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[personal profile] lostboy
Clocks of the Long Now
Epilogue (or "Where We Went From There")

Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Warnings: Graphic violence, adult language, sexual situations, character death, rabbits.
The characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer are owned by Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Fox studios and maybe various other entities that I am unaware of but totally respect and admire.  This story is not meant to infringe upon anyone's rights, only to entertain.

(Part 2 of 2)


147 minutes later


The night was gaudy with stars and smoke and the familiar strobe of emergency lights.  This latest path of destruction seemed to wend its way from The March Hare Pub like the fuse of a cartoon bomb, finally coming to a halt at the flaming wreckage of what was once the adorable village square.  On the lawn directly beneath the window, the inn’s sweet, elderly proprietor Mrs. Mitty stood with hands on hips, surveying the shattered corpse of what used to be her peaceful countryside paradise.

Dawn pinched the curtains shut and turned her attention back to the assortment of dim-witted arsonists scattered about the room.

“Well?” she asked, her fluting voice full of lead.

Seven eyes managed to look in every direction but the place by the window where Dawn Summers stood.   It was Xander who finally spoke up.  “It’s not what it looks like,” he declared, almost defiantly.

“It looks like you guys burned down half the town.”

“Alright, so it is what it looks like," he said.  "But it’s not like we had any choice.  It was Monster-palooza out there.  Right, Buff?”

Dawn crossed her arms and hunted for Big Sis and the Fanged Wonder.  The lethal couple was propped against one corner of the mattress, legs splayed in overlapping V’s as they stared at the TV's mute glow.  The zombies there had been replaced by some kind of giant, rampaging, mutant squid.  Buffy offered a half-hearted shrug, as if to say: Monsters.  What can ya do?

“Xander’s right,” Andrew mewled, still nursing his black eye with a frozen mass of chopped liver.  “It was all Resident Evil meets The Borg Wars.”

Xander jabbed a finger at the vampire.  “Besides, if it wasn’t for Count Drunkula over here, none of this would’ve happened.”

Spike snapped to life.  “Oh come off it, Xander.  They were gonna eat us, whether we acted like mincing old biddies or not.  You heard what Demon Boy said about the… whatzitz…”

“Blood Pact of Zolarian,” Andrew said.

“Right! Bloody pact an’ all.”

“Oh, so now you believe him?” Xander scoffed.

“Well the little bugger got it done, didn’t he?  An' unlike some ungrateful bastards around here, I give credit where it’s due.”

“Ooh, speaking of which,” Willow said.  “Did you remember to offer a Giftsong to the Duenna of Closing?”

Andrew made a face that was somehow less than comforting.  “Yeah.  I totally did… that thing you just said.”

“And, yet another reason why I say we hit the road,” said Xander.  “As if we needed more…”

“Don’t you think you’re overreacting just a little,” Buffy murmured.

“Uh, we just blew up a town.  Again!  People are gonna ask questions.”

“Oh settle down, piker,” Spike said.  “Doubt there’s any people left to ask sod-all.”

“There seemed to be a lot of bumpies out there,” Buffy agreed.  “I get the feeling this town was like one big roach motel.  Us being the roaches.”

“Oh, look!” Xander exclaimed.  “Buffy’s agreeing with Spike!  How shocking.”

Dawn forced her eyes into non-rolling-mode and aimed them at Willow instead.  “Will, what do you think?”

The witch dug into her cup of melty ice cream again, as pleasantly unfazed as ever.  “No biggie.  I glamour-ed the heck out of this joint, like, ten minutes after we checked in.   If anybody comes sniffing around, it’ll probably just be to tell us how ridiculously awesome we all are.”

This one seemed to pacify Xander for the time being, but he kept glaring at the pair of bottle-blonds.   It still drove him a little crazy, Dawn knew – not so much the You Know What Thing but the Taking Sides Thing.   Xander was convinced it was some kind of conspiracy, or mind control, or evil spell or something.   Even normal couples fought, and – as he often liked to point out – Buffy and Spike were anything but a “normal couple.”  Dawn mostly had no opinion on the subject, except for her standard catchall refrain:  Everything will be different in New York.

