Buffy woke up in a generous mood. The gala was tonight, she had new clothes and the entire day to be ‘Buffy, the Summers daughter’ instead of the ‘Slayer’. She didn't get to play normal girl very often and she relished each occasion.
A celebration was in order and any decent celebration had to start with shopping!
In that spirit of generosity and celebration, Buffy decided to find the perfect gift for her mom.
There were a few new stores at the mall that Buffy really needed to check out anyway so she showered and dressed in record time.
Life could be good.
Spike paced in his crypt. "Blast Dru and her incredible bad timing anyway! Had to show up and bollocks it all up with the Slayer." He had been up most of the day wondering just what Power he had pissed off so badly that Dru had swept into town when she did. "Not when I wanted her back bad enough to do anything to get her back! Oh, no, only after I realize I’m in love with the Slayer."
Okay, maybe chaining Buffy to tell her that he adored her hadn't been the most romantic method he could have chosen.
"Sod that, at least I didn't write any bleedin' bad poetry. I'm sure that bitch Cecily would've rather had me chain her up than write odes to her beauty," he decided.
He'd really buggered it up with Buffy this time. Disinvited! That had hurt more than all the hateful words she had spat at him.
From his first invitation into the Summers home, long before the chip, Spike had cherished the open invitation, that sign of trust. He had never abused that trust either, not once!
Okay, so he'd been in without their knowing and had lifted a few
Items ... "No harm really," he thought. "What's an old picture or two, or a bit of lace for that matter? No one hurt by that," he rationalized.
He really didn't mind those sorts of visits ending all things considered. What he did mind, aside from the loss of Buffy's trust, was the freedom to come visit Joyce. Buffy had no idea the number of hours he'd spent in that cozy kitchen talking about art, music, poetry, and Buffy over a cup of cocoa or tea.
"Right wonderful woman, Buffy's mum. Treats a fella like a man worth knowing." Indeed, Spike’s self esteem, long a target for deflating, had begun to blossom in the company of that good lady.
"Hate not being able to just drop by, especially today," he said to himself. All those hours spent helping to plan tonight’s opening and now he wouldn't even get to talk to her about those last minute details. He only hoped Cindy followed the notes he had left for the actual day.
He had listened to Buffy's mum fret over the event and had offered to help where he could. It had been ages since he'd used some of the knowledge he had acquired over the years to help Joyce put on a successful show.
He had no doubt that Joyce'd pull it off fine. "Sure woulda’ loved to of seen it though. Talk to the lady herself, shared a cuppa’ during the final countdown," he sighed.
He didn't dare go anywhere near Revello drive for a while. Buffy'd stake him for sure right now. Oh, she'd regret it, but he'd still be dust. He had avoided the gallery, too, since the night of ‘true confessions’.
There had to be some way to let the lovely matriarch of the Summers clan know he was with her in thought, at least. Maybe an anonymous gift that Joyce, smart lady that she was, would know was from him and that he was with her in spirit.
Time to hit the sewers and head to the mall to do bit of shopping.
The Sunnydale mall glistened like Shangri-La to Buffy. All those shops, all those shoes, all for her! "First the perfect gift for mom, then the perfect shoes for Buffy," she decided. A girl could never have too many shoes, after all!
Five stores later she was no closer to an idea of what to get for her mom that said 'I love you and am proud of you' in just the right way.
Buffy grabbed a soft pretzel and diet coke and sat for a while to try to think of what her mother would like.
As she threw away the empty soda cup she saw a new shop with what might be just the right choices. The Holy Grail was within her sights at last.
The San Francisco Music Box Co. (tm) loomed before her with every size, shape, and style of music box known to humankind, and since this was Sunnydale .... demonkind.
Mom would love one! It would be perfect. A gift of simple beauty with not one practical aspect to it; just what mom needed! Practical was way too depressing lately ... time for fluff!
