So this chapter isn't really complete, not really, hit a bit of a writers block a few months ago and it hasn't progressed much from where I stopped. So I figured I'd make this a chapter and try to make another chapter, so, yeah. Because of this it is un-betaed so tell me if things are messed up.
Oh, and I've fallen into an awesome Fandom known as Worm. It's an absolutely amazing web serial that you all should take a look at as soon as you get the chance.
Chapter Twelve: A Funeral for a Dummy
They gave Sid as proper of a funeral as they could.
It was a small affair without a proper grave; just a ditch Xander and Morgan managed to dig in one of many parks in Sunnydale. It was in an out of the way niche off the beaten trail a bit, hard to notice but easy to find.
Seemed to a lot of areas like that actually.
The ceremony was without much fanfare, just the small group in the know paying their respects to a fallen compatriot with Morgan saying a few words in the puppet's honor. Apparently the two met while Morgan was trying to get a few more joys out of life at one of the seedier clubs in town and picked up the wrong date to get along with.
Sid saved his butt from the leech and well, the rest went down in Watcher Diary history.
It was a decent ceremony all and all, even if it did half feel like they were burying a dog instead of a fallen soldier. Seriously, there had to be at least one cemetery that wouldn't have minded such a strange burial in that town. At least they managed to make him a semi-presentable tombstone, which was really a slab of rock Buffy easily chiseled some words in it.
Sid. ?-1997. A Fallen Hero.
Three lines and, disturbingly enough, that was all they really knew about him.
Sure they only knew him for a few hours but they should have known more about the guy who fought next to them. Or so the younger members in attendance thought while the two elders gave silent prayers to Sid's departed soul.
Jenny hadn't even met the puppet, man really she supposed, herself but thought it best for her to pay her respects. Though, the curse that Sid was forced to suffer under brought up many troubling thoughts to her mind. Most of them involved an old family duty and the morality behind it.
She always had he doubts of course, even before she took up the rite to redeem herself, but now the inherent wrongness of it all just seemed to stick out to her. Especially when it came right down to it her family wasn't that much better than a group of demons that routinely ripped people open.
That particular conclusion disturbed her greatly and would probably weigh on her mind for the rest of her life.
For now though, she would be lost in the moment of silence that was being held for the fallen puppet along with the rest of the local hunting group.
Said silence seemed to turn awkward as none knew what to say or what to do next. Eventually Xander had broken through the quiet and offered to walk Willow home. The look on her face as she turned and looked away from the boy was almost painful; the same could be said about the amount of confusion on Xander's face. "I'm fine. Buffy can take me."
"If you're sure…" Xander said, his hand still half raised to help guide her out of the grave site. He seemed confused on what to do next as Buffy started to direct the red head away, casting a glance over her shoulder to give Xander a sympathetic glance. "Guess I'll see you later."
As the girls walked away Xander could only watch, feeling vaguely like he did something wrong. He couldn't remember any recent incidences where he tasted his foot, so what could he have done? Willow only ignored him like that when he said something particularly offending and or stupid.
Maybe he could apologize for whatever stupid thing he had said to her later, when she was actually looking at him. Experience had taught him trying before then earned him a long stint under the cold shoulder treatment.
And he would miss his little sister too much to put up with weeks of dismissals.
"Hey Xander, you alright there." Ms. Calendar asked, tapping him on the elbow to gain his attention. The boy seemed to be upset, whether over the funeral, Willow's brush off or both she didn't know.
"Huh?" He says in half surprise of being pulled out of his bordering brooding musing, "Yeah, I'm good."
"Want a ride home? We can talk about you're next lesson on our way." She half offered, trying to think of something to cheer the boy up.
Xander shook his head, and gave her a brief smile for her offer. "Nah, it's alright. Was going to run back anyway."
"If you're sure." She said with a half way hesitant shrug, "I'll see you on Monday."
"Later Ms. C." Xander waved before moving towards Morgan to both give his condolences and see if they were still on for the next day's plan of pool at the Bronze.
In any other mood Xander would have taken Ms. Calendar up on her offer, always excited over a new opportunity to get stronger, but not that day. Despite as he tried to put a positive spin on things he found himself frustrated.
An empty hero's death.
Hollow to his eyes and he still couldn't understand it. Not how Sid went on relentless quest for it or how everyone else in their group seemed mildly glad for the puppet. Like, somehow his death was for the best.
He didn't get it!
It's all fine and good to sacrifice yourself in the line of duty, but it's another thing to seek it.
Sid could have done so much more, taught them all so much, but he threw it away! Sure he stopped a whole cult of villains but imagine how many more he could have ended if he stayed.
