Thursday, December 4, 2003

 

 

“Okay!” Fred reported breathlessly, hurrying back to her lab table and picking up the phone. “I’ve got the cinnamon! There was some in the big coffee dispenser down the hall, which makes awful coffee but always has sugar and cinnamon around.”

“Like a Starbucks?” the voice on the phone replied. “I miss Starbucks. The mochas aren’t mocha-y enough, here. And add a teaspoon to the mix.”

For a demon law-firm, the building was eerily quiet past ten o’clock at night. People were still around,  but most of them were hard at work on their overtime projects, not relaxing. Then again, Fred didn’t think most people thought staying at their desks or, you know, labs was the equivalent of relaxing. Although it was odd that Wolfram and Hart closed at five, like normal businesses. Their clientele were primarily night-creatures—shouldn’t they be open at night? Particularly since their brand new boss was a vampire? Not that Fred minded either way, really. She’d always been a night-owl.

“Cinnamon mixed. It’s so weird that I had all the ingredients here except cinnamon.”

“You had molasses in your science lab?” the voice asked. “Sift the mixture until it’s all one color, and I thought you were doing normal experiments—like with sulpher and acid and cool things like that?”

“Oh, we do those, too, but Knox and I are still working on combining spells with quick-release machinery, like I was telling you about, for Wesley? And you know how weird magical ingredients are.”

“Yep, I most definitely indeed-y do. There’s as many newt eyes as there are—garlic cloves!”

“Exactly!” Fred agreed with a chuckle. “And the fridge is always full of weird things people leave—I found three sticks of unused butter!” Her spoon dragged through the powder and spices in the bowl, destroying each slash of color and creating a brown-white mass. “All mixed,” she prompted her teacher. “Now what?”

“Now, we get messy. Add in the butter, a little at a time, and where’d we leave off?”

“You were going to tell me about Buffy, in exchange for Angel,” Fred answered, balancing two bowls with some confusion. Knox kept saying she was hell on wheels in a lab, but Fred certainly didn’t see it. The bowl was going to slip any—

“Drat!”

“Are you okay?” the phone babbled anxiously, rocking back and forth on the table while Fred picked up a piece of butter and made a face at its newly bespeckled condition. “Cause I can jiffy up a healing potion for you—okay, it’s not actually a healing potion so much as something that makes your skin feel tingly and good, but it works whenever Dawn burns herself, and she always calls me Glinda whenever I do.”

Unwrapping another stick, Fred plopped it onto the dry mixture and picked the phone back. “Just me being clumsy, no injuries needing tending. So, Buffy?” she prompted, stirring the butter in.

“Right. You know, we should do this more often. Talk, I mean, the two of us. And, um, not just for Willow Rosenberg’s Resouling, which is why I thought you were calling. I. . . like talking to you. Brainy girls need to stick together!”

“We should. I’m always up really late anyway, and hey—if I call you, that means Wolfram and Hart pays!”

“Does that mean Wolfram and Hart listens? Never mind, Initiative flashbacks. So, you wanted Buffy-gossip in case Angel asked. Well, lets see. Holidays are of the bad with us—it’s bears and syphilis over pumpkin pie on the better years—and she’s still having trouble with the whole letting go part.”

That was, well, confusing, mostly, so Fred concentrated on the parts she understood. Or didn’t understand, but felt she could at least question. “Letting go?” Molasses was a dark, rich brown, slowly bleeding into the normal cookie-dough color. “Letting go of what?”

“Um. . . remember you were saying about your lab? That it was yours, and you didn’t want anyone else taking over, because then it would be someone else’s?”

Fred hadn’t meant to spend so much time talking about herself, but Willow was right—brainy girls needed to stick together, and it was so nice to talk to someone who understood, but wasn’t potentially evil. “I remember.”

“Well, it’s kinda like that. Buffy’s lab was the world, and her gadgets and doodads and discoveries were all averted apocolypses and a lot of pain. It’s hard letting go of that, cause pain starts being an old friend after a while.”

There was something in Willow’s voice, like maybe she had her own reasons for knowing that particular old friend—but then, so did Fred. She took out small handfuls of dough, shaping them between her fingers before plopping them onto a tray that had never once seen the inside of an oven.


“So, yeah,” Willow continued with a little laugh. “Not easy. And Spike’s death is hitting a lot harder than she expected, too. But it’s getting easier and oh! They aren’t even going to be here for Christmas!”

“Okay. . ?”

“They’re going to Paris! Since we’re in England, it’s not that expensive to hop over to the Continent, you know? So as a surprise, Giles paid for a trip for Buffy and Dawn to go to Paris and, I quote ‘get fat on French food and drool over French men’. They’re so excited! And Giles is so happy that they’ll be out of his hair for a while!”

“He’s being upper-lippy, isn’t he? Wesley gets like that sometimes, especially when Charles starts talking about American sports.” Her gingerbread men were shaped funny. Very blobby looking and crooked, and they could be gingerbread demons, couldn’t they? Or maybe just plain old gingerbread cookies? “Three hundred and fifty degrees, right?”

“Three five oh,” Willow confirmed. “So yeah, they’re going to do a Summers Sisters Tour of Paris—Dawn wants to go to a talk on ancient languages at the University, though, and Buffy’s so glad that she can’t, since it’s invite-only.”

“Oh, is that Ashman’s lecture? About the myth of Indo-European base-language and how it’s really demonic? I can talk to Wesley and get her tickets! Um, unless Buffy would be mad at me?”

“No! You can get tickets? Get tickets! Get two! I can hop down to Paris for a day—Kennedy wanted to go to a martial arts seminar the same day, this is perfect, and you can really get tickets?”

“I’ll talk to Wesley first thing,” she promised. “But I don’t want Buffy mad at me. She sounds pretty scary.”

“Oh, pish, you leave Buffy to me. She can go clubbing or get her nails done or something.”

Fred added a few more discreet questions about the original Slayer until she was sure she could give Spike a nice little report. Dawn, too, since Spike had—belatedly—mentioned the others. Wait, wasn’t there more than just Giles?

“How about, um, Alexander? Is he going to be in England, too?”

“He’s still in the states. Andrew’s with him, and he won’t let Xander get all broody, but. . . Buffy’s trying so hard to be happy, you know? And he’s just not ready for that. Anya’s death hit him pretty hard.”

So someone other than Spike had died. Fred had been careful not to mention Spike at all, not sure if she wanted to tell Willow or not. On one hand, she knew the secret would stay secret, and Willow might have good advice on how to handle the volatile vampire. On the other, it wasn’t her story to tell—and Spike didn’t want Buffy to know he was back, yet. So she just thought about it, and the other girl who’d died in the fight, and watched the misshapen, gingerbread-demon-men get plump.

“So, that’s us. Everybody’s gone except me, Giles, and a few of the Slayers who don’t have homes they can easily go to, and we’re hoping it’ll be quiet.”

“Quiet is underrated. And these gingerbread men smell delicious!”

“They should taste it, too. So? You promised, information for information. I wanna hear about Mr. Grumpypants’ reaction to a big giant tree in the middle of his lobby. Oh! Can you put a menorah up there too? Just for me?”

Fred laughed—she could never stay pensive when talking to Willow. “I’ll talk to Lorne,” she promised. “And it wasn’t his initial reaction to the tree—it’s what happened when Eve called him on it!”

Friday, December 5, 2003

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