walls.


“Well, so much for that plan.”  Buffy continued to jump and swat at the spirits swirling around them.  “What’s wrong with these things, anyway?”


“Probably tryin’ to keep us too busy to fight anything else off. Or…could be we’re just irresistible.”


Buffy smothered a giggle. “Maybe. You are kind of… sexy… sometimes.”


“And you’re bloody gorgeous,” he responded, waving away one of the ghosts so he could pull Buffy into a loose embrace.  They fell into a long kiss, broken only when Buffy pulled away to ask, “Is that <i>your</i> hand?”


“My hands are right here, love.” He demonstrated by squeezing her tightly. “But yours seem to be wandering…”


My hands are right here,” Buffy said, playing with the hairs at the nape of his neck.


“Well, if mine are here, and yours are there….”


“Bloody hell!”


“Eek!”


They swatted ineffectually at their ethereal companions and began walking away quickly.


“You know, Slayer,” he began as they jogged toward Restfield, trailed by the lusty wraiths. “There are worse things than having more than two hands involved when you are…”


“Do you mean… ewww, Spike! We don’t know these… people, ghosts, whatevers.  I don’t want them even watching us… never mind participating.”


“I’m just saying.…”


“NO! N. O. no.”


He sighed. “Right you are, love. Wouldn’t be right, would it. Trying to concentrate on what we’re doin’ while those soft, cool hands keep running over our bodies, touching us… stroking….” He shook himself. “Wouldn’t be right. Absolutely. Totally wrong.”


Buffy’s breathing had sped up as he talked and a warm flush went over her body.  “Of course, it’s not like they’re really <i>real</i> is it? Just manifestations of….”


“Exactly,” he said as he held the door open for her.  “Practically figments of our imagination. With very… ummmmm…. talented hands….”


~~~~~~~~


“I think old Multiplex might have won this round,” Buffy sighed. She sprawled beside Spike, sated and exhausted. “We didn’t slay anything tonight.”


“Don’t know. Don’t care,” he mumbled, trying to raise his arm to touch her and giving up before he’d even lifted it off the bed.  “More power to him.”


“They’re gone, I think.”


“Must be mornin’”


“Do you think they’ll be back?”


“I bloody well hope so!”  He chuckled when she gave him a weak poke in his ribs.


“We should check in with Giles….” Buffy’s eyes drifted shut as she yawned and curled into his side.


“I’ll get right on tha—” Spike began to snore softly.


~~~~~~~~~~


Just outside Sunnydale, a necromancer was working on his next spell… This one targeting a specific dead man…



REVENGE


Buffy was yawning as she walked into Giles’ apartment.  “So, Watcher-man, what do you think his royal ickiness has for me tonight?”


“In terms of raising the dead and controlling them to use as weapons, I don’t believe there’s much left besides—” He broke off as Spike walked in without knocking. “—vampires,” he finished.


“What about vampires?”


“Giles was just saying that all that’s left are vampires… in the way of dead things that might be used as weapons.”  She stared at Spike suspiciously. “Are you feeling weapony?”


“That’s not what I’m feeling at all, Slayer,” he responded, curling his tongue up behind his teeth. Giles noticed her blush and groaned.


“Please tell me that you two are not…”


“We can tell you whatever you want to hear,” Spike said, waiting for Buffy’s tacit permission before continuing, “but saying it won’t make it so.”


“Oh dear lord.” Giles sighed and sat down heavily, jumping up again when there was a soft pattering against the window. “What the—”


Pulling the curtain back, Buffy flinched from the dust coating the window.  “What the hell? A dust storm?”


Spike was peering at another window. “That’s strange-looking dust… almost looks like—Bloody hell,” he breathed, dropping the curtain and pulling Buffy away from the window.


“Looks like what?” She shook him off. “What’s wrong with you?”


“Instead of answering her, he asked, “How many vamps do you think you’ve dusted in your career, love?”


“No idea. Why?”


“Cause I think he’s sent all those dusty vamps after you.  You’re going to have to stay inside here.”


“Of course,” Giles said, taking his own peek out the windows.  “He’s sending them out to seek vengeance… but they’re only dust, so…”


“So they can’t hurt me, right?”  Buffy looked back and forth between Spike and Giles.  Their eyes met in a moment of understanding before they turned their attention back to Buffy.


“Could choke you to death in a heartbeat if they could get to you,” Spike said. “You’re going to have to sit this one out, pet.  Going outside would be suicide.”


“Great. Who knows what he’ll get up to while I’m stuck in here. That’d make two nights I didn’t get any slaying done, or get any closer to him.”


“Two nights? Were you two unable to rid yourselves of last night’s manifestations? Surely they didn’t interfere with your slaying?”


Buffy blushed crimson and didn’t respond while Spike bit back a laugh. Taking pity on the Slayer, who clearly couldn’t think of anything to say, he said, “Was a mite hard to concentrate on… anything… with all those hands grabbing body parts they had no business touching.”


