For the prompt 'stress', a look into Fred's mind in Pylea:
Patterns of Stress
It's a long way down. Sometimes she wonders: if she let herself fall, would she wake up in her own bed? Or maybe she'd be back at the start, have to escape all over again. Recursive patterns form a feedback loop, can't get out of them. Can't get out. She tightens the rope. Patterns of stress. She weighs 40 kilos. Probably. Been a long time since she weighed herself. Been a long time since she ate. But the rope will bear her weight. Won't bear theirs. Keeps her safe. Keeps her alive. Assuming she’s not already dead. Hard to tell.
For the prompt 'holidays', a Spike drabble and a Willow/Kennedy drabble (which is now possibly AU in light of S8):
Wish You Were There
“William, you do look smart. Are you going out?”
“Yes, Mother. The Underwoods are holding a ball after their younger daughter’s coming-out ceremony.”
“Why, I’m sure you’ll be the centre of attention. You always were a handsome lad, even when you were small. Do you recall our holiday in Biarritz? Your father, God rest him, got you that perfect little sailor suit…”
She sniffled and dabbed at her eyes, then broke into another coughing fit. William was secretly horrified as her handkerchief turned red with blood.
“I’ll take you back there, Mother, someday. I promise you I’ll find a way…”
Holiday In The Sun
Kennedy rolled over and, as an afterthought, re-tied her bikini top. She smiled tolerantly at her girlfriend, sitting enveloped in a billowy cotton dress and broad-brimmed hat. Willow had assured her it was to prevent sunburn - absolutely not shyness, no way - and Kennedy magnanimously chose to believe her. But now she was puzzled by Willow’s rapt attention on a group of teenagers playing beach football. Why…?
Then the dark-skinned girl on the wing leaped clear over a would-be tackle and sprinted down the pitch with inhuman speed - and she remembered.
“Oh, yeah. We’re supposed to be working.”
For the prompt 'light', a scene set in 1630 Revello Drive late in season 7:
Vi glanced nervously at the door. "What are they doing now?"
"Probably coming up with another crazy-ass plan to get us killed."
Kennedy gave Rona a challenging glare. "You got any better ideas?"
"M-maybe we should leave town?"
"Damn straight. We're girls, not Slayers Lite... Buffy was supposed to protect us."
"We can protect ourselves. They just need to give us more say in making plans."
"Shame we can't all sleep our way into the top team, then..."
Sensing a fight brewing, Vi hastened to lighten the mood.
"I-I think Xander's currently single, Rona..."
"Screw that. I'm not a demon."
For the prompt 'the night before', a look at Darla in Angel season 2:
Getting Ready To Go Out
With any luck, she'll be dead by tomorrow.
She studies herself in the mirror for what will, hopefully, be the very last time. She's looked better: blotchy skin, lank hair. She does her best to repair the damage. Make herself look 'pretty'. God, she hates this, the whole damn mortal mess. The helplessness, the dependency - having to flatter and seduce, offer herself up to men so they'll give her what she needs. But he wouldn’t help; she has to take care of business herself. As usual.
And so Darla heads out into the California night, looking for a vampire
Here for the sake of completeness (since I've already posted a Director's Commentary on them here a couple of months age) three linked drabbles about Hiywan (the First Slayer pre-Slayerhood) for the prompt 'disobedience':
Of Man’s first disobedience
Hiywan is always the daring one. She creeps out of the shelter before daybreak, while her clan still huddle there in fear. And so she sees the three strangers passing by.
And that is a fearful thing, for no normal man walks abroad at night. Hiywan starts to call out, to ask why they are unafraid; but her father pulls her back inside, forbidding her to make a sound. Strangers are trouble. New things are dangerous. Best to hide.
Hiywan feigns agreement. The strangers’ footprints are clear in the dust, and soon her father will need her to fetch water…
And the fruit of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
The lake shimmers like silver fire. A family of long-necks stoops to drink, spreading their forelegs wide. Hiywan’s throat burns, but she can’t join them. The three men she’s been tracking all morning have stopped. She smells smoke. Clearly these are mighty sorcerers, to command fire at will.
She slowly circles around, keeping the wind in her face. The brightness of the lake should hide her approach. As she gets closer she sees one of them holding a wooden box, carefully as a suckling babe, and she knows now that this is their power.
And that it will be hers.
Brought Death into the world
She screams, lashing her feet as hard as she can, but the hands are merciless. Brutal strength bears her to the ground. Something heavy and cold and smooth as bone is clamped around her legs.
One of the sorcerers holds up the box she’d almost managed to take. “Foolish child. Do you even know what this is?”
