CHAPTER FOUR

"Cailleach Bheur?" Lindsey asked. "Are you sure?"

Gavin trembled. "It has to be but she wasn't supposed to be active yet. Not until the planned apocalypse but that's still years away. Something has gone wrong."

"Yeah, that happens when you mess around with giantesses who are more or less goddesses," Lindsey snapped.

"I have to get back....go somewh...." Gavin darted off.

"And that coward thinks he could walk a mile in my shoes," Lindsey snorted. "We'd better see if we can track her down and stop this."

"What is Cally Berry?" Connor asked, loping after Lindsey to his truck. Others were already in their vehicles, too freaked out by the snow to even turn on the engines.

"Wonder where she is," Lindsey muttered, starting his truck. "Where would you go if you wanted to stir up a storm?"

"How would I know?"

"Oh, yeah right, Hell boy not from around here, I forgot. I think storms start over water...never did pay much attention in science. Okay, we'll start at the beach since we have no idea where she might be. I think you need water to make a storm like this," Lindsey said, peeling out onto the street and nearly got hit by someone running a red light.

"Why are they driving like they don't know how?" Connor buckled up.

"They don't at least not in snow, not if they're SoCal natives. It doesn't snow here," Lindsey said.

"But it is," Connor protested.

"That's Cailleach Bheur's doing."

Connor considered that. "You still know how to drive."

"When I was in law school in Hastings I used to head to Vale every winter to go skiing. It was great. I grew up in the flatlands so naturally I fell in love with the mountains of Colorado." Lindsey's eyes went a little wistful for more carefree days. "I know how to drive in snow. I kinda love the stuff, you know?"

"Snowed a lot in Quor-Toth. It was cold there, mostly. Maybe because our sky was red or something. Blue seems warmer." Connor shrugged. "Winter lasted a long time. So what is Cally Berry and what's an apocalypse?"

"That's pretty much the end of days. Wolfram and Hart would like to destroy much of this world and rebuild it with themselves in charge. They'll make this a hell," Lindsey said. "Cailleach Bheur is part of that. The Highlanders, my ancestors, named her that. It means Blue Hag and she's more or less the personification of winter. She rules this plane from Samhain to Beltane, if you believe in that sort of thing. Most don't. But she is real...just mostly forgotten. Only Wolfram and Hart didn't forget. They contracted her to bring about winter that doesn't end. Nothing demoralizes people like endless bone-chilling, crop-killing cold."

Connor nodded. "I understand that. Always so hard to find things to eat in winter...cold kills."

"Exactly. She's making this snow. This is the faoiltach, the wolf storms." Lindsey frowned. "They're designed to kill summer. Only if Gavin's right, this isn't supposed to be happening yet."

"So how do we stop her?" Connor asked.

Lindsey's fingers tightened on the wheel. "I have no clue."

Connor settled into silence as Lindsey drove and the older man was grateful. He needed to concentrate on avoiding the vehicles driven by people snowblind and panicked. Night and snow left the road to the beach deserted for which Lindsey was grateful.

"It's getting colder," Connor observed.

"I know. I think we're going in the right direction." Lindsey bumped up the heater in his truck.

A few minutes later he broke the law and started driving up the sand, feeling somehow sad that he didn't know if there were any endangered animals using this beach that he could be running over willy-nilly. A low, long sound added to the eerie effect of winter. Connor stiffened beside him, his nostrils flaring, reminding the lawyer of a wild creature.

"What was that?" If Connor had a ruff, Lindsey had no doubt it would be up.

"It sounded like wolves but that's not...." Lindsey trailed off.

"Wolf storm, right?"

Lindsey's brow creased as he thought about it. "I didn't think it meant actual wolves."

"There's someone up there." Connor pointed.

Lindsey squinted, struggling to see what the boy did. "Are you sure?"

"Uh-huh. I can smell her...and something else." Connor's lips skinned back. "Something I don't know."

"Smell?" Lindsey grimaced, not wanting to think about that.

Within a minute he, too, saw something. Dove-tailing along, he motored closer to a woman, easily eight feet tall with features so beautiful Lindsey wanted her instantly. Her ankle-length red hair whipped in the winter winds, as her wolves, the size of Limousine bulls, chased the ends of it. The plaid draped around her willowy body seemed to be every color at once as she conducted a symphony in the air with her holly staff.

"Cailleach Bheur," Lindsey muttered.

"That's a goddess?" Connor scowled. "I thought there was only one god."

"That depends on who you ask."

"What now?" Connor looked over at Lindsey.

"I hadn't thought that far ahead," he admitted then tensed. "Oh shit."

