Disclaimer: I own naught a thing!
A/N: Jennifer totally blew me outta the water with her second gift, and I sorta had this idea sooo... I went with it. FaithUnbreakable's gift pending until she tells me whether she wants AB or HP!▬o▬
Almost one week after Christmas, Buffy was just finishing the wrapping on her last - and definitely strangest - gift. The lateness was alright, she knew the intended recipient would understand. Extenuating circumstances were a bitch and they both had responsibilities.
Truth be told, she had needed the extra time to prepare. For the months leading up to her favorite holiday she had been struggling with an age-old problem: what to get for the man who has everything? Eventually she had persevered, after all she was the Queen of Shoppers, the Princess of Procurers, Empress of Exquisite Gifts!
Ok, that might be stretching it a bit
far. Xander still hadn't quite forgiven her for the pre-paid subscription to an online dating service. Was it her fault that she'd somehow managed to find the only one dedicated solely to supernatural creatures? No, indeed it was not! In fact, she rather suspected her slip-up had more to do with his freaky tendency to end up with non-humans than any particular fault on her part.
Not that he'd been particularly receptive to - or appreciative of - that
Buffy shook her head, attempting to dispel the encroaching doubts about her present-giving prowess. Slayer she might be, but that didn't cancel out or even diminish the fact that she was also a Summers.
And if there was one thing that Summers women knew how to do, it was shop.
Look at her mother, owner of an art gallery sure, but that involved the careful planning and knowledge of shopping and shoppers. Joyce had to know not only what people would like, but what people would actually buy
. Her mother had essentially been buying people's presents for them, in an admittedly roundabout sort of way.
Buffy smiled down at the silver charm bracelet that had been her Christmas gift from Dawn. Each separate charm had a special ability, affixed to the metal by the budding young witch. Several small ornaments already dangled from the fine chain, with the promise of more as they came to the younger Summers. It was a perfect gift, further evidence that even mystically-created Summers women were champion present-givers.
The blonde turned abruptly from her wrapping and began rummaging at her desk, "Where did I put it? I didn't leave it in Rome, did I?" Scowling, she regarded her rather messy workspace. Paperwork was evil. Giles would scoff to hear her say such, but didn't it make him all grumpy and frowny?
"Stupid crystal ball," she muttered, hands on her hips as she struggled to remember where she could have put the darn thing. She had wanted to keep it safe and out of the reach of some of the younger Slayers. The ones new to Cleveland had a tendency to hold her in a bit of awe, a notion quickly dispelled by Xander (especially after the dating-service fiasco), but unfortunately he sometimes did his job of humanizing the Head Slayer a little too
well. The first time she'd been pranked had been funny, even the second was a little cute (hard to get all the stains out, but still sort of endearing), by the third time however...Faith folded her arms and regarded the elder woman gleefully, "Did you up proper, didn't they?" Her amused brown eyes took in the sight Buffy presented with an almost unholy amount of satisfaction. Dripping from head to foot, the blonde was quite obviously furious.
"Do you know what they did?"
The fierce hiss did nothing to curb Faith's amusement, "No, but I'm always lookin' for tips."
Buffy's glare turned positively molten. She knew, she just knew that all the mini-Slayers must be pressed up tight against the door the brunette was so assiduously guarding, eager and excited to hear the results of their latest prank. Muttering to herself under her breath, Buffy began to whisper, "They rigged a bucket of water over my closet door - "
"Then they short-sheeted the bed - "
"Also classic, but not so bad. What's got your panties in a bunch, B?"
If she'd been a witch - specifically, witchy Willow - her eyes would have flared black. Hell, her whole body would have turned darker than pitch. "You want to know what they did? Oh, I'll tell you what those little monsters did! They loosed a colony of mustengo demons in my closet!"
Faith was speechless. There were certain things that one just Did Not Do whilst living at Slayer House, especially if one wished to survive to reach drinking age. You didn't touch Faith's fags, you didn't try to set Xander up on a date (no matter how long you'd known the intended possibility), and you did not - under any circumstances including apocalypse or impending doom - touch Buffy's wardrobe.
