Real Life, the Toughest Demon Yet
By Sha

Disclaimer: Joss, The WB, Mutant Enemy and Fox own all. (If I forgot someone, I'm sorry.) I just own the story idea. (Scary thought huh?)
Distribution: If you have a blanket to my fics, take the thing. Other wise ask and you shall receive. It just lets me do a dance first. *G*
Rating: PG to PG 13- there may be a naughty word or two.My mother tried washing my mouth out with soap when I was young, but I liked it too much. That or I just like my potty mouth. *sigh*
Spoilers: Umm maybe a few season 4 but so few it's sad.
Notes: I've heard the statement that real life was keeping people from doing things. I think I snapped a little when my friend Andra fell to the real life statement. After reading her email saying real life was dragging her down, this story was born. I guess I'm saying, this is dedicated to Andra. And to all those who have ever had to say: As soon as real life.....(blah blah, fill in own statement).
Notes 2: OK, get ready to chuckle: I started this story in the middle of Dec ('99), but, alas, I fell to the demon myself and just now got around to finishing this. Oh well. (March '00)
Notes 3: Another renovation was done (Oct '00) and thanks to Lyssa and her wonderful beta~ing, this is ready for posting, and a hell of a lot better.

Webmistress note: Thanks for the dedication Sha! I got over my Real Life crisis, you will too, Hon. Chin up! ~ Andra


"That's it! Real Life is going down!" Not talking to anyone in particular, which was a good thing since no one else was around, Buffy tore off her brand new, fifty-dollar shirt, now covered in pig’s blood. Pig’s blood that a very annoying Spike had coughed up, not three minutes before, while they were on patrol together. Obviously, they had to cut it short and go their separate ways. Spike went back to Giles to whine and Buffy to her dorm to change clothes.

Buffy flopped down on her bed in the dorm room she shared with Willow. She just couldn't get over the day she had been having. Hell, the past three YEARS she had been having. Oh, the others had it pretty shitty too; it was just that she had a hard time feeling their pain when her own was so great.

Looking at her bra, she muttered angrily once more. It too, would have to be pitched. Spike's blood vomit had soaked through her shirt and ruined it as well. Due to a nasty little demon, the vampire had somehow caught the flu. Anything to cause problems and stress, that was the goal of this demon. Groaning once more, she threw the shirt and bra towards the general direction of the trash can. She didn't bother to see if the bundle landed inside or not, she just grabbed her pillow, put it over her face and thought back to when the latest set of problems had started.

It had begun as a pretty quiet week. Then, late Tuesday afternoon, Buffy received a call from Giles. There was a new demon in town. Its name was Real Life, and it was a very nasty demon. It infected its victims with one bad situation after the other. At first it would start out little… A bad grade; an overflowing toilet; a fight with your best friend. On and on, until the problems built up to almost unbearable levels and all the fun stuff was sucked out of your day to be replaced by shit.

The gang called the demon RL for short. It affected everyone. No one escaped its wrath.

Giles lost his glasses, got dumped by Olivia, lost his favorite demonology book and got nasty letters from the IRS and Immigration. Seems a little matter of a lack of a green card and some possible back taxes had suddenly come to light. Not that he hadn't paid his taxes...exactly, but being an ex-librarian, who blew up his place of employment, had that pesky little secret of being a watcher, then an ex watcher, he hadn't made any money with which to pay taxes. Does the IRS want to hear stuff like that? Oh no, they just want their money.

Then there was Xander. He lost his job at the Happy Sack, then at Ice Cream Sal's, and finally at Raul's Construction Done Right. He was dumped by Anya, thrown out of his basement and broke his arm trying to help Buffy patrol the night before. Of course, he didn't have any insurance to cover the hospital bill and they were out of the Pokemon casts so he had a stupid Power Rangers one instead. He should have stuck with a plain old red one.

Willow failed her chemistry test. As a practicing witch that was a decidedly hard blow. One would think that with all of her spell casting, chemistry would be a breeze. Then, on the same day, she lost Amy the rat, had a computer meltdown, and received a nasty letter on the consequences of hacking inside the FBI's files.

Spike got the flu (which still stunned Buffy and amused Giles to no end), was burned by sunlight when Xander came over and forgot to shut the door right away, and was dumped by Harmony, who in turn burned ALL of his possessions. Then, he was staked in the shoulder by a very grumpy, very nearsighted ex-watcher. Of course, Spike would NEVER believe that Giles did it on accident. I mean, how many blond vampires did one have living in one’s bathroom?

