SEQ CHAPTER \h \r 1DEAD FOR THE FUTURE
By D.M. Evans
Story #5 for Project Paranormal
Disclaimer - I own nothing. All rights belong to Mr. Whedon.
Rating - FRT
Time Line - Post NFA, November
Pairing – B/A implied, Giles/OC implied
Summary - While Giles and the new head of the Council try to find theories to explain the paranormal incidents, something from their past comes back to kill them.
Feedback – yes please, Note – This was written for the Project Paranormal series which can be found here. http/project. on this website and eventually on my own there won't be 'chapters' I just find stories, once you get past ten pages, are better broken into smaller chunks for lists like this.
I Whoso neglects learning in his youth, loses the past and is dead for the future.
Euripides – Phrixus /I
"Anyhow she's going to email me pictures of her latest project. She's really proud of it," Buffy said, walking into Giles' study, the one place Giles was trying to keep as teenager-free as he could. "Dawn's doing so well at school."
"I'm glad to hear it," Angel said then paused, seeing Giles wasn't alone in the room. That alone wasn't abnormal, not any more, but this was a new face. "Oh, hello."
Buffy's eyes hardened slightly. When had she become so suspicious of strangers? "Hi."
Giles got up from the green leather chair, setting aside a glass of scotch. "Buffy, Angel, I'd like you to meet an old friend of mine, Benny D'Gioia."
The middle-aged woman smiled at them, her long fingers curled around a knobby wooden cane that looked like it had been stolen off the set of I The Lord of the Rings /I . She tried to lever herself up out of her chair. That's when Buffy noticed that the woman's right ankle was encased in a plastic shell lined with padding. Wide strips of velcro held it together.
"No, don't get up," Buffy said, crossing over to the woman. "That looks painful."
"Very." Benny settled back gratefully and just held out her hand. Her eyes flicked upwards for just a moment as the noise of girls upstairs echoed like elephants loose on the ceiling.
Buffy shook her hand. "You're the new head of the Council." Buffy's eyes slotted, dropping the temperature in the room several degrees. "You're not what I was expecting. I thought being ancient and English and male were required. Of course, I thought you were male with that name."
Benny laughed softly. "In the bad old days, it was more or less true, head of the council being male that is. These are very new times." Her hazel green eyes canted up to Angel, a ghost of a smile hiding in the corners of her mouth. "You must be Angel. It's a pleasure to meet you."
He smirked. "I don't often hear that." His dark gaze settled on Giles for just a moment then dropped uneasily. He faded back to the most shadowy corner of the study.
"I can imagine, and for the record, Buffy, Benny's just a nickname. My full name is Benedetta Donna-lisa D'Gioia."
"Traditionally said while making the sign of the cross." Angel smirked again.
Benny laughed. "Exactly. We can thank the good sisters of Our Lady of Lourdes for naming me Blessed Joy with a wink and a nudge."
"Where is everyone?" Buffy asked Giles.
"Several of the girls went with Martha to get groceries. I'm sure they'll be back soon," Giles replied, giving Buffy a rather impatient look.
"Would you care to join us?" Benny waved at the remaining chair. "I think Buffy would like to hear what Rupert and I were talking about."
"Benny, I'm not sure that's a good idea. This has nothing to do with Buffy," Giles protested, reaching for his glasses, to indulge in his usual nervous polishing.
"The last time you said that, a demon was killing all your friends." Buffy sat down, an expression on her face that said she had zero intentions of going anywhere.
Obviously torn and uncertain of his place with them, Angel hovered in the shadows near the artfully arranged array of blades and axes on the wall. Below them, in a trunk, rested other weapons. Angel's interest in whatever the Watcher might have to say was enough to compel him to stay when it would have been easier to retreat to his sanctuary above the garage.
Giles' eyes hardened a fraction, the reminder of Eyghon exceedingly unwelcome. "This is nothing like that."