“They were very distracting…” Buffy finally managed to get out.


“Forget I asked,” Giles said quickly, reaching for his Scotch.  “I suppose the only thing to do is to remain safely indoors. It does not appear that they are able to enter, in spite of being mere motes of dust and ash.”


“And I’d guess they’ll be ineffective by dawn,” Spike agreed. “His mojo only seems to work at night.”


“So, what? We have to stay here until the sun comes up?”


“Not what I had in mind, love, but it beats the alternative. The question is, what are we going to do here?”


Giles held up a large, flat box.  “Monopoly, anyone?”



POLTERGEISTS


Giles had long since said good-night and gone upstairs to bed – hinting strongly that Buffy should make use of his guest room while Spike could relax on the couch and “watch all-night telly like a good little vampire”. However, Buffy waved him off by insisting that she wasn’t sleepy yet, and he reluctantly took his barely functional body upstairs, leaving them to their own devices.  The look he sent Spike made it very clear what he thought of the vampire’s apparently new relationship with Buffy, but Spike just shrugged at him and turned away.


Had Giles been awake to do so, he could have peeked downstairs and found Buffy curled up on Spike’s lap and obviously sound asleep while the vampire watched an old movie with the sound turned down too far for any but vampire ears. He’d soon drifted off himself, satisfied that his arms around Buffy were enough to keep her safe from the most determined vengeful vampire remains.


They had all become so accustomed to the soft rattling of the dust particles trying to get at the Slayer that no one paid any attention to them until the sudden silence when the sun came up and jarred them into wakefulness.


“Whoa! It’s quiet!”


“Yeah. Think you’re done worrying about brassed off piles of dust. For the day, anyway. Can’t wait to see what the freak has on tap for tonight.”


“Maybe he’ll give up?  Go find some other Hellmouth to take over?”


“Highly unlikely.” Giles’ voice floated over to them as he came into the room. Although Buffy seemed unabashed to have been caught waking up on Spike’s lap, there was nothing about their appearance that gave Giles reason to worry about what they’d been doing while he slept.  He gave a mental sigh of relief and continued his thought. “I suspect he has something else up his sleeve for this evening. I suggest you make your way home and try to get some more sleep.”


Leaving a chaste kiss on the top of her head, Spike unwrapped his arms and allowed her to stand up and stretch. “Watcher’s probably right, pet. Go get some sleep. I’ll meet you back here tonight, yeah?  Before dark,” he added, remembering how early some of the necromancer’s manifestations had appeared.


“Hey!  I’ll be here when I get here. You’re not the boss of me.”


“No one knows that better than I do, love,” he said with a grin.


Buffy left with a ‘see you later’ and Spike raised an eyebrow at Giles. “If I catch up on my sleep here while the weather outside doesn’t suit me, will you promise not to stake me?”


Giles sighed. “I suspect that would upset my slayer at a time when she needs to keep her wits about her,” he said, his disappointment plain. “You are safe enough here – for the time being.”


“’Preciate that, Watcher.”  He turned to go to a back room where he knew there was no sun, stopping before he left the room. “Would never hurt her, you know. However this plays out, I’ll never hurt her. I’d dust first.” He didn’t wait for a response, walking back to the spare room and falling onto the bed face down.


~~~~~~~~


Buffy groaned when her hairbrush flew across the room and thudded against the wall.  When she tried to pick it up, it whisked itself out of her hand and back to the other side of the room.  Her eyes narrowed as she stalked toward it. “Okay, once is an accident, twice might be a coincidence, but if it— Argh!!!!!” Again the brush moved before she could grab it, smacking her on the ass as it flew across the room again. 


Instead of pursuing the brush, she dove for the phone, hanging on with every ounce of slayer strength when it also tried to leave her hand. Muttering curses the whole time, she managed to speed dial Giles’ number, only to hear two distinct British voices swearing just as vigorously, if less understandably. 


“You too?” Buffy said, yanking hard on the phone and smiling when it went loose in her hand. Hah!  “What the hell is going on now?”


“Poltergeists,” Giles said. “They can’t manifest, but they can manipulate objects. I strongly suggest you not bring out any weapons. Spike came very close to being dust when a stake—bloody hell!”  There was more cursing and the sound of the phone hitting the floor before Spike’s voice came on the line.


“Are you okay, Buffy? Nothing’s throwing knives or whatnot at you?” He made no attempt to hide his concern. 


“I’m not the one Giles just said was almost dust. What happened?”


“Stake came at my chest. Not to worry, I caught it in plenty of time. Soddin’ little bugger isn’t faster than me. I just have to be careful not to turn my back on it.”


“What happened to Giles?”


“Watcher’s all right too. He just had to dodge a book.  We’re working on fixing this – just need to find the right spell and—bloody, buggering fuck! Will you leave off with the pointy wooden things!”  She heard the phone hit the floor again, then nothing but a crunching sound and a dial tone.


“I’m coming over there,” she said to the dead phone as she ducked her head. “Hey! I liked that lamp!”