Bit by bit, the party broke up.  Xander went first, solemnly vowing to "keep an eye on things downstairs."  Willow crashed directly into an ice cream coma on the mattress, not even bothering to peel back the sheet.  Buffy and Spike decamped to their private quarters down the hall, perhaps to do You Know What.

In the end it was just Dawn Summers and Andrew Wells nestled together in a crook of the old-fashioned loveseat, watching the ultimate showdown between Man and Squid play out through lidded eyes.  Andrew provided the DVD commentary, explaining how totally far-fetched it was for a giant mutant cephalopod to survive along tropical coastlines.  Dawn just nodded politely, waiting for sleep to carry one or both of them off.  Andrew went first, the motor winding down mid-Nerd-Rage and ending in a snore.

Dawn herself would succumb less than five minutes later.  But before she drifted off, the thought echoed through her brain again:  Everything will be different in New York.  Each day she could feel the truth of this grow, as though Faith Lehane and Rupert Giles were already physically sliding back into their orbits, quietly rearranging the order of the universe as they did.

There would be other changes, too.  They’d probably all have to get jobs, for one thing.  After the London debacle, the trust-fundy gravy train had reached the end of the line.  She was more or less a wanted fugitive now – heck, they all were.  They’d have to keep a low profile, move in the shadows.  It was all very John Le Carre, she thought.

Rupert Giles had a plan, of course – when didn’t he?  Shiny new secret identities, a place to live.  The Watcher had carefully laid out all the groundwork, made all the arrangements.  They'd had their differences over the years, for sure.  But when push came to shove, Giles was always pretty good with this sort of…







The room was a chair, a ceiling fan, a window and a bed.

They’d have to use their imaginations, he realized.  The Slayer was already hard at work, testing the chair’s health with her deceptively strong fingers, its four slender legs rattling against the bare floorboards as she did.  Finally, she frowned her disapproval.  It would be an obvious casualty, and wood was a less-than-friendly dance partner.  There had already been one close call.

“Some going away party,” he noted, mildly distracted by the gorgeous creature shedding her top across the room.  "Farewell, England."

The woman kept going, sliding the boots off one by one.  “Hey, if you gotta go, go with a bang.”  When she said the last word, the look on her face just slaughtered him.  Absolute murder, foul and black.  Then, “Did you see that guy with the giant hook-hands?  What was up with that?”

Spike tried to conjure this particular fiend in his brain, but the thought was short-circuited by the sight of two bare thighs wriggling out from a sheath of crimson velvet.  “Lots of farms around here,” he managed.  “Maybe he got ‘em caught in one of those bloody–”

The rest of the thought disintegrated as she flopped back onto the mattress and kicked both legs overhead, trying to pump the last foot of fabric off her ankles.  The motion sent wonderful little shudders down the perfect slopes of her calves.  His mind licked the image up and down, settling finally for the strip of white fabric at its heart.  This was yet another death blow – the white ones always sent him right out of his tree.  Still, he managed to choke it down; to maintain his cool, quiet distance.

“Andrew did okay,” she said, her voice still as calm as an unlit fuse.  “He’s really coming along, don’t you think?”

Spike nodded vaguely, dimly aware that an answer was expected.  “Mmmm,” he murmured.  “Well, didn’t bungle it, at least.”

Finally the pants parted company with the legs.  A kick sent them shooting off the tip of one arched foot into the ceiling fan's lazy rotors.  The movement was clock-like in its perfection, Esther Williams breaking the surface of the pool, and Spike realized suddenly that she could’ve done this at any time.   She was toying with him.  Dangling the rubber mouse before the kitty.   It was working too.  Felt like a fist was about to punch its way through the front of his bloody jeans.

Or a beastie of some sort, he thought.

