By Barb Cummings
Sequel to A Raising in the Sun
"It can't be that
bad," Xander said. He leaned back against the wall and folded his
hands behind his head. "By definition. So the Balance tips too
far towards the good. Oh, the horror, not."
Spike exhaled a plume of smoke with
a look that said 'If I were Kzinti, my name would be Speaker-to-Idiots.'
"How far are we from the Hellmouth? Two miles?"
Xander called the grid of Sunnydale's
major streets to mind and did a quick triangulation. They'd gone underground
at the manhole at the intersection west of the apartment complex, and the
burnt-out wreck of Sunnydale High was... "Closer to a mile and a
half." An unpleasant thought struck him. "Or we were before
we got stuck in this...whatever it
is. I have no idea where we are now."
"Right." Spike rubbed the side
of his nose, as if it itched. "As it happens, yours truly cracked
a few books on Hellmouths back when I was making plans to bring Drusilla
here to take the waters."
Despite Willow’s insistence that Spike
was a closet geek, the idea of him cracking books any more demanding than
'Lust Kittens of Venus' was something Xander had trouble taking seriously.
"I feel expository dialogue coming on. 'And as you know, Xander--'"
Spike glared. "Mystical portal
leading to a hell dimension, blah blah, take as given. Point is,
the Hellmouth's aura affects the whole town, and especially these tunnels.
Things happen here, usually bad. The Hellmouth sends out emanations
of chaos and nastiness, attracts the attention of discerning evildoers everywhere--"
he bowed with an ironic flourish. "--and hawks up the occasional Ascended
demon to bugger up the lives of the common throng." He wheeled about,
craning his neck down one of the passages. "D'you hear that?"
Xander resisted the urge to peer after
him. If there wasn't anything there, it was pointless; if there was
something there and Spike was just now catching it, it was just as pointless,
since Spike's hearing was ten times better than his. "All I hear
is the sound of one vamp yapping. This is Hellmouth 101. So?"
"So. Doesn't happen too often
that the Balance swings too far in the opposite direction in the vicinity
of a Hellmouth, but I ran across one or two mentions--think it was in Ruprecht's
Alternus Mundi--or was it..." Spike contemplated the arabesques
of cigarette smoke coiling upwards in front of his nose and frowned.
"Ah, bugger it, I can't remember. Had a blue cover, whatever it was.
What it comes down to is this: under the right conditions, a Hellmouth
can do a flip." The vampire picked up his axe and gestured round
at the tiled walls--one, two, three, four. The rust and mold stains
were almost gone now, and the shattered remnants of Spike's earlier temper
tantrum had vanished. The formerly broken section of tile was as pristine
as the rest of the wall. "This look like chaos and nastiness to you?
Perfect symmetry. Everything getting cleaner and newer and better."
Xander's attempt at keeping a straight
face lasted about five seconds. He broke into a snicker. "Oh,
come on," he chortled. "You mean we're now living on a... a Heavenmouth?"
He clasped his hands and rolled his eyes skywards. "Which will spread
sweetness and light and, what, hawk up the occasional televangelist?
Even if you're right, what are we
supposed to be scared of? Random acts of kindness and non-violence?
Do they bring on the comfy chairs?"
"Harris, will you remove your tiny
withered brain from its protective wrapping and use it for a change?"
Spike didn't sound as if he were joking. He was scratching at one
ear, twitchy and uncomfortable, as if the air around them were becoming
something inimical. "Forget the harps and halos, this is real life.
Who's the closest representative of the forces of goodness and virtue you
"Buffy, I guess, but--oh." The
forces of goodness and virtue around these parts were not exactly reluctant
to kick ass. "Point taken. But we're good guys. Why would
they hurt us? Well, I'm a good guy. I guess you're toast.
Wish I could say it was nice knowing you, but--"
Spike began a restless quartering
of the intersection, hands locked behind his back. "The Slayer's
small change, cosmically speaking--yeh, Buffy took on a hellgod and won,
but that's Buffy. There's things out there that could eat Glory for
lunch, things that could send me up in flames with a look." He met
Xander's budding objection with a snort. "And don't get too comfortable
yourself, bricklayer. Remember the Judge?"
"Otherwise known as Xander Harris's
finest hour?" Or maybe second finest; the wrecking ball had been
pretty good, too. "Surely you jest." Spike's eyes
went misty with nostalgia and a wicked grin split his lean face. "If
there's one regret in my life it's that I couldn't be there to see Angelus's
face when that bazooka went off."
"Oh, God, it was priceless.
I wish I'd had a camera..." Xander realized that he was matching
Spike grin for grin and forced a frown. Spike's grew a trifle more wicked.
"Keep in mind that at the height
of my career as a master vampire, in the midst of a plot to destroy the world
no less, I wasn't evil enough to pass the big blue bastard's muster."
Spike blew a smoke ring and cocked an eyebrow at him. "Granted I lost points
for taking the destroy-the-world part as a lark that'd never come off,
but still. D'you think you're pure enough in heart to shake hands
with his opposite number?"
"I..." Xander swallowed.
Every rotten thing he'd said and done in the last few years leaped up and
started clamoring for attention in the forefront of his mind. Hyena-Xander,
shoving Buffy against the wall. Self-centered teenage asshole Xander, blowing
off Willow's crush on him. Not telling Buffy about the re-souling spell.
Cheating on Cordelia. A hundred exasperated public putdowns of Anya...
"...think panic is in order now."
"Wise decision. Take it from
someone who's fought 'em, the forces of good are vicious sons of bitches."
Spike shouldered his axe and started off down the corridor--no reason, Xander
knew; just to be moving, just to be doing something. Xander
watched the vampire's black-clad back diminishing in the distance for a minute,
then grabbed the tranquilizer gun and broke into a jog to catch up.
Better to follow Spike and pretend they were going somewhere than to sit
around in the intersection and pretend it wasn't freaky when Spike reappeared
out of the opposite tunnel in five or ten minutes. If they ran fast
enough, would they see the backs of their own heads?
The tunnel transformed subtly around
them as they walked. Xander could never pin down a change in the
process of occurring; he'd look away and look back, and something would
be different. The cables were taking on an almost cartoonish regularity
in their loops and coils, as each tile became a perfect glossy square of
pearly white, the light panels in the ceiling distinguishable only by their
greater luminance. The light grew softer, clearer, paler, and they
walked in enveloping radiance.
Xander found his grip on the stock
of the trank gun relaxing, even as he listened for something beyond the
distant tap-tap-tap of falling water and the sound of their own footsteps.