~~~~~~~~


Getting from her house to Giles’s was a bit trickier than she’d expected. The streets of Sunnydale were dark as all the streetlights seemed to have been broken out, and the occasional flowerpot or trash can would come flying out of the darkness without warning. Only Buffy’s quick reactions kept her from being injured as she made her way to Giles’s apartment complex. She pushed in the door just in time to intercept a coffee mug aimed at her head. As her hand wrapped around the cup, she felt a cold… something… and she clutched it against the cup as firmly as she could.  Frantic wriggling told her that even though the poltergeist was invisible, it could be touched. At least it could if it was touching the same object as its prey.


“I’ve got one!” she shouted, hanging on with both hands. Spike edged his way to her side, keeping his back carefully pressed against a wall as he did so. He batted away two stakes and a book before he got close enough to reach out and follow the poltergeist “arm” until he got to something that felt like it could be vulnerable. He took a strong grip on whatever body part he had and wrenched it hard, surprised when there was a piercing shriek and the entity dissolved in their hands.


He and Buffy looked at each other, matching feral grins coming to their faces. Taking care not to allow room for anything else to touch a weapon, Buffy pulled out two swords, slamming the lid of the chest shut fast enough to trap another “hand”. Holding the lid down with one hand, she used the other to poke the air in front of her until she encountered resistance. Twisting the sword viciously, she was rewarded with another shriek and another suddenly empty space.


“Okay, Giles. I think we can keep you safe while you find the spell you need to get rid of these guys.” Ranging themselves in front of Giles, who had his own back to a wall, Buffy and Spike used their swords to bat away all the objects being thrown at them by the now warier poltergeists that had clearly learned not to approach the two armed people.  Even with vampire and slayer strength and speed, Buffy and Spike were finding the constant movement tiring.  “Anytime now, Watcher,” Spike growled. “If we start slowing down…”


I’ve got it,” Giles said, holding his finger on the page. When it looked like something was trying to drag his finger away and close the book, Buffy brought her sword down in a chopping motion and smiled in satisfaction when it was suddenly easy for Giles to hold the page open as he read aloud the spell needed to rid themselves of the annoyingly dangerous ghostlets.  Buffy and Spike held their swords at the ready for several minutes after it became silent in the room, but when all the inanimate objects seemed inclined to stay where they’d fallen, they sighed and dropped the points toward the floor.


“Is that it?” Buffy asked, staring around at the ruin that was her watcher’s living room and kitchen. Broken crockery, shattered glass, and books everywhere gave some indication of how things had been going before she got there. Giles had several bruises on his head and a cut over one eye, while Spike had more than one rip in his leather coat when a stake had almost made it through his defenses.


“I believe so,” Giles said, standing up and peering around the room. Satisfied that the spell seemed to have worked, he sighed. “I suppose we had better begin the cleanup—”


Spike and Buffy exchanged identical horrified looks and began edging toward the door.


“I think we…”


“Need to make sure the spell worked for the whole town, don’t we?”


“Right. Sorry, Giles, duty calls,” Buffy said as she ducked under Spike’s arm and out the door he was holding for her.  Ignoring the sputtering behind them, they pulled the door closed and sprinted out of the parking lot.


“That was terrible of us,” Buffy said, trying to keep a straight face.


“Well, I’m evil. Don’t know what your excuse is, Slayer,” he said putting an arm around her shoulders and smiling down at her.


“I think that’s my excuse. My boyfriend is evil.”


She refused to meet his shocked gaze, walking off swiftly and wondering what had possessed her to say that aloud.





Not My Vampire! (Liches – if you squint)


Having spent the day apart – Spike in his crypt and Buffy trying to maintain some semblance of a normal life – Buffy hurried toward the Magic Box where they’d all agreed to meet and await whatever Mortifex was planning to throw at them that night. By the time she arrived, Spike was pacing around the shop, paying no attention to Giles and his continued request that the vampire explain his restlessness.  Buffy walked in just as the sun set, and the fall darkness fell almost immediately. The change in Spike was startling. His eyes focused on her hungrily and a growl rumbled in his throat until he caught himself and shook it off.


“Let’s go, love,” he said without even greeting her. “I know what’s comin’ after you tonight. We need to get you someplace private – your house or the Watcher’s. Not a public place like this.”


“What is it? What do think it’s going to be? And how do you know?” She waved at Giles as she followed Spike from the shop, running to keep up with him.


“’Cause I can feel it – feel the pull.  Not gonna be the only vamp what—“ He spun her around and went into game face, immediately letting go and swearing. Buffy stared at him in shock as he went back to his human mien and threw a punch at her head, following up with a vicious kick that knocked the wind out of her. 


