The Rising Sun: Center Stage

"Okay, birds are lousy dress makers and they tend to poop on everything," Buffy noted as Willow stopped singing and the sparrows she'd drawn in, hid in the rafters.

Xander examined the mannequin covered in roughly stitched together cloth sitting in the middle of the stage and jumped back as several mice scurried out from under the hem and fled. "Yeah, but the mice were surprisingly decent sewers. I blame the birds for being too small to hold the cloth in place properly."

"Maybe if you got some ducks and raccoons to help," Harmony suggested, "the animals are a bit small to do what you want them to."

"That is a very good point," Giles said making a note, "Disney used small inoffensive animals, but that does reduce their utility."

"It was a good first attempt," Buffy told Willow. "Wish I could control animals by singing."

"Everyone has their gifts," Harmony said, "like my uncle Albert, he has superhuman strength and speed. Of course, that's because he's a vampire."

"Didn't I mention him?" Harmony asked when she realized everyone was staring at her.

"No, I would have remembered you mentioning your uncle was turned," Buffy said.

"Oh," Harmony said with a shrug, "he lives in Alaska, and you won't meet him unless you come to one of our family reunions."

Giles was speechless.

"Doesn't the whole vampire thing bother anyone?" Willow asked.

"Only when he uses it to get out of promises he made before he was turned," Harmony replied with a giggle.

"And the biting and killing?" Buffy asked.

"He doesn't believe in feeding on people, says biting people is unsanitary," Harmony replied.

"That... seriously?" Giles asked in disbelief.

Harmony nodded. "He works as a doctor curing blood born diseases. It's a bit on the nose if you ask me, but since he couldn't hang out on the beach being a bum anymore, he had to find something to do with his spare time."

"Well, that would ensure he always had blood on hand," Buffy said with a shrug.

"Really?" Xander asked. "No killing at all?"

"Two serial killers while working with the police," Harmony said. "They call him in if a case involves a rare blood type or a disease, but they were both shot while attempting to kill someone. His stories about working with the police are always exciting."

"Has anyone else in your family ever been turned?" Giles asked.

"Great Aunt Anne," Harmony replied, "but we don't talk about her."

"Why?" Buffy asked.

"Well first she collected a harem of hot young guys that she regularly fed from, which was fine," Harmony said, "I mean, she was always so shy according to Grandma that seeing her come out of her shell like that was really nice, but after she found out vampires couldn't fly or turn into mist, she really became a downer. She took a vow of chastity and spends all her time hunting vampires now. Says they're all lying scumbags who have to be put down for setting unrealistic expectations."

"You have a very strange family," Buffy told Harmony.

Harmony shrugged. "Every family has at least one black sheep in it. I mean really, a vow of chastity?"

"Indeed," Giles said dryly before turning to the other teens on stage. "Well, this has been educational, we'll try it again after I procure some ducks and raccoons."

"Ready to take a trip to Narnia?" Xander asked. "I have a wardrobe set up in the dressing room you gave me."

"No time at the moment I'm afraid," Giles said apologetically, "I have to call the Council and make some inquiries."

"Maybe next time then," Buffy said, frowning as Giles left. "It's getting pretty strange how Mom and Giles don't have enough time to visit a place where time stops."

"Maybe they don't like the cold?" Willow guessed.

"It's doing that forgetting thing like when you tell most people about vampires," Harmony said.

"What? You mean Sunnydale Syndrome?" Xander asked.

Harmony nodded. "I guess that's the local version, but a lot of places have something similar... or maybe people are stupid and just don't want to know. Anyway, he's doing that thing where you talk about something and then suddenly remember you have to do something and wander off so you can forget about it."

"Narnia has its own Sunnydale Syndrome?" Willow asked herself.

"That would explain some things," Xander said. "I mean, I tried to get you to come to Narnia quite a few times before giving up."

"How do we get around it?" Buffy asked. "Chloroform and a carpet? It worked for Ford."

"Blindfold them and tell them you have a surprise for them," Harmony said. "As long as they don't know they can't do the whole forgetting thing till it's already done."

"Is it really that simple?" Buffy asked before answering herself, "Yeah, we don't need to complicate things, we can just blindfold them and walk them through."

Xander grinned. "Practical solutions for supernatural problems. Harmony, would you like to see the cottage I built in Narnia?"

Harmony frowned. "I don't know... I'm supposed to be home in a couple of hours. Maybe we should save it for next time."

The three stared at her for a moment and Xander laughed. "Hold on just a second," he said, before disappearing backstage.

