The judge glanced at Buffy, tapped the papers before her with her forefinger, and then looked at the plaintiff's attorney with raised eyebrows. The attorney nodded. The judge shrugged and turned again to Buffy, who stood with her head bowed.
It was stifling in the courtroom. The old radiators gave off too much heat for the Southern California afternoon, no doubt pumping away because it was technically still winter. Sunlight fought its way through the dusty, Mission-Revival windows, making the room marginally less murky. As the judge began to speak, Buffy raised her eyes to the bench.
“Ms. Summers, I understand that there were mitigating circumstances, but since no one was able to produce the woman you say caused the damage to the examination room, the court has no option but to find for the plaintiff, Sunnydale Memorial Hospital.”
Buffy nodded and made a visible effort to stand straighter, though her shoulders still drooped.
“However, the court is pleased to convey that, in lieu of a monetary settlement, the plaintiff requests restitution in the form of community service.” Buffy blinked. “I trust this will conclude the matter satisfactorily for all parties.”
“Y-yes, your honor,” said Buffy.
“Thank you, your honor,” said the plaintiff's attorney.
“You are hereby ordered to report to the plaintiff's community outreach department tomorrow to begin your service. This service shall not exceed twenty hours in a week, nor last longer than ten weeks.”
The judge banged her gavel and rose to her feet. The bailiff cried, “All rise!” and everyone rose to their feet as the judge swept out.
Spike opened the little gate from the observation area stepped through to shake hands with Buffy's attorney, who looked a little shell-shocked. Buffy remembered her manners and gave the man's hand a careful shake as well. The opposing attorney nodded pleasantly in their direction.
“Well, pet, didn't go too badly,” said Spike. “Your mum will be pleased.”
Buffy shook her head. “I guess. I just...I mean, it's one more thing. Mom's still recuperating from her surgery, Dawn's still freaking out, I've got slaying, mid-terms, and,” she lowered her voice “we're not sure that Glory woman isn't coming back.” She resumed her normal tone. “On top of all that, now I have to wear an orange jumpsuit.” She sighed.
Spike bumped her shoulder with his. “Buck up, Slayer. Triumphing over disasters is what you do. Even fashion disasters.”
Buffy wrinkled her nose. Spike took her hand and tucked it into the crook of his elbow.
“C'mon. Best report back to Joyce and put her mind at ease.”
They stepped out into the clear Sunnydale afternoon, Spike's many rings glinting in the sun.
Buffy showed up at the hospital, as ordered. She told the receptionist her name and was told to wait. She'd barely found a two-seasons-behind fashion magazine and sat down when she heard her name. A woman stood at an open office door, beckoning to her. The woman had not-quite-tamed curly hair and a wide smile. She began talking even before Buffy reached her.
“Ms. Summers, I'm Rhonda Rodriguez, the community coordinator here at Sunnydale Memorial. We're glad to have you on board.” She ushered Buffy into the office, waving her into a chair before bustling behind the desk. She moved a few stacks of papers and folders to the side and flipped open a red binder before sitting down. “Please call me Rhonda. May I call you Buffy?”
Buffy shrugged. “Sure.”
“Okay then. Buffy, with your help, I'm confident that this —” she tapped the binder for emphasis “— is going to be the most successful Sunnydale Community Spring Blood Drive we've ever had.” Her smile was practically blinding.
“Blood drive?” repeated Buffy. She usually tried to be upbeat when dealing with the mundane population, but this particular assignment made it look suspiciously like somebody was in on her not-so-secret identity.
“Yes.” Rhonda checked her notes. “Now, I know you've only been in town since last year, but here in Sunnydale, we find that our constant need for blood donations tends to spike in the springtime.”
“Gee, I wonder why,” said Buffy, just managing to not roll her eyes.
Rhonda gave her a sharp look. “AND we have reason to believe that you are just as motivated as any other citizen to Keep Sunnydale Sanguinated.”
“Is that your slogan?” asked Buffy, fascinated.
“Maybe.” She looked bashful for a moment. “We're floating a few options before launch. It's on the short list.”