“Spike! What the—” He tackled her to the ground, snarling as he went back into vamp face. Immediately he threw himself off of her and sprawled on the ground beside her swearing and breathing heavily.


“Get away from me, Buffy.  Now, Slayer! Get away. Someplace no vamps can get in.”


“Spike, there isn’t anywhere I go that you don’t have an invite to. What the hell is wrong?”


“Want to kill you, love— well, that’s a bloody lie. I don’t <i>want</i> to kill you, but I can’t help myself.  That’s what’s going to be coming after you tonight – all the vamps in Sunnydale. Even the ones that usually run and hide when they know you’re around.”


Buffy shrugged.  “So we have to work a little harder than normal – we can—”


“There is no ‘we’, love. I’m one of them. Chip doesn’t seem to be working – not as hard as the spell, anyway. You need to get away from me.”


“Why aren’t you trying to kill me now?” She pointed back and forth between them as she sat next to his supine body.


“Huh. Don’t know.” He sat up and shook off his demon, but before he could say anything else, he immediately pounced on her again. As his fangs dropped once more and he reached for her throat, his motion changed and he ended up pinning her with his body while he nuzzled her neck and licked it.  Buffy waited, her body tensed to throw him off, until he sat up and moved away, beginning to shake off his wrinkles and fangs.  “I’m sorry, love. I—”


“Don’t lose the fangs!” she said.


“Are you crazy?” He glared at her, fading back into his human face – which she immediately punched to the ground, bring his demon to the fore again.  And again, he was immediately contrite. “Didn’t say to try to break my face, Slayer. I just said to get away from me!”


“You stop when the demon’s out, you moron. It’s when you go all human-looking on me that you try to attack me.”


“Well, fuck,” he said, cocking his head at her. “Who would have guessed it?”


“Guessed what? That you’re Dr. Jekyll  and Mr. Hyde?  I’m getting the picture…”


“When I’m which one?” he asked. “Think about it, Slayer. What did you just tell me to do?”


“I said don’t lose the fangs – that’s the only time you’re you… OMG, it’s the demon that remembers me, that knows…”


He nodded and moved closer, touching her face with one hand. “It’s the demon that knows how much you mean to me.” He shook his head.  “Looks like my demon’s in love with you, Buffy. He won’t hurt you.”


“What about the rest of you?”  Her face clouded as she realized that only the demon cared enough not to try to kill her.


“Without the demon, I’m just a dead man. Still love you, Slayer, you’ve got to know that by now.  But I can’t fight whatever spell that lich has put on me.  I’m sure he expected me to take advantage of… of your trust… and kill you before you could fight back.  He didn’t count on my demon being very much alive.”


“Okay, then. Let’s your demon and me go tackle this guy once and for all.  He’s got a lot of nerve trying to control my boyfriend!”  She jumped to her feet. “I’m going make him wish he’d never set one slimy foot in Sunnydale.”


“Not gonna be easy, love,” he cautioned. “This is one powerful lich, and he has his mind set on owning the Hellmouth. He’s drawing power from it all the time. Probably raising plenty of help of one sort or another.”


“Well so far, everything he’s conjured up has turned out to be either easy to beat or friendly…” They both paused to appreciate the memories of their night with the ghosts.  “And trying to get my vampire to kill me isn’t working out all that great for him either.”


“I’m not the only vamp in Sunnydale, Buffy. And I’m pretty sure the others don’t have my reasons for keeping you alive. We may have to fight our way to that symbol of his wee little dick.” He gestured at the black tower looming at the edge of town.


“So we fight out way there. Your demon’s a good fighter, and I’m really, really pissed off, so…”


“Have it your way, love. Far be it from me to stand in the path of a brassed off slayer.”  He stood up and extended his hand, pulling her to her feet.  He leaned in as if to kiss her, then remembered he was in game face and jerked back. Buffy wrapped her hand around the back of his neck and pulled his face to hers, ignoring his fangs and kissing him until he responded with a deep growl and arms that felt like steel bands around her body.


“Those long-dead sorcerers don’t stand a chance,” he growled. “Let’s go get ‘em.”






<b>REVENANTS</b>


Wearing his fangs and wrinkles, Spike paced beside Buffy as she stomped her way toward the forbidding looking tower in which Mortifex was hiding.  As they approached, something that looked like a cross between a vampire and a zombie approached and silently headed straight for Buffy. She removed its head with one swipe of her sword, barely acknowledging it’s presence.


“Okay, most vamps are pretty ugly – present company excepted,” she said with a sidelong glance at Spike’s distorted face.  “But that was just above and beyond ugly. What was that thing?”


“Probably a revenant,” Spike said. “It’s about the only dead thing he hasn’t raised yet… unless that tower is full of other liches….”


“A revenant. Isn’t that like a zombie?”


