She knew as soon as she unfolded the burlap she'd carefully wrapped
around the photographs that the spell had failed. There was no purulent
stink, no black ooze sealing the images of Rupert Giles and the object
of his beloved together. Instead when she opened the package the dried
bird's blood simply flaked off the Watcher's picture, leaving it slick
and unmarred. Orexis sighed, she knew without looking that the poppet
she'd made of him would likewise show none of the desired signs of deterioration,
despair, obsession. Apparently Mrs. Summers' antipathy hadn't been quite
as deep as Spike had thought. Modern women had no standards, likely
the little slut had spread her legs for him at his first request; it
was all very disappointing. She dropped the useless bundle back into
the sideboard and slammed the drawer shut. Ah well, she would have to
think of something else.
Back in her study, she sat down in front of her computer and checked
her e-mail. She was not at all surprised to see a message from rupert_giles
forwarded from the Warriors of Light list. SUBJECT: Capteniel Demons?
Vulnerabilities. Orexis smiled, it was nice to see that at least one
Watcher was slowly easing into the 20th century, albeit a bit late.
She'd always found the Council appallingly retrograde. Assuming they
were even aware of it, they probably considered the existence of this
esoteric and strictly limited-membership list an abomination. From the
posts she'd read over the past year of lurking, it seemed to be quite
a useful tool for those would–be saviors of the species. Useful
too, for her to be able to easily keep a surreptitious eye on potential
adversaries. She clicked to open up the message.
"Urgently need any information on the Capteniel race of demons,
especially their vulnerabilities! Would be extremely grateful for any
Exactly how grateful? she wondered. There were only two replies, one
from a Peasefull_Sojourner questioning the need for violence against
a traditionally reclusive and peaceful species of non-human sentients,
and a second from Legless with a uk.com address suggesting that Maneferus'
Grimoire might have some information.
This was really nice, Joyce thought leaning back to look up at the
clear blue sky. The autumn chill made her wish that she'd brought her
sweater with her, but it was well worth it to be outside and away from
the chaos of the overcrowded apartment. How long had it been since she'd
taken the time to just sit and enjoy drinking her morning coffee? Usually
she drank it in the car on her way to the gallery, always in a hurry,
but there was nothing like the possible end of the world to make you
stop and sip the coffee. Couldn't complain about the company either,
she thought looking over at Rupert.
This was really very pleasant, Giles thought sipping his tea. Occasionally
he glanced over at Joyce. To his eyes, her hair, her skin, her eyes
seemed to glow in the morning light. The sounds of the children -- er,
-- young people trying to organize breakfast for themselves reached
the couple only faintly as they sat out in the courtyard.
"My fault, I hadn't planned for the necessity of feeding everyone,
" he told Joyce. She snorted.
"Rupert, they're all old enough to feed themselves, Buffy included,"
she pointed out. "And later, you can send them out for groceries."
"I suppose so," he agreed. He looked years younger when he
smiled, Joyce realized. Not to mention handsome. It was a damn shame
that they wouldn't be able to do anything until this latest crisis was
over. Probably it was really shallow of her, thinking about SEX when
all Hell was about to break loose, literally. So sue me, Joyce thought.
Giles reluctantly abandoned the idea of taking her hand; not really
the time or the place. Just let them get through this battle and he
would do considerably more than hold her hand, he promised himself.
They took their time finishing their breakfast while the sun climbed
above the surrounding trees and the sounds of confusion from inside
the apartment slowly diminished. Then, fortified, they went back inside.
Buffy gave the two of them a hard look as they entered. Giles winced
slightly at the faint smell of burnt eggs that hung in the air but didn't
say anything. His guests were seated at the dining room table, finishing
up breakfast. From the look of things Joyce was right, a trip to the
grocery store was definitely in order.
Deliberately ignoring her daughter's petulant expression, Joyce checked
her watch, and pretended to be surprised by the time. "I'd better
go." She walked over to give Buffy a quick kiss, then turned to
Giles. "When do you think it will be safe to go by the house?"
"To be safe, I'd say not until after the battle," Giles said.
Joyce let a resigned sigh escape.
"I need to go by Mervyn's then, and pick up something to wear,
or Jim's likely to wonder where I've been all night," she winked
at Giles and watched a blush creep up from his collar. She couldn't
resist. "Bye," she said, and kissed him.
It was a nothing kiss, a feather light peck at his cheek; no justification
at all for the sudden urge that came over him to throw her over his
shoulder, carry her upstairs, and scandalize the children. "Good
bye," he said weakly.
Joyce left smiling.
When Giles turned around after shutting the door, he found Xander,
Alice, Willow, and yes even Oz smiling at him. Buffy was *not* smiling.
"Er, you'll have to excuse me for a little while, I need to check
up on a few more things..." Giles fled upstairs. As he sat down
at his computer he wondered what Jenny would have thought of his computer
competence, if not exactly enthusiasm. He still didn't like the damned
things, but they were quite useful. He logged on and checked his email,
hoping against hope that someone might have responded to his plea for
information on the Capteniel. Angel's phone call this morning had not
been encouraging. They needed something to give them an edge. He saw
that he had three replies.