Silently, the brunette had moved to the side, allowing the blonde to storm past her and into the training room for the next lesson. It took a full week and a full fumigation before the Blonde Wrath was satisfied and by then the trainees had learned their lesson, making sure to tell the next crops as fair warning. Andrew had even, somewhat jokingly, added 'Wardrobe Malfunction - Summers' to the little apocalypse-scale he had on the front of his desk.
The fact that it was listed right above 'Angelus' and just below 'Glory' was a source of never-ending amusement for Xander...
Tapping her finger against her lip, Buffy dismissed the possibility that one of the Slayerettes had taken her crystal-ball-thing. They wouldn't dare. Still, it wasn't as if SITs and WITs were the only persons in attendance at the school, there was also a burgeoning population of witches and other assorted magical creatures. But no, none of them would dare enter her private quarters either...
"If I were a magical-crystal-floaty-thing, where would I be?" She snapped her fingers in realization, "Of course."
Resisting the urge to smack herself for her stupidity, Buffy made her way over to her bed and dropped down to peer underneath, ah-ha! Exactly as she had suspected, the globe-thing had made it's way to the one area of her room most like it's natural habitat (dark and magic-smelling), the underside of her bed. Consequently, the same place she kept all her weapons - especially the enchanted ones. Dawn thought it silly, but Buffy couldn't help it. Years of living with their mother, and later in rather public dorms, had left her with an incurable need to hide and/or stash her weapons.
Besides, it was rather comforting to know that they were there, in easy reach, should anything untoward occur at night. Sort of like the Slayer-equivalent of a fluffy stuffed-animal, or a security blanket. Yes, that was it exactly, they were her shiny, sharp security blanket. Not that she would ever admit that. Ever
Crystal globe-thing firmly in hand, Buffy turned to her present - still nicely wrapped despite its continued squirming - wrapped one arm about it, and said the four magic words:
"Long live the king."
Rather a silly password really, nothing like what she would have expected from the rather flamboyant Fae. But maybe that was the point? Or maybe the password had been set previous to his rule... the latter was the more likely option, not that it mattered. Her meandering thoughts managed to distract her while she made the transition from earth to the fairy realm (not that it was actually called
that, but sometimes she had trouble with names). Buffy hefted the present over one shoulder, using her other - now empty - hand to push open the doors to the throne room.
"Buffy!" He swooped across the room to her, he was rather good at it too - the swooping - not particularly surprising considering his second-favorite form. What was startling, however was the worry in his mismatched eyes and the faint lines she could see around his mouth. What on earth was the matter?
Gently setting down the present, she grabbed him in a swift hug before setting him back gently. He didn't even object to her manhandling, though it usually at least razzled him. She lived for his disgruntled moments, they made him look less... perfect.
Buffy cocked her head to the side as she studied him, he was twirling a sphere absently as his fingers twisted and plucked at the lacy collar of his shirt. It was a habit, not entirely derived from nerves, and rather engaging on the otherwise aloof Fae. In other circumstances she supposed they might have made quite the couple, but as it happened she thought of him in a more brotherly manner. Which most likely had something to do with the way that they'd met, comrades in arms so to speak when some creatures from his realms - sparklies? merries? wiries? - had escaped and attempted to go on some sort of bender in Chicago.
Needless to say the King had been displeased. In fact his expression then looked almost exactly like the one he was wearing now
"Sorry, what were you saying?"
He glared down at her, "Kindly refrain from 'zoning' when I speak to you."
She rolled her eyes, "Say something more interesting and I won't have to!"
The temperature in the room dropped significantly as he drew himself up to his fullest height, glaring down at her as he worked himself into a high dudgeon. Buffy folded her arms and quirked one eyebrow at him, an expression intended to say, Do you really wanna start something? I don't think so!
Apparently he got the message, his shoulders slumped and he made his way back to his chair to collapse upon the cold marble. Buffy huffed a little before grabbing her present off the ground again - ignoring the soft 'oof' sound it made at being manhandled thus - and followed him.
"Now, what's got you all bent outta shape? The goblins not spit-shining your boots shiny enough?"
Jareth grimaced at the idea of goblin spit getting anywhere near
his suede footwear. "No - "
"Hegglebutt start organizing revolutions again?"
His lips twitched at the mere thought, "No - "
"The foxy-dude and his giant dog-thing destroy any more towns?"