Now, Buffy really had a shitty week. First, she lost her twenty-page psychology report, and it was awesome. It had footnotes. Footnotes! Then she failed not one, but two mid-term tests. She ruined three new shirts, one of which when she was bitten by a dog. At least it was a four-legged normal type dog, because that was the only good news she had.

She had been stood up by Riley, gotten her purse stolen when she fell asleep in Psych 101, and to top that all off, she got hit in the head by a five year old's Pokemon ball and somehow had to have 4 stitches because of it. True, Giles was able to remove said stitches the next morning, but it was only Thursday. The weekend was coming and they all were shuddering at the thought of THAT.

It was past time to kill a demon.

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Throwing the pillow to the floor, Buffy sat up and began to plan. She knew that finding RL shouldn't be too difficult. She'd just follow the sounds of people crying, moaning and cussing. The thing she worried about was killing it.

The gang had researched and they were still unclear on which weapons would kill it, if any would. The books all said the same thing: 'To fight this demon you must possess the power.' The power of what, they didn't know. But hell, they had a witch, a Slayer, a vampire, an ex-watcher, and a guy with military knowledge. Surely one of them would have this needed power.

Pissed all over again, Buffy jumped up and strode towards the door until she remembered that she was naked from the waist up. Stomping over to her closet, she looked inside and grabbed the first thing she came to. Unfortunately, it was one of Willow's hideous shirts. Shrugging, she put it on anyway. The way the week was going, it would get ruined anyway.

Fully clothed, the Slayer left the dorm and headed for Giles. The rest of the gang would already be there. They were too afraid to go anywhere else.

She finally got to Giles’ with minimal trouble. True, she had been hit by an out of control football and then that kid had knocked her down with his bike, but it could have been MUCH worse! She knocked on the door before busting in.

Inside, the gang all sat around Giles living room, silent and feeling very sorry for themselves. Buffy shot a rueful glance to Xander who was sitting on a chair in the dark corner of the room. His misery was so intense it was palpable. She looked over at the window to where Willow was sitting and caught the red head staring longingly at Spike, who was standing against the wall by the hallway. Buffy then turned her gaze to her mentor and guide.

Grinning at Giles and his very rumpled appearance, Buffy led him back to the couch. "Sit Giles. You were trying to pee in the plant. *So* not cool. OK guys, it's time to do something. Enough of this hiding out crap." With Giles safely seated on the couch, Buffy opted to stand before him. If he needed help again, she'd be close before he embarrassed himself or her any further.

With a nod at the general shape called Buffy -boy, did he wish he had a back up pair of glasses- Giles agreed. "OK, we've done all the research and prepared the best we can. It's time to hunt RL. I think it best if we all stay together." He felt safer with more targets around. He couldn't afford another head injury right now.

The Slayer shook her head with a frown, saying the words Giles dreaded hearing "Sorry Giles, but we need to do this tonight. If we do it your way, we'll never find and kill the damn thing. I say we take walkie-talkies, split up into groups of two and go that way. We'll cover more ground and we can all converge to the same area when needed."

Willow bounced up and down in place with pride. "Wow Buffy, big word usage! Converge, that's such a cool word, and useful too!" Seeing the look the others gave her, Willow ducked her head and closed her mouth. She'd tell Giles that his fly was open later.

For the thousandth time Xander wondered how someone so smart could be so.... goofy. Absently scratching at his cast, he turned to Buffy, asking, "Sorry to bust your bubble Buff, but there are five of us. Who gets the extra?"

Buffy sighed deeply and with a lot of feeling before glaring at Xander and replying, "Your arm is broke, you can go with me and Giles." Turning to Willow, she took note of the red heads inability to keep still and vowed to keep the witch away from Jolt and any other form of caffeine. " Willow, you and Spike can go together." Sometimes she wished everything didn't have to be spelled out letter by letter to everyone *all* the time. Especially when her week was this crappy and she was so damn grouchy.

Willow opened her mouth to protest, stopping when Buffy gave her the "slay" look. Looking at Spike, she smiled shyly before nodding her head. "OK, but I think if we haven't found it in a couple hours we should all meet at a meeting place."

"Good idea Red. We can all meet at the park in two hours. And bloody well tell me if you see the wanker. I owe him one." Grumbling, Spike looked down at his favorite, and only, black silk shirt, now ruined by the pig’s blood incident that had claimed Buffy's shirt and bra.

Silently grabbing their walkie-talkies, the two groups left Giles place and went their separate ways.

