TITLE: Coming Through the Keyholes
AUTHOR: hold_that_thought
SUMMARY: Buffy adjusts to life in Sunnydale with Angel back from hell, Willow tries her hand at being a theatre techie, and Andrew trains some winged monkeys. (Season 3 between Band Candy and Revelations).
RATED: PG-13
SPOILERS: Through the Buffy Season 6 episode "Flooded"
FEEDBACK: Totally welcome (APostModernSleaz@aol.com)
ARCHIVE: More than likely okay, but please ask first.
DISCLAIMER: The characters used within are the property of Mutant Enemy, Twentieth Century Fox, and of course Joss Whedon. It's their sandbox, I'm just playing in it.
NOTES: Thanks to my beta supreme Shadowlass, to Nongenius who was huge with the encouragement, soda who understands my Andrew and Wesley fixations, swsa who shares my Andrew and Wesley fixations, adjrun and cousinjean for constantly being amazing and fabulous beyond my capacity to properly express, fenwic for being amazingly ship sympatico with me, and to the long lost little_bit, NautiBitz, and Love.

***
"You know, that stuff about pink elephants, that's the bunk. It's little animals. Little tiny turkeys in straw hats. Midget monkeys coming through the keyholes."
-- Billy Wilder (The Lost Weekend)
***
"Hello! Screen-wipe, new scene. I had nothing to do with the devil dogs. I trained flying demon monkeys to attack the school play. School play, dude!"
- Andrew, Flooded
***

Willow shuddered. If someone had asked her yesterday what the grossest thing in the world was, she'd probably have said the Bezoar they'd been working for when under the influence of evil demon eggs. But in one instant, Buffy had been able to present something much, much more horrifying .

"You saw your mom making out with Giles?"

"Uh huh." Buffy popped another fry in her mouth. "It was, like, I didn't even have any words for it. Oh, and the worst part was when I needed something to tie up Ethan Rayne and Mom pulled out these handcuffs…."

"Ooh, I'm not missing spicy handcuff talk, am I?" Xander set his tray down on the cafeteria table across from Buffy. "I do so love spicy handcuff talk," he said and waggled his eyebrows at Cordelia.

"Not even in your wildest dreams, Harris," Cordy rolled her eyes.

"I apparently haven't told you about that dream I had last week. There was you, me, a leopard-print bikini…."

"Xander, feel free not to share," Buffy said. "And besides, trust me when I say that the handcuff talk wasn't in any way sexy."

"Yeah. Buffy saw her mom kissing Giles."

"Eew!" Xander and Cordelia said simultaneously.

Oz walked up to the table and kissed Willow on the top of her head. "What's the matter? They serving mulligan stew again?"

Before they had a chance to tell the harrowing tale a third time, Amy Madison and her friend Michael came up to the table, which was now starting to get more than slightly crowded. "Hey Willow, Mrs. Taggart wanted me to tell you that today is the last day to sign up to be on the stage crew since Romeo and Juliet opens on Friday."

"Oh, I totally forgot! Thanks Amy. Where is the sign up again?"

"I'll show you, I'm going there now," Amy said.

"Cool." Willow stood up and scooped up her books. "Buffy, are you still coming over for our 'Yay, we finished the SATs!' movie night?"

"Um…I have something to do tonight. For Giles. You know, all slay no play," Buffy shrugged. "But I'll come by after nine?"

"Sure, see you then!"

"Bye, guys!" Amy said.

Oz nodded at the group, then he and Michael followed Willow and Amy out the door.

"So Buff, Giles is working you pretty hard lately. You'd think with Faith around he'd be too busy to be training you every night, right?" Xander asked.

"Guess not. I mean, Faith isn't into the whole training thing much anyway," Buffy said. "Hey Cordy, weren't you in the play?"

"I auditioned, but they wanted me to play Lady Capulet instead of Juliet. Like hello, everyone knows Harmony only got the part because she totally sucks up to Mrs. Taggart. Oh well, I'll just have to make sure to send them my regards right before I accept my first Oscar," Cordelia said, flipping her hair. Buffy looked at Xander.

