Summary: Glory, bored with her campaign of violence and intimidation against the Slayer, decides to offer a Christmas truce. Spuffy; but there is a much more unusual pairing too.
And Glory Shone Around
“They are carol singers, oh most magnificent scrumptiousness,” Murk informed his god, bobbing his head obsequiously. “A seasonal annoyance. Should I have them dismembered?”
“No, it’s kinda cute.” Glory looked out of her window at the choir below. “I guess it’s like ‘Happy Birthday’ for this world’s God. Maybe I oughta do something Christmassy. I mean, if I was home, and He came over to visit, I’d want Him to take note if it was my birthday. Only polite. Guess I should sorta reciprocate, only in advance.” She frowned. “Am I using that word right? I mean, there are reciprocating steam engines. Maybe it doesn’t mean what I think it means.”
“Your word usage is sublime in its exquisite precision, oh perfect one,” Jinx assured her, trying to out-grovel Murk. “You wish to celebrate Christmas in an appropriate fashion? This world’s God does have some unconventional ideas. Peace and goodwill unto all men, love thy neighbor, that sort of thing. Hardly your style, I would have thought, oh supreme Glorificus.” He quailed as she favored him with a hard stare. “But you are right, as always, your most splendiferous majesty. Perhaps a gift of gold, frankincense, and myrrh? Or socks? For some reason they seem to be traditional.”
“And just who am I supposed to give these socks to, dumbass?” Glory snapped. “He’s this frikkin’ intangible, omniscient, omnipresent guy, so I can’t just go over to His place with a gift-wrapped package. I figure, maybe, something peaceful. Like, hey, playing soccer between the trenches? Ain’t that the kind of thing that would go down okay? Hey, I got an idea.” Her brow furrowed. “Yeah, I’m on the verge of something here. Boys, go get me something to eat. A bunch of carol singers would be just the thing. Then I’ll let you in on it.” Her minions scuttled away to obey. Glory picked up the phone book and began to look up an address.
They’d left it very late to put up the Christmas tree this year, what with everything that had been going on, but they had gotten around to it at last. Buffy was standing on a stool being passed decorations by Dawn, and Joyce was standing watching and issuing suggestions, when the doorbell rang.
“I’ll get it,” Joyce said, and went to the door. She opened it to reveal a young woman, probably a few years older than Buffy, with strawberry blonde hair and a curvaceous figure. The woman was wearing a beautifully cut red dress, probably Prada or Armani, that was inappropriate for the time of day and also completely wrong for someone with that hair color. Joyce glanced down and saw that the shoes on the caller’s feet were Manolo Blahnik. Joyce’s eyebrows rose. “Yes? Can I help you?”
“Merry Christmas,” the woman greeted her, smiling broadly. “I guess you’d be the Slayer’s mom, right?”
“Slayer’s mom?” Joyce echoed, furrowing her brows in assumed incomprehension. “I’m sorry?”
Behind her Buffy recognized the visitor’s voice and a chill ran down her spine. “Mom! It’s Glory. Back away from her, now.” She stepped down from the stool and prepared to defend her family.
“Hey, it’s okay, Slayer, I’m not here to fight.” Glory held up her hands in a gesture of mock surrender, and then suddenly reached out with eye-baffling speed and placed her hands at the sides of Joyce’s head. “Although, if I was, there isn’t a damn thing that you could do to stop me. I could suck out Mom’s brains,” she sank her fingers into Joyce’s skull as she spoke, causing Mrs. Summers to jerk convulsively, “but I won’t.” Glory pulled out her fingers and allowed Joyce to stumble backwards into Buffy’s arms.
“Mom! Are you all right?” Buffy gasped. She glared at the hell goddess. Dawn rushed to join her sister in holding Joyce and in glaring at Glory.
“I – I think so,” Joyce assured her daughters uncertainly. She raised her hand to her head and frowned.
“Hey, I’ve done you a favor,” Glory declared. “I felt something kinda wrong when I was dabbling around in there so I fixed it. You can call it part of your Christmas present, Slayer.”
“Christmas present?” Buffy echoed, almost spitting the words out. She would have advanced to attack Glory had she not been holding her mother.
Joyce straightened up. “Actually I feel fine,” she announced. Her frown cleared. “In fact I feel better than I did a few minutes ago. My sight’s been just a touch blurry, ever since the operation, but it’s perfectly clear now.” She focused on Glory. “I know you’re Buffy’s enemy, but, whatever you did, thank you.”
“Hey, it’s okay. I had my fingers in there anyway, no big deal to run a fix while I was at it.”
“Okay, so thanks,” Buffy said reluctantly, and then her voice went cold again. “So what do you want?”
“Christmas truce,” Glory smiled, and stepped in over the threshold.
“Come in, why don’t you?” Buffy said, rolling her eyes.
“Thanks,” Glory replied, oblivious to Buffy’s sarcasm. “Yeah, a few days where you don’t try to kill me, not like you could but you could mess my stuff up – it took me a whole day to get my hair right after that building fell on me, you know? – and I don’t do anything like ripping you and your friends apart looking for my Key. Maybe exchange some presents, come over for some drinks, something like that. Hey, do you play soccer?”
