Since this story is much longer than expected (again), and since I'm ahead enough to start doing this (I hope), I'm starting my posting my due-by-September 10th Missing Stories Unfic-a-thon / Death-by-A-Thon for booster17 just a leetle early.
Dude, sorry you had to wait so long. Here's my "downpayment" first part.
Title: The Acme Heartbreak Repair Kit
Author: Lizbeth Marcs
Characters: Kennedy, Andrew, Buffy, Xander, D’Hoffryn, Road Runner, OCs
Genre: Futurefic, dramedy, adventure, slight crossover (if you squint) with Warner Brothers cartoons, minor sideswipe at real person/real event fiction
Spoilers: Post-‘Chosen’ BtVS; Post-‘Never Fade Away’ AtS
Pairings: None romantic, Buffy-Xander friendship repair
Warnings: Character death by Acme products, cartoon violence, harsh language, sexual situations.
Disclaimer: Kennedy, Andrew, Buffy, Xander, D’Hoffryn and all associated characters are the property of FOX and Mutant Enemy. Road Runner, Looney Tunes, Merrie Melodies and all associated characters and trademarked properties are owned by Warner Brothers. Any mention of real life events and real people are done to serve the story and are not meant to imply that the incidents in question have any relationship to reality. All original characters and the plot are mine. No payment was asked for or received in the writing of this story and no profit was earned. No copyright infringement on FOX, Mutant Enemy, or Warner Brothers is intended.
Summary: Buffy’s mission in Rome becomes even more dangerous with the arrival of a heart-broken Kennedy and a desperate Xander on the same day. When Andrew makes three unintentional and well-meaning wishes, however, all hell breaks loose.
Author’s Notes: Long-delayed Death-by-Fic-A-Thon entry for booster17 in which he requested that Kennedy be killed by Acme products. Apologies for the delay, dude.
Also, apologies for bringing a slight flavor of real person/real events into the story, but it’s nothing more than flavor that’s mentioned in one part and in passing. It was too delicious not to do it. Besides, it makes the great masters that worked during the golden age of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies look really, really clever, so no harm and no foul is meant. Leon Schlesinger and the animators of Termite Terrace: fighting evil in their own unique way since 1934.
I worked like hell to avoid character bashing in this fic and I can only hope that I succeeded. If I failed, I’m pretty sure you guys would tell me. Actually, I’m kind of counting on it. It’s hard when you can’t stand two of your main characters.
And finally, I’m reminded once more why I should not do Fic-A-Thons. Something tells me that I just do them all wrong because there’s no way in hell any of these stories should be this complicated.
Of all the apartments in all the world, I had to end up in yours.
Kennedy threw herself onto the couch and glared around the tastefully appointed apartment. The Mediterranean heat that had reached a crescendo somewhere around 1 p.m. had faded somewhat with the mid-afternoon sun, but not enough. Not nearly enough.
She didn’t reflect for a second that Roman heat bothered her, yet the nearly equatorial heat of Rio bothered her not at all. Had Kennedy been a slightly more self-aware person, she would have realized that her Roman discomfort was less a function of the weather and more the combination of a broken heart and the awkward situation of staying with one of her girlfriend’s—sorry, ex-girlfriend’s—friends.
However, one of Kennedy’s failings was that she wasn’t terribly self-aware, which Willow was kind enough to tell her during “the talk.”
Kennedy picked up the remote, turned on the television, and scanned through the channels. Buffy had a satellite feed, courtesy of the Council, so she was able to find an English-language channel running an episode of Will and Grace from the screechy years. She sat back and redoubled her glower at the screen before reaching again for the remote to turn off the television with an irritated press of a button.
The Council was so intent on presenting a disorganized face to any potential spies that it fell down on the job of providing enough safe houses in its own freaking European backyard, in Kennedy’s humble opinion. Yet, the group woe-is-we act didn’t extend to Buffy’s creature comforts, like satellite television. She probably only had to snap her fingers to get it, because it seemed that whatever Buffy wanted, Buffy got.
Her dark thoughts about Buffy soon wandered to her wondering how Buffy reacted when she heard Willow dumped her. She always got the sense that Buffy didn’t approve of their relationship. Heck with that, she never got the sense that Buffy liked her even a little. For all Kennedy knew, Buffy probably still held a grudge over the fact that she led the rebellion against her back in Sunnydale that put Faith in temporarily charge.
