“I’ve got an idea!” Anya said enthusiastically. “Start charging!”
“Of course!” Buffy agreed gratefully, eyes wide with the wonder of this epiphany. All at once The Slayer felt more powerful, more alive, like a woman warrior so strong and flowing with boundless energy she should have a major river system named after her. Maybe somewhere exotic, like South America. Suddenly her destiny had something better than intrinsic ‘Meaning.’ It had a dollar value. “All this time I’ve been wasting my life selflessly giving my ‘gift’ to the world out of the love in my soul when what I’ve really been longing for is just a few dollars and a sense of legitimacy!”
“And killing vampires is just the tip of the iceberg!” Willow declared, getting into the spirit. “Imagine what you could charge for not killing vampires!”
“Hey, I know,” Xander piped up, “since you’re always not killing humans anyway, why don’t you start charging for that too. I mean, you probably couldn't charge much per person, but hey, think of the volume!”
“I can’t believe we never thought of this before,” Buffy enthused. “It opens up so many possibilities! Anya, how did we ever get along without you?”
“Boy, I wish we’d thought of this a year ago,” Xander whispered in Willow’s ear, “imagine how much Glory would have paid for Dawn!”
“Tell me about it,” Willow complained, “a score like that would have kept us in frogs eyes and monkey brains for a long, long time. Hey! I just realized something! I could start charging too! I mean, why raise the dead for free? People will pay cold hard cash for that! In advance too I bet. Talk about life insurance! Let’s see a talking Gecko compete with that!”
“Ooo! Ooo!” Buffy shouted, “Product placement!!!”
“That’s brilliant!” Xander declared.
“Oh, you’re not allowed to say brilliant anymore,” Buffy corrected him. “We just got the results back from a focus group of our target customers, and they associate ‘brilliant’ with Giles. They expect you to say ‘awesome’.”
“Really, I have to say awesome?” he asked sounding disappointed.
“You can also say ‘that’s amazing’ or ‘it gives me a happy,’” Buffy informed him reassuringly. “Apparently people like for you to say that.”
“Awe,” Willow whined, “it says here nobody’s allowed to have sex with Giles anymore? That’s kind of sad.”
“Research shows it makes some readers uncomfortable,” Anya confirmed matter-of-factly.
“But I can still f—k dead guys right?” Buffy asked worriedly.
“I think so,” said Willow hesitantly, squinting at the fine print, “but you can’t say ‘f—k’ you have to say ‘date’. Otherwise it might violate community standards.”
“Wait a minute,” Buffy objected. “What community standards? What is this, network television?”
“Pretty much actually,” Willow informed her apologetically. “These are their rules.” Buffy looked put out.
“Well we are their property,” Anya reminded her. “I mean, you don’t get a sense of legitimacy for nothing. There can be no value without payment, otherwise it’s like Communism.”
“It is still a shame about Giles though,” Willow kept on.
“Well, I was mostly only in it for the coffee away,” said Xander Philosophically.
“Xander!!!” Buffy scolded him, “Who’s going to pay for that ad? Did you even think about that?”
“Fine,” he countered defensively. “Have it your way!”
“Ugh!” Buffy grunted in frustration. “It just gets worse and worse!”
“If you don’t stop making unwelcome references to our noble corporate citizens,” Anya agreed indignantly, “nobody’s going to have sex with you.”
“I’ll have sex with you,” Dawn offered with a sort of bright, hopeful friendliness.
“Nope,” Buffy said crisply. “You’re not allowed to have sex with anybody.”
“What?” Dawn demanded, “Why not?”
“Yeah!” Xander selflessly spoke up on her behalf, “Why not?”
“Cuz technically, you’re one and a half,” Buffy reminded her. “You won’t be eighteen until a theoretical Season Twenty-Three. That’s well beyond the practical scope of this series.”
“But that’s no fair!” Dawn protested. “I’m going to be too young to have sex until I’m too old to have sex! And anyways, I’m not one and a half either. I’m like the oldest person here! Way older than you! By like a hundred thousand years or something. During most of which once a girl got her first period she could pretty much do whatever she wanted.”
“Yeah, but ‘community standards’ don’t go by the last hundred thousand years of human history and culture. They only go by the latest marketing survey, which says that’s icky. Speaking of which, don’t talk about your periods.”