"I would, but it's just too easy," he shrugged.

***

Buffy was enjoying the warmth of the last few rays of sun for the day on the back of her neck as she turned the corner of Maple Avenue and Crawford Street. The mansion loomed ahead, blotting out the sunset as she stepped into its shadow. As she nervously shifted the bag of blood in her hands, Buffy took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. Angel had been back for nearly three weeks, but it hadn't gotten even the slightest bit easier for her to see him. He was cured now, he had a soul, she knew it. But looking into his face meant looking into the same face that had killed Jenny Calendar, had orchestrated the death of Kendra and landed Willow in the hospital. As Angel would give her those imploring, haunted looks he was so often giving her these days, Buffy would have to consciously fight back images of him sneering at her, taunting her, holding her, kissing her….

It was complicated.

She shook her head and entered the mansion.

***

Across town, Andrew Wells was giddy. Finally, his plan was almost ready! He'd summoned the flying monkey-demons nearly two months ago, and now they were almost completely trained. Mrs. Taggart was going to realize what a mistake she'd made not casting him in the last spring musical, Annie. So what if they never cast freshmen in leads. And did it really matter that he would have needed special makeup to play Daddy Warbucks? And stilts? And voice lessons? No, because he still could have done way better than Blayne Mall. Andrew walked over to the nearest cage.

"Okay, Temmosus. When I open the cage, you go attack the Juliet dummy, 'kay?"

Walking back to the corner of the abandoned warehouse, Andrew turned around and hit the button on the remote. The door flipped open and the demon clambered out. It gingerly stretched its wings, then slowly flapped them, hovering a few feet off the ground.

"Sic, Temmosus! Go get Juliet!"

The demon looked at the Juliet dummy across the room, then it swung its head around to fix its glowing green eyes on Andrew, who only had a moment to duck when the creature started barreling at him.

"Aiiiiiiiiiiiiii! Juliet, Temmosus, not me! Juliet!"

The demon swiped at Andrew, who managed to avoid most of the claws long enough to grab a nearby taser and shock it. The monkey screeched, hopped off Andrew, and flew out the warehouse window.

Buffy was just exiting Angel's mansion when a loud flapping drew her eyes upwards.

"What the-"

***

"You mean like from The Wizard of Oz?" Willow asked, pausing the rented movie and turning around on the couch to face Buffy, who was sprawled on Willow's den floor.

"Sorta. But way grosser. Like, hairier than Oz when it's that time of the month," Buffy said.

"Eew! But it didn't attack you, right?"

Buffy shook her head. "Nope. I followed it as far as I could. Last I saw, it was flying into the Edna Mae Wilkins Memorial Park."

"So do you want me to look up flying monkeys or something?"

"Nah. I called Giles before I came here, he said these things aren't too dangerous and that it can wait until tomorrow. Oh, he did say one interesting thing-apparently, these guys have to be specifically summoned into our dimension." Buffy grabbed another pillow off the couch to prop herself up with.

"Oh great." Willow reached for the remote to re-start the movie. "So now we have to figure out what kind of evil creature is gathering winged monkeys to do their bidding."

***

"What the hell happened to you, Blandrew?" Tucker was staring at his brother's shirt, which had a huge rip down the center. There were also several scratches on Andrew's left cheek.

"Um…I fell," Andrew said, fidgeting.

"Right," Tucker rolled his eyes. "I told you, just offer to do the bully's homework and he'll leave you alone, dummy."

Andrew turned and went upstairs to his room. Evil genius or not, he had studying to do.


Xander and Cordelia were the last ones to arrive at the meeting in the library the next morning.

"Uh, sorry," Xander said. "Car trouble."

"Uh huh," Willow smirked, surveying Cordelia's uncharacteristically tousled hair.

"As I was just telling everyone," Giles continued, "the flying monkey demon that Buffy saw yesterday is an Affederfliegt. Alone, they aren't overly dangerous, but when moving in packs, they can cause an impressive amount of damage. They're most often summoned by Frovlax demons to do menial chores, or eliminate enemies."

