Buffy Summers clomped up the porch stairs at 1630 Revello feeling dizzy and spent. The night somehow seemed even darker than usual (they'd been pretty darn dark, lately), so when she fished for the keys in her torn pants pocket and didn’t find them, she didn’t waste a thought about retracing her steps. After all: if some psycho killer happened to pick them up and pay a surprise visit, it would only be the second worst thing that happened tonight.
So, Buffy knocked on the door to her own house instead, trying her best to ignore the gloomy implication of such an act.
“Whoa, are you okay?” Dawn asked.
She brushed past the girl and made a b-line for the stairs. “Why?”
“You look like you’ve been mud wrestling.”
“And, you’re limping.”
She slammed into the bathroom at top speed and peeled off her disgusting clothes, avoiding the mirror like it was filled with deadly cobras. In the shower, she used up an entire bottle of soap without even thinking about it, pouring it directly on the skin and scrubbing hard at all the tender parts. There were plenty of those.
There was a long interlude where she closed her eyes and tried to make her mind go blank, just letting the warm water spray on her face and chest. But image after image kept ripping through the darkness, like TVs snapped on with the volume turned way too loud.
By the time Buffy slathered on the second coat of shampoo, her cleansing ritual had blossomed into an epic abuse of shower power. Accordingly, a tiny fist began to pound the door.
“Uh, hello in there?” Dawn’s little voice rang. “It’s the other people. Ever heard of us?”
She quickly rinsed what was left to rinse, twisted off the faucets and then bundled herself up in soft, white towels. She risked one glimpse at the horrible mirror.
Unfortunately, it was still her in there. She was kinda hoping for the snakes.
Buffy made a dash for her bedroom and locked the door behind her. She dug through a drawer of frilly, girly nighties, scowling at them like they were polka-dot overalls and lumberjack shirts. She forsook them all, and pulled on a billowy old sweatshirt instead. It was gray and cottony soft, and it had a mysterious koala bear printed on the left breast. Was it the logo of some sort of Australian billowy sweatshirt company? It seemed to her like all the clutter people piled up over the years had a progressively shorter and shorter life span in their brains. Certain purchases eventually became unexplainable, and the owners all became archeologists of their own lives.
She turned the lights out and slid under the sheets. Her body wasn’t throbbing anymore, but the night’s events had left behind little memories of sensation. Ghostly hands grabbed and ghostly fingers probed and ghostly…
…Uh, ghostly other things.
But that wasn’t what kept her awake. And it wasn’t Spike’s words, either – those lovely little fortune cookies of vampire philosophy he’d felt so inspired to share.
It was those eyes: Jenny’s hooded, blank eyes.
Even now, after the Shower to End All Showers, it felt like they were watching.
Buffy tossed and turned and balled up the sheets, tried to karate-kick the girl’s leering eyes out of her brain. And when she was done doing that, she just went slack, and let them look.
She started to feel the hot rush again, and the long harp string vibrating down her spine. She begged her hand not to do what it was doing – literally said the word “please” out loud. But her fingers had their own wicked plans. They splayed her little wings down there and went about exploring the soft skin inside. And Jenny’s eyes watched this part, too, glazing over with a sinister joy…
“Because there’s a blackness in hearts…”
“No,” she said, out loud again, hating the little note of pout in her voice. She reeled the traitorous hand back in and tucked it tight to her chest.
This little melodrama repeated itself twice over the next hour, interspersed with jerking, twisting, banging her head on her pillow and swearing to find out whether Doublemeat’s health plan covered psychotherapy.
Then, at long last, Buffy drifted off to Dreamyland.
A wondrous, magical place, where the rules of time and space and narrative structure all went kablooie, and where all the brain’s crazy little corners grow arms and legs and come out to play.
Speaking of plays, Buffy was at one. With, like, the audience and the dramatically lit set and the boring-ness and everything.
She was sitting in a dim, packed theater, a few rows from the stage. Giles was there. He was sitting in the seat next to hers, thoroughly absorbed in the dialogue, massaging every line with his gigantic British brain.
Buffy yawned and fidgeted and kicked up her feet, overcome with that distinct-yet-totally-implausible Dreamyland conviction that she’d seen this particular play before, and that dull plus dull still equaled dull.
“Can you pass the popcorn?” she whispered.
“Shh,” Giles hissed. “There isn’t any popcorn! This is a vegetarian event, for heaven’s sake.” He pushed her legs off the seat, and then grabbed her wrist. “Pay attention, now. This is the important part.”
