Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or worlds used in this story, including (but not limited to) Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Plants vs Zombies, and The Craft. No harm is intended toward any of the copyright owners. This story is intended for entertainment purposes only.+++++PREVIOUSLY: A necromancer sent zombies to attack the neighborhood where ICW witch Lily lives with her husband Jeff. Lily used her knowledge of plant magic to fight off the first wave of them, but like any other battle against evil, she knows there's more to come.+++++PART TWO
Lily thanked the goddess that she’d always had a thing for sunflowers, and that she’d planted the backyard window-boxes in the spring. Once the circle was re-set and the candles re-lit, Lily’s first task was to grow the sunflowers in the boxes until they were as large as those in front. She possessed the little bluebells in the laundry-room window-box so she could see what she was doing, and then cast the sunflowers’ energy across the entire yard in one glowing wave.
Just in time, too, because the zombies were moving faster. Fortunately, Lily had prepared for this -- she knew that, when facing a villain of any type, be it magical or traditional, demonic or human, the second verse was always worse than the first.
The swimming pool had been Lily’s biggest concern, but then, that was why she’d asked for the walnuts. A chain of lily-pads grown from cabbage leaves bisected the pool, each one supporting a nut expanded to the size of a dorm-room refrigerator. The first zombies to fall into the pool walked themselves mindlessly forward until they hit the walnuts and began chomping at them with slow, inexorable bites.
That would hold them for a while. In the meantime, she watched several others fall prey to the potatoes she’d urged into the ground; the moment they felt any sort of pressure, they exploded upward, blasting the legs off the zombies and slowing them down enough that her few remaining cabbages could catapult smaller versions of themselves toward the disabled attackers. Enough cabbages could crush a zombie’s head, especially with Lily’s magic behind them, and any that got through fell victim to more engorged squash plants.
Then came the zombies she wasn’t expecting -- the ones who’d somehow managed to protect their heads with buckets, helmets, and even traffic cones. Once the potato mines were gone, there was nothing to stop them. Lily cast her vision across her vegetable patch and saw the pepper plants she’d just started growing this year.
The jalapenos were still green, but their innate heat plus the addition of her magic allowed her to aim them in fiery blasts at the zombies that her cabbages couldn’t stop. The flames scorched the grass, but it was a small price to pay -- apparently the peppers were so spicy that their magicked versions turned the zombies to piles of vampire-like ash.
By the time she’d dealt with those, the zombies in the pool were through the line of walnuts and almost to the shallow end. Lily quickly fed power to some of her corn plants, and they started pelting the zombies with showers of tiny, sharp kernels that ate away at their heads until they fell to the ground, unmoving.
But in the commotion, one of the zombies had gotten to the vegetable patch and was eating its way through Lily’s weaponized plants. She lost three cabbages and a two-headed sunflower before she could coax a squash from the other patch over to the other side of the backyard. It met the zombie as it came up onto the back porch, tripping over Lily’s nephew’s tricycle. The squash flattened the zombie’s head, stopping it before it could come any closer.
Once the backyard was cleared of anything that moved, Lily opened her eyes. “See anything?”
Jeff shook his head. “A couple of them tried to brave the front yard, but they didn’t make it very far.”
“Good.” Lily broke the circle and held out a hand; Jeff took it and helped her to her feet, and they walked slowly into the kitchen. Jeff gave her more Gatorade before plopping down onto one of their wooden chairs and sighing. “Hey, you okay?”
“Just... the adrenaline, I guess.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you’re doing all the work.” He smiled at her, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes. “I get all keyed up, but I don’t have anything to actually do.”
Lily put down the bottle of electric-orange drink and ran her hand over the curve of her stomach. Her fingers popped open the buttons of her shorts. “I could think of something.”
“Lils, the zombies--”
“Aren’t here.” She kicked off the shorts, along with her underwear, and knelt in front of Jeff, her hands going to his waist. “But I am.”
He lifted off the chair just enough for her to get his pants out of the way, and then she gave into the urge she’d had in the living room.
The chair tipped over soon after that, but Lily didn’t care. And if her ass stuck to the linoleum once Jeff was on top... well, that was a small price to pay.
Lily was still wet from her shower when she heard someone knock on their door. “Can you get that?”
Jeff must have done so, because as she finished drying off and digging up some clothes, she heard him talking to someone. It was Sarah again, this time with Dawn, a tall, slender woman who happened to be a slayer -- and who, somehow, was the only person in the entire ICW besides Buffy’s sister to have that name. “Got him?” Lily asked.
