Okay, apologies for the delay in getting this out. Once again I had computer problems, plus I am now in the middle of buying my first house. Yeesh. Don't ask. But here we are, with the first chapter in the sequel! Disclaimers: I don't own the characters. I don't own the conecpt. This is just my odd take on things. Enjoy!
He opened his eyes slowly and frowned at the ceiling of the tent. He felt weak and hot, but his mind was still clear. Still clear. Then he turned his head to look at the man standing at the entrance to the tent.
"What is it Jacques?"
"We have received the signal my Lord. They are ready."
He sighed tiredly and nodded. "Good. Then the moment has come. Tell the men to prepare to attack."
"Yes my Lord." There was a pause. "My Lord are you well?"
"I'll be perfectly fine, Jacques. Tell the men to get ready."
"Yes my Lord."
He waited until his second in command was gone before he closed his eyes and summoned the Power to enable him to rise off the bed. The wound from the arrow flared viciously at his side, but he beat the pain down with his mind. There would be time to acknowledge it later. Heh. If he had time. He knew that he was dying. He just could not die yet. Not while he had one last job to do. He took a step forward. Then another. Yes, he could do this. Once he was on his horse then he could just sit there, right? It would be easy. He looked down at his surcoat, with the red cross on the white background. What an irony. The last man who dared wear the symbol of the Order in public. A dead man who still walked.
Coming out of the tent he saluted the two guards with a solemn nod. "Join your unit; you will have other duties today." The pair bowed and then trotted off, their spears ready at the salute. He watched them go with a smile. Had he ever been that young? Perhaps he had. A long time ago. A long time.
The camp was astir with activity now, as men ran backwards and forwards, pulling on chain mail and other armour, hefting spears, shields and swords, the horsemen checking the clinches on their saddles… preparing for war. For one last battle.
Speaking of which… he turned to look at the castle ahead of him. There it was, the home of the Others. The ones who knew of the Power, but who misused it, twisted it, worshipped the dark side of it. They loved anger, hatred, envy… everything that the Order was opposed to. But now the Order was gone, smashed by the greed of a king and a Pope, along with the rest of the Templar Order that surrounded it. Few Templars could manage to comprehend the Power. Those that did… found something else. Something noble and pure. And also powerful, which was why the Others had always hated them. And had now almost destroyed them, by pouring poison into the minds of the King of France and the Pope. How many had escaped the purge? Few. He had been one. But he had been able to get to a place where he still had friends, where he was able to raise a small army for one last campaign – to smash the stronghold of the Others. They could not be allowed to go on spreading their poison with the Order gone.
He shook his head and then grimaced slightly as the arrow wound flared again. He had not escaped from the fall of the Templars unscathed. The wound was slowly killing him. But not before he finished his last mission.
Nodding to his groom he raised one foot into the proffered stirrup and then paused, summoning the Power again. He had to show strength now. Weakness, in any form, would be bad for the men around him. Then he mounted his horse with one clean movement, ignoring the renewed flare of agony from the wound. Settling himself on the horse he turned to receive his shield and then his lance, settling the former on his saddle pommel and the latter by his stirrup. Then he reached out for his helmet. He smiled as he looked at it. Old memories of past battles flickered through his mind for a moment, until he thrust them away. No woolgathering, not now. He had too much to think of.
Turning his horse to one side he spurred him off to one side of the camp, where the men were falling in. As he rode along the lines he smiled and nodded to passing old acquaintances. Old friends who had faced the Reaper together with him. One last time. One last battle to do good before the darkness fell.
He pulled at the reins as he reached the leading rank and the horse slowed as he steered it to where Jacques was waiting. The castle of the Others loomed in front of them all. He looked up at the crag with a sigh. Then he nodded at the man next to him. "Give the signal."
A nod and then Jacques was gone, moving quickly across the camp in the direction of the great signal fire that had been built there. A burning brand was waiting. It had been there, in various incarnations, for two days, waiting for this moment. A quick thrust and it was in, sending the first curls of smoke into the air.
As he waited he looked back at the castle. It was brooding. He could sense the evil inside it, like a malignant growth that he had once heard a Jewish physician talk about. Well now it was time to wipe it out.
"There," came a grunt from the man next to him and he turned to look up at the crag, where an answering column of smoke was rising. Then something fiery shot up into the air from the crag and fell, trailing smoke as it descended, into the heart of the castle. Two more joined it quickly as the men on the plain below watched, holding their collective breath. Two more volleys came from the catapults that had been taken apart, then so carefully, painfully, carried up the crag and rebuilt up there. It was one last stroke of genius. It had taken days, days that he had forced himself to endure as the pain from the wound at his side grew and then started to burn.
A mutter went up and then a great snarl of satisfaction from the men and he forced himself to look at the castle. Tendrils of smoke were now rising from the main keep. The missiles, huge bundles of wood covered with pitch, were doing their horrible work. Burn them out.
They waited. What would the men inside the now-burning castle do? What could they do? When the gates opened then the waiting forces had their answer. Fight. Outnumbered, but led by the great dark force of their leader… a tall man in black armour on a black horse, now riding out down the road to the burning castle. His follower in the dark arts was next to him, also riding a black horse. He snorted. The Others had little imagination. Black everything. He had no doubt that they even had black bed sheets.
Time for action. He gripped the base of the lance and felt the weight of it pull at his arm. He would not let it fall. The wound flared with agony but he shut the pain away in the back of his mind and filled himself with the Power. Then he urged his horse forwards, at the head of his men, a great wall of shields and spears. He thought of his father for a moment and almost smiled. Alea Jacta Est. Let the dice fly high. Time to end this.
The present day
"Are you sure about that?"
"Yuh… yuh… yes."
Spike span around and glared at the smaller vampire. "Stop bloody stammering! Or stuttering! Or… whatever it is!"
"I cuh… cuh… can't help it. Yuh… you make me nervous."
Spike considered snarling at the vampire and then dismissed it. He reminded him of that prat with the glasses from Sunnydale, the one that the Judge had killed. After a moment he tried smiling gently and unthreateningly. This seemed to make the vampire even more nervous. Spike closed his eyes, drew out a long and totally unnecessary breath and asked: "Are you sure?"
"Yuh… yes. Hang on a muh… muh… minute." The vampire closed his eyes and breathed out himself. Then he opened his eyes again. "Right," he said in a strong Scottish accent, "It mentions Boca Del Inferno, which as we know is the Hellmouth, better known as Sunnydale and-"
"Hang on a bloody minute. Why are you a Haggis-muncher all of a sudden?"
The other vampire shrugged. "You told me to stop stammering. I've found that if I change my accent then I can speak properly. It's a mental thing."
This earned him a bemused stare. "You sound like you're from Glasgow."
"Would you rather I went back to making odd noises?"
"No. Go on."
"Right, well it says in the book that it was buried in a vault by the last of his followers by a road in the south side of a place where 'evil never sleeps and where the forces of night fight to exit the Mouth of Hell.'"
"That bloody sounds like Glasgow."
"In the 'far side of the new continent to the west', where to paraphrase it a lot, the earth shakes a great deal." He put the book down. "Sunnydale, I'd say."
Spike nodded thoughtfully before pulling out a pack of fags and shaking one out. "Bollocks. That complicates the situation."
The other vampire shrugged. "Yes, well, I heard about the Slayer being there."