Like in that movie…Whatsitcalled…

“Ya know, I think New York will be good for him.  Dawn too.”  She bounced off the bed, clad now only in scraps of white cotton bait, and made her way to the window.  The way she walked was so deliberately natural; like she always walked around in this state of bloodcurdling undress, went shopping for groceries this way.  “Supposedly, it’s the kind of place where the young go-getters go get,” she added.

The building was old, and the room was fitted with the sort of casement window that swung outwards like a pair of little doors.  She opened it and stood her palms up on the sill, one foot tucked over the ankle of the other leg in what was almost a dancer’s pose.  And she was like a dancer, in many ways.  Had that same frank familiarity with her own body.  As she gazed out over the shattered remnants of the town, a shining arc of her hair bobbed down into the V between her shoulder blades.  He could smell it, rising above the cacophony of charred sandalwood and kentucky-fried demon.  It still smelled like a little bit of heaven, either despite the evening’s unexpected climax or because of it.

She kept up the casual act, of course; still teasing and tormenting and torturing him.  A dozen perverse scenarios stampeded through his brain all at once, making it hard to sort out the best.  As if in reply, the woman bent over, exchanging palms for elbows, leaning almost halfway out into the night air.  The remaining half shifted only slightly, calf muscles reorganizing for better balance, tiny upturned foot grasping the ankle more tightly, back arching catlike, ass thrust out and up, as though daring any passing devil to take it for a very rough and rude ride.  Oh, how she would beg for mercy!  How she'd mewl and howl and holler her complaint at the sleepy hamlet below.   Flanks shuddering, hair bobbing, virtue tattered and torn.  ''O won't someone save me!' she would scream.  'Won't someone save me from this MONSTER...'


“New York, New York,” he murmured, squeezing a small reserve of blood back up into his skull.  “It’s a hell of a town.”


She turned now, emerald eyes gleaming, framed by a black square of sky.  When she stretched her arms, the vampire instantly thought of lioness he once saw on the telly, the galling way that it yawned at the foot of a slick red kill.

“Well,” she sighed, “I don’t know about you, but I’m totally bushed.”

There was still seven yards between them, three-and-a-half a piece to the bed.  They both stared at it, their eyes making quiet measurements.

Right, he thought.  Fine.

The bloody bed, then.







15 hours later



The van rolled up the hillside at a steady clip.  The road seemed completely empty, which was good news as far as Buffy was concerned.  Other cars tended to royal pains in the butt.  Their drivers always seemed to be honking and yelling at her, all over the tiniest little mistakes.  Other cars should be illegal, she decided with a sigh.

The passenger side was headless again, Andrew Wells wriggling ferret-like into the gap between the front seats.  This seemed like an abuse of privilege to her – the Summoner was only there to settle the latest round of Vampire vs. Pirate, after all.  She remembered how silly they’d looked, wrestling for the handle and debating all the subtle rules of when and where a Mature Adult Grownup is allowed to call “shotgun.”  In times like those, Buffy had found Andrew to be a useful tiebreaker, since it served to make both men equally miserable.

But now Andrew was half-in, half-out of the seat, chattering away about god knows what.  Was it Mexico again?  She thought the boy desperately needed a dose of Topic Control.

“… and so I never did get my burro,” he declared, his voice full of wistful longing.  “But the villagers were so grateful that they crowned me mayor of Granja Las Puentes, and offered me the hand of the beautiful Esmeralda in marriage.”

“I'm pretty sure you can't actually crown someone mayor,” Dawn noted, her voice pancake-flat.

Xander let out a long, exasperated sigh.  “So, lemme get this straight,” he said.  “You’re saying that you didn’t get our deposit back?”

“Well, I tried to,” Andrew protested.  “But the lady said we had to wait for Spuffy to check out first.  There were some... uh, damages.”

“Spuffy?  What’s a Spuffy?”

“Oh, you know.   It’s like Brangelina, or Bennifer.”

Xander polled the group with an incredulous eye.  “Are we doing this now?  Is this a thing we’re doing?”