He didn't even bother opening Peasefull_Sojourner's message, while
in principle he approved of pacifism, non-violent resistance wasn't
much use to him on the Hellmouth. Legless' message might have been useful
if Giles, or *anyone* for that matter happened to have a copy of that
particular Grimoire. The third message was from an unfamiliar address
Queldesidera@privacy.com . He opened it without much hope. It was short,
only two paragraphs, in standard English. He read it twice to be sure,
then searched hastily through the notes piled on the desk trying to
restrain his growing feeling of elation until he was absolutely sure
that, yes it all matched up.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you," he typed hastily, and
hit reply. Then he hurried downstairs, where cleanup was in progress.
"Excuse me," Giles announced.
"Yeah, what's up G-man?" Xander asked, looking up from the
stack of dirty dishes he was collecting.
"I believe I have the key to defeating the Capteniel," he
"Yay Giles!" Buffy said.
"We must strike against them as soon as possible. If my calculations
are correct, they will attempt to open the Hellmouth either tonight,
or tomorrow night."
"So the sooner, the better," Xander said.
"Are we ready?" Willow wondered.
"With this last critical bit of information, I think so. And we
will have some help." He looked at Buffy and hesitated, but he
had to tell her sometime, he decided. "Angel is here, in Sunnydale.
He came to help."
"Angel?" Buffy sounded like she'd been punched in the stomach.
"Oh, whoopee," Xander muttered. "Later," he mouthed
when Alice raised an eyebrow at his tone. He'd kinda left the Angel/Buffy
thing out of Alice's Sunnydale orientation, hoping that it wouldn't
come up. Shoulda known, he thought bitterly.
"Oh," Willow said looking at her stricken friend.
"Good man in a fight," Oz said.
"Hello? Angel?" Cordelia called out as she stepped through
the open door of the mansion. It had been unlocked. Not something you
could get away with in LA, but there probably weren’t too many
human burglars wandering around in the dark, in Sunnydale, not for long
anyway. And no demon with even a 1/4 brain was going to risk breaking
and entering Angel's place.
She wrinkled her nose as she surveyed her surroundings. Dark, dank,
and dirty. It looked like there'd been a spider convention in here.
About what she'd figured, after all there hadn't been anyone living...well
*occupying* the place for months. She was glad she'd stayed over at
Tracy's, even if the former Cordette had the I.Q. of baked Brie. All
Tracy wanted to talk about was how cool her new boyfriend was and the
great frat parties they had at UC Sunnydale, etc., etc. She didn't want
to hear about Cordy's budding career, or the LA clubs, or anything really
She'd said something to Tracy about Graduation, fellow survivor and
like that, and found that like a good Sunnydale resident Tracy had put
the whole "Mayor turns into giant-snake thing" into the U-store
of her memory and stopped paying the rental. Not that Cordelia didn't
understand, if she was stuck here on the Hellmouth she wouldn't want
to stare too deeply into the shadows herself. Anyway, Tracy had a class
at the university this morning, which left Cordelia on her own. Wandering
the streets of Sunnydale while she waited for Angel to wake up. Which
got real old, real quick.
She'd heard people say "You can't go back home again," plenty
of times, Cordelia had never been able to figure out why anyone would
want to. As far as she was concerned, once you blew whatever podunk
wide-spot in the road town you'd been trapped in, why go back? Case
in point: her, here, now, back in Sunnydale. Her parents weren't even
here any more, Dad had six months left on his sentence and Mom had moved
out to Fresno to live with her grandparents. And what else was here
for her? Not that she wasn't looking forward to tonight's reunion with
the Slayerettes, because she wasn't. She hadn't spoken to any of them
since leaving the Hellmouth, and that was just *fine* with her.
Juggling her purchases, she tried the light switch next to the door.
And was gratified when the lights came on. Guess Angel never had the
utilities shut off. She moved inside and took a look around. The light
didn't exactly help the looks of the place, mostly it cleared away the
shadows so she could see just how bare and weird the place was, I mean,
who decorates with manacles and edged weapons?
"Angel!" she yelled. "Wake up sleepyhead!"
What *did* he see in this place? She'd complained about the dungeon
chic motif of his apartment at the office, but this place made that
one look like a Martha Stewart makeover.
"Cordelia?" Dammit, she thought when her feet touched the
ground again, she wished he wouldn't do that. She turned to see Angel
looking at her in amazement. He was fully dressed so maybe he hadn't
been asleep. "What are you doing here?"
"Here." She handed him a brown paper bag. The smell told
him what the contents were before he looked inside, she'd brought him
two quarts worth in Styrofoam containers. "Breakfast. Also lunch.
Figured you wouldn't have had a chance to like, eat last night so I
went by the slaughterhouse this morning. It's cow, sorry, they didn't
have any pig, but the guy swore it was fresh... What?"
"Uh thanks," Angel told the girl who *looked* and *sounded*
like Cordelia. "It's kinda dark in here. There's more light in
Angel poured his breakfast into a soup mug after warming it up in the
microwave. He sat down self-consciously across from Cordelia and her
double mocchachino. He sipped carefully, trying not to slurp. It was
cow, but as promised, extremely fresh. As he drank, he realized just
how hungry he had been. And how nice it was to sit here with Cordelia.