For all the eeriness of the tunnels, there was a certain comfort in always
knowing exactly what the next bend in the road would bring.
Spike didn't share it; he had stopped
breathing and was gliding along in full hunting mode, his scuffed Docs making
no sound at all on the floor. Xander studied the sweep of black leather
in front of him. Whoever Spike had originally stolen that duster from had
been several sizes larger than Spike was; the vampire swam in the thing,
but as the coat slapped against him, you could still make out the lines of
his torso, tapering sharply from breadth of shoulders to narrow hips.
Made a good target. Xander reached
into his other coat pocket, the one that held the stake he was seldom without,
and turned the length of sharpened oak over and over in his hand.
The point would go right there, in the angle between the spine and the left
shoulder blade, right between the ribs and into the heart. Buffy could
drive a stake effortlessly through bone and muscle from any angle.
Xander, merely human, had to worry about stakes getting stuck between the
ribs or glancing off a shoulder blade.
He imagined the length of hardwood
punching through matte-black leather and the thin layer of black cotton
beneath, through ivory skin and into innards just as wet and red and fragile
as any living human's, until the stake-point penetrated the heart and all
dissolved into dust. He used to do this all the time--with Angel,
and later with Spike--imagine what he'd do if either of them ever gave him
the excuse. He wondered why he'd stopped. He'd gotten out of
the habit, over the summer, led astray by shared patrols and games of pool
and arguments over exactly which Plastic Ono Band album sucked the most.
He'd lulled himself into--not forgetting, but worse, ignoring, the all-important
fact that at the end of the day, Spike was still pretty much a vampire.
The whole resurrection thing had jarred him back to reality, and now...
Now he was just slipping back into
casual acceptance of this... this thing in front of him? Phone
ringing as Anya welcomed the first batch of guests. Spike's North
London drawl on the other end of the line "Harris. Got a line on a Krallock
demon. Feel like killing something? I'll let you use the big
gun." As much an overture, in its way, as him showing up at the
crypt with spicy chicken wings. And he'd accepted it. Fuck.
And here he was, following along behind pretty-much-a-vampire with no real
intention to plunge that stake in where reason and logic said it should
have gone years ago. Double fuck. What was the matter with
him? Hanging out with Spike was wrong.
"If you keep playing with it, you'll
go blind." Spike turned on his heel, swift, silent death with ears
that could the heart thudding away in his chest, or the scrape of callused
fingers against wood. "The suspense is killing me faster than you
Xander stopped in the middle of
the tunnel, feet braced, holding the gun with the vestige of the professional
ease his stint as Soldier Guy had left him. Step back, dart into
the chamber, aim, cock, pull trigger...it would be easy. You know
one of these babies will take a vampire down. And then the stake
. Spike stood there looking at him, dark brows angled in exasperation,
not even slightly worried. Trusting him. How twisted
was that? "You know something, Spike? Your little fling with
Buffy has nothing to do with the reason I hate your guts."
Spike sighed, eyes imploring the heavens
for patience. "Do tell."
It didn't. Not the way Spike
thought. His crush on Buffy was a thing of the past. All right,
he had occasional lusty thoughts. What guy wouldn't? Maybe
if the two of them weren't so damned obvious about it. Maybe if they didn't
touch so often. Maybe if he didn't have the image of Buffy standing
in his foyer with her tongue halfway down Spike's throat burned onto the
back of his eyelids...
Maybe if Buffy can love an out-and-out
demon and I can't handle an ex-demon there's something wrong with me, not
Slam that thought back in lockup where
it belonged. "It's real simple. Half a dozen kids I grew up
with, ate lunch with, and got beat up by ended up as snack food for you
or Dru or one of your minions. And a few of 'em came back for a return
engagement on the business end of Buffy's stake. Never hesitated a
minute.” Four-year-old memories came flooding back--how had he forgotten
all this? How had all of them come to tolerate Spike's company?
How could two years' worth of grudging, chip-goaded help possibly make up
for a century plus of cheerful murder? “What the hell makes you so
special?" Spike's face remained impassive, and Xander took a belligerent
step forward. "How come you’re walking around and not Jesse or Andy
Runyon or Terry Lane?”
Spike studied him for a long minute.
“Because life’s got steel-toed boots and delights in applying them to the
family jewels, Harris. You haven’t figured that one out by now?”
“You gonna claim you're sorry they’re
"No." Spike cocked his head to
one side, what looked like real regret time-sharing with wary curiosity
in his eyes. "But sometimes I wish I could be." He scratched
absently at his jaw. "Then I come to my senses. Is there a point
to this conversation besides the one you're fondling?"
There was a point, all right--if he
admitted for a second the possibility of not-enemyhood with Spike, he was
betraying real friends. And if that was bad when he did it,
how much worse was it when Buffy, the Slayer herself, slept with the enemy?
Everything seemed so clear down here, in the pearly glow of the tunnel.
Spike was evil. Evil through and through. There were no shadows
here, no greys, just pure, white, comforting light which showed him that
Red in the face? Now that
was wrong. "Uh... Spike... Are you supposed to sunburn indoors?"
Spike touched a startled hand to his
cheek and drew it away with a hiss; the pale marks of his fingertips lingered
on his skin for a few seconds before fading back to unnatural ruddiness.
"Balls! Sunlight!" He glanced up and around; there was no shelter
to speak of in the slowly brightening tunnels. "Enough dicking around.
We've got to get out of here."
Xander shook his head again, hard,
trying to shake the fuzz out. His thoughts were all his own,
but down here some thoughts were more equal than others--ways to dispose
of Spike sprang easily to mind. Cooperating with an evil soulless
vampire to get out, on the other hand--he couldn't wrap his brain around
the idea; he was blundering through a spiritual algebra class, all his thoughts
blunted and sluggish.
But he was used to that, wasn't he?
Used to being the last one to get it, and getting it anyway, in his own
good time. And no fuzzy-wuzzy feel-good tunnel of love was going to
mess with his head and get away with it, any more than some cut-rate Prince
of Darkness was going to make him play Renfield again. I'll hate
Spike on my own dime, damn it, I don't need any help from you.
"Yeah. We do." He forced the words out with a sense of triumph.
We. Take that, fuzzy goodness! "How?"
Spike flicked his cigarette butt down
the corridor, hefted his axe and grinned, squinting against the too-clear
light. "If you can't find a way out, you bloody well make one."