There were carousels, wooden inlayed boxes, dancing figures and bunnies everywhere she looked. Each one played a tinkley, happy tune.
She picked up one ornate statue and twisted the key to hear the familiar melody of ‘Music Of The Night’ from ‘Phantom of The Opera’ and put it back on the shelf while it still played. Much as her mom loved that particular music score, the song spoke of being lured to the darkness and it caused a queasiness within Buffy that made her certain that she didn’t want that one, or the many others playing that same tune. "Pity that darkness comes in pretty packages!"
Finally, Buffy was drawn to the back wall that was covered, three shelves high, with musical snow globes. There were dozens to chose from, each with its own charm. "Eureka!"
"Something lovely for the eye and ear, that's the ticket," Spike
decided. He headed directly to the one store with the perfect
He seemed to remember a lovely globe with the most charming Victorian scene that played a lovely waltz melody located at the back of the store. "Be just the thing a charmin' Victorian gentleman'd give a dear lady," he said happily.
He didn't see the familiar blond head at the other end of the aisle until they nearly collided. Buffy was holding a snow globe with a mountain scene. The snow packed, steep range was capped with a castle inside the glass-domed music box. Soft sounds of ‘Edelweiss’ filled the air.
"What are you doing, following me around in the daylight now, Spike. Can't you take a hint," Buffy asked. Her eyes bored into him and she shook with anger.
"Not the only one needs to shop on occasion, slayer," he replied. "The whole world doesn't revolve round you, ya' know."
"Course, mine does," he thought to himself sadly.
"If you think you can soften me up with some cheap do-dad that plays ‘Music Of The Night’, you're crazier than I thought! I told you your only chance with me was when I was unconscious and I'm wide-awake now, buddy," she growled.
"Yeah, like I'd spend my hard earned dosh on you," he replied. They were arguing, as usual, but at least she was speaking to him again. He felt his spirit soar with renewed hope.
"Spend! Steal would be more like it don't you think Spike," she accused.
"Shhh, quiet with the accusations slayer. I'll have you know I fully intend to pay for what I get here. Told you I could give up the whole evil thing if I wanted to. Be so good I'll have to start wearin' white. Look bleedin radioactive," he said in low tones.
"That'll be the day," Buffy scoffed.
Just then, a fellow shopper backed into Buffy causing her to loose her grip on her prize.
"Damn," exclaimed Buffy as she dove towards the falling globe. "Oh bloody hell," growled Spike as he also made a grab for the snow globe at the same time.
Neither saw the ice blue waves of energy that passed over, around and through them on its way into the globe.
They did notice a faint lightheaded sensation as their fingertips
touched where they both grasped the base of the snow globe.
The only music they heard was a slight buzzing sound followed by the greatest silence either had ever experienced.
"Tell the shaman that the chest of Weiland has been recovered. We shall deliver it to the very edge of the Bifrost itself. May the gods guard its passing over the Rainbow Bridge to the halls of Asgard". Thus spoke the blond giant of a man in the odd costume to his equally blond, tattooed companion.
"What of the mountain and castle of Skadi," asked the larger of the small group that the two men had joined in the middle of the suburban mall.
"It remains as it was. We might be able to transport a small chest from this accursed town but even you, Sigfried, would be hard pressed to transport a mountain," was his reply. "We can always return for the enchanted globe later and purchase it like civilized men. For now, we have what is urgently needed," said the leader.
Buffy looked around her in fear and amazement. Gone was the store, the mall, Sunnydale itself. She was standing at the base of an incredibly high mountain looking at miles and miles of snow and ice! The only non white thing in clear view was the black clothing of Spike standing in sharp relief against the drifting snow.
"What the......," she whispered.
"Just what I was wonderin," Spike replied. "Got a feelin' we're not in sunny California anymore, luv."
After a couple of hours walking in what had to be one large circle, the pair realized there was a solid feeling, invisible, barrier preventing them from going too far in any direction except up.