Connor whirled around on the seat to look back out the wind shield. The four wolves had taken notice of the truck and were trying to come at it from all sides. "Not good."

"Thanks for noticing. Brace yourself, kid. This is going to hurt."

Lindsey gunned the engine and slammed into one of the wolves. The thing shrieked as the bumper tore into it. Lindsey and Connor got jostled into one another.

Shaking his head, Lindsey looked out over his rumpled hood. "Thank God this is an old truck, good steel, heavy and no air bag in my face."

One of the wolves leapt at the car, cracking the glass on Connor's side. It hit it a second time showering shards all over Connor who grabbed one and shoved it into the wolf's eye. It rolled away from the truck, yelping.

"No good. No weapons," Connor snarled.

"Behind the seat, there's a sword," Lindsey said, barely keeping the truck from going into a donut. "But it's not going to be much good against something that big that moves that fast."

Connor fished it out and bailed out of the truck without a word. Lindsey watched in amazement as he gutted one wolf without even seeming to try hard.

"He's as good as he thinks he is," Lindsey mumbled to himself. "That's a relief."

The remaining uninjured wolf feinted in a few times but Connor didn't fall for it. When it leapt for real, the boy swung the sword like he was trying to belt one over the fence and he took the wolf's head off in one smooth move. Unfortunately he didn't sidestep in time and he disappeared under the huge body of the decapitated wolf.

"Ouch," Lindsey said in sympathy, wondering if he should just turn around and go since he knew no magic that could stop Cailleach Bheur and Connor had just been crushed. To his utter shock, Connor flipped the carcass off of his scrawny body and tried to get up. Out of the corner of his eye, Lindsey saw the half-blind wolf was running for Connor's back. He stepped on the gas then executed a bootlegger, slamming the side panel of the bed of his truck into the wolf, gritting his teeth at the damage done to his metal baby.

Connor dispatched the wounded animal then pointed with his bloody sword at Cailleach Bheur who had stopped conducting the faoiltach to watch them. "How do I stop her?" He screamed over the wind.

"I don't know. Get in," Lindsey instructed. "We'll think of something."

Connor whirled around and raced toward her.

"Great, he's as dumb as his dad," Lindsey muttered then slammed on his brakes as Cailleach Bheur changed before his eyes. The loveliness that had been nearly breathtaking peeled away and underneath was a bulky blue body that the plaid barely covered and a face so ugly it hurt to look upon her.

Connor pulled up the sword for a hacking attack and Cailleach Bheur leveled her holly staff at him. Ice and snow poured out of it like an avalanche, knocking Connor over, tumbling him along the sand and snow into the ocean. Lindsey winced trying to imagine how cold that water must be as he wracked his brains trying to remember any weaknesses he knew she had. The boy struggled out after her twice more and each time Cailleach Bheur's wintery magic knocked him into the waves again.

Cailleach Bheur fished Connor out of the water with one massive hand. She dangled him by his neck, shaking him so hard Lindsey thought the boy's head would pop off like a dandelion top. The way she leaned on her staff as she did so made the vicious attack seem so casual. Then it clicked, the files he had read back when he still worked for Wolfram and Hart and was planning for Cailleach Bheur's role in the end of days.

Lindsey tromped on the gas and shouted out the window, hoping Connor's hearing was as good as he imagined it was. "The staff, Connor. We have to break her staff. It's the source of her power."

Connor surprised him by trying to kick at the staff while attempting to force open Cailleach Bheur's fingers. He thought the boy was all out of fight. Lindsey knocked the staff out from under the giantess. In his rear view mirror, he saw Cailleach Bheur stumble and nearly fall with her support missing. She dropped Connor who scuttled away. Lindsey put on the brakes but skidded into the waves. He managed to get the truck out onto dry sand before the wet engine died. "Son of a bitch!"

He jumped out of the vehicle and grabbed a claw hammer out of his tool box. "Hey hag!" He whipped the hammer and, to his surprise, actually hit her on the back of her head then instantly regretted it. Cailleach Bheur twisted around faster than he would have thought she could move, leveling her wintery gaze on him. "Oh, that was dumb."

Lindsey weighed his options very quickly. No weapons, a dead truck and a giantess lumbering after him, he opted for flight. His cowboy boots, however, were ill suited to running in snow. He slipped and went down in a drift. He heard a loud cracking sound but there was no pain. It took a moment to register it wasn't his bones but Cailleach Bheur's staff that was breaking.

Cailleach Bheur made no sounds, just opened her mouth in a silent scream then dissolved into snowflakes and blew away. Lindsey got up and looked at Connor who was whipping the staff pieces into the waves.