"So we kill the monkeys, end of story?" Willow asked.

"I'm afraid it's not that simple. Although they're on the small side, Affederfliegt demons are nearly impossible to kill," Giles said. "No, the best plan is to find the summoner, who will have a specific amulet used in controlling the demons. Breaking it should send them all back to their own dimension."

"Okay, so, everyone meet here after school?" Buffy said. Willow, Oz, Cordelia, and Xander nodded, gathered their books and left. Giles and Buffy started to re-shelve the books they'd pulled out for research when the library doors swung open again.

"Hey guys, I miss a meeting?" Faith asked as she walked over to one of the chairs and straddled it.

"Oh, Faith, yeah, sorry. It was no big, I figured you wouldn't want to get up early for anything so stupid," Buffy said. She wasn't sure, but for a moment Faith almost looked hurt. When she looked again, the younger Slayer's eyes were perfectly clear.

"Yeah, I get it. No big. So what's up?"

"Flying monkeys."

Faith raised an eyebrow. "You serious?"

"Welcome to life in Sunnydale," Buffy said.

***

"Welcome to the first technical rehearsal of Sunnydale High School's 1998 production of Romeo and Juliet," Mrs. Taggart said, facing the group of techies-to-be gathered on the stage of the auditorium. "Has anyone here ever worked backstage on a play before?"

Willow looked around at the other students seated around her. It looked like they were mostly freshman, but she recognized Jonathan Levinson from temple, and of course Michael and Amy. She was excited, there was no denying it. Sure, she'd had more than a few bad experiences on stage before-the scene from Oedipus that Snyder had made them perform for the school talent show a few years before sprang readily to mind-but this time she could get involved with theatre without having to make a public spectacle of herself. She'd already read all the books in the school library on technical theatre, she was ready. Willow looked out into the empty auditorium, the afternoon sunlight slanting in through the high windows making the sea of beat-up red velvet seats glow. She remembered this one time in fifth grade when Willow was unbelievably nervous before the school holiday pageant. Xander snuck into the girls' dressing room, grabbed Willow, and dragged her onto the stage. He made her stare at the empty seats in the audience. "Just remember what they look like empty, and then when you get scared during the show, pretend that they're still empty," he'd told her. During the first song, Willow was so anxious she started to get nauseous, so she tried picturing the audience being replaced with empty chairs. It didn't work, but just knowing that Xander was only a few feet away looking out for her, did. It was so much easier back then. Easier when she loved Xander and he didn't love her back. The current situation where her feelings for Xander were being mixed up with her feelings for Oz was so frustrating. It was even harder not being able to talk to Buffy about it. She'd never kept a huge secret from Buffy before, and she was sure Buffy would have told her right away if she'd had something so huge going on.

Willow's train of thought was de-railed when she heard Mrs. Taggart say, "…Amy, Ginger, and Willow, okay?"

Willow raised her hand. "I'm sorry, what was the first part of that?"

"I said, we're short a few people for the ladies' ensemble, so Amy, Ginger, and Willow, we'll need you to be in the play for the ball scene. You won't have any lines to learn, but I do need you to go down and talk to Ms. Barton after practice about getting some costumes."

Willow gulped. So much for not making a public spectacle of herself.

***

"It's interesting how much of the text was borrowed from Chinese poetry," Giles said, setting another book on the table.

Oz nodded. "'Witness the man who raves at the wall, making the shape of his questions to heaven.' It's heavy."

"Oh god, Oz, is Giles making you research prophecies again?" Buffy asked as she came into the library.

"Pink Floyd, actually," Giles answered.

"Hey guys, I think we may actually have useful information on our monkey guy," Xander said, entering the library with Cordelia and Willow right behind him. "Found this on the floor of the science room, no way it's a coincidence."

He handed a wrinkled piece of paper to Giles. Buffy and Oz crowded around him to see it as well. It was a regular sheet of lined notebook paper. At the top were several crude drawings of blobby monkey-things with wings, and the bottom was lined with stick figures which appeared to be fleeing from them.

