TITLE: Whiskers Of Fury
RATING: R (occasional violence and language issues ahead)
FEEDBACK: See, it's this thing where you read someone else's fic, then you tell the writer what you thought of it. The writer gets enough good feedback, they keep writing. Everybody wins. (Email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or post it to me at the Bronze Beta. Or better yet, you can find this story at fanfiction.net and review it there. And there's also the Buffy DownUnder forums. Take your pick, really.)
DISCLAIMER: Joss Whedon? Yes. Me? No. Enough said.
DISTRIBUTION: You want it? You can have it. Just let me know where to see it.
SUMMARY: BtVS/Angel crossover. The Scooby Gang and the Angel Investigations crew are brought together to face their toughest enemy yet. And it's an enemy that none of them ever would have expected ...
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Consider this fic set at some point after Buffy season 5/Angel season 2. A few months, maybe. None of the new season stuff has happened.
DEDICATION: To Spikmeister. Bring on the army of kitten minions. And also to the wonderful and talented Amber Benson, for making my millenium and joining my Miss Kitty Fantastico For The Next Big Bad club.
CHAPTER 11 - That's Gonna Leave A Bump
"I wanna help her. I want ... I wanna become someone."
Whistler looked closely at the vampire with a soul that stood before him, amazement showing on his face. "God, jeez, look at you. She must be prettier than the last Slayer."
Angel looked away from the balance demon, not wanting to admit, either through his voice or his eyes, that the attraction he had felt toward the young girl, the way he had felt drawn to her, was a significant factor in why he had made this decision.
"This isn't gonna be easy," Whistler warned. "The more you live in this world, the more you see how apart from it you really are. And this is dangerous work. Right now, you couldn't go three rounds with a fruit fly."
"I wanna learn from you," Angel said, the determination clear in his voice.
Whistler smiled a little. "Alright."
"But I don't wanna dress like you."
As the balance demon looked at the vampire in surprise, Angel turned, and headed down the sewer tunnel. Whistler started after him. "Again, you're annoying me. You're lucky we need you on our side."
After a few steps, Angel suddenly stopped, and turned back around. He stared past Whistler and back down the alley.
"Now what?" Whistler asked.
Angel was silent for a moment. He squinted as he tried to look closer at whatever he was trying to look at. "I thought I heard something."
"What, like a rat? I know you're hungry, but it can wait."
Angel stared down the tunnel for a moment longer, then turned back and started walking again. Whistler couldn't resist a small chuckle. "You never know what kinda creepy things crawl around down here."
"Must have been a rat," Angel said, not acknowledging Whistler's joke.
It wasn't a rat.
This wasn't how Giles had expected to be spending the pre-dawn hours.
Right now, he was standing in the bedroom of Xander and Anya's apartment. The room was empty, as was the rest of the apartment. In fact, the entire building had seemed unnaturally quiet as he entered, even for this early hour.
Giles looked around the room, deep in thought. The sheets on the bed were rumpled, as if they had recently been slept in. The lamp by the chest of drawers was on, and the top drawer was open. A pair of men's pajamas lay on the floor. All these things suggested that wherever Xander and Anya were at the moment, they had been here not long ago. He knew Xander had come straight back here after the party earlier, and Anya had been here the whole night with stomach flu. So where the bloody hell were they?
He was broken from his thoughts when the phone on the bedside table started ringing. Giles looked at it, unsure at first if he should answer it. Then, on impulse, he crossed over to the table and picked the phone up, bringing it up to his ear.
There was no answer. Just a burst of loud static that thundered into Giles' ear, causing him to wince and drop the phone. He bent down to pick it up, and smacked his head against the edge of the bedside table. He immediately sank to his knees, letting out a loud moan of pain, and clutched his head in his hands, rubbing the area that had made contact with the table and was already starting to swell up.
After a few moments, he picked the phone up from the floor, and hesitantly brought it back to his ear. There was no static now, just a dial tone. Scowling, Giles replaced the phone, and slowly got to his feet. Then he turned and left the room, headed for the front door, still gingerly rubbing his head.
Cordy sighed irritably, and tossed the cellphone onto the dashboard once more. "Anything?" Angel asked her, his eyes not leaving the road ahead.
"No," she answered. "I can't hear a thing through this static. I couldn't even tell if it was Xander who answered or not."
"Can't you call somebody else?" Lorne asked Cordy from the back seat.
"No, I don't know anyone else's phone number in Sunnydale."
"Well, we'll just have to wait until we get there," Angel said, trying to sound reassuring. He wasn't liking the worried tone that was creeping into Cordy's voice, seemingly growing more dominant with every sentence.
Spike was hanging on every word Faith was saying.
"So, I've staked all the vamps, right? And the preacher's so relieved, he starts hugging me. Then all of a sudden, there's cops everywhere, and the next thing we know, we're both being tossed into the slammer."
Unable to help himself, the chipped vampire burst out laughing, his head thrown back as his walk turned into a brief stagger. When he recovered, he looked at Faith again, grinning widely. "And you were naked through it all?"
"The whole time."
On Faith's other side, Xander was also grinning. He remembered this story, and liked that he was hearing it told a second time. Apart from Spike being here, this dream was definitely starting to get better.
"Now why doesn't Buffy have any stories like that?" Spike was musing.
"What makes you think she doesn't?" Faith quipped in return. She smirked when she noticed that both Spike and Xander were staring wide-eyed at her now. "Wouldn't you like to know?" she asked them, answering the question that was undoubtedly on both their minds.
They strolled down Main Street in silence for a few moments. Faith then turned to Xander. "So, what's a guy like you doing strolling down Main Street at five in the morning, Xander?"
Xander smiled, and shrugged. "Sleepwalking, probably."
The front door opened, and in the living room, Dawn quickly jumped up from her seat at the sound. She came out into the hallway to see Buffy letting herself in. "Did you find Xander and Spike?" she asked quickly.
Buffy sighed. "Sorry, Dawn. I don't know where they are. I waited at Spike's crypt for like an hour, but he wasn't around. And I don't know where Xander is either yet. She noticed the stricken look on her little sister's face, and put a comforting hand on her arm. "I'm sure they're fine," she said gently.
Dawn relaxed a little. "Yeah."
Buffy turned, and started towards the phone. "I'm gonna try Xander again, see if he ..."
"Buffy, wait a second."
Buffy stopped, and turned back to face her sister. As she did, she saw a man coming out from the living room. Her eyes narrowed. "Who the hell are you?" she asked him.
Lindsey smiled a little. The two girls that stood before him hadn't become sisters through the most conventional means, but the resemblances were uncanny. "Miss Summers." He offered a hand, but Buffy remained standing still, not completing the handshake. He dropped his hand to his side. "I'm Lindsey McDonald."
"That supposed to mean something to me?"
"Not yet, but it will." Buffy was intrigued by the no-nonsense manner in which this man was presenting himself. "I came here because I think you could use my help."
"You know, I doubt that," Buffy returned flatly. She trusted her sister not to have invited in a vampire again, but she still didn't trust this guy. "Use your help with what?"
"In tracking down the kitten you're after."
Buffy and Dawn stared at Lindsey in confusion. Their replies were simultaneous. "Huh?"
CHAPTER 12 - Tricks With Digits
The door to the motel room opened, and Faith and Xander walked in, Faith entering the room first, Xander a couple of steps behind. Xander flicked on the light switch as he shut the door behind him. The room was filled with a dull yellow light. For a moment, a look of horror passed over Xander's face as his mind flashed back to the same dull light that had filled the bedroom of his apartment as he stood looking down at Anya's motionless form lying in their bed, but it vanished quickly enough. That was just a dream. As was this.
Faith, meanwhile, collapsed onto the bed in the center of the room, then lay still, looking up at the ceiling. The bed rocked a little as she hit it, the headboard bumping up against the wall. The dark-haired Slayer's mind was travelling down memory lane as well. Just twenty-four hours ago, she was lying on an uncomfortable mattress in a prison cell, staring up at a ceiling and walls that were covered with graffiti. Twelve hours ago, she was walking out into daylight for the first time in over a year.
"Uh, Faith?" Xander was standing just by the door, leaning up against it, his hands in his pockets.
"Yeah?" Faith responded, not moving.
"Did you wanna get some sleep? 'Cause, you know, I can leave you to it."