“Bit more solid, better able to think and act independently. Not quite a vamp, though. There’s no demon animating the body, just the warlock’s mojo.”


“Well, they’re gross. Oh look, here come more of them!”  Moving slightly apart, Spike and Buffy began to hack their way through the small army of shambling revenants between them and the open door of the tower.  It was slow, messy work, as removing the heads seemed to be the only way to assure that they remained down.  It took them a good half an hour to chop their way to the entrance and to dispose of the vampire guards waiting there.  Finally, they were inside the tower and facing a tall, gaunt figure in long robes.


Surrounding him were a collection of smaller, but similarly clad images that kept fading in and out.  Spike leaned in and whispered to Buffy. “Looks like he’s not quite strong enough to keep them here. That’s good for us. Means they probably can’t help him out that much, magic-wise.”


Mortifex glared at Spike. “I gave you specific instructions, Vampire. Why is this creature still alive to bother me?”


“You’ve got some control of the dead man I was, you stupid git. My demon is as alive as… well a good bit more alive than you are, now that I think on it. You’ve got no control over him. And he’s right fond of the Slayer. Has no desire to see her dead.”


“I knew vampires wouldn’t get the job done,” Mortfex grumbled. “Stupid disobedient demons with their own opinions. But that’s all right, we’re not done yet!”  He gestured to his back-up squad of barely visible dead sorcerers, frowning when Spike and Buffy just laughed at the flickering images.  “Go,” he said, with a haughty sniff. “I’m allowing you to leave here unharmed.”


Buffy glanced at Spike. “He wants us to leave? But I haven’t slayed him yet.”


“Think he may already be dead, love,” Spike whispered. “Didn’t the Watcher tell you what to do when you got to him?”


“Uh… no?”


Spike began swearing in several languages, pausing only to take her hand and pull her back out the door. 


“We’ll be back!” Buffy said with a wave as she allowed herself to be yanked away.



<b>Wight</b>


They were halfway back to the Magic Box, Buffy swearing the entire way while Spike berated her for charging in without knowing what she needed to know. She finally whirled on him.


“You might have said something before we left! Maybe he was going to tell me, but you were all “Oh, no, let’s get going, Buffy. Otherwise I might try to kill you.”


“I <i>was</i>trying to kill you, you stupid bint!  Or, I knew that part of me wanted to.”


“Which part?” she demanded. “Tell me again how it’s only your demon who loves me.”


“Right now,” he said, gritting his teeth and causing his fangs to clash against one another, “I think both parts of me want to kill you for being so stupid and stubborn.”


“Hmmph!” She tossed her head and started walking again. “It’s not such a big deal. We go to Giles, find out how to kill him – or make him deader, or whatever the hell it is I have to do to kick him out of Sunnydale – go back, do it, and be home in time for… Well, whatever.”


“How do we know he’s done throwing things at us?”


“How many more freaking dead things can there be?” Her voice rose considerably.


“Dunno exactly, but got to be some we haven’t seen yet.  Just be grateful he isn’t strong enough to raise all of them at the same time.”


Buffy swore under her breath and strode into the magic box, stopping so abruptly that Spike ran into her back.


“Giles?”  Her watcher looked up at her with blank eyes, drool pooling at the corner of his mouth.  She stared around the room, noting the equally out-of-it expressions on the faces of her friends.  Before she could ask Spike what he thought had happened, she felt a cold, slimy tendril of… something… insert itself into her skull.  “Spi….” She collapsed in front of him, only his vampire speed saving her from hitting the floor.


He cast around the room frantically, searching for any sign that there was something he could fight. As Buffy became as semi-comatose as the others, he felt a tickle against the side of his head and he lowered her gently to the floor.  He slapped his hand against his head, pinning an appendage that made even him shudder with the chill that went deeper than his own demon-enhanced undeath. The creature on the other end of the appendage emerged from where it had been hiding behind the counter. Although it didn’t look particularly solid, the tendril it had tried to stick into Spike’s head was more than real.


The creature, whatever it was, seemed to realize he was not alive and tried to pull away, but Spike held on, reeling it closer to him until he could get his hands around a now visible throat. 


“No….” it hissed. “We are the same, you and I….”


“In your dreams,” he snarled, putting both hands around its throat and beginning to squeeze.  The hissing grew louder and louder until his thumbs met his fingers and the creature seemed to melt away into the floor.  He kicked the floor once or twice for good measure, then bent over Buffy who was beginning to stir.


“Are you alright, pet?” Ignoring the other humans in the room, he held her tightly, nuzzling her and murmuring in her ear.  When he heard a gasp from Giles, he looked up, his yellow eyes puzzled. “What?” It wasn’t until the man produced a stake and leapt to his feet that he realized how it must look, a drowsy slayer in his arms and him with his fangs exposed.  Fortunately, Giles was still somewhat woozy from his draining experience, and he was moving slowly enough for Spike to stand up and put Buffy on her feet.