"So it's someone who goes to school here," Buffy said.

"Or a really disgruntled kindergartner," Oz remarked.

"You have to admire the detail." Xander pointed to the bottom left hand corner. "This person is wearing a trenchcoat and carrying an umbrella."

"Yes, well, I think it's safe to say that a cursory search around the school would be beneficial," Giles said.

"Right. We'll split up," Buffy nodded. "Oz and Cordelia, get the basement. Willow and Xander, top floor classrooms. Giles and me will get the bottom floor."

"Actually, I'm late for a staff meeting. Why the librarian has to attend the staff meeting is beyond me. But I'll re-join you here after five," Giles said.

"Wait, why don't you want me and Cordy teamed up?" Xander asked.

"She probably just doesn't want everyone to be coupled off now that she's a resident of Dumpsville again," Cordelia said.

"I'm standing right here, you know," Buffy snapped. "Anyway, I don't think you'll find any answers in the janitor's closet and any other groping place you would wind up instead of looking for clues, so you and Willow go, okay?"

***

"Okay, two more classrooms to go," Willow said. She opened the door to the English lab and almost tripped over a few boxes that were piled in front of the entrance. Xander put his hand on her waist to steady her, and they both froze.

Then Xander sprang back, slipped on one of his shoelaces, and fell flat on his back. "Ow."

Willow rolled her eyes and helped him to his feet. "Xander, we have to stop this. What would Cordelia say? What would Oz say?"

"Knowing Oz, something insightful and monosyllabic."

"I'm serious. What happened on Homecoming was a bad, bad thing, but it's over. We can't keep having flukes, and we can't keep acting all crazy."

Xander shoved his hands into his pockets and continued into the classroom. "Yeah, I know. We're totally mature enough to control our hormones."

"Well, one of us is," Willow said.

***

LaBarge…Ladewski…Lagler! Andrew checked over his shoulder one last time to make sure the library was empty before pulling Lagler's Guide to Elves, Fairies, and Nymphs out from the shelf. Whenever the library was empty, he would try and slip in and check out Lagler's, or some of the other weird books the mysterious old librarian dude kept. They had really neat engravings. Andrew had just settled into the corner when he heard the library doors creak open, followed by a clatter and hum of voices. Pushing the book aside, he crawled to the ledge leading to the rest of the library. Andrew saw the librarian with that blonde girl he was always hanging around with, which was kind of creepy when he thought about it actually. Willow Rosenberg was there too, and that Xander guy Andrew saw at the comic shop once in a while. A couple seconds later, stupid Cordelia Chase and some other guy walked in.

"Oz and I checked the boiler room," Cordelia announced. "Nothing interesting, unless you count Hogan Martin making out with some girl who was extremely not his girlfriend-"

"No way!" Willow exclaimed. "It wasn't Nancy Troussdale, was it? Because I heard…." Off Giles' look, she said, "…I heard that it's a good idea to find out who's summoning winged monkeys and why."

Curses, foiled again! Andrew thought. Not that I've been foiled before, but still…. So the jig was up, they knew about him.

This was so cool.

Andrew leaned forward excitedly, peering at the group. They must have been some kind of secret crime fighting group. That was probably why Xander read so many comics, he was totally a superhero! Like a young Clark Kent; regular high school student by day, totally hot superhero by night! The old guy must be like Alfred Pennyworth, the ever faithful butler who brought them tea and offered words of encouragement from the sidelines. The skinny guy had to be Robin, providing the quips and jokes while Xander did the hero thing. Willow did all the research because she was like a mega-genius. Andrew couldn't tell what the blonde girl or stupid Cordelia did. Probably groupies or something. Groupies who wore skin-tight, bright-red leather jumpsuits, and really high heeled boots, and really low-cut tops, and….

Andrew snapped out of it in time to hear the blonde girl say, "Not that it's any big mystery who's behind this."

Uh oh. It finally occurred to Andrew that Xander and his posse knowing his identity might not be a good thing. He held his breath as Alfred the Librarian said, "Who do you think it is, Buffy?"

A-ha! The mysterious blonde groupie chick has a name!