It felt like something he’d almost forgotten about, something
he hadn't had for more than 200 years: home.
"So, do we have a plan yet?" Cordelia asked, looking away.
It wigged her more than a little that the smell and the little slurpy
noises hardly even wigged her anymore.
"No. I talked to Giles earlier, he's still researching. He'll
"How long before the ugly little whatchamacallits try to open
the Hellmouth? And could demonkind please get another hobby?"
"Tonight I think, from what I saw last night they seemed to be
working themselves up for something big," Angel admitted. "We
may have to go in without a plan."
"Wouldn't be the first time," Cordelia said. "So, have
you seen Buffy yet?"
"No." he studied the bottom of his empty mug. "Giles
wanted to...prepare her."
"Uh-huh. How about you?"
"I don't know," he admitted.
"Yeah, I'm not sure about seeing Xander either. I mean, not that
I'm comparing me and him to the doomed but undying love-story that is
you and Buffy. But..." She studied her perfect nails with total
"It's hard," Angel said softly.
By noon Spike's hangover had quieted to a dull misery, not much worse
than the aching of the rest of his body. He'd tried changing position,
but the hard-packed dirt under Giles' house didn't seem to have any
soft spots. He'd folded his coat for a pillow, but it didn't help much.
He'd barely beat the dawn here after dragging himself out of the alley.
As near as he could remember he'd come here because he needed blood,
and his drunken brain had hoped that Giles would feed him. Not to mention
that the other demons knew where he'd been bunking and might think it
was funny to drag him out into the sun. By the time he actually got
here he'd sobered up enough that facing the whole damned herd when he
was in such a pitiful state didn't seem like such a great idea, so he'd
crawled under the house instead and passed out.
Daylight come and me wan-a go home...he was fucking starving. He stared
forlornly up at the cobwebbed underfloor. There was nothing here worth
eating, not so much as a rat. He'd been awake for hours, ever since
breakfast erupted overhead. Most of them left after yet another fucking
meeting, out on their scavenger hunt. If that was the best plan the
Wanker could come up with, they were all going to die ugly deaths. Spike
believed he'd sit this one out. He was so hungry he seriously considered
pulling his duster up over his head and daring the daylight, but he
knew the Slayer was still there and he really didn't feel up to dealing
with her. The dirt wasn't that hard, he could wait.
Once the others left on their various errands, Giles buried himself
in his books. He managed to successfully avoid Buffy for most of the
morning, only to be cornered when he went into the kitchen to see about
"Giles...how did he look? How is he," Buffy asked tentatively.
Directly underfoot, and wishing he was unconscious again, Spike groaned
silently. No need to ask who "he" was.
"Angel...fine, just fine." Giles said. From his tone he was
enjoying having this conversation about as much as Spike was at having
to overhear it.
"Oh. Giles...I don't know if I can do this." The Slayer’s
voice had gone all tremulous at the idea of seeing the Great Poof again.
Bugger. Give him Passions any day, or even the Young and the Ridiculous.
"Buffy, I know it's going to be difficult for you, but I'm sure
you'll be able to cope. And right now, you need to be focused on the
task. Even with what I learned this morning, this is not going to be
an easy battle."
Fucking right about that mate. They're gonna slaughter you.
"Gotcha, you can count on me, I'm focus girl. Fighting evil, my
job. I can do it!" Buffy insisted.
Might want to try that one again, lacks conviction.
"Good." From Giles tone, he wasn't buying it either. Footsteps
moving away. Her voice harder to understand, not only because of increased
"So I guess he'll head back to L.A. when it's over?"
And good riddance.
"Yes…I imagine so."
"Oh." The last so soft he could barely hear it. Blessed silence
descended and Spike buried his head under his jacket and tried to go
back to sleep.
The Majik Shoppe was on a neglected side street far from downtown Santa
Barbara. The interior smelled overwhelmingly of the clove cigarette
being smoked by the proprietor, Jet, a tall, androgynous person with
long gray hair. Under the spicy smoke, the scents of herbs and dead
flesh intrigued Oz as he wandered around the shop checking it out while
Willow took care of business. He was grateful for even a little bit
of distance from his lover. The drive here had been a long and silent
trip. He had so much to say to her, so much he needed to know, but he
didn't know how to start and was afraid of where the words would lead
once he let them out.
It was getting late. Only a few hours to sundown. Oz was apprehensive,
but the wolf was looking forward to having something to sink its teeth
"I think that’s everything," Willow said, finally.
The shopowner looked over the large pile of vegetable, animal, and miscellaneous
mineral bits and pieces that Willow had assembled on the counter
"Are you sure?" Jet asked a spark of amusement in his/her
eyes. "I think I have a few things in stock that *aren’t*
here." Willow seriously considered the question.
"I don't know. Well I guess as long as I’m here I might
as well stock up, cause we don’t have a good shop anymore since
"Getting late," Oz, said. Willow checked the store clock,
her eyes widened when she saw it was nearly 2:00.