Sensing some discomfort in his voice, Faith sat up, and looked at Xander. As she did, she also got her first good look at the room they were in. She froze. When the short guy in the pale brown singlet behind the reception counter told her her room number, she must have missed the connection, but now she discovered that this motel room was the same motel room she and Xander had once slept together in.
The same motel room she had once almost killed him in.
But if Xander had noticed the same thing, he didn't look like it was bothering him. He appeared pretty calm, at least outwardly. Relaxing, Faith smiled at him. "You that anxious to get away from me?"
Xander's head jerked up in surprise. "What? No! I just ... thought you might be tired."
Faith shifted on the bed so she was sitting with her back up against the headboard, the pillows lightly pressing into the bottom of her spine. "Nah, I slept most of the day. And the sun'll be up soon anyway."
Xander said no more. Faith looked at him closely. She had been expecting him to ask her why she wasn't in prison anymore for a while now, but it was as if she had never been in prison at all for all Xander seemed to be thinking of it. Spike hadn't brought up the subject, either. The vampire had excused himself just before she checked in so he could retreat to that safely of the crypt he called home before the morning sun could reduce him to a pile of ashes.
Growing uncomfortable with the silence in the room, Faith spoke again. "Hey, Xander?" He looked over at her. "Why are you here? Don't you have your own place? I mean, why hang out in a place like this if you don't have to, right?" She laughed a little, mostly to calm her own nerves.
Xander looked down at the floor for several seconds, not answering her. When he looked back up, Faith was stunned by the look in his eyes. They seemed flat, empty, devoid of life somehow. His face was grim. He said something in a low voice, but Faith was too far away to hear it.
"What?" she asked him.
"I'm afraid," he repeated, louder this time.
Faith frowned. "Afraid? Afraid of what?"
Xander looked at the floor again. "I don't think I'm dreaming."
"Am I dreaming?"
Seated on the couch in the Summers living room, Dawn was looking up at her big sister with a very confused expression.
"Or are you dreaming?" Buffy went on, matching her little sister's puzzled look. Then her gaze shifted to the brown-haired man sitting in the armchair on the other side of the room. "Look, someone here is dreaming, because what you're telling me is ridiculous."
"I know how it sounds," Lindsey said.
Buffy raised her eyebrows at him, and folded her arms in a disbelieving gesture. "You do? 'Cause, it sounds like you're trying to tell me that there's an evil kitten out there somewhere roaming the streets with a bad attitude and a thirst for blood."
"Maybe its owner forgot to leave it its fresh milk out today," Dawn offered.
Buffy looked at her sister flatly, not amused.
"That's pretty much how it sounds," Lindsey agreed, getting the blonde Slayer's attention again. "But it's the truth. The files we had on this thing at the law firm I used to ..." He broke off as he saw Buffy's eyes widen, her face turning cold. "What is it?"
"You wanna put that down?" she asked him angrily.
Lindsey was confused, and looked across the room to Dawn. The fifteen-year-old was looking at him with a mixture of anger and fear. No, not at him. As something he suddenly realised he was holding in his hand. In his right hand. Looking down at the object his right hand had picked up, he saw a photo in a gold frame. In the photo, the two sisters were sitting on what had to be the back porch of their home, an older woman sitting between them and on the next step up. All three of them were smiling happily up at him as he looked at their faces. The woman had her arms around both of them.
Putting the picture back onto the small table by his chair, Lindsey looked back up at the two sisters apologetically. "Sorry," he said softly. "I didn't mean to do that, it was ... it's a long story."
Buffy was about to speak again when the phone rang from behind her. "Don't go anywhere," she told Lindsey firmly, glancing at her sister as she did to let her know that she was talking to both of them. Buffy turned, crossed the hall, and picked up the phone.
"B, is that you?"
Buffy instantly recognized the voice on the other end of the line, and her eyes widened. "Faith? How - uh ..."
"Look, B, I really don't have a lot of time for chatting right now. Just listen, OK?" Buffy was silent, and Faith started talking again. "I'm back in town, at the motel, and Xander's here with me."
"Xander?" Buffy began. If she had looked back into the living room at that point, she would have seen both Dawn and Lindsey staring intently at her. "How ..."
"I just bumped into him. Look, it doesn't matter, alright? I didn't know who else to call here. I ... I think we got a problem."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, Xander's sitting in here like a wandering zombie, and he's telling me his girlfriend's dead."
Buffy could only stand there, mouth hanging wide open, the colour draining from her face.
"Hi, we'd like a room, please?"
The man behind the reception counter looked up to see two women standing before him. One blonde, one brunette. And both of them really hot. He smiled. They were certainly getting some fine ladies in this morning. Too bad the last one had a guy with her when she checked in. But these two were here with nobody. Unless they were here with each other. His smile grew wider. "No problemo, ladies," he said, getting up from his stool and flicking the TV off. "We got a few rooms still available. Names?"
The blonde woman smiled. "This is Dru, and I'm Darla."
Nope, nobody here.
David Nabbit walked back down the stairs and into the lobby of the Hyperion Hotel again. He had been to every floor in the building, looking for Angel. But Angel wasn't here, and neither was anyone else.
Sighing, then shrugging, David started heading for the exit. He stopped when he heard a loud hiss echo through the room from behind him.
CHAPTER 13 - Kitty At My Foot And I Wanna Touch It
Rupert Giles stood on the pavement out in front of Xander and Anya's apartment building, thinking. His right hand was gingerly rubbing his head. He could feel quite a lump where he had bumped it earlier on, and it was still quite a bit sore.
After leaving Xander and Anya's empty apartment, Giles had spent the past hour or so knocking on doors throughout the building, some of them several times over, but getting no answers. Gradually, he had come to the realization that he was evidently the only person in the building. Nobody came to any of the doors to answer his knocks, and he could hear no sounds coming from inside any of the rooms. It was if every resident in the building had abruptly gotten up and vacated the premises, Xander and Anya amongst them. So where the bloody hell were they all? Whatever the reason, Giles didn't like it much.
He wondered where he should go next. He knew that Buffy was out looking for Spike, but if she hadn't found him yet, then that meant Dawn was probably still by herself at the Summers residence, so he figured he should probably head over there and keep an eye on the fifteen-year-old. He could call Willow from there as well if need be.
His mind made up, Giles started down the sidewalk, moving with a quick stride, still rubbing his head. With any luck, Buffy had a spare icepack on standby at her place.
Willow had only meant to sit down for a minute, but when she awakened and glanced over at the alarm clock on the desk, she realized that she had been dozing in the chair by the bed for over an hour. 6:15, the clock read. The sun would be up soon.
"Might as well say good morning," Willow murmured, and pushed herself up out of the chair. She walked into the bathroom, opened the cabinet, took out her toothbrush and toothpaste, and came back out. She was about to open the front door and step out into the hall when she heard a familiar noise on the other side of the door.
A familiar meow.
Willow's face lit up, and she quickly opened the door and looked down. And sure enough, there she was.
"Miss Kitty!" Willow exclaimed.
Miss Kitty Fantastico sat in the open doorway, looking up at Willow. Willow scooped up the kitten and held her close, a big smile on her face. "Oh, Miss Kitty! Where were you? I was so worried about you! Yes, I was, I was so worried about you!"
She tried to clutch Miss Kitty even closer to her chest in a firm but tender hug, but the kitten started wriggling, not appreciating the gesture. Willow reluctantly released her grip, and Miss Kitty jumped down to the floor, landing at the foot of the bed. She promptly curled up, her head resting on her front paws, closed her eyes, and fell asleep.
"You don't wanna snuggle?" Willow asked, looking down at Miss Kitty, and pouting. But she was incredibly relieved to see her pet again. She was sure that whatever had eaten Amy-rat had eaten Miss Kitty as well, but to see her little kitty safe and well warmed Willow's heart, and brought a smile to her face. And that was something that Willow knew she had needed badly this morning.
Opening the door, about to step out into the hall again, Willow stopped when she heard the sound of moaning behind her. Turning around, she saw Tara stirring on the bed, rolling over onto her back, her hands coming up to her face to rub at her eyes.
"Uh-oh," Willow said quietly to herself. "This is not gonna be pretty."
Two people looked at Buffy with matching intent looks when she came back into the living room. She moved slowly, not looking at anyone or anything.
"Were you just talking to Faith?" Dawn asked her big sister, sounding unable to believe it, as Buffy sat down beside her on the couch. Dawn noticed the wide-eyed, vacant, stunned expression on her sister's face. "Buffy?" she said softly.