“Un, Buffy? Love? This may be a good time to tell your watcher about—”


She blinked at him, then at Giles who was moving more rapidly and waving at Xander to help him.  “Oh. What’s with the stake, Giles?  Are you guys okay? What was that thing?”


“Buffy? Are you unharmed? Did Spike…?”


“I guess he killed it.” She shrugged and smiled into his golden eyes. “My hero.”



<b>Dragon</b>


Once everyone had calmed down and heard Buffy’s explanation for why Spike was wearing his fangs, they all draped themselves around the table to recover.


“What was that thing doing?”


“I believe it was siphoning off our essences – our humanity, perhaps. It did seem to become slightly more solid and visible with each victim.”


“So, what? We all got our… selves back when the slightly less evil undead there killed it?”


“Apparently so.” Giles looked at Buffy and Spike. “To what do we owe the timely rescue? Did you know it was coming here?”


“Nope. We just… I mean, I… When are you going to tell me how to kill Multi-plex?  I mean, sheesh! There we were, all ready to do him in, and it turns out I don’t know how.”


“You were there? You’ve been inside his abode?”


“Yeah, he had a bunch of really nasty things we had to hack our way through, and then some vamps that thought they were all that. But we took them out and then he was all mad at Spike for not killing me and he told us to get out. And Spike asked me how to kill him, and I didn’t know, so we came back to find out.” She beamed at Giles. “So. How do we kill him?”


Giles shook his head, trying to follow the conversation while he also processed that Spike’s demon would not kill Buffy even when ordered to by a magician. Leaving that troubling thought for another day, he said, “You can’t. You will have to get Willow and I close enough to work a spell that will send him back to… well, to wherever he came from.”


“No problem. We know where he is, don’t we, Spike?”


After much loud discussion, it was agreed that everyone would go. Tara and Anya would add their voices to Giles and Willow’s in hopes that it would strengthen the spell.  Xander would accompany them because… he was Xander and he wouldn’t allow his friends to go off to battle without him.