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"So Red, still missing your little teddy bear with claws?" They had been searching for five minutes. Spike was bored to tears and wanted to fight.

Willow gave serious thought to staking him then. No one would believe it hadn't been an accident. "His name is Oz and you just shut up about him. Why did they make me go with you?"

Spike pulled one her red locks, laughing. She was so easy to rile. Plus she was stunning when she was mad. Her face got that lovely shade of red and her eyes flashed with murderous intent. He loved that in a woman.

She smacked his hand away from her hair. She hated the chills she got when he did that. She never felt that little 'race' run down her when Oz did it, and she sure as hell didn't understand why it was she felt it when Spike did. "Listen mister, I have a stake and I'm not afraid to use it! I don't care if you are Mr. Impotent."

The vampire growled, 'vamping out’ in a quick flash, "I am not bloody impotent! Give me five minutes alone in a room with you and I'd show you how impotent I'm not!" Thrusting his chin out, he dared her to take his mildly worded challenge.

Willow replied with a snort, "Yeah, five minutes is all you'd have to show too." Face flaming red, both because she was furious and in no mood to deal after the week she had so far and because she couldn't believe she just said that, she walked faster. " Come on, we're supposed to be looking for a demon." Turning away from him, she kept heading for the park.

More than a little miffed at being dismissed so easily, Spike dug the wound a little deeper. "You're just sore because your little wolf doesn't want you any more. Seems to me that you need to face that and move on."

Willow threw her walkie-talkie down on the grass, grabbing Spike by his shirt. Nose to nose, she all but growled, "Like you have room to talk? 'Oh, my Dru left me, oh woe is me'." God, he just brought out the worst in her. All the things she hated, he goaded her into doing. Some how, that fact just made her madder. " Please! Just shut up before I'm forced to do something drastic!" Letting go of his shirt, she shook her head piteously. "One of these days Spike...."

Spike winked at her, a smirk on those full sexy lips of his, taunting," Oh yeah? Like what? You gonna make me float away?"

Stamping her foot, Willow opened her mouth to retort stopping when she heard someone sobbing. Glancing at Spike, Willow picked up her walkie-talkie from the ground, then rushed to see who or what was crying so pitifully, and why.

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God Xander was bored. Bored... bored... bored. He glanced over to his companions and saw again the way that they tried to sneak looks at one another. What the hell was that all about? Surely they didn't...naaahhh, that's just, well ewwww.

Watching them again, really watching them, he saw something in Giles’ look, that he recognized from the ones Anya gave him right before sex. He missed those looks. Sighing deeply, he thought of Anya. Was it his fault he got fired? And kicked out of his parents house? Hell, he couldn't buy her everything she wanted. He didn't have a job! Man, was he miserable. He looked over and saw Giles smiling. "Sheesh, what the hell did he have to smile about? Must be a British thing. "

"Xander, what are you grumbling about over there? It's really annoying." Crankily, Buffy pouted at Xander. His babbling to himself was bugging her. It was one thing to hear him babble and another to hear it but not be able to understand one damn word because he was talking too low.

"Annoying? I'm annoying?!" Sputtering in disbelief, Xander stopped and turned to his two friends. "You two sit there and stare at each other when you think no one is looking. Giles smiles and then sighs and plays with his glasses for an hour. You blush and lick your lips until every male in six miles is insane from watching and you tell me that *I'm* annoying?!"

"I do NOT- what is it exactly that you're trying to say because-"

Xander cut Buffy off and looked at her and then Giles. He almost choked on his laughter to see Giles. No wonder the man hadn't tried to defend himself, he had gone into catatonic shock. Most likely at being found out. "Oh save it, you two should just go on a date and put all of Sunnydale out of it's misery of having to watch you two dance around sexual tension."

"Oh bloody hell! What the hell are you even talking about? I have n-never once thought of B-Buffy in any manner as s-"

"Yeah, uh-huh. *Right* G-man." Chortling, Xander wasn't so bored and miserable any more. This was fun.

Buffy grabbed Xander's shirtfront, feeling a small bit of satisfaction in his frightened look. "You have gone nuts and I think it would be best for you health if you shut up. Now! I think this week as affected you mentally. You're more mental than usual."

He threw his hands up in a defeated gesture and backed off when Buffy released him. Walking ahead of them a few steps, Xander again turned and threw them a glance. They were busy shooting each other embarrassed looks. That talk Willow had tried to have with him about this very thing a week back suddenly made some sense. These two *did* have a thing for each other.

