Author’s Note: Thanks very much to my Beta on this, Cordyfan. The following ways of notation may be found in this story. This is excluding whatever I need to represent chatting, texting and stuff like that. Speech:
“Who’s on first.” Thought:
*What’s on second.
#I-don’t-know’s on third.# A bit of hopefully fluffy holiday cheer. I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The Miracle of the Bunnies
Xander looked rather dubiously at the witch at the head of the table. “I’m really not sure this is a good idea, Willow.”
“Possibly it isn’t. But we owe it to her to at least try, Xander,” Willow smiled sadly. “And hey, I’d like to see you smile, or hear you laugh again.”
“I smile,” Xander protested. “See?” He pointed at his face, stretched into a Joker like grimace.
“Not so that it reaches your eyes anymore, Xander,” Willow replied. “And we both know it.”
“I’m not sure she’d want this, Willow,” Xander sighed, shaking his head.
While he loved trusted Willow, he still had a healthy mistrust for magical solutions to anything. So many spells – including some of his friend’s – had gone kablooie in the past, after all. And some things just weren’t supposed to be made better with a simple wave of the hand of a few chanted words.
“This ritual will first ascertain where she is, then if she wants to leave and only then will it allow her to be resurrected,” Willow assured him. “And don’t tell me you don’t want to know that she’s safe and happy, Xander Harris!”
Xander sighed. “Yeah. I do. But...”
“I'll be careful. Don't worry, Xander,” Willow patted his hand and shivered. “I learned my lesson last time.”
“What the hell d’you think you’re doing?” Giles burst into the room, his face furious.
Willow looked up from her book, disturbed. “Well, I was reading…”
“You are harvesting life-force! Innocent life-force!” Giles grated out, hands shaking in anger and fear.
“Oh, that. Yes, I am,” Willow nodded calmly and returned to her book.
“For heaven's sake! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” Giles screamed.
Willow sighed and closed her book. “You have noticed it is life-force, not souls?”
“Yes?” Giles frowned, taking off his glasses and starting to clean them.
“Remember that infestation of demonic rabbits we fought in Australia?”
“Yes...” Giles laid his glasses down carefully, as if he didn’t want to risk their safety with the further, frenetic polishing that whatever Willow was about to reveal would no doubt elicit.
“Well, I found out there’s an awful lot of rabbits in Australia,” Willow gestured at the chair opposite. “Why don't you sit down? Okay, lots of rabbits, and quite a few of them are turning demonic.”
“Yes...” Giles sat and steepled his fingers in front of his face.
“And we had four Slayers injured by them in that fight,” Willow grimaced. “I'm getting all sorts of Thompson moments.”
“Thompson?” Giles sounded confused. Even after all these years, the founder members of the Scooby Gang could still bewilder him. It was both a source of annoyance and occasionally a source of comfort.
“A little channelling of the Head Beagle,” Willow smiled. “At any rate, Buffy asked me to find a way to get rid of them and to do so without risking any more Slayers, witches or myself. And then it came to me that I could deal with a number of problems at the same time.”
“Do tell,” Giles' voice was still cold.
“The first problem was, of course, the demon rabbits. We need to get rid of them. The second problem is the normal rabbits in Australia. They're very disruptive to the natural environment, they shouldn’t even be there,” Willow scowled darkly at Giles. “They're there because British settlers wanted to hunt rabbits for sport!”
Giles had the grace to look slightly embarrassed for his nation and class as a whole. “That still does not explain the need for life-energy to be captured.”
Willow gave him a little smile, almost a smirk. “Ah, that's for the third and most important reason, and that is that Xander needs to know that Anya is safe and at peace,” she explained calmly.
“Which is supposed to make instantly and perfectly clear to me why large glass vessels in the basement of the Sydney HQ are suddenly filling with life energy?” Giles asked, his voice filled with irony.
“Actually, it should. Anya has been dead for a while and may, or may not, be in a far-off dimension. And as you know, communication with the dead under such circumstances is difficult and requires a sacrifice of life energy from the caster or a victim. I didn't feel like giving up some of my life so I went for the rabbits.”
“Have you learned nothing?” Giles barked. “I thought you-”
Willow held up a hand and Giles' eyes widened as his voice muted.
“Actually, I’ve learned a great deal. When you called me a rank amateur I’d already done and learned things you would never have tried. I had learned everything except wisdom. I paid a heavy price to learn that. And can I say Eyghon? You didn’t learn until someone died, either… And you knew as well as I did that what you were doing was wrong. So kindly do not yell at me.”
She pinned him with a glare. “I cast a spell. And yes, the spell has dark components. Every spell I cast to cause any form of harm – even to flambé a vampire - has dark components. But in this case, that’s balanced by the reason why it’s cast. The desire to help, the desire for balance.”