"Good work," he said.

"Thanks for not letting her strangle me," Connor replied, rubbing his neck. Lindsey had no doubt it was bruising. Dripping with sea water and dusted with snow, the boy looked miserable.

"Get in the truck. It might take a while for it to start but at least you'll be out of the wind," Lindsey said.

Both men got back in the truck. Lindsey tried the engine but it wasn't dry enough yet.

"Snow's stopped," Connor said.

"Yeah, I think it's over," Lindsey replied.

"Her hand burned like fire."

Lindsey turned on the compartment light and examined the boy's slender neck. "Looks like frostbite. Want me to take you to the hospital once I get the truck started?"

Connor shook his head. "I heal fast. It's okay."

"If you say so," Lindsey said, skeptically.

"Lindsey, I broke that staff...the thing that made winter. Will winter ever come again?" Connor asked, his eyes like robin eggs with worry.

Lindsey pulled a long face. "Don't know. It probably will. I don't believe that some ancient goddess alone is responsible for winter...just that she can control it."

Connor settled back for a moment then said, "Wonder where Gunn and Fred are. They went out. It was Gunn's birthday. They didn't want me along."

Lindsey smiled. "I can imagine not."

Connor rolled his eyes. "If they get home before me, I'm going to have to listen to them lecture forever and ever." He added the perfect teenaged heavy sigh to the eye roll.

"If that's the worst thing that happens to you tonight, count yourself lucky."

"I'd rather fight the Berry woman again," Connor assured him.

"You're one strange young man, you know that right?" Lindsey offered up another grin.

Connor snorted. "So I've been told."

Lindsey tried the engine and this time it caught. It wasn't easy to get back to the Hyperion between the unplowed roads and all the accidents. "I don't see anyone home yet. I think you're in luck."

Connor nodded and got out of the truck. "Are you coming inside?"

"No, they wouldn't really want me here. I'll head back to the hotel since I know I can't get out of town tonight, not with this weird weather."

"It's getting warmer already."

"Good. Things should go back to normal. Connor," Lindsey said then stopped. The boy looked at him expectantly. "You want to get out of this place? It doesn't sound like you want to be anywhere Angel could be."

Connor shrugged. "I don't."

"You could come with me. Even if he's not dead, if he comes back somehow, he'd probably never look for you in Oklahoma," Lindsey said.

Connor eyed him suspiciously. "Why would you want me?"

"I loved your mother." Lindsey's eyes went sad. "I could use the good karma I'd earn for looking out for her kid."

Connor contemplated that for a moment. "Thanks. If I leave now, Fred would worry. I don't want her to do that." "And they'd never agree to let you come with me," Lindsey said. He fished out his clan-embossed wallet again and handed Connor a card. "That's where you can find me."

Connor shot him a puzzled look. "The Somerled Ranch?"

Lindsey nodded. "King Somerled's grandsons started Clan MacDonald. Can't really practice law right now so I'm running a dude ranch. Had more than enough money to get it started and the tourists eat it up. There's plenty of room, horses, all that sort of thing if you ever change your mind. And if you ever need help, call me."

Connor nodded and went to pocket the thing but changed his mind seeing how wet and messy his pants were. His head snapped up, an anxious look on his wan face. "They're a few blocks away. See? You'd better go."

"Yeah. Good luck, Connor."

"Thanks. You, too."

Lindsey watched the boy go and to his surprise Connor didn't go inside. Instead he swarmed up the side of the building like a vampire and went in a window. Lindsey presumed it was the boy's room. Lindsey pulled down the road and watched as Gunn's truck pulled into the hotel's lot and they went inside. Connor reappeared, in new clothes and scampered to the roof. Lindsey guessed the kid knew he didn't have time to get a shower and was going to go play in the snow to explain his bedraggled appearance. Lindsey had tried subterfuges like that once or twice as a young man. He always got caught. He wished Connor better luck and drove off.

*
* *

"That was brutal," Gunn moaned, flopping on the couch. "I hate snow."

"It's pretty," Fred argued "But driving in it stinks. I think it's stopped though. It feels warmer."

"Maybe. Hey, Connor! Where are you?" Gunn bellowed and no one answered.

Fred's eyes went wide and she stiffened next to him. "Connor! What if something happened to him?"

"Nothing happened to him," Gunn said, unsure of himself then heard something loud on the roof. "Okay, unless we have huge rats." He shuddered at the thought. "I think I know where he is."

Fred looked at the ceiling. "Why would he be on the roof?"