Buffy looked up at her, and her expression seemed to clear. "Yeah. I ... yeah, that was Faith. She ..." Buffy trailed off, not saying anything more.
"What about Xander?" Dawn asked. "I heard you say his name."
Buffy was silent for a few more moments. When she spoke again, Dawn began to worry when she heard the flat tone in her sister's voice. "They're coming over here. Faith and Xander. Faith's back in town. She ... she's out of prison. I told them to come over here."
"Out of prison?" Dawn wasn't liking this. "Wha... how?"
But Buffy didn't answer this time. She just looked down towards the floor again.
Across the room, Lindsey McDonald was deep in thought. The two girls seemed to have completely forgotten he was even there, but that didn't worry him at this point. Only one thing did at this point.
Faith was out.
And she was here.
Things had just gotten very complicated.
Three people sat in silence in the Summers living room.
Then a knock sounded at the door.
"Hello?" Giles' voice rang out from outside. "Dawn, are you there?"
"Welcome to Sunnydale. A Wonderful Place To Live And Grow," Gunn read the sign aloud as Angel's convertible passed it. "You guys didn't tell me this was such a nice, friendly town."
"That's because it's not," Cordelia answered shortly from behind the wheel. "Don't believe everything you read." She had changed places with Angel a few minutes back. Angel now sat in the middle of the front seat, between Cordy and Wesley, a large, thick blanket in his lap. The souled vampire was always reluctant to let somebody else drive his car, but the sun was almost up, and he didn't think he'd be able to steer very well as a big pile of dust in the driver's seat.
"It can't be that bad, can it?" Fred asked from the back seat. "I mean, we only just got here, and it's still dark, but it looks just like a regular, normal small town to me."
"Well, it ain't," Cordy said. "Get used to it."
"So where we gonna crash?" Gunn asked. "We gotta get Angel inside before the sun rises."
"There's a motel not too far from here," Angel answered. "It's not exactly five-star accommodation, but it'll have to do for now. We'll get checked in, then we'll see what's what."
"Just tell me I didn't do anything too crazy."
"Okay. You didn't do anything too crazy."
"Willow, this is me. I may be really hungover right now, but I can tell when you're lying better than anyone."
Willow lost her smile. "Okay, well, there may have been some ... tabletop dancing issues, not to mention the classic lampshade on the head trick, but we got you out of there before you could go too over-the-top."
Tara moaned again, but Willow figured this was more a moan of embarrassment rather than head pain. Tara lay on their bed, a wet cloth over her forehead, her eyes shut.
Her eyes opened when she heard the familiar meow. "Is that Miss Kitty?"
"Yeah, she was out most of the night, but she came back just a few minutes ago. I was really worried something had happened to her." Willow hadn't mentioned what was going on yet, with Amy-rat and everything else. She wasn't sure exactly how to work it into the conversation.
"Bring her up here?" Tara asked. "I wanna snuggle."
"I thought that was my job," Willow joked, as she leaned over the edge of the bed to pick up their kitten.
Tara's eyes flew open when she heard Willow let out a sudden squeal of pain, and she shot up in the bed, barely noticing the pain that went through her head as she did. "What happened?" she asked.
Willow held up her hand in front of Tara's face. Tara was shocked to see a deep gash running down the side of Willow's hand, a dark red line of blood trickling down to her wrist. She looked across the room just in time to see Miss Kitty scampering out the open doorway and around the corner.
"She scratched me!" Willow exclaimed.
"Hang on a second, I'll get a bandage. Go and run some water on your hand." Tara got up from the bed, and slowly walked over to the doorway, swaying slightly. She looked up and down the hall, but couldn't see any sign of Miss Kitty.
"What's got into her?" Willow asked.
"I don't know," Tara answered. "She's never done that before."
CHAPTER 14 - Motel California
Krevlorneswath of the Deathwok clan sat on the edge of his bed in the motel room, hands on his knees, watching his roommate closely. The man hadn't spoken a word since the six of them checked in. Outside the window, the first slivers of sunlight were starting to appear on the eastern horizon. Angel would definitely have the curtains drawn in his room by now. He and Fred had taken a room together, and Cordy and Gunn were in the third.
Lorne sighed, stood up, and crossed the room to look out the window. "Talk to me."
Wesley Wyndham-Pryce looked up from the floor. "I'm sorry?"
Lorne turned back around to face Wesley. The boss of Angel Investigations looked up at him from where he sat, his face firm. "Honey, you can play Mr. Grumpy Pants and give us the silent treatment all you want, but your aura's practically screaming about me."
Wesley held Lorne's gaze, not speaking.
Sighing, Lorne crossed to his bed again and sat back down. "Something's bothering you, Wesley. I've been feeling it ever since you came limping down those stairs. So what's the what?"
Wesley frowned. "Like you don't already know."
"Well, I've got a pretty good idea, it's true. But I want to hear it from you."
Wesley looked down at the floor, not speaking. Lorne watched him patiently. The man needed time with this one. It was obvious.
"Not just yet," Wesley said finally, talking softly. He looked back up, and Lorne was a little surprised by the look of fear in the man's eyes. "Soon."
"Fair enough," Lorne replied agreeably. "But I'm gonna hold you to that. I think you've got info we all need to hear."
Wesley's face hardened, and he nodded.
"Angel, are you alright?"
Angel was jolted out of his thoughts by the sound of Fred's voice, the contemplative look on his face evaporating. "Hmm?"
"Well, you seem kinda distracted." Fred smiled a little. "You're not worried about the kitten we're looking for, are ya?"
Angel paused for a moment before answering. "No. It's just ... something's off. I can feel it."
Fred frowned. "Off? Like what?"
In the next room, Darla stared intently at Drusilla. "What is it?"
Drusilla smiled. "Daddy's here."
Cordelia watched Gunn with an amused smile as he flicked through the channels.
"Doesn't Sunnydale have anything good to watch on TV?"
Xander walked down the sidewalk of Sunnydale's main street, hands in the pockets, head down. A couple of steps behind him, Faith dangled a stake in one hand as she followed him. The sun was coming up, so vampires weren't a worry, but her time in Sunnydale had shown her that vampires are far from the only thing you have to worry about in this town.
They were on their way to Buffy's place, and Faith was really starting to regret coming back here. But, she hadn't had a choice in the matter. The bespectacled Brit in the tweed suit that awaited her as she stepped out through those prison doors and into the open world again had made that more than clear. She was out because she was needed here. Fail to do what was asked of her, and she would find herself back behind those bars before you could say "five by five." So, here she was, back in the town that had pushed her over the edge.
And she was quickly discovering that whatever this dark power that had just risen in this town (at least, that was what she had been told) was exactly, it wasn't beating around the bush. The first familiar face she ran into belonged to Xander, and he had told her about his dead fiance. Sunnydale's newest Big Bad had already made its mark.
But that wasn't Faith's main concern at this point. Seeing Buffy again was her biggest worry. They would be there very soon, so she didn't have a lot of time left to worry about it, but Faith didn't have the slightest idea whether that was a good thing or a bad thing. Half of her thought that the sooner she got this over with, the better it would be for both her and Buffy, but the other half was practically screaming at her to turn around and get out of this town, and never come back.
But running wasn't the answer. She had done enough of that for one lifetime.
A few minutes later, the two of them turned a corner, and Faith found herself looking down Buffy's street. She stopped. Xander, who was a few steps behind her now, just kept on walking. Faith took a deep breath, let it out, and started walking again.
As Spike paused outside the door to his crypt to finish his cigarette, he realized he was starting to feel worry. Since coming back home from the dorm party, he had become aware of two major problems.
One, Drusilla was back in town. And this time, she had brought Darla with her.
Two, the other Slayer was back.
Spike frowned. He knew the others would not be happy when they heard about this.
Sucking it up, he flicked the cigarette butt away, opened the door, and entered the crypt.
Inside, a young brunette woman sat with her legs crossed on top of his coffin, staring at him intently. "And just where have you been?" she demanded. Spike opened his mouth to answer, but she went on. "We've been worried sick! We were afraid something had happened to you!"
"Don't worry yourself, luv," Spike said, grinning. He was still getting used to this newfound affection from the girl. "Just got held up a little longer than I thought." He strolled over to the coffin, and hopped up onto the lid, sitting across from her. "Ran into a couple of people on the way."
"Like who?" she asked.