Not that it made a difference in the end. Buffy came back, all was forgiven, and she was re-crowned Queen of the Slayers without so much as a voice vote. Had that been her, she would’ve been forced to lick boots before even being let back into the house. Buffy was the Teflon golden girl. Nothing ever stuck.
Take Buffy’s current life of luxury. Did anyone say boo while the Great Buffy danced the night away? No. While she was partying down in Rome, Willow worked like a dog. Xander braved god knows what in Africa. Giles scrambled to build a network and untangle the Council finances without drawing attention to himself.
There was no justice.
In a way, she was glad no one was home when the landlord let her in. At first she’d been annoyed. She’d just survived the murderous flight from Rio to Rome and endured the insanity of an Italian taxi driver to get her here only to arrive to an empty apartment.
The landlord stumbled over an apology and explanation in his horribly broken accent interspersed with Italian words. He had to repeat the message several times before Kennedy even got the gist: Buffy had been informed Kennedy was coming, but was suddenly called away to pick up a package—or deliver it, Kennedy wasn’t sure—and would be back later in the day.
Irritation at being abandoned gave way somewhat to relief. At least she had time to steel herself before faced with one of Willow’s friends. Even though Willow dumped her, she suspected the Buffy wouldn’t even take that into consideration and would lay the blame right at her feet.
God knows Willow did during the talk.
The sound of a key fumbling in the apartment door’s lock interrupted her mental wandering and Kennedy fought the urge to hop to her feet. It would be better if she looked cool and casual, like this situation was no big deal. All she had to do was get through this week and she’d be winging her way to Prague to join the Slayer contingent just now getting organized.
One of Giles’s flunkies—because god knows Giles was too busy to talk to her himself now that she was no longer dating someone in the in-crowd—called it a “stroke of luck” that her sudden desire to leave Rio coincided with the formation of the new Slayer house in Prague. Kennedy didn’t see it that way. She was being tossed in an unfamiliar country where she didn’t have a clue about the language and didn’t know anyone.
Her options were limited, however. She could uselessly bang around the Council’s musty headquarters until an assignment more to her liking opened up or she could go to Prague. Staying in Rio and living out of a hotel room until the Council could find better accommodations for her really wasn’t an option as far as she was concerned.
Had Kennedy been honest with herself, she would’ve conceded that she acted hastily in moving out of the Rio house after the talk with Willow. The house in Rio was a hub of constant activity. She could’ve easily moved to another wing of the mansion and steered clear of Willow until her future was more settled. Heavens knew she managed to avoid her stepsister for weeks at a time while living in a much smaller house in the Hamptons. Willow, again, was good enough to point this out, but after getting the talk Kennedy didn’t feel the need to stay beyond the five minutes it took her to call a cab and grab her coat.
The only thing Kennedy was willing to admit was that she should’ve stayed long enough to pack. All her belongings had been sent ahead to Prague and she had to buy new clothes and basic necessities to get her through her last week in Rio. Normally, she would’ve been all over the shopping angle, but it was less fun without a Willow-shaped doll to dress up in hot Brazilian fashions.
She hadn’t spoken to Willow since she left the Rio house, not even to return the witch’s phone calls, even though the messages were getting increasingly desperate during the week between leaving Willow and hopping on an airplane with her Council-expedited passport.
Yeah, Willow had something important to tell her. Sure. Like Willow’d have anything to say to her spoiled and self-centered face.
The door finally opened revealing shopping bag-laden Andrew.
“Kennedy!” Andrew yelped as his surprised movements caused the plastic bags hooked on his wrists to swing around.
Kennedy, who’d been building up a head of angry steam, slumped into the couch. “What are you doing here?”
Andrew gathered his wits before answering. “I’m to provide vital aid to Buffy as her second-in-command of Roman operations.” Andrew accented this assertion by thrusting out his chest. “I’m also charged with giving her vital tactical back-up as her Watcher and, of course, make sure all her affairs are taken care of so she doesn’t have to worry about them.”
Kennedy’s eyebrows rose in disbelief. She knew for a fact that Andrew was nothing more than a high-level gofer for Giles, or rather, he had been. What he was doing in Rome, she had no idea, but she knew that he wasn’t any kind of a Watcher, let alone Buffy’s Watcher. She wondered what Buffy finally did to make Giles so angry that he decided to inflict the pleasure of Andrew’s company on her. God knows Andrew wouldn’t be here if Buffy was doing anything worthwhile.