"No, it's not like that bit of trouble you had with Rayne and the others, but it does very much have to do with our pasts and like it or not, Rupert, someone is trying to murder us. Buffy has every right to know, if for no other reason than for her own safety," Benny argued, fingering the handle of her cane as if she might like to lay it upside Giles' head to knock sense into him.
Buffy's eyes widened, her muscles tightening. "Did she say murder?"
"Benny has a flare for theatrics," Giles said, favoring his friend with another sour look.
Buffy leaned forward on her knees, fixing Benny with her gaze. "Tell me about it."
"Could you pour me some scotch, Rupert. This story could use the lubrication," Benny said. "I'll start with the attack on me earlier this week. I was climbing I Ben MacDhui /I to study the I Fear Liath More /I , in spite of the fact it was colder than the devil's tit out there."
"The what?" Buffy interrupted, her brow wrinkling.
"The Gray Man of Scotland. He's akin to the American Bigfoot but with some very important differences. In appearance, he's pretty Sasquatch-like, around ten feet tall covered with short grey or brown hair but what makes the I Fear Liath More /I interesting is his mystical aspects." Benny's eyes gleamed with excitement as she took the glass of scotch Giles offered her. "A host of unembodied phenomena are associated with him, dark blurs across a clear sky, echoing footsteps that follow you, sometimes in hot pursuit. I had just gotten some of those on digital recording the day before, so I was pretty hyped. Ghostly, icy cold brushings of the skin or even man-handling have been reported. Sometimes you can hear crunching sounds like teeth on bone and a strange humming known as the 'Singing'."
Benny sipped her scotch. "But it goes beyond this. There is this negative energy that's blamed on the I Fear Liath More /I . It's been reported by many hikers on I Ben MacDhui /I . Sometimes it manifests as despondency or lethargy but more often it strikes the hikers like fear, deep apprehension and panic, sometimes so strong the hikers feel suicidal. Mostly they just run for their lives and, once they get out of the peaks of I Ben MacDhui /I , they feel better. There's also been reports of this overwhelming but incomprehensible voice. People who've heard it swear it's Gaelic."
"And you look so happy about all of this," Buffy observed wryly. "I remember what a little fear demon did to me and my friends. I don't see why anyone would want to encounter something that would scare them."
"Happy, isn't the right word, Buffy." Benny pushed back a hank of her silver-flecked walnut hair. "I'm a researcher and there is a great deal of enjoyment for me in a job well done. I don't have to tell you why it's important. You and Rupert have benefited from centuries worth of research." She took another sip of scotch as Keith Urban's voice came muffled through the ceiling. All eyes floated up for a moment, drawn by the noise. "Though, I'll admit, the Watchers have been long broken into three distinct bodies, the researchers who are looked upon as a bit crazy, the special Ops, who do the things the administrative body doesn't want to dirty their hands with and, of course, the administrative body who gave us people like Travers and the other heads of Council, the ones who'd strut about like their shit does stink, if you'll forgive the turn of phrase."
Buffy just smiled faintly, flicking her gaze over at the shadows and Angel to see if she could read what he thought about Benny's story and the woman herself.
"One of the reasons Rupert was backing me to become the new head of the Council was that I am a researcher. Personally I thought he'd be a better choice but I can see why he felt he'd be better off...retired." Benny gave him a strange look, part disappointment and part something Buffy couldn't identify. "But the idea of the agency is very interesting. I wish you three well with that."
"Thanks." Buffy wasn't sure what to make of this woman. "You being a field agent instead of administrative is a bit unusual, isn't it?"
"I'd imagine they were looking to add a little more of the level headedness found in field agents compared to the bureaucrats," Angel said, leaning against the wall, hands buried in his pockets.
"Thank you, Angel, though researchers tend to be dreamers more than we're level headed. But Rupert had that in mind before he left us. He tried to come up with a core group that treated the Slayers as more than just a tool, and sadly not a well cared for tool at that. I'm thinking of both you and Faith, in that regard, Buffy." Benny's hazel eyes cut over to Buffy. "And most of the officious dipwads got blown up by the First so what was left but field agents?"