"Well, like Droopy, for a start."
"You mean Xander?"
Her eyes widened. "Well? How was he? How did he look?"
"Actually, he seemed pretty normal," the chipped vampire replied, raising his eyebrows. "But he bought it."
"Yes, I'm sure," Spike said, a little patronizingly. "Don't worry about it, luv. Far as he thinks, you're deader than drywood."
"Well, good," Anya said, relaxing. "Everything's going to plan, then."
CHAPTER 15 - Crystal Ball Wrapped In Flesh
"Yes! Yes! Shake, earth! This is a sign! We are in the final days! My time has come! Glory! Glory!"
As the rumblings ceased, Miss Kitty Fantastico sat in a far corner of the underground lair, undetected by any of the vampires that lurked there, her eyes fixed on the Master as he lowered his arms to his sides. The fool. He believed this to be a sign of his ascension? How little he knew. He was but a vampire. A powerful one, granted, but still, just a vampire. And he would claim to know true evil? To have seen its real face?
If he only knew.
As Miss Kitty sat up and took off, headed for the surface, the Master looked over at the Anointed One. "Whaddya think? 5.1?"
"Not quite," Spike said.
"What do you mean?" Anya asked him, regarding the vampire quizzically.
"I mean, there's a couple of unexpected arrivals we're going to have deal with before we get started." Spike hopped up onto the lid of his coffin, sitting with his legs hanging over one side, and took out a smoke.
Anya looked worried. "Arrivals? Like who?"
Spike smirked at her. "Like your boyfriend's first fling, for starters."
Anya couldn't believe her ears. "You don't mean Faith?" Spike nodded, still with a faint smirk. "But ... but she's in jail! Serving time for crimes she willfully committed against society!"
"Well, she's not in jail anymore." Spike lit up his smoke, and dropped the lighter back into his pocket. "She's back in town."
The ex-demon was not impressed. "I don't believe this. We're so close now, we can't afford to have two Slayers running around!"
"We'll deal with them," a third voice said.
Spike and Anya both turned to look at the third person in the crypt.
"Anya's right," the young woman said. "Nobody can interfere in this. We're too close to the day." She looked back and forth between the ex-demon and the chipped vampire. "Each of us has suffered great loss in this town. But we won't be in this hellhole much longer. When she whom we serve comes for us, we will be empowered once more, and our losses will be avenged."
"Hi, Giles," Dawn said, opening the door and stepping aside to let him in. Giles came inside, and saw Buffy standing at the foot of the stairs, leaning against the railing.
"Oh, Buffy, good," Giles said, closing the door behind him. Dawn moved behind him to look through the glass panes in the door, out onto the street. "Uh, did you find Spike?"
"No. I didn't." Buffy spoke quietly, absently. Giles noticed that her face was pale, and she looked almost frightened, as is wary of something that might spring out at her at any moment.
"Well, uh, I went over to Xander and Anya's building," Giles started, "and I couldn't find any of trace of either of them. It looks like they're both missing. Actually, the whole building appeared virtually empty, if not completely."
"Missing?" Dawn asked, turning back to face Giles. She was starting to worry again, then remembered Faith's phone call earlier. "No, they're not ... I mean, he ..."
"I'm not surprised." Giles turned to face the man who had just spoken, and his eyes widened. "She's leaving her mark already."
Dawn came out from behind Giles, and moved between him and Lindsey. "Uh, Giles, this is Lindsey. He says he's a lawyer from L.A. He ..."
"I know who he is," Giles broke in, cutting Dawn off. "We've met before."
"How've you been, Rupert?" Lindsey asked.
Outside, Faith and Xander stepped up onto the front porch.
"Well, here goes nothing," Faith said softly, and lifted her hand to knock on the door.
"It's not as simple as that," Spike said, getting up from the coffin and standing. "We're dealing with big evil here. Bigger than anything any of us has ever seen, and we have to be ready for anything. Retaliation from both sides. You don't think Faith being here is a coincidence? She's been sent here to stop us. To stop her."
"Nothing can stop her," Anya responded immediately. "She whom we serve is above all of us. You know, she's invincible."
"Yeah, well, maybe, but that's not gonna stop every superhero and their dog from throwing everything they've got at us in the meantime."
"It doesn't matter," the third member of the trio said. She stared at Spike intently, curiously. "You don't seem convinced that we have found our one true chance for vengeance here, Spike."
"Hey, I'm all for vengeance," Spike insisted. "I've got just as much riding on this as you two. But you've gotta admit, this glorious old town of Sunnyhell is not the place to go trying to exact a little vengeance. Any kind of evil that tries to rule the roost here fails dismally. And with two Slayers here again ..."
"But surely we're not staying here?" Anya asked. "Right?" She looked at the other woman hopefully.
"No, we're not," the other woman answered. "Once she whom we serve arrives, you, Spike and I are gone. There are people waiting for us in the big city. And when we get there, we'll be ushered in by those who serve her as faithfully as we do, and we will have our day. And this town, the town which has seen nothing but failure for all of us, will burn."
She looked at Anya.
"Anya, you were a demon for over a thousand years. And then you came here. And what happened? You were stripped of your powers with barely an afterthought. Those people you called your friends laughed at you behind your back. They mocked you."
She fixed her gaze on Spike.
"Spike, you were one of the most vicious vampires in existence. And then, you came here. And what happened? The Slayer kicked your ass time and time again, and then a bunch of government trained cardboard cutouts decided to perform a little surgery on you. And you became the little vampire that couldn't. And nobody ever treated you with any kind of respect again."
Neither Spike or Anya said anything in reply. They knew every word of it was true.
"And me? I've lived here in this miserable town my whole life. And what did it ever do for me? Not a damn thing. I've spent the last two and a half years trapped in a cage, unable to get out. Cut off from the world. And the one person who had the power to help me didn't lift a finger. But when I get my powers back, she will pay her price. As will they all."
As Spike and Anya watched her in silence, Amy Madison grinned evilly, and folded her arms triumphantly.
"She whom we serve will make it so."
CHAPTER 16 - Staredown
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This chapter is set roughly two weeks before the start of the story. Because I say it is. So there.
"A dorm party? I don't know, I've kinda gone off those."
"Come on, it'll be fun. You remember fun? That thing where you smile?"
Tara raised her eyebrows. "I've never heard fun described like that before."
Willow grinned. "It's a Xanderism."
"Oh." They paused for a moment by a water fountain, and Willow bent to take a drink. Tara folded her arms, that old gesture that indicated nervousness or worry she barely knew she was making anymore. "It's just ... well, it seems wrong somehow. I mean, it's only been two months since ... Buffy ..."
Willow straightened, and looked sympathetically at Tara. "Yeah," she said quietly. "But we talked about this last night." Willow took Tara's hand, and the two of them started down the hall again, headed for their dorm room. "It still feels really weird, you know, not having her around. She's not here, and the world keeps spinning. But Buffy wouldn't want us moping around. And we haven't had a simple, fun night out in a long time."
Tara had to agree with this. "I suppose so."
"And, we could invite the whole group to come with us," Willow continued, brightening a little. "Xander, Giles, Anya, even Spike if he wants to come. Although we probably shouldn't bring Dawn with us. College parties aren't really her scene."
"Yeah, not like a couple of wild partiers like us," Tara said, attempting a joke. To this day, the blonde Wicca still found herself having to work up the courage to try and say something funny, but she was heartened to hear a chuckle from Willow now.
Reaching their room, Willow pushed the door open, and they walked in. Willow walked over to the window and pulled back the curtain, letting fresh sunlight into the room. As Tara shut the door behind her, she looked across the room, and saw Miss Kitty Fantastico hunched down on the floor at the foot of the bed, staring up at Amy-rat's cage on the desk. She couldn't help the smile that broke out on her face. She and Willow had been noticing some differences in behaviour from their kitten lately. Miss Kitty had been their pet for close to a year and a half now, and she surely must have reached adult age despite having barely grown in size at all since the day they first brought her home, but Tara couldn't think of her as anything other than their kitten. The word "cat" just didn't seem to fit such a cute little thing. "Look at this," she told Willow, still smiling.
Turning from the window, Willow looked down at Miss Kitty, and her smile matched Tara's. "Miss Kitty!" she scolded playfully. "What did we tell you about stalking Amy? You're probably scaring her half to death."