Sarah shook her head. “He planned ahead. Buffy’s really pissed off, too; they thought they were breaking into his hideout, but it was just a room packed full of zombies. Hundreds of them.”
“Yuck indeed,” Dawn said. “I don’t want to be training with her for the next month after that.” She pitched her voice differently and affected Buffy’s accent. “‘These shoes will never be the same! And do you know how hard it is to get zombie flesh out of my hair?’”
Lily couldn’t help but smile. “You’d better not let her hear you say that.”
Dawn shrugged. “It is what it is.”
“What about the disappearing bodies?” Jeff asked. “Do you guys know why that’s happening?”
“We think it’s because of the necromancer himself--”
“Does this idiot have a name?” Lily interrupted.
“Edgar Gauss,” Dawn said. “Doesn’t really have that ‘evil’ ring to it, somehow.”
Lily nodded, and Sarah continued. “The bodies aren’t from around here. Hector hit the nearby gravesites; none of them are more disturbed than usual. Wherever Gauss got them from, he must have transported them. It took so much of his power to get them out of their graves, and then from wherever they were to here, and then to make them fight, that once their brains are gone they just disintegrate.”
“I turned a few to ash with some flamethrowers.”
“Where,” Dawn asked slowly, “did you get a flamethrower
? Even I don’t have a flamethrower!”
Lily grinned. “Hot peppers,” she said, and left it at that. “Did you see the same thing happen with yours?”
“Yeah.” Sarah had a cup of water in her hand; she drank some of it. “Decapitate them or burn them to a crisp. Standard zombie tactics.” She grinned. “I never thought of using pea-shooters, but I guess you have to go with your strengths.”
“I guess. We lose anyone?”
“Not from the slayers or the witches,” Dawn said, “but a few people were bitten before we could fully mobilize. Two died from their wounds; the others are going to make it.”
“They’re not going to turn into zombies themselves, are they?” Jeff looked alarmed that he even thought of it. “Is that a thing?”
“It’s a thing,” Dawn confirmed, “but they’re not showing any of the signs.”
“Lucky,” Jeff said. He reached for Lily’s hand, and to her surprise, his palm was damp. The thought of being turned must have scared him more than he was letting on. “Anything else we need to know?”
“Just that we still don’t know who Gauss is after. Be on your guard; there aren’t any zombies here right now, but there might be more if he thinks he has a chance of achieving his goal.” Sarah half-smiled. “By the way, I sent Willow pictures of what you did. She’s impressed.”
“I didn’t do it for her.”
“Nevertheless.” Sarah’s phone buzzed; she glanced down at it and frowned. “We have to go; call us if you get overwhelmed, and don’t be afraid to use the mana.”
Lily nodded. “Be careful.” Then, to Dawn: “don’t die.”
“Rule one,” Dawn said.
Once they were gone, Jeff leaned back against the kitchen counter. Lily went to him, put her arms around him. “Are you okay?”
“I will be.” He sighed and rested his hands on her shoulders. “Bad enough that there were zombies on my lawn... but if somehow they can turn us into them--”
“Don’t worry about it,” Lily said. “I won’t let them get that close.” She kissed his chest, then looked up at him. “I promise.”
The afternoon was quiet. Jeff made a pizza for their dinner -- Lily felt bad about eating salad after her vegetable patch had done so much to protect them. After, they went to the guest room together to watch TV -- the living room furniture was still pushed back, Lily’s magic circle still easily accessible.
Unsurprisingly, the news had nothing to say about zombies attacking a local neighborhood.
Jeff turned off the set and tossed the remote onto the little desk. Lily leaned into him, running her hand over his stomach. “You sure you’re all right?”
He shook his head and sighed. “I knew when I married you that you were a witch, and it never bothered me. It still doesn’t,” he added quickly, “and it never will. But when you joined the ICW...”
“What is it?” she prompted when his voice trailed off.
“I just...” He swallowed hard and stroked her hair. “I just never expected to have to be afraid for you. Of things that would come after you, or try to hurt you.”
“Jeff, we’re okay--”
“But I’m still scared for you. It’s not just this, either; it’s everything. All that crap with that crazy witch, and beyond that it seems like every couple of months someone’s trying to destroy the world. How did I not know about any of this?”
“I didn’t know either,” Lily said. “I just thought strange things happened around here and no one noticed them.”
“‘Strange things,’” Jeff echoed. “Lils, I think some of this goes well beyond strange.”