"Sunnydale Syndrome is really amazing," Buffy said.

"I know," Harmony agreed, "I just want to grab people and shake them sometimes. An underground, literally, club that's pro-vampire called The Sunset Club? Who in their right mind would go there? I finally talked Aura out of it by telling her Goths may be a little cool, but Emos really aren't."

Xander returned with a black silk handkerchief.

Harmony's eyes lit up. "For me?" she asked excitedly. "Are we talking blindfold or tying me up? Oh, is it both?!"

"Blindfold first, then we lead you to where we are tying you up," Xander teased with a knowing grin.

"Best birthday ever!" Harmony exclaimed, rushing over to Xander and turning around so he could blindfold her.

"Today's your birthday?" Willow asked while Xander blindfolded her. "You didn't tell us that."

"I didn't want to pressure you," Harmony said shyly, blushing a little. "I mean, I'd like to have you there... but that means introducing you to my family, which can make some people nervous even if it's just a birthday party."

Buffy exchanged looks with her lovers before turning to Harmony. "We'd love to go to your birthday party," she assured her, "but first your surprise."

"I can't wait!" she squeals as Xander takes her hand and leads her downstairs to the room Giles let him have.

Buffy opened the wardrobe and removed a couple of the heavy wool peacoats. "Put on this coat."

"Coat?" Harmony asked, confused.

"Roleplay," Willow quickly said. "You're the poor little girl lost in the snow that we're going to 'rescue' by leading you to our secret lair and take advantage of."

"Best birthday ever!" Harmony declares, quickly pulling on the coat. "Thank you for saving me, it's so cold outside and I don't know where my parents are," she said as innocently as possible.

Xander grinned and said in a lecherous voice, "Relax little lady, we'll soon have you out of the weather and... warmed up a little."

Willow blushed heavily almost matching her hair while Buffy bit her lip to keep from laughing at how over the top the pair were.

"Mind your head," Xander growled out, "We gotta duck down a little to get to the secret door."

The four squeezed through the wardrobe and were shortly in Narnia.

"We're outside?" Harmony asked, confused as she could hear the sounds of the forest around her.

Xander pulled off her blindfold. "Welcome to Narnia."

Harmony looked around in wonder. "It's beautiful. Wait! Does this mean you're not going to tie me down and molest me?"

"It's your birthday, of course we will," Xander assured her, having seen how much she'd been enjoying roleplaying. "I believe some birthday spanking are in order as well."

"Best birthday ever!"

Xander led them to his cottage and unlocked the door.

"Cinder block construction set into a hill," Harmony said thoughtfully. "Very solid construction. You have no idea how many secret lairs I've been in that are little better than particle board and sheetrock. Sure, they look nice, very polished, but it's all so flimsy."

"The cinder blocks are filled with concrete and rebar," Xander said as he opened the door.

"Is this a steel core door?" she asked, knocking on it. "It is! Finally, a secret lair worth the name!"

Xander turned on the lamp, a pleased smile on his face.

Buffy slammed the front door, startling the others. She grinned evilly as she put the four by fours in place. "Oh, little missy, you picked the wrong people to follow home for you'll not be leaving here with your virtue intact!"

"Oh no," Harmony said melodramatically, laying the back of her hand against her forehead, "What ever shall I do?!"

"I'll get the rope," Willow whispered to Xander as he lit the fireplace while Buffy did a very respectable evil villain speech, which Willow was almost certain she was cribbing from others she'd heard.

Several Hours Later

"You need a couch," Harmony noted as they all warmed up in front of the fire while they dried off from their shower.

"It's on my to-do list," Xander replied, "I'm still looking over designs."

"You tired out a lot more quickly than you usually do," Willow noted. "Should we roleplay more?"

"Yes, yes we should," Harmony said eagerly, "but that's because we're not on the Hellmouth. It's another reason Grandma doesn't approve of us living there, because after a couple of days I get a little... hyper, which also makes it hard to focus."

"Do you mean that if we take you to Narnia at least twice a week you'll calm down?" Buffy asked.

"And get better grades?" Willow quickly added.

"Yes to both," Harmony replied. "Grandma makes sure I take plenty of trips off the Hellmouth, but it's rarely enough to help my grades."

"Not when you keep tripping over secret societies every time you leave," Willow guessed.

"They rarely help," Harmony agreed, "and I get such strange looks when I'm doing book reports during firefights."

"You do book reports during firefights?" Buffy asked in disbelief.