“Soccer?” Buffy echoed, totally baffled by what seemed to be a complete non sequitur.
“I play soccer at school,” Dawn put in.
“You must be the Slayer’s sister,” Glory beamed. “Ain’t you just as cute as a button? What’s your name, honey?”
“Dawn.” She glared at the hell goddess, not liking the patronizing note in this strange woman’s voice. “And I’m not scared of you.”
“Well, sweetie, normally you really should be. But right now I’m just full of that old Christmas spirit. You play soccer? How’s about you and your sister get a team together and we’ll have us a game? You against me and my minions. Christmas Day’s sorta the traditional time for it, but I guess you’ll all be kind of busy with all sorts of presents and food, so maybe the day after?”
“What are you playing at?” Buffy demanded.
“Soccer,” Glory replied. “Well, maybe, if you wanna. But if you mean what sneaky plan do I have cooking, well, honestly, girlie, the answer is none. I just think a Christmas truce would be a nice gesture, yeah, and there are things to gain on both sides. For you, well, a few days where you don’t have to worry about me ripping your arms and legs off, and for me, the chance to spend some time with somebody other than my minions. I mean, have you seen the scabby little creeps?” She shuddered theatrically. “Loyal, yeah, but not big on the decorative factor.”
“So, the Council come up with anything on Glory?” Buffy asked.
“They have no record of her, or of anyone like her, but based on the information that I’ve given them they’re going to look into it and they might have something soon.” Giles picked up the teapot and began to pour.
“Gee, helpful much? Well, I might have a bit more information before long. She came by while you were away.”
Giles started, and narrowly avoided pouring tea onto the table. “She did what? Was anyone hurt?”
“Nope. Well, Xander got hurt by the troll, but you know about that. No, Glory didn’t hurt anyone. She grabbed Mom – just to prove she could, I guess – but she didn’t hurt her at all.”
“Actually I think she may have accelerated my healing,” Joyce put in. “I’ve felt much better since she did it, I have to admit, although it was extremely disconcerting at the time.”
“Good Lord.” Giles put down the teapot, removed his glasses, and began to clean the lenses. “Glory did something beneficial? She must have some hidden agenda. Everything we have seen indicates that she is a psychotic killer with no redeeming features whatsoever.”
“Like Spike,” Buffy agreed.
“Buffy!” Joyce protested. “That was an uncalled for remark. Spike has always been a perfect gentleman to me, and he has been helpful to you lately.”
“Okay, sorry, Mom.” Buffy pouted. Her current resentment towards Spike was based on his recent disclosure of Riley’s dubious activities. The vampire’s motivations had probably been rooted in his dislike of the former Initiative agent, of course, but she had to admit that the revelation had been for the best. Riley’s illicit thrill-seeking had carried a high risk; not only for himself but, had he been turned, for everyone else in the group. Blaming Spike was unfair in a shoot-the-messenger way. “Yeah, he was a big help with the squicky space bug thing, and a few others lately. I guess I can cut him some slack. But, back to Glory.”
“Yes, indeed. What did Glory want?” Giles replaced his glasses and began to stir his tea.
“She said she wanted a Christmas truce. And maybe a game of soccer.”
“Football,” Giles said automatically. “A Christmas truce?”
“Yeah.” Buffy repeated to Giles all that Glory had suggested. “So, what d’ya think? Should we go along with it?”
Giles sipped at his tea as he thought about it. “I’m not sure that we have any choice,” he decided. “We were hardly going to launch any attacks on her before we get further information from the Council, as nothing that we do has any effect upon her anyway, and so agreeing to a cessation of hostilities is not really a significant concession. Conversely, if she refrains from attacking us it is to our advantage, and therefore I feel that we really should agree.”
“Okay, but what about going over to her place for drinks? And the soccer game?”
“Football. Hmm. There may be a degree of risk attached to accepting her drinks invitation, but then again, as she is apparently capable of walking into our homes and assaulting us at any time, I doubt if the additional risk is significantly greater. It could be advantageous, in fact, as we may discover something to our benefit. We will have to beware of deliberate misinformation, of course. Hmm. We could try to disseminate a little disinformation of our own.” Giles set down the teacup and removed his glasses as he began to ponder.
“Hiya,” Dawn greeted everyone, wandering in and making a beeline for the cookies. “I heard you talking. What’re we gonna do about the soccer game?”
“Football match. I’m not sure. Humoring the woman might indeed be a good idea, and we could learn something about the capacities of her minions in the process, but I don’t see how we could put an actual team together. There aren’t eleven of us.”
“We could, like, play five a side. Or seven a side,” Dawn suggested.
“Well, I’m not playing,” Joyce declared firmly. “I may be feeling much better but it’s still a little soon after my brain surgery to be running around. I’ll stick to being the Mom part of a Soccer Mom.”
“I’m game,” Buffy dealt herself in. “Are you up for it, Giles? I mean, British, you gotta know how to play soccer.”