The skin across his cheeks and the backs of his hands was starting to prickle
and burn, just as it had walking under cloudy daylight skies. Should
have been impossible; a vampire's little sunlight allergy was metaphysical,
not physical--no man-made light, no matter how closely it duplicated full-spectrum
sunlight, should have been able to do the trick. Obviously the lights
in this tunnel were no longer exactly as men had made them.
Close enough, though. Was
he starting to smoke slightly, or was that just the remains of his cigarette?
Time for some preventive maintenance. Spike flipped the axe end over
end, caught it and jabbed upwards, ducking aside as the haft smashed through
the nearest light panel and shattered the bulb inside into a thousand razor-edged
snowflakes. He repeated the process with the light panels on either
side. "Much better," he breathed as the final shower of glass heralded
the return of relative darkness along a twenty-foot segment of the tunnel.
Spontaneous combustion forestalled
for the time being, Spike shook glittering fragments of glass off his shoulders
and reversed the axe again, swinging it through a limbering arc.
There was something out there in this infinitely reflected latticework
of tunnels, pacing them, spying on them; he could sense it, just on the
edge of his perceptions, a magnetic repulsion. His opposite number,
more or less, probably gritting its teeth, if it had any, over his presence
at this moment. And who better to open the door than the blokes
who built the castle? “We're probably going to have company soon,"
he said. "Don't imagine the proprietors will look kindly on me making
Xander looked up and down the tunnel.
"I thought we were avoiding the forces of goodness and virtue?"
"Changed my mind. Who better
to let us out than the blokes who built the place?" Spike ran his
index finger down the axe-blade's notched edge, licked it, savoring the
pain and the taste of his own blood with connoisseur's appreciation.
The prospect of action was cheering. "Not likely we'll attract anything
much nicer than I am nasty, this early in the game. But if we do,
you'll just have to put in a good word." His grin went sharp-fanged
and feral, eyes shining lambent yellow under ridged brows; William the Bloody,
not even trying to be good, not the least little bit.
The axe-blade whistled through the
air and sank into the nearest bundle of wall-cable with a THOK!, half-severing
the whole mass. Another fountain of sparks exploded outwards, and the tunnel
filled with the stink of ozone as individual strands of cable sprang apart,
red and blue and green, hissing and crackling like an angry hydra.
He jumped back, feeling something in his shirt-pocket thump against his
chest. The lights flickered and dimmed for fifty feet in either direction.
"YEAH!" Spike howled, and hauled back for another strike, lion-gold eyes
burning in the manufactured darkness. The axe-blade flashed again
and electrical mayhem ensued. More light panels died. "Burn
me up sight unseen, will you? CREATURE OF SODDING DARKNESS HERE!
YOU WANT ME? COME GET ME!"
"These are the torch-you-with-a-look
guys? Is this really a good idea?" Xander backed nervously down the
"One of my plans, and you have to ask?"
The third blow bypassed the cables and smashed into the tile, which exploded
into mother-of-pearl powder under the force of it. The fourth sent
chunks of plaster and concrete flying like shrapnel. Somewhere Xander
was yelling at him to watch it, but Spike was lost in the moment, face a
snarling demonic mask of fury, caught up in the orgasmic rush of destruction.
Nothing in the world existed but to break and tear and ravage, to ruin
the dull perfection of this place--and the only thing missing was best
part of all, the sour tang of fear and the screams of the dying. Harris's
racing heart was a siren song, calling up lush, sensual images of the blade
tearing through bone and muscle like a knife through Camembert, of fangs
in flesh and sweet hot blood flowing and the bastard had never liked him,
fine to use old Spike for muscle but God forbid you let him touch the women
and all he'd have to do was lose that last sliver of self-control and--
--and the chip, thank God and That
Fucking Bitch Walsh, would knock him flat on his arse. There was
a perverse freedom in knowing he could let his worst self rage and foam
and not have to worry about the consequences. Spike put his back
into it and swung again, and the whole wall shuddered and cracked, plaster
and cement falling away in huge flaking slabs and choking the tunnel with
dust. The axe-blade was starting to blunt and deform under the force
of his blows, but Spike was past noticing; the hole in the wall was deep
enough to stick an arm in up to the elbow.
It came from everywhere and nowhere,
a voice like the tolling of bells, like a chord struck on an organ whose
pipes were the winds themselves. Spike froze mid-swing at the sound,
hated it from the first note and longed for it never to fall silent, yearning
so mixed with loathing it made him physically ill, tied knots in his gut
and pulled them tighter with every note. Radiance flooded the tunnel
again and he threw a hand up to guard his eyes, snarling, fighting to regain
ascendancy over himself.
It was a whirlwind of eyes, a rush
of wings, a clash of blades, a shining in the air. It slid away
from any attempt to pin it down with words; it was beautiful beyond
thought, and Spike balled up his desolation and fear and longing and
stuffed it down into the sub-basements of his mind. He turned to face
the approaching creature with all his customary bravado, leaning on the handle
of his beat-up axe and smirking into the face of heaven. It spread vast
pinions, every covert a glittering razor, every primary a saber of light.
CREATURE OF DARKNESS, YOU HAVE NO PLACE HERE.
"That's ducky by me," said Spike.
"Why don't you let us out, then?"
"Spiiiike," Xander said, jabbing
him in the ribs with an elbow. He gave the thing a sickly grin.
"Don't pay any attention to my idiot friend here, he's got Tourette's.
It compels him to stupidly insult supernatural creatures way bigger than
he is. If you'll show us the way out I promise to take him home and
put him to bed with a nice bottle of whiskey and--" Aside, to Spike, he
hissed, "What is that thing?"
"Harrier demon," Spike whispered back,
taking the opportunity to feel around under cover of the duster.
What the hell did he have in his pocketses? String, or... his fingers
met glass and metal. Bloody sodding hell, not nothing, his glasses.
After Buffy’d left the crypt this afternoon he’d put them on to read the
footy scores and gnash his teeth over the match report of Man U’s humiliating
loss to West Ham. He must have tucked them into his pocket after,
while constructing an elaborate and impractical scheme to stow away on a
cargo plane to England and eat Jerome Defoe. The second time he’d done
that lately, and he couldn’t afford to be that careless with them; it wasn’t
as if he could pop over to the nearest Lenscrafters and get a new prescription.
Xander was staring at him curiously; Spike stuffed the spectacles back down
in his pocket and affected indifference. “Heard of 'em. Never seen
"If it's a demon, what's with the 'creature
of darkness' line?"
"It's a good demon, nitwit."
And unfortunately well into the incinerate-vampires-with-a-look range.