She leaned back, only this time the casual picture she presented was for real. “So, you’re on an important mission, hunh?”
Andrew thrust his chest out further. “As a Watcher-in-Training. Mr. Giles believes that it’s important for me to see more of the Continent and to fight side-by-side with Slayers to fulfill my manly potential.”
Kennedy nodded as she bit her lip to hold back the braying laughter. “Thought you said you were Buffy’s Watcher. I didn’t hear ‘in training’ anywhere.”
“Oh, yeah.” Andrew recovered quickly, Kennedy had to give him that much. “Buffy’s training me. To be a full Watcher, I mean. Mr. Giles has very big plans for me. He says I’ve got the right stuff to go all the way. He’s grooming me to lead the Council after he retires.”
Kennedy wondered if Andrew ever listened to himself. Heck with that, she wondered if he actually lived in reality. She knew that Andrew was trusted with mostly busy work, especially after L.A. His stupid “heroic stand”—the words he used during the conference call where he gave his report while the phone lines ominously crackled with angry silence—put the entire L.A. Slayer contingent and their back-up at risk, all because he wanted to show off to Spike and prove he was a real playa to Wolfram & Hart.
Thank god the Senior Partners were so caught up with the enemy they decided to hold close and corrupt and that Angel and Spike were distracted by their pissing match. No one seemed to have figured out that the new Council was more organized than any of the bad guys suspected. However, Giles was so worried about drawing the attention of the Senior Partners that he had to slam down the order that everyone give Angel and his people a wide berth, regardless of the provocation.
After that call, Kennedy wondered why the hell Giles was keeping him around and had to endure Willow’s explanation that Andrew knew too much for Giles and the Council to ever cut him loose. A loose-canon Andrew, Willow had said, posed a bigger threat to a new Council than any big bad grappling with the idea that the One Girl in All the World was now a Whole Lot of Girls in All the World.
Truthfully, she couldn’t see it. Andrew’s delusions of competence were more likely to get him killed than anyone on the Council. Well, unless someone was dumb enough to actually take his advice. She remembered one memorable conference call when Andrew decided to share his wisdom about Africa with Xander as the one-eyed wonder boy prepared to enter Sudan with only his cover as a U.N. human rights observer to protect him, or not, depending on who was holding the gun to his head.
Frankly, Kennedy was impressed that Xander didn’t explode, although the deadly silence from Xander’s connection seemed more foreboding. Then again, Xander probably didn’t explode because Willow did it for him. Buffy, as usual, didn’t even bother to call in. If she had, Kennedy was sure Buffy would’ve yelled at Andrew, too. Then again, her highness couldn’t be bothered to do more than send Willow the occasional email about shopping in Rome, so maybe not.
After that little verbal fiasco, Kennedy wondered how long it would be before Giles arranged for Andrew to have an “accident.” While she believed she was right in thinking it, she probably shouldn’t have said anything to Willow. By the time Willow was done yelling at her, Kennedy was almost sure her girlfriend—ex-girlfriend, Kennedy mentally amended—was more angry with her than with Andrew.
Right after that, she started to notice that Willow was cutting her out of things and she was no longer allowed to sit in on conference calls.
Andrew began to shuffle in the silence. Kennedy let him sweat.
Andrew finally broke. “We didn’t think you were coming until next week,” he cheerfully said as he headed for the kitchen.
“Buffy knew I was coming today,” Kennedy said with an edge.
“She did?” Andrew asked. “But she didn’t say anything to me.”
“Why would she?” Kennedy shrugged. “I’m here on a need-to-know basis, and you? You don’t need to know.”
“But I’m the one who makes dinner!” Andrew protested. “It’s vital I know! How could she just forget to tell me?”
“Maybe she forgot you were here. It’s been just her and Dawn, so Dawn probably knew I was coming,” Kennedy said.
“I’ve been here for months and months!” Andrew hotly said. He immediately calmed down and a relieved grin spread across his face. “It probably slipped Buffy’s mind because of that package she’s picking up at the airport.”
“Wait! She was going to the airport and didn’t swing by to pick up me?” Kennedy demanded.