Spike laughed bitterly. "That's bloody out of date information for a start. There's two Slayers there these days. When Buffy Summers fought the Master she died briefly and another one was called. When that one died, the one in Sunnydale was called in her place. Twice the possible pain. And-" he put the fag in his mouth and lit it with his lighter, "There's also a Jedi there."
This earned him a bemused look. "A what?"
"A Jedi bloody Knight."
The smaller vampire's accent thickened slightly. "Are you mad? A Jedi Knight from the fictional films?"
Spike shook his head. "Not so fictional. I was at the place a few years ago, when some wanker cast a spell on the costumes in a shop over Halloween. Never found out who did it. That night the people who hired the costumes became the sodding characters that the costumes belonged to. And one of them – one of the Summers' girl's mates – went as bloody Obi-Wan Kenobi. Lightsabre and all. And yes, the sodding lightsabre worked. Almost lost my head on that night."
The bespectacled vampire considered this. "Didn't the people go back to normal once the spell ended?"
"Yes but when I went back to Sunnydale earlier this year the bloke seemed to have remembered his mojo. Even built himself a lightsabre. Bastard."
"Right," said the other vampire, deflating slightly. "What a shame. The Gem of Amarra is in a place guarded by two Slayers and a Jedi Knight." He paused to muse. "Still, just imagine what you could do with it… the things you could do. You could walk in the sunlight with it…"
"Yup," said Spike, feeling at the shape up his sleeve, "Sounds pretty bloody nifty alright. Shame you won't be there." The stake dropped down out of his sleeve, into his waiting hand and then into the other vampire's heart. He had just enough time to swear before crumbling to dust.
Spike smirked. "Thanks for the help, mate." Then he pulled a face. He had to get to Sunnydale. Not a problem. But he also had to get out in one piece. That was more difficult. Sinking into a chair he pulled the book over and started to study it, blowing smoke out as he puffed at his fag. Tricky. But doable. Maybe some sort of… disguise? He shuddered. Come on, he was William the Bloody! He only did disguises when he had to. Then he thought about that blue shimmering energy blade. Right. Disguises it was. Perhaps a false moustache?
The café was getting quite full when Wesley entered, and he nabbed a table at the back that was reasonably private. Once he had ordered a large coffee with cream from the rather attractive waitress, he opened his briefcase and pulled out a writing pad and the fountain pen that his father had given him when he was 18.
Uncapping the pen he paused to get his thoughts in order and then bent over the paper.
"Dear Quentin," he started and then paused again. He was still rather wary of appearing to be too informal to the head of the Watcher's Council. Still, as a full Watcher, he was entitled to call Quentin Travers by his first name. He suspected that Mr Giles' habit of occasionally muttering darkly and glaring at the very mention of Quentin's name meant that the other Watcher had his own name for him, one that was, very likely, highly insulting.
He shrugged and kept writing. "Faith's training continues apace, although her habit of being somewhat enthusiastic when it comes to using an axe does mean that we will soon require a new training dummy. I enclose a picture of the state of the latest one which is, I fear, on its last legs." He looked at the photo in his briefcase and shuddered. Bits of the dummy were shredded in places and other parts sagged ominously.
Making sure that the briefcase was closed and that the picture was out of sight, he was about to start writing again when a thin blonde man in a black suit appeared to one side. "Excuse me, but is this seat taken?" he asked in a polite but fussy tone, indicating the seat opposite Wesley.
"Go ahead, please," said Wesley, looking around at the now quite crowded café.
"Thank you," said the man in a perfunctory manner.
Wesley picked up his pen again and was about to resume when he saw that the man had taken a handkerchief out of an inner jacket pocket and was wiping down the surface of the chair. Catching Wesley's look he leant over. "It's the flu season - you can't be too careful," he confided and then resumed wiping. The Watcher considered this for a moment and then nodded carefully, before looking up to find that the waitress had brought his coffee. He took a desperately needed swig before listening with some bemusement as the man ordered a "double cappuccino, half-caf, nonfat milk, with a burnish of foam and a tad of cinnamon," along with a fruit muffin.
Americans and their coffee, he wondered and then bent over the paper again.
"Her other Slayer abilities are proceeding to manifest themselves, but I think that while some are advanced, others are rather slow in development. I rather agree that Prettejohn's theory about the role that cultures play in affecting Slayers does hold sway here and I will take the time to note these for your attention for future training. In the meantime…"
He paused again for a moment. The man had taken out a cell phone and was calling someone called 'Pumpkin' about someone else called Yoshi. Something to do with the new Zen garden being an eighth of an inch too deep (apparently that was a severe problem) and of course he was stuck in some god-forsaken hellhole called Sunnydale for a seminar on Neuroses. Wesley thought of the earlier wiping of the chair and grinned internally. He looked back down at the letter.
"Faith's training continues well and her interaction with Miss Summers has proved to create a valuable bond, especially given her family history." That's not saying the half of it, he reflected grimly. Faith had been a very angry young woman when she arrived. Well, she was still angry now, but it was a matter of degrees. Mr Giles' advice had been quite valuable, along with the other advice from young Xander.
Wesley grimaced slightly as he looked at the letter. Then there was the matter of young Xander Harris and his lightsabre. This was something that was not going to be mentioned at all to Quentin, because frankly he had no idea what the reaction might be. Plus the fact that Xander had the memories of Obi-Wan Kenobi, plus the connection to the Force was not really the business of the Watcher's Council. And therefore the fact that Oz was also a Jedi was not the business of the Watcher's Council. Therefore this letter had to remain strictly Slayer-related.
He resumed. "Rumours of the possible continuance of the Darg' Clan war have reached us here, but there is no credible or reliable information that I can pass on. The death of Mayor Wilkins has however had an effect on the contacts that I suspect he signed with a number of leading figures in the town. The death of the main judge has-" He stopped and looked up. The increasingly irritating man was performing keyhole surgery on his fruit muffin with a pair of tweezers. He looked up. "A slight case of the wrinkly things, I'm afraid," he said smiling in an embarrassed manner.
Wesley nodded politely and then looked down at the letter again. "dealt quite a blow to the judiciary and-" He looked up again. The man was fielding a call from someone called Frasier about someone else called Eddie. Apparently Eddie had a fixation with Frasier. It all sounded rather odd. Looking around at the increasingly full room Wesley gave up. He drank the rest of his coffee, packed up his briefcase, nodded at the irritating man and walked out. He had to go to work.
The campus looked as if it was alive with people, as Xander Harris stood in the parking lot behind the library and looked over it. Interesting. It felt a bit odd, being on campus. It was the first time that he'd been on the grounds of an educational establishment as an employee, not as a student. Freaky.
He turned back to his car, pulled his bag out of the rear seat and locked the doors before walking off towards the main entrance. As he did he used the Force to probe around him. Interesting. Buffy was off to one side, westwards, about half a mile. Probably her dorm. He smiled slightly. How would the senior Slayer cope with dorm life? Well, at least she hadn't joined a sorority. He couldn't imagine what it would be like if the Slayer had that kind of close-knit social life.
As for Faith, she was about two miles north. Probably asleep. She'd been out Slaying the previous night and was now catching up on her sleep. She was ok. At rest. And perhaps even at peace. He remembered for a moment the angry and impulsive girl that Faith had once been and shook his head. She was still impulsive, but she had bonded with them all quite well. She was part of the family, he suspected the first family that she'd had for a long time. The fact that Mrs Summers always fussed over her was a big bonus as well. And as for Oz, his fellow Jedi, he could feel him, barely, off to the south. His presence could be hard to pin down sometimes, but the chances were that he was with Willow.