“Okay. Look, I'm on board and fully ready to do whatever you need. It's just, I'm not sure how much help I'll be. I'm not pre-med or anything. What can I do?”
“Oh, lots of things! You can pass out flyers, help people fill out the donation forms, or hand out juice and cookies after the donations.” Rhonda started her spiel with enthusiasm, but by the end she was very obviously not looking at Buffy and was moving papers around her desk for no apparent reason.
Buffy crossed her arms. “That sounds great. But what are you really planning to have me do?”
Rhonda sighed. “Buffy, we are in desperate need of blood donations that actually make it back to the hospital. You get what I'm saying?”
“Loud and clear.”
“If we understand correctly, your particular skill set might help us with that.”
Buffy uncrossed her arms. “You've got the right girl for the job.”
Rhonda exhaled with relief. “Great! Today you'll go through the volunteer orientation. Starting tomorrow, we'd like for you to help staff our bloodmobile, starting before dusk and until the day's delivery is complete. Deal?”
They shook on it.
“I have a suggestion,” said Buffy.
“I'm all ears,” said Rhonda.
It was UC Sunnydale day for the bloodmobile. Buffy marched back and forth across the quad, wearing a sandwich board with a red cross painted on it and exhorting passing students to “Keep Sunnydale Salinated!”
Willow and Tara exchanged smiles and observed for a moment. When Buffy got to the edge of the quad closest to them, they hurried over to her. Willow held out a frosty mochaccino.
“Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you! This is much thirstier work than slaying,” said Buffy, seizing the cup. She gave the straw a mighty suck and sighed with contentment. “Are you going to give blood?”
Tara nodded. Willow added, “They told me I'm underweight, so I'm just the moral support this time.”
“Huh. They told me the same thing,” said Buffy. “Oh well, one more reason to have plenty of these babies.” She wiggled the cup in her hand, beaming.
“How's the take going?” asked Willow.
“Good! The Ultimate Frisbee team came through and donated about an hour ago. That took us over the daily average. It's kinda cool to be on this side of the world saving game for a change. I don't know why I never really thought about it before.”
“Most people don't,” said Tara. “I only started because my mom needed donations when she was sick. We were different blood types, but once I saw the need, I wanted to help.”
Willow squeezed Tara's hand. “You're a good person.”
Tara smiled at her. “How do you know I'm not just in it for the cookies?”
Willow smiled goofily back at her. Then she shook herself and said, “Time to do the deed.”
They walked off hand-in-hand to the bloodmobile. Buffy finished her coffee and started marching again. Dusk was approaching, so she decided on five more minutes of marching before she settled into guard duty. She'd already discovered that sitting inside the bloodmobile for extended periods was not a Buffy happy time. That whole law enforcement track they'd tried to send her down in high school? Not going to happen if she ever had to do stake-outs. At least, not sitting-in-cars stake-outs. She needed to be in motion. She could only think of one non-moving vehicle in which she'd ever had fun: Spike's big old black behemoth. There was usually plenty of action to be had when she found herself there, though. Yowza. Down girl. We're taking it slow, Buffy reminded herself.
She blinked and noticed the sun had lowered a few inches in the time she'd been daydreaming. She called out one more “Keep Sunnydale Salivated” and walked over to the bloodmobile. She took off the sandwich board, stepped in, and slipped the sign into the storage closet.
The last customers of the day were in various stages of donation. Willow waved at her from next to Tara, who was finishing up with her pint. A technician was monitoring another girl who looked like she was halfway through. A couple was getting ready to leave, eyeing the cookies.
There was a rap on the door. Spike stuck his head in and glanced around.
“You lot about done with the bloodletting? Be full dark in half a crack.” He dumped a duffle onto a bench by the door. It clanked.
“Twenty more minutes,” said the tech.
Buffy hopped down to greet him. “Twenty minutes,” she repeated.
“Well then, might as well keep watch from out here, eh, pet?” He looked her over. “No orange jumpsuit, I see.”
“Nope. Fortunately for me, white lab coats go with everything.” She twirled for him.
“Very nice. Say, doc, think you can help me with this problem I've got?”