“Of course I know how to play football. I flatter myself that I have kept sufficiently fit, too. We are up to three, if Dawn insists on playing.” Giles’ first thought had been to keep the Key well away from Glory, but it then occurred to him that the ‘hide in plain sight’ principle could work to their advantage and make Glory more likely to dismiss Dawn from consideration. “Xander would be willing to play, I’m sure, although it might be hard to school him against picking up the ball and running with it.”
“He could keep goal, like Sylvester Stallone in ‘Escape to Victory’,” Buffy suggested. “That’s four.”
“We could ask Spike.” Dawn proposed. “He’s British. And I heard him talking about Manchester United once, so he has to be into soccer.”
“Football. I’m afraid there is one factor that rules him out, Dawn,” Giles pointed out. “He is rather inflammable in the daylight.”
“They have lights at my school. We could play there after dark,” Dawn countered. “Christmas night, or the night after, who’s gonna know? And hey, proper goals and everything.”
“Hmm. I suppose that might indeed be viable. Very well. Buffy, I suggest that you have a word with Spike. He usually seems to be more amenable to requests from you than from any of the rest of us apart from Joyce. Oh, and it might be an idea to refrain from punching him in the nose this time. That’s not really in accordance with the spirit of Christmas. Did you say that Glory proposed that the truce extended until Twelfth Night?”
“Yeah, she said something like that. Should I tell her we’re good for the truce and the soccer game?”
“Football match. Yes, I think that you might as well, and clarify the timing. As for me, I’m afraid that I’m severely jet-lagged, and I am going to retire to bed for the rest of the day.”
“Bloody hell!” Spike shot up out of his chair and threw his coat over the top of his sarcophagus. “Give a bloke some warning, Slayer. I might have been doing something private.”
“Something evil, you mean?” Buffy allowed the door to swing closed behind her and advanced into the crypt. “Looks like you are up to something. What are you trying to hide, Spike?”
“Nothing,” Spike told her. His tone lacked conviction and he failed to meet her eyes. “Just looking at magazines.” He stood between her and the sarcophagus lid, trying to screen it from her gaze, but she came forward inexorably.
“Porn, I bet. Eww, gross.” She pushed past Spike and swept away the coat to reveal what the vampire had been concealing. Pieces of card, a modeling knife, a ruler, a bottle of white glue, scissors, some marker pens, and a tube of glitter. The glitter tipped over and spilled, and one of the marker pens was sent flying across the crypt. “Oh. Sorry.” She looked more closely. “You’re making Christmas cards? And, hey, this one’s for Mom.”
“Not like I can afford Hallmark prices,” Spike pointed out. “Satisfied, Slayer?”
“Okay, I’m sorry, Spike. I was just suspicious ‘cause you tried to hide it. But yeah, guess you do have a right to some privacy. Maybe I shouldn’t just barge in like this and – is this one for me?”
“Well, yeah. You weren’t supposed to see it until it was finished.” Spike lowered his gaze and shuffled his feet.
“Sorry,” Buffy said again. “It’s sorta, well, sweet. Thank you, Spike. Uh, I’m kinda after a favor.”
“You want help against Glory? I’ll do what I can, sure,” Spike volunteered.
“Yeah, it is against Glory, but kinda weird. We’re gonna play against her at soccer, her and her minions, and we’re getting a team together. Wanna play?”
“What? This big bad comes to town, turning snakes into demons and what have you, kicks your ass, sends marrow-sucker demon gits after you, and now you’re going to play football with her?”
“Well, yeah. She wants a truce for Christmas and, hey, a few days without her trying to kill us sounds good to me. Are you up for the soccer game?”
“Yeah, sure, ’cept for the part where I burst into flames,” Spike pointed out.
“We’ve already thought of that. We’re gonna play after dark, with lights.”
“In that case you can count on me,” Spike assured her.
“Thanks.” Buffy smiled at him. Spike had indeed been more cooperative lately, and even his insults seemed to have acquired an affectionate undertone. She’d scolded him when he was assisting injured victims of Olaf the Troll’s rampage in the Bronze a couple of days previously, and had accused him of doing so only in the hope of getting credit for it, but she had to admit that he had gone right on helping even after she had been scornful of his efforts. He’d been mixing with Xander on a friendly basis that night, too. His attitude did indeed seem to have changed. Maybe he did deserve some credit. “Hey, Spike, you wanna come on patrol with me tonight, see if we can kick some ass?”
“Don’t mind if I do, Slayer. Don’t mind if I do.”
“I could bring Leticia and Janice, they play soccer,” Dawn suggested.
“You are so not going to bring your friends to mix with demons,” Buffy told her firmly.
“Five-a-side soccer sucks,” Dawn pouted. “We need more people.”
“Anya says she’ll play,” Buffy countered.
“That only makes six,” Dawn sniffed, still dissatisfied.
The doorbell rang at that moment. Buffy went to answer the door, alert this time for any hostile visitations, but instead it was an old acquaintance. “Hello, Buffy,” Wesley Wyndam-Pryce greeted her. “I apologize for not calling ahead. I hope that this isn’t a bad time?”
“No, not at all, Wesley,” she assured him. “Come right on in. Hey, do you play soccer?”