As he approached the doors to the library he paused. He was taking a big step in a new direction today. Something that had to be done. Something that would allow him to take his life off in the required direction. Straightening he walked through the doors and looked around at the desk, where Rupert Giles was standing. He seemed to be having a sotto voce argument with a woman who appeared to be 99 arch disapproval and 1 polite attention. As Xander approached the pair he could pick up bits of their conversation. She seemed to be deeply annoyed about some kind of filing system. Giles was indignant about the lack of the right type of filing system? He then mentioned the fact that the library contained half a million books. Half. A. Million. This was freaky. What the hell was he doing there? Then Xander closed his eyes for a second. Trust in the Force he thought. What else could a Jedi Knight do? He stepped forwards. "Hi Giles. Anything Ican help with?"
The Watcher looked up and smiled while the women looked him up and down with a sniff of disapproval. Given the fact that he was wearing a pair of brown trousers, with a white shirt, a dark brown jacket and brown boots, Xander felt that the look she was giving him was a tad severe. It wasn't as if he was wearing ripped jeans and a nose stud, along with a t-shirt that said something anatomically impossible.
"Ah, Xander, very punctual I see," said Giles whilst directing a death gaze at the woman. "Allow me to introduce Mrs Jenkins, the deputy librarian of the UCS library. Mrs Jenkins, this is Xander Harris, my assistant."
Xander held out his hand and gave his best smile. Mrs Jenkins shook it for the minimum amount of time for basic civility, twitched her mouth into a nanosecond-long smile, muttered something about how pleased she was to meet him and turned back to Giles.
"We have never needed anything-" she said and was then cut off by Giles's own glare.
"Mrs Jenkins, I am not accusing you of letting the students down in the past. All I am saying is that in the future a different system might be required. All I am asking for is for you to be open-minded and to accept new working practices. And now I really must be moving on. Good day to you. I'll send a memo."
Mrs Jenkins, still sniffing with disapproval, moved on and Xander found himself being escorted down the hallway with Giles.
"I thought she'd never bloody leave," growled the Watcher. "Bloody woman with her outdated card filing system. Bugger, that means that I'm going to have to work out how to use the computer to send a memo now."
"Please don't tell me that life as a junior Watcher will also involve knowledge of library filing systems," said Xander in a bemused tone.
"What? Oh. Yes. Don't worry. You might pick up some residual knowledge though." He paused. "The post of head librarian here is certainly a step up from my last position. Quite a challenge though. Yes, quite a challenge."
They walked behind the desk, where Giles put down his file and looked absurdly pleased. "I must say that this place is a step up from the library at the High School." He must have caught Xander's wry look, because he then coughed and started to polish his glasses. "Not that the old library was deficient in any way. It's just that this place is more of a challenge. Plus," he smiled thinly, "I will never again find myself wishing for a large axe every time Principal Snyder enters the room."
Xander thought for a moment about the late and very unlamented principal of Sunnydale High and then sighed. Annoying as the man had been, being eaten by the equally late and even more unlamented Mayor of Sunnydale when the latter had just transformed into a 60-foot long demon snake thing was a bit harsh.
"So," said Xander, dragging his mind off the events of Graduation Day, "What's on the agenda today, Giles?"
"I thought I'd start you off by showing you around the library. You'll need to know where everything is if you're going to blend in here. Working here should allow you to help Buffy as much as possible. Faith will be another matter, but the two like to fight together once in a while, so that should help. As for your training in being a Shadow Watcher, I think that won't take long. Your… other training will cover that quite well, especially as you're also helping Oz." Giles smiled and lowered his voice. "Two Slayers and two Jedi Knights should give even the nastiest demon something to think about."
"Mr Giles!" came a voice from the door. They both turned to look at the newest History lecturer as he hurried across the carpet towards them. Wesley Wyndham-Price was clutching a newspaper in one hand, whilst his face bore a look of peeved pomposity. He looked less pompous than he had when he first arrived in Sunnydale, true, and he had shown a lot of skill and bravery in the fight against the Mayor's henchmen on Graduation Day, but the man was still a putz at times.
The younger Watcher came up to the desk and put the newspaper down. It was open on an inside page. At the bottom was a quarter page advert that had been circled in red ink. "I think that our opponents have made their move." His finger stabbed down at the advert.
Xander and Giles both leant forwards to look at it. 'Wolfram & Hart, Attorneys At Law,' said the first line. 'New office in Sunnydale. We handle every type of case.' Below that was a telephone number.
"And so it begins," sighed Xander. "They're here." He looked up. "What kind of effect will it have on Sunnydale?"
The two Watchers exchanged glances. "It's difficult to say," admitted Giles with a shrug. "Certainly, their office will attract some of the nastier cases in town. Some of the nastier demons as well. But we have to bear in mind the fact that some of their offices that have been based on past Hellmouths have not done very well at all. There's always been something about the nature of Hellmouths that has had a bad effect on some of their people."
"Like what?" frowned Xander.
"Well, based on past records," said Wesley, "Paranoia, delusions of grandeur and even insanity. Although it is only sometimes. Not always."
"Okay," drawled Xander after a long moment. "So we have an office full of evil lawyers in town that might – or might not – go gnarly on us. Joy. Let's be careful out there, right? And warn everyone."
What a choice. What a major, major choice. The clothes had been a lot easier. Duh. Buffy Summers looked down at the books and winced. What to bring? Then she paused. What would Giles do? Duh 2. Simple answer. Go book crazy, that's what. She pulled the bag open and started to fill it with books. Once she'd finished she paused and looked around her room with a certain wistfulness. Leaving for college meant leaving home. Home. They'd only been living there for about four years, but it was a place that seemed… safe. Welcoming. And, again, home.
Leaning over she picked up the bag and slung it effortlessly over one shoulder. Then she grabbed the other bag and lifted it onto the bed, where she opened it and had a quick rummage to make sure everything was there. Yup, stakes, crossbow, quarrels, crucifixes – or should that be crucifixi? She shrugged. Okay, what else? Aquila, the sword that she'd picked up from Xander, who had gotten it from Giles, was safe in its scabbard. That was a wicked cool sword. Ummm… there was a mace and a pair of battleaxes just in case of emergencies, and even a few vials of Holy Water. Closing the bag she looked around. What else? Mr Gordo was safe in his little travel bag, her award for being Class Protector was carefully packed away and she had enough clothes to last a few weeks. She had even remembered washing machine powder, even though her mother had offered to wash her clothes. But then she'd welcome the chance to see her little girl again. Okay, her little Slayer girl again.
Grabbing the other bag she walked to the door and then down the stairs. Mom was packing her other things into the car, before looking up with a cheery smile that held just a hint of teariness. "All set?" she called to Buffy, who nodded sombrely.
"Books, bags and clothes. All packed," said Buffy as she placed the two bags into the boot of the car.
Mom watched this quietly and then nodded. "Okay. You ready?"
Buffy pulled a slight face. "Would you be freaked if I said yes and no?"
Her mother quirked her lips into a sad smile. "Honey, I'd be freaked if you hadn't said yes and no. College is a big step. But you aren't that far away and if you want to come and say share a plate of cookies with your old worn out mother, I don't see why not."
