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The Good Shepherd's Pie

The Good Shepherd's Pie

“And that’s the, uh, bubbly and squeaky?”

Giles frowned at Buffy as he placed the casserole dish in the center of the table. “No,” he said as he whisked the oven mitt from his hand and pointed to a similarly white and lumpy dish across the table. “That is the bubble and squeak, this is the main course.” He smiled broadly as he stared down at the crusty perfection of his childhood memories. “Shepherd’s pie.”

“No actual shepherds were harmed in the making of this dinner,” Xander muttered.

Buffy’s eyes widened. “Right?” she asked quickly.

Giles sighed, a spasm of knee-jerk Americans-as-culinary-heathens irritation crossing his face. “Shepherd’s pie: lamb casserole with a mashed potato topping. Very traditional, very English, precisely what you all asked for.”

There was a muffled ripping noise as Xander, Buffy and Willow attempted to remove suddenly dry tongues from the roofs of their mouths in order to form convincingly mouth watering sounds of yum. For her part, Tara remained silent beyond the small eep that had escaped as soon as Giles had uttered lamb.

“So, who’s first then?” Giles asked as he took up a ladle. “Willow?”

“Oh, I’m good with that thing with radishes,” she said quickly. The corners of her lips perked up in what she hoped was characteristically adorable idiosyncrasy. “Vegetarian, you know.”

Buffy veered away from the oncoming ladle of lamb. “Since when?”

Willow shrugged lightly, her eyes wide. “Well, statistically, one of us should be, right?” She glanced down at her right hand clenched tightly on Tara’s and then at the other that fiddled nervously with a pentacle necklace. “Okay, I realize that I’m the stereotypical choice, but…”

“And you decided on this sudden lifestyle change when, exactly?” Giles asked, his ladle dipping dispiritedly. “May I remind you, Willow, that this meal was your idea. A traditional English supper, since I had so graciously,” his eyes cut toward Buffy, “served as patriarch for your American Thanksgiving. Where, you’ll remember, I served cream from an aerosol can atop a pastry made from a root vegetable mostly notable for its use as an All Hallows Eve lantern.” His ladle quivered righteously, his tone became aggrieved. “Where I ate peas al dente.”

Willow squirmed, her resolve weakening. “I know, it’s just that I…” She glanced around helplessly, and then her gaze zeroed in on the rich, custard-yellow topping that dipped from the ladle toward her plate. “Wait, is that cheese?” She shook her head sadly, disappointment oozing from every fiber. “I’m sorry, Giles, Jewish, you know? Practically practicing from birth!”

Buffy’s eyes narrowed as she began mentally tabulating the number of Tic-Tacs she’d slipped Willow on the way home from their multitude of Sunnydale High sausage pizza – extra cheese – with a side of studying marathons. Before she could share her findings with the group, however…

“Well, that leaves me out, too,” Xander said quickly. “No meat on Fridays which,” he scanned the walls desperately for a calendar that wasn’t Mayan or Gregorian, finally lighting on one from a dry cleaning store. “Which, sadly, is today. Episcopalian,” he nodded and then looked toward Willow with a wink. “Keep the faith.”

“I believe that’s, um, I mean, isn’t that…Catholics?” Tara asked carefully.

Xander stared at her in horror, the ladle looming large in his peripheral vision. He laughed shortly. “Well, you know, the Harrises are slow to pick up the new trends.” He glanced at Buffy and Willow, his grin wide and over-eager. “Remember? Me rockin’ the Fish Stick Friday every week?” He turned toward Giles and banged a fist lightly on the tabletop. “Bring on the fish’n’chips, my good man! Wot wot?”

Giles sighed and then turned toward Buffy, his determination renewed afresh. “Buffy?” He dipped the ladle enticingly. “Prerogative of the brave, hmm?”

Buffy swallowed as she allowed the portion to be spooned onto her plate. She lifted her fork, not noticing as her wrist turned and the tines took on a staking arc as they pierced the crusty potato topping. Chunks of lamb swam in rich gravy, tiny opaque slivers clinging to every crumb…her breath quickened.

“Giles?” she asked carefully, feeling his eyes on every skim of her fork. “Is that garlic? ‘Cause you know, with my close proximity to vampires, I think I’m starting to pick up some of their – ”

“Oh, for God’s sake!” Giles spat, slumping back into his chair and tossing his glasses on to the table. “The Watchers’ Diaries don’t record a single of instance of a slayer…” his mouth tightened, words tumbling to a stop. “And for your information, those are onions!”

Buffy glanced at Willow helplessly. “Well, maybe with human body chemistry, even onions…I mean, we’re still researching –”

An orgasmic moan interrupted Buffy’s attempt at explanation. All eyes turned to the end of the table where Anya was sensuously licking the last glimpses of gravy, mashed potatoes and mooshy peas from her fork. A globule of blood pudding glimmered on the corner of her lips as they slid carefully over the fork, her small pink tongue curving between each tine to savor the very last.

She looked up at them, a half-wild smile of epicurean satisfaction spreading below eyes heavy-lidded with satiation. Her eyes widened slightly and she burped delicately as she stared past them to the sideboard, her shiny lips falling open into an O of delight. “Oh my God, is that a treacle tart?!”


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