Occurrence At Tabby Cat Creek
by Sami

Tabby Cat Creek was a haven for hippies. It was located outside a small town in western New York on a dirt road. To reach the center of it one would have to walk through a high oleander maze, past a golden garlic path, and walk on a path in a patch of woods that was filled with sculptures. New York was beautiful during the summer and the hippies that ran the place were in the know about demons. There was a lot going for Tabby Cat Creek. Willow couldn't understand why Giles picked it as the place for their mini-reunion. It was too laidback and earthy for her to see him relax. Though it would be funny to see him at the mud dances that the place was known for.

Patches of sun filtered through the leaves of the trees but the forest was still a dim green. Yellow sprigs of flowers curled around the feet of a thin, curved dull metal sculpture. Willow walked down the dirt path that was peppered with tiles that seemed to be painted by children. Wisps of wind made its way through the trees; her long skirt brushed against her legs. The power of the Earth of strong here. Willow felt it sinking into her pores; she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Spinning, she raised her arms in the air and sighed. Birds chirped, leaves rustled, and her heart beat gently; Tabby Cat Creek had good vibes. Tap. Tap. Tap. Turning around, Willow tilted her head to see beyond a large stump carved with Nordic designs to see who was coming along the path. She hadn't seen either Buffy or Xander in a year. Rio had been nothing but business as she had rushed around trying to get a Watcher's Council building built and then traveling around South America to find slayers. She had only gotten a few words with either Buffy or Xander in between business calls about locations of Slayers. Giles, she had visited off and on to work on spells in the various council buildings he was building around the globe. As nice as it would be to see Giles, she wanted to see her best friends.

"Willow!" Xander yelled, waving as the large, grey duffle on his back swayed with his movements. "I demand a bear hug." She smiled and ran to him, wrapping her arms around him and under his bag. She missed Xander hugs. He had gotten bony in Africa but it was still the same Xander arms that squeezed her. "I like your backpack."

"What?" Willow asked, her face still mashed up against Xander and her eyes closed.

"Your backpack. Its sporty, light, and the straps look strong and comfortable," Xander said.

"You are so weird," she said giving him a firm squeeze before letting go.

"What? I've been wandering Af-freaking-ca. I have learned the value of a good backpack. Toss the dog out because a backpack is man's best friend," Xander said throwing an arm around Willow's shoulders. His skin was deeply tanned and the eye patch looked so natural on his face; he walked with a confidence that she had never seen in him before. Willow frowned. She had hiked in the Andes and roamed the cities of South America; so she might say the same of herself. She hadn't thought of it like that. Seeing Xander and how alive and comfortable in his skin made her realize that she felt that way too. She wondered about Buffy. They were like grown-ups now.

"Really? Fido is overrated?"

"Yup," Xander nodded. "A good backpack could save Timmy from the well. Could Lassie do that?"

"With great difficulty."

There was a crack and a thump; Willow jumped. She looked over through the hazy, green of the forest. A large, pudgy bright red hand stuck out above a ridge of bushes. It was a statute; she had passed it a while away from the golden garlic patch. Reaching into her thin blouse, she pulled out the stone bead that hung from a leather strip on her neck. It was warm. She sniffed it. It smelled like lavender. That was bad.

"Is it a tasty rock, because I don't think that this is the time." His voice was joking but his face looked stiff and closed. Xander was walking over to the metal sculpture nearest to them with deliberate, controlled movements. "What does it mean?"

"Strong magics, I think. This place is filled with wards written on the rocks and carved into the trees but its natural and earthy. There is something else that isn't." Willow stuck out her tongue and breathed in. She controlled the breath, visualizing the other power landing on her tongue. Chalk-y. "This isn't good. Throw your backpack at it."

Willow heard Xander rustle but she was focused on scenting out that magic. She felt her eyes tighten as magic flowed into her capillaries. The sensation was similar to being stoned. Her skin was glowing as she reached out to write symbols on the air. The world was expanded in her mind's eye; the colors were so vivid and beautiful and everything was so much more. Whizzz! Thud. Willow blinked rapidly and turned to Xander who was holding his backpack out right in front of her.

"What?" She asked. Willow pushed Xander's bag closer to him so she could take a look. The feathers on the end of a glossy, black arrow stuck into the canvas of the bag.

"You were lost and wide eyed and I didn't know if you were casting a spell. I heard something, saw the arrow, so I blocked it." Xander looked sheepish. "I think my underwear is ruined."

"You were right. The backpack is mightier than the sword. We gotta find who-"

"Right. Got a spell?"

"Don't need one. I'll bring them to me."