"You're not worn out!" scolded Buffy. "Maybe a bit frayed around the edges… I take it back!" she laughed at her Mom's fake scowl. Then she hugged her mother. "I'm going to miss you and you haven't even dropped me off at college yet…"
"Oh hush," came the response, "Or I'll start to cry." She stepped back without releasing her grip on Buffy's shoulders. "I am so proud of you. Even after all the… problems we had, all the difficulties, you have worked so hard to get to this moment. When I think of all the times that Principal Snyder told me that you would never get to college… Well. Water under the bridge. Study hard. But don't forget to enjoy yourself, Buffy."
The Slayer laughed. "I'll have Willow to remind me to work and Xander watching over me to keep me on the right course as well as Giles."
"Even so, be careful." Mom paused to look at her. "Okay. Lets get going!"
He puffed on the cigar and then frowned. Damn. It had gone out. True, it was just a stub, but it had been a good cigar. He turned in his chair, looked at the waste basket across the room and paused. Then he moved his lips the right way and spat the spent cigar fifteen feet across the room, so that it landed in exactly the middle of the basket.
"Yes!" he exulted quietly, before reaching down and opening his lower drawer, where he flipped open a wooden box where he kept his fresh cigars. He was running a tad low – time to put in a request to cousin Vorlag in Havana. The embargo was all very well, but magic was magic and he could always do with fresh cigars. Pulling one out he sniffed it carefully before clipping the end off with his teeth in one clean snap. Then he belched softly, sending a delicate jet of flame against one tip of the cigar. Putting the clipped end in his mouth quickly he puffed hard, sending up a small cloud of sweet smoke that framed his head like a small cloud. Yup, he thought contentedly, the old ways were good for something sometimes.
There was a step outside and then a knock on the door. "Come," he said absent-mindedly. The door opened and a cloaked form hurried in to stand in front of his desk. Then it got down on its hands and knees and started to grovel.
"Oh get up you moron," he growled irritably. The figure froze and then stood with a jerk. "And take that hood down. You look like an idiot."
The figure pulled at the cloth and revealed itself to be Taagorn. He looked worried. This was not a surprise. He always looked worried. "Great and noble Lord," he started and then flinched when a glare was directed at him. Then he started again. "Sorry sir. Habit sir. Something's appeared in the paper that you should see." He pulled a paper out from under his arm and spread it out on the desk carefully.
Royer Mobalitos, the self-proclaimed new head of the underworld of Sunnydale looked down at the advert that proclaimed that Wolfram & Hart was in town and sighed. He'd been expecting this. That damn law firm had its slimy tendrils everywhere. Rumour had it that they even had their own private world somewhere in another dimension. And now they were here on the Hellmouth. He sank back in his chair and puffed hard on his cigar. This would need some thinking about. After all, if their new offices suddenly exploded, they just might suspect that something underhand had happened to it. He needed to mull things over.
"Xander!" came the squeak from behind him and he turned with a fond smile to see his oldest friend standing there. Willow was clutching a folder and looked impossibly excited. "Wow," she burbled, "Here you are in the library. Doing librarian things! Isn't it all too cool for words?"
"Whoa, chill, Wills. I know it's your first day at college, but have a little perspective." He looked around at the stacks of books around him. "I must admit it feels rather comforting to be back in a library after the old one went kablooie." He paused. No one was around them, but it was worth being careful. "Where's Buffy?"
"She's getting some books out. We were discussing which courses to take. She's going to be taking Psychology with Oz and I." Willow grinned. Then she pouted slightly. "But it won't be the same without you being there."
"I know Wills, but you know what it's like with my family. They might wonder how I was able to afford college. Besides-" he grinned. "What better disguise for someone with my skills?" Then he paused and looked to one side. After a moment Oz and Buffy appeared from behind a set of bookshelves. They were talking quietly to each other whilst each held a stack of books. As they approached Oz nodded respectfully to his teacher, while Buffy balanced everything on one hand and waved at the others.
"Hey guys, what's up? Willow, you still in a bouncy mood over being here?"
Willow grinned at her and moved over to slip one arm inside Oz's. "Just talking to Xander before he gets all tweedy."
"Hey! I resemble that remark," quipped Xander as he looked over them all. He paused slightly when it came to the Slayer. Buffy seemed to be a little less bouncy than was normal. Then he turned back to Willow and Oz. "Practice tonight?"
Oz nodded. "Sure. Usual place?"
"Yup." Xander and his former Padawan nodded at each other, before the latter moved off with his girlfriend. Then the Jedi Knight looked at Buffy carefully. "Are you okay Buff? You seem a little uncertain, if a Slayer can ever look uncertain that is."
Buffy looked around quickly. "Xander!"
"Relax, there's two people about 25 feet away to the north, a guy almost asleep on a desk about 30 feet to the west and a couple necking against the Mycenaean section 35 feet away to the south. Yuck, I'd better warn Giles to dust that area a lot. Maybe even wipe it down a bit."
The Slayer shot him a wry look. "Sometimes I wonder what exactly you can see with those Jedi senses of yours," she muttered. Then she looked at the floor and sighed. "I don't know, I feel like I'm out of my depth here."
This earned her a wry glance from Xander. "Buffy, it's your first day. Everyone around here feels odd on their first day."
"Yes, but Willow doesn't. She's been taking everything in her stride, whatever that means, all day. She talked me into talking Psychology and I don't really know what that's going to mean when it comes to studying. My roommate is perky and has a poster of Celine Dion on the wall, oh the horror. My Psychology professor, Dr Walsh, is perky enough to label herself the 'bitch queen from hell', damn it everyone I've met so far today is just as perky, even you're perky," she said, waving her hand at Xander in a slightly wild way. "And the only cute guy I've met so far today spent more time talking to Willow than me. Guy called Riley. Weird name." She winced. "I dropped a book on his head by mistake."
Raising his eyebrows for a moment Xander considered this for a moment. Then he rubbed his nose and beckoned Buffy to one side. "Okay, culture shock, right?"
"Oh, big check on that," she replied fervently.
"Buffy, that's perfectly understandable. You're away from home in a new and strange place, with new and strange people around you. You wouldn't be human if you weren't a bit freaked by the whole thing. I'll tell you something, all the Freshmen I've met today have been just as freaked. They might not look it, but I felt it. And," He put his hands on her shoulders and smiled at her, "You're the Slayer. You'll get used to it, don't worry. It's part of being you."
She smiled back at him after a long moment. "Thanks, Xander."
"Not a problem," he said, but something crawled up and down his spine for a moment. She was talking the talk, but not quite walking the walk. He paused. "Where are you going to patrol tonight?"
This seemed to throw her slightly. "Um, I don't know. Thought about checking the campus out tonight. Why?"
"I'm going to practice with Oz tonight. I'll swing by after to join you, if that's okay?"
She nodded thoughtfully. "Yeah, thanks, Xander. I could do with some new perspective here." Buffy smiled more cheerfully at him. "Thanks!"
"Like I said, not a problem." He looked up at the clock. "Oops, have to go and file stuff. See you tonight Buff." As he walked off he frowned slightly. Buffy was a little off her game and he had a strong suspicion that she needed bolstering. Well, wasn't that what a Watcher was for? And above all, wasn't that what a Jedi did, help those who needed assistance? He nodded slightly and strode on. He had a feeling that a lot of patrolling would happen that coming night.
Riley Finn paused and turned at the intersection of two aisles of books. Forrest was walking up, his arms full of books. "What's up?"
His friend paused, checked his six and then leant forwards, lowering his voice. "Have you seen that new librarian? Man, he is a stickler for the whole 'grab your books and don't question me' thing."
Riley paused to consider this. "Yeah, but he isn't as bad as Jenkins. She really is freaky. The new guy is ok. Giles, right?" He turned and walked towards the exit to the library.