But Miss Kitty showed no sign of having heard Willow's voice. She continued to stare up at Amy-rat, not moving a muscle. And it was then that Tara noticed something odd. Amy-rat was staring right back at the kitten, hunched down on the floor of the cage, also not moving. It was as if she was mimicking Miss Kitty's stance completely, and the two of them were engaged in a tense staring contest. The two Wiccas had walked into the room to find Miss Kitty staring up at that cage several times these past few weeks, but normally when it happened, Amy-rat was scurrying back and forth under Miss Kitty's keen gaze as if she was being chased around the cage by half a dozen invisible scorpions. But not today. If anything, Amy-rat was almost statue-like in her frozen position.
Tara was opening her mouth to comment on this when Willow bent down and scooped Miss Kitty up from the floor. Tara kept her eyes on Amy-rat in the meantime, and as Willow snuggled their kitten up against her shoulder, Amy-rat sprang back into life, moving about the cage as she often did, her long tail trailing behind her like a string of tin cans tied to the back of a wedding car turning a hard corner.
Lindsey McDonald pulled over in front of the Magic Box, and killed the ignition. He looked out his window at the store for a moment, then got out of the pickup. A couple of teenagers walked by, and chuckled as their eyes happened on Lindsey's battered and dusty truck, but Lindsey paid them no mind. He walked up to the front door of the Magic Box, shielding his eyes against the reflection of the early afternoon sun in the glass with one hand, and pushed it open. Above his head, a small bell jingled.
Inside, Giles was just coming up from the basement, carrying a cardboard box full of mandrake root and assorted herbs, and Anya was at the counter, serving a middle-aged woman who was buying a crystal ball for her teenage daughter's birthday. "She's just crazy about the black arts," the woman explained as Anya wrapped the ball.
As Lindsey walked in, the woman took her purchase from Anya and left, smiling and nodding at him as she passed him on her way out. Lindsey smiled politely back at the woman, then approached the counter.
Anya had not yet noticed Lindsey's presence, having turned to Giles as he joined her behind the counter. "Can I go on my lunch break yet?" she was asking him. "You've been working me like a slave all morning."
"Fine," Giles said, trying to sound annoyed and boss-like, but he was happy for the opportunity to get the ex-demon out of his hair for a while. The first couple of hours after midday were normally a slow period in the shop, and Anya had been in a cranky mood all morning, having woken up that morning feeling slightly ill, and having trouble adjusting to the feeling. Earlier she claimed she was feeling the first symptom of stomach flu. Giles figured she was just being paranoid and overreacting.
Anya turned to leave, and saw Lindsey standing on the other side of the counter. "I'm on my lunch break." She pointed at Giles. "He'll serve you." With that, she walked out of the shop, picking up her coat and putting it on along the way. The bell jingled as she opened the door and left.
Giles turned to Lindsey, and smiled at him. "Good afternoon. Welcome to the Magic Box. What can I interest you in? Uh, mandrake root?" he asked, holding up a packet.
"No, actually, I'm not interested in buying anything," Lindsey answered.
"Oh, yes?" Giles asked, dropping the mandrake root back into the box.
"I was hoping to talk to you, Mr. Giles."
Giles was instantly wary. "How do you know who I am?"
"I know a lot about you," Lindsey said. "I know you used to be a Watcher." Giles looked surprised. "And I know you haven't been a Watcher since your Slayer, Buffy Summers, died in May of this year."
Giles whipped off his glasses, and set them down on the counter. He walked around from behind the counter, stopping and standing right in front of Lindsey. He stood almost a head taller than Lindsey, and looked down at him coldly as he spoke, his voice quiet and full of venom. "Who are you, and what the hell do you want?"
Lindsey backed up a step, and held up his hands. He didn't want to appear timid and spineless, but he knew a fair amount about Rupert Giles' younger days, and what the man was capable of if you crossed him. "Relax, Mr. Giles. I'm here to help you."
Lindsey paused for a moment to gauge the Brit's reaction to this. Giles took a deep breath, and appeared to relax a little, but never took his eyes off of Lindsey. "I'm listening," he said simply, not sounding convinced as yet of Lindsey's genuineness.
Now it was Lindsey's turn to relax. "My name is Lindsey McDonald, and until recently, I was employed at Wolfram & Hart. It's a law firm in Los Angeles."
"I've heard of it," Giles said.
"All good things, I hope," Lindsey joked, smiling a little.
Lindsey's smile vanished. "Anyway," he said, getting back to business. "You may be familiar enough with Wolfram & Hart to know that the people there deal in matters that are not quite of the norm - supernatural, otherworldly, you can pick your adjective - as I did when I was employed there. As you yourself did as a Watcher. But some of us at the firm also had a fair knowledge of revivification rituals. And that's why I'm here. I want to help you."
Giles stood silently for a moment, his eyes widening. Lindsey could tell from the look on the man's face that he was getting the picture pretty clearly. "You don't mean ..." Giles began.
Lindsey nodded at him. "I can help you get your Slayer back."
CHAPTER 17 - Memory Lane
The motel room door opened, and Angel came out, walking with purpose. As he walked, he absently raised an arm to shield his face from the morning sunlight, but he wasn't incredibly bothered by it, as he only expected to be outside for a few seconds. Behind him, Fred appeared in the open doorway, watching Angel nervously. The next door down from her opened as well, and Wesley and Gunn stepped out, Cordelia just behind them.
A few short strides brought the souled vampire to the door of the next room along. Angel figured he would have to burst through a locked door to get inside, but when he tried the knob, it turned easily under his hand. He pushed the door open forcibly, and stepped into the room.
There was no one inside.
As Angel stood in the room, looking around, Wesley appeared in the open doorway behind him. "Angel, is everything alright?"
Angel looked back at Wesley. "Yeah," he said after a moment. "Guess it's nothing."
Wesley bent forward, looking into the room curiously. "What exactly were you expecting to find in here?" he asked the vampire.
"Not sure," Angel replied. "I just thought I ..." He trailed off, and shook his head. He started walking back to the door, and Wesley stepped back to allow him room. Angel reached the doorway, then stopped, staying out of the sunlight.
Gunn came up beside Wesley, looking at Angel strangely. "What's up?" he asked.
"Nothing," Angel told him. "What's going on?"
"Gunn and I thought we'd head into town," Wesley explained. "Have a look around, and see if we can spot anything that looks suspicious."
"Like a kitten jumping out at people and slicing 'em up," Gunn added.
"That's a good idea," Angel told them. "Just ... be careful. Guess I'll stay inside for now, so I won't burn up."
"I'm coming with you," Cordelia said from behind them.
Wesley and Gunn turned to look at her. "I wouldn't recommend it," Wesley told her. "Until we can ascertain exactly how safe or unsafe it is to be out in the open, I think the mjaority of us should ..."
"Save it, Wes," Cordy rode in, cutting him off. "I'm coming with you." She looked at Angel for a moment, then back at Wesley. When she spoke again, her voice had lost some of its edge. "I want to see Sunnydale again. There'll be a lot of memories brought back for me while we're here, and I might as well deal with them sooner than later. What the hell."
Wesley nodded, understanding. He had spent only a few short months in this town, but even he was anxious to take another look around. It had been like a vapour had settled over him as soon as they crossed over the town limits, filling him with a mixture of excitement and unease. He could only guess at the frame of mind Cordy had to be in at the moment. "OK, the three of us'll head out. But we'll be back as soon as we can."
Wesley's eyes happened on Fred as he finished speaking, and she gave him a small smile. "How're you feeling?" she asked him, a little hesitantly.
Wesley looked at Fred for a moment, not getting the question. Then he looked down at his foot, then back up at her. "Oh. Better," he told her. "Not so painful." He paused. "Sorry if I was a bit harsh before."
Fred's smile grew a little. "Oh, that's alright," she said. "I should have been more careful instead of sneaking up on you like that. I mean, I know what it's like to drop a heavy thing on your foot and feel the pain for ages afterwards. There was this one time in Pylea, I was carrying a bunch of sticks and twigs and things, and I stepped on a rock as I came into my cave, and I tripped, and they all fell on my feet, and I could barely walk for an hour afterwards, and it was really painful, and ..." She trailed off, looking embarrassed. "... and I'm just wasting everybody's time, aren't I? There's an evil kitten in town, and here I am rambling on about twigs. I'll be quiet now." Fred's head dropped, and she looked down at the ground. Gunn grinned, and Wesley smiled a little at her when she looked back up.