The king massaged his temple, "Moon be praised, no
"Then what's the problem, my fine feathered friend?"
Jareth's face took on a haunted cast and he seemed to diminish, his magic receding inwards and curling about his chest. The loss of his energy turned the otherwise cheerful(ish) throne room into a forbidding place. Even his crystals evaporated, ending their game of hide-and-seek in the folds of his clothing.
"She's gone..." He whispered hoarsely, "Gone."
Buffy frowned, "Didn't you say she was going back to the university in your last letter? She can't stay at home for the holidays forever, you know. Besides, I thought she was some sort of super-cool history teacher there, or something."
"Mythological histories yes, but my henchmen - "
"Minions," the Slayer coughed delicately.
He scowled, "My henchmen
could find no trace of her."
"Can't you use one of your crystal-magic-bally things and look for her?"
"I have no power over her," he all but whispered, looking through and far away from Buffy as he remembered that fateful day when his world had been turned around before falling apart completely.
"Huh," Buffy considered this. "Well, sounds like you're kind of stuck," she informed him cheerfully, "You'll just have to wait and see like us mortals for a bit. In the meantime, let's do gift exchanges!"
Her childish enthusiasm brought a bit of light back into his eyes and he nodded, "I'll go first." Jareth reached into one pocket of his voluminous leather jacket and retrieved a shining red sphere, slightly larger than the ones Buffy had such a hard time naming.
"Ooh, lemme see!" She plucked it from his fingers and wrapped her hands about it where it instantly 'poofed' into the most magnificent sword the Slayer had ever seen. Long and sharp, yet somehow almost delicate looking, the grip was intended for two-handed use. Her eyes widened as she took in the large red stone embedded in the pommel.
"Pretty," she cooed breathlessly, giving it a few practice swings. Something flickered along the length of the blade and she squinted, bringing it closer for a better view. "What's the funny writing mean?"
"In rough translation, whosoever pulleth out this sword
He was cut off by a stream of gibberish and invective flowing from Buffy's mouth so fast he wondered at her ability to remain upright without a continuous flow of oxygen to the brain. Her rambles ended abruptly with an almost shrieking - "Are you kidding
me?" - before she leapt upon him and hugged him, profuse thanks nearly shattering his eardrums.
"Glad to see you like it," he muttered, drawing the few shattered remains of his dignity about him as he patted his mussed clothing and hair into place. If some of his subjects saw him now... well, they'd be on the receiving end of some one-way tickets to the bog. Merry Christmas from your king.
it? You got me Excalibur
you great big - big - "
"Incredibly amazing king?"
She grinned, "Great big gift-giving cool-guy!"
He winced at her butchery of language but smiled at the description all the same. "So, what did you get me
Buffy smirked and stepped to the side, allowing him to see the large bundle wrapped in a soft quilt and a whole lot of ribbon that rested just behind her. He took in its wriggling with a raised brow before giving a gallic shrug and moving forward to unwrap it.
"Oh wait, I forgot to tell you, I need to go home early today. We've been having some trouble with a nest of volgnar demons and I promised Faith I'd help her root 'em out before New Years." She caught the crystal sphere he tossed her with a mischievous grin. "Thanks Jay."
"Don't call me that," he muttered absently, pulling at the ties fruitlessly for a few moments before giving up and using his magic to strip away the ribbons and quilt to reveal...
Spitting-mad Sarah Williams staring up at him in absolutely horrified fascination.
Looking from woman to king and back again - and easily registering the tension between the two - Buffy smiled victoriously. Yup, she still had it! "Play nice kiddies, and Jareth - don't traumatize her too
much. Her I can't hurt, but you're fair game if you guys don't sort out your issues quick."
She activated her return-to-homey sphere before either of them could say anything, filled with the glow of having picked out the perfect gift. Buffy grinned and swung her new sword a few times, wondering what Giles would say about her Christmas present.
And if she didn't get a wedding invitation in the mail before June, she'd eat a mustengo demon!▬o▬
A/N2: Like it, love it, loathe it with some degree of firey (heh, I made a pun) intensity? Lemme know! Your reviews are like Christmas gifts that I can get year-round.