“Wait a minute,” Xander argued, still trying to be helpful, “Wasn't there a Supreme Court Opinion about some of this a couple of years ago? It’s like a First Amendment thing or something.”
“You’re not allowed to know about the Constitution,” Anya informed him gravely. “You’re the Zeppo, remember?”
“Anyway, it doesn't matter,” Buffy reminded him. “We’re not just roaming around wild in the ‘Free Speech’ Zone anymore. We’re legitimate now. We’re making a profit. These are private, commercial organizations we’re dealing with here.”
“Yeah,” Willow agreed, “They don’t have to listen to perverts like ****** *** *’******.”
“Oh my God! Willow!” Buffy scolded, “Did you just say a real person’s name out loud?”
“Yeah, but don’t worry,” Willow tried to reassure both Buffy and herself, “It’ll just show up as a bunch of asteriskses. Astrisks? Astriki? Small stylized stars. I’m sure that will be okay? Right?”
“It’s five by five in my book,” Faith chimed in.
“Hey,” Willow objected, “What’s she even doing in this scene? Aren't you supposed to be in prison?”
“I’m not supposed to be anywhere,” Faith reminded her. “It’s a friggin’ fanfic.”
“Oh yeah,” Willow agreed, relieved that they weren't breaking a rule after all, “I kinda forgot.”
“Well as long as you’re here,” Xander offered, just to be friendly, “Do you want to have sex with me?”
“Alright,” Faith agreed. “As long as it’s not too graphic. But survey says I have to be the one holding the bullwhip.”
“Wait a minute,” Buffy objected. “Did she just say ‘survey says’? Are we allowed to say ‘survey says’? Who owns the rights to ‘survey says’?”
Suddenly, the kitchen door burst open and Spike came hurtling in, his tattered blanket already flaming. “I’m not sure our sponsors will approve of that symbolism,” Anya opined clucking her tongue a little as they all calmly watched the vampire roll on the floor, trying to put the fire out.
“Jesus Fucking Christ!” Spike shouted. “Aren't any of you fucking assholes going to lift a finger to put this Goddamned fire out!” He got to his feet, slapping at the last smoky spot on his pants.
“That shouldn't be the spot that’s on fire,” Anya chided.
“Balls!” Spike shouted. “If a person wants to write about an undead monster trying to put out the fire in his pants, that’s her business. I mean, since when do a few rich bastards with silver spoons up their assholes who think they can own ideas well enough to charge you for thinking about them and tell you whether or not your thoughts are ‘legitimate’ get to set our Motherfucking community standards? I mean, you sodding humans have been doing buggering collaborative story telling around your fucking campfires ever since you learned to say 'Ooo! Ah! We learn make fire like gods! Ooo bet they be mad!'
“I mean! Do you think! Do you actually believe, that this Homer character sat down one day and imagined up the Iliad and the Odyssey all by his lonesome? Do you think Moses sat down with a pen and paper and whipped out the Book of Genesis to meet a publication deadline? Then I guess they had to crunch some numbers to see if it’d be worth it to give him a big advance for the sequel, Exodus. Or maybe that’s when he decided to hold out for that fat five book contract!”
“But this is on the internet,” Anya objected stiffly. “It’s taking up bandwidth that corporations have a right to expect to be able to use for a legitimate commercial purpose.”
“Bandwidth!” Spike shouted, beside himself. “Bandwidth! You think you don’t deserve to have buggering freedom of expression because you’re taking up bandwidth! Do you have any sodding idea what ‘bandwidth’ really is? The commercial airwaves, the public airwaves actually, which your buggering Governments charge those wankers a holy fortune in bribes to keep out of your direct control? It’s sunlight! It’s bloody sub-visible-spectrum electromagnetic radiation! When the Sodding Earth was without form and a motherfucking void according to some people the spirit of whatever-the-hell thrust itself upon the face of the deep and said ‘let there be bandwidth.’ And it shall be as a signal unto all generations even unto the end of the Universe that God hath made Man in his own image to be, as he is, an agent of creation. And whosoever shall try to limit, own, control or stop this signal or to prevent mankind from creating and freely sharing his creation, he shall be stricken down in his primetime for to say ‘I own those words, you may not speak them’ is an abomination in the sight of God who first spake all things!”
Everyone looked at their shoes, embarrassed. “That last part was out of character,” Anya mumbled sullenly.
“Are we getting paid for this?” Buffy Asked.