"And on that note, I say we get movin'," Cordelia said.
"Let's go," Gunn agreed, as he, Cordy and Wesley started walking. Angel quickly jogged back into his and Fred's room, and closed the door behind them. "I hope we find this kitty," Gunn continued. "I been waitin' to try out my new axe."
As the three of them walked away, another door opened, and Lorne popped his head out. "Bring me back a jelly donut?" he called after them.
On the front porch outside the Summers house, Faith and Xander stood outside the door. Faith's right arm was raised, ready to knock, but as Xander watched, the dark-haired Slayer's arm dropped, slapping against the side of her body.
Faith's mind had taken her back to the last time she had stood in this spot. She remembered the night all too well. She had just woken from her coma, and had come by to pay Buffy's mom a little 'visit'. Joyce had opened the door, and Faith had greeted her with a fist. Inside, she was panicking. She had been worried about meeting Buffy again, but now she was wondering what would happen if the first face she saw here belonged to Joyce?
"Aren't you gonna knock?" Xander asked her.
Faith was surprised to hear Xander's voice. It was the first time he had spoken since they left the motel. "In a minute," she said, standing still.
Inside the house, Dawn was looking up at the two men in front of her with a curious expression. "You've met?" she asked them. "When?"
Giles continued to look at Lindsey. "He gave me the spell," he said after a moment.
"The spell?" Buffy asked him.
Giles looked down at his Slayer, who now sat on the bottom step, her hands in her lap. "The one that brought you back," he replied.
Buffy's eyes widened, and she looked at Lindsey, getting to her feet. "He's the one who came to you at the shop?" she asked Giles. He nodded.
"I take it everything worked fine?" Lindsey asked him.
As Giles was opening his mouth to answer, the doorbell rang. "I'll get it!" Dawn said quickly, rushing over to answer it.
Faith took a deep breath as the door opened. And as it turned out, the face she saw belonged to neither Buffy or Joyce. It was the littlest Summers.
Dawn's eyes met Faith's, and a scowl quickly came over the teen's face. She then saw Xander, and her eyes lit up. "Xander!" she exclaimed. "We thought you were ..."
Xander didn't reply. Looking over Dawn's shoulder, Faith could see Buffy and Giles standing in the foyer, staring at her. And someone else standing behind Giles, but Giles was in the way, and Faith couldn't see the man's face. Xander stepped into the house, and gave Dawn a small smile as he passed her.
Dawn looked back at Faith, and her scowl returned. "Are you gonna push me out of your way again like last time?" she asked coldly.
Faith's eyes widened. Damn. She had totally forgotten about that.
As Xander walked over to where Buffy and Giles were standing, Giles moved aside to give the young man room, and Faith now could see the man who had been standing behind him. Her eyes widened even further as she recognized the face staring back at her.
Of all the people Faith had been worried about seeing again over the past few hours, this guy certainly hadn't been one of them. Her breath caught in her throat, and she froze.
Lindsey looked at Faith, his eyes staring intently into her own. Her mind working quickly, Faith took in the situation, and did the only thing she coud think to do.
She turned, and bolted down the porch steps, across the front garden, and off down the street.
CHAPTER 18 - Daylight
The sun was starting to climb higher above the town, and Sunnydale was awakening for a new day.
Along Main Street, cars were starting to appear, the traffic gradually getting heavier, and shop doors were being unlocked, shop owners preparing to open for another day of business. Among the buildings that dotted both sides of the street, only the magic shop stood unattended, unopened. On the other side of the alley that ran between the magc shop and the butcher shop, Darren Reardon, the manager, was letting himself in, closing the door behind him as he entered. Darren usually went in through the back door, but the nearby alley he used to get around to the back entrance every morning was cordoned off with bright yellow police tape, stamped "DO NOT CROSS" in bold, capitalized black letters.
About ten feet away, a pair of paramedics loaded a stretcher up into the back of an ambulance. A small crowd - probably only half a dozen people or so; it was still pretty early in the day - watched them, not speaking. A motionless human form could be seen under the sheet that covered the stretcher. As the paramedics climbed into the back of the ambulance and shut the doors, and the engine started revving, a couple of onlookers spoke to each other in hushed tones. As the ambulance began to pull away, headed in the direction of Sunnydale Memorial, the small group began to break up, the people moving off in different directions. One woman took a lingering look down the alley before leaving, but there was nothing to be seen down there anymore. A person with exceptionally keen eyesight may have been able to spot small splashes of blood in two or three places, but this woman was in her mid-forties, and wore thick glasses. She, too, now walked away, leaving the area empty.
A few blocks farther up the street, a trio of people came around a corner, moving slowly. A woman, flanked by two men, each of them silent, looking around at the buildings and the people that they passed.
Cordelia Chase was still digesting the fact that she was back in Sunnydale. She had almost caught herself thinking of the town as her home a few minutes earlier, but she had been gone for too long a time now for it to be that. Sunnydale wasn't her home anymore. She had been born here in Sunnydale, had lived through her childhood years, and the majority of her teen years, here in Sunnydale, but she hadn't really grown up here. At least, it didn't seem that way to her. Most of her growing up had been done in the few very short - and yet very long - years since leaving Sunnydale. Still, there were so many memories here for her. Memories of a person she barely recognized anymore, of a life she barely remembered she had.
Wesley Wyndham-Pryce was having no similar inner monologue, but he too found himself deep in thought as the three of them walked through the town's center. He hadn't been here nearly long enough to build up the emotional connection with this town that Cordy possessed, but he had his fair share of memories also. And he, too, found himself comparing the person he was when he was in Sunnydale to the person he had become since leaving, and found himself fascinated by the differences between the two versions of himself, almost as if they were two entirely seperate entities. Certainly, the people in this town that knew him would have difficulty recognizing the man now. Wesley felt sure that he would be seeing all of those people again, perhaps very soon.
Charles Gunn had never been to Sunnydale before, but he knew there was some weird-ass shit going on here.
"So ..." Gunn said contemplatively, feeling a need to break the silence. "Anyone see a kitten yet?"
"Nope," Cordelia answered shortly.
"Perhaps we should ask some of the locals," Wesley offered.
"Oh, right," Gunn responded, a little sarcasm creeping into his voice. "That'll work. 'Excuse me, ma'am, we're lookin' for a kitten that's been goin' around killin' people. You think you seen it? You got a kitten yourself, ma'am? It gettin' violent on ya at all?'"
Wesley looked at Gunn with annoyance. "Okay then, we'll just wait here for a kitten to come to us. With any luck, it'll kill us all, and then we'll know we've found it."
Now it was Gunn's turn to look annoyed. "Wesley ..."
"Guys, hold up."
The two men turned to look at Cordelia. The three of them had all stopped walking. "What is it?" Wesley asked her.
"Down there." Cordy's arm pointed down the street.
About thirty feet from where they stood, the three of them could just make out the yellow police tape barring access to the alley. Wesley and Gunn looked at each other, then simultaneously started off again, heading for the alley. Cordelia quickly followed after them, taking a quick look around her as she jogged to catch up.
So far, none of the Main Street pedestrians had noticed that the butcher shop had yet to open.
As Wesley, Gunn and Cordelia passed by the front of the shop outside, inside the building, Drusilla dropped Darren Reardon's lifeless body to the floor, and licked her lips.
"You didn't save me any, Dru."
Drusilla turned, and smiled. "You should have brought your own, grandmummy."
Darla emerged from the back area, holding the slumped and unconscious body of a teenage girl in front of her. The girl's clothing suggested she was the store cleaner. Her nametag was splashed with blood. Blood which ran from two neat punctures in her neck.
"But she was incredibly skinny," Darla added. "Hardly enough to feed a small child, let alone me."
"Daddy will be cross when he sees what you've done," Drusilla scolded playfully, pointing a finger at Darla.
Darla's expression turned angry. "'Daddy' won't do a thing. If he gets in our way, we kill him." She dropped the young girl's body, sighed. "What the hell is he doing here, anyway? Can't I go anywhere in the world without having to deal with Angel and his disgusting soul?" She spat this last word out, her voice dripping with venom.
Drusilla suddenly drew in a quick, sharp breath, turning on her feet toward the front door. Her eyes widened, and she began to smile.
"What is it?" Darla asked her. She had seen this from Dru a hundred times over. Sometimes it felt like a million.
"Visitors," Dru chanted. "Right outside the door."