Giles nodded subdued. 'How?' he mouthed.
“Ah. Ummm,” Willow blushed slightly. “Well... I-I didn't want to kill the poor bunnies myself, even if it had to be done, so I wrote a computer game and cast a ritual.”
She reached for her laptop and opened it, then showed Giles a field of hopping, flying and slightly translucent looking pixelated rabbits being shot by various round smiling guns.
“What?” Giles managed to squeak through the spell.
“It works best if people willingly sacrifice something. E-even if they don't know. So ummm... T-tens of thousands of people all over the world keep shooting rabbits in this game. A-and every rabbit that dies in game, takes a bit of life energy from a real rabbit or – even better – a demon rabbit in Australia. And it’s instantly siphoned off into the basement in Sydney. And since it’s only a little bit each time, the sacrifice doesn’t have to kill the bunny. Though if enough bunnies are killed in the game, they do die for real, but not their cute little fluffy animal souls. So we can contact Anya, and find out if she is safe and happy, or if she wants to come back. And Australia gets rid of the Demon rabbits and their normal bunny infestation.”
Giles nodded. “I see. Yes... I see. Quite ingenious. Could you do it with, say, vampires? Or other invasive species?”
“I'm working on Asian cockroaches and various types of fish and lobster, as well as some demon types,” Willow admitted.
“And frogs?” Giles asked with a smile.
“Buffy said that I can only target them if they’re invasive species,” Willow pouted. “Or she'd spank me.”
“Ah. So how many frogs died, before you got tired of being spanked?” Giles inquired, grinning ever so slightly.
“G-Giles!” Willow blushed and glared at him. “She was just joking!” she added a little too quickly.
“Hmmm?” Giles rose. “Let me know if I can help you, won't you? And I'm sorry I doubted you.”
Willow nodded, still blushing. “J-just next time, ask first and then yell, okay?”
Giles chuckled meaningfully. “Why don’t you go and tell Buffy that a few more frogs were injured.”
Sydney, Australia, 21st of December
“Deck the halls with boughs of holly!” Buffy warbled. “TraLALALAL LAALLALA ALALA!”
“Oh please! Let there be some merciful god who’ll show us pity and strike her down with laryngitis?” Xander pleaded.
“I think we used up our last favours with the merciful gods when we got Willow to stop singing 'Winter Wonderland. In fact, we’re probably owing them too many favours by now, Giles said dryly. “At least Buffy can sing. Willow sounds like a murder of crows.”
“You've killed crows? Giles, I'm disappointed in you,” Xander reproved.
Giles gave him a long look. “At least we're all together for Christmas. It’s been a long time.”
“Yeah,” Xander smiled rather sadly. “Well, those of us that remain at any rate.”
Giles nodded sadly. “And in the proper holiday spirit... Bloody hell.”
Xander looked over his shoulder, following Giles’ gaze, to see the junior Slayers arrive. They’d simply been sent out to get the Christmas trees to help cheer up the rather stark and utilitarian Sidney HQ, but now they looked battered and bloody and quite cheerful.
Faith, who'd been in charge, was carrying what looked like the skeleton of what once might have been a magnificent Douglas fir over one shoulder.
“Hey, Xan and English. How's it hanging in testosterone land?”
“Faith? What the hell happened? You were only going to get a Christmas tree!” Buffy shouted from where she was hanging a string of lights.
“Yeah, under protest. I mean, it's not a real Christmas anyway. A real Christmas needs three feet of snow... And a gallon of New England gin,” for a second as she mentioned the snow there had been an expression of loss and reminiscence on her face, but it was gone so fast that Buffy wasn't sure it had been there.
“Yeah? So you decided to slay the tree? Or did it come from the very used tree lot?” she asked, not wanting to go into the tremendous number of sucky Christmases that she was quite sure Faith had had in her life.
Faith coughed. “Yeah, well, not exactly decided... You see there was a slight problem over at the Tree lot...”
The junior Slayers had insisted that Faith’s Douglas Fir be a central part of the decorations and Giles was currently looking up at the nine foot length of almost denuded wood. A few ornaments twinkled on the remaining, pathetic needle-less branches. At least it would burn rather nicely after the festive season was over, he decided.
“Anything interesting there, G-man?” Xander asked, as he placed a very badly wrapped package with the others already piled under the tree.
Giles smiled slightly. “Just the ghost of Christmas past. Or at least ghost trees.”
He looked at the gift Xander had placed beneath the tree as a flap gave way and revealed some sort of sweater inside. It was a rather ghastly shade of purple, with green dots. “That probably covers the ghost of Christmas presents.”