At least his run was getting rid of some of his frustration. Again, working out was strangely meditative.
He was sure he made for an odd site, what with him running in an odd fitting suit and stopping every so often for a quick combination of moves. Moves that were coming out much smoother than the weeks prior, something that Xander was pleased to note.
He was sure that by the end of the school year he'd have his own fighting style, one which he was confident to say he'd be very competent with.
And he couldn't wait to test it out on the first lucky leech he ran into.
See! Happy thoughts already and only on the first twenty minutes of his run!
Wait… crap. He ran by his house like fifteen minutes ago.
Buffy was feeling stressed.
And not from the usual Slayer messes she had to deal with.
No, her stress was actually coming through normal people channels for once.
Friends and family.
The friends' problem stemming from Willow being unable to handle the apparent view point Xander held for her. Sure it was a bit harsh to get it said so bluntly, and unknowingly, but Buffy thought it was probably for the best in the long run.
Better to know now rather than later anyway.
But the strain of knowing has put a real cramp on Willow's willingness to even be in the same room as Xander. And the poor boy didn't even know what he did wrong.
For the past week he had been trying to get the red head to talk to him but was met with cold shoulders and dodged greetings. He went as far as asking Buffy if she knew what was going on but she was only able to tell it was girl stuff.
And, like a typical guy, that did enough for him to give Willow the little bit of the space she needed.
Buffy figured a few more days, maybe as soon as the weekend, Willow would be fine again. Or fine enough that she wouldn't feel the need for a shoulder to cry on.
Still, that didn't help her with her own need to vent. She was feeling major stomach turns with her father coming for one of his weekend visits. One of the, like, seven where he hadn't called ahead and canceled.
So needless to say she was excited and scared at the same time. Excited to see him again and scared to see him again. It had been nearly a month since his last real visit.
And she couldn't reveal these feelings to her mother who was having very similar feelings leaning more towards the negative, or to Willow who was going through her own drama and didn't need Buffy's on top of that.
Xander and Giles were near automatically ruled out of the whole venting procedure. The former cause he's a teenage boy that, as sweet as he was, wasn't all there in the head and the latter cause he was only good at the demony side of her life.
And the nightmare of that ugly faced vampire she had the night before certainly wasn't helping matters any.
So, antsy and tired, Buffy found herself heading into her science class, which was currently having its third teacher since her transfer, with an only slightly depressed Willow. They came trickling in at the last second like near every other student in the class.
Near their usual seats Xander was cracking wise with one of the boys in their class. Just another one of the increasing examples of Xander getting out of brooding mode, though he did have a bit of a relapse after Sid's death.
"Hey guys, you'll never guess what incredible sin me and Wendell here committed today." Xander greeted with mirth in his voice, "We stood in Queen Cordelia's light."
"I am so ashamed." Wendell said, clearly enjoying playing along with Xander's little skit.
And it was amusing enough to get a smile out of the demurred girls, which gave Xander a small smile of his own. "So, did you guys enjoy last night's reading as much as I did?" He asked with faux excitement.
"Oh yeah." Buffy answered back in a much drier tone, "It was a real page turner. Not at all like I was falling asleep after every line."
"I know, right. Totally enthralling literature." The last sentence was put on with such on over the top cheesy tone that got more than a few amused glances from their nearby class mates.
It was only a handful of seconds later that Ms. Tishler, the new latest science teacher, entered the room. "Alright, take your seats. In a moment we will choose partners and practice what we read about in chapter five."
The class mindlessly followed her orders, half of them already doodling in their notebooks in preparation for another boring class. Buffy herself was about to do the same but dropped her pencil as she pulled it out of her bag.
Going to retrieve it she was met with the off putting sight of a little boy staring directly at her from the door way, unblinking and just staring. Unsure what to do she stared back at him, unmoving herself. Buffy let Ms. Tishler's words pass her by as she studied the odd boy and wondered what it was about him that gave her the rising feeling of the night time creeps.
And before she could even shake off this feeling and ask the young boy what he was doing at the high school screams filled the room. Quickly turning around Buffy saw the majority of the class backing away frantically from Wendell's desk, where said boy was being covered by a swarm of spiders of all kinds.
Despite all the monsters she had seen, terrors she had face, Buffy Summers the Slayer of Vampires let out a rather unflattering squeak as she scampered back herself. Criticize her for her minor freak out if you would but spiders were a whole other brand of creepy than what she usually dealt with.
And in her defense the rest of the room's population had a very similar reaction, well except for her friends. Xander was rushing towards the trouble and swatting the bugs off of Wendell while Willow kept on warning him to be careful and not to startle the spiders.