Clutching copies of the spell they were going to chant, the Scoobies followed Buffy and Spike out of the building, forming a very small army of determined forces of good.


~~~~~~



“I don’t like it, Spike muttered. “It’s too quiet. There’s got to be something coming. That bugger isn’t going to let us just waltz back in there… Bloody hell!” 


“Oh how pretty!” Willow said. “Look at it!”


“I <i>am</i> looking at it,” Buffy said, pulling her sword from its sheath on her back. “It’s a dragon – a skeleton dragon.”  Spike also produced a sword and joined her as they waited for it to approach.


“Wings first, love,” he said. “Then the other bones.”


“You’re going to kill it?” Willow was appalled.


“Uh, yeah? I think we know what it’s doing here.  What do you expect me to do with it? We know it’s going to try to stop us…”


“But it’s beautiful!”  Willow pointed at the silver-boned creature circling overhead.


Spike rolled his eyes. “Now is not the time for ‘It followed me home, can I keep it,’” he said, shaking his head. “Just get out of the way and let the Slayer and me handle it.”


Willow ignored him and had a quick whispered conversation with Tara while Spike and Buffy stepped forward to meet the dragon as it settled to the ground some distance away.


“Go back!” it said in a voice that rattled past the bones holding up its head. “You may not pass.”


“Oh, we’re passing, Puff. You can count on it.” Buffy glared and waved her sword around.


“Puff?”


“The Magic Dragon. What’s wrong with you, did you sleep through the folky era?”


“Wasn’t really my scene, Slayer,” he growled, hefting his own sword as the dragon clacked its way toward them, it’s bony tail dragging across the swampy ground, leaving a trail behind it.


Just as it got close enough for Buffy to take a practice swing at it’s head, Willow and Tara began to chant.  The dragon roared and lifted his wings, opening his mouth to show sharp teeth as big as one of Buffy’s stakes.  He loomed over the Slayer and her vampire, holding his wings out of reach and crouching to attack.


And then he was gone. Buffy and Spike whirled around, swords at the ready. They looked up into the night sky, but there was no flash of silver or sound of wings.  It wasn’t until a glint on the ground caught their eyes that they noticed the tiny figured hopping around in the grass.


Willow ran up, cooing, “There you go, pretty thing. Willow’s got you. I’ll take good care of you…”  She scoped up the tiny dragon and put him in her pocket.  “What? Problem solved. You don’t have to fight a dragon, and I have a new pet. I’m going to call him… okay. Not Puff. Something else. Something more… dragony.”


<b>Finale</b>


They were able to approach within a short distance of the tower before it apparently occurred to Mortifex to check on his dragon.  His roar of fury when he opened the door to find Spike and Buffy walking toward him, a small group of humans clustered behind them, sent the little dragon in Willow’s pocket into a flurry of activity.


“Easy, easy!” she soothed, putting her hand in the pocket and trying to confine him without hurting him. “Stop that! You’re going to break a wing.” A snapped order from Giles brought her attention back to the reason for being there and she shut the pocket on the still-fluttering dragon.


Mortifex retreated into his tower without closing the door, so the little band of warriors for good walked in and looked around.  Lightening was flashing and there was much shouting of curses as the furious necromancer threw everything he had at them.  Giles and his fellow spell-casters sheltered themselves in an alcove at the end of a narrow hallway. They began their chant while Buffy and Spike took their places at the front of the hall and began to tackle the waves of dead things moving forward.  The small entrance area meant that the creatures were unable to overwhelm them with sheer numbers, leaving Spike and Buffy free to pick them off a few at a time as they fought with each other to get into the hallway.


The doorway was soon filled with the decomposing bodies of zombies and revenants, broken bones, and the dust of vampires foolish enough to think they could take the slayer and her companion. Behind them, the chant was growing louder, and through breaks in the waves of attackers, Buffy could see that the unsubstantial liches ranged behind Mortifex were fading rapidly.  Soon, the only thing left in the big room was the necromancer himself. 


He glared fiercely at Buffy and Spike, muttering to himself.  Buffy twitched as he finished his muttering, but never ceased her defense of the Scoobies. She watched Spike as he laughed at the magician, his fangs and distorted features making it quite clear that the demon was in charge of the body.


“Why?  I can feel the death around you – both of you,” he said with a surprised look at the Slayer. “Why can’t I make you respond?”  He watched in despair as the sword-wielding couple did away with the last of his defenders and approached him.


“Already told you why you can’t order me around like some mindless piece of rotting flesh,” Spike sneered. “As for the Slayer…” He frowned at Buffy. “What does he mean ‘you too’?” 


Buffy shrugged. “The master got lucky and killed me a long time ago, but Xander gave me CPR and I was only dead for like, a minute. Guess that wasn’t long enough to give him any power over me. Plus… alive now, so pffft!” She waved her hand airly. “I felt it, but come on, I don’t even do what my watcher tells me – why would I obey some evil, old dead guy?”


“How about a not-so-evil old dead guy?” Spike whispered in her ear as they watched with interest the disintegration of Mortifex’s corporeal body. “Would you obey him? Do what he tells you?”


“In your dreams, vampire,” she cooed back, leaning into his embrace and ignoring for the moment the gasps from her friends. “I might let him coax me into something though. If he plays his cards right…”


As the last trace of the necromancer disappeared, so did the building in which they were standing, dropping them all several feet to the ground below. 


“Ow!”


“I trust everyone is all right?” Giles looked around the empty field in which they now found themselves.   With the exception of a bruise on Xander’s butt and Tara’s slightly sprained ankle, everyone seemed to have survived the forces of gravity with no lasting effects.  They all began walking toward the barely visible lights of the town, commenting on all the broken lamps that were going to require fixing.


As they approached the gates of Restfield, Buffy and Spike began to lag behind, stopping when they got to the gate.  Giles and the Scoobies had gone several yards past the gate before they realized that Buffy was no longer with them. They turned around just in time to see Spike’s brightly colored head disappearing behind the wall.


“Hey! Where’s Buffy?”


“I think she’s going home with her boyfriend,” Anya said calmly.  “I’ll bet, with all their superpowers, they will have even more orgasms than we do tonight.”


Giles groaned, but began to encourage them to keep going. “Please keep in mind that the ones with the superpowers are no longer accompanying us and it behooves us to get indoors as quickly as we can.  The removal of Mortifex has not done nothing about the normal undead that walk through our fair city.”


In spite of the loud discussion about Buffy’s choice of boyfriend, they all moved a little faster and were soon safely indoors.


~~~~~~~~~~


“Are they gone?” Buffy peered around the stone pillar at the entrance to the cemetery.


“Yep. Can still hear them arguing over how bad I am for you and what a mistake you’re making’, but they’re leaving.”


Buffy sighed and leaned back against his chest, smiling when his arms automatically went around her. 

“Do you think they’ll get used to it?  I mean, they all seem pretty comfortable around you. They got used to having you around all the time. All they have to do is get used to—”


“If your watcher’s okay with it, don’t see why they can’t learn to live with it. They lived with the poof in your life, didn’t they? And I’m a lot more charming than he is…”


Buffy snorted and turned around to look up at him.  “Hey, old whats-his-face is gone. Don’t you think you could lose the demon for a while?”


Spike immediately shook off his vampire mien, unable to hide a small trace of disappointment. “Don’t fancy making love to a demon, then?”


Buffy ran a hand down his cheek. “That’s not it.  I just… I want kisses, and I don’t want to donate blood every time we—”


“Got it, pet. I’m sorry. Wasn’t thinking about anything but my own insecurities. ‘Course you don’t want to worry about getting cut on my fangs.  I’m a git.”