He hadn't expected anything this powerful. "Working directly
for the Powers--they don't often mingle with the riff-raff."
"There's good demons?"
Spike gave the Harrier a long-suffering,
'see what I have to put up with?' look. "Now about letting
us off this roundabout--"
Unimpressed, it shimmered in the air
before them like a heat-mirage in summer, a roiling mist of light and air
and terrible swift swords. Its attention fixed upon Xander for a
moment, examining, evaluating, and discarding in seconds. YOU ARE
FOUND WANTING. YOUR SINS ARE MANY. It paused. BUT INSIGNIFICANT.
Its Argus-eyed regard turned upon Spike. I AM CHARGED WITH THE ELIMINATION
OF SUCH AS YOU. And blades lashed out like lightning in all directions,
searing brilliant tongues of flame.
"...the property was entailed, of course,
and went to the cousin in Leicester, but the will settled five hundred
pounds apiece on each of Letitia's children..."
"Uh huh." Buffy squinched her
eyes at the ceiling a few times, hoping to avert their incipient glazing-over
a few seconds longer. She took another swallow of kiwi-strawberry,
which, as an alternative to listening to Halfrek, was becoming downright
palatable. In order to explain how she'd come to be William's
(snarl) intimate friend, Halfrek felt it necessary to explain
in detail the history of their respective families for three generations
back. No matter how juicy, gossip lost its piquancy when it
was a hundred and fifty years out of date, and this gossip had been on the
desiccated side to begin with--so far Spike's-- William's--family
came off as the sort of people who showed up as background characters in
a duller-than-average A&E miniseries.
"...so when the family removed to Hampshire,
William's father married the youngest Cavendish girl, and..."
Another generation down. Maybe
they'd get William conceived before the party was over. Buffy began
assembling a cast list in her head for Middlemarch II: The Revenge of
Dorothea. Spike in a cravat. Mmm. Not bad.
She added black leather boots, a riding crop, and those skin-tight
riding breeches to her mental image and mussed up its hair a little.
Mmmmmm... very bad.
On the other side of the coffee
table, Anya shucked the wrapping from another combination waffle iron/grill
and added it to the varicolored paper mountain at her feet. There
were two identical gifts in the pile of opened presents already, and Buffy
felt a faint sense of satisfaction that at least her present hadn't been
a re-run. "This is lovely, though redundant," Anya said, examining
Waffle Iron #3. For Anya, that was the height of tact.
"It does Belgian," Lorri pointed out.
Anya's eyes grew damp and her lower
lip trembled. "Xander loves Belgian waffles."
Trembly Anya + pissed off Xander
another argument. Buffy tossed her hair out of her eyes. Maybe
she should try to talk to him... Advice to the lovelorn from Buffy Summers,
number one on the doomed relationship hit parade for five years running!
Run, Xander, run!
“...hate My Little Pony," Sandra
said to Tara, who was hanging over the back of the couch next to
Willow. "Horse craziness is all about girls coming to terms with
sex and masculine power, for that you need a horse. Take the
Black Stallion novels--"
"See, this is why I was destined for
the lesbian thing," Willow said. "Horses are just four hooves waiting
to step on your foot."
Tara pouted. "I loved those books!
And 'King of the Wind!'"
Sandra nodded and gestured violently
with a carrot stick. "The whole point is that the Black's a half-wild
killer, but he loves Alex and will do anything for him. Our daughter
eats that up. The toy companies of America take this primal symbol
of power and virility and neuter it, make it into these harmless little
pastel eunuchs with fluffy tails..."
"...so when the season opened
I came up to London and was most displeased to discover William had let
a room in..." Drat. Missed William's
conception altogether. "Buffy, when can we fit you for your
bridesmaid's dress?" Lorri cut across the several lines of conversation.
It was astonishing how much a
wine cooler or two did to reconcile one to asparagus green. Though
the thought of those ruffles still elicited a shudder of horror. Buffy
selected a Triscuit and topped it with a slice of cheddar. "Um...
I'm probably free Tuesday or Wednesday. Monday we have that, um, thing."
"Ah, yes. The thing. Wednesday
is good," Anya said. She surveyed Buffy with an appraising eye.
"It's a good thing I didn't ask right after you came back. You're
gaining weight and the dress wouldn't have fit by January."
Buffy choked on her cracker.
"Thank you, because I so needed to hear that."
Anya patted her shoulder with
a kindly smile. "Oh, don't worry, you're still way too skinny."
Sandra paused in railing against the
evils of small pink plastic horses to the prepubescent feminine psyche
to eye Buffy's reed-slim body and raise a skeptical eyebrow. "Please,
God, can I gain weight like that?"
Leaning back against the sofa cushions
and listening to the voices swirl around her, Buffy could see with Slayer-vision
clarity--perhaps it was the kiwi-strawberry going to her head--a future
where this was her life, where there was no mysterious thing on Monday to
interfere with dress fittings, where her conversations would revolve around
diets and children and office gossip and subverting the paradigm of corporate
America. And it wouldn't be perfect and it wouldn't be safe, because
husbands had industrial accidents and mothers died of brain hemorrhages and
sisters got caught shoplifting. Side by side with the two-point-five-kids-and-white-picket-fence
future was another: darker, stranger, wilder. Herself at thirty, or
forty, or fifty, a thin tough woman with stormy eyes and hard hands, going
places and doing things which defied description, with a lean pale man at
her side who looked far too young for her. No kids, unless Dawn provided
some nieces and nephews for her and Spike to spoil rotten. No marriage,
unless heart given for heart counted for as much or more than legal formality.
No easy answers as she grew older and he didn't. And the only thing
that picket fence would be used for was making stakes.
Door Number One, Door Number Two.
Or you can go for the box behind the curtain...
The building shuddered. Little
shrieks and yips of surprise broke out around the room; pictures
rattled on the wall and dishes clinked and jittered on the tables.
In the contents of every half-full glass and bottle concentric waves
shivered in and out of existence and a few of the women dashed for doorways
in the native Californian's instinctive search for load-bearing masonry.
Outside a grinding rumble culminated in a cannon-loud crack of noise--had
one of the other buildings collapsed?
Buffy was halfway to the front door
before her brain caught up with her reflexes and pointed out that the noise
was far out of proportion to anything such a mild tremor should have caused.
As she threw open the door, the parking lot exploded in a blaze of white
light, bright as midday, shining from a raw crater thirty feet across in
the middle of the landscaping between Xander's building and the next.