Buffy was tired, scared, and beginning to feel nervous. Worse than that, she was beginning to think the only other person in this winter wonder-where-we-are-land was Spike. Somehow, the besotted vampire had found a way to trap her with him in Santa Claus land with not even an elf to help her. "He was sooooo
Dusted," she promised herself, "as soon as he helps me get out of here."
"Where is that girl?" Joyce had started to worry an hour earlier when Buffy had failed to come home to begin to dress for the gala. Now it was getting into crunch time and still no Buffy.
"I could still help out, mom," said Dawn. She had visions of wearing the little black dress that Buffy had laid out on her bed.
With just the right amount of makeup and a grown up hairstyle she could easily pass for sixteen, seventeen even! No reason mom's party had to suffer because Buffy got side tracked again. Joyce Summers had two daughters after all.
Finally, Joyce left a terse note for Buffy to join the gala as soon as she could and headed to her gallery and the cream of Sunnydale society; more importantly ... their wallets.
Tara, with a crestfallen Dawn in tow, made a side trip to let Mr. Giles know about the missing slayer before continuing on to the promised dinner and movie.
As consolation prizes went, it wasn’t too bad. Dawn ate too much chocolate cake for dessert and the chick flick was to die for.
Joyce didn't know whether to laugh or cry. The event had gone even better than she had hoped. All the original art had sold by evening end. Reproductions had nearly flown out the door. She even had a short list of commissions that promised revenues yet to come. Joyce could have danced with joy.
The blight on this otherwise perfect evening was the mystery of her missing daughter. It was as if Buffy had vanished from the face of the earth!
Joyce had talked to Giles and each of Buffy's friends several times throughout the evening and no one had the first clue where she was. No one had heard a word from her all day. They all agreed that she had been excited about helping at the gallery and had no major plans aside from that.
By morning, Joyce was not the only person worried about her missing daughter. A full Scooby meeting had been called.
"H, ha, has anyone gone to see Spike to as if he's seen Buffy," Tara asked. "I mean, he's the only other friend of Buffy not here and he may know something," she said softly as she saw the disapproving looks that met her suggestion.
"Oh yeah, let's go ask the stalking, dead Romeo if he's seen his Juliet lately. I don't think so! Besides, he's not Buffy's friend," said Xander. He had more than a little sharpness in his tone.
"Actually, 'Romeo and Juliet' was more her story with Angel, don't you think? I'm not sure what classic play would fit Buffy and Spike," said a thoughtful looking Willow.
"Maybe 'Hunchback Of Notre Dame' or ‘Beauty and The Beast’," suggested Dawn.
"No play! There shall be no playing of any kind with the annoying undead and the Buffster! Bite your tongue Will, Dawn," Xander said in an outrage.
"I'm inclined to agree with Tara, actually," said Giles. "We may not like it, but Spike has been known to keep rather close tabs on Buffy here of late. Perhaps his obsession will have a benefit for a change. At the very least we'll have another resource in the search," he suggested.
"Joyce, perhaps you could approach Spike with this. He would be more likely to cooperate with you, I should think," Giles said. "Until we have some sort of clue, all we can do is to spread out and ask discreet questions. We don't wish every vampire and demon in Sunnydale to know the Slayer has gone missing," he reminded them. "Discretion must be your by-word."
"This is my daughter you are talking about, Rupert, and I'll gladly tell any and every human, vampire, and demon on this planet if I think they might help me find her," Joyce said stiffly.
"Yes, well, I doubt every vampire and demon would be interested in recovering the Slayer, so that should not be an issue," he said looking directly at the distraught mother.
Everyone shifted uncomfortably as the two adults glared at each other.
After planning a pattern, they split up to begin a search. Joyce and Dawn headed for Spike's crypt hoping to get answers before sunset.
"Nothing, not one clue," said a defeated sounding Anya. "It's like she just stepped into another dimension or something. I did that to a couple of people back in my vengeance demon days, so it can happen that quickly. But usually there's a trace of some kind when you open a dimensional portal," she added.