“It’s okay. Sometimes I might want… but I’ve missed kissing you – this you. That’s all I was saying. Don’t be so touchy.”


Speaking of ‘touchy’….” He took her two hands from around his neck and held them in his.  “I see four hands here, and yet…”


Buffy gave a muffled shriek and squirmed against him. “I thought you were doing that!”


“Not me, love. And I’m guessing it isn’t your hand that found it’s way into my trousers....”


“We still have our ghosts?”


“Seems like. What do you want to do about it?”


She gave him a slow, thoughtful smile, licking her lips as she did. 


“Right then. Off we go!”  He picked her up and began running toward his crypt, her giggles lending wings to his feet.



The monthly prompt was cake or death - the mini-prompt was saving your enemy from death/letting enemies die. Here’s what I came up with:




“Spike, no. Please...” Buffy’s voice was weak, her life obviously fading. The vampire frowned, glancing at his arm where he’d used his teeth to open it for her.


“Don’t you want to live? Trying to do you a favor here, you stupid bint.”


“Do you hate me that much?”


Even with his vampire hearing, he barely caught her words.  He growled in frustration.  If pressed to explain what he was doing, he couldn’t have said for sure. When he’d found the Slayer bleeding out and near death, he hadn’t stopped to question his motives. As soon as he’d heard her heart slowing down, he’d ripped into his wrist and held it out to her. Now she’d made him think.


Did he hate her? Of course he did. Bane of his existence, she was. So why was he trying to save her?  Was she right? Was he trying to turn her into one of the very creatures she gave her life fighting because he hated her and thought it would be the ultimate triumph?


Or, perhaps more disturbing, was it because a world without Buffy Summers in it wasn’t worth contemplating? Even a Buffy Summers sharing her undead body with a demon?


Memories of a night spent with a warm, loving Buffy on his lap filled his head. Loud, smacking kisses while everyone was watching; softer, deeper kisses and stolen caresses when their attention was elsewhere.  A fight almost to the death in bright sunlight – a fight he was winning until his own inability to curb his mouth gave a beaten slayer the anger she needed to rip the ring off his finger and send him scuttling out of the sunlight. Visions flew through his brain – “No, Spike, it’s going to hurt a lot.”  “Hello, Cutie.” “I’m all you’ve got.”  “I’d rather be fighting you.” “Mutual.”

Swearing in several languages, and heedless of the blood dripping from his wrist, he kicked the body of the demon Buffy had died fighting until it was only a pulpy mass covered in vamp dust.  He dropped to his knees beside her, lowering his face to her bloody neck and licking the blood still oozing slowly. Her heart was barely beating, only the soft whoosh every now and then indicated it hadn’t quite stopped yet. He shivered at the taste of her blood, something he’d smelled before, but never been able to sample. 


He raised his face, his lips only inches from hers. Her eyes were open, but he couldn’t tell if she could still see him or not. He brushed his bloody lips across hers and slowly brought his wrist to her mouth.


“Your decision, Slayer. I won’t force you... but if decide not to join me, I’m going to miss the bloody hell out of you.”


He was sure he imagined the faint twitch of a smile as he waited, bleeding wrist just touching her still-warm lips, for her to make his decision for him.



FOR THE EASTER CHALLENGES/GAME :  (link)


last .... one... of.... them....” He finished murmuring his response with his mouth on hers.  There were no sounds but sighs and appreciative moans for some time....


“There was something I wanted to talk about....” Buffy tried to sound annoyed, but it came out more of a satisfied exhalation.


“I remember. You were having... thoughts.... Important thoughts, if I remember correctly.”

 

SB_Fag_Ends Ficlets

Refl

Not Buffy. Never Buffy.  Maybe some other, possibly evil, bint had broken into his apartment and she just happened to wear things that smelled like citrus fruit – lemon specifically. And maybe she smelled a little tiny bit like the Slayer – but that was impossible. Buffy was in Europe, living it up with the bloody immortal...


He spotted the big cardboard cup at the same time that he picked up the yellow sweater (also smelling of lemons and Buffy, he noted).  “Tropical Smoothies” it said on the side of it.  Between the sweater in his hands, and the drink on his kitchen counter, he couldn’t stop the sense memories.  He dropped onto his couch, holding the sweater to his face and inhaled deeply. 


Biggest wanker in the world. Yeah, he was over her. Gonna take up sunbathing and become a vegetarian too.  If anything, the scent was getting stronger. He shifted his grip on the sweater, burying his nose in it and breathing deeply. The lemon scent was fading and it was smelling more and more like Buffy.  Had to be something evil – breaking into his apartment and trying to weaken him by leaving things around that smelled like—


“Are you going to keep inhaling that sweater, or would you like a chance to explain to me why I had to find out from Andrew that you aren’t ashes at the bottom of a hole – before I beat you to a bloody pulp for it?”