"Dawn, I swear, if you get greasy fingerprints on my program I will kill you." Buffy snatched her Ice Capades booklet away from her sister. "Dad, why can't she sit beside you? Mom always separates us when we fight."
Buffy's father answered with patience that was wearing thin. "Dawn is little, Buffy. There are a lot of strangers here. I want her between us where she'll be safe."
Buffy shrugged. "It's not my job to protect her." She held her program as far away from her sister as she could without bumping her neighbor to the right.
The crowd applauded as the first skaters glided onto the rink far below. Girls in bright costumes carried flags, swooshing them in big circles.
Dawn snuggled up to her dad and munched popcorn. "Can I have some hot chocolate?"
"Not until intermission," her father answered.
"How long until intermission?"
Buffy rolled her eyes. She applied more lip gloss and tucked her scarf into her collar. The principle actors were entering now: the three brothers, the princess, the reverend, the sexton. She wondered why he was called a sexton. He didn't look cute at all. There was the king and the woman who played the golden goose. Buffy sighed with longing. The goose's costume was gold lamé with gold tulle streamers fluttering from her waist. She wore a silly hat meant to look like a goose's beak, but she was beautiful.
Dawn squirmed in her seat and upset her popcorn. Salty kernels fountained into the air.
"You are such a klutz!" Buffy avoided the eyes of the woman in front of them, who turned in her seat and glared.
"How do they glide like that? They're like fairies!" Rapt, Drusilla watched the skaters enter one by one.
"Put your coat back on, love. People will wonder why you don't feel the cold." Spike held Dru's jacket as she slipped her arms into the sleeves.
Drusilla turned to him and spoke slowly. "Because I'm dead."
Spike aimed his most charming smile at the couple on the other side of Dru. "Harmless," he assured them.
"I'm thirsty," Dru whimpered.
"We'll feast when the show's over," Spike murmured into her ear. "When they're all happy and excited, yeah?"
Drusilla chuckled, her eyes on the skaters.
Buffy forgot her annoyance with her little sister as she watched the story play out on the ice. This was better than the movies, better than ballet. This was power, and grace, and magic. The elder sons refused to share their food with the grumpy dwarf. Each suffered misfortune as punishment. The youngest son shared what little he had, and was rewarded with the golden goose. Then everyone who saw the goose tried to take her for themselves, but their selfishness only won them more bad luck. Soon there was a long trail of skaters weaving across the ice, each stuck to the one in front. It was like a game of Crack the Whip, only nobody was allowed to quit. The youngest son, oblivious to everyone except the goose, approached the melancholy princess.
"Is your tummy rumbling, Dru? Nearly over now."
"Someone's slain her."
"The golden goose? Not yet, but I aim to later." Spike eyed the lead skater with appreciation. "She looks a juicy one."
Dru began to keen. "She's dying... dying..." Spike tried to hush her. Drusilla gasped and closed her eyes. "The Slayer is dead," she intoned. "Love live the Slayer."
"What are you on about? The Slayer's in Italy. We checked before we came to California, remember? You were so worried, we made sure." The spectators on either side of them eyed them uneasily again.
"Someone's had a good day," Dru continued without opening her eyes. "She's here now. Migrated like a great-winged goose. Flew halfway 'round the world, and landed..." her eyes popped open. "There." She stared across the amphitheater to the seats opposite them.
Spike squinted, trying to follow Dru's line of sight. He couldn't see anything remarkable in the stands of bleeders.
"And she'll live so long," Dru moaned. "Catch you, and draw all the goslings behind her forever and ever, stuck to her bright gold feathers." She began to sob.
One of their neighbors had called a security guard and was pointing them out. "We've got to go," Spike murmured under his breath. "Before the mob starts." He pulled Drusilla to her feet and the two of them hurried toward the nearest exit.
Buffy jerked. She glared at Dawn, sure her sister had given her a static shock on purpose.
"You okay?" Dawn's eyes were wide and innocent, but somehow Buffy didn't think she was faking.
"I... yeah." Everything felt different. The crowd sounded... Buffy saw a man sitting three rows away and knew he was wrong somehow.
"Dad, I think we should go." She put an arm around Dawn.
Her dad looked startled. "Are you feeling all right, Buffy?"
"Yeah, it's just... why don't you get the car? I'll get Dawn some hot chocolate and meet you at the door."
"If you say so. I wouldn't mind getting out of here before the rush."
They inched past their neighbors' knees all the way to the aisle. "Come on, Midget." Buffy hoisted Dawn onto her back like she used to do when Dawn was a toddler. "Hold my program." Buffy took the steps two at a time, her arms tucked under Dawn's coltish legs.
She'd feel better when they were inside their threshold.