The Quiet Sun
Buddy slept with Spike's head in the crook of his shoulder. They had half-staggered into his house that morning, expecting to freshen up and eat something. Instead, they crashed in the living room, Buddy on the chair and Spike on the sofa. Birds chirping outside roused them, and with heavily lidded eyes and heads full of cotton balls they shuffled upstairs dropped on Buddy's bed, sinking immediately into deep slumber.
Buddy awoke before Spike and he watched her, smelled her sweet breath and brushed his lips across her forehead. He kissed her poor sunken eyelid, the bridge of her nose, her lips. Spike stirred and tried to awaken, but Buddy shushed her and caressed her to sleep.
The events of the night before already bore the fuzzy wings of the dimly remembered past, which puzzled him. And no matter how hard he concentrated, he couldn't recall what had ended their honeymoon in Vegas.
He took his edge of the pillow and let a pleasantly weary snooze envelope him. It was around nine at night when they blinked away the haze and got up. After a tandem shower they brushed their teeth together, eager to scrub the taste of death from their palates.
"You wanna geddoud?" Spike muffled through her toothpaste.
"Where ya wann go?" Buddy foamed in return.
They chose Kingman's Bluff because of the ocean view. Spike drove the bike with Buddy behind her, arms wrapped around her middle except when he teased her. They spread a blanket on the sand and watched the stars. Spike pointed out the constellations she knew, and Buddy uh-huhed although he wasn't much interested.
A thought struck Spike. "When's your mom and Dawn coming back?""Mmm, I should have called them already." Buddy smacked his forehead. "I think the phone rang about a dozen times, and I ignored it. I'm a crummy son."
"You have a wonderful mum. She'll understand."
They watched a shooting star streak across the sky.
"What did you wish?" Spike asked.
"Can't tell you.""Superstitious."
"Can you blame me?" Buddy rolled onto his stomach and fingered Spike's curls. "If you could have any wish, what would it be?"
Spike touched her eye pensively.
"Don't say your eye, that'll grow back on its own."
"Yeah, it'll take months. Okay then, I wish –"
"Nothing sexual, either."
Spike giggled. "You've shot down my first hundred choices then, haven't you?"
She lay back and thought for a while.
Buddy chinned his palm "Don't you wish you were human? I mean c'mon, you'd be able to walk in sunlight again, no more fear of being scorched. You gotta miss that."
"Yeah, that's true. But I really don't miss the sun so much as that. I never liked the hard sun, the blaring sun that drills into your head and cooks the life out of you. It dries everything out, cracks the dashboard of your car, hurts your eyes. I always liked cool weather. English weather suited me just dandy."
She sat up and crossed her legs. "I love the other sun, the soft one just before night and just before dawn. The quiet sun. It gives the sky pretty colors, and no matter how nasty the land is, even a ghetto looks like a picture postcard. Reds and oranges, the kind of hues you can see in a just few great paintings that captured it right. That's the sun for me, and I can watch it whenever I want, so what's to miss?"
Buddy silently toyed with a broken shell.
Spike lowered her head to see his expression in the starlight. She said, "Being human would be great for other reasons, though."Buddy looked up expectantly.
"We could have babies then. Live a regular lifestyle. You'd work and I'd cook and raise the little bits, we'd have Bridge night and go to P.T.A. meetings. Be old together and babysit the grandkids, tell 'em stories and rock them to sleep."
Buddy smiled. "That's a nice wish. Is that what you wished on the star?"
"If I tell you it won't come true. But all right, it was. Now I have to wish it again, don't I?"
Buddy shook his head. "No, you don't."
They lapsed into a happy silence, their eyes drawn upward for the next falling star.
Alex's mom shook his shoulder roughly.
"There's some girl here to see you. Onion, or something."He opened his eyes groggily and sat up. "Who?"
Mom shrugged curtly and left. She was having none of Alex's nonsense, having laid down the law. She wanted him out. What was a mother to do anyway, pick him up and physically eject him? That was a father's job.
Anya stood in the living room, casually looking around. Alex came out and said hello. He sat wearily on the sofa. Her face looked familiar, but he was blank on her name. Oh yeah, Mom had told him.
"Your name is … Onion?"
"No, it's Anya." She sat down next to him. Very slowly and deliberately she said, "You are not really Alex Fimple."
"I'm not?" Alex yawned.
"No. And you're not a man, you're Willow Rosenberg, a woman. A curse changed you into a man, but it's reversed now."
She exhaled in relief and stood up. "There. My work is done."
Alex grimaced, looking sick. He brought his fists to his mouth and turned terrified eyes on Anya, then pitched forward on the sofa and was wracked by spasms. The bones of his face moved wildly under his skin, and when he tried to speak all that eked out was an agonized moan.