The scene up there was familiar: a quiet suburban living room in a Southern California town. The two actors were caught up in one of those oh-so exaggerated soap opera moments. One was that Erin Brockovich chick. Julia Something. She was seated on a little stool, her hands clasped and her watery eyes pleading. The other actress (Kate Whatserface, from Titanic) worried back at her from a big, cozy couch.
“The way they would look at me,” said Julia. “I just couldn't...”
Titanic Kate reached out with her sad, sad eyes, looking at Julia like she was a kitten with a broken paw. “I won't tell anyone,” she said. “I wouldn't do that.”
“Why can't I stop? Why do I keep letting him in?”
“Do you love him?”
A dozen gasps flared up around the theater. Even Giles seemed to be affected by the words, his eyes shimmering like blue diamonds behind his glasses.
Julia’s face shifted and swam, a traffic jam of mismatched emotions.
And, while the audience waited for the answer with bated breath, one of those strange and magical dream winds swept across the venue, quietly rearranging all the elements.
And when the wind had passed, it was Buffy up there on the stool, contemplating the baffling question set before her. And Tara Maclay was the one sitting on the couch, looking at her like she was a lost little puppy. They had traded places with the actresses so smoothly and subtly that Buffy hardly noticed the shift at all.
Oh, and also: she was totally naked.
Buffy noticed that shift, like, right away.
She immediately shot to her feet, her hands moving to preserve whatever scraps of dignity they could. The audience just kept looking at her. There were a few titters of laughter, and a cough, but mostly they just looked. Looked and looked.
Buffy scanned the faces of the people in the first row, filled with woozy shock. A line of boys were seated there, front-and-center. Or, men. A line of boys-to-men. There was Pike and Scott, Parker and Ben, Riley and Angel. They were all just sitting there, with more or less the same vaguely annoyed expression on their faces. Occasionally, one would scan her nakedness with a disapproving scowl.
Of course, if this had been a real stage, instead of the jail of her own sleepy head, Buffy would’ve ran the heck away. Instead, she just stood there, totally mortified, shuffling her feet and clutching her skimpy skin bikini with all her might. The seconds passed like hours this way, and eventually she could hear angry whispers begin to snake through the crowd.
She looked to Tara for help. But the witch just glared back at her, with an expression that was more disgusted than Buffy thought the girl’s soft features were capable of.
“Do you love him?” she asked again, the words now mocking and cruel.
“Uhhhh,” Buffy said. “Uhhhhhh…”
Suddenly, a stir of voices bubbled up from the rear of the stage, and a fake prop door swung open. The gang filed through it one by one, babbling incoherently.
“Pizza,” said Xander. “I tell ya, they were throwing pizza. How’s that for a Glad Ta Meetcha?”
“Well that’s normal, in their part of the world,” said Willow, rolling her eyes. “That’s their custom.”
“Yeah, try not to be so closed-minded, man,” said Dawn. “It’s not like we got a zillion lottery tickets.”
Buffy’s attention whirled between the audience and the actors, unsure which direction was worse. When the latter saw her, they all froze in their tracks.
“Jeez, Buff!” Xander shouted. “Didya maybe forget something?”
“Yeah,” Tara sneered. “Her line.”
They all stood glowering at her. Out in the crowd, the little angry whispers were starting to build up steam. A voice from the black square of the mezzanine barked out the word, “Refund.”
“No,” Buffy protested, blushing hotly and on the verge of tears. “No, I-I didn’t forget. This hasn’t happened yet.”
“It’s already happening, love,” growled a voice from stage left. “It’s already done.”
And then – hands stuffed in his jacket pockets, boot heels clacking – William the Bloody prowled onto the stage.
The crowd went wild. Whooped and whistled and hooted and cheered, like Fonzie himself had risen from the grave.
He crossed the stage to meet her, every movement filled with prickly menace. For a moment, the horrible notion entered her mind that she may have to fight, engaging the vampire in some sort of ridiculous Skinny-Dipper Kung Fu. But he stopped a few yards shy of the mark, his face twisting into a mask of bewildered outrage.
“Oh, sod it,” he muttered. “Not again.”
The cheers died out, and then the audience and the entire cast were all just staring at her again. In the front row, she spotted Riley shaking his head sadly. Next to him, Angel cut loose with a long, somewhat irritable yawn.