Buffy grinned. "I'm not sure I can imagine that word coming out of a Watcher's mouth."
"That was edited or Rupert might have exploded at the impropriety. Exactly when did you have that stick inserted in your ass, by the way, Rupert?" Benny smirked at Giles.
"Right about the time they decided I was able to handle a teenaged girl," Giles replied, rolling his eyes at Buffy. He seemed resigned to Benny's brash remarks.
"Scary creatures, one and all." Benny shuddered. "And to think you have how many under this roof. To get back on track, I was still in the field, as I mentioned. We felt that might be for the best, to keep the Council more diverse in locale. With cell phones and wireless internet, I don't see the need to be tied to one place. Of course, that also meant I was alone in Scotland."
"Studying the I Fear Liath More /i ," Buffy interjected. "In the dead of winter."
Benny's lips parted in a generous smile. "California girls. It's still fall, Buffy. I was back at my base camp, freezing my ass off while checking my text messaging and my forwarded paper mail when I came across something that took me back about thirty years and scared the hell out of me."
"You don't look easily rattled." Angel's eyes gave her a tough once over. He shifted his weight, a hand surfacing from a pocket to fuss with a dagger on the wall.
"I'm not, and if you would have told me something as hokey as a piece of paper reading, 'Vengeance is mine,' signed Elinor, would give me cold chills, I would have laughed. I guess I was meant to sit around stewing in a cold sweat for a while but since it took forever for my mail to get to me, I didn't get the letter until the day of the attack," Benny said, twirling her cane in her hand.
"So Elinor means what to you?" Angel gave her a curious look.
"I'll get to that. Let's just say it's a name I hadn't thought about in a long time. Still, I just set the letter aside, pretty confident that if Elinor thought I was in London at my address, then I was safe enough half way up a mountainside in Scotland. I started doing the paperwork for all my field notes and I started feeling afraid, really afraid. I wasn't sure if it was me remembering Elinor or if it was the psychic effects of the I Fear Liath More /I , which were said to be suddenly off the scale according to the seasoned hikers of I Ben MacDhui /I . I was betting on the latter and I thought I could withstand it," Benny said grimly. "And document it."
"And you couldn't," Buffy guessed.
Benny seemed suddenly ashamed. "I'm just as glad it was cold and I still had on my boots. I started getting more frightened, too much to just sit still. If not for that, they would have gotten me."
"They what?" Buffy leaned forward in her chair, now that Benny had gotten to whatever might be after her and Giles.
"Don't know exactly," Benny admitted. "It was dark. I saw them coming and I paused for one brief look and just took off running."
"That's the best you can do?" Disappointment etched into Buffy's face, vying with a look that said, 'It figures. What else could I expect from a Watcher?'
Benny's lips pulled into a frown, giving the first real hints of the slight wrinkles hiding in the corners of her mouth. "I know, terrible isn't it? A Watcher who can't see a damn thing." She shivered slightly. "The glimpse I got made me think that I was being followed by anthropophagi."
"What?" Buffy was annoyed with herself. One day someone would have to give her the Dungeon's Master's guide to demons.
"Something that has never been proven to actually exist, no matter what Shakespeare liked to write about," Giles said, not particularly helpfully.
"A demon that eats humans, which isn't so unusual. It's their appearance that is," Angel said, moving closer to Buffy as Giles got up to search through his books presumably for a reference.
"I didn't get a good look. I was too afraid to look back as I ran. I mean, isn't that how the bimbo in the horror flicks always gets it?" Benny smiled. "I kept running and ran right off a ledge. I ended up rolling down a good part of the mountainside. I'm lucky the worst I got was a busted up foot."
"And this eater demon didn't follow you?" Buffy's eyes hardened, studying Benny as if expecting lies.
"I think it did but I don't think it was what caused the panic in me. It had to the I Fear Liath More /I . How ironic, it probably saved my life. Once I was out of its sphere of influence, I could think straight. I'm not much of a mage, unfortunately, a few cookbook kind of spells but nothing like your friend, Willow. But there's one spell I excel at, something that helps me in the field. I can become unseen."
