Title: Demon's Holiday
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Summary: And then he noticed a short older man in a taupe suit and eyeglasses walking into a shop that sold cheese. 1600 words.
Spoilers: Set post-B:tVS; quotes from 4.22 "Restless". Also includes a very slight Wallace & Gromit reference.
Prompt: 24 Days of Ficmas, Day 22: For MarcusRowland. Prompt: Giles and the Cheese Man, with three specific quotes, which I used in the fic.
"Are you quite certain?" Rupert Giles spoke urgently into the phone, appalled by the news he'd received from the retired Watcher on the other end of the line. "If your interpretation is correct, that would put the demon's arrival at the dark of the moon, which occurred last night!"
"I'm afraid so," Roger Wyndham-Price informed him, solemnly. "We're a bit short of translation personnel at the moment, and the Codex Caseus is hardly the most important of the prophetic works we're in the process of remapping for the new Council library."
Rupert sighed, and resisted the urge to remove and clean his glasses. It wouldn't help the situation; only time, considerable expenditure, and careful recruitment would return the Council's information archive to anything like what it had once been. While in many ways the destruction of the old Council headquarters had resulted in a better life and support structure for the Slayers, it had also made things more difficult in many ways, and the loss of several human lives was not the worst of them. Millennia of carefully translated and scheduled references to future supernatural events had been lost, leaving the new Council without a roadmap or even a compass to guide them where they would be needed.
Fortunately, there were enough Slayers now that they were able to catch most demonic threats before they became large-scale problems. Unfortunately, they generally lacked the know-how required to defeat said threats with a minimal degree of danger. Too many girls had been injured, or even killed, in the last year or so by creatures that might have been easily defeated, had their Watchers been able to put their hands on the appropriate reference works.
"You said it will first attempt to create a homunculus, from whatever organic material is closest to hand when it manifests?" he questioned, hoping Roger had learned more about the thing than just where and when it would cross into their dimension.
"Yes." Roger sighed. "The end result will look very like an ordinary member of whatever intelligent species it has chosen to infiltrate; in the case of our dimension, that means you will have a great deal of difficulty in differentiating it from a normal human being, until and unless it chooses to reveal itself. However, it will still retain the strengths and weaknesses of whatever material it constructed its shell from; once you have identified it, that should make the task of destroying it much simpler."
"Let us hope so," he said, then sighed. "Thank you, Roger. I'll escort a Slayer team to the location and report back this evening."
"Wensleydale," he murmured to himself as he rang off. "What could a demon want in North Yorkshire?"
Did it have anything to do with the town that had given the valley its name- Wensley, or in older translations 'Woden's ley', the meadow of the pagan god Woden? In some Continental folklore, Woden was featured as the leader of the Wild Hunt; the Anglo-Saxons remembered him more as a psychopomp, a carrier-off of the dead. Ominous, in either case. Could the demon be one of Woden's minions, or the original version of the mythical Woden itself? Or was it entirely unrelated?
Damnation. It was impossible to be sure, without the expansive library the Watchers had relied on for so many centuries. Rupert would simply have to go and find out for himself, as the nearest Field Watcher to the problem.
At least he could look forward to some truly excellent cheese on his impromptu field trip.
The trip itself was relatively uneventful; Rupert arrived in Hawes, the centre of the general area the prophecy had described, within a few hours of Roger's call with three Slayers in tow. He knew none of them very well, but they were all quite skilled according to the reports he had seen, and more importantly had been immediately available when he had asked for reinforcements.
He had prepared them for a long and frustrating search, stressing the unknown nature of the demon's current strengths and weaknesses, the lack of identification of the 'treasure' the prophecy decreed it was there to seek, and the fact that it could be anyone; it might not even have bothered to find a hiding place, since it would blend in with the local population quite easily. Their best chance, he'd decided, would be to investigate local deaths and disappearances, and attempt to reconstruct its trail.
And then he stepped out of the car, and noticed a short older man in a taupe suit, with a balding head and a pair of small, round eyeglasses, walking into a shop that sold cheese.