"Yeah," said Forrest as he fell into step with him, "Rumour mill has it he was the librarian at Sunnydale High before that gas explosion." He raised an eyebrow and lowered his voice even further. "Was that ever investigated?"
"No, it was fairly obvious according to the reports we saw. An average tragedy." Riley shook his head. "As far as any tragedy can be average. Nah, I saw this Giles guy earlier on. He knew his stuff. Had a helper too, a kid with a weird name. Xander, I think."
Forrest hefted his books onto the other arm and winced slightly. "Whatever. I'll see you back at the Dorm, man."
Riley nodded as Forrest moved off and then paused. He could see the Giles guy in the distance, talking to a short girl with blonde hair. She looked familiar and then he remembered that she was Willow Rosenberg's friend. What was her name? Spuffy? No, Buffy. Weird. He shook his head and was about to pass on towards the exit when he paused. A third person had joined the two. It was that Xander guy. He looked… poised. He was looking around, not just at the other two, but at everyone else. And once he looked over at Riley, his eyes probing and assessing before moving on. As if he was weighing up everything. Riley frowned and then shrugged. Time to go to class. But he couldn't shake off an odd feeling as he left the library, as if he had been put under a microscope for a split second.
The computer was so new that it still had bits of plastic wrapping attached to the back. Plus it smelt very… plastic. Lindsey McDonald looked around the office and smiled in a slightly bemused manner. It was very odd having an office in a building that he had last seen as an empty shell. Then it had been full of dust and dead spiders. Now it was full of lawyers and computers.
Pushing the button to start the computer, he stood up and walked over to the window. The Sunnydale branch of Wolfram & Hart was in a good location. He had chosen it after all. There was a park nearby – which was off limits after dark until the word of their presence went out and the local vampires realised that there was a new player in town – and access to the road network was excellent. The building was large and roomy and had a lot of room for development. Perfect for a law firm that liked to keep a lot under it's metaphorical hat. Or perhaps cloak would be a better term.
Hearing a beep behind him, Lindsey walked back over to his desk. The computer was asking for a logon name and a password. He tapped in the relevant details. There was a pause as it accessed the mainframe, which was protected in more than electronic ways, and then it opened up a screen that revealed his schedule for the day.
He scrolled through his appointments and sipped from a large mug of coffee at the same time. The day would start with a general staff meeting, and then a one to one meeting with Bob Rove. That would be interesting. His new boss had reputation in the firm as being quite the high flyer. Of course so did Lindsey, but he had never worked with Rove before. Apparently the guy had asked for him personally. That gave him pause for thought. Why would he call for someone he'd never really met, except to say hi to in corridors?
Of course, establishing Wolfram & Hart on the Hellmouth was important. It would also be tricky, especially with two vampire slayers here. They had to make sure that they didn't sign on too many vampires as clients. One good night out from the Slayers could wipe out half their client list if they weren't careful. No, a careful mix of different clients would suffice. Putting his mug down he frowned at the screen. Of course there were more than Slayers here. There were also two Watchers, one of whom had made it clear that the Watcher's Council did not like Wolfram & Hart at all, and… Xander Harris. The mysterious Mr Harris, as he had renamed him in the privacy of his head, who had some kind of odd powers. Something had happened to him almost two years ago, something significant enough for the former, and about as late as it was possible to get, Mayor of Sunnydale Richard Wilkins, to mention to him as a possible threat.
But the frightening thing was that there was a possible connection to Lindsey. He had once been in the same room as Harris when he had done something to a vampire, spoken to it in a voice that resonated with... something. He could hear it in the air, something that had made his head feel fuzzy. And the Host, the demon owner of the Caritas bar in LA who could read your future by listening to you sing, had seen it as well. His words to Lindsey were burned into his brain: "Something's changed within you. You know that. The only problem is, I'm not the person to tell you what it is. You've met him already, that's all I can tell you. And you're going to have to make a choice at some point. That being real soon. The kind of choice that changes your life and takes you down a new road, to a place that you didn't see coming." And then: "The force is with you"! What the hell did that mean? The force of what? He had to have been referring to Harris, but what had changed, why would Harris be the guy to tell him and what road had he been talking about?
Lindsey stirred in his chair uneasily. He knew what lay ahead here – working for Wolfram & Hart made that brutally clear after a while. He had seen the bodies being removed after some employees of the firm had made some particularly… poor… decisions. You worked for the firm until you died, and the chances were that the cause of death wouldn't be old age. Oh they gave you a good salary, an excellent health plan and the ability to use deadly force to win court cases or buy off/deflect/kill messily the opposition, but once you were in they never let you go. That much was very obvious. And there were those odd rumours about dead people being seen in the corridors every now and then. He didn't want to think about that. It brought up too many questions.
But what other road could there be for him? If he left where would he go? What would happen to him? He sank a little lower in his chair and brooded quietly. His life was… well, a mess just now. He could feel something dark and terrible following him, something that he just couldn't shake off but that he knew he had to. What other road? He looked at the clock on the wall above the door. Time to meet the troops.
A room full of Wolfram & Hart lawyers was not a pleasant sight, thought Lindsey as he looked around the conference room. There were about 35 of them, as this was still a fairly small offshoot of Wolfram & Hart. The more important ones, himself included, had seats around the table whilst the others stood at the back. The arrogance level in the room was set at 'perky' as opposed to the normal level of 'am I going to get shot today?' at the main LA office. The chair next to him at the head of the table was empty.
He turned to look at the others. Interesting collection. He didn't know most of them, but Robby Harrison he had met a few times. The guy was nervous but had an amazing memory for old law cases. Then there was Debbie Ormsdorf. She was a bit flaky, but he suspected that the flakes would peel off to reveal a very hard woman underneath. Oh and he could see Susan Ulyanov at the back. She had been Everard Donner's blue-eyed girl until she'd been ambushed by the DA with that surprise witness in the Geffen case. That had given her a wrap on the knuckles.
There was a stir close to the door and then Bob Rove swept into the office. A tall man in his late forties he was, as always immaculately dressed in a dark blue suit and a red tie, with his brown hair swept back and a thin file in one hand. He smiled and nodded to people as he passed them, giving Lindsey a firm nod as well, as he made it to the empty chair and then swept into that as well. He gave off a crackling feeling of movement and energy. This, the body language said, is my room, full of my people and I'm in charge. Watch yourselves people.
"Well," said Rove as he looked around the room, "I see that everyone's here, so I'll get right into it. Welcome to the newest branch of Wolfram & Hart, people. The firm's never had a base here on the Hellmouth, so we need to get started in building a client base here." He smiled again. "Good place for us, right?"
A sycophantic chuckle ran around the room and Lindsey quirked his lips in a well-simulated smile. Rove snapped his eyes around the room with the speed of a snake and then leant forwards as silence fell. "Word of our arrival has already gone around and we have a number of cases on the books already. I'm going to be assigning you all to different ones so that you all get some experience here and there on some of the various types of cases we'll be handling here. Along with some of our varying types of clients. You'll all be briefed on the cases you'll be working on. So let me just say welcome to Sunnydale and I'm sure that we can make this one of the best bases for the firm anywhere in the world.
There was a pause for everyone to applaud him and then, as everyone else started to file out of the room Rove leant over. "Lindsey, we might as well have our meeting here. More room."
Lindsey nodded and waited until the door had closed behind the last of the others before turning back to Rove. "I'd like to say that I'm flattered that you asked for me, sir," he said.