In the rear-view, Willow’s brow wrinkled as if in deep thought.  “Wait,” she said, “didn’t Bennifer break up?”

Andrew nodded vaguely.  “Yeah, but Ben found himself another Jennifer.  So now it’s Bennifer and J-Marc.”

“Why’s it got to be Spuffy?” the vampire murmured, sounding mildly annoyed.  “Why can’t it be Bike?”

Andrew stifled a laugh.  “Uh, hello?   Because ‘Bike’ sounds, like, totally stupid.”

“Yo, co-pilot!” Buffy snapped.   “Little help up here?”  She’d been trying to work the stereo with one hand and steer with the other, but a little voice reminded her of that oopsie back in Nottingham, and the very angry man with the very dented fender.  She pointed at the little knobby, button-y box and commanded the nerd to “make it so.”

While Andrew fiddled with the dials, a second round of Nobody’s Favorite Game Show bubbled up from the rear.

“What about if it was Willow and me,” Dawn said.  “Would that be Dillow?  Or Wawn?

“This isn’t happening,” Xander assured himself.  “It’s just not.”

Andrew hollered back “Wawn!” just as a song started burping through the static.

“Not necessarily,” replied the witch.  “I mean, Dillow kinda sounds like ‘Dealy-yo,’ as in Yo, what’s the Dealy-yo?  And Andrew and me would totally be Wandrew.  There’s even a ‘wand’ in there.”

With that, Buffy lost Andrew again, the boy squirting back into the breach.  “Oh, hey, that reminds me.   You know what I figured out this morning?”

“Better not be bloody Spander,” Spike growled, “or there’ll be hell to pay.”

“No, no.  It’s about all of us.”  Andrew’s voice had fallen a couple of octaves, acquiring a conspiratorial tone.  “Alright, check this out.  So, we travel around from place to place in a big van, solving mysteries, foiling bad guys, helping people in need.  You know what we’re like?”

Buffy could feel Xander cringe in the backseat.  “Please,” he begged.  “Please don’t say it.”

But Andrew just kept nodding and smiling.  “That’s right... The A-Team!

“You know, that wasn’t such a bad show,” Spike observed.  “That still on?”

“Uh, Earth to Planet Spike,” Dawn replied.  “That show ended, like, ten million years ago.  I think all those guys are dead.”

Buffy couldn’t let this one slide.  “Those guys are not dead.   And we’re not that old.  Stop trying to make us old.”

“Speak for yourself, luv,” Spike said.  “What about whatzizname?  The bloke with the mohawk.  He dead too?”

“Nobody’s dead,” Buffy snapped, suddenly unsure if this was true.  “Everybody stop saying dead."

I pity the fool who says I’m dead,” grunted Willow.  “Hey, didn’t they have to, like, knock him out whenever they got on a plane?  Who’s that remind you of?”

“I didn’t say I was scared of flying,” Xander declared.  “Said I was scared of crashing.  Two totally different fears.”

“No worries, Nancy,” Spike cooed.  “I’m sure you’ll die from a terminal case of pissin’ and whingin’ before we hit the ground.”

“Spike!” Dawn snapped.  “What did we say about removing You Know Who’s Name from your colorful vocabulary?”

“Oh, right.  Sorry.”

Just then, as they peeled around the bend of another winding hillside, the radio spluttered to life.







Down in the basement, Old Jack Turtle stretched out his skinny brown legs, the toes crackling like popcorn at the end.  He was sitting in the Lazy-Boy again, the one with the torn upholstery and moldy, moth-eaten apron that the woman kept threatening to throw out.  Almost everything in the basement had some mold on it these days, a parting gift of that other ornery gal who swept through a few years prior.

About seven feet away, the old Zenith TV glared back at him with its lone black eye.  The damned thing hadn’t worked right in years, its picture plagued by dandelion fuzz and bleeding rivers of color, but as of last Tuesday night it had gone all the way dead.  He hadn’t gotten the soup up to throw this out either, so they sat there together in the damp cellar, one of them quietly contemplating the world and everything in it.