"No! Buffy can't be in some other dimension and she can't have just disappeared! Maybe Glory has her," Dawn said in a panic.
"Yeah, maybe Glory ..... Forget that," said Xander. "Scratch the whole Glorificus thing. I did not say that," he said firmly.
Giles ignored the ashen boy and asked Joyce, "What did Spike have to say?"
"Well, Spike wasn't there. Dawn asked a couple of his demon friends if they knew where he was, but they said he hadn't been around for a couple of days," she said quietly. Joyce knew that Spike had withdrawn after his tragically misspoken avowal of love for her daughter. She was just glad that it didn’t look like Spike had left town for good.
"Spike has friends," Xander said in amazement. Dawn rolled her eyes at his expression of shock. "You don't think the bleached wonder maybe has Buffy chained up somewhere again," he asked aloud.
"Good Lord, I hope not," exclaimed Giles. He took off his glasses and polished them rapidly at the thought.
Joyce held her temper at the vitriol she was hearing from Buffy’s friends regarding Spike. "He would never have kept her away from my gala, besides, I'm sure Spike learned his lesson the last time. He was really apologetic once he realized his methods were not appreciated."
"Look, she's my daughter and I am not a total fool, but I do not think for a moment that Spike would knowingly hurt Buffy. He may be misguided and a bit rash, but he does truly care about her," Joyce said.
She was met with five sets of shocked eyes and a warm glow of appreciation from Dawn.
"I think he might have handled that a lot better if Drusilla hadn't been in town anyway," added Dawn.
"Dru, of course," cried Willow. "Dru must have come back. Oh goddess, Dru's got Buffy!" She leapt from her seat in alarm at the thought.
"Calm down sweetie," said Tara, "We have no reason to believe this Dru's anywhere near Sunnydale or Buffy."
"Am I the only one that's not comfortable knowing that Spike AND Buffy are missing at the same time," asked Xander indignantly.
"Yes, well, that is worth noting," agreed Giles.
Spike was ready to stake himself. For the better part of the day all Buffy had done was whine and complain that is when she wasn't accusing him of creating this lovely vacation in hell with his beloved. He'd given her his coat, helped her in their climb, listened to her bleedin' complaints, offered comforting words and conversation and never once tried to rip out her tongue. What more could she want from him, he wondered. He’d endured less torture at the hands of Angelus!
Once more they began their ascent towards the building at the crest of the mountain. Spike shielded his eyes from the glare on the snow.
"Bloody hell," he gasped, "Why am I not on fire?"
"And to that, may I add my agreement," snarked Buffy.
"No, wait Slayer. It's plenty bright out here and yet no Spike Bar-be-que. Not complainin' mind, but that's pretty off inna it? Should be a pile of ash right now, wouldn't ya' think? And just where is the sun anyway ... sky looks a mite odd too," Spike said. "Course it’s been awhile since I’ve been cavortin in the snow in daylight."
Buffy rolled her eyes and said sarcastically, "And with all this snow, I should be an ice cube. What's your point, Spike?"
"You are a bloody ice cube, slayer," he muttered under his breath. "Just seems we can't really be on some mountain on earth in broad daylight's all, pet. Can’t be real at all," he said a bit louder.
"Hum, hate to admit it, but yak' got a point, Spiky," she replied. "So what do we do now?"
"Keep climbing I guess. After you Slayer," he answered.
Buffy delivered a cold stare at the vampire and retorted, "Why do I get the feeling you just enjoy watching my ass?"
"Cause I'm a pig, remember," he smirked. Buffy had to laugh at that in spite of her best efforts not to enjoy their verbal jousts.
"Hey, how would you know what a normal daylight sky looks like anyway," she asked. Any conversation was better than the silence surrounding them. He was right ... it was eerie. Not even a bird to be seen or heard. The stillness was vaguely menacing.