Rove grinned. "Call me Bob. I chose you out of gut instinct. That and the report you sent in after the Wilkins incident. Holland Manners' recommended you as well, which was the icing on the cake." He leant back in the chair and clasped his hands behind his head.
"You've been here twice before, which is more than most people from Wolfram & Hart have ever managed, so you have an edge. Oh and you've met the Slayers and their Watchers. That's important. We're probably going to have a few problems with them as time goes by and I need someone on the team who's met them." He leant forwards, the smile fading. "Who knows their weaknesses. And they do have them – we have quite extensive files on the them. We just need to find a way of capitalizing on them."
Rove stood suddenly and wandered over to the wide window that took up part of one wall and pushed at the button that raised the blinds, to reveal a view of the town. "I meant what I said just now," he mused, looking out over Sunnydale, "I mean this place to get the reputation of being the best. Make it the best and the Senior Partners will notice us. Reward us. For the good of the company of course."
He turned to Lindsey and flashed him another smile. It was like being in the same room as a cheerful crocodile who'd just had his teeth polished. Lindsey smiled back and nodded, carefully keeping his real feelings at bay. He had quite neutral feelings towards the Slayers. They hadn't killed him for a start, although he could still remember the sensation of cold metal brushing against his neck when Faith Morgan had got the drop on him in the Library in Sunnydale High.
The other lawyer returned his gaze to the window again. "I've been doing some digging. The fact that our Arrangement with Wilkins expired at the same moment that he did has opened this place up to us. And boy, Wilkins had quite the racket going here. He had fingers in so many pies that almost the whole town had links to him. He sighed. "He even had the top judge here on his payroll, not that we can take any advantage of that now."
"We can't?" asked Lindsey, wondering what else Wilkins had subverted.
"Nope. He – and quite a few other top people – had a private deal with Wilkins. Once he went, they went, in various ways. Very nasty. You should check the local papers."
A cold sensation went up and down Lindsey's spine, as if someone had poured freezing water down his back Again, he gave no sign that anything was wrong.
"So," said Rove, turning to walk back to his chair, "We need to get as much information on this place as possible. Demon clans, Vampire gangs, the usual assorted bribable muscle and how much they charge. You know, the normal stuff we look at. And," he leant forwards and opened the file to reveal a few blank pages, "I'd like you to give me a few thoughts on the Slayers and their vulnerabilities. Just a few… concepts." Rove looked at him expectantly, with his head tilted to one side and one hand twirling a slim gold self-propelled pencil.
Lindsey started to talk whilst also starting to loathe the man. Life on the Hellmouth was not going to be fun. Well, at least he was away from that bitch Lilah. He wondered for a split second what she was doing.
"Hey Xander," came a call from one side, and Xander looked over to see Jonathan to one side. He had a bag slung over one shoulder and was dressed in slightly more fashionable clothes than the last time that Xander had seen him. "How's it going?"
"Good," said the Jedi, walking up to his school friend. "Working in the library at the college. You?"
"I just started. I'm taking Tech as a major, with history as a minor." He rolled his eyes. "Lotta books to read!" he laughed nervously.
The short man grinned and blushed at the same time. He looked as if he was about to gush. "Great! Uh, we're doing great. She wasn't able to get into college, for obvious reasons, like lacking money and a proper record and stuff. But she's applying for jobs and stuff, we're ok." He looked over Xander's shoulder. "Hey, there she is!" he said excitedly and waved.
Turning Xander watched the former demon approach. She was wearing a leather jacket and a skirt and cut her hair so that it framed her face. She was also beaming fondly at Jonathan, before registering the existence of Xander, whereupon she nodded at him firmly. Then she started slightly and plastered a massive smile on her face, looking briefly at Jonathan for confirmation. The smile looked a bit forced. "Xander Harris," she acknowledged. "How have you been since we last met? I've – we've – been good. How are you doing in college? Isn't the weather pleasant? According to the forecast there's a 41 per cent chance of precipitation this afternoon. How are your family? Is the Slay- I mean is Buffy well?" The grin had now come to resemble the onset of rigor mortis.
Blinking, Xander considered this small barrage. Then he replied: "Good, I'm glad, I'm a librarian here, weather's spiffy, I can't feel any rain coming in and she's great." Then he turned back to look at them both. "What's with the barrage of questions and the smile?"
Anya's smile flickered for a moment. "I've been practising my tact," she said, with just a suggestion of gritted teeth. "Jonathan said that I would blend in better if I was less abrupt and more tactful." She looked him, the smile becoming more genuine. "He's been teaching me."
"Okay, good. Happy for you," replied Xander. "Which jobs have you applied for?"
The smile slipped slightly. "I start work at 'World of Leatherwork' tomorrow. The second place I applied."
"What happened to the first place?"
"Oh that was yesterday. My tact slipped slightly," she said, rather tight-lipped. "I was at La Petit Soeur, when a customer came in and asked for a flattering dress. I pointed out that she had to grow some breasts first as she had a chest like a toast rack. The manager told me to take a hike."
"Okay," mulled Xander. "Enough said. Well, good luck." You're going to need it, he thought as he walked away from the couple who had passed on their merry chattering way. What an odd couple. They seemed happy though. That was important. He looked at his watch. He had to be elsewhere. He had some duelling to do. So to speak, of course.
Xander was waiting on a projecting branch of a tree when Oz arrived in the park. The Jedi was sitting there, his legs crossed in what looked like a very uncomfortable position. However, his eyes were closed and he seemed to be peacefully meditating. As Oz approached he opened his eyes and fell backwards off the branch, flipping in mid air to land on his feet with cat-like stealth. "No Willow tonight?"
"College has her rather excited," said his former Padawan as he slowed to a halt. He mused: "It's cute actually." He paused. He couldn't sense anyone around them. Perfect.
"Good," said Xander and then: "Defend yourself." The moment the last word had left his lips he used the Force to snap his lightsabre into his hand, where it ignited with a hiss and slashed down with the speed of a striking snake – only to meet Oz's own green blade in a classic defensive pose.
"Excellent," said Xander. "Your responses are getting better." His lightsabre came up and then jabbed down again from a different angle, only to meet Oz's blade again. Xander disengaged and then stepped back a step. "Now that you've shown me your reflexes shall we begin?"
Oz nodded, gripping his lightsabre in both hands and twisting them slightly to get a better grip. "Let's go," the lapsed werewolf said, with a slight smile.
The blades swept up, clashed again, with the whirring noise of power plants trying to outmatch each other, broke apart and then flashed back and forwards as the two duelled. Back and forth they went over the grass, with first Xander pressing Oz back and then Oz recovering and sending his former master retreating. The two seemed perfectly balanced as they ducked, parried, thrust and span to counter each others blades in a deadly dance of lightsabres, both using the Force to sense the others next moves.
Xander tried an overhead cut, which Oz matched, sliding off to one side, before jabbing back at him, a short circular cut that Xander easily blocked. But Oz followed this with a quick hard jab from the other side followed by another, before dropping down to one side and slashing at knee height. Xander exploded into the air before the blade came anywhere near him, using the force to flip up and back, hitting the ground and leaping back, his lightsabre probing through the air. Once it hit, forcing Oz back a step, twice it hit, sending him back at a stumble and then for a third time it hit, knocking the green blade out of his former Padawan's hand.
The green blade winked out as it hit the ground. The blue blade was motionless by the side of Oz's head. Then it winked out as well. "You're getting better," said Xander approvingly.