“I suppose so.” She drew up her legs so she could kneel on the couch, moving her face close to her husband’s. She kissed his cheek, then his jaw. “I love you, Jeff. You’re the only person I’ve ever known who accepted everything about me, no questions. I know this is hard, but--”
“It’s not you that’s the problem,” he said. “It’s the stuff that happens around you.” She tried to kiss him again, but he turned his head. “Zombies, Lily!”
Lily sat back on her haunches and put her hands on her hips. “There’s nothing I can do about them,” she said. “Except protect us. I’m not a combat witch, and--”
“And the fact remains that you even can use those two words together!” He jumped to his feet and paced across the small room. “‘Combat witch’? What does that even mean?” She started to speak, but he held up a hand. “Yes, I know, you don’t have to explain.” She watched him control his face and, when he spoke again, he sounded more reasonable. “A day will come,” he said, “that you’ll be on the front line. You won’t want to be there -- Willow and Hector won’t want you there -- but it will happen.” She saw tears in his eyes. “And I’m afraid I’ll lose you.”
Lily got off the couch and went to him, pushing him gently back against the wall. “You’re not going to lose me,” she said, her throat tight, her voice thready. “I love you, and I’m not going to leave you -- no matter how many zombies try to eat my brains.”
“But they’re such nice brains,” he said, trying to smile.
Lily smoothed her fingers over his eyes, brushing away his tears. Her hands went to his shoulders, then his hips. “I love you,” she said again, pulling him away from the wall, back toward the couch. “Let me make love to you. Let me help you forget this, at least for a little while.”
She put one finger on his lips. “I need you,” she said. Then, after a pause: “I’m scared too. Scared of all these things coming after us -- seems like we stop one and we have another to deal with. I just...” She ran her hands under the hem of his shirt and over the skin of his sides and back. “I need something real, right now, with you.” Her hands went to his hips again and she quirked a smile at him. “Unless you’re too tired.”
In response, he leaned down and caught her lips in a kiss that seared through her just as much as it had when they’d first started dating -- was it really nineteen years ago?
-- when he’d surprised her after dinner and a movie. She didn’t remember the film -- she had, after all, only been twenty-three at the time -- but she remembered the kiss, and what it had led to.
These days, she preferred to have sex in their bed, but she could handle the occasional backache if the couch was the only piece of furniture nearby. In the grand scheme of things, it was only a minor pain, especially compared to how good he made her feel the rest of the time.
Of course, when they finally did get to the bedroom, she made sure to prove to him once again that sex got better the longer they were together.
Jeff grumbled and rolled over, pulling the top-sheet along with him.
“Jeff!” Lily poked his shoulder, hard enough that he groaned. “Jeff, do you hear that?”
“Hear what?” he asked into his pillow.
Lily gave up and got out of bed. Neither of them had bothered to put on pajamas -- even with the air conditioning and the ceiling fan it was too hot in the bedroom. She stole a glance at the clock-radio: 4:30. Ugh.
She walked naked to the bedroom window, drew back the curtains, and looked out at the side-yard. When they’d been looking for homes, the additional green space outside the master bedroom had been one of the things Lily had coveted. But now it was just another place to defend against zombies -- and, as she looked out the window, she felt her heart sink.Damn it.
“Jeff, wake up! Zombies!”
That did it. He was out of bed in a heartbeat, across the room and pulling on a pair of shorts before Lily could decide whether it would be better to go straight to the circle or get dressed first. Self-preservation won out, and she walked quickly to the living room. She lit the candles, drew a fresh layer of protection along the well-worn edge of the circle, and lowered herself into her lotus position.
At least the floor wasn’t cold under her backside; had it been the middle of winter, she might’ve found herself stuck to the hardwood.
Jeff arrived a few seconds later, Lily’s nightgown in one hand and the machete in the other. “Can you do it without sunlight?”
That had been the reason for her sunken heart. “I’m not sure,” she said. “What do we have on that side?”
“Mushrooms, mostly,” he said. “I think a few old tomato plants.”
“It’ll have to do.” Lily paused a moment to think. “Grab a couple of sunflowers from the front and drop them out the side window. I have an idea.”
While Jeff went to do as she’d asked, Lily closed her eyes and extended herself out into the garden. Sleep had helped recharge her mana -- sleep, sex, and sustenance -- although she wished she’d remembered to grab one of Willow’s syringes. But the zombies had been too close for her to think of that; even at a shambling pace, the distance between the side-yard and the foreclosed house next door wasn’t that
Using a patch of weedy-looking flowers as sense organs, Lily watched the first couple of zombies picking their way carefully across the side-yard. She fed her power into the mushrooms and felt them grow. Once they were large enough, they began spitting clods of dirt at the approaching zombies; the fist-sized chunks were enough to slow them, and several blasts later their heads were destroyed.