“Well, like I said, she probably forgot you were coming because of the package.” Andrew dropped his voice to a conspiratorial level. “It’s from Africa. Xander found it in the Congo. Or maybe it was Uganda. Maybe I mean the Amazon? Yeah, the Amazon.”
Kennedy rolled her eyes, but didn’t tell Andrew that he had the wrong continent.
“It’s a very, very important artifact,” Andrew continued. “Buffy’s very excited about it. It’s even coming with an armed guard and everything.”
Kennedy was actually curious. “So what is it?”
Andrew untangled a hand from the bags and tapped his nose with a wink.
“You don’t even know, do you?” Kennedy nastily asked.
“I do so,” Andrew stiffly replied. “It’s a super secret thing. Can’t tell anyone.”
Kennedy shook her head. “Nope. You don’t know.”
“I do so. You’ll see. I have to put away the food, so I don’t have time to talk to doubting doubters.”
Kennedy just couldn’t let that go. “Betchya Dawn knows.”
“Dawn’s holidaying in Israel, so she’s not even present,” Andrew sniffed in a vaguely faux British accent that made Kennedy want to rip his tongue out. “She’s interning on an archeological dig with a friend of Giles’s and learning Hebrew, even though she, like, already figured out how to read it before she even left.”
“Know what? I’m tired. I’m just going to my bedroom,” Kennedy grumbled. “I can’t deal with you right now.”
As she stalked off, Andrew yelled, “Hey! That’s my room!”
She answered him with a slammed door.
Buffy impatiently leaned against her car while she waited for the courier to arrive with the Ethiopian Thorn. Giles gave her very specific instructions to park in this garage and in this spot. He all but ordered he to stay put until the courier arrived. She wasn’t to leave for any reason, not even to visit the bathroom. The Ethiopian Thorn was too important to her’s and Andrew’s safety to lose to chance.
When Buffy pointed out that a Slayer guard, namely her, would remove some of that chance, Giles coughed and said she couldn’t actually be seen waiting for the Thorn in the airport. She’d have to wait at a parking garage some distance away for the courier to come to her via cab.
She resisted the urge to dent the chrome of her impractical, bright red, sportier than sporty Italian machine out of frustration by fanning herself with a hand. She hated the car. Even in her mom’s SUV she was a menace, but Italian engineering and precision made her potential rolling deadly weapon.
At least the other drivers were as bad as she was. No one even blinked when she barreled down the street and screeched to a halt. Well, they blinked, or rather men blinked, mostly because she was cute little blonde who knew how to wear a pair of sunglasses and a short leather skirt, even if she did say so herself.
The things she had to put up with Mata Hari-ing her way around Italy.
The constant spying was not helping Buffy on her mission to figure out who Buffy was. Then again, no one got a chance to catch their breath before all of them were spinning all over the place in a desperate bid to get ahead of the bad guys. She figured she had it easier than most of the others.
“Come oooooonnnnnnnn,” Buffy muttered under her breath. The desire to get this exchange over with head-butted up against her desire to not go home. Kennedy was probably already there and that was not a situation she was looking forward to dealing with. It promised to be more awkward-y than when Xander and Willow got caught with the illicit smooches. She actually liked Xander, for one thing. Kennedy on the other hand…
Buffy rubbed her temples to stave off the oncoming headache. Hopefully Andrew clued in Kennedy that her playgirl act was a cover and that Kennedy had to keep a low profile—as in a non-Slaying low profile—while she was in Rome. The last thing she needed was for the Rome branch of Wolfram & Hart to start taking a closer look at what she was actually doing.
God, of all the times for Willow to break up with Kennedy…okay, no time was going to be a good time, but if only Willow had waited a month they could’ve sent Kennedy directly to Prague without the stopover in Rome. As it was, Kennedy was going to be arriving in Prague while things were still disorganized. Buffy knew that Giles viewed Kennedy’s sudden availability as a good thing for the new Prague house. He believed an experienced Slayer would be a lot of help to the newer Slayers who’d be taking up residence. However, Buffy’d seen Kennedy in action in Sunnydale and had read Willow’s increasing irritation with her clueless now-ex-girlfriend in enough emails to make her really doubt Giles’s judgment on that score.