Wesley had come to try to pick Buffy’s brains about Angel. The souled vampire appeared to have become disillusioned with the fight against evil recently, had escalated his war against the evil lawyers of Wolfram and Hart to the point where he had been complicit in the killing of humans by vampires, and had fired the entire staff of Angel Investigations. Buffy was anxious and concerned, although not too distressed as her last meeting with Angel had revealed that they had grown very much apart, and she did her best to assist Wesley.
Dawn, on the other hand, was only eager to know if Cordelia and the other Angel Investigations employees would be willing to come and join the soccer team for the match against Glory.
“I’ll ask them,” Wesley promised. “None of us are doing much for Christmas. We’re having a meal together on Christmas Day, but I see no reason why we shouldn’t be available on the evening of Boxing Day. Wolfram and Hart observes the holiday, many of their staff are away, and I think the forces of evil might well give us a suitable breathing space. Angel seems determined to carry on the fight alone in his own way, and for these few days I think we may just leave him to it. Perhaps he’ll come to his senses.”
“I hope so,” Buffy agreed.
“Whatever.” Dawn got right down to the important issues. “Hey, if they go for it, we’re up to nine! That’s great! ‘Cept, this guy Gunn, he’ll probably be into basketball, I guess, so he’ll want to use his hands. Only we’ve already promised the goalkeeper slot to Xander.”
Christmas Eve was a slow night on patrol. Buffy took Spike with her on her circuit of the cemeteries and vampire hunting grounds; but they encountered only one vampire, quickly dusted, and a placid demon who, according to Spike, was harmless and simply doing his last-minute Christmas shopping. The demon was affable, unthreatening, and polite, and Buffy was happy to accept Spike’s assurances and allow the demon to proceed on his way unharmed. “Happy Holiday,” she wished him.
“Happy Holiday to you too, Slayer,” the demon beamed, exposing his jagged teeth. “Nice to have met you. Happy Holiday, Spike.”
“Merry Christmas,” Spike wished him, putting a lot of emphasis on the English name of the Holiday season. “See you around, Clem.”
“I hope I’m not going to regret letting him go,” Buffy said, after the demon had departed.
“It’s okay, Slayer. He’s totally harmless, although he can defend himself. Glad you didn’t kill him. There aren’t that many demons around who’ll still be friends with me since I’ve been helping you out.”
“I don’t kill the harmless, Spike.” Buffy was about to add ‘which is why I haven’t staked you’, but she stopped herself. He’d been pleasant and cooperative lately, even friendly, and the jibe seemed unnecessarily cruel. Also, her mother had given her strict instructions about the end of the patrol, and she didn’t want to jeopardize them by antagonizing the vampire.
“Glad to hear it. Look, Slayer, we’re not that far from my crypt, and I reckon we’ll be calling it a night soon, so if you can pop over with me I’ll give you a couple of packages to take home with you. Got some prezzies for your mum and your kid sis.”
“I can do better than that. Mom wants you to come back with me and have a Christmas drink. So we’ll go and pick them up and we’ll both take them home.”
Spike stopped dead in his tracks. “You mean that? Bleeding hell. Didn’t expect it. She’s a real lady, your mum is.”
“Not gonna argue with you there, Spike. Now you stop standing around like a statue and lead me to Mom’s present.” She set off at a brisk walk but then she too came to a halt as a thought struck her. “That demon, Clem – does he know how to play soccer?”
“Goodnight, Spike,” Dawn called as she ascended the stairs.
“Goodnight, bite-size,” Spike called back. “I s’ppose I’d best be heading off too, Joyce. Don’t want to keep you up late seeing as you’ve been ill lately.”
“Oh, I’m really feeling the picture of health right now,” Joyce assured him, “but I think I will go to bed quite soon. Dawn will be up far too early tomorrow and she’s bound to wake me in the process.”
“Yeah, still a kid in some ways, right? I’ll be off, then. Thanks for everything, Joyce. Been brilliant. And a present. I’m b- absolutely stunned. Fantastic.”
“Remember you’re not to open it until tomorrow,” Joyce smiled.
“I won’t, mum,” Spike smiled back. “Goodnight, and Merry Christmas.”
Joyce headed for the kitchen with the empty glasses, and Spike picked up a large neatly-wrapped parcel and headed for the door. Buffy accompanied him. “Goodnight, Spike,” she bade him, and she smiled. He had been good company, there had been a present for her among his packages, and although she was sure it would be something totally lame it was still good to have presents. “Happy Holiday.”
Spike didn’t reply immediately. He was looking above her head, an indecipherable look on his face; yearning, possibly? Buffy glanced upwards and realized that she was standing under a sprig of mistletoe. Her first instinct was to move away hastily but a second look at Spike’s face held her back. Instead she repeated her upwards look, making it very obvious, and then raised her head and turned her cheek towards him.
Spike didn’t respond immediately to her challenge. He clutched his parcel and shuffled his feet as she waited impatiently. “I don’t have the right, Buffy,” he said awkwardly. “Good night, Merry Christmas.”