He didn’t really need the TV, of course.  Jack Turtle wasn’t what he seemed, and a side effect of seeming to be something you ain’t is that you wind up accumulating a bunch of junk you don’t really need.  He supposed this happened to all the folks out here in one way or another, but with Jack Turtle the phenomenon took on a somewhat epic scale.  It wasn’t just musty old chairs and outdated electronics that piled up, but musty old planets, moldy galaxies, frayed philosophies, past-it civilizations.  Just like the TV, he was slow to throw them all out.  He just couldn’t help but think he might find some use for them one day.

Anyway, right now Jack wasn’t thinking about the busted TV and what might have been playing on it.  He had a different sort of show in mind, and as he closed his eyes he could see it, unfolding in brilliant, blazing, astral hi-def.  Somewhere in the English countryside, a nondescript white van was winding north through the dark hills.  Its occupants were headed to a small airfield north of Manchester, then on to New York City, the crown jewel of the Empire State. 

At least, that’s where the passengers thought they were headed.  The Turtle knew better, of course.  He had the coming attractions on file, got all the spoilers in advance.  And, truth be told, he wasn’t looking forward to this particular episode.

It would happen fast.  For most of them, anyway.

The ending would be the handiwork of Jack’s old archenemy the Hare.  The furry assassin would come bounding down from a blind spot on the hillside at the precise moment the van curved around the bend.   She was quite a large specimen – more than “half a stone” as the folks over there might say – and the force of the impact would crack the windshield like a gunshot.

It was the noise was what would do it, more than anything.  The woman’s razor sharp instincts would betray her at last.  Strong shoulders and forearms would grind the wheel away from the blow, foot jamming the brake pedal, all parts moving at the same time.  The van’s tires wouldn’t cooperate any more than gravity would, and within the space of two seconds the right side would give out and send the vehicle tumbling through a certain rusted segment of guardrail that would snap open like a set of jaws.

It would be both a very long and a very short fall down the valley wall.  The van would fall freely except for two glancing collisions with the slope.  From a distance, these wouldn’t have looked much worse than kisses pecked on a cheek, but each one would carry something very precious out of the world.

The first would take the Witch herself.  As the van’s roof clipped the edge of a stony ridge, Willow Rosenberg would float in the direction of what used to be the sky.   As clever as she was, she probably could’ve explained the next picture very accurately: the way a dozen vertebrae would suddenly compress, the way splintered shrapnel knifed deep into her medulla oblongata.  She could’ve probably explained all of this very well if it wasn’t happening to her, and if it didn’t kill her instantly.

The next hit would take Xander Harris.  The van’s front teeth would strike a rocky mound at an odd angle, the momentum shooting him like a cannonball through the part of the windshield where the hapless Hare had been a few moments before.  Innocent of the man’s whereabouts, Gravity would nevertheless complete the crime, forcing the van to finish its end-over-end tumble and crush the one-eyed man dead underneath.

At this point in the Sneak Preview, Jack shook his old head in despair, unsure whether he wanted to see the rest.  When he found the courage to do so, the van was near the end of its very long and very short journey.  It fell the rest of the way like a silent scream.  The remaining passengers were all quiet too, rattled by shock into a dreamlike state as two circles of lamplit ground bloomed up to meet them.

The final crash would be head-on, as though the van had played a luckless game of chicken with the Earth.  Andrew Wells and Dawn Summers would leave at roughly the same moment, hitting the ground at just over one hundred miles per hour.  The precise details of their departures were a little too terrible to bear repeating, but at least it was quick and relatively painless.  It wouldn’t be for all of them, he knew.

Jack nodded grimly at this fact as the last of the trailer played out in agonizing slow motion:

The impact sends the big sliding door rocketing off its rails into the night air, and a certain vampire with it.  He’d been holding on to this door with all his strength, and as it went sledding out into the valley he let out a sharp, horrified cry – not because he was hurt but because he wasn’t.