"Duh. Who recently managed to get the entire adult population of Sunnydale into a zonky stupor?" she said.

"Of course." Alfred took off his glasses, "Ethan Rayne. I do rather wish I'd done something unpleasant to him when he first came to Sunnydale last year."

Ew, who's Ethan Rayne and why is he getting credit for my…oh wait, not getting caught, good thing.

"Then what's up with the drawing I found in the science classroom?" Xander asked, his voice strong and assured even though his question was humble.

"I dunno. Coincidence?" Buffy shrugged.

Alfred took off his glasses and began cleaning them. "Now, you once said yourself that you don't believe in leprechauns or coincidences. It may be that Ethan has an, an assistant or something, but I don't believe we should abandon the idea of investigating students...."

"Fine, you guys investigate the students. Meanwhile, I'll be useful and make a sweep in the Ringwood section, there's some abandoned warehouses that whoever's doing this could be using," she said, sweeping out.

Andrew slipped out the back door under the cover of the commotion.

***

Out in the hallway, Willow caught up to Buffy.

"Hey, Buff, how are you?"

Buffy shrugged. "Same as always. New evil to fight, blah blah blah."

"Yeah. The thing is...." Willow tugged on the sleeves of her blue sweater as she hurried to keep up with her friend. "I know you're still getting used to being back in school, and there's the whole new Slayer thing, and other...things you have to deal with. But you've been really cranky the past couple of days."

As they entered the empty school courtyard, Buffy sat down on one of the benches and busied herself looking for something in her purse. "I'm fine."

"Buffy...."

She snapped her purse closed and glared at Willow. "What? What am I doing wrong? I go to school, and I do my work, and I spend time with Mom, and I train with Giles. I'm doing everything everyone wants!" Willow looked as if she'd been slapped, and Buffy sighed and drew her knees up to her chest. "I'm sorry. Totally not your fault and it isn't fair of me to harsh on you like that."

"No, it's okay. I mean, between Giles and your mom watching your every move, who wouldn't be stressed?" Willow said, sitting down next to Buffy.

"I guess. But I have been kind of acting like Shannen Doherty lately. Like Shannen Doherty with PMS, a stubbed toe, and, like, no credit cards."

"Is there anything I can do to help?"

"Yeah," Buffy smiled. "Promise to smack me if I get cranky with you guys again."

Willow grinned and nodded. "Consider it done."

***

That Buffy chick was going to search abandoned warehouses; it was only a matter of time before she found the one Andrew was camped out in. Luckily, like every evil genius, Andrew had a contingency plan. There was an abandoned store on Spring Street that had been empty for almost a year. He could hide three of his demon monkeys there, and the other three in an old abandoned church. As he got ready to move his babies, Andrew took a moment to silently thank that creepy old dude who was selling Summoning and Controlling Beasts of the Netherworld at his garage sale the year before. Not to mention a first edition Superman #149 in mint condition that Andrew scored for a dollar. He shuddered as he remembered that proud Superman logo peeking out from under a pile of old Betty and Veronica comics. Some people were totally clueless.

***

"Geez," Amy said as she came up behind Willow at dress-rehearsal, "Larry is amazing as Romeo. You don't think maybe he and Harmony are really dating or something, do you?"

"I heard he was seeing some girl at Berryman High," Willow said, re-arranging the daggers on the prop table backstage.

Michael, who was sitting nearby assembling programs, laughed. "Yeah, I'm sure Larry's telling everyone that he's dating some girl who'd conveniently out of the school district."

"What is that supposed to mean, Michael?" Amy asked.

"Nothing. Just saying, he sure used to beat me up a lot just because he thought I was a fag. And now he's the one doing Shakespeare."

"Hey, doing Shakespeare doesn't make you any more likely to be gay than wearing black eyeliner does. You of all people should know that," Willow admonished.

"No, but wanting to have sex with guys does make you gay," Michael smirked before getting up and leaving.

"No way is Larry gay," Amy said to Willow. "Michael's just annoyed because I went to the Homecoming dance with Larry instead of him, so he had to take his cousin."