The apparent reason of which became obvious as a few of the venomous critters sunk their fangs into Wendell. And still the poor boy screamed for someone to help him, too much in a half frozen panic to do anything else.
Behind her Buffy could hear a young voice casually say, "Sorry about that." But when she turned around the young boy in the door way had disappeared.
"He's stable at least." Mrs. Calendar said as she and Giles informed the waiting teens with the news they heard from their impromptu teachers meeting with Mr. Flutie. That man sure did like keeping his staff well informed.
A useful little quirk for the ever growing demon hunter group of Sunnydale High to use and abuse.
"Fortunately enough i-it would seem that the local hospital has a surprising number of anti-venoms at their disposal." He honestly shouldn't be surprised, for one it was a hospital located on a Hellmouth. One could only imagine how well stocked they were for a number of occasions.
Or how the staff deluded themselves into thinking nothing was amiss in their home city, a rather disturbing thought really,
"So he's going to be alright?" Xander asked intently, hints of remorse and self-loathing in his voice.
"He… He should be fine." Giles said, treading carefully. After all Wendell had been victim to a number of spider bites from a number of breeds. There was no real telling what side effect there could be in the poor boy's future.
"We can visit him after school; I need to head there anyway." Morgan said, consoling his new friend. Apparently the boy was serious when he said he was going to help fight the night as much as he could before his time. An admirable goal, especially considering how little time he likely had.
Giles wondered if the teen would make it to see the end of the school year.
"You weren't planning on going alone again were you?" Morgan wasn't sure who voiced the question, Buffy, but the three mild glared he was on the receiving end of told him he better have the answer they were looking for. Just cause his dad was away for a few days on business his friends seemed to think it was time to mother hen him.
It was a little scary.
"Uh, no?" He tried to offer but no one was taking. So he decided to divert their attention. "So, we're sure this is magic and not a prank like everyone's saying?"
"Spiders were coming out of his book." Xander said blandly, lowering his own glare to answer, "Like, literally. They just kept on coming out the pages, like, like… I can't think of a good metaphor. Willow?"
For a brief instant the girl seemed torn on whether or not to help with the banter that was slowly coming back into her life. But after that second of hesitant she decided to give up a bit of her ire, "Locus?"
"Aren't those still bugs? I don't think that counts."
Willow gave a sniff at his doubt, "Still a good example." She said with as much dignity as she could.
"Yes, well, as interesting as this conversation is I'm finding myself agreeing with Xander, if your descriptions of the scene are anything to go by." Giles said and interrupted dryly. "I-it sounds like a form of conjuring or maybe animal summoning… D-did any of you see what happened to the spiders after?"
"I still have spider guts on my shoes if that means anything." Xander offered, and much to the disgust of the rest of the room, showed.
Trying to push his slight feeling of disgust aside Giles took in the new evidence into consideration, "Which leans the spell more towards a form of animal summoning than anything else. Do you four think you can retrieve the boy's text book? W-we may be able to get something off of that."
"Sure, I think they left it with his bag in the science room." Buffy offered as she stood, "I can swing by and grab it before lunch is over."
"I'll go with you." Willow quickly said, causing Buffy to inwardly groan as she knew that Willow was still miffed with Xander even after all the progress made. As understanding as the Slayer was being the red head really needed to get over it, it wasn't like they were a couple and broke up or anything like that.
Still though, Buffy wouldn't mind the company. For some reason the school was giving her more chills than usual. Might just be the nerves over her dad's upcoming visit.
But as she got to the door Buffy had a random thought, something straying at the edge of her mind that she could only then remember. "Hey Giles? Did any of the teachers bring their kid to work today?"
"Not that I know of. Ms. Calendar?"
"Same, why do you ask Buffy?" The computer teacher asked with a tilt of her head, wondering about the strange question.
"There was this kid, in the doorway, when all the badness happened." Buffy said with a half shrug not really sure where she was going what it had to do with anything. Besides the fact the kid gave her the creeps. "I don't know, maybe we should check in on him? To see if he saw anything…"
Buffy let the sentence hang obviously intending for the adults to translate what she didn't say, just like every other teen expected of their elders.
And it went about as well as it usually did, with the adult only understanding what was said and a quarter left to interpretation. "We'll look in on the kid."Ms. Calendar promised, figuring that Buffy was more worried about the kid than anything suspicious.
Satisfied that someone was going to look in on her worries Buffy nodded and left the room.
They weren't able get around the hospital till sometime round four. Xander blamed it mostly on Ms. Calendar, as she wanted him around to watch them examine the book and the rituals used.
He had groaned over it of course because he wanted to go to the hospital immediately, mostly to apologize to Wendell. He had just ended up making things worse by trying to help after all. Still though, his magic teacher was insistent that he watch.