"Invisible? Tried that once." Buffy wrinkled her nose. "Didn't care for it much."
"This isn't invisibility per se. It makes me part of the scenery, right down to the scent. Angel's not the only demon who can track like a bloodhound," Benny said. "Ever see I Predator /I ? It's more like that."
"That would be kinda cool," Buffy said begrudgingly, thinking Xander would like Benny and her pop culture references. Giles handed her an opened book. Her eyes widened slightly as she saw the anthropophagi plate. "So they obviously didn't find you and looking at this, I'm sure you're glad they didn't."
Benny shook her head. "Nor even came close enough to be seen and so far there have been no more attacks."
"Is it because Elinor doesn't know where to find you or does she think you're dead?" Angel asked.
"While I've been laying low, I doubt she thinks I'm dead. Sadly there's a paper trail a mile wide from the hospital visits alone." Benny took a long swallow of scotch.
"Tell me about Elinor. Why does she want you dead?"
"Not just me, Giles, too," Benny reminded her and Buffy nodded grimly, her eyes knifing into Giles.
"I got a similar letter today," Giles said, trailing a finger over the cut crystal of his scotch glass. 'Elinor was a Watcher in training, a powerful young mage. Her family had been mages and Watchers for generations. Her younger sister, Jackie was a Potential. She was killed, in 1978 I believe it was, and Elinor blamed Benny and I. She tried to kill us and several other Watchers...and the Watchers put her in a...safe place."
"Would this safe place be the same prison Wesley tried to incarcerate Faith in?" Angel asked sharply and Buffy shot him her usual irritated look for bringing up the dark-haired Slayer.
"Yes and Willow, too, if Xander hadn't brought her back from her madness." Benny made a face. "Provided there was still a world left. Think of this place as a type of Azkaban without Dementors."
"There's a cheery thought," Buffy said, noting a baffled look on Angel's face. She figured the pop reference lost him so she mouthed the word, 'later' at him.
"It's not a cheery place but consider the alternatives," Benny conceded. "If Willow couldn't have been helped, would you want her running free?"
Buffy looked away. "Point made."
"Somehow Elinor escaped. Her caretakers tried to get in touch with me...or so they say." Benny's face went sad. "There are so few of us now, stretched so thin I can't swear to it that anyone did try to contact me. At any rate, there is something more disturbing than just Elinor's escape."
"That can't bode well," Buffy said nervously.
"No," Giles said. "We believe that Elinor's escape is somehow linked to the escalating paranormal phenomena that we've been experiencing."
"Then the phenomena is spreading," Angel said, going back to his favorite shadow near the weapons. "And its affects are more profound. I'll assume that it's no easy feat circumventing or disrupting the magics around that prison."
"Not in the least. And in talking to Rupert, we've come up with a couple of alternative hypotheses," Benny said. "We need a lot more data, unfortunately to prove our nulls though."
"One is that theory we've discussed before," Giles said. "That perhaps it might be the new Slayers somehow linked to this."
"How can that be?" A defensive edge crept into Buffy's tone.
"We don't know. Maybe the power was never meant to be widespread." Benny made a face. "Though why that should be, I couldn't say. An army of Slayers would be a far more effective tool. Perhaps it's too much of a strain on our reality. There has to be some reason that there is only one Slayer. Although, you'll have to admit, one Slayer is pretty easy to avoid."
"Darla and I made a rule of that," Angel said sheepishly. "Life's good as a vampire so long as you know where the Slayer is and don't share territory with her. Of course, you always get an idiot like Spike who has to prove himself against her."
"You said there was another theory," Buffy prompted, obviously uneasy with the idea it might be hooked into the Slayers somehow.
Benny nodded. "One of the alternative theories that Rupert and I were discussing deals with the telluric energy, the earth mysteries."
Buffy pursed her lips and she looked to her Watcher.
"There's a belief that there is a pattern of energy flow that covers the world and keeps it alive," Giles said, interpreting that look as 'please explain.' "Remember the ley lines at the chalk figures, Buffy? That's telluric energy."