Jonathan came up to the girls and handed them a pile clothes. "Hey guys, Ms. Barton wants us to start applying fake blood and wounds to these clothes for Act Three."

As Amy surveyed the bucket of stage blood and pile of faux-clots, she wrinkled her nose. "This is probably the most disgusting thing ever."

***

The greenish demon gurgled through the hole Faith had torn through his neck before it dissolved into a bubbling yellow puddle. Faith picked up her ax as Buffy came running over.

"You manage to catch the other one?"

Buffy nodded. "Yup. It was trying to break into the Van Houten crypt. Which makes sense, since Giles mentioned that these guys like to snack on baby bones."

"Wicked gross. Oh, hey, you got some leaves on you, turn around." Buffy turned and Faith started to pick the foliage out of her hair. "So, you wanna go grab a slice or something? I'm starving. But, I mean, it's cool if you have plans with Willow or something else to do."

"No, pizza sounds great." Buffy wanted to check on Angel, but night after night, Buffy and Faith patrolled then Faith went home alone to her dingy little motel room. Now seemed as good a time as any for Buffy to reach out to her. Or, more accurately, respond to Faith's reaching out. The last leaf pulled from her hair, Buffy and Faith started walking towards town.

"So, what kind of things did you do in Boston for fun?" Buffy asked.

"Oh, you know, same as here I guess. Clubs, hanging out in parking lots. We'd get fake IDs and go dancing at Avalon. Then this English lady shows up and instead of getting wasted on crap beer every night, I'm killing baddies." Faith smirked. "Funny, the head rush is about the same."

Before Buffy could respond, she noticed some movement in an empty shop across the street. She motioned for Faith to follow her as she crossed the street and peered into one of the dusty windows.

"What do you see?"

"Well, I think this was Ethan Rayne's old shop, so I'm guessing nothing good. Are those cages?"

Faith crouched down and squeezed in next to Buffy, her breath fogging up the glass. She wiped it off with her sleeve and looked in. "Yeah, looks like. Doesn't look like they're empty, either."

"I think we found our flying monkeys. Let's go tell Giles."

***

"I'm telling you, Giles, this book is useless." Cordelia slammed the brown, musty book shut with a sigh and glared at the librarian. "Why do you always give me these stupid books full of stupid text? Don't you have any demon picture books?"

"Cordelia, when you offered to research, surely you knew actual research might be involved, yes?" Giles took another sip of his tea.

"I just figured you'd have me make your tea as usual. Willow's the study gal."

"Yes, but Willow is also busy working on the play. And I give you books full of text because I know that you're smart enough to handle them."

"Oh." Cordelia smiled. "Well, in that case...." She opened the book again and continued reading.

Giles sipped his tea and enjoyed the newfound silence for a whole minute before Buffy and Faith came crashing in through the library doors, chattering excitedly.

"...flamethrower was great!" Buffy exclaimed.

"Yeah, I'm just lucky you found a fire extinguisher, B!"

"And how was patrol?" Giles asked.

"Oh, Giles, it was great!" Buffy exclaimed. "Me and Faith dusted two vamps, plus a pair of those Screkla demons. And, to top it off, we got rid of the demon monkeys!"

"Finally!" Cordelia said, closing the book again and pushing it away.

"The Affederfliegts? You found the talisman and destroyed it?"

"Sorta. Buffy was gonna go tell you that we tracked 'em down, but I said, well, what if they get away before we get back? So we went into the shop-"

"Ethan's old place," Buffy broke in.

"Right. We go in, and there are the monkeys in cages."

"So Faith grabs this flamethrower that's just sitting on the floor, lets loose, and whoosh! No more monkeys!"

"Then Buffy grabs the fire extinguisher, because explaining charred flying monkeys to the Sunnydale Fire Department would be hard."

"And now we're back here!" Buffy concluded.

"Well, I'm certainly happy that you got rid of the monkeys. But unless you destroy the talisman, Ethan can simply continue summoning as many more as he wishes."

"Oh. Right. Well, no big, me and Faith can track him down on Saturday."