"He's Connor," Gunn replied as if that explained everything.

Gunn led the way to the roof and Connor was there romping in the snow. In the light of the moon, they could see the thin little snow angel near the door and some balls rolled up in a stock pile. "Guess Holtz taught him how to play a little."

"That's good," Fred said. "Connor, we're home. We're going to need your help with trying to find out what's causing the snow storm."

"No worries. Problem over," he assured her, trotting over, snow clinging to his hair.

"How would you know?" Gunn asked.

"Just do."

"Connor, those aren't the clothes you had on when we left," Fred said, suspiciously.

"So?" Connor scuffed a toe in the snow.

"What were you doing?" she asked.

"Watching X-Men 2 again. I really like Rogue," Connor replied, getting the feeling he was caught out in his lie.

"Eww, I don't want to know why he had to change his clothes," Gunn said.

"What happened to your neck?" Fred grabbed Connor's collar and yanked it down. "What are these marks? They look like finger prints!"

"You went out after the thing making this weird weather, didn't you?" Gunn said. "What did we say about you going out demon hunting alone?"

"I didn't. I ran across her accidently but it's all over now. Things will be normal again," Connor said, cursing Fred's inquisitiveness.

"If you weren't out hunting demons, where were you?" 'Stern father' colored Gunn's tone.

"We told you to order in if you were hungry," Fred said more gently.

"I was at the Sagebrush," Connor said, giving in.

"What?" Fred asked.

"A country-western saloon," Connor replied.

"That is so wrong for so many reasons," Gunn said. "You are in so much trouble but this is my birthday and I don't feel like yelling so just know that tomorrow, you're grounded."

Connor sighed, stomping off. "Fine. But I stopped the weather goddess. Doesn't that count?"

"If I knew what you meant and how you did that....no, I don't even want to know. It'll make my head hurt," Gunn said. "What a birthday."

"It's only another year. It's not like your last...I hope." Fred grimaced, glancing around at all the snow, thinking it could be given their lifestyle.

"Hey, Gunn, got another gift for you," Connor called.

"If it's a Stetson hat, Mr. Sagebrush, you can keep it," Gunn said, turning to face the boy and got hit squarely with a snowball. Fred burst out laughing. Gunn's jaw dropped then snapped shut. "Oh, so someone wants to play." Gunn grabbed some snow and started packing it.

Fred darted off while the boys exchanged snow fire. She came back with the camera, hoping the flash would catch something. She got some good ones of them wrestling the in the drifting snow and an especially good one of Gunn's face when Connor dropped snow down his pants.

"That's fighting dirty, Connor," she chided as he popped up, snowball in hand.

"I know." He leapt across the roof and dashed it down her shirt. As she squealed and Gunn laughed at her, Connor raced for the edge. "Catch me if you can!" He leapt off the roof into the courtyard below.

"That's just cheating. I'm gonna kick your scrawny butt, boy!" Gunn called between laughs as he looked over the edge. Connor wiggled the body part in question at them. "Now that's just uncalled for."

"You're the one who taught him that," Fred reminded him, shaking her shirt to get the last of the snow out of it.

"We're going to bury you in the snow! Head first!" Gunn shouted down to Connor who just howled with laughter. "Come on, Fred. It's a two person job." Gunn headed for the door and thundered down the stairwell.

"See, it's not such a bad birthday," she said cheerily, following him, knowing that as birthdays went, it was one for the books.

The Challenge

It has to be a fic about any BtVS or A:tS character's birthday EXCEPT Buffy's, since we saw what happened to her birthday's on the show. The only exception is for the vampires; for them, writing about the anniversary they were turned will be fine.

-You can chose any character, provided they have an actual name. So you could choose Andrew, Mr. Trick, Scott Hope, Gavin, Jhiera or any other minor character.

You must include all of the following (how they are used is up to you): 1. * a brown leather wallet

* a Dr. Seuss book

* a DVD player remote with no batteries * an old children's movie (the
harder to find, the better; must have been made before 1990)

* an explosive present (this, I leave up to your imagination)

* the quote "It's only another year. It's not like it's your last...I
hope."

* a reference to winter

* an unexpected weather condition (ie, snow in LA, a tsunami off the
coast of New York, etc)

- You must choose at least five of the following people, places or events:
* Lindsey

* Connor

* Larry

* Jonathan

* Faith

* a beach

* The Staples Center

* a nightclub

* a rooftop

* a reference to one of Buffy's birthdays shown on the show

* a wedding

* Halloween

- Finally, all the fics must mention either January, 23 or 1981 in the title or the first line of the fic.