"Oh! We better go. Sorry, I’ll just take this, O.K.?"
"Sure, no problem," Willow checked her list one more time
while she waited for her purchases to be bagged and totalled up. Yes,
she had everything she needed for the spell... and one or two or three
things she didn’t exactly *need*, but hadn’t been able to
resist getting as long as they were here. She really missed having a
majik supply shop right there in Sunnydale, but after Spike killed the
last proprietor no-one seemed interested in taking over the shop so
now she, and she supposed the other magic users in town had to either
order online or take the two hour trip up the coast to Santa Barbara
or the even longer trip south to LA.
She glanced over at Oz, who was peering into a case full of glass eyes.
He’d been really quiet the whole way here, and she had the feeling
he had something to say to her. She wished he would just tell her. Whatever
it was, it couldn’t be that bad. She couldn’t imagine Oz
doing anything really bad.
"Will that be cash or charge?" Jet asked. Willow saw that
all of her purchases had been neatly packed in two carefully anonymous
brown paper bags. "Oh, thanks. You take Visa?"
"Giles, I'm going out. I've got my phone on," Buffy yelled
when she was already outside. She shut the door before he could protest
and almost ran out to the street, got into her car and fled. No particular
goal in mind, just had to get out of there, away from thinking about
Angel. Without much thought she ended up at the Sunnydale Galleria.
Back in LA she'd been a serious mall devotee, but here in Sunnydale
slaying had kept her from visiting the temple much. The damage from
the Judge's demise had long since been repaired. She walked through
the pristine halls, unable to summon up any enthusiasm for shopping.
School hadn't let out yet, and it was still quiet. She decided to go
see a movie and picked House on Haunted Hill, mostly because it was
starting in 5 minutes.
She realized as she sat through the trailers that it had been awhile
since she'd been to the movies. Nights were pretty much occupied with
the slaying and coursework. She hadn't been to a movie since..oh. Le
Banquet D'Amelia. Damn.
She'd come here to not think about Angel, but now she was remembering
their one disastrous movie date, that subtitled soft-porn thing. The
embarrassment, as she figured out what the film was really about, as
her own excitement warmed between her legs. The way his shoulder against
hers stiffened, with embarrassment at his own excitement, the near pain
of his holding her hand too hard.
Don't think about a pink elephant. Watch the damned movie, she ordered
herself and sat in the dark letting it wash over her. It was loud, and
the special effects were cool, there was even some stuff that would
have been scary if she wasn't the Slayer. More people sharing the theater
than she'd expected at a midday matinee. Surprising that anyone in Sunnydale
would pay money to be scared when they could get the real stuff for
free all over town.
Trying not to think about the little gasp when she brushed against
him outside the theater. The *heat* shivering the air between them.
"It doesn't drive you crazy, when we're close?" she'd asked
him, knowing that it did her.
"Watch this," that long, painfully sweet kiss. "See?
Safe as houses," he lied. It was about as safe as the Vannacutt
Institute she thought, with the doors and windows sealing shut, something
horrible oozing like ink from the cracks in the wall...
She sat through the final deaths, the unsurprising survival of the
prettiest and emerged into the cool timelessness of the mall. She checked
the time and decided to drop in on Mom at the gallery.
A cool autumn breeze was picking up the dead leaves and scattering
them across the street as she drove through downtown. She turned the
corner and her heart froze when she saw the flashing lights, and yellow
tape in front of her mom's gallery. She jumped out of the car and ran
across the street, brushing past the cop leaning in the doorway. The
place was a mess, broken shards of pottery on the floor, the window
to mom's inner office had been smashed. Her mom's assistant, Jim was
sitting on a folding chair, his head bandaged, talking to another police
"Buffy!" he said when he spotted her. "Oh thank God.
I've been calling the house, and when you didn't answer I was afraid..."
"Jim, where's Mom?"
"Who's this?" the cop interrupted. He was middle-aged, he
looked like a Sunnydale veteran. In Buffy's opinion the motto on the
side of the Sunnydale PD's patrol cars should read Protect and Conceal
Evidence. She just hoped she hadn't had a run-in with him before.
"I'm Buffy Summers, Joyce Summers' daughter. Where is she?"
"I don't know," Jim said. "I got in a little before
nine. The front door was locked, and it was dark so I didn't notice
the mess till I got inside and turned on the lights. I didn't know what
to think, thought maybe we'd been robbed. I yelled for Joyce, but didn't
get an answer. I went in the back to look for her and someone hit me."
"When?" Buffy asked, forcing down her panic. The cop cleared
"As near as we can figure, Mr. Anderson was attacked around 9:00
a.m. He was unconscious for some time, his call to 911 was logged in
at 10:21 a.m. We responded to the call along with the paramedics."
"Where's my Mom?"
"No sign of her. We found her purse in the office. Her ID, money,
everything seems to be there. It looks like she's been abducted. Do
you have any idea who would do something like this?"
Yeah, she thought, but you don't know them.
Right on cue, her cellphone rang. With a sense of inevitability she
turned away from Jim and the cop to answer it.
"Hello," Buffy said, somehow managing to keep her tone light.