The turf was thrown back as if exploded from below and a whole segment of
the adjoining sidewalk and parking lot was a crumpled bank of asphalt and
concrete; the carport over the residents' parking spaces was peeled back
upon itself like the lid of a sardine tin, its supporting posts poking crazily
into the floodlit sky. Several cars had tipped over, wheels spinning
helplessly like the feet of glittering upended beetles. And rising
out of the crater...
"What is--?" Willow was right
behind her. "Oh my--Buffy, is that a demon?"
Buffy licked her suddenly-dry lips,
staring down at the incandescent creature below. "I don't know."
Small dark figures swam across the bright background. "But whatever
it is, there's people--"
Anya shouldered her way through the
door, shoving Willow and Buffy aside. She stood on the landing
with fingers pressed to lips. "Xander!"
"Anya! Wait!" Buffy cried,
grabbing for her arm, but Anya was gone, racing down the steps and
out into the parking lot. Buffy sprang after her, shouting "Come
on, Will!" over her shoulder and taking the clattering stairs three
at a time.
A wing of light arced across Spike's
midriff, shearing through cloth and leather and flesh, the sword-blades
of its primaries stained with dark blood when they swept away. The vampire
dropped to a crouch, flinging the tails of his duster up and over his head
as his flesh began to scorch in the intensity of the blaze. Xander
charged forwards with a yell, whirling the trank gun overhead, straight into
the face--well, the front, at least--of their opponent. It hadn't expected
that, and instead of parrying reared up and back, trying to avoid hurting
him. Whirlwind supernatural energies met earth and stone, colliding
with the low ceiling, and the tunnel rocked with the basso rumble of earth
tearing apart. Tiles fell in a blinding ceramic rain and half the
roof vaporized. Screams and the blaring of half a dozen car alarms
floated down through the hole in the sky.
If the falling ceiling didn’t bury
him, he was going to choke to death. Xander stumbled blindly for
a minute, totally lost. A sunburnt face loomed out of the dust and
Spike's cold hard fingers circled his wrist, yanking him forward through
the falling rubble. "Listen whelp, if I give you a toss up, can you
catch hold up there?"
Xander shoved lank dark locks of hair
out of his eyes and looked up; tattered indigo sky framed in fractal black
had replaced gently glowing tile. "I have no idea." The air crackled
as the Harrier surged towards them. "Find out, now!"
Spike immediately shifted his grip
to Xander's belt and coat-collar. Xander had the stomach-churning
sensation of being lifted off the ground like a kitten. With a grunt
of effort Spike heaved him overhead and tossed him into the air, and Xander
was sailing over the Harrier demon's head, or top, or whatever, seeing his
spread-eagled, flailing self reflected in dozens of astonished crystalline
eyes. He slammed face-first into the sloping rim of the crater, sliding
downwards in a small landslide of earth and gravel and catching himself
with a few desperate frog-kicks at the rubble.
He clawed his way over the rim and
turned around in time to see Spike take a running leap straight at the
Harrier. It might look like someone had blown the CGI budget, but
the blades it was slicing and dicing and trying to make Julienne vampire
with were real enough. His burnt lips skinned back over his fangs
in a savage snarl, Spike brought the axe down and the dulled blade sank
home, cleaving translucent eyes that bled rays of light into the dust-laden
air. Spike hauled himself up along the haft of the axe, the toes
of his boots jabbing for purchase among the joints of wings which flickered
in and out of existence like the ghosts of bad cable reception. He
stood for one precarious moment balanced on shifting air; then his lean
body uncoiled, all the power in the muscles of calf and thigh released
at once. Fifteen feet straight up he shot, his outstretched arms
straining for the sky. At the apex of his leap one hand grasped a
projecting shelf of broken asphalt, fingers raking gouges in the crumbling
Out of the roiling mass of dust and
grit the Harrier rose, a sunrise in the depths of midnight. It shook
the axe free, its wound closing even as they watched, and soared upwards
in glory. A fury of blades whirled upwards, and Spike, bathed in its
painful light, jerked both knees up to his chest barely in time to escape
losing a foot.
Xander belly-flopped over the edge
as far as he could reach and clamped his hand around Spike's wrist.
The normally-cool flesh was radiating heat from the burns he'd sustained,
and it must have hurt like hell, but Spike didn't flinch. The asphalt
outcropping disintegrated under the pressure of Spike’s fingers and his full
weight came down on Xander’s arm and shoulder with a bone-wrenching jerk.
For a small eternity Xander held a hundred and sixty pounds of dead weight
vampire one-handed, dangling over the lip of the new-made pit. Then
he heaved upwards, panting with effort; Spike’s free hand found another
ledge, and he was up and over the rim. Spike lurched to his feet and
the two of them stood swaying on the precipice, clutching one another's shoulders
as if that'd make a difference if the whole edge dropped out from under them.
Spike favored Xander with his smarmiest
grin. “Awwww. Harris is my bestest pal.”
“So do you actually want to
end up a big pile of dust?” The Harrier spun up out of the crater,
a tornado of sunlit razor plumage. "I think you got it mad," Xander observed.
"You think?" Spike swiped his
sleeve across his nose--on second glance, maybe he wasn't as badly
burned as Xander'd thought, not too much worse than the sunburn he'd
gotten showing off last week. All to the good; watching charred
vampire bits flake off wasn't high on his big fun agenda. Xander
looked around; half a dozen car alarms were still blatting a maddening symphony
in the background, set off by the noise and tremor, and people were pouring
out of the complexes to see what was going on. There were several
overturned cars in the parking lot, one of which, a small dark blue Tiercel,
was teetering precariously on the very edge of the crater. He felt
a most unheroic relief at the thought that his car was parked at the other
end of the lot.
With a thunder of wings the creature
was out of the hole and after them. Spike toppled backwards, dragging
Xander with him. Both of them scrambled away from the pit on hands
and knees before lurching to their feet. Xander spun round in place,
looking for a weapon. Rocks. There had to be something a step
up from rocks.
"Xander!" Anya's voice, a terrified
screech over the car alarms. "Are you all right?"
The Harrier halted, mantling its multitude
of wings, a raptor sighting new prey. It didn't attack at once,
as if Anya confused its senses. It hovered in place, undecided
between two targets, the wind of its passage kicking up a flurry
of dust and debris. CHILD OF ARASHMAHAR? it asked, its voice the
crackle of windblown flame. Anya froze, mesmerized by the creature
as it hovered over the parking lot, but new determination filled
her dark eyes and she started towards Xander again.