The moment she saw this, the temperature in the venue dropped a few sharp degrees, and she could feel drafts racing in from every direction. A weird little non-dreamy thought crossed her mind; something about stage lights, and how the air should be unbearably hot. But the set had taken on the feel of a new doctor’s office; a chilly, well-lit and briskly degrading cube. Cold floorboards nipped at her soles, and her makeshift palm panties felt like they were leaving winter-blue prints on her private parts.
“Did I do something wrong?” she whimpered.
Down in the boys-to-men row, Parker started snickering cruelly. The sound stabbed her with an unexpected urge to pee.
“Are you even in this scene?!” Tara barked, bitterly enunciating every word.
“You don’t know her like I do,” said Xander. “She’s, like, the queen of this.”
Spike’s eyes pierced hers. “She’s the bloody empress of it,” he bellowed. “Forgot her lines – forgot her sodding costume. Probably forget her head if it weren’t stapled on.”
The buzzing out in the darkness became louder now: low murmurs and boos, and sharp giggles like pushpins biting into skin. And now, her ears picked up something else in the din. The sound was faint but familiar; a crackling, electric growl, like thunderstorms drowning in deep lakes. She tried her best to ignore it.
“Reeeefuuuund,” howled the jerk on the mezzanine again.
Buffy edged towards the couch, crablike. She snatched desperately at a wooly white blanket there, but Tara just slapped her hand away.
“No,” she said. “Not until you answer the question.”
Buffy was gasping out short, panicked breaths, on the verge of crumbling. “I can’t,” she said. “I… don’t know how.”
Willow gave her a little shove. The redhead looked harder than the bashful little nerd Buffy remembered, with long creases scarring her freckled brow.
“C’mon, Buffy, you gotta give them something,” she chided. “You were gone all summer long!”
Before she could reply, Spike snapped into action. Filled with the strength of nightmares, the vampire wrenched her down onto an armchair, and spun it to face the crowd. Buffy clamped her knees together and hugged her chest tight, but in the next moment Super Spike was crouching behind her and prying her legs apart with his hands. She fought back as hard as she could, but his grip down there hardened to steel.
“They paid good money, pet,” he said, sounding weirdly sincere. “You can’t lock it up forever.”
Buffy pushed back and whimpered little protests, but, as most dreamers know, such bedtime battles are hardly ever won. When her thighs finally sprang apart, it was like someone pulled a plug out of a socket. The crowd fell deathly silent, and hundreds of gazes met at the intersection of her legs.
Spike gave her shoulder a little pat.
“Showtime, love,” he said, and then receded into the shadows.
For a few strange moments, Buffy just sat there with her knees parted, fighting back tears. A big, scary feeling tumbled up through her body, tickling the backs of her knees and divots of her spine as it went. When it reached her mouth, she blew it out like a plume of luxurious smoke. Time slowed to a gentle crawl.
Filled with a sudden, otherworldly calm, she searched the eyes of the crowd. They were half-lidded and filled with bleak desire, like windows onto blank, sweltering deserts.
Buffy felt her body slowly defrost under their glare. Compelled by another one of those strange, subliminal winds, she eased backwards into the chair. It felt like the cupped, pillow-y hand of a colossal teddy bear. Her body became impossibly light as she filled it, and marshmallow soft.
The sensation she felt was a surprisingly nostalgic one; Buffy loved this chair. Even though the chair did not, in fact, exist in the real world of burgers and property taxes, her dreamy head was positive that it was the oldest and most beloved piece of furniture in the whole house, and maybe in the whole world. Warm, plush fibers stroked and tickled the skin of her back and bottom like little baby bird feathers, and the feeling coaxed an unexpected sigh from her lips.
She draped one knee and then the other over its arms, dangled her calves and feet over the sides in a way that might have seemed innocent under other, less-nude-y circumstances. The legs spread as far as they could, and when they were done her fingers slipped down between them, dancing along the cambers and dipping into tender grooves. Blood and heat answered their touch, the flesh there swelling like a delightful bruise.
She forced her eyes to look down at it – to see what it was that all those grim faces out in the darkness were staring at.
“Pussy,” they called it; they were looking at her soft, wet little pussy.
The p-word rang in her head like an organ note in an empty church. The audience was staring at it and so were all the actors on the stage. Now, Buffy was looking at it too. And, for some weird reason, it seemed like she was the only one in the world who wasn’t angry at it.
When one fingertip grazed the clit, she sank its neighbor into the pool. The pair quickly fell into a quiet rhythm, dipping and stroking and drawing tiny circles. They seemed to melt everything they touched, and warm waves began to gush out of her.