"Sssslayyer," the voice was slithery and blatantly inhuman.
"Is this who I think it is?"
"We haave your mother. If you want her to live, do not fight ussss."
"Yes. Got you. Can't really talk right now."
"Goood. We will call you later."
"Bye," Buffy said to the dead line. "Sorry," she
said to the suspicious cop and dazed Jim. "business."
"So, do you have any idea who might have abducted your mother?"
Giles opened the door to find Angel wrapped in a blanket and being
sheltered from the afternoon sun by a large golf umbrella being held
"Hello, Cordelia, Angel. Come in," he said formally. He moved
out of the way to let Angel cross the threshold out of the sun.
"You’re the first." Giles told them. "Buffy just
finished dealing with the police, she's on her way."
After checking the place out, Cordelia sat down on the couch. "Same
old, same old, isn’t it, I mean every time, they kidnap someone
so the good guys won’t fight, and does it ever work? Well other
than that one time with Willow, but usually, no. You’d think they’d
catch on. Try something that actually might work. Like laying low and
not sending out engraved announcements to the good guys."
Angel and Giles looked at each other uncomfortably, realizing that
she had a point. They didn't say anything and Cordelia shrugged and
pulled a magazine out of her handbag and started to read. Giles disappeared
upstairs again. Angel wandered over to the dining area to look at the
books Giles had left out on the table.
The pictures were crude woodcuts and the captions were in medieval
German, but the author still managed to communicate across the centuries.
There were two images side by side on the page. On the right, under
a smiling sun, the dayform of the Capteniel was depicted: humanoid,
piebald, and ugly but not particularly frightening as demons went. On
the left was a crescent moon, night represented by dense crosshatching
behind the silhouette black of the night-form of the Capteniel: non-humanoid,
something like a thin, leafless tree with thousands of thin tentacles
in place of branches body split by a vertical mouth full of sharp triangular
teeth. From his reccy last night Angel could testify that it was a decent
if not perfect likeness. Difficult to show slime in a woodcut. There
were hundreds of them swarming through the shell of ex-Sunnydale High,
immune to fire, unimpressed by bullets. Luckily, he'd confirmed last
night that while bullets weren't much good, edged weapons worked just
fine and with Giles secret weapon, they might just have a chance.
The doorbell rang, and Angel looked up caught between apprehension
and anticipation. He saw Cordelia looking at the door, an expression
similar to his on her face. The doorbell rang again, and Giles came
downstairs to answer it. He gave Cordelia, a dirty look as he passed.
He opened the door to find Willow and Oz, bearing two large brown bags
"Hi, sorry we're late," Willow said. "But we had to
go to Santa Barbara to get the things for the spell. Oh, hi Angel."
Angel nodded a welcome. "Need any help with that?"
Oz shook his head. "Nah, we've got it," he said. He went
into the kitchen and set his bag down on the counter.
"Hi Willow, Oz." Cordelia said, not bothering to look up.
Typical Cordelia, Willow thought, dressed like she was expecting to
go out to dinner, not to fight demons. She turned her attention to Giles.
"I need to use your kitchen. OK?" Willow asked.
"Yes, yes of course." Giles sighed.
While Willow got busy in the kitchen with her herbs and boiling fluids,
Oz helped Giles organize the equipment. Angel, at loose ends, pulled
his battle axe out of his leather bag and tested the edge. Satisfied
that it was razor sharp, and sturdy enough to cut through flesh and
bone, he took a few experimental swings. He had chain mail back in LA,
he wished now he'd brought it.
"I wish you wouldn’t," Xander told Alice for the 10th
time as they walked up the path to Giles’. He'd spent a good chunk
of the day trying to talk her out of coming with them tonight. It was
starting to annoy her. They were a little late, the sun was almost down.
They’d had to visit three different hardware stores before they
found what they needed and then they'd had to swing by the sports shop.
"Baby, I told you, I can take care of myself," she told him.
"And I couldn’t stand just sitting and waiting, wondering
what was happening."
"Sssh," Alice said, putting a finger to his lips. "We're
here." Xander started to say something, but read the hopelessness
of his cause in her eyes and rang the doorbell instead.
Buffy, he thought. But no, the first person through the door was Xander,
and the second...
"Alice, this is Angel," Giles said after shutting the door.
So this was Buffy's true love, Alice thought. He was huge, looming
over everyone in the room despite his slightly stooped posture. Big
and beautiful, he had a classically handsome face those beautiful dark
eyes. He reminded her of the statue of the angel Gabriel that overlooked
her grandfather's grave, smiling and eager to execute God's vengeance,
though that was an ax in his hand, not a drawn sword.
He saw her and his expression changed. He was across the room, reaching
for her in an instant.
"Hey," Xander said trying to get between them. Angel shoved
Xander carelessly out of his way, knocking him off his feet. Xander
watched helplessly as Angel grabbed his lover around her waist and lifted
her off her feet, grinned up into her face.
He looked at her like she was his long-lost mamma. "Lucy?"