"Oh, bollocks!" Spike was off
like a flash, tearing off round the rim of the crater in the opposite direction,
to what purpose Xander couldn't tell--saving his own skin, maybe; with
his departure the terror of wings and eyes swooped down upon Anya, whirling
blades leaving trails of fire on the air.
"NO!" Xander screamed, the harsh panicked
sound of a man losing something vital. He forgot Spike, forgot the
fact that this thing could turn him into shish kebab, forgot everything
except the fact that it was bearing down on Anya. He broke into a
stumbling run around the edge of the pit, jumping chunks of sidewalk.
Anya screamed as well, fear and anger striking sparks in her voice, and
flung a ragged fist-sized hunk of asphalt at the oncoming Harrier.
It hit a sword blade and bounced off.
"Keep away from her!" he yelled,
painfully aware of his complete inability to back up his threat.
He skidded to a halt, interposing himself between Anya and the Harrier.
A quarter of the way around the pit, he caught a glimpse of Willow, her hair
an unmistakable blaze of red in the parking lot floodlights. She floated
up to perch on the bed of an overturned Ford Rambler and stood there
like a general surveying a battlefield, then flung her arms skyward and
began a chant. The words squirmed away from his head when he tried
to remember them. Violet lightning began to gather about her outstretched
hands, snap crackle pop.
If it wasn't willing to hurt him, and
he could just play human shield for long enough... Willow'd come through.
I HAVE NO WISH TO HARM YOU, the Harrier
hissed in the dry wail of Santa Ana winds, feinting right and left
with razor-tipped wings.
"Well, then, don't!" Xander wondered
if he could get behind a car or something, but all the vehicles were
on the other side of the crater. A bush, then, or a lamp post--anything
besides thin air.
IT IS MY DUTY TO SLAY CREATURES OF
"Harming her is harming me, you Electrical
Parade reject!" Xander pulled Anya into a protective hug and she
burrowed into his shoulder, sobbing. "And she's not a demon!"
NO. YET HER ESSENCE CONTAINS
Essence? "Ahn, what’s it's talking
about?" Was that her soul? They never talked about that trickiest
of subjects if they could help it; easier just to assume that human form
came with a human soul included.
The Harrier shimmied back and forth,
restless and, to Xander’s possibly biased perceptions, pissed off.
THERE IS IMBALANCE HERE. CONFUSION.
"Sodom and Gomorrah, rains of frogs,
Slayers and vampires living together, yeah, yeah! What's that
got to do with Anya?"
HAVE YOU NOT TOLD HIM, CHILD OF ARASHMAHAR?
Anya moaned, and Xander looked wildly
from her to the Harrier. "Told me what? Anya, what--"
Her head drooped, and then Anya straightened,
pulling away from him and straightening her jacket. She looked
the Harrier in the eyes, fear replaced with resignation. "It
can tell," she said, her voice shaking only a little.
"What I am." Anya began putting
her hair in order, unnaturally composed. "What I've always been.
Well, not always, but for the last thousand years, give or take a
Xander stared at her. Anya: straightforward
to the point of rudeness. Able to rattle off the histories of a dozen
major demon clans in excruciating detail and completely in the dark about
the social relevance of Star Wars. Rapaciously intelligent
about subjects that interested her, a financial whiz and cutthroat business
woman, beautiful, sexy, desperately in love with him... and human, absolutely,
Except that she'd started out with
no more concern for the welfare of non-Xander humans than Spike had
for non-Buffy humans, ans still wasn't exactly a font of charity.
And she looked back as fondly on her days of meting out destruction
as Spike did. And... "You don't have a soul," he whispered.
"I do too!" Anya shot back, unnatural
calm giving way to familiar and reassuring brusqueness. She stamped
one well-shod foot. "I was born human, you know! I have
a perfectly good soul, it's just--complicated. When D'Hoffryn recruits
us to be vengeance demons we're... converted. Given the demonic aspect,
and the powers, and the pendant to control them. And cleansed of..."
She gave a fidgety twist of one hand. "Distractions."
"You know." Anya folded her arms
defensively across her chest. "Empathy. All that tiresome
feeling sorry for people. We wouldn't be any good as vengeance demons
if we got half-way through a wish and started feeling sorry for the
victim, would we? I became a demon when I was seventeen, and..."
A spot of hectic red appeared on each cheek, but she kept her head high
and defiant. "I never un-became one. I gave myself human form
to grant Cordelia's wish, and when my pendant was destroyed I got stuck this
way, but it didn’t change who I was inside. I've always been Anyanka--if
D'Hoffryn would ever give me a new pendant, the big meanie."
The Harrier demon flickered from side
to side; Xander suspected that had it not been beneath its dignity, (and
had it possessed a visible mouth) the thing would have been smirking and saying
I told you so! Xander drew a deep gulping breath. “Anya’s not evil.
No matter what else she may be, she’s not evil. She helps people now.”
“I never was evil,” Anya said, irritated.
“More amoral. Most demons are. Honestly, with the exception
of species like vampires who give the rest of us a bad name, the whole ‘demon
equals evil’ thing is overdone.” She gave the Harrier a nervous smile.
“As you should know, uh, sir, being a good demon yourself. Not to
mention that I’m all contaminated again with feelings about people I really
have no reason to feel about...”
YOU HAVE CAUSED GREAT SUFFERING.
YOUR DEATH IS JUSTICE. Its myriad eyes turned to Xander. I
HAVE NO WISH TO HARM YOU, BUT IF I MUST DO SO TO DESTROY THIS CREATURE,
Xander wondered if this was one of
those dreams you woke up from to discover you were still dreaming.
Here he was, standing in a parking lot, having just saved a vampire's ass
and trying to keep his ex-demon fiancé from being touched by an angel,
or as near to one as he was probably ever going to see. All his worst
fears confirmed. All that was left was to look down and discover he
wasn’t wearing any pants. And there was Anya gazing at him with brown-velvet
eyes no different than they had been this morning, when they woke up together.
Eyes brimming with tears and anger. “Why didn’t you tell me?” he choked
She shook her head. “You would
have left me.”
It was just a flat statement of fact,
and it got him right in the gut. Xander turned back to the Harrier.
YOU KNOW WHAT SHE IS. WILL YOU
Xander stared at the ground, stared
at the toes of his boots, stared at his hands. At last he looked up.
"Sometimes," he said, sounding far too reasonable in his own ears, "You
just get to a place in life where you have to make a radical re-evaluation
of the whole good-bad demon-human thing and let me see if I can explain this...
