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the measure of the little while that i've been gone away

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Whatever was ripping up her flowers had better fucking stop.

Buffy sighed, staring at the limp stems in her hands, the petals falling from the heads of the flowers pathetically to the ground. She got to her feet and dusted off her knees, looking at the meadow around her. Despite those small setbacks, the summer wildflowers were coming in beautifully. Not bad, considering it was her first year growing the flowers of the Earth solo (okay, with a little help from Apollo). Mom would hopefully be impressed with her work.

Her flaxen hair tied up in a messy ponytail and a few small grass stains on the knees of her overalls, Buffy prepared to take off, to find some other field to populate, when suddenly a glimmer of gold a few yards away caught her eye. Curious, Buffy trod through the knee-high grass to investigate.

I didn’t grow that, the springtime goddess pondered to herself, staring at the bell-shaped flower sprouting proudly from the ground. It gleamed gold in the sun, and Buffy was amazed by it. “Where did you come from?” she asked aloud.

The flower, as all flowers did for her, perked up and leaned toward her.

Buffy reached out a curious hand and brushed its petals.

As soon as her finger touched the satin bloom, the ground beneath her feet opened, and Buffy fell far, far, down, into a black abyss.

When she awoke, she was in a dark chamber, on a cold stone floor, with only dim lantern light to aid her vision. She sat up slowly and realized there were bars in front of her. She was in a cage.

“Hello?” she called out meekly.

“Well you’re certainly not Zeus.”

Buffy’s head jerked over her shoulder.

A dark-haired man in a black sweater and dark jeans was staring at her from the other side of the bars. Buffy jumped to her feet. “Help me. Let me out of here.”

“I’m working on it. But you see, this is Tartasian steel. Designed to entrap titans. A little godlet like you won’t be getting out anytime soon.”

“You know who I am?” Buffy asked nervously.

“Not exactly. Haven’t been invited to many family gatherings lately.” The man smiled grimly. “But I can guess from your scent. You smell like springtime air. You must be Joyce’s girl--the flower child.”

“My name is Buffy,” the goddess bristled. “And who the hell are you supposed to be?”

The man grinned for real this time. “Exactly.”

Buffy paused. Then her eyes widened. “You’re Hades.”

“Just call me Angel. Hades is a little formal, considering how much time we’ll be spending together.”

Buffy held back a shiver at that. “Listen, um, Angel, I need to get back to the surface. It’s kind of the first year my mom let me be out there by myself in the world. I have a job to do. I’m supposed to be finishing up the last of the summer flowers before autumn comes. My mom’s gonna flip out when she finds out I’m missing.”

“I’m sure she will,” said Angel, frowning with genuine remorse. “I’m trying to get you out of here as fast as I can. This trap wasn’t set up for you.”

Buffy stared at the bars of her cage. “This was a trap? If it wasn’t for me, then who?”

Angel scowled. “My brother.”


“We don’t speak his name down here.”

Buffy snorted. “Well, that’s mature. Why were you trying to trap Zeus?”

Angel scowled at her more.

“What? I’m already in a cage! What more can you do to me? Are you going to answer my question or not?”

Angel’s eyebrows wrinkled, and he let out a soft laugh. “You’ve got spunk, godlet, I’ll give you that. Most of the others won’t even look me in the eye...and to answer your question, it’s complicated. My brother and I have been fighting for eons. I think I came out of Cronos’s belly annoyed with him. But we’ve always bickered. Petty sibling rivalry stuff. But several winter solstices ago, he and I really got into it. So I decided to set up a trap--the egotist can’t resist a narcissus flower, ironically enough. It was supposed to be him who fell down here into this cage. I figured I’d let him sit a few decades, then let him out.” Angel looked at Buffy. “I didn’t plan on you.”

“Well, here I am,” Buffy sighed. She stepped away from the bars, jamming her hands into her overalls pockets. “Literally stuck in hell. I think this must be the worst first year on the job any god has ever had.”

“Poseidon got some water up her nose her first year,” Angel added meekly.

Buffy sighed, flopping to her floor. “My mom’s never gonna let me out of her sight again, you know that right? I had to beg her for almost a century to let me go out on my own.”

“I’m sorry,” the god of the Dead replied. “I truly am. Is there anything I can do?”