Buffy was simultaneously touched and annoyed. “Oh, for God’s sake, Spike, never known you be a coward before,” she snapped. “I know where I’m standing.”
“Bloody hell,” Spike said almost in a whisper. “You sure?” He leaned forward towards her cheek, lips puckered, and Buffy was smitten by a sudden impulse and turned to meet him with her mouth. Spike’s eyes widened with surprise as he kissed her.
Buffy was surprised too. The kiss was gentle, tender, almost reverential. Not at all what she’d expected from the vampire who had once been her deadliest enemy. She rather regretted that he was hampered by the parcel and couldn’t bring up his arms to hold her, and it seemed far too soon when he pulled away. “Goodnight, Buffy,” he told her softly.
Buffy was nervous, as she entered the lobby of the plush apartment building, but she was also resentful. The Christmas presents for Glory that she bore had been purchased in London by Giles as presents intended for Buffy. He’d replaced them, although with locally bought items, but it still smarted.
A robed demon, small and scabby in appearance, greeted her with a bow. “The Slayer, I presume?”
“Yeah, I’m Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Take me to your leader.” Buffy permitted herself a slight grin; she’d always wanted to be able to use that line.
“This way, your Slayerness.” The demon led her to the elevator, and up to the second floor, and escorted her to Glory’s apartment.
“Well hello,” Glory greeted her. “Merry Christmas, or whatever. You brought me presents?” She was wearing stiletto heels and a Versace dress even though she was in her own apartment on Christmas morning.
Buffy felt like rolling her eyes, but restrained herself, and she handed over the gift-wrapped parcels with no comment other than “Merry Christmas”.
“Hey, these are pretty neat,” Glory smiled, ripping the paper from the parcels to reveal a Louis Vuitton purse and a box of Belgian chocolates from Harvey Nichols. “Thank you, Slayer. Hey, Jinx!”
One of her minions hastened to Glory’s side. “Your will is my command, oh most splendiferous divine being,” he sniveled.
“Whatever. Get rid of this wrapping paper and fetch the present.”
“At once, adored one.” Jinx bowed, took the paper, and rushed off, returning a moment later with a gift-wrapped box. He proffered it to the Slayer. “A present from the beauteous and supreme Glorificus, Slayer, for your sister. The all-wise Glory deems that it is most appropriate for the youngest among you to be the recipient of a gift.”
“Gee, thanks,” Buffy responded, smiling her widest and phoniest smile. ‘Great, not,’ she thought. ‘I give up my new purse and chocolates and Dawn gets the return present.’ “It’s real good of you.”
“Well, good isn’t exactly my thing,” Glory said dismissively, scanning the pictorial representations of the chocolates to locate the praline fillings. “But I can live with it for a few days. If you really want to thank me, give me my Key.”
“I thought we agreed not to get involved in that sort of thing until after the truce ends,” Buffy reminded her, but couldn’t resist asking a question. “Just what happens when you get the Key, anyway?”
“I use the Key at the right time, I get to go home. That’s all. I’m not planning to conquer Earth or anything like that. I just want to go back to my own dimension. Then teach the other two gods a little lesson about how locking me out gets them nothing except a whole universe of hurt.”
“That’s all? What happens to the Key afterwards?”
“Well, the Key does get kinda used up in the process,” Glory admitted. “And, okay, there will be a little bit of collateral damage to Earth.”
“Collateral damage?” Buffy echoed. She felt a cold finger of dread at Glory’s admission that the Key would be ‘used up’. It was her sister that Glory was talking about.
“Well, okay, I suppose it will be a whole lot of collateral damage.” Glory bit delicately into a praline seashell. “Mmm, nice. Yeah, pretty much universal destruction, rains of fire, probably locusts, cats and dogs living together, maybe even the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. But I can tell you how to avoid most of it. Cut it down to no worse than a few local fires, not many casualties, with luck not any. That’s if we do it the easy way.”
Buffy shook her head. “I told you, that topic’s off limits until after our truce.”
“You asked, I answered. But hey, no hard feelings. Want a chocolate? You can have the one with the Kirsch filling; I don’t like that one all that much.”
“Wow!” Dawn almost exploded with delight. “A PlayStation 2! Awesome. I gotta thank Glory.”
“You can thank her at the soccer game,” Buffy said firmly. “I don’t want you getting too close to her, you hear? She’s an evil goddess from a hell dimension, planning on unleashing widespread destruction on Earth, and she can’t be trusted. Don’t let her buy you with a gadget.”
“Well, yeah, Buffy, but it’s a PS2. They’re the hot thing right now. Real short supply, you practically got to kill someone to get one.”
“She probably did,” Buffy pointed out.
“Ewww. Oh well, I’m still gonna enjoy my present. Did you make the arrangements for the soccer game?”
“Sure thing. Seven thirty tomorrow night, at your school. Giles has even managed to fix it so we’ve gotten permission and we can use the floodlights and everything.”
“And we have a full team! Yay us! It’s a shame Willow’s a total spazz and Tara has the coordination of a baby giraffe on the Discovery Channel,” Dawn said, cruelly but accurately.