Giles reached for his glasses and cringed when he grabbed empty air. Damn bloody things, of all times to break them. He noticed Xander's almost joyful bounce and felt a bit pissy towards the boy. "If you think you can be serious for a few minutes, we are supposed to be looking for a demon, not having fun and my and Buffy's expense!"

"I'm am serious! Why haven't you two tried dating each other?" Ignoring his companions’ glares, Xander again warmed up to his subject. "Think about it. You can't keep other people because of all the slaying. ... and the lying and the whole death by axes thing. With you there's nothing to hide, and a date could be dual purpose… slayage and kissage. So, why not? And before you tell me 'she's like a daughter' or 'I would never!’ don't. I've seen the way you look at each other. Heck, we all feel the tension when you two get together." Smiling, Xander looked from Buffy to Giles, enjoying the opened mouth, red faced, sputtering people they had become. He had started this as a joke, a way to pass the time and bug them so he wouldn't be so miserable and alone feeling. Now, seeing how flustered they were and thinking about all the 'facts' he laid out, he actually saw merit in what he was saying.

After a few minutes of the floundering fish routine, Buffy opened her mouth to try and salve the damage, only to be interrupted by loud, nearby sobbing. Looking at the other two guys with her, she turned and quickly jogged towards the noise.

The three followed the noise and rounded the corner to find Willow and Spike trying to question a sobbing, hysterical woman.

Quietly walking up to Willow, Buffy pulled her aside. "What's up Will? The demon been here?" She gave the woman an understanding glance; the week had been terrible for most.

Willow nodded, whispering, "Oh yeah! It's hard to understand her, but she keeps saying something about men, cars and smelly pea soup. I think. If I understand her correctly, the final blow to her troubles has something to do with selfish penises on legs." Snorting, Willow swallowed her laughter. "It's hard to make it all out through the sobbing, but it's been fun seeing Spike trying to decipher it."

Watching Spike awkwardly pat the woman's back, Buffy had to hide her own smile when he shot a desperate look to Giles for help. She'd pay to have this on tape for blackmail purposes. The big bad William the Bloody forced by need to comfort a mortal woman. She snickered aloud before she decided to take advantage of what seemed to be the first person in Sunnydale able to *see* that something was strange enough to be a demon and not some guy on PCP or a trick of lighting; and talk to the woman herself.

After a few minutes, Buffy was able to find out that the woman had actually seen the demon. It was little, resembled a troll and was the color of split pea soup. And it stank. Badly. Promising to kill this nasty demon, Buffy and the others headed off in the direction the poor woman had seen it go.

As they hurried along, Buffy kept thinking of the description the woman had given, shaking her head. Never in all her slaying years had she heard of something quite so...strange that was this hard to find. "I can't believe something is that weird looking and we haven’t found it or even seen it around!" Turning towards Giles, she grinned at the thoughtful expression on his face. She loved it when his brain started humming and he went into watcher mode. It was so sex- uh… cute. Yeah, cute. (Thinking of Giles as sexy was a bit too wiggy right now.)

Unaware of his Slayers thoughts, Giles nodded thoughtfully, "One would think it would stand out. Perhaps each victim perceives it differently. O-or it has the power of invisibility."

Pointing across the park, Spike shook his head. "No, mate, I think that until now, it has been a bloody good hider. Look at the freaky bugger."

Everyone followed Spike's outstretched finger. There, across the park, was the demon in question. Real life. It was about 3 feet tall, and like the woman's description, the exact color of split pea soup. They couldn't smell it from this distance, so they would have to take the victims word that it stank badly. Considering what they expected in their own imaginations, this looked like an easy kill.

Buffy signaled to the others to follow in different directions, and began running across the park towards the demon. Giles was to follow to her right, Willow and Spike to the left and Xander was to come up from behind.

As she and the others got closer to RL, they saw for themselves how it had evaded them all this time. It was a shape-changing demon. They also noticed the smell. RL did indeed, smell very badly. It was kind of a cross between a skunk and old burnt 'left in the pan for a week' ham and beans, only much, much, much worse.

The demon changed shape as Buffy approached to become that of a brown haired little girl with big blue eyes and a red ribbon in her hair to match the pretty red frilly dress he wore.

Shrugging, Buffy smiled as she punched him in the mouth," been there, seen that." After the whole incident with the two kids really being one demon and her and Willow almost getting burned at the stake, she could fight just about anything without much regret.