Too close. She shuddered at the smell of flesh held eternally on the
edge of corruption. Who the hell was Lucy? And who the hell did he think
he was, hurting Xander and laying hands on her? Alice's skin twitched
with the desire to change, and teach him a short, sharp, lesson about
keeping his hands to himself. A couple of things held her back: 1. She
liked this outfit and 2. Xander. Also, the look in his eyes was intent
but there was no hostility in it and even Xander had told her this vampire
was supposed to be *good*. She shivered as he touched her face with
a cold but gentle hand, but managed to settle for knocking his hand
away and baring her teeth.
"Put. Me. Down," she ordered. "Now." Thinking that
if he didn't she was going to say the hell with the dress. Xander had
recovered, hatred burning in his eyes, and looked like he was going
to go for the vampire, which might get him really hurt.
He stared into her eyes confused, joy drained from him as the realization
hit. Her face, her body under his hands, her voice, were all familiar
even after decades but her scent wasn't quite right, and there was absolutely
no recognition in her eyes. Not her. Not Lucy, who would be an old woman
by now if she was still alive.
"Sorry," he put her down and backed away. "Sorry, I
Ignoring him she threw herself into Xander's arms. She clung to him
while her breathing and heartbeat returned to normal, holding on a little
longer than she really needed to recover, to distract him from his anger.
When she finally lifted her head from his chest she saw the attention
of everyone in the room was focused on Angel. Except for the Watcher,
who was staring at both of them with equal suspicion.
"I think you owe us an explanation," Giles said. Angel nodded.
"She looks exactly like a woman I knew... in the 30's," Alice
saw his nostrils flare as he spoke as he remembered that she didn't
just *look* like his long-lost. Damn. A vampire! What the hell had her
unknown aunt or cousin been thinking about?
"One with which you had some, er, history," Giles said carefully.
He'd never seen Angel look that happy before when Buffy wasn't present.
"Yeah. It's a long story. Don't think we have time right now,"
"I am going to want to hear this story," Giles said "Soon."
"Anyway, it's not her. I'm sorry I frightened you," speaking
to Alice who nodded.
"Don't do it again." she warned.
"What about punting me like a football?" Xander asked bitterly.
Angel watched as Alice took his hand, and whispered into his ear. The
peevish look on his face softened. It wasn't her, he thought, so why
did he feel just a tiny bit jealous?
The doorbell rang, startling everyone. Not bothering to wait, Buffy
let herself in. She stared at the sight of everyone in the room staring
at Angel. *Angel.*
"What's going on?" she demanded.
"Wrong girl," Oz said.
By the time they'd finished their preparations and run through the
plan one last time the sun was down. Buffy hadn't received any more
calls from the Capteniel about Joyce. She was trying not to think about
what that might mean, and she could tell that Giles was trying too,
and also not succeeding.
As they stepped outside into the night, Xander thought about how vulnerable
their small group was even here in this quiet, supposedly safe neighborhood.
One half-way competent sniper could take them out before they made it
to the street. A simple pre-emptive strike…and he guessed he was
glad the Capteniel weren't innovators.
A rustle in the bushes, too big for a cat and Angel was on it so quickly
Xander barely had time to flinch. Angel emerged a moment later with
a familiar blond vampire clamped in a hold that Xander sincerely hoped
was as painful as it looked. Spike wasn't looking too good, his normally
sleek hair was distinctly mussed, and he stank like the men's room at
the Dew Drop Inn.
"Spike," Angel said in a falsely calm voice. "What are
you doing here?" He knew all about his prodigal get's mysterious
incapacity and grudging alliance with Buffy, but he really hadn't expected
Spike to have the balls to show his face while he was here.
"Ere, leave off!" Spike complained trying to pry Angel's
arm from his throat. "Came for the party. Not too late am I?"
Angel growled and Xander felt Alice jump. He squeezed her hand reassuringly,
thinking that it was good knowing that there was at least one other
person here not buying brood-boy's act.
"Wouldn't miss it," Spike said, smirking at him. Angel knew
it would probably be safer for everyone if he simply snapped the annoying
bastard's neck and left him here to meet the sunrise. He shook his head
and released Spike.
"Just keep out of my way," Angel warned.
"Ditto," Buffy said. Spike's look was deadly, but he shrugged,
and trailed after them to the vehicles.
"I love you," Oz whispered as he kissed Willow goodbye. He
jumped out of the van to join the others before she can answer. He slammed
the door shut and locked it, leaving Willow and Cordelia alone in the
"Ready?" Cordelia asks, thinking that Willow looks a little
pale. Also nervous, so join the club, and that the white gown she has
on does nothing for her complexion. Still, Willow puts on a determined
expression, and nods.
"Yes. I'm ready." Cordelia gets down on her knees and uses
the chalk to carefully close the circle. She watches for a moment as
Willow begins to light the candles, then she climbs into the front seat,
closes the curtain between them. This kind of stuff still creeps her
out. She peeks outside and see Giles completing the second circle, enclosing
the van, while the others stand waiting. Xander looks nervous, him and
his new girlfriend, this Alice chick seem to be joined at the hip. She
checks that the doors are locked, the key is in the ignition, (in case
they need to make a hasty retreat). Pulls the sprayer up onto the seat
and looks at it dubiously. She hopes Giles knows what he's talking about.