“Dawn! That is most unkind,” Joyce scolded.
“Maybe, but it’s true,” Dawn replied, unashamed. “Still, I guess we should do okay. We have two with super-powers; they only have one, unless her demon guys are something special.”
“They look like hobbits, only with like leprosy or scabies or something. I don’t think they’re a big deal,” Buffy said.
“Then we’re gonna win. Team Summers so rules!” Dawn bounced up and down.
“Except, Team Summers haven’t even all met each other yet, and the hobbit demons have probably been practicing together since the Middle Ages or something. They’ll be a team; we’re just gonna be eleven people kicking in the same direction.”
“No problem,” Dawn said airily. “Everybody will just have to do what you tell them. Captain Buffy.”
“Captain Buffy,” Buffy repeated with a smirk on her face. “I could go for that. Okay, Dawn, Captain Buffy says put down the PlayStation and go help Mom with the dishes.”
Later Buffy discussed her visit to Glory with Giles. His glasses were off within a minute. “A goddess. Oh dear.”
“Yeah, definitely not of the good. You think I can kill her?”
“I don’t know, Buffy. I’ll pass this new information on to the Council.” He turned towards the phone, and then hesitated. “Although perhaps that would be unethical. It was obtained during a truce.”
“What? Come on, Giles. She’s talking about ‘using up’ the Key. That’s my sister. So not keen on Dawn being ‘used up’. And hey, there’s the whole ‘collateral damage’ thing. Rains of fire.”
“I agree that is to be avoided, if at all possible, but breaking the terms of a truce with a mystical being is not something to be entered into lightly. I shall delay until the truce expires on Twelfth Night. Perhaps the Council will have come up with something of their own by then. It is obvious that she can not recognize the Key on sight and that does give us a slight advantage. We may learn something further during the football match, too.”
“Okay,” Buffy agreed reluctantly. “You hang fire on telling the Council. We’ll play her at soccer, and go over for drinks on the twenty-eighth, and see what we learn. Well, besides her being a tasteless skanky hell-bitch who was locked out of her dimension for keeping all the praline seashells to herself.”
The party from Los Angeles arrived the next afternoon, fired up and ready for the soccer game, and Dawn’s confidence grew even higher. Wesley was lithe and confident. Cordelia was toned and fit, even more athletic than she’d been at High School. Gunn, the African-American member of the team, was a formidable physical specimen and moved with the grace of a panther.
“I’ve played soccer in the streets with the old gang,” he informed them. “Not as often as basketball, but I get by. I’m pretty good at keeping goal.”
“We had planned on Xander keeping goal,” Buffy mused. “Maybe we should change. Is that okay with you, Xander?”
“No problem, Buffster,” Xander assured her. “It would probably be good for my arm if I don’t keep goal, anyway, ’cause it’s still not quite right. I was never married to the idea.”
“You can’t marry an idea, Xander,” Anya said sharply. “Only a member of the opposite sex. One who shares your life and engages in highly satisfying sexual intercourse with you.”
“It’s a metaphor, Ahn,” Xander explained.
“Well, it’s a stupid one. Change into your soccer clothes. I want to see you in tight shorts.”
The door burst open and Spike dashed into the room, a blanket over his head, and a slight trail of smoke in his wake. “Hello, all,” he greeted. “Any flames?”
Dawn scanned him critically. “Nope, only a few smoky bits. Come meet the rest of the team, Spike.”
“Cordelia,” Spike greeted. “Looking smashing as always, pet. You still go to that gym?”
“Thanks, Spike,” Cordelia beamed. “I don’t get much gym time these days, but fighting evil keeps me pretty much in shape.”
“Yeah, certainly does,” Spike commented appreciatively.
Buffy glared at him. How dare he pay so much attention to Cordelia after the way he’d kissed her the other night? She opened her mouth to snap at him and then stopped, confused. He was nothing to her, just an evil but occasionally helpful vampire, a slaying partner at most. How come she was feeling jealous? She shook the feeling off and refrained from speaking.
“I hope there aren’t going to be any ambushes and evil bald vampires with hot pokers this time,” Cordelia went on.
“Not from me, anyway,” Spike assured her. “Not saying I’m all the way good now, but I’m okay. Won’t let anybody down.”
“I sincerely hope that’s true,” Wesley put in. “So, you’re William the Bloody? I’m Wesley Wyndam-Pryce.”
“Heard of you,” Spike replied. He extended his hand. “Call me Spike. Good to meet a fellow Englishman amongst all these Yanks. Let’s show them how to play football, mate.”
Wesley bit his lip, hesitated, and then shook Spike’s hand. “I suppose being on the same team as a vampire is not a totally new experience for me,” he said. “Hello, Spike.”
Gunn reluctantly followed suit. He wasn’t happy about shaking the hand of an unsouled vampire, but didn’t want to cause a scene.
“Okay,” Buffy announced. “Now that everybody’s met, let’s talk tactics.”
Glory had recruited a referee; a dapper old gentleman who was perfectly human in appearance except for a tail. She claimed that he was a neutral, not one of her followers, and although Buffy wasn’t convinced she went along with it and smiled at the old guy, whose name was ‘Doc’.