“Har-har,” Xander growled, rolling his eye. “I bet you just sleigh them in Old Blighty with those sort of jokes.”
Giles smiled. “No, back home I can at least be sophisticated. If I try that with any of you lot, all you do is drool on the carpet.”
“Hey! I do not drool!” Xander protested.
Buffy sniggered as she walked by and patted his arm sympathetically. “Yes you do. But you do it very manfully.”
The smell of egg-nog hung in the air, mixed with an artificial scent of evergreens. A drawn-out fight in one of the city's largest Christmas tree lots had led to a dearth of them. Three fake trees and some pine scent had to make up for the lack in the Sydney Slayers' HQ.
But at least the clan of Nurrlug demons, who wanted to use their shape-shifting abilities to assume the form of Christmas trees to get into homes and enjoy a family or two for Christmas dinner, had been eradicated. Even if it did mean that Vi was banned from ever buying at that Christmas tree lot, ever again. The Slayers reluctantly had to admit that it was one of the more ingenious and devious demon plots they’d encountered in a while, with a ten out of ten for originality.
Of course, now Dawn was wandering around prodding every innocent plant in the HQ, regardless of size, with a sharp instrument. She was convinced they could be disguised as anything and a mischievous Faith had only made matters worse by suggesting that the Nurrlug might even be masquerading as a toilet seat.
Nevertheless, and even with Dawn’s mild paranoia about having her ass eaten, in the basement the spirit of Christmas had penetrated, both in the smell of the incredibly pervasive artificial pine scent and some wreaths, wrapped around with red ribbons and hung with holly berries and leaves.
A circle was drawn on the concrete floor of the large basement room, and Buffy, Dawn, Xander and Giles stood at four points of the five pointed star that divided it.
Willow stood amongst the specially prepared great glass vessels filled with the life-force, but very much not the souls, results of what the Australian papers had dubbed ‘The Great Dying’.
Between two and three hundred million wild and feral rabbits were reported to have lived in Australia, and now it seemed that their numbers had dropped into - at most - the tens of thousands, and the unknown reason for their rapid decline was causing some wariness among the conspiracy theorists. Willow had shrugged on reading some of that nonsense on the web. It wasn’t the first time she’d tied the conspiracy theorists’ panties in a knot and this was nothing compared to the rash of theories following the collapse of Sunnydale.
She held out her hands and felt the energy respond, then it flowed smoothly into her. She moved towards the diagram and placed her hands on the lines, expertly guiding the energy into a chalk circle drawn on the floor. “Goddess Isis, from your love, return to us she who we love and miss so dearly!”
In the circle a human form started to coalesce, then become visible. Xander gulped from his position as he noted what looked like naked, gleaming white skin. “H-how sure are we this is Ahn?”
Anya, now fully coalescent, looked around, and glared at Willow. “Took you long enough!” She crossed her arms, clad only in a short, white diaphanous chiton.
Willow grinned. “Anybody here doubt that’s Anya?”
“Hey!” Anya complained. “First you leave me in a frigging boring limbo dimension for what feels like centuries and then you make fun of me?”
“Yes. It’s this thing we do,” Xander said, his voice breaking. “Ahn? W-Willow says that-”
“YES! I want out of here! This place is sooo boring!” Anya poked eagerly at the light that had risen up from the pentagram as they talked. “No money, no capitalism, no sex or orgasms! I wanna go have sex on a pile of money as soon as I get out of here! So hurry up with the resurrection!”
Willow grinned at Giles, who was trying to stifle his laughter. Then she gestured and a gate opened in the fence of light and Anya nimbly stepped through.
She immediately grabbed hold of Xander and kissed him.
Willow smiled broadly as she dabbed at her eyes, Buffy tried to hold back her tears, Dawn wasn’t even trying and tears ran down her face freely. “Well, that seems to have been… Uh-oh…”
“Uh oh? Uh oh is not good!” Buffy glared at her friend. “What’s going on?”
Another light was coalescing into a human form. A bit more voluptuous than Anya, making a slightly embarrassed sound as she tried to drag the chiton a little bit lower, Tara appeared in the circle.
“T-Tara? What? How?” Willow managed.
Tara smiled slightly. “Isis and several other goddesses are quite impressed by the way in which you want to seek and return balance to places that sorely need them. Also, you have enough life-force to raise the T-Titanic.”
Willow gulped. “So you wanna…”
Tara nodded. “S-spend my life with you. A long one this time,” she smirked slightly. “Seize the moment.”
Willow gestured and another gate appeared, closing again behind Tara, as soon as the blonde who was still trying to move the chiton down a little over her bottom, and then realised it left a lot of her breasts bare, stepped through. The light moved back behind her.