She watched in complete and utter satisfaction as his deep purple blood flowed from Real life's mouth, the hit having forced him to change back to his own shape. Drawing back for another blow, Buffy gasped in outrage as Spike grabbed her arm.

"Uh-uh Pet, it's my turn." Reveling in the glory of being able to KICK ASS again, Spike pounded the demon with his fists.

When RL dropped to the ground, he changed shapes again. This time he chose a shape that incapacitated Spike...Dru. Somehow the demon knew what was the most incapacitating form and changed to it. If they hadn't watched him change, they would have been dead certain that the demon before them was Dru herself. Complete with Miss Edith.

Sighing in disbelief, Giles fired a shot from his cross bow, hitting RL in the throat. Loading another bolt, he aimed, only to drop the bow as the demon now mirrored Buffy. He stared in disbelief as the demon moved and grinned exactly like his Slayer. The eye color was perfect; the hair was styled just as she did hers. So intent on his perusal of Real Life's new shape, he missed Buffy's gasp of shock as she too looked on in disbelief.

Willow charged ahead, knocking the demon to the ground, forcing him to change shape and lose her friends husk. Now faced with the demon in his true form, they others began to try and kill him.

One by one, Buffy's friends and helpers faced the demon to try to bring him down. To try to pay him back for all the hell he had given to them, only to be defeated by the face of the one they loved. Willow tried to face the demon as Oz and was reduced to tears, causing Xander to grab a stick and beat Real Life with it. Then he was faced with Cordy. The fact, that it was Cordy, alone put him into shock and he fell to the ground. He had thought he was over her, that she didn't hold a place in his heart any more.

Unable to see her friends hurt any worse, Buffy took matters back into her own hands, and faced the demon, stake in hand. "OK freak show, let's get this over."

The short little pea green demon smiled for the first time that evening. "Haven't you figured it out? You can't kill me; I’m Real Life. I make up your day. I map out your life. I decide your pain. I am the ruler of all."

"Oh you are so wrong you smelly pissant. You may throw us your curves and spots of bad luck but you do NOT rule how we as individuals will live it out." Snorting, Buffy circled around the demon as she talked. "You cause me to fall for a vampire? Fine, I dealt. You want me to then make love to said vamp and have him try to kill me? Fine, I dealt! I’ve failed tests, wrecked my mom's car, and watched MY watcher suck face with my mother!? FINE, I DEALT WITH IT DAMN IT!!" Heaving in deep breaths, Buffy felt a red murderous glow over take her at that thought. She tried not to think of Giles and her mom because when she did, she lost control. "Now deal with this," picking up Giles fallen crossbow, Buffy fired a shot into the demon's shriveled heart. As he lay on the ground writhing, Buffy smiled sweetly and held out her hand to help him up. "Hurt, didn't it?" When Real Life ignored her hand, she dropped it and turned to the others, nodding in RL's direction. "I finally get it. We can't kill him, but we CAN put him into submission."

Nodding in understanding, Giles chuckled. "Of course! Of course, it was right there in front of me all along. I can buy new glasses, replace my book, hire an attorney and be glad that Olivia has moved on to better things. Go to bloody hell, Real Life." Looking at Buffy in awe, Giles reached out and grabbed her hand. His Slayer was a very smart woman.

Buffy squeezed Giles hand with her own,smiling at him brightly. Before she and Giles left, she looked at her friends as they sat on the ground looking confused and slightly disappointed, and shrugged saying, "Spike, Willow has a thing for you, deal. Willow? Spike has a thing for you too, work it out. Xander, get a new job, move in Giles basement and wait for Anya to get good and horny. She'll come back to you. DEAL!!" Laughing as they shot each other wondering looks, Buffy turned to Giles, "As for me, I can retake the classes if I flunk out. I can buy new clothes; I’m used to that anyway. As for that disgusting memory of you and my mother?" Smiling, she leaned in close so only Giles could hear. "I can replace them with our own images watcher man."

Giles stumbled for a step, looking at Buffy in shock. He wasn't quite sure he understood her right until he saw the saucy grin and suggestive wink she gave him. Swallowing in anticipation, he pulled her closer and walked faster.

The two walked off, leaving behind the shouts of agony from Real Life. As the others smiled through the pain, and just dealt with the shit RL had handed them, they caused the demon the greatest agony he had ever known.

They may not have killed Real Life, but they dealt him a blow unlike any other. They smiled and moved on.

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The End

To Andra, Gina, and myself dammit! Life has been a real BITCH to me here lately but I'm smiling, even if it is lopsided. Also to any others who have just about had their fill.

Sha