“Yeah,” said Buffy, bringing her knees up to her chin and resting her head on them. “Get me out of here.”

“ you wish.”

Several hours later, Angel came back. Buffy looked up and saw that he wasn’t alone.

“Oh lords, my lady,” said Buffy, bowing her head awkwardly. She still didn’t really know how to address other gods.

“None of that now, my dear,” said Athena in a warm English accent. He was a tall, middle-aged man with glasses and clad in tweed. He adjusted his spectacles as he squinted at the cage. “Dear me. This is certainly a well-devised trap for the lord of thunder, Angel.”

Hephaestus, a man with shaggy dark hair and a much younger appearance than Athena, with an eyepatch strapped across his face, grunted in agreement, knocking on the metal of the cage. “Steel from the pits of Tartarus, eh? Boy, I’d like to get my hands on some of that. I’m sure my wife would love a new heavy duty pair of handcuffs.”

Hecate, a young woman with red hair, looked at Hephaestus, perturbed. “What would Anya need handcuffs?” she said.

Hephaestus laughed nervously. “ reason.”

“Well?” said Angel, and Buffy thought she could hear a note of anxiety in his voice. “Do you have any ideas how to get her out?”

“I say, this cage you’ve would take a great force to open it, I imagine,” Athena said. “But then, I’m not the metallurgist here. Xander?”

Hephaestus looked up. “Yeah, my typical welding equipment’s not gonna cut it. Literally. These bars are not coming apart any time soon. Willow, maybe if we enhance some of my tools with magic?”

“Well, specialty is, uh...necromancy,” Hecate uttered quickly. “But I’m sure there’s something we could do. Giles, do you have any books on magic?”

“Obviously. I have books on everything. Luckily I managed to save a few rare texts from that dreadful incident in Alexandria...”

“How long am I gonna be in here?” Buffy finally interjected.

The three gods paused and looked at each other. “We don’t know,” Hephaestus admitted.

“But I’m sure there’s a way,” Athena added.

Hecate smiled warmly at Buffy, putting her hand through the bars to touch her shoulder comfortingly. “Don’t worry, Persephone. We won’t give up.”

Buffy nodded. Then she looked up. “Can you tell my mom I’m alright? And that I love her? And...I miss her? I-I don’t know where she is, she could be anywhere in the world—summer to autumn time is busy for her, but...if you could get the message to her...”

“Of course,” said Hecate. “My friend Andrew—that’s Hermes to you—he’ll be able to find her, wherever she is. I’ll pass the message along to him.”

“Come on, then,” sighed Athena, adjusting his glasses again. “Lots of studying to do.”

The three of them left, leaving Buffy alone again with the lord of the dead.

There was a tense silence between them. Angel coughed awkwardly. “Can I...get you anything? A pillow? A book, maybe?”

Buffy swallowed, suddenly realizing how long it’d been since she ate or drank anything. Not that she needed to—she was a goddess, for crying out loud. But still... “Could I maybe have something to eat?” she asked.

“Uhh...the thing is, with Underworld food, if you eat or drink anything from here, you’ll really be stuck. All the food and drink is cursed. Sorry.”

God. This really was Hell.

“I have some leftover ambrosia though, from the last time I visited the surface world,” Angel said, trying to sound upbeat—which must pretty be hard when you’re the miserable, broody, loner king of the dead. “You’re more than welcome to it.”

Buffy nodded slowly, appreciating that he was at least trying to make up for trapping her here. Maybe Hades wasn’t as bad as everyone made him out to be. “Thanks,” she said quietly.

Angel ended up bringing her a blanket, some pillows, and a lantern as well. “I figured I should make it more comfortable for you.”

“Thank you,” Buffy said, reaching to take the items through the bars of the cage. Suddenly, little bursts of green appeared on the metal; vines wrapped themselves around the bars, and tiny flowers bloomed when Buffy and Angel’s fingers touched.

“Whoa,” said Angel, taking a step back. “That’s quite a power you’ve got there.”

“Yeah, uh...” Buffy blushed. “Flowers just kind of pop up around me. My mom says when I was born, the patch of ground underneath me just burst with them.” She watched as the flowers quickly wilted and fell to the hard stone floor. “Aww. Why’d they do that?”

“Nothing from the surface world lives for long around here,” Angel said morosely.

Buffy smiled a tiny bit. “That sounds like a challenge.”