"Why not tomorrow, B?" Faith asked.

"I have school during the day, and then I promised Willow I'd go see the play in the evening. Hey, you wanna come?"

"Oh, I don't know. Shakespeare?" Faith shrugged.

"Come on, it'll be fun. And I'm sure Willow wants you there."

"Okay, sure, count me in."

"Great!" Buffy handed her crossbow to Giles and grabbed her backpack from the book deposit cage. "So I'll meet you guys here tomorrow after school."


"Willow, you look amazing!" Buffy grinned.

Willow turned around and saw Xander, Buffy, Giles, and Oz standing backstage a half-hour until the play was supposed to start. She blushed and curtsied, almost tripping over the hem of her crimson taffeta ballgown.

"Can you believe I have to run around backstage dressed like this? I look like such a dork."

"Methinks the lady doth protest too much," Oz said, giving her a bouquet of daisies and a kiss on the cheek.

"You guys really didn't have to do anything for me. It's no big deal."

Buffy put her hands on her hips and mock-glared at Willow. "Oh please, like we were going to miss your brilliant debut as tech girl extraordinaire!"

"Yes, we're all extremely proud of you. You're continuing in a fine tradition dating back to ancient Greece," Giles said.

"Well, thank you." Willow hugged her friends. "And I'm so sorry I've been too busy to hang out lately. After tomorrow, I'm all yours. Did you guys take care of the flying monkeys?"

Buffy nodded. "Yup! Pretty much all gone."

"Fifteen minutes to curtain!" Mrs. Taggart yelled, stalking up and down the lengths of the stage like a prison guard. "Everyone, begin taking your places, fifteen minutes to curtain!"

"I guess that's our cue," Xander said. "Besides, Faith and Cordy are guarding our seats out front."

"Yes," Giles nodded. "While I'm sure Cordelia and Faith have many virtues, I do not believe that patience is among them."

As Buffy, Giles, and Oz headed out, Xander turned to Willow. "Don't forget, if you start to get nervous, just pretend that all the seats in the theatre are empty."

Willow smiled.

***

Andrew slipped into a seat in the last row of the theatre just as the ball scene was winding down and checked to make sure that his camera had a fresh roll of film in it-no way was he going to miss capturing his moment of glory. Besides, after he became a powerful world-ruler-slash-god, his adoring fans would want some mementos from his early years. He glanced at his watch: 8:46 p.m. His time-release lock on the monkey cages stored near the open windows to the school auditorium were set to go off in fourteen minutes. Then his babies would swoop in and chaos would ensue! And hopefully, one of them would at least bite Xander, who had snuck in during the night and incinerated three of his monkeys, probably using some Superman-like heat vision. As Andrew tried to figure out whether he had enough time to make it to the bathroom and back before 9, he silently cursed himself for ordering that third mochachino at Starbuck's.

***

Larry grandly strode across the stage, swishing his cape as Harmony stood on the balcony above.

"See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand! O, that I were a glove upon that hand, that I might touch that cheek!"

He looked up, waiting for Harmony's cue to continue his speech. She stared blankly ahead. Larry cleared his throat and tried again.

"See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand! O, that I were a glove upon that hand, that I might touch that cheek!"

Silence. A few members of the audience tittered.

"Ay me!" Willow hissed to Harmony from the wings.

"Huh?" Harmony said, turning towards the wings and furrowing her brow.

"Your line is 'Ay me'!"

"Oh, right. Duh. Ay me!"

"O, speak again, bright angel!" Larry continued. "For thou art as glorious to this night, being o'er my head as is a winged messenger of heaven...."

With a piercing howl, three winged monkeys came swooping into the auditorium.

***

"Oh, shit," Buffy sprang out of her seat. "Faith, can you grab some weapons from the library?"

"You got it." Faith jumped up and started making her way to the back of the auditorium, clambering over the vacated seats as the audience began flooding the aisles.

The biggest demon swooped towards the plaster balcony, heading right for Harmony, who screamed at the top of her lungs but made no effort to escape.