"What did I do wrong?" asked Oz, reaching out to pick up his lightsabre and return it to a hook on his belt.
"Nothing," smiled Xander, hanging up his own lightsabre and sitting down on the grass, crossing his legs as he did. "In fact you've become very good at Form One of lightsabre technique, also known as Shii-Cho. The problem is that there are other forms."
"Ah," mused Oz, joining Xander on the grass and assuming the same position. "I take it you were using a different one?"
"Very good. Yes I was. Form Three. Soresu. Obi-Wan was a master at it. Defensive at first until your opponent makes a mistake. Yours was to overbalance slightly when you tried that low attack. I read that and counter-attacked. As you get used to the various forms possible you can change your attack or defence based on what you're up against." He paused. "And remember: there may come a time when you're without your lightsabre, when you're fighting with anything you can get your hands on. You need to know what else is available in terms of techniques and forms to protect yourself with and end a battle. I'm going to teach you all of them – you'll need to choose one to adopt as your best technique. So far I've taught you Form One. The level you've reached is beyond that which a Padawan needs to progress to a Jedi Knight, in the old Order. At some point you'll need to hone in on your own personal fighting style."
Oz nodded sombrely. "What about you?"
"I'm practising Soresu. I might have Obi-Wan's memories, but I don't have his level of skill in it yet."
"So what are they like?"
"Okay. Form Two – Makashi. Elegant, precise, powerful. Minimal effort. My – I mean Obi-Wan's master was a great guy called Qui Gon, and his master, Dooku, was an expert in this. Bastard also turned to the Dark Side, but that's a long story and damn I hope that George Lucas gets the casting on those two parts right.
"Form Three is Soresu. Defensive, looking for an opening and the chance to go on the attack. Form Four is Ataru. Acrobatic, uses the Force to use some wild manoeuvres. It can be aggressive, so you need to be careful in letting yourself go too much. It also lacks defensive depth unless you're careful." He paused again, thinking of Qui-Gon's death. "Obi-Wan's master was killed by a Sith because his defence lacked a little something."
Shaking his head he went on. "Form Five is Djem-So. It's similar to Soresu but more aggressive. In fact it's like a combination of Makashi and Soresu. Channels defence into offence. Anakin was good at that. Of course, so was Vader.
"Form Six is Niman. It's the diplomat's version of fighting. A bit of jack of all trades version. Not a good idea if you're up against it. Form Seven is Juyo, or as Master Windu refined it, Vaapad. Aggressive. Very aggressive if you're not ready to deal with it. And it takes a massive amount of training to do that. One day, if she's ready for it and Giles agrees, I might teach a terrestrial version of it to Buffy, for the sword. Only when she's ready for it though. It has been known to lead to the Dark Side."
Oz nodded slowly as he took it all in. "Interesting. Many choices." He looked up. "How will I know?"
This earned him a smile. "You will know. You're a Jedi. Trust your instincts." He looked down at his watch. "Oops, time to go. I have to meet Buffy."
"Need help patrolling?"
"Not tonight," said Xander as he rose up and brushed a few specks of loose grass off his trousers. "She's a bit down and I want to have a quiet word with her."
"Down?" frowned Oz as he got up as well.
Xander grimaced. "I think it's 'I'm in college and everything's different' rather than anything else." He shook his head. "I think that Willow's reaction was the opposite of Buffy's. Will has seen the opportunities and Buffy is freaking slightly about being in a new place away from home. It's understandable. I mean, for Buffy her home life was an anchor for her – a way of centring herself, being able to push the Slayer part of her life to one side. Now she's having to make a new non-slayer area to her life and I think she's a bit shaken by it." He paused and smirked slightly. "Giles didn't help. Someone called Olivia is coming over tonight apparently. He mentioned her in passing and then got all blustery when I asked him about who Olivia was."
Oz's eyebrows both moved up, indicating how impressed he was. "Giles has a personal life?"
"I know, you'd think that he spent his off hours looking at tweed catalogues and writing articles about bell ringing, but yes he does do other things. And apparently he has a sex life, something that we will draw a veil over before we start to freak. Anyway, I've got to go meet Buffy. I think I know the best way to restore her mojo."
Eddie seemed a nice guy and had the same problems as she did, so Buffy was almost sorry when he smiled and broke away to head for his dorm. She walked on down the path. Eddie had mentioned that he had a security blanket that he took everywhere. Something called "Of Human Bondage". Apparently it was a book and wasn't about things that went swish in the dark. She shuddered for a second. Imagination was getting a little frisky again. What fun.
Something like a twig cracked to one side and she swung around, grasping for the stake in her sleeve, only to pause. Two figures were walking towards her. One was Eddie. The other was Xander. "The admin block is over there," Eddie was saying, pointing at the building off to one side. "But I think it's about to close for the night. It is a bit late."
"That's ok," said Xander breezily, "I just wanted to check out where it was. Thanks for helping me."
"Not a problem man. Oh hey Buffy."
Smiling slightly Buffy waved with one hand. "Hi again Eddie. Hi Xander."
"Oh you two know each other?"
"Buffy and I go way back," said Xander affably. Then he looked at the other man. "Go home to your dorm," he said, "Carefully. Use the road. Avoid this place tonight."
"Okay," said Eddie, his eyes glazing over slightly. "Home." He turned to one side and ambled off.
When he was far enough away Buffy turned to Xander. "Okay, why did you just do the Jedi mind trick on Eddie? He's a nice guy!"
"He was almost a dead nice guy, Buff, he was walking towards a bunch of vampires and could have been a light snack. I distracted him by acting lost and dumb." He shook his head thoughtfully. "I think we have a nest on campus, which is a bad thing of course. Campus life is rough enough without having vampires snacking on the students."
Buffy perked up at this. "How many?"
"I sensed about five or six of them, all stinky with evil. I think we should track them back to their nest and make the place very dusty."
The Slayer nodded. "Okay. Dibs on the leader?"
"Try and be serious Buffy."
He sighed and then grinned. "Paper, Scissors, Rock?"
The room was seriously in need of some new posters, she thought as she sat down in her chair and looked around. Come to think of it, the whole place was in need of posters to replace the old tattered ones. Not to mention the occasional hole in the wall. But they could hardly call in a plasterer. And her flunkies weren't worth a lot.
Sunday sighed and looked at the flunkies around her. They were, well, just lame. Definitely not the nucleus of a band. More like a barbershop quartet. On the one hand they were all vampires. On the other they were all lame vampires.
And tonight they had lost a possible prey. One minute he had been ambling towards them, the next minute he had been intercepted by another guy who had walked up, asked dumb and obvious questions and then diverted him off to one side. From the look that the shadowy figure had shot into the darkness where they had been waiting, whoever he was he knew about them. Which was odd. She shrugged. She'd heard rumours that the Slayer was on campus. And where there was a Slayer there was also a Watcher. That meant that things might get interesting very soon. She smiled dreamily as she imagined a pair of heads over her chair, perhaps on pikes. Of course that meant getting hold of pikes, not to mention a taxidermist to pickle said heads, but that was a small detail.
"I just love what you've done to the place," said a voice off to one side and she snapped her head around to stare at the short figure of a blonde girl at the entrance. She was looking around with immense fake interest. "It just shrieks 'urban ghetto' with a hint of 'desperate pathetic vampire chic.' Not bad. Did you spend much on decorating?"
"Nothing at all," drawled Sunday and she stood up. Her Flunkies were all on their feet staring at the girl. Some were smirking. All were thinking the same thing: Food. "We just took it from people. Some were like you."