Darla rolled her eyes. "They're just pedestrians, Dru. They're just cattle."
"Daddy's friends ..."
Darla was turning to leave through the back entrance, but these two words stunned her. She spun back around, and stormed over to Drusilla. "What?" she demanded.
"They're here," Drusilla said, still in that lilting, chanting voice. "They came with Angel." She paused, swaying on her feet. "They're looking for a naughty kitty!" she finished decisively. "She will have no treats with her meal today."
Darla rolled her eyes again. That was Drusilla for you. For every useful piece of information her warped mind gave you, there was always an equal serving of gibberish. She thought for a moment. "So. Angel's sidekicks are here, are they?"
"Shall I invite them in, grandmummy?" Dru's smirk was both incredibly shy, and incredibly devious.
Darla started to smile. The smile soon gave way to a wide grin. Her eyes glinted with evil intent. "Yeah. Why not?"
CHAPTER 19 - Time For Breakfast
"I admit, I'm beginning to understand why you came to me with the resurrection spell."
Rupert Giles and Lindsey McDonald were sitting down in chairs on opposite sides of the coffee table in the Summers living room. Lindsey looked up at Giles as he spoke. They were alone in the room. Dawn had gone back upstairs, taking Xander with her.
Buffy had insisted on going out and following Faith before she could get far.
"I realize you probably have your own agenda," Giles went on, looking the ex-Wolfram & Hart lawyer square in the eye, his expression firm. "But if what you've just told me is accurate, I think I've just found one more reason to be grateful that Buffy is back again."
"It's accurate," Lindsey assured him. "All the signs point to it. Wolfram & Hart have known about this for years. This kitten is unlike anything your Slayer has ever faced, of that I'm confident. But I think you'll agree, we're a much better chance of surviving through this with her around."
Giles nodded silently, unable to disagree.
But Lindsey's thoughts were still centered on Faith. He hadn't been given a lot of time to prepare for their meeting again, but it definitely hadn't gone the way he had wanted. Hopefully, the other Slayer would find her soon and bring her back, so he could get this whole thing straightened out, and find out just how Faith had gotten out of prison.
Not to mention why.
Upstairs, Dawn came back into her room, carrying a glass of water in one hand. Xander still sat on the edge of her bed, head hung, legs together, hands folded lazily in his lap, staring at the floor. He looked up when Dawn came in, smiled at her, and took the glass as she offered it.
"Crazy start to the day, huh?" Dawn asked him, sitting down beside him on the bed. "How are you feeling?" It was about the only thing she could think of to say to him at the moment.
Xander took a sip of water, then looked at Dawn. "I'm okay," he said quietly. He looked back down at the floor.
Dawn had been worried about Xander since the moment he came in the house earlier. The slump of his shoulders, and the troubled look on his face, suggested pretty clearly to her that something wasn't right. She had excused the two of them after Faith had turned on the front doorstep and taken off, and they had come up here. Dawn had asked him if he was thirsty, but he hadn't answered her, so she went back down to the kitchen anyway, and filled a glass with water from the tap. He had only taken one sip from the glass so far, and she suspected he had only done it for her benefit. "No, you're not," she told him in response.
Xander looked back up at her, surprised.
"Something's wrong with you, Xander," she went on, deciding to be upfront with him. She imagined it was what he would do in the same situation. "And unless you tell somebody what it is, it's only going to make you feel worse than you already do the longer you leave it."
Later that day, when his head was a little clearer, Xander would find himself able to wonder exactly when Dawn had gotten so insightful. But for now, his brain was on autopilot.
That was the last thing Dawn had been expecting to hear. The colour drained from her face, and she felt as if she had had her breath stolen from her. "What?" she asked in shock, her voice now barely above a whisper.
"Something killed her." The flat, emotionless tone of Xander's voice scared the fifteen-year-old even more. "I came home tonight, and there she was. Lying -" His voice caught for a moment, choking in his throat. His eyes started to tear up. "Lying in our bed ... not moving ... like ... like she ..."
Xander broke down, unable to finish what he was saying. His face dropped into his hands, his shoulders sagged, and he started sobbing uncontrollably. Everything that had been festering inside him these past few hours suddenly came rushing to the surface, all at once.
Dawn felt herself almost starting to get teary as well, but something occured to her at that point. A thought that popped into her head from totally out of nowhere. Something that Giles had said earlier ...
"That's where she was when you left?" she asked Xander. Still crying, still with his hands hiding the tears that ran down his face, Xander nodded.
Dots were joining in Dawn's mind now. Thoughts were connecting to each other. Xander had found Anya lying motionless in his bed, and she didn't have any reason to think he was lying about that. And Anya had still been there when Xander left. But Giles had been to Xander and Anya's place since then.
And Giles had said the whole building was empty.
Several houses up from B's place, Faith was standing in a front garden, bent at the waist, her hands on her knees, breathing a little heavy. Her panicked run hadn't taken her very far before her body had stopped running, just as sudden as it had started. She realized now that she was glad about that. She already knew she hadn't come back to this town just to start running away again.
She turned around, ready to start walking back down the street to the Summers house, but received a shock when she found herself looking right into an angry face, only inches away from hers.
"Hello, Faith," Buffy said coldly.
"Hey, Wes, look at this."
Wesley turned to look at Gunn, who was pointing down at the ground. Looking down there, he saw what Gunn had already spotted, a dark splash of blood near the wall.
The two of them were investigating the crime scene they had just happened upon, and it looked to the ex-Watcher like Gunn had just spotted the first clue. At the top of the alley, Cordelia stood on the legal side of the bright yellow police tape, watching them, her back to the street.
"This doesn't look good," Wesley said flatly. As soon as the three of them had reached the crime scene, Cordy had told them that this was the alley from her vision, the alley the man had been attacked by the kitten in. And evidently, they had arrived far too late to save him. Considering there was nobody else at the crime scene but them, the attack had most likely happened hours ago, quite possibly at the exact same time Cordy had seen it in her vision.
Which wasn't of much help to them, it turned out.
It was typical of the Powers at times. Obviously, they hadn't been sent here to save the man from Cordelia's vision. Maybe they were here to prevent anyone else from being killed by the kitten from Cordelia's vision.
"So, which one of us has a sick relative at Sunnydale Memorial?" Gunn asked.
"Would you go?" Wesley asked him. "I'd like to stay here a little longer and investigate the crime scene. Once I'm finished, Cordy and I will go back to the motel and reconvene with the rest of the group, so you might as well just head back there later. And tell Cordelia not to go anywhere, alright?"
Gunn nodded. "I'm on it." He clapped Wesley on the shoulder, and started back up the alley.
Once Gunn was gone, Wesley squatted down to take a closer look at the bloodstain. "So," he murmured softly. "You're back again."
Cordelia stared expectantly at Gunn as he ducked back under the police tape, joining her again on the sidewalk. "Well?" she asked him impatiently.
"Looks like we got here too late to save this guy," Gunn answered. "I'm gonna head up to the hospital and see what I can find out about him, do the sick relative thing. Wesley wanted you to stay here."
Cordelia nodded, not happy to hear this news, but not surprised by it. She had never expected they would arrive in time to save the guy she saw in her vision, instead, like Wesley, guessing they were there to stop the kitten she saw in her vision, before it could hurt anyone else. "Be careful," she told Gunn.
Gunn nodded, and smiled at her. "Always do." On a happier day, Cordelia Chase would have felt inclined to respond to that with a smart-aleck comment. But not today. Gunn turned the other way, and started walking up the street, heading away from her, leaving her alone, and more worried than ever.
As she continued to watch Gunn as he headed up the street, Cordelia didn't hear the front door of the butcher shop swinging open behind her. But she did feel the hands that came down on her shoulders, pulling her into the building before she could even let out a shout for help.
Oblivious to this, Gunn continued to walk away, not hearing the sound of the slamming door behind him.
Nor did he notice Miss Kitty Fantastico come out of an alley across the street, and start trotting after him from behind.
Inside the butcher shop, Cordelia's eyes opened wide in terror at the sight of Drusilla's vamped-out face, right in front of her. The vampire held her by the forearms with hands that were smoking from their brief exposure to the sunlight outside, and she was looking hungrily at Cordelia.
Behind Drusilla's left shoulder, Cordy caught sight of Darla standing a few feet away from them, and her eyes grew even wider. "Nice to see you again, little girl," the blonde vampire greeted her, smiling pleasantly. "I don't think you saw us coming, did you?"