The door pinwheels sideways and comes to a rest about sixteen yards away.  The instant it does, the vampire sprints back to the crash site, one hand shielding his face from the flames that were now licking from the wreckage and burning the white paint black.

Through a bent triangle that used to be a window, Spike sees the woman’s face, slack and streaked with blood.  Below it, he sees the steering column, driven straight through her chest.  Her green, green eyes are wide and round, and they hold nothing inside them anymore.

Elvis has left the building, Jack thought, and clawed at something wet climbing down his cheek.

The film kept spooling and spooling, as unforgiving as a snake at its supper.   Jack saw the vampire fall to his knees as the van belched black smoke up into a violet sky.  He watched as William the Bloody looked up into the smoke and then past it, at the stars, and knew that he was waiting, waiting for them to melt into hot pink bands, for the sun to complete her slow death roll around the lip of the sky.

It was this image that finally made Jack Turtle cut the power on the little TV in his head, like yanking a plug out of a wall.

It didn’t seem right.  None of it.

Not one bit.

This ending wasn’t his idea.  But, as usual, Jack was just expected to go along with it.  To hate it, maybe – to gnash his old gums and bellyache about it – but to ultimately just let it happen, let the chips fall where they must.

Jack considered all of this while sitting in his old, rotting lounge chair, staring at the busted Zenith in the basement of the little clapboard house down on Palmyra Street.

“Aw, nuts,” is what he whispered.

And with that, the gears began to move.  Jack felt his other head begin to climb out of his battered old shell.  Like everything else about him, the motion was slow but resolute, and within a minute that long amphibian neck had stretched all the way to the other side of a great sea, and pushed its way out of the heavens above a lonesome valley road.   When it got there, the Hare was still lurking in her hiding place on the hillside, a hundred thoughts scampering around in her tiny mind.

Jack lied to her, in that soft and soothing way that only he knew how to lie.  He told her that she didn’t need to run so fast tonight; that she could surely stay here and rest for a while; that the race was already as good as won.   As the Hare listened quietly to Jack’s old scritchy-scratchy voice, her rabbit-quick thoughts dissipated one by one, like the bubbles popped by a child’s fingernail.

And after the last tiny bubble popped, the Hare fell into a long, deep sleep.

There would be no suicidal leaps and fiery crashes tonight.  Tonight would be quite a boring night, in fact; something the crew of this particular van wasn’t used to, but that they probably deserved every once in a while.   There would be a long drive through the countryside, past Coventry and along the eastern fringe of Manchester, and then on to a tiny airfield where a certain plane would carry them off to whatever the Fates had left in store for them...

Suddenly, Jack Turtle felt a frozen finger descend on the nape of his neck.  He fled back into his shell as quickly as he could – which wasn’t very quickly at all – and by the time he reached the basement of the little house on Palmyra Street, the door at the top of the staircase was already creaking open, waves of brilliant light billowing down from the crack.  Her shadow was long on the stairs.  It made Her seem at least twenty feet tall, and She might as well have been, as far as the Turtle was concerned.

“Jackson Montgomery Turtle!” the Woman’s voice boomed.   “What in the blue devil moon're you doin’ down there?!”

Terror seized Jack by the throat and balls.   For three horrible seconds, he couldn’t move, or think, or even breathe.  He blurted out the first thing that popped into his knotty old head.  “I’m fixin’ the TV, woman!”

There was a long, breathless pause, and during it the Turtle thought he could actually hear the Woman's gears grinding, sorting every detail of his crime.  That's when he knew he'd been caught in the act, was shit out of luck.  He couldn’t smooth talk his way out of this one…

Then: “You can’t fix no dag-blamed TV, you old fool!  Why doncha throw that hunk’a’junk out and go buy a new one, already!”

Jack felt his heart slowly climbing back down his throat.  She doesn’t know, he thought, and the notion brought with it a flood of relief. “Why doncha just leave me be and mind your own business?!” he bellowed.