So sitting next to Willow, who was too enraptured by what she might learn to pay any attention to him, he waited through near two hours' worth of rituals just to learn that the book was just a book. No etched in summoning circle, no burn marks from spirit apparition, no residue magic what so ever.
Just a normal, everyday, text book.
Something that flustered Giles to no end.
But it did make their trip to the hospital all the more important. Because, now, Wendell was their only real clue as to what was going on.
So, after dropping a rather late and reluctant Morgan off to his appointment, the rest of their group went to visit Wendell. But the boy really wasn't in any shape to speak, much less talk. His face was swollen and discolored from a multitude of venoms that had been injected. Xander was pretty sure the rest of the boy's body was in the same shape, but the sheets covered it from view.
Guilt ripped through him at the sight. He tried to help and look what had happened, he had caused more harm then there should have been.
"Hello? Are you Wendell's friends?" A voice asked from near the bed, dragging Xander from his pity party. There sitting next to the bed was a middle aged woman with mussed make up and tear streaks along her face, she must have been Wendell's mom. How he missed her he did not know but her presence wasn't doing his guilty any favors.
"Ah, yes, w-well the children are. Miss Calendar and myself are members of the faculty that wished to pass along our best wishes." Giles said for them, introducing them all in turn.
When it got to Xander's turn he became self-conscious, half expecting to be yelled at for putting her son in the hospital. But that never happened; she just treated like any other well-wisher and didn't give him a second glace.
He felt a bit disappointed with that.
They stayed for a few more minutes out of courtesy but as soon as it became apparent that they would be getting no news from Wendell they hurried to take their leave of the room. Though they didn't leave the hospital itself, they all waited for Morgan to get out wanting to keep the dedicated boy in the loop.
At least that was to be the sentiment but Ms. Calendar started to wander off, examining the decorations and designs along the hospital walls. And with each passing hallway her face scrunched up a little more, part in curiosity and partly in worry, till the point she called Giles over.
"Look at this." She said as he came next her, tracing a pattern within the design on the wall.
Giles frowned as his eyes squinted, letting his gaze follow the curves and hidden designs his co-worker was showing him. "My word." He eventually mumbled, "Is that what I think it is?"
"If you think it's a Sobrius glyph then, yes, it is."
"A what?" Buffy asked, feeling this was a conversation she should be listening in on.
"A rather old style of magic using blood soaked ink to absorb ambient magic and filter it for use, in this case making people reach a conclusion within their rationality." Something that explained much in his opinion.
"What?" The three teens asked, two confused and one curious.
"It, ah, makes people see what they want to see?" He half asked, and giving a consulting look towards Ms. Calendar. Who nodded back, giving both confirmation that he was going the right direction and telling him to continue, "Making it so they see muggers with mask instead of demons and the like… I personally prefer ward stones myself but still… its quite ingenious."
"Is that what happened to my mom?" Buffy asked intently, showing another sign of what Xander was sure was some sort of Super Slayer Detective power.
It took Giles a moment to process the question and think of the event Buffy was referring to. "Quite possibly, yes, but she is far from the only target of this spell." Giles said as he wandered off to exam another design on the opposing wall.
"There all over." Jenny said, "I notice something wrong when we got here but I didn't know what it was till I saw the design enough times."
"Notice something odd?" Willow asked, wondering what gave it away.
"Magic sensing, I'm sure Giles will go over it with you soon." She shifted her gaze to Xander, "You on the other hand still need a good deal of work before we get to that."
Xander tried to prevent his pout by asking, "But why is it here?"
"It means someone doesn't want anyone remembering what goes bump in the night." Buffy said with narrowed eyes, angered at both the idea of it and the fact it was used on her mother.
"Quite right Buffy." Giles said with an equally dangerous tone, coming out of his admiring state as he realized the same thing. "And this someone is quite obviously a skilled mage to do this. One that has been here for quite some time." And had enough influence, or skill, to ward an entire hospital.
A ward effective enough to keep a populace practically blind to what was right in front of them.
One had to wonder just how many other areas and buildings were similarly warded to keep up such a charade. To keep a whole town blind and deaf as it did, as this person wanted. A frightening thing to ponder really.
"This is something we must look into." Because for what reason could anyone want for such a thing? To put up such a masquerade and reinforce it to such a level?
Any way he turned the idea he couldn't think of a good reason to do such a thing or any of the outcomes that come from it.
"Uh, what did I miss?" Morgan asked, feeling a bit confused as he came upon the rather serious group not ten minutes later.
That's it for now, hopefully by posting this I can actually write more for this story. Hope you enjoyed what I had.