Glory’s strategy was obvious as soon as her team took up their positions. The hell-goddess was in goal. With her superhuman speed and agility scoring was going to be extremely difficult for the Slayer’s team. On the other hand Jinx, Murk, Dreg, and the other demon minions were totally outclassed by Buffy and Spike, so the attacking edge lay with Team Summers.
Both sides had several scoring opportunities in the first half. Tara mis-kicked and put Dreg through with a perfect opportunity for a shot on goal; Gunn tipped it over the crossbar. Spike took the ball off Murk in midfield, lobbed it to just short of the opposing penalty area, and Buffy ran onto the ball and volleyed hard at the top right corner. Glory snatched it out of the air with ease and kicked it almost all the way upfield, instantly turning defense into attack. Xander tackled one of Glory’s minions with too much enthusiasm, and too little accuracy, and gave away a penalty. Jinx wasted the opportunity by shooting directly at Gunn, earning himself a glare from Glory that held the promise of pain after the match.
At half time the two teams sat and rested. Joyce dished out Gatorade and Iced Tea to the human members of Team Summers and she had a refreshing carton of pigs’ blood for the vampire. Spike broke off from swigging his blood to have a quiet word with Buffy. “I’ve noticed something about that Glory tart, pet – I mean, Slayer,” he told her. “Look at her. Bleeding designer tracksuit, absolutely spotless, even wearing makeup.”
“So?” Buffy frowned.
“Well, look at us. We’ve all got mud splatters, Gunn most of all, but not her. Glory won’t get down and dirty. Saw her stop a shot with her feet when the smart move would have been to dive for it. She’s too sodding careful of her appearance for that.”
“So, we should make sure we shoot low? Good plan, Spike,” Buffy praised.
Spike gave a wicked grin. “Better than that, love. See that muddy patch that’s starting to form near the center? I’ve got an idea.”
Unfortunately Spike wasn’t the only one who was planning during the half-time break. From the restart it was obvious that Glory’s team had a new strategy. They were more or less ignoring Willow, Tara, and Anya, and concentrated their forces on double-marking Buffy and Spike out of the game. Before long Dawn was pressured into passing to Willow, who kicked wildly as soon as Dreg made for her, and the ball went straight to Murk. The Team Summers goal was under siege within moments. Gunn dived to save a low shot to the corner of the goal. Jinx ran in, intercepted his parry, and shot. Xander headed the ball from the line, but Murk met the ball with a header of his own and drove it home.
Buffy’s face was set in lines of grim determination as she took the ball up to the center spot to kick off. She planted the ball firmly in the mud and rolled it around before Doc blew his whistle and she passed it to Spike. Two demons promptly charged and attempted to hustle him off the ball, and another two moved to cut off Buffy. Spike passed back to Giles, who passed to Anya. Glory’s minions immediately moved into attack mode, all except Buffy and Spike’s markers moving to seek out openings, and Murk ran to take the ball away from the former Vengeance Demon. Except that Anya sidestepped him with ease, ran twenty yards and passed to Cordelia, who ran down the wing and crossed the ball to Dawn, who jumped into the air and headed accurately at the bottom right corner. Glory blurred across the goal and blocked with her foot, knocking the ball out to Wesley, who struck a curling shot into the top left of the goal mouth. Again Glory streaked to save, but she couldn’t bring herself to gather up the muddy ball, and only parried it out as far as Dawn. Dreg made a diving tackle from behind and swept the teenager’s feet out from under her.
“Penalty! Penalty, ref!” Spike yelled. “You okay, bite size?”
“Penalty!” Buffy added her appeal to his. “Stop calling my sister by food-related names, Spike.”
“I don’t mind,” Dawn grinned. “Penalty!”
Doc hesitated. “It was outside the area,” he declared eventually. “Free kick.”
“What? You sodding well blind, mate?” Spike demanded. “She was well in. It’s a bleedin’ penalty.”
“Don’t dispute my decisions,” Doc told him sternly, beginning to reach for his breast pocket as if to produce a yellow card.
“Neutral referee. Yeah, right,” Buffy chimed in.
“Spike, Buffy, stop it,” Wesley urged. “It just isn’t done to argue with the referee.”
“Are you kidding? Haven’t you seen the Premiership lately?” Spike grumbled.
“We don’t want to look bad in front of Glory,” Wesley reminded him.
“And you don’t,” Glory chimed in. “You look pretty damn cute. And that accent? Wow.”
Wesley blushed crimson. “Thank you,” he said awkwardly, and moved away.
The vampire abandoned his protests and stood to one side as Doc placed the ball where he had decreed that the infringement had taken place. “You or me?” Spike asked Buffy.
“Wesley,” Buffy decided, rather to his surprise, and then Spike guessed her plan and nodded his understanding. He moved off to the left, poised as if to run onto a rebound, and two of Glory’s demons positioned themselves between him and the goal. Buffy whispered one word into Wesley’s ear and then took up a position ahead of the ball. Two more of the scabby demons went to mark her.