“Don’t make me come down there and kick your ol’ wrinkly behind,” she warned, her voice suddenly as sharp and clear as a diamond’s edge.  “And this trash up here ain’t gonna take itself out, by the way!”

The chilly finger returned, except now it was an ice pick, scraping and digging all along his spine.  “Okay, okay!” Jack cried, his eyes as wide and round as dinner plates.  “I’ll be up in a minute.”

The shadow hovered motionless for a few seconds.  Then it slowly shuffled away, its owner muttering low threats as she went.

Jack puffed out a sigh, and then he chuckled in the jittery way the folks out here chuckled after they’ve had a very, very close call.  She doesn’t know, he thought again. 

And if you know what’s good for you, she never will.

The crisis averted, Jack settled back into the cushions again.  Willow the Witch would still have to pay a price, someday.  But considering how goshdarn clever she was, Jack was more than a little relieved he wouldn’t be the one to collect on that particular bill.

As for the others, their fates were already becoming blurry again, those long chains of chance and choice becoming harder to untangle by the nanosecond.  With the Hare out of the game, Destiny had once again become as wide open as the road that the little white van was rolling on.

Knowing them as he did, Jack figured they would probably find a way to blow this chance too; to screw it up all over again.  They were special though, and they still made him feel very curious.   So, unable to stop himself, Jack Turtle closed his eyes and tuned back in.

He wanted to watch a little while longer.






40 seconds later



The first song was irredeemably lame.  It was one of those where the singer was trying Oh So Very Hard to be Madonna, and failing in new and spectacular ways.  Everyone seemed to just let it go for a while, but the moment Andrew began to sing along, the mood darkened.

“Somebody shut this hash off,” Spike barked, “before I put my boot through it.”

Xander clicked into suave-yet-dorky mode. “Not that I share the Unholy One’s musical puke-taste, but I agree.  This sound is an unpleasant sound.”

“Yeah,” said Willow.  “There’s clubby, and then there’s club-me-over-the-head-y.”

Andrew fumed at the philistines in the back seat.  “Poker Face is a future classic, you guys.”  Answered only by glum faces and a pulsating drum machine, he turned to Dawn.   “Help me Obi-Dawn-Kenobi.  You’re my only hope.”

In the rear-view, Dawn tossed out a sterling smile.  “I like it,” she chirped.  “It’s got a good beat and I can dance to it.”

Buffy frowned.  “That’s okay, Dawn.  We still love you.”  Then, to Andrew: “Hey Mr. Deejay, try the CD player, why doncha?”

Andrew rolled his eyes, as if to say amateurs, and then began thumbing through the short stack of shiny caveman circles in the glove compartment.  “Okay, party people, any requests?”

“Ooh, how ‘bout Here Comes the Sun, or I’m on Fire.”

“Stuff it, Harris.”            

“Whatever you say, Spuffy.”

“I will bite you.”

Anytime, anywhere…”

 “Hey!" Buffy snapped.  "Don’t make me come back there!”  Then, finally and decisively:  “Andrew, just close your eyes and pick something.  We shall let the Fates decide…”

Andrew fanned out a bunch of CDs and closed his eyes.  After a few moments of Jedi-like deliberation, he snatched one and slid it into the stereo’s open jaw.  Within seconds, the song began to play.

At first it was just the waves of a ghostly guitar washing in, as if arriving from some distant shore. The sound was joined by the heartbeat of a snare drum, cementing a certain restless pace.  Soon, a bass was throbbing low syncopated notes that lingered down in her belly.  By the time the singer dove in, it was as if the band had set out a warm bath.  Their harmonies were rich and overlapping, each instrument somehow paving in the gaps between the others. 

Buffy Summers didn’t recognize the tune.  It seemed equal parts desperation and glimmering hope, the sound of driving through the rain towards a soft glow on the horizon.  It wasn’t dance music, but traveling music; a sound designed to sweep in the empty miles between now and next.  It was new and strange and unpredictable, and she suddenly realized that she liked it very much.

So, she stepped on the gas, and turned it up.

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