"We should kill her."
"Yet she showed skill and cunning far greater than any other. Perhaps…?"
The sorcerer with the box nods. He smiles at her, but his eyes are ice.
"It seems, girl, you will learn what is in here after all..."
This was prompted by my realisation that Sappho's first ode, rather than being just a love poem, is in fact a love spell which invokes the goddess Aphrodite to enchant a potential love interest against her will... meaning that Willow and Sappho might have had rather more in common than most of us assumed. :) The drabble is set in Greece in 590 BC.
If ever before thou didst hear my voice afar
The autumn moon silvers the leaves in the olive-groves banked like clouds above Mytilene. A slave sets out the golden bowl of water, then hurries away as his mistress dismisses him.
Her expression is tight, determined. Slender white fingers brush the lock of hair wrapped around her knife, gently as a kiss; then lift the flawless dove from its cage. The knife glints coldly.
Blood stains the clear water in the bowl.
As she begins chanting, her eyes cool to solid, hard black. Her voice flattens as she summons her goddess.
"Immortal Aphrodite of the broidered throne, daughter of Zeus..."
Inspired by the prompt 'calculation' and some confusion over the number of weekly challenges posted on open_on_sunday up to that point - was it 166 or 199? Faith, Buffy, post-Chosen.
Adding Up The Score
"So, Angel of course, and soldier-boy, and Spike. Who else?"
"We don't talk about him. Bad, bad mistake."
"Hell, most of mine were mistakes. First twenty years of my life was a mistake."
"Still, it’s your turn. How many guys have you…?"
"We only counting the guys now? Dunno. Hundreds."
"How can you not know? It's important."
"Not to me... oh hell. Gimme a pencil, I'll work it out."
"Right. 166 men. And 33 women. That's, uh -"
"199! I don't believe it!"
"Yeah. Should be 200, a nice round number." Faith eyed Buffy speculatively. "I don't suppose...?"
Three title swap drabbles, using Buffy or Angel episode titles and giving them new meanings. The first takes place in a dark side-street in Sunnydale in season 3, the second is Kennedy's thoughts just after 'Get It Done', and the third riffs on the idea "you always remember your first time."
Yellow streetlamps strike highlights off cascading brown hair. The hunter stares greedily at the voluptuous young body poured into tight denim. Some animal instinct makes her speed up her pace, footsteps echoing down the empty street.
He drifts closer, lazy, complacent. Smell of cheap perfume mixed with stale alcohol, and the heady scent of fresh blood just beneath her skin.
He moves in. He loves this part, when the look of surprise melts into terror, and the humans realise they’re nothing but meat.
But as she reaches her hand inside her jacket, just one thing puzzles him:
Why’s she smiling?
When She Was Bad
Don’t get me wrong, she’s cute. And did I mention hot? Pretty sure she’s a natural redhead – the freckles kinda give it away. Yum.
Not that I’m shallow or anything. I mean, she’s funny and kind and strong and all that too.
But then there’s magic. At first - yeah, whatever. Then she cast that spell.
Ever had your lifeforce sucked out by a black-eyed harpy? Agonising. Leaves this huge aching hole inside.
She did that to me.
I told her I had to ‘think things over’. But you wanna know the truth? The real, never-admit-to-a-single-soul-ever truth?
She terrifies me.
Anya announced they would celebrate the anniversary of them first having sex by, well, having sex again. Xander didn’t complain.
(He’d never mentioned Faith. It seemed inappropriate.)
After her relationship with Oz crashed and burned inside the year, Willow determined to make the anniversary of her first night with Tara something special.
She spent it trying to guide spoonsful of puréed food into her lover’s unwilling mouth, wiping up spills and her own tears.
As for Buffy, she spent the anniversary of her first time fighting for her life, betrayed by the man she’d trusted most.
So no change there.
For the prompt 'green', Willow gets all eco-friendly. This is not necessarily a good thing.
She can feel everything.
She can feel dolphins strangling in the fishing nets, cables around her throat burning deep.
She can hear a billion screams of agony as the rainforests wither before the chainsaw, each death ripping a tear in her soul.
She can feel the fever-heat of sunlight trapped inside the atmosphere, a smothering blanket killing the Earth by degrees.
All that suffering and agony; the senseless cruelty and blind stupidity of six billion humans leave her breathless, choking on unshed tears.
It can’t go on. It must end. For the world’s sake, let it end.
Let them burn.
For the prompt 'message', three related drabbles on the idea of 'the annunciation', and one with Buffy post-NFA.