"Run, Juliet!" Mrs. Taggart yelled from the wings.

Willow grabbed some plastic swords from the prop table and dashed across the stage, jumping off and running to meet the gang in the third row. Amy followed closely behind.

"What the hell are these things?" Amy shouted over the cacophony of frightened audience members and shrieking actors.

"I'll explain later," Willow said. "Buffy, what do you want us to do?"

"Well, Faith is getting weapons. Um…Giles, go look for Ethan. Xander, Oz, try and help people out of here. Amy, can you try a protection spell with Willow?" Amy nodded, and the rest of the group took off.

Cordelia turned to Buffy. "What do you want me to do? Oh, no, don't even say it...."

***

Andrew was the only member still sitting in his seat. It was going wonderfully. And it was about to get better, because Cordelia was running through the first aisle screaming "Hey monkeys, come and get it!" Getting eaten was fair punishment for her making fun of him when he was ten. Andrew charged up his camera's flash and snapped a picture.

Suddenly, attracted by the bright light, Temmosus let go of the balcony and started back towards Andrew.

"Uh oh."

He jumped up and joined the throng of people cramming into the narrow door to the street when he felt the claws digging into his shoulder. Temmosus had grabbed him and was flying over the audience when a small ax came flying through the air, striking the demon monkey in the head. As the demon, and Andrew with him, turned to see who had thrown it, another one came flying from the brunette girl. Temmosus dropped Andrew, who hit the ground hard. A small, round disc rolled out of his pocket and settled at Buffy's feet.

***

Buffy found Giles near the northern exit of the auditorium, which was now nearly empty. Faith and Cordelia were keeping the monkeys distracted as the last of the audience members fled.

"Giles, I found this on the ground, is it the monkey talisman?"

He took it from her and squinted. "It appears to be in German...ah! Yes, yes, this is it!"

"Great!" Buffy grabbed it from him, threw it to the ground, and stomped on it. The air around the monkeys began to shimmer, and three icy-blue portals opened, sucked the Affederfliegts in, and snapped shut.

Buffy turned to Giles. "How much you wanna bet they try to blame this on gangs on PCP?"

***

"Thank you for coming to the show!" Principal Snyder used a bullhorn to address the audience and actors gathered in the parking lot outside of the school. "And if you enjoyed the demonstration by our special stuntmen at the end, then you're going to love our spring production of The Wizard of Oz!"

Andrew was sitting on the curb, sulking. It wasn't fair! Xander and his gang of superheroes thought some Ethan dude was behind it, Snyder was pretending he organized it. In the morning, no one would know the amazing event he was responsible for. No one was even going to know he was alive.

As usual.

"Hey, cool tee shirt."

Andrew looked up and saw Jonathan standing in front of him.

"Oh. Thanks. I got it at a gaming tournament a few years ago. Do you play Dungeons and Dragons?"

Jonathan sat down next to him. "Sometimes. It's hard to find anyone in Sunnydale who plays though. So how cool was that thing with the monkeys? I'd love to know who really did that."

Andrew lit up. "You wanna hear a secret?"


The next morning, Buffy started to make her rounds. First, Angel's mansion to drop off some blood and see how he was doing. Then, she brought a bagel and coffee to Faith and sat with her while she ate it before they both headed to the library to meet Giles for training. At 1, she went to the auditorium to visit Willow and Oz backstage before the matinee, which was monkey-free. Finally, she went home to help her mom clean the house and do some homework.

"See?" Buffy thought. "I can do this. I can balance mom, and Giles, and my friends, and school, and Angel, and slaying. No problem. Marcia Brady, move over as super balanced teenager supreme!"

***

Tucker was at home finishing his report for history when he realized that one of his books was missing. Remembering that his bratty younger brother had a habit of borrowing his things and not returning them, he stood up and went onto his brother's room. It wasn't on the dresser or the bookshelf. Tucker was about to leave when he saw a green book sticking out from under the bed. He walked over and picked it up.

"Summoning and Controlling Beasts of the Netherworld? Huh."

Tucker started to read.

He always enjoyed a good book.