He froze, then hurriedly fished through his pockets for his mobile and brought up the camera function: he loathed most computer technology, but he had to admit the instantaneous connectivity such devices provided was extremely useful at times. Then he gestured to the Slayers to wait, crept up to the window, and aimed the lens inside; the stranger was standing in such a way that most of his profile was visible, and Rupert immediately took a photograph, then fumbled his way through the commands to send it on to Willow. The attached message was short: "From dream?"
The return text came swiftly, before the man had concluded his purchase, and confirmed his astounded conclusion: "He's real? GILES, BE CAREFUL. We never did figure out what he meant."
She was quite right, of course. The majority of the events in the dream sent to all four 'Scoobies' after enjoining themselves had proven to be, upon reflection, either elaborations of their own hopes and fears, or messages foreshadowing events that were to occur before the collapse of Sunnydale. Most of them had been indecipherable at the time; however, the only element still unexplained after the destruction of the Hellmouth was the inexplicable appearance of a man carrying slices of cheese.
The very man who had just entered the shop in front of him.
"It can't be that simple," he said, baffled. Then he looked over to the car and waved to the Slayers to join him.
When he turned back, there was another man standing next to him, one he had not heard arrive: a lumpish looking man wearing a white shirt, brown wool trousers, a green knitted pullover, and a red tie. He wore a concerned expression, and a dog of indeterminate breed with a furrowed brow sat at his side. Both were staring through the window at the same familiar stranger.
"Can I help you?" Rupert blurted, staring at him.
The man glanced over at him and shook his head. "It's cheese, lad, but not as we know it," he said mournfully, then sighed and went into the shop.
Cheese. Cheese. Could the demon have possibly made its homunculus from cheese? Could cheese be the 'treasure' it had come to seek?
Rupert pressed a hand to his forehead, feeling dizzied by the absurdity of the idea- but unable to form a more likely theory in the face of the pleased expression on the stranger's face as he paid for his massive selection of cheese slices and traced a path back toward the door.
He bumped into the lumpish spectator as he passed; the dog turned to growl at him, but the cheese-bearing man simply hurried by him, brow furrowed, and quickly exited the shop. "Honestly, you meet the most appalling sort of people," he muttered under his breath, and Rupert had to bite his tongue to keep himself from reacting to that quote. If what he'd already seen hadn't been proof enough, that would have served: his own words, from the First Slayer's dream, upon meeting the man before.
Moreover, he stank of a very strong odour of cheese, more than could be accounted for by the package he carried. Wensleydale, if Rupert was not mistaken; he was very familiar with its mild, acidic-honeyed flavour, and suddenly doubted he'd ever be able to stomach it again.
How did one destroy cheese, other than by eating it? Cooking, perhaps? Grating it into shredded bits, or heating it over a fire?
But before he could decide which course to take, the demon in Cheese Man form stopped in its tracks and looked up at Rupert, blinking behind its eyeglasses. It seemed more angered than surprised, and set its jaw as it brandished its package at the startled Watcher.
"I wear the cheese," it said. "It does not wear me!"
Of course, of course it could hear thoughts; damn Roger for not having a full description of its capabilities. It was right, though; destroying the shell would not destroy the demon within. But it might send it home. Rupert raised the crossbow he carried and braced it with his other hand as the three Slayers arrived, clustering around them with weapons likewise at the ready.
"Those would not protect you," it said dismissively, "if I really wanted a fight." Then it snapped its fingers, and a flash of heat and light obscured its form. When the magical effect faded, only a slight layer of a charred yellowish substance remained, outlining a pair of footprints on the ground. The demon and its purchases were gone.
"Did that really just happen?" one of the Slayers asked in disbelief.
"I'm afraid so," Rupert sighed.
He cast one last glance back through the shop window, blinking as he met the speculative gaze of the other shopper from inside; then he turned away, opening his mobile to dial Roger's number.
Demons made of cheese. What would the supernatural world come up with next?