I understand Ahn’s a demon. And...” He folded his arms and stood
foursquare in front of Anya, who looked at him with dawning hope.
“I DON'T CARE!"
A handful of Anya's party guests
had followed her out to the parking lot and were milling about in
confusion. Spike didn't see Halfrek among them; no surprise
there, as the gang from Arashmahar generally buggered off at the first
sign of trouble. As Spike reached the Tiercel, someone else
finally noticed the movements behind the tinted windows that his far-sighted
predator's eyes had picked up on at once. An unfamiliar woman's
voice shouted, "Lorri, call 911, there's someone stuck in this car!
It's going to fall in!"
Ignoring the onlookers, Spike leaped
atop the car and crouched beside the driver's door like some exceptionally
athletic gargoyle, studying the interior through the window. The
door-handle had jammed; pulling at it, he knew from experience, would just
rip it off. He needed leverage. Spike balled up a fist
in his duster and sent it smashing through the glass, which dissolved in
pea-size fragments, then grabbed the window-frame in both hands and pulled.
The door shot open with a crash, torn half off its hinges, and Spike ducked
head and shoulders inside. Inside was a small dark woman; she'd somehow
slipped free of the shoulder harness when the car tipped over, and was hanging
half-suspended from the seatbelt, her knees jammed into the steering wheel.
He could smell blood, but it was scarcely noticeable over the scent of
his own; not enough to indicate serious injury. In the distance he
heard the wail of approaching sirens. Best hurry before Sunnydale’s
finest showed up to complicate matters.
At the sight of Spike coming through
the window she began struggling to get away, flopping like a gaffed
fish. Spike tried grabbing an ankle, to no avail. "Quit
wriggling, you stupid bint, you're being rescued!" The woman's
only response was a terrified scream and an attempt to claw through
the back of the seat. Spike realized belatedly that he was still
in game face and switched back to human features. It didn't seem
to help; the woman kicked him in the chest, drawing an answering stab
of pain from the cut across his belly. "OW! Bloody--if you don't
be still so I can get you out of here, I'm going to knock you senseless,
sod the headache!"
A familiar and welcome scent tickled
his nose through the tang of hot metal and dust, and a second later
Buffy dropped down past him through the open window and began undoing the
tangle of seatbelts. "Ma'am, calm down! You're going to be
all right! Your knight in shining armor act leaves something
to be desired," she observed as Spike bent the steering wheel out of their
way a tad. "Maybe more of a Wil Smith vibe, less of a Jack Nicholson?"
The car creaked and wobbled under their
added weight. Spike shifted as much of his weight as he could forward,
and the unnerving teetering stilled for the moment. "New to the hero
business, love--I'm still working on my theme song. Here, pass her
They handed the dazed woman (she kept
staring at Spike and shaking her head, and he had to exert a great deal of
willpower to keep from flashing her a little fang just to see her jump) off
to one of the newly-arrived paramedics and hopped down off the Tiercel.
Spike watched them lead her away, eyes hooded, an indefinable yet strangely
familiar emotion teasing round the corners of his heart. He wasn’t
sure he wanted to pin it down; it reeked of something he didn’t want to face
head-on yet. Buffy glanced up at him, a little smile curling the corners
of her mouth. "The George Hamilton look? Not working."
"Ta ever so. I'll pawn
the tanning bed."
"What're we looking at?"
From teasing to General Buffy,
all terse and commandery, demanding a report from her second-in-command.
Spike glanced across the pit; Xander was still playing dodge 'em with the
winged wonder. "Harrier demon. They're warriors of light--don't
usually muck around with us vamps; it'd be like shooting flies with a cannon.
They get sent after things like your late unlamented Mayor."
"Then why's it after Anya?"
Spike shook his head. "Buggered
if I know. 'Less it can tell she used to be a demon; they can sniff
out the wicked like bloodhounds, and vengeance demons are a bloody sight
more powerful than a mere vampire. D'Hoffryn's girls can only grant
wishes according to the rules, and Harriers are keen on rules--but the
collateral damage from a few badly-phrased wishes alone would set that shiny
bastard off. Our Anya was a vengeance demon for a long, long time."
"Well, she's not now." Buffy
looked grim. "How do we stop it?"
A bark of laughter escaped him.
"Got a bazooka handy?"
Buffy chewed on her lower lip.
"If it's one of the good guys, we can talk to it. It's got
to listen. We just need to get its attention."
"Mmm. Suppose beaning it with
an axe wasn't conducive to negotiations, then."
Buffy’s jaw dropped. "Why did
Spike opened his mouth, realized he
was about to say Because it bloody near broke my only pair of glasses,
that’s why! and was overcome with the dire conviction that this, in
conjunction with whatever Halfrek had already told her about the general
pathetic wankerdom of his breathing days, would undoubtedly mean the end
of his and Buffy’s short but eventful relationship in a fit of hysterical
laughter. “It hit me first.”
“Oh. Then I wouldn't hang around the mailbox
waiting for a letter from the Nobel committee, no." Buffy looked
around, then pointed to the collapsed carport, a crumpled length of fiberglass
and steel draped across the hoods of half-a-dozen assorted cars.
Spike grinned at her. "On
it, love." Buffy crouched down, wrapped her arms around the
base of the support beam and pulled, her face contorted with effort.
Spike took hold of the scalloped edge if the roof where the two pieces
were bolted together and ripped. Rivets popped and sun-weakened
fiberglass snapped, and the whole thing tore free with a crash.
Spike shoved the roof section away, and it landed with a crash, doing
serious damage to the roof of the Geo Metro in the nearest parking
space. No loss there; the owner should thank him for forcing them
to get a real car.
In a trice they wrestled the support
pole free of its moorings. They had a weapon, twelve feet of
twisted metal, one end terminating in a club of cement where they'd
torn it free of the pavement. Unwieldy as hell, but big enough
to make the Harrier sit up and notice without putting them within slashing
reach. He hefted the pole to shoulder height and Buffy looked at him,
her nose adorably smudged, her teeth bared in a fighting grin. "Charge!"