"I can't concentrate enough to do book reports while I'm in Sunnydale," she replied, "and I'm usually just taking cover until it's over, so it's the best time to do them."

"ADD and Nymphomania or doing all your work while being shot at," Willow muttered. "I think... I'd take the former."

"Which doesn't work for book reports because you actually need to be able to concentrate and remember what you've read for longer than a couple of minutes," Harmony said.

"Thus, the firefights," Buffy said, shaking her head.

"Or when locked in a dungeon," Harmony said cheerfully. "They're usually so poorly built it's easy to retrieve my schoolwork and minions always assume one of the higher ups allowed it."

"Your life is split between action-adventure movies and porn," Xander decided.

"Pretty much," Harmony agreed cheerfully. "I mean, sometimes things are quiet for a little while, but there's no rhyme or reason for it I can tell."

"You can't always stumble into the middle of an evil plot," Buffy said, "sometimes you have to wait for the slow bastards to get to the point!"

"To be fair half the time they are waiting for the stars to align or something," Xander pointed out, putting another couple of logs on the fire.

"I'm more referring to the long boring speeches they give," Buffy admitted, "it's like they're getting paid by the word."

"Back to bed," Willow ordered, "it's cuddle time."

"Yes!" Harmony cheered. "The sex is great and all, but I don't get near enough cuddle time."

"I hear ya," Xander said, "I can cuddle for days."

Buffy laughed. "You can cuddle for hours then certain physical responses require a more active response, then we have more cuddle time."

"Am I that bad?" Xander asked, surprised.

"I think she's talking about herself," Willow assured him, "and to tell the truth... I think that's me too."

"Actually, I was talking about all of us," Buffy said. "It's like dominoes, we set each other off. Alone in bed I can snuggle up to Mr Gordo for half the day, add one of you guys... after a couple of hours we need some kissing... and groping... and well..."

"I think she's saying we're normal teenagers," Willow told Xander.

"None of us are normal," Xander argued as they climbed into bed. "Normal is average and we are all far too awesome for that."

"Mom's going to kill me for missing my birthday party," Harmony said with a giggle, "but I don't care, this has been my best birthday ever."

"Narnia, no time is passing back home," Willow reminded her. "It'll still be your birthday when we get back."

"And we can make it to your birthday party on time," Buffy added.

Harmony squealed and hugged everyone, leaning over Xander to hug Willow. "You guys are great, I'm so glad you're my friends!"

"Wish we'd have known it was your birthday earlier," Xander said, "we could have gotten you a gift."

"You guys don't have to," Harmony said, "just being willing to meet my family is enough."

"I'd still like to have gotten you something," Xander said, "though I'm not sure what. I'm not exactly the best at guessing what makes the best gifts."

Willow began giggling causing everyone to look over at her.

It took a second for Buffy and Xander to realize what she was giggling about.

"Perfumes and underwear taken to make it look like someone has fled Sunnydale and wasn't a demon that melted into goo probably only works on medieval witch queens," Xander said dryly while Buffy laughed into a pillow.

"Spoils of battle usually make good gifts," Harmony argued. "But if you want to know what I really want..."

The three teens leaned in, curious as to what she wanted.

"I'm looking for a rare jigsaw puzzle of Marilyn Monroe. Playboy made it in the early eighties, but it is impossible to find," Harmony said.

The three exchanged grins.

"Looks like today is your lucky day," Buffy said smugly.

"We're going to do the 'little girl lost' roleplay again with Willow in the main role?" Harmony guessed.

"Yes!" Willow exclaimed. "Ahem, I mean that sounds like fun and since it's your birthday we are definitely going to do that, but we actually have a copy of that puzzle."

"Seriously?!" the blonde asked in disbelief.

"Seriously," Buffy assured her. "It was a 'spoils of war' from destroying a serial killing android."

"That's double awesome," Harmony said excitedly.

Things were quiet for a few seconds and then Buffy spoke up, "Feel like doing that roleplay thing with Willow as our victim now?"

"Yes!" the other three teens instantly chorused.

Typing By: Abyssal Angel

Beta By: Abyssal Angel and Mist of Shadows

TN: I wonder if it's possible to order custom puzzles online somewhere… for… reasons… XD

AN: They are still available, there are any of a dozen places, but that is not an official piece of memorabilia suitable for a collection. I wonder if I could get one made of a picture of a… friend of mine and make it look like an officially released puzzle from another country and how long it would take for her to realize it was fake and murder me… Best skip that one until next April 1st.