"Ooh, bad reaction. Well, it should be over soon." Anya headed for the door. "I'll see you when you're Willow again."
Willow's mom came in and demanded to know what was happening.
"Your boy's finally turning into the woman you want him to be," Anya said breezily and walked out.
Alex lost consciousness, leaving his mom to witness his transformation alone. She watched Willow's hair grow long, watched her body shrink and her shirt and jeans billow baggily around her diminished frame.
She squeezed her hands together and stifled a sob, feeling helpless. This was the fault of her daughter's motley group of friends, she knew, and hated them. She knelt and stroked Willow's shoulder, wondering why her baby should suffer such misery. Maybe this metamorphosis would grow Willow some real breasts. She could peek and find out. Why not, who would know?
Hermione answered the bedside phone, holding a stern finger to her lips. Garnerbot smiled back at her mischievously. "Hello."
It was Anya. "I'm just calling to say you're not Hermione Down."
"I'm not?" Hermione let out a startled cry. She swatted Garnerbot's head and covered the phone. "Stop it!"
"I'm sorry," she said into the phone. "What were you saying?"
"You're Rupert Giles, a man. The spell that turned you into a woman is now reversed."Hermione rolled her eyes and moaned. She slipped the phone back into its cradle and gave in to Garnerbot's superior technique.
Outside the apartment Anya shut her cell phone testily. "So it's face-to-face only," she complained. She took off her shoe and pounded on the door with the heel.
What I do for these pathetic mortal numbskulls, she thought bitterly. And a thankless job it was, too.
After some minutes of persistent knocking, Hermione finally answered the door and Anya gave it to her straight. She left her swooning into her lover's arms and Garnerbot, wrapped in a Giles robe, lowered her gently to the floor.
She clapped her hands together in satisfaction. Two down, three to go.
She went to Buddy's and encountered Joyce and Dawn, who told her to try Spike's crypt. "They said they wanted to get away," Joyce told her. "Oh Anya, is this reversal really going to work?"
"It works. Soon everything will be back to normal. Well, what passes for normal around here, anyway."
Joyce thought about that. "Will some of … are they going to remember all this?"
Anya shrugged. "Who knows?"
At Spike's crypt she pounded the door with a crowbar, feeling absurd. She knew nobody would answer, and she would have to pry the door open, then find the hatchway in the floor, climb down the ladder and undoubtedly find Buddy and Spike au flagrante in bed. Would she draw any thanks from them at all? No way, they'd probably hate her. She jammed in the crowbar and pushed fiercely.
Below, Buddy held Spike close, and they finished a long and dreamy kiss.
"Do you love me?" Buddy asked.
"What do you think?"
"I love you," Spike whispered in his ear. "I always will love you, no matter what happens. Know that here, now, this moment – I pledge my life to you my darling. I give you everything, all I have, forever."
"Wow," Buddy whispered. "You say such beautiful things."
"Now it's your turn."
Buddy tried to find the words. "Ditto."
"I'm sorry, I'm not a poet."
"Yes you are." Spike rolled over and put her arms around his neck. "You're sheer poetry to me."
There was noise at the ladder. They waited, and Anya came around the corner. She wiggled her fingers at them. "Hi. Sorry, I have a message for both of you."
They pulled the sheets up to their throats and sat up.
"Can't you see we're on our honeymoon?" Spike chided.
"It'll just take a minute, then I won't bother you."
Spike looked at Buddy, who shrugged. "Okay," she said. "Make it snappy."
Garnerbot walked somberly down the basement stairs with Warren.
"You're doing the right thing, Jimbo," Warren said cheerily.
"Whatever, I don't care." Garnerbot sat down and sighed. "It was nice being part of a romance, but it wasn't too cool finding out you set me up with a man. I should bust your chops for it."
Warren held his newly fixed remote control ready, but he hesitated. "How much do you know about what you really are?"
Jim smiled ruefully. "Just what you programmed me for, kid. I'm James Garner, and also every part he ever played. I'm a young actor, and an old man. I'm a cowboy and a private eye, a soldier and a conman, but really just a robot you made. Now what're you gonna do, wipe out my memory?"
"Naw, I wouldn't do that," Warren lied. He thumbed a cycle of buttons and wiped out Garnerbot's memory. He got a tool and removed the James Garner face, revealing a complicated salad of circuitry and fluidics.
Andrew trundled down the stairs with a Tootsie Pop in his mouth.
"Dude, you've killed Jimbo."
"Don't you ever knock?"
"What're you going to do with him now?"
Warren rubbed his chin. "I dunno. You have anyone else wants to hire a robot?"
Andrew crunched into the pop. "Damn. I never make it without biting."