Before Cordelia could open her mouth to reply, Drusilla grabbed the back of her neck tightly with one hand, and clamped her other hand over Cordy's mouth just as tightly, holding it shut. As she stood helplessly, terrified, unable to cry out, Drusilla darted her head forward with incredible speed, and sank her fangs into Cordelia's throat.
CHAPTER 20 - Reality
"Hey, B, you're looking -"
That was all Faith was able to say before a hard right cross from Buffy belted across her face, surprising her, and knocking her down on her ass. Faith looked up at Buffy, feeling the cool morning grass beneath her, a little unsure of how to react. The blonde Slayer took a step closer, now standing right over her, looking down at her, her face a picture of cold anger.
"Faith, I don't care why you're so suddenly out from behind bars, or how rehabilitated you might think you are, but you've got exactly three seconds to start explaining what the hell you're doing here before I start kicking your ass."
Faith briefly considered a snappy comeback, but the cold, no-nonsense manner in which Buffy was speaking suggested this was no time for games. "Hey, gimme a break, alright?"
"Alright, already. Let an ex-con stand up first." Faith held a hand out to ward Buffy off as she got back to her feet, keeping her eyes on her fellow Slayer. Buffy was in typical Slayer fighting stance, her fists held up in front of her, tense, ready to spring into action in an instant. Now standing again, Faith brushed herself off, and dropped her arm. "Look, I didn't come looking for a fight," she said, hoping the calm tone of her voice would settle Buffy's nerves a little, as well as her own.
Buffy relaxed her stance a little, her arms dropping to her sides, but her body language suggested she was still half expecting Faith to try something. "Okay, so why are you here? I would have thought Sunnydale was the last place you'd ever even think about coming back to."
"Ordinarily, yeah," Faith agreed. "But I didn't have a lotta choice on this one, B. I'm needed here."
"You're needed here?" Buffy couldn't hide the disbelief in her voice. She smiled, but it didn't reach her eyes. "Kinda doubt that."
Now it was Faith's turn to smile. "Doubt all you want, but it's true. I don't know what I'm here for exactly, but I know it's big. Too big for one of us to handle on our own, I'm guessing."
Buffy was quiet for a few moments, taking this in. She looked Faith over a little more closely. Her hair was longer than she remembered. No dark lipstick or nail polish. No leather anywhere in the outfit, just a simple pair of bluejeans and a black T-shirt. "So how'd you get out?" she asked Faith finally.
"Council pulled a few strings," the dark-haired Slayer answered simply. "One of their tweed-clad stooges came for me, and out I went."
Buffy was surprised by this answer. "Why?"
"Not sure, really. The guy didn't go into the specifics of it. He said a lot without sayin' much. You know what those Watcher types are like."
Buffy nodded, forced to agree. "So that's it?" she asked. "That's the whole story."
Faith shrugged. "Pretty much."
Deciding to change the subject, Buffy took a step back, folding her arms in front of her. "So why'd you take off back there?"
"Oh, that." Faith dropped her eyes from Buffy's gaze for a moment, a little embarrassment showing in her demeanor. "Saw an old friend I wasn't happy to see again. Panicked for a few seconds. And I really didn't expect to see him hanging at your joint, B. What's up with that?"
Buffy frowned. "Who, that lawyer guy? How do you know who he is?"
"Had a brush with him in LA. It's kind of a long story."
Buffy paused for a moment, looking at Faith with curiousity. "Let me see if I've got all this straight. You're out of prison because the Council got you out, and you're in Sunnydale because of something big."
"Big evil, Buffy. Same old, same old with this town. You know that much."
Buffy was startled a little. She couldn't remember the last time Faith had called her by her actual name. "But you don't know what the big evil is."
Faith spread her arms. "Nope." She let her arms drop back to her sides, and smirked a little. "I figured I'd find out once I got here." Her expression turned serious. "But it's something bad, B. And we need to put a stop to it before it hurts anybody."
Wesley stood back up, putting the blood sample he had just taken into his jacket pocket. Turning to start walking back up the alley and onto the street, he was surprised to see no sign of Cordelia by the roadside. Walking a little further, he was expecting her to be just around the corner, perhaps not wanting to see any more of the crime scene than she had to, given the gruesome detail of her earlier vision, but when he reached the top of the alley and ducked under the police tape, he looked both up and down the street, and couldn't see Cordy at all. Maybe she had gone along with Gunn to the hospital. Wesley remembered the way she had insisted on coming into town with the two of them earlier, and realized that asking Cordelia Chase to stay somewhere she didn't want to be was pretty pointless if her mind was already made up on being somewhere else.
"Guess I'm going back to the motel on my own, then," he said to himself, and started walking.
No sooner had he gotten only a couple of steps, when the door to the butcher shop slammed open in front of him. Wesley jumped, startled, then recovered after a moment, his eyes locked on the doorway.
Taking a couple of cautious steps closer, he began to make out the silhouette of someone standing just inside the shop, avoiding the sunlight streaming in from outside. His eyes widened when he recognized the figure. He had never seen her in person before, only in an old book, but there was no mistaking who it was.
Wesley's hand dove into his jacket pocket, thankful to find the wooden stake still there from the vampire gang he and Gunn had taken out two nights previous back in LA. He kept inching towards the doorway, careful not to get too close.
Beside Drusilla, a familiar blonde woman appeared, vamped out, and smiling at him.
Wesley stopped moving.
"The rats tremble," Drusilla whispered. "Blood is spilling."
The lights hadn't been turned on inside the building, and Wesley couldn't make out much of what was behind the two vampires. For a moment, he thought he saw a figure lying on the floor, but then Darla spoke, capturing the ex-Watcher's full attention.
"Wesley," the blonde vampire said, still grinning. "It's been a while. Why don't you come on in and greet an old friend properly, like a true gentleman would?" Beside her, Drusilla, also in vamp face, licked her lips hungrily.
"I have a better idea," Wesley instantly responded. "Why don't you come out here? Oh, wait. You can't, can you?" Sizing up the situation, he didn't think it wise to get within arms reach of the two vampires. Where he stood at the moment, they couldn't get to him without burning up. He figured that gave him enough time to figure out a plan before he did anything else.
"Can I play with him, grandmummy?" Drusilla asked. "I'm awfully hungry."
"Now, Dru, you know that's not fair," Darla said pleasantly, not taking her eyes off of Wesley. "It's my turn to kill one of Angel's lackeys. After all, you just had one."
And with that, the two vampires stepped back from the doorway, allowing him a better view of the inside.
When Wesley recognized the figure slumped on the floor, he gasped in shock.
The stake fell from his hand, and clattered on the pavement.
Neither Willow nor Tara spoke.
The two of them were sitting on the bed, listening to the newsreader, whose voice emanated from the alarm clock on the desk, filling them both with worry with the words he told them.
Willow had been filling Tara in on everything that had happened since the two of them got back from the party, and now they were about to head off to Buffy's house. They had tried to call there earlier, but nobody had picked up the phone. As Tara helped Willow bandage the deep gash on her hand, she had told Tara about coming home and finding Amy-rat eaten, and thinking for a while that Miss Kitty had been killed as well. Tara was troubled by this. She didn't think she had much of an idea what was going on yet, but she had a bad feeling. It was almost like intuition.
Shortly after Willow had finished, Tara had switched on the radio, wanting some music to help lighten her mood a little. And it was only a few minutes later, as they were about to get up and leave, when the news report had come through, and they had dropped everything to listen.
"... young male was carrying no identification, but he was taken to Sunnydale Memorial Hospital, and was pronounced dead on arrival. Local authorities refused to speculate on who was responsible for this horrific attack, but stated that the victim had been severely mauled, and had probably been clinically dead for a few hours before his body was discovered. Onlookers at the crime scene were visibly shaken, and ..."
"Oh, no," Tara said, pale-faced, and shaken. She looked over at Willow. "What could have ..."
"Shh," Willow instantly prompted her girlfriend, not wanting to miss a word of the report.
"... second victim was discovered just a few minutes ago in another alley, two blocks from where the first victim was found, and has been identified as Charles Gunn, a resident of Los Angeles. Once again, police refused to speculate on his attacker, but an eyewitness who was quickly taken from the scene by police stated that the body was found looking horribly savaged. This marks the second killing in Sunnydale in the space of just a few hours, and residents are already fearing the possibility of a serial killer. More news as it develops."
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