She puts on her headphones and settles in to wait. She wishes she'd
brought noseplugs too, as the interior begins to fill up with herbal
smoke. She opens the window a crack, but it doesn't seem to help much.
The six of them stand in the student parking lot, getting ready. The
asphalt is cracked and tufted with dead weeds though it has been barely
six months since Graduation. The school itself looks like some ancient
ruin, there are gaping holes where the explosion blew out the windows
and long curls of paint hang from the scorched walls. Xander wonders
when, or if, the school district will get around to demolishing the
Xander notices that Oz seemed a little nervous, he's pacing, fiddling
with his harness, the trigger. He can't blame him, the van looks lonely
inside its chalk circle. He wonders why Cordelia volunteered to come
with them. It felt strange seeing her after all this time. Still beautiful,
but it's nothing to do with him now and he guess she feel the same.
She barely bothered to insult him back at Giles' place. Was polite,
for Cordy, to Alice. The damned tanks are heavy, the harness cutting
into his shoulders no matter how he adjusts the straps. It's probably
worse for Oz who is smaller.
Buffy wasn't bothering to hide her eagerness to go and kick demon butt.
She continues to carefully Not Look at Angel, and vicey-versey. She
hadn't like the mistaken identity thing one bit. He'd bet she wanted
to hear that long story Angel had promised too. The dark vampire was
as impassive as always and Xander gets the impression Mr. Bi-Polar is
deliberately trying to keep a low profile after his little outburst
Giles is looking older and harder and more dangerous than he ever remembers
seeing him. He looks a little bit silly in the football helmet, but
all the non-slayer, non-shapechanging humans here tonight are wearing
them. Spike looks tired and thin, but eager, as he tests the weight
of the sword Angel reluctantly gave him. It's more of an oversized knife,
not in the same league as the glittering blade is that Buffy is carrying.
The thing is nearly as tall as she is, but she handles it just fine.
Alice is right there with him, her hand entwined with his. He wants
to know what Alice knows about this Lucy. She hadn't been nearly upset
enough by Angel's behavior. Mostly he wonders if she can tell how scared
Scared not just of the usual, pain and horrible death thing, but of
being found out, of Alice seeing him for what he is, a coward, and a
weakling. Xander Harris: Holder of the Slayer's purse. That was half
the reason he hadn't wanted her to come. The other half being fear that
the good luck/magic whatever it was that so far had protected Buffy's
nearest and dearest, might not extend to Alice. The way it hadn't for
Jesse, or Miss Callendar, or Larry, or Harmony...
Suddenly the crystals hung around their necks flared suddenly into
light. The same pale, somehow soothing light now emanating from the
"Thunderbirds are go," Xander said.
"Hey, don't I get a shiny rock?" Spike complained realizing
that he was the only one without an amulet.
"Try coming to the meeting next time," Buffy told him.
"Are you quite done?" Giles asked. "Let's go then.
As they approached the ruined building, Xander felt like they were
being watched from the empty windows, but no-one challenges them. They
paused in the shadow of the building, a few feet from the entrance.
"Are you sure about this?" Xander asked Alice softly. She
nodded, tugging nervously at the oversized t-shirt dress she'd changed
into back at the house. "Sssh," she said. "Got to get
ready." She stood on tiptoe to kiss Xander, handed him her amulet,
and dived into the untrimmed bushes slowly encroaching on the ruined
school. Spike smirked and leaned forward, peering into the darkness;
and swore as the clothes flew out of the shadows and hit him in the
"Score!" Buffy snickered as Alice-the-Leopard leapt out of
the bushes, brushing past Spike. Alice ran up to Xander, reared up to
touch noses with him. She sat down, wrapped round his legs purring roughly
as he replaced her amulet around her neck.
"You good, babe?" he asked and she nodded in a very un-catlike
gesture. Xander turned and caught Angel looking at her. Gave him a look
he hoped was deadly.
"Are we done?" Giles said. There were nods all around. "Let's
They enter the school through the gaping doors, Angel and Buffy in
the lead, Xander with Alice and Oz on the other, Spike and Giles covering
the rear. The scene is almost familiar to Xander from various nightmares
he's had, only he's not naked, and not alone, and hopefully not going
to die this time. The blood red light coming from the library is the
only obvious sign of the supernatural for the first ten feet they move
down the debris cluttered hall. Xander notices that where the bluish
light of the amulets meets the reddish demonlight there's an odd sort
of pulsing effect. As though the different kinds of light were fighting
Then the demons attacked.
Shit. The Capteniel in their night form, are at least 7 feet tall and
a black a little bit darker than the shadows they were hiding in. They
crowd the hallway blocking their way. Tentacles lash out and he flinches
but Buffy's sword and Angel's ax flash and dark fluid splatters and
the tentacles curl and twist on the dusty linoleum. Then Willow's witchlight
flares, driving back the shadows, eliminating the redlight and and the
demons shrink back into their day forms. Xander hears Alice snarl and
she's gone from his side, leaping forward to tear into the confused
and vulnerable demons. Buffy's right there too, slashing viciously with
her sword, Angel with his ax. Demon heads roll.