A shaft of bright horror passed through her when she realized that the chair – her favorite chair in the world – was getting soaked, too. A flower of buttery wetness bloomed outwards from the seam where her bottom met the seat and ruined, ruined every inch of fabric it touched.
She knew she wasn’t peeing herself, but a nagging little voice kept insisting that she was, or that she would, or that everyone would think so. But she couldn’t stop now, because she was so close, and they were all looking, and they paid, and this was life, this was the life part of life, the alive part of living, and the wave was cresting and they all paid to look.
And when close became now, when the wave crumpled over and crashed onto the shore, Buffy cried and giggled and screamed, all at once.
The crowd became enraged at the sound of her orgasm. They erupted into boos and hisses and nasty catcalls. Buffy tried to close her eyes – to pretend they weren’t there, pretend this wasn’t happening – but her eyelids felt like they were nailed open. She stroked and gasped, bit her lip, and beneath the sound of the audience’s protests, the rumbling, electrical sound returned, louder and more real than before.
Spike stormed back into view, his black coat flapping like a cape. He mounted the edge of the orchestra pit and started hollering at the crowd. “Piss off, wankers! What do you know? What do you know about it?!”
They roared back and started pelting him with things: bottles and little crosses, baseballs and wooden stakes.
“It’s alright, love” he said, and started stripping down, yanking off his jacket, his shirt, his boots. “Don’t pay these sods any mind. You’re doing just fine.”
After he tugged off his jeans, he balled them up and sent them sailing into the front row. They landed with a thwhap around Angel’s face, and stuck there like a brooding denim mask.
When Spike leapt onto the chair, his arms and legs magically hinged with her own, and tracts of his cool skin pressed to hers like a doctor’s hands. She realized he was covering up her body, now. Only her legs and feet could be seen, poking back at the audience like the punch lines of dirty jokes.
His face filled the camera of the dream, now. There were many versions of this vampire’s eyes, and these were the haunted, hungry ones, the ones begging and pleading to be invited in. So that’s what she did: whispering “yeah, yes,” her fingers folding at the nape of his neck.
He rocked forward, dove in. His cock slid deep, gliding all the way to the hilt. Buffy came, instantly and uncontrollably, like a gun shot her and then shot her again. She squealed and wept. Giggled out a thrilling scream.
His face was smiling into her neck, mouthing tender, soothing words. But her hips kept jerking, tickled by clouds of butterflies, and her ass was slick and blushing hot. She rolled it forward, crushing herself to his beloved body, and she kept coming and coming like she would go crazy from it, like she’d go seriously nuts forever.
He stirred his cock into her, the motion as slow and thick as honey. The world ripped open as he did so, giant spotlights blasting out of the cracks. After a couple of thrusts she forgot how to breathe. Her lungs just swelled until they couldn’t hold anymore, and then fired it all out on a wave of choppy, panicked laughter. She thought it would never end.
And, the precise moment she thought that, it did end.
A dozen rough hands found her lover. They grabbed him all over, pulled and jerked him off of her. She made a mournful sound as the connection was suddenly broken, like a light switch snapped off inside her heart.
The crew from the front row dragged Spike to the edge of the stage, the crowd cheering them on. As she looked on in helpless horror, Angel and Riley gripped him by the ankles and wrists, and began to swing him like a hammock. “A one, and uh two, and uh…”
On three they launched the blonde vamp into the crowd. His rag-doll form sailed out on a high arc, landing in a sea of giddy, outstretched hands. She watched the audience ferry him away with their palms, rock concert style, until he vanished into the distant darkness of the cheap seats.
Buffy crashed hard. While her ex’s hi-fived and attaboy-ed, she felt her hands and legs draw inward, building a turtle shell around her R-rated parts again. The wonderful flower of warmth beneath her cooled to a clammy, tacky stain, and the butterflies hardened into streaks of ice.
Suddenly, a face in the crowd stood out to her like a wound. Giles was glaring at her, wearing the angriest expression she’d ever seen in her life. He swam towards the center stage, long legs striding over heads and elbows, over the backs of chairs. As he closed in, Buffy saw that he was a massive, towering being; as big as any fairy tale monster she’d ever fought.
He mounted the stage with a big, hopping step and then he was looming over her, his face flushed purple with rage. His eyes gleamed down like ponds of ice, paralyzing her with childish terror. Buffy curled herself more tightly into the shell of her arms.
