Title: The Trouble with Harriet
Disclaimer: All series characters and good stuff belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, etc. I am responsible for some original characters (although I stole names from Hitchcock) as well as the lame dialogue and most of the plot. The idea, of course, is stolen from the classic movie, The Trouble with Harry.
Summary: Buffy really needs a vacation, so when the chance arrives, she takes it, even though with a wandering corpse on the loose it’s almost, but not quite, a busman’s holiday. This is set in my cheerful, AU version of Season 6 where everyone sort of gets along and Spike and Buffy are a couple.
Thanks: to keswindhover and revdorothyl for the beta and to enigmaticblues for maintaining the comm.
“You won’t need all those forensic tests, at least not to put Jim in jail.” Harriet was sitting in a comfortable armchair, the object of fascinated attention. She was wearing a loose jogging suit and flip-flops, but she looked healthy and even somewhat happy. “I remember very well who came into my bathroom and held my head under water.” She shot her ex-husband a look that should have knocked him dead.
“But, Harry, where have you been?” Unlike Jim Rogers, Ms. Wiggs looked delighted.
“In a hospital in Sunnydale, being treated for hypothermia.” She ran a hand through her short gray hair. “I don’t remember what happened from the time I fainted in the tub until I woke up in Sunnydale.”
“Why didn’t you call anyone?” asked the sheriff.
“It’s a bit disorienting to wake up in a coffin. Your first impulse is to get out of it and then to get as far away from it as possible.”
“I can relate,” said Buffy. “So you ran away?”
“More like stumbled away. I collapsed on a street and I thought I was dying for real, if I wasn’t dead already. It was all very weird, and I know I’m not remembering that part correctly. I must have been half-asleep, dreaming of one of my on-line games. Because I thought I saw a woman with green skin and horns leaning over me, like she was praying or something. Then she picked me up like I didn’t weigh anything and carried me to just outside the emergency entrance at the hospital.”
Buffy recognized the description of one of the more benign demon races in Sunnydale, one with magical healing skills. But she and that particular group of demons had a tacit agreement to ignore each other’s existence, so she didn’t say anything. Besides, an explanation would only complicate matters. And make the sheriff think she was crazy, which was not the impression she was trying to give at all.
“The doctors said it was a miracle I was alive at all. It wasn’t until this morning that I was well enough to realize who I was and where I was. So I checked myself out of the hospital and called Sam Marlowe to come get me.”
The sheriff noticed Buffy’s confusion and explained. “Sam drives the local cab.”
“What did happen to me?” asked Harriet. “I only got here when you were talking about Jim spilling my body wash. I remember it falling over just as I was going under. It’s almost the last thing I remember.”
The sheriff brought her up-to-date on her travels while unconscious and presumed dead. Harry was horrified but not surprised to find out what Arnie and Sallie had done, and promised to press charges against them. Then she stood up, crossed the room to the Hallmark-type picture that had annoyed Buffy when she first arrived, and smashed it over Jim’s head.
“But…” He stared at the scraps of canvas surrounding him, “…it was a Thomas Kinkade.”
“What’s happening?” he demanded, blue eyes searching the room. “What’s happened to Harriet?” He saw her then and lunged forward as Harriet jumped up from her chair into his arms.
“Are you all right?” the newcomer demanded between kisses. “You didn’t answer my emails and your phone was always turned off. I had to come.”
“I’m all right now,” said Harriet, kissing him back.
Buffy, Spike, and Xander watched them and smiled. “Looks like our Harriet is going to be just fine,” said Spike, as if he were somehow responsible for the happy ending.
“Yeah.” Buffy sighed. “It didn’t end exactly like in the movie after all.”
“No.” Spike grinned fiendishly. “In your version, they all didn’t do it.”
The medical explanation was that Harriet had been not-quite-dead instead of most-sincerely-dead when put in the freezer, and that the low temperature had actually helped her survive longer without breathing. How she had survived the entire trip to Sunnydale and woken up with only minor injuries was considered amazing, but it could hardly be impossible because it had happened. There was no mention of green women with horns in any of the final reports on the incident.
Harriet was just fine, and grateful for all the Sunnydale team had done. She paid Buffy a two-day bonus for solving the mystery, gave Xander some of her plastic Burger King Star Wars glasses to thank him for saving her collectibles, and bought Spike a bottle of some expensive amber booze for no apparent reason other than that she seemed to like Spike.
Best of all, Harriet wasn’t blaming Buffy or Spike for crashing the Ferrarri. “I always hated it, and it was insured to the hilt,” she told Buffy. “In fact, I went down to the body shop to look at the remains. It was kind of cathartic.”
Buffy was very relieved, especially after she looked up the meaning of “cathartic.”
This leaves only the question of why Willow was worried about Dawn’s new job. Well, that was supposed to be a subplot, but it never connected with the main story, so I carved it out and will try to have it ready as a separate post on July 1.
Thanks again for the chance to participate this year!
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/410058.html