Goddess, I hope this works, Willow thought as she sat down by the chessboard.
Her opponent had the most rad cool glasses Dawn had ever seen. Even the dark suit jacket over tan pinstripe pants looked good on him. Plus the hat was totally awesome. Dawn wondered how hard it would be to get her hands on it. “Is she sure that's Death?” Dawn whispered to her sister. “I mean, what happened to the bony hand reaching out of a cloak?”
The man turned and gave Dawn a frank stare. “Perhaps you'd prefer I carried a scythe as well?”
Dawn gulped as Buffy stepped between them. “No, no,” Buffy said, feeling unusually nervous, “scytheless is OK with us.”
Death tried to remember the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, and how it had worked out last time. He intoned, glumly, “Very well. Winner takes all. Your move, Ms Rosenberg."
“Yes, Mr. Death,” came a voice from behind them. “I'll play your game! But not chess!!! Bah... Fooey! My game is Jarts!!!” A lawn dart hit the chessboard, dead center, scattering chess pieces up into the air. “I win!!!”
Buffy, readying her Scythe as she turned, stopped, dumbstruck. There was a giant carrot-headed creature standing before her, holding more lawn darts in one hand. What the, she asked herself.
“Oh, sweet Mother of God,” Xander said, falling to his knees.
“What is it?” Dawn asked.
“A demon?” Buffy said uncertainly. She'd been prepared to fight ubervamps, a seriously deadly threat but this... There was nothing serious about it and she didn't know how to handle it. “A carrot-head? How could that even be?”
“I think it's a mask,” Dawn whispered. “I think that whatever it is, is human.”
“I never win,” Death said glumly as he started to sink into the ground, off to slaughter ubervamps.
“Can't be,” Buffy replied to her sister. “Its got duck feet. And what about that flame at the top of its head? That would so catch the mask on fire, I mean if it really were a mask.”
“Hey,” Willow said to Death. “Aren't you going to wait for us before you start killing?”
“No,” Death replied. “I need a pick-me-up after being so unexpectedly defeated by my old nemesis.”
“Flaming Carrot,” Xander said in awe.
“Don't leave, Mr. Death,” Flaming Carrot called out. “Victory celebration. Cheeze Whiz and crackers at the Boom Boom Club.”
Death, depressed that he'd been bested at Jarts once again, just waved away the invitation as he vanished into the ground.
“The Boom Boom Club?” Xander asked. His eyes glazed over at the thought of topless dancers. Rising to his feet, he added, “Can I come?”
“OK,” Flaming Carrot replied. “But we must leave quickly. Time slips by on tiny mouse feet.”
“Hey!” Dawn exclaimed. “Xander's wandering off with that... that... thing.”
“Should we stop it? Do I need to slay it?” Somebody just tell me what it is, Buffy thought.
“Can't be killed,” Flaming Carrot called back. “Mr. Death has left the field. Perhaps next time.”
“Willow?” Buffy asked. “What should I do?” Shaking her Scythe towards the departing carrot-guy, she said, “If that thing is human, I can't kill it, but Xander's just wandering off with it, which does sorta suggest it's a demon, doesn't it?”
Willow, thinking of the hundreds of Flaming Carrot comics Xander and Jesse had subjected her to, smiled. “It's OK, he's a good guy.”
“Are you sure?” Buffy asked.
“He did kinda stop the apocalypse,” Dawn added.
“Well, if you say so,” Buffy said to Willow. “But if Xander gets hurt...”
“Then we'll all go and kick his crazy-ass butt,” Willow promised.