“I’m sorry,” she sobbed. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
The Watcher didn’t say a word. He just scooped her up and tucked her under his arm like an errant cat. The crowd sent up a football stadium cheer as he carried her to the couch.
“Please, no,” she squealed, her voice barely registering above the roar of the crowd. “Please don’t do this! Please don’t do this to me!”
Giles plopped down hard on the couch and pulled her across his lap. Buffy already knew what was going to happen, and the dread she felt was excruciating. Her brain was screaming at her when he planted his huge hand on the small of her back, pinning her in place. She quizzed her body for a counterattack, but the most she could manage was to waggle her forearms and uselessly kick her feet, like she might somehow swim her way out of this.
Whatever bits of Buffy’s conscious mind were floating around in there, they suddenly seized onto a brilliant Dreamyland plan: When something very bad is about to happen, close your eyes. So, that’s what she did. She squeezed her eyes as tight as fists, wishing hard for the curtains to fall.
Unfortunately for her, Dreamyland had one longstanding, ironclad rule: Everyone here is you. All of those eyes – the crowd’s eyes, her friends’ eyes, The Watcher’s eyes – really belonged to Buffy Summers. And so when she shut off the camera in her dream body, a dozen others instantly took its place, floating above the scenery like tethered balloons. Because there was no escaping this part.
Because it was already happening. Because it was already done.
The scene was mercilessly lit: a bad, bad girl lying prone across an old man’s lap, legs quivering, face churning out hot tears and pathetic little sniffles.
The man’s cold hand pressed down on the bow of her back, just a few inches above her bare, little...
And that’s what everybody was staring at now; waiting for the inevitable, waiting for the show to start.
Because, they had paid…
“Well, it’s about freakin’ time!” Xander barked.
“Right?” said Dawn, her little voice chiming with glee. “Give it to her good!”
The gang huddled around the couch like it was a Thanksgiving spread, giggling and licking their chops.
He started spanking her. The smacks rained down, hard and fast, and she could feel the burn blooming a full inch beneath wobbling flesh. Buffy watched her own body squirm and wriggle, and saw long, choking sobs shudder out of her mouth.
The blows soon settled into an alarmingly callous rhythm, and the pain and embarrassment of her situation quickly swelled into something much worse. Her heart became filled with an all-consuming torment that promised there’d be no sweet, loving future where this scene didn’t happen, where she was never naked and helpless and hurt and ashamed.
She kicked her legs and beat her fists, begged and pleaded for it to stop. The crowd went wild at the sight of this, their ovation blending with the awful clapping sound of her reddening cheeks.
In desperation, she dug both hands into the gap between the cushions and the couch frame, the graveyard of countless TV remotes. She pushed her face in there too, and started burrowing like a worm into the dark, quiet world she knew was waiting for her down there.
Tara was still sitting on the far end of the couch. She grabbed Buffy’s ankles and yanked her legs out straight. “Hold her!” she squealed. “She’s trying to go back.”
The torrent of swats kept coming, striping her butt with pink fingerprints. The Watcher’s hand had become a hateful machine, and for a crazed moment Buffy was certain there was no off switch, and that this scene would never, ever end.
She kept digging and squirming into the plush trench, grateful when the cushions pressed over her ears. Before long, the circus noise of the theatregoers damped down and fell apart, along with the horrible goading voices of her friends.
By the time her shoulders squeezed through, even the shameful slapping sound had faded to a distant whump, whump, whump, like the rotor blades of the world’s slowest helicopter being lifted into the sky. She swam further and further into the soft, black crease, her ankles stretching like taffy where Tara held them until they finally slithered free.
As she clawed her way down, the rumbling sound returned, static cracks and shocks and the bellows of alien worlds colliding. But it didn’t matter, because now the smell of hot chocolate and fresh sheets and cheapo, bargain-bin hairspray filled her nostrils. She was going the right way.
“Oy,” called a voice from the void. “Down here, Buffy.”
She tried to squeeze herself through a slit of invisible velvet, but it was suffocating her, crushing her flat. “I can’t make it. I can’t fit.”
“Plenty of womb down here.”
“Said there’s plenty of room down here, love.”
She wriggled and writhed, felt the bones of her body melting to glue. “But,” she said, “you’re still up there.”
“Acting, love,” the vampire replied, his voice flickering out of the blackness like a little candle. “Besides, this is where we all go, eventually…”
And then she woke up.