Willow was shaking so hard that she could barely hold her place. “Tara? B-but I-I, using this, against the natural order, and, and-”
Tara kissed her, softly. “Managed to find a way to bring balance to places the goddesses had despaired it would ever return. Savour it.”
Willow smiled at her girlfriend, then looked down slightly at her girlfriend’s ample breasts, shining through the white cloth. “Oh, I intend to.”
“Willow!” Tara blushed.
Willow giggled, but it froze in her throat. Another person was forming inside the circle.
“M-Mom?” Dawn managed. Buffy bit her fist, hard to make sure she wasn’t dreaming.
Joyce didn’t say anything, merely sent Willow a pleading look. The red-head, now no longer managing to hold back her tears, standing with Tara behind her and in her arms, opened the gate as close as she could between the two Summers girls.
Buffy and Dawn wanted to rush at her, hug her, but Joyce held them at arm’s length. “Not yet, sweethearts. You need to stay there just a bit longer.”
“What? Why?” Dawn demanded, tears running down a face that was smiling so broadly it should have split.
Another person was taking shape, this one with shoulder-length dark hair. “Hello English,” she whispered.
Giles, who had been watching in stunned happiness, nearly collapsed. Willow hastily gestured the gate back, noting that the power in the glass life force batteries still seemed to be strong. ‘Faith!’ She thought very hard. ‘Get into the basement! Now!’
'What? Little D thinks that the couch is a Nurlugg? I swear, I try one joke and the girl can't take a leak without me holding her hand anymore!” Faith grumbled, but she was too used to being summoned to dangerous situations to complain much. She descended into the basement with a large sword in one hand and a stake in the other.
Then she saw who was there. “Motherfucking frozen shit on a stick!”
“Faith Sophia Lehane! I have talked to you about that mouth!” A dark haired, middle aged woman appeared in the middle of the circle. The chiton was very tight on her, and quite short as well.
Faith’s weapons clattered to the ground. “Dr D? Di-Diana?”
Willow didn’t even ask, she just waved the circle open again. Faith almost blindly stumbled to the dark haired woman, who opened her arms and held her as the brunette slayer cried like a lost child who had found her mother.
Within the circle light immediately began to form and then swear. “Who the bloody fuck thought that this thing would be long enough for me to wear like this?”
Willow’s eyes, like that of most everybody in the room, fastened on the new arrival, who was rather desperately trying to cover the fact that the chiton, even flimsier than that of the women, was much too short to cover all that needed to be covered. The light in the glass vessels finally faded, draining into the circle.
“S-Spike?” Buffy stammered, her eyes flicking down even as she spoke.
Spike smirked a little. “Eyes are up here, luv. But no. Not quite Spike. Not quite William, either. Don’t quite know what they did, but I’m not a demon and not quite mortal.”
“You’re human?” Buffy squeaked.
“All human, luv,” Spike assured her. “But with a little extra to keep up with you. That’s a gift from Ares and Aphrodite, by the way. Now can you let me out of here and find me a pair of trousers?”
“Dunno if you should do that last bit, B. I kinda see now what you see in him. A lot. If you know what I mean…” Faith leered through her tears. Then she let out a small yelp and rubbed the ear that Diana had lightly flicked.
“Don’t spoil the moment, Faith.”
“Yes ma’am,” Faith said, rather sulkily, but also obediently.
“It’s all about timing,” Diana said with a smile. “The moment to make remarks is when it will truly register,” she gestured at the Slayer and her formerly undead lover who were embracing fervently. “They certainly don’t appreciate it at the moment. There’ll be time enough to tease them mercilessly when the first bed collapses under the onslaught of their passion.”
“Onslaught of their passion? You mean they’ll fuck like bu- ooww!” Faith yelped again at another flick, but she saw the smile on her Watcher’s face.
Sydney, Australia, New Year's Day
Willow stood in the basement, watching the slowly rising levels of life energy in the glass containers. “It won’t ever be as massive again as it was before. Three hundred million rabbits will be hard to match.”
Tara smiled and slung her arms around Willow’s waist. “Really? Considering the numbers of nasty, invasive species, I think we can fill them at least halfway.”
Willow smiled. “Yeah. And maybe Buffy will let me go after all the frogs this time.”
Tara shook her head. “Giles is right. You seem to have a ridiculous desire to be spanked. Happily, Buffy agreed that I shall be the only one to spank you. Though Spike did ask if he could watch…”
“Tara!” Author's note: Having been introduced to the notion of the Evil Bunny Empire and the Joys of Shooting Them, I was then inspired to do it in honour of Anya, and then this happened... Hope it makes you feel good. http://www.freewebarcade.com/game/attack-of-the-evil-bunny-empire/ Designed by Christopher Gregorio Merry Christmas!