“It’s done,” Jeff said. “Your sunflowers.”
Lily nodded; without the sunflowers, it had taken too much energy to grow the mushrooms. And even now the sunflowers had barely enough power to fuel a change.
Fortunately, Lily had other ideas. She touched the mushrooms in the areas where Jeff had dropped the sunflowers and urged them to take in the sunshine. It again took a lot of power, but she felt it, like a click inside her brain, when the mushrooms got the idea. The sunflowers were sucked dry of whatever energy they still had stored within, and the mushrooms began pulsing with a pale golden glow.
It would have to be enough.
Lily concentrated on her remaining mushrooms, carefully shepherding the power through the small pieces of fungus. They grew, not as large as her first defenders but large enough, and began spitting golf-ball-sized chunks of dirt.
“Did you do it?” Jeff asked. “Did the mushrooms--”
“They’re awake,” she whispered. “I need... need... more...”
“More sunflowers,” Jeff said. “Got it.”
“No!” It was a harsh, hoarse bark. “We might have to depend on them... in the morning.” She sighed. “Tomatoes...”
“What about them?”
She heard Jeff head for the back door -- the tomato plants were close enough to it that, if he was fast, he could get them and get back into the house before the zombies noticed he was there. Meanwhile, Lily pushed more mana into her glowing mushrooms. What the hell do I call them, anyway? Sun-shrooms?
It was difficult, precise work, and all the while the zombies continued advancing on their house, but Lily refused to let herself be distracted.
It paid off when the first sun-shroom expanded to the size of a basketball, its glow increasing, sending its own energy across the mushroom patch. Yes! But no time to celebrate; got to do more.
Jeff, meanwhile, was back at the bedroom window. He’d opened it and, a pair of gardening gloves on his hands, lobbed two of her acid-pulped tomatoes at the closest zombies. The gooey stuff covered their bodies and they began to melt, leaving a trail of slime on the grass.
Enthused by Jeff’s success, Lily tried to work faster on her own defenses. Some of her smaller mushrooms became engorged, their dirt-clods becoming softball-sized and more powerful as a result. She felt the plants near the front door start to wake up as well, spitting peas at another wave of approaching attackers.
But when she stretched her senses to the backyard, she only found two zombies. One wore a strange white shroud and carried a jack-in-the-box, and preceding it was a taller, broader one holding a screen door. The catapulted cabbages bounced right off the door.Oh, crap.
Lily didn’t have the kind of control she needed to fight a battle on three fronts. She had to hope that the backyard would take care of itself. The front yard was doing fine; the pea-shooters held the zombies at bay. It was the side-yard she had to concentrate on the most.
She concentrated so much on it that when the explosion came it jolted her out of her trance. Jeff ran across the house, looking out through the small window in the laundry room. “Something just took out everything on the left side of our backyard!” he called. “Zombie parts all over the place!”
“Damn,” Lily whispered. She couldn’t speak loud enough for Jeff to hear her; she only had one recourse now. She’d fought the good fight; she’d been strong -- “strong like an Amazon”, as Willow liked to say. But now it was time to admit that it was all too much. Now it was time to call in the cavalry.
Lily broke the circle with her hand and crawled toward the kitchen. Jeff met her at the doorway and helped her to a chair. “Call.” Her voice was barely there. “Call... help...”
Jeff nodded and went through Lily’s contacts until she found Sarah. “No, it’s Jeff.” Pause. “About to pass out.” Pause. “I don’t know. But we need backup. Something got half our plants in the backyard and--” Pause. “A machete.” Pause. “Just hurry, okay? Hurry up and get here.”
Lily’s vision shut down for a long moment, and when it faded back into view, she saw Jeff on his knees in front of her, more Gatorade in his hands. “Drink,” he said. “Please. You need--”
She nodded and caught the straw between dry lips. The liquid felt good going down, spreading through her chest like cold wildfire. Soon enough she nodded and put her hand on his. “Are they coming?”
“They’re coming.” Jeff put the glass on the table. “Be right back.”
“Where--?” But then she realized. He returned with her nightgown and she allowed him to help her put it on. Only then did she remember that she’d fought the last waves of zombies completely naked. “Thanks.”
He leaned down and kissed her.+++++Your continued reviews, e-mails, and other feedback remains greatly appreciated.
As if you haven't figured it out by now, Lily and Jeff are in their forties.
Next time: the concluding chapter of the story. Buffy makes an appearance.