She nodded. “That depends. Can you tell me more?” Buffy tapped her lips with a forefinger.
“It's a stiffness that I get when I come to see you,” he said with an earnest expression.
She rolled her eyes, then tried to look concerned. “I see. Is it painful?”
“Wouldn't say so, no.”
“I prescribe an evening of rest and relaxation. I'm off in an hour. I could monitor your progress, personally.”
“Golly, doc, how can I ever repay you?”
“I'm sure we can come to a mutually beneficial arrangement,” said Buffy, running a finger down the center of his tee-clad chest.
Spike growled. “Minx.”
“You started it.” Buffy pouted up at him.
He considered this. “Did, didn't I? Well, I'm a bad man, then, and deserve to be punished.”
“Hoo boy, for somebody who's 'taking it slow' you sure do run through the naughty scenarios in double time,” said Buffy, crossing her arms and sticking out her chin. “I'm questioning your commitment to these so-called 'rules of courtship'. Which I'm also starting to think you just made up to keep Buffy distracted.”
“Distracted from, say, the little gargoyle lurking by the blood wagon?” Spike asked.
His demeanor changed instantly from flirty boyfriend to focused predator. Buffy spun to see a warty, lank-haired little demon dressed in brown burlap robes. It did indeed appear to be lurking. She took a step toward it. Its eyes widened and it darted behind the fender. She gave chase. After only a minute of circling the bloodmobile, the greasy thing ran right into Spike and bounced off into an inelegant sprawl.
“I die for the Great Glorificus!” it cheeped.
“Oh no you don't,” said Buffy, seizing it by the front of its robes and hauling it upright. Its toes barely brushed the ground. “This person you're so eager to sacrifice yourself for, might she go by some other name? Like Glory, maybe?”
“The most Effervescent One goes by many names, but the unbeliever shall speak them not.”
“Why's that, then?” asked Spike, wearing his full fangs and bumpies. “What's so special about what's-her-lumps?”
The creature gasped. “You dare! Infidel! Mean and unworthy! Her Major Hotness will barely notice as she grinds you to paste beneath her dainty heel.”
“Jeez, you sound like you worship her or something,” said Buffy. Her brow crinkled. “Hey, you really do worship her, don't you?”
“With every molecule of my slime and sinew.” The little demon quivered.
“Oooookay. Spike, what do you make of this?” She hefted the thing a little higher, displaying it for his inspection.
“Definite fanatic. Dressed in monk-wear. Eager to play the martyr,” Spike looked at it closely. “Could be a crackpot cultist. Could also be a real acolyte of something with more juice than our average Hellmouth vacationer.”
“She's got juice, alright. You think Glory might be a...god? An honest to goodness deity? Can she do that?” Buffy absently set the little monster on its feet. She patted its head, then grimaced and wiped her hand on her jeans. Before it could scurry off, she grabbed the back of its robe.
“Could be. I've never run across one, but word is they're around,” said Spike. “Maybe a demi-god?”
“Blasphemer! Heretic! There is no one better, smoother, or more sensational than Glorificus!”
“We get it. She really rates with you. You can pipe down, now. I'm thinking.” Buffy tapped her foot and looked into the middle distance.
The technician poked her head out of the bloodmobile. “We're all set.” Her brow creased when she saw Scurvy straining against Buffy's hold on its garments. Then she shrugged and disappeared inside.
Buffy looked down at the thing. “Looks like you're coming with us, whatever-your-name-is.”
“Scurvy, your not-entirely-powerless one.”
“You can call me Buffy,” she said with a sigh.
She hauled Scurvy up the stairs and tied it to a chair with some blood pressure cuffs. Spike whistled cheerfully as he settled into the driver's seat. The technician buckled in. Willow and Tara took up positions at the rear, peeking out the small windows in the back.
Buffy went up front to sit behind Spike, who started up the engine and grinned as he pulled out of the quad and pointed them in the direction of the hospital.
Though she wouldn't say it out loud, she was sure that they would deliver the blood successfully tonight.
It was the other umpteen nights that she wasn't so sure about.