I’m being a worry-Buffy, she fretted. I’m worrying about Kennedy causing problems in Prague, which I really have no control over. I’m worrying about Kennedy blowing my cover here, which, okay, worrisome. But I know Andrew’ll tell her because I told him he had to in the note. Besides, he’ll think it’ll impress her that he knows something she doesn’t.
God, if only Willow could’ve gotten to Kennedy before the Slayer left Rio. In truth, there was no excuse for the situation. Willow and Xander at the very least should’ve been told about Buffy’s real purpose in Rome from the start, but both Buffy and Giles were so nervous about the Rome operation that they both agreed to keep the secret between them. End result? Willow only found out the real deal after she and Kennedy broke up, and only because some genius in the Council headquarters decided to route Kennedy through Rome while Giles was out of town dealing with an emergency at the Beijing house.
The witch had desperately tried to at least give Kennedy the head’s up by getting the Slayer to call her back, but no dice. Going herself or sending someone from the Rio house to deliver the message was out of the question. The Rio branch of Wolfram & Hart now had the Rio house under both magical and mundane surveillance. Willow was afraid that a face-to-face meeting might jeopardize Buffy’s precarious position.
Buffy had wanted to scream when she found out that Kennedy was winging her way to Rome with no clue about the real situation on the ground. Even she could’ve told Willow that there was no way Kennedy’s pride was going to allow the girl to call Willow back, and she never experienced the wonders of Kennedy’s tongue piercing.
The uncertainty of what would happen with Kennedy temporarily in the mix served to increase the pressure on Buffy’s already stretched-thin nerves. Kennedy was probably still feeling the ouchiness of the break-up and she might not be in the mood to listen to Andrew. Buffy suspected she was going to have to sit Kennedy down for a long talk no matter what Andrew said because, to be honest, Andrew was not the sort of person anyone took all that seriously.
Andrew. My other big problem, Buffy mournfully thought. Kennedy and him in the same apartment for a week? Oh, god. That’s going to be hell on earth. If only Dawn were here to run interference.
The only reason why Buffy put up Andrew was because she needed a translator when crawling through clubs in the demon underground. Although her nerves were usually so shot by the end of the night out of fear that Andrew would slip up that she was just about to beg Giles to find someplace else to send him.
Maybe if she convinced Giles to send Andrew to Africa, Xander would let him get eaten by a hyena.
She sighed helplessly as the daydream turned to smoke before it could take full form. One, Xander tended to drive off any hyena that came close to him because they still heebie-jeebied him. Two, Xander would probably save Andrew from being eaten because he was just like that. Three, Xander was smart enough to hide in the African bush for a month while Andrew waited for him at the airport.
So she was stuck with Andrew in all his exhausting glory, at least for the time being. She wished they could have kept Andrew in the dark about her Italian double life, but she was running up against a wall because she lacked demon language skills. Andrew was the only demon language expert on the Council’s payroll. All the ones who existed pre-First were dead or in hiding.
She took a calculated risk with Andrew. Now she wished she hadn’t, even though Andrew had actually himself proven useful and hadn’t screwed anything up for her. Yet. Although he came close when Spike and Angel showed up on her doorstep. She didn’t know what Andrew said to them, but whatever it was, it was enough to have them stalking her through the streets of Rome while she desperately tried to avoid them.
Much as she wanted to blame Andrew for the fall-out afterwards, that really wasn’t his fault. That was all hers. She was just glad that she got out of it without blowing her cover.
The problem with Andrew has always been that he knew too much, and now he knows even more. What was I thinking? Buffy thought.
The echo of distant footsteps caught Buffy’s ear and she tensed. The uncertainty of her situation was somehow the worst. She was always looking over her shoulder for the person who’d stab her in the back. This approach could be a sign of oncoming danger, or it could be the courier. Could also be an innocent person walking to their car.
Just to be on the safe side, she ducked down behind her car and kept her eyes peeled for the owner of those footsteps. She felt like she had to wait a year before a tall male figure finally turned the corner and began the long walk to her position. He had a rucksack slung across his back and he seemed to be moving cautiously as he stopped at various red cars along his path.
Her heart leapt up into her throat and her breath caught.
To hell with waiting by the car.
With an inarticulate cry, she took off at a dead run for the courier with the almost-familiar face.
He looked up at the yell. He barely had time to react before Buffy barreled into him.
“Xander! You’re here!”