"Come on!" Buffy shouts and they follow. It's only 100 feet
down the hallway to the library, we can do this, Xander thinks. The
light surges back and forth and the demons are screaming in rage or
pain. He hears Spike behind them, not the words but from his tone he's
enjoying himself. Just the occasional grunt of effort, half-smothered
curse from Giles.
He catches glimpses of Alice, she's in constant motion, her lithe shape
blurred by the flickering light and her normal camouflage. She was faster
than the demons in either of their forms, but she keeps clear of the
night forms, waiting for the light to go her way. Watching her long
teeth slash through vulnerable throats, her sharp claws opening up bellies,
severing tentacles, crystallizes the instinctive fear he'd felt when
he first saw the leopard. Fluids matting the beautiful fur, as she kills,
and kills...beautiful death.
Buffy and Angel not doing too bad themselves. Doing the main work of
clearing the way. Angel's ax is equally effective against either form
and Buffy's sword never seems to stop moving, flickering like flame
through tentacles and bodies.
It was 80 feet to the library, an endless distance, moving at a shuffle
through pulsing light, weighted down by the tanks, disoriented by the
howling screams of the Capteniel as they press in, trying not to lose
his footing on the slippery floor. No help from the Commando memories
this time, just follow after Buffy, Angel. Takes it on faith that Giles
and Spike are still behind them. Can't risk turning to look.
Every time the redlight surges tentacles whip overhead, the taller
target he gets hit more often than Oz, iron hard tendrils sliding off
the hard plastic, scraping across the tanks. Halfway there, one gets
through the face guard, slashes him across the face. Xander yelps, it
hurts, a lot, but no time to deal with it now. Blood drips stickily
down the side of his neck distractingly. A little while later he gets
hit again, hard, it feels like a lash of fire across his shoulders,
he staggers and Oz catches him, holds him up until he can stand by himself.
Fuck, it hurts, but he keeps moving. The tank on his back weighs a hundred
pounds, the straps are cutting off his arms, his fingers are going numb.
20 feet from the door and he knew they weren't going to make it. His
fingers keep curling on the sprayer trigger, every time another tentacle
whips past his face, but he knows he has to wait, can't use it prematurely,
got to stick with the plan, the plan is all they've got.
The light throbs, pale blue light battling, with the reddish glow of
the Hellmouth, the Capteniel caught between the two, between their day
and night forms, alternating between 10 foot tall black and lethal,
and short, ugly day forms. They seemed to have no control over their
forms. It looked painful to Xander, and it definitely slowed them down.
But there are so many of them.
10 feet and the chanting covers all other sounds as they approach the
library doors and the pulsing light, red, and blue reminds Xander of
something... They've killed a lot of demons, but there always seem to
be more where they came from. They're starting to tire. Red light rolls
over them, blotting out the amulet's light and Alice screams. Xander
turns his head and sees the leopard fall under a heavy blow, blood spraying
from a gash in her side. "Alice," he starts to break formation
to move toward her and the amulets flare, blue light and *blink* human
Alice rolls away from the leopard's blood, scrambles to her feet and
*blink* the leopard leaps away, unmarked just as the light goes red
again. "Oh," he thinks. "Neat trick." And wonders
what else he doesn't know about her.
Angel and Buffy are still leading the way, slash, chop, slash, kick,
club. Angel has taken the brunt of it, his game face bleeding from a
lacing of thin wounds.
And miraculously they're there, in the library, and the priests are
there, chanting in voices that makes his ears start to bleed. Their
forms are immune to the light and they are twice as tall as any of the
other demons, tentacles whipping lazily as they chant before the altar
they've built of human skulls. The floor trembles in time with the chant.
Xander can feel it powdering the cement, eating into the bedrock below,
opening things up. Suddenly the red light swells for a moment, overwhelming
the witchlight and it's like the nightmares he used to have about the
forest in the Wizard of Oz, there are hundreds of them crowded into
the room, looming, their whiplike limbs hungry... And he knows that
the Scoobie Gang's luck's run out, that they're going down this time.
Then the witchlight surges again driving the surrounding hordes back
to just ugly <Thank you, thank you, thank you, Willow> he thinks
and it's all or nothing now. Oz and him at the front now, running forward,
aiming their nozzles at the big Kahuna's and he can feel the Hellmouth
start to open, reality beginning to unravel as he pulls the trigger
and the fluid as advertised, shoots 20 feet across the space, and hits
It's nothing but salt, concentrated brine, but it cuts through them
like a laser, wriggling limbs dropping from the first and tallest. Oz
is with him, and they play Ghostbusters, pumping the triggers as the
chant falters, stops, as the streams slash through those treelike bodies,
chunks falling away. The chanting stops abruptly as they scream in agony.
And he can feel something below slip back into place. The other demons
freeze and he feels a shudder go through the room and the redlight goes
out as the priests begin to fall like mighty redwoods, smoking and in
pieces that quiver on the wet concrete.
And the demons break, and run away.
END part 4
On to part 5: Nice Work if You
Can Get It