The rest of Glory’s minions formed up into a defensive wall and Wesley prepared to take the free kick. His eyes kept flickering to the top left corner of the goal. Glory was already moving as he kicked, anticipating a shot, but Wesley side-footed the ball in the other direction. It went past the edge of the wall of defenders and Cordelia ran onto the ball. She kicked it hard, low, and to the right. Glory was so fast that she still managed to get back and kick the ball away, despite having been sent the wrong way, but it struck the back of one of her minions and rebounded towards the goal. Buffy leaped over the defensive wall and volleyed the ball into the net.
“When I said concentrate on the Slayer and the vampire I didn’t mean ignore everyone else,” Glory scolded her minions, somewhat unfairly. “Now get up there and put us ahead again.” They did their best to obey, and the Team Summers goal was under siege again almost at once. Jinx struck the crossbar, a shot from Murk went inches wide of the posts, and another of Glory’s demons forced a fine save from Gunn.
Gunn bounced the ball, scanned the field, and saw that Giles was unmarked and clear. He threw the ball accurately to Buffy’s Watcher, who took it forward and drew away Cordelia’s marker. He passed to her; she ran on and lobbed the ball into clear space in front of goal. Spike outpaced his markers with a burst of vampire speed, reached the ball before anyone else, and shot straight at Glory’s face. She batted it away instead of catching it and Buffy sprinted to the rebound and shot again. Glory reached out to her side and caught the ball, but she hadn’t put her body behind her hands and the muddy ball slipped from her gloves. She kicked it away, as Spike charged in, but he intercepted it and slotted it home.
“Offside!” Doc called. “No goal.”
“Here, ref, what are you bleedin’ playing at?” Spike protested. “The opposing goalie kicked it to me. I can’t be offside.”
“You were in an offside position,” Doc told him. “I don’t care who kicked it to you. You don’t have a goal.”
Buffy rolled her eyes but accepted the decision, albeit reluctantly, and she signaled to Spike to do the same.
Glory took the kick and hit the ball with tremendous force and accuracy; straight to Jinx, who was at the Team Summers’ end of the pitch with only Tara between him and goal. Xander rushed to her aid, but too late; Jinx slipped past Tara easily and shot with the whole width of the goal to aim at. Gunn’s desperate dive was almost good enough, he managed to get his fingers to the ball and deflected it slightly, but it hit the inner edge of the upright and went into the net. Two-one to Glory.
Buffy saw Doc looking at his watch, guessed that he’d be perfectly prepared to call ‘time’ too early while Glory was in the lead, and knew that she had to hurry. She took a shot at the first opportunity, striking from forty yards out, and her Slayer powers gave the ball such great velocity that Glory had to exert herself to make a save. She tipped the ball over the bar for a corner.
Wesley took the corner kick, sending the ball across far too high for normal human strikers, but Buffy and Spike both soared into the air and Spike got his head to the ball. He headed it down hard. Glory batted it away. Buffy came down from her jump, reached the ball, and kicked again. Once more Glory stopped the shot, knocking it into an empty space, and Dawn was first to reach it. She kicked it straight towards Glory’s face and the hell-goddess flinched aside. It glanced from her glove and skidded into the goal. Two-all.
That was the final score. Doc blew the whistle for full time as soon as Team Summers started to threaten Glory’s goal. It was a minute or two early but no-one complained. The two teams shook hands in a civilized fashion. There was, rather to Spike’s disappointment, no swapping of shirts.
“Say, how come I haven’t seen you around before?” Glory asked Wesley as she shook his hand. “I’d have noticed someone as cute as you.”
“I’m based in Los Angeles,” he informed her.
“Oh? Well, I hope you’re still gonna be around for my party the night after next,” Glory told him. “Have a couple of drinks with me, maybe even a dance, how about it?”
“Well, I am returning to Los Angeles tonight, but I suppose that I could come back.” He wasn’t sure whether to feel flattered or seriously alarmed, but felt that flattering her in turn would be the wisest course of action. “A two-hour drive would be eminently worth it if it means spending the evening in the company of such an enchanting and beautiful lady.”
“That’s great! Don’t shave. That designer stubble look is sexy as hell. Might be a bit scratchy to kiss, though. Have to find out. Okay, see you then.” Glory batted her eyes at him and then allowed him to make his departure. “See that, boys? He really knows how to turn on the charm. Hope you were taking notes.”
“So, Wesley, it seems that you’ve made a hit with Glory,” Giles remarked.
“It would appear that I have, although I’m not sure why,” Wesley agreed. “I suppose that I am now committed to attending her party.”
“Tough luck, Wes,” Gunn commiserated. “You’d best do it, help the Slayer’s lot out. We’ll try not too enjoy ourselves too much without you.”
“It is a far, far, better thing I do,” Wesley quoted. “It will be an awful ordeal, submitting to the advances of a lithe and curvaceous blonde with pouting lips and shapely legs, but I shall steel myself to the task for the greater good.”
Gunn rolled his eyes. “Okay, my heart bleeds for you, English. Keep a stiff upper lip.” He thumped Wesley playfully on the shoulder.
“I shall. Or a stiff something, anyway.”