Willow reached out her hand and beckoned whatever it was with her index finger. The magic wasn't that dangerous as it was clever. The runes and wards around the place forbid harmful magic to be performed in the area. It had been a while since she had came across good craftsmanship but a personal touch wasn't evident. This was something smuggled in. The air crackled and a thump was heard before a human figure came flying over the red hand. A second passed and the figure was in front of Willow. It was a vampire; hissing and clawing as it dangled by the scruff of its neck. He was shirtless and painted with thin, spikey red runes that matched the bracelets on his wrists.

"Now, I know how the little sneaker got in. All that finger paint," Willow said with a sigh. "I'll have to talk with the management."

"Yup. They got to keep the rats out. Hey! Can we question him like in Kill Bill?"

"Ew. No cutting limbs, McNasty. I say like Kyra Segwick in the Closer," Willow said before continuing in a squeaky, southern accent. "Howdy. We got the evidence and all ya can do is fess up. Who sent ya!"

"Wow, your southern accent is worse than Jodie Foster's in Silence of the Lambs," Xander paused. "If you don't tell me what I want to then I will cut off something that you will miss."

The vampire looked from Willow and Xander before he kicked out and his struggles became more violent. Willow frowned. The vampire was shook from side to side.

"I don't think that we are giving our hostage the right idea about our ferocity," Willow said with a pout. "Should we wait for Buffy?"

"No." Xander dropped his bag; he backhanded the vampire. "Put him in the sun." The trees in the woods were thick enough that the sun was restricted to small patches. Willow nodded and moved the vampire about five feet over so his side started to smoke. The vampire howled and tried to swing out of the way only to get more sun exposure when he swung back. "Take him out," Xander said. Willow complied.

"Why are you here?" Xander asked. The vampire spat at him, hitting Xander's shoe. "Gross. Willow, sun patch."

"I'm here for the Slayer!" The vampire screamed. "Buffy! If she dies so do the rest of them! Please!"

Willow pulled him out of the sun with a snort of disgust. This was perfect. The forest had gone quiet. From the east, a strong wind blew which made all the patches of sun blur and sway. Walking over to his backpack, Xander pulled out a stake from a side pocket. The vampire sucked in a harsh breath and his mouth moved impotently and silently. Dust hit the ground in a shower as Xander brought back his hand.

"Who the hell thought up that stupid idea!" Willow asked, her cheeks were red and her white teeth were clenched. "Buffy has had nothing but attacks on her and now at her only vacation in forever, some stupid, vampire punk has to ruin everything! Its not even like its going to work. I mean, Buffy almost drowned again in Naples and Faith was just as strong as ever."

"I know. I'm hearing it in Africa too," Xander said as he picked up his backpack and threw it on. He tossed an arm around Willow. "But, you gotta admit it. Buffy needs water wings. Floaties."

"Hey! You guys!"

They turned around. It was Buffy running down the path with her short blonde hair sticking to her forehead. Willow's cheeks hurt because her smile was just too wide. They were all together.

"I heard something and Faith felt a vampire. What's up?" Buffy looked around, her fingers were curled tight around her stake and her eyes were narrowed.

"Its cool. We got him," Xander said.

"Hug!" Willow demanded with her arms outstretched. Buffy smiled and grabbed Willow for a bear hug. Xander wrapped his arms around the both of them. The danger had passed; the Three Musketeers were reunited.

"It so good to see you guys! I was worried when I thought something was up because the baddies always have to crash our parties." Buffy leaned her head on Xander's upper arm and had the other arm around Willow. "What was the what? Was it serious or just a lucky vamp getting around the hippie magic?"

"Just one that wanted to kill you to kill the rest of the Slayers. The usual. I strong armed him," Willow said.

"Thanks, Bugsy," Xander said.

"Don't sweat it, kid, you'll get your shot." Willow said, talking from the corner of her mouth trying a Brooklyn accent. She thought it was funny.

"Willow had coffee, huh?"

"Just a little," She said pouting and looking down. Twenty-five years old and she still couldn't handle coffee, Wicca powers or no. "Where's Giles? And Dawn?"

"Giles is taking his sweet old man time. He has a parasol so Dawn is making fun of said parasol. He swears it's a umbrella but its just so dainty. The tartan on it is just its beard," Buffy said laughing.

"Are you sick Buffy? Because usually, its faster than the speed of light for you with nary a drop of sweat," Xander asked. He pointed to the clump of blonde hair on her forehead. The rest of her hair was coiffed with slight waves making it stylishly mussed.

"Eh, hair malfunction and its all your guys fault. I was going to put on a beanie so lets not speak of it, " Buffy said before changing the subject. "Willow, I never got to ask you about Kennedy. How was it?"

"A horrible implosion that could match the Big Bang. Except the beginning of the universe probably didn't have anything to do a salsa dancer named Coco," Willow said, shrugging. It was old news. Buffy was twitching so she looked over and saw her nudging Xander. "What? Why are you wiggling your eyebrows? What? Buffy, what is it? Xander, why are you blushing? Is this some dirty joke, I'm not in on? Come on, guys. What is it?"


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