Xander pulled Anya out of the way of
another slashing appendage as Spike and Buffy barreled towards them at
full and terrifying speed. The pole was a bitch and a half to run
with, over-balanced at the club-end and inconveniently shaped to grip,
but the two of them never missed a step, flying over the uneven ground
as if they'd practiced it for weeks. "DUCK!" Spike bellowed, and
Xander dropped flat with Anya beneath him. Vampire and Slayer leaped
over their heads in unison and rammed the club-end of the rebar into the
center of the whirlwind. Half a dozen blades struck sparks rebounding
off the metal, and their combined strength and momentum slammed the Harrier
back a good twenty feet, spinning above the center of the crater like a
SLAYER? The massive composure
in its voice wavered for an instant. Had they wounded it? Considering
how easily it had shrugged off the axe, that didn’t seem likely; they’d
done the equivalent of knocking the breath out of it, no more. YOU
Buffy crouched on a concrete slab,
teetering on the edge of the pit, her face washed of detail by the Harrier’s
actinic light. "I won't let you hurt Spike and Anya!"
I AM WHAT YOU ARE. A WARRIOR
OF LIGHT. THEY ARE... WHAT WE ARE BOUND TO DESTROY--YOUNGER SISTER,
YOU BETRAY YOUR HERITAGE AND YOUR PURPOSE.
"Better that than betray my friends!"
Buffy’s voice shook with outrage.
Two of the women who'd followed Anya
down--Lorri and Sandra--joined Xander in shielding her. Spike gave
the two of them an irritated look. Sod it all, they would have to
be helpful; he was going to have to revise his list of people he wouldn’t
kill if the chip came out again. Lorri waved her cell phone at the
Harrier angrily. "Leave her alone! What's she done to you?"
IF IT IS YOUR CHOICE TO ALLY YOURSELF
WITH CREATURES OF DARKNESS... The dispassionate, beautiful voice rang
with genuine regret. THEN I HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO...
"Now just a bleeding minute, you've
got it backwards!" Spike took an indignant step forward. It was one
thing for the Harrier to go after him, or even Anya, quite another for it
to slang Buffy. "The creatures of darkness are allied with her!"
“Exactly!” Buffy’s chin
jutted. “They’re helping me. You don’t need to hurt them.”
The Harrier hovered there, fizzling
to itself like a Guy Fawkes bonfire that hadn’t quite come off. YOU
ALLY YOURSELF WITH HER FOR SELFISH REASONS? it asked, sounding almost hopeful,
as if this would give it a comfortable out.
"Right," Spike said, plumbing new depths
of sarcasm. "Completely, utterly selfish. Makes a big difference
to my hapless victims.” He tapped his skull with a forefinger.
“The batteries go south tomorrow, and I happen on a tasty morsel in some
alley during my midnight stroll--" He bared his fangs and adopted a
menacing crouch. "Grr, argh!" He whipped round and cowered away
from himself, wringing his hands. "Eek! Please don't eat me,
you ruggedly handsome creature of the night, you!" Spike drew himself
upright and struck a noble pose. "It’s your lucky day, little lady!
Happens I'm off eating people; it upsets the missus. On your way!"
Another volte face. "You mean you're not letting me go out of devotion
to good for its own sake? You nasty vampire, get right back here and
open a vein this minute!"
FACETIOUSNESS DOES NOT ADVANCE YOUR
“Yeh, well, it keeps me amused.”
YOU LEFT YOUR COMPANION TO SAVE ANOTHER.
“Bloody hell, I don’t know! Because...”
Because why? He hadn’t thought about it, he’d just done it.
Man U’s tragic defeat by West Ham (honestly now, West Ham?) sending him
barmy? Some kind of conditioned reflex? “Because it’s the...
the thing the Slayer’d want me to do.”
The searchlight intensity of the
Harrier’s regard sliced scalpel-sharp through heart and mind, weighing all
it found on scales infinitely precise. Weirdly insignificant moments
drifted up from the vaults of memory: Dragging Dru away from the Crawford
Street mansion, feeling a twinge of concern--He’s going to kill her
. (Then he shrugged it off, and beat it out of town.)
Pouring out his sorrows to Joyce, and leaping to her defense when Angel
startled her . (Then Buffy showed up and things went downhill.)
Xander, standing in front of the ghost-infested Lowell House, asking
Who’s with me?I am.= (Then he talked himself out of it.)
Lisa, in the park, flinging her arms around him and sobbing in relief...
There was a note of surprise in the
Harrier's voice when it spoke again. CREATURE OF DARKNESS, YOU
ARE... TAINTED. IMPURE.
Whatever primal awe had struck
him at the Harrier's appearance was wearing off fast. "I can't bloody
well please any of you lot, can I?" Spike snapped. What did it matter
what this jumped-up Christmas tree topper thought of him? “Not bad
enough here, not good enough there--blow me a tune I don't know, Gabriel.”
Not as if he'd expected a pat on the head from a representative of the
Powers, any more than he'd expected Harris to jump for joy at the news
Buffy was giving him a tumble, and it didn't sting either, not a bit.
What had he expected, wide-eyed astonishment and 'Well, Spike old man, aren’t
you extraordinary? Evil as the day is long, but doesn’t the white hat
It paused, almost... uncertain?
INTERESTING. The Harrier stood quiescent for a moment, considering,
then swelled like a startled cat, shedding sunbeams. It gave vent
to a long-drawn hiss. IF THE SLAYER CLAIMS YOU AS AN ALLY, THEN THE
SOURCE OF THE IMBALANCE THAT DREW ME HERE--
Behind them, from her vantage point
on the Rambler, Willow's chant reached its climax. Raw black-violet
flame arced across the alarm-filled air. A multi-hued, inhuman scream
rose from the Harrier demon, and all its light and flame turned in upon itself,
imploding in darkness. With a wail of agony it turned tail and dove
back into the tunnels, trailing streamers of glowing fluid that writhed
in the air for minutes before fading away. Willow sat down on the fender
of the Rambler with a thump and a small grin. "Don't know my own strength.”
Spike eyed Willow. Witch’d never
said a truer word. “Guess we didn’t need the bazooka after all.”
Buffy dropped her end of their improvised
lance and bent over the edge of the pit. “Wills--that was amazing,
but it was about to--we almost found out--we were talking to it!”
Willow looked puzzled. “Yeah,
I saw. Good job keeping it occupied, guys!"
Buffy’s lips thinned in frustration,
and she leaned into Spike’s side. Spike wrapped an arm and the somewhat
tattered remnants of his duster around Buffy’s shoulders as a couple of
police officers came trotting up bearing rolls of yellow tape, and together
they allowed Sunnydale’s finest to shoo them away. One by one, behind
them, the car alarms fell silent. As they made their way across the parking
lot, Buffy shook her head and looked back at the pit. There was no
sign of the Harrier. Softly enough that only Spike’s ears could pick
the words up against the ragged chorus of police radios, she whispered, “Oh,
this isn’t gonna look good on the permanent record.”
Continued in Part 24