The girl smiled easily. "I don't think they were like me. I'm different."
"Very different. Oh, I'm sorry, I haven't introduced myself. I'm Buffy. The Vampire Slayer." She produced a stake from her sleeve and waggled it cheerily.
"Slayer!" purred Sunday and her flunkies echoed her. "Well, well. What an honour. Not. Do you really think that you can just walk in here and, well, slay us all? On your own? Please!"
"Oh I brought a friend," Said the Slayer and she moved to one side to reveal a dark-haired man who looked a bit familiar.
"Yeah right, please again. You brought your Watcher. Well done, you just made our job easier."
"I'm not a Watcher yet," said the man as he stepped forwards and Sunday realized that he was the same age as the Slayer. He also seemed to be very confident. For one thing he wasn't wetting himself with fear.
Glancing at the most intelligent of her flunkies, which wasn't saying much, Sunday gestured. "Do it."
Growling with anticipation the vampires spread out, walking towards the Slayer, who was cleaning her nails with the point of the stake as she ambled off to one side. Sunday herself was busy gliding down to one side. To the entrance and the young guy. Block the way out, use him as leverage by threatening to kill him, then actually killing him and jumping her… this was going to be far too easy.
Only it seemed that it wasn't. The moment that the Slayer came into range of the others she exploded into life, punching, kicking and gouging, whilst that stake whizzed around like the weapon that it was. The moment that Monica got it in the chest and was dusted, the others fell back and reconsidered their strategy, the dopes.
By now she was almost at the entrance, where the dark-haired guy was watching the fight with some interest. She suddenly realised that that he was also displaying no fear at all, but, if anything, a certain amusement. He was also watching her, she realised with a shock.
"Hi, I'm the guy who's guarding the way out and no you can't go through," he drawled, pulling out a shortish silver rod from behind his coat.
By now all kinds of alarm bells were ringing in Sunday's head. The guy was too confident, nowhere near fearful enough and why was he guarding the exit? It was as if he knew that all the vampires were going to die and that meant that he knew that the Slayer was going to win.
Brad, being a moron, had not thought anything at all through and retreating from the Slayer turned on the guy instead. Who flicked a switch on the rod that allowed a glowing blue blade to extend in front of him.
"Whoa," said Brad, looking very impressed, "Is that a lightsabre, man?"
"Yup," said the guy and suddenly moved so fast that Sunday blinked in astonishment.
"Whoa" said Brad again, rather weakly, before his head fell off and he crumbled into dust. The guy looked at her for a moment and then looked back at the Slayer, who was busy staking one of her flunkies. Wait a minute, there was only her and whatisname left now, who was busy running for the hole in one of the walls to one side.
"Come back here and fight!" screamed Sunday and then she looked back at the guy with the lightsabre, who grinned at her before making a strange gesture with one hand… and then suddenly she was sailing backwards through the air, as if something invisible had kicked her. When she hit the ground she smashed through her chair and then back again through the stuff that they'd collected over the years, finally coming to rest against the wall. Pain stabbed through her shoulder and she looked down to see a long sliver of wood impaled through her flesh. Grabbing it and gritting her teeth she pulled it free and threw it to one side, before looking up – to see the Slayer's fist coming straight at her. The impact sent her back against the wall and her head rang from both the punch and the landing. She struggled up again and then the Slayer's hand flashed forwards and… Sunday looked down at the stake protruding from her chest.
"Shit," she said and then it all went dark.
As Buffy and Xander walked out of the former Frat house she was whistling. Xander grinned quietly. "You feeling better, Buff?"
"Oh yeah," she said with an answering grin. "Fully reaffirmed and ready for the fight against things that go 'Grrr' in the night. Good call Xander."
"Naah," he replied, "Easy call. I thought that you might just need a stab in the right direction. You do good. Doesn't matter where you do it, just as long as you know it. Campus, school, no difference. As long as you can help people, that's the whole point."
Buffy nodded. "Well thanks O Jedi."
"Not a problem O Slayer." They ambled on. "Pizza?"
"Definitely not a problem."
"Bad guys dusted, good guys intact, yes that calls for pizza." He looked around. "After all, nothing else to threaten us around."
The house was registered in the name of someone that she'd never heard of. She strongly suspected that he was either dead or had no idea himself. Whatever. It sufficed. It was large, well furnished and had a very large hall at one end. At the moment it was bare of furniture, with the exception of a black chair in the middle of the room. Pieces of wood were scattered around the hall.
Lilah Morgan looked around and scowled. Her Master was late. She leant against one of the walls and looked over the hall idly. She didn't dare do anything. Not until he was there. The last time that she'd shown some initiative, she had been punished for it. The bruises had taken a week to heal. Her Master had a point – she was still learning. The power that she could summon was deeply scary at times. But she still hated his teaching methods at times.
The door at the far side creaked open and Judge Michael Dansey walked through. "Your fellow stooge at Wolfram & Hart, Hooper, needs to learn how to finish up a presentation fast," he said dryly. "Who knows who'll win that court case?" He paused and then smiled ironically. "Well, maybe me." He looked at her as he sat into the chair. "Begin."
Lilah walked forwards and stared down at the nearest piece of wood. It was about six inches long and tapered slightly towards the end. It weighed several pounds. She reached out a hand and concentrated, closing her eyes slightly as she opened herself to the Power. After more than a month of training she could do this more easily now, but it was still a struggle at times. But tonight… she could feel the wood, feel the weight. She grasped it with the Power and slowly lifted it into the air. Once it was level with her face she concentrated in a slightly different manner and twisted her hand to make the wood spin, slowly at first and then faster and faster.
"Good," said Dansey in a dry tone. "Now try two."
This was where it got hard. As she made the first piece spin in the air she reached out with the Power again and felt the shape and weight of the next piece on the ground. It was slightly more dense. But… she felt it rise into the air to join the first piece. A slight patina of sweat had broken out on her forehead and she ruthlessly suppressed the slight tremor in her hand. Another gesture and the second piece started to revolve as well.
Dansey leant back in his chair, his face receding into shadow. "Very good," he grated.
When it came she was ready. Suddenly Dansey's hand flicked forwards, sending a small metal pellet at her head. She didn't flinch at all, but used the Power to manipulate its momentum to curve its way around her face whilst keeping the two wooden shards revolving in mid-air. The strain of it all almost buckled her knees and a line of sweat ran down her face, but she didn't say a word.
"Excellent!" purred Dansey, standing quickly. "Release them."
She almost panted with relief as everything fell to the ground. She dimly heard a faint ping behind her as the pellet hit something on the floor to one side.
"Very good my dear Lilah," said Dansey, standing in front of her. "Very good indeed. You're coming along nicely and you aren't distracted as easily as before." He smiled grimly. "Keep practicing. Soon it will be time to up the training. I hope, for your sake that you'll be ready for it."
Lilah looked at him and then bowed her head. The Power was intoxicating at times. It filled her head and her heart with a raging fire that fed off her anger and shone out. She suspected that was why Dansey had chosen her. And she loved the feeling that the Power gave her. The power that could be opened to her… That made it worth the training, worth the pain.
When she was ready, when she had learnt everything that could, she knew that she would have a lot of plans. An awful lot. And Wolfram & Hart would know what real power was about. She did not think about what would happen to Dansey. He had a nasty habit of sensing what she felt. And she did want to learn after all, right? Everything that he knew. Every scrap.