Three Callings: Port Morant
She giggles as the warm breeze off the Blue Mountains makes her hanging cot sway gently back and forth. She’s getting big for it now; last week she even managed to climb out. It was the shock of falling, more than the pain, that brought tears; but strong arms picked her up and hugged her until the world was mended and everything was better.
Her parents argued afterwards, although she didn’t understand the words. “Why waste money? They’ll be taking her away soon enough.”
And now she’s being lifted up again. The stranger smells funny, and she starts to cry.
Three Callings: Los Angeles
It’s totally bogus. This is the most important party of the entire millennium. Everybody’s going. Including Tyler, who I’m like, so over, but it’s really really important to make sure the whole school sees he’s still into me. Which means, obviously, I need to be wearing that kick dress. Not that I wanna be the centre of attention – just be the one everybody’s watching. So why won’t Dad buy it for me?
Maybe I could steal it? I mean, not that I’m a klepto or anything. Apart from those lipsticks –
Eeek! Ohgodohgodohgod he must be Macy’s store detective. Act casual.
Three Callings: Boston
When designer tailored skirt and jacket walk into this place, you know there's gonna be trouble. But this chick has the same don't-fuck-with-me air I’ve been practicing myself - only with, like, twenty years more experience - and the hard guys back off fast. Sweet.
Or perhaps not, since she’s heading right over. Shit. A cop? Social Services? She’s smiling, and how the fuck does she know my name? Why yes, officer, of course I’m over 21. Give or take seven years. Except she doesn’t seem interested in that. And what the hell’s a ‘Chosen One?’ Not me. No way.
All his worldly goods
You’re difficult to track down, Ms Summers…
I'm thinking - not difficult enough.
Well. Let me express our condolences. You were close to Mr Angel– ?
You - do not - get to say his name…
Nevertheless, as his lawyers, we must address the matter of his testamentary dispositions.
What?! First you kill him, now you’re executing his will?
Naturally. A contract is a contract. The primary assets are to be placed in trust, but there’s a substantial bequest for yourself. Some property in Los Angeles; a hotel, I believe. Here are the deeds, if you wish to check them?
Two drabbles for the prompt 'hunt': one that explains a lot about Anya, and my first S8 drabble.
There's nothing we can't face
They have dwelt here for centuries, awaiting their moment. Their time of red revenge, of bloodsoaked victory. They are legion; breeding is something they are very good at. Generations in a Hell dimension have warped them. Huge they are, with fangs and claws - to rend flesh, not nibble carrots as their ancestors did.
The old ones died long since, but they taught the young ones well. The name of their enemy, who transformed them and banished them here in ages past.
But soon they will find their way back.
And then shall Anyanka learn the true meaning of vengeance.
Leah glanced over her shoulder at the reluctant knot of women - and one man - and grinned a wicked grin.
C’mon. What're ye afraid of? A tiny wee creature no bigger than a puppy?
"It's the horses. They're not tiny. They're huge - and we're supposed to ride them?"
Xander decided he needed to act firm and leader-y to maintain his image. Besides, Renée was watching.
"We've got to maintain our cover, people. The castle’s lairds always participated in these Boxing Day hunt meets.”
“I think hunting is cruel.”
“We’re Slayers, babe. Born to kill.”
“Demons, not foxes.”
For the prompt 'Earth', this is a Buffy-Firefly crossover set some time in the late 25th century AD.
Earth That Was
The concourse echoes with sorrow, fear, and perhaps the faintest whisper of hope. The last Alliance transport is leaving, holds full of terraforming gear. Not much room for supplies, but they'll make do.
They'll have to.
An announcement sounds in Mandarin, then English. Last call. She scans the crowd. There.
Might have known there'd be one.
"Excuse me, sir, could you step this way?"
He follows her complacently... seconds later he’s a spreading cloud of dust. She pockets her stake.
There'll still be dangers out there, but at least now she's made sure there’ll be no cannibalistic monsters among them…
And bringing us up-to-date, this is for the prompt 'Project'. It's dedicated to the newest (and possibly shortest-lived, depending on what we learn next week) 'ship in the Buffyverse:
Hey, Renee, we’re spending our day off up on the moor; gonna play baseball. Wanna come with?
No, I thought I’d go into Inverness today.
You can’t. Ms Summers and Mr Harris took the Landrover, remember?
Actually, I was planning on running there.
You’re kidding. It’s 30 miles…
Which will take me, what? An hour? We’re all superheroes now, remember?
Even so. What’s in town that’s so important to you?
Well, I’ve got this, um, personal research project to do…
So you’re, what? Gonna spend the day in the library? Bor-ing.
No. Actually, in the, um, the comic book store…