"That might explain some things, like what happened at the chalk figure," Angel said, a somber expression on his face as he remembered his battle with the faerie king.
"And explain a lot of other things that Giles and I have seen reported," Benny put in.
"The Chalice Well for one," Giles said. "Many of the areas we already investigated are along these lines."
Benny gave her dark curls another tug as she bobbed her head in agreement. "The Glastonbury grid is an astonishing center of power that radiates great distances and has been important since ancient times. For people who know how to work the energies, they can get a morphic resonance in Glastonbury that's been known to warp reality."
"Okay, that sounds really bad," Buffy said, not sure what morphic resonance was but figured all she needed to know was 'warped reality.'
"Morphic resonance can be used for good or evil, like most any power," Giles replied. "Benny has some of the Watchers looking into the archaeoastronomy in regards to the ley lines and the stone monuments that were often built along them."
"For all we know the stars are aligning...badly," Benny said. "The ley lines might explain why suddenly there was a surge in the I Fear Liath More's /I activity. There is a lot of telluric energy that flows through Scotland. We just need to do a ton more research."
"And to that end, I think Buffy and Angel can handle starting the research into the problem and cataloging the escalating paranormal events, especially if the three of us are going to make the agency work. You and I can deal with Elinor ourselves, Benny." Giles said, still very reluctant to let Buffy into the dark recesses of his past. He felt like a father trying to shield his daughter.
Buffy's eyes dimmed. "We can help you, too, Giles. You know the research isn't my thing."
"I'm not sure it's necessary. The research is more important," Giles insisted as Angel turned toward the window, his body tense.
"Angel, what is it?" Buffy read his body language.
Before Angel could answer, the sounds of shattering glass filled the room. A half dozen creatures shoved through the shards of the window. Monstrous in size, their heads would have brushed the ceiling, if they had heads. Naked, eyes blinking from their massive shoulders, they lumbered single-mindedly toward Giles.
Buffy flicked a spin kick at one of the monster's chest and pulled her foot back as the thing's chest split open into a maw filled with teeth. She made a face. "Okay, these are just gross."
"I guess we know for sure that anthropophagi are real, Giles," Angel said, grabbing weapons fromthe display on the wallHe tossed a sword to Buffy, keeping the axe for himself. Yanking open the trunk, he passed a crossbow to Giles.
"I'll be fascinated by it later," Giles quipped, getting between the mostly immobile Benny and the anthropophagi.
Buffy ducked under one of the things grasping hands, trying to figure out where to stab it. It seemed to be all mouth.
"Its brains are just above its genitals," Benny shouted as she whacked her stout cane against the arms of another one who had a grip on Giles, a crossbow bolt embedded in one of its eyes. Giles crushed his foot hard in the groin region, sending the thing to the ground twitching.
As Angel bisected one of them with his axe, Hoshi and Sadie ran in, lured downstairs by the noise. Sadie hesitated in the doorway unsure of her abilities, especially against something as ugly as the anthropophagi. As Hoshi charged one of the creatures, the anthropophagi Angel killed exploded into smelly bits like a roadkill skunk a few days old,
Caught in the carnage, Buffy wiped chunks of demon off her face in disgust. "Aim between the legs, girls!"
Between three Slayers and the vampire, with some suppression fire by Giles, the room was quickly covered in decaying, reeking demon parts, like a chum bucket explosion. Buffy was shaking, not out of fear but out of rage that someone would want her Watcher...her father in all the ways that matter, to meet an end chewed up by something like these creatures.
"Who's going to clean this mess up?" Sadie wiped her face, leaving a black smear across her forehead.
Buffy just gave her a look.
Hoshi sighed and patted Sadie's shoulder. "I'll get the mop."
Buffy tossed her sword on the ruined chair and crossed her arms. She gave Giles a different kind of look. "So, you don't need my help with Elinor?"
His lips thinned. "When we get this all cleared away, Benny and I will tell you the whole story."