A/N: Heh. Sorry for the eternal wait. Surprise! Not dead.
Sherlock walked out of the library, pleased despite his conversation with his brother. He was going to stay in Sunnydale. Excellent. Of course, Mycroft was going to send someone to follow him about, "keep him out of trouble," but this didn't bother Sherlock too much. He didn't envy the person whose job it was to try to keep him in line. If Mycroft couldn't manage it, a subordinate couldn't stand a chance.
He walked out into the library again and started when he almost crashed directly into Willow.
"Oh, hi," she said. She looked past him, into Giles's office, and raised her eyebrows. "Whatcha doin'?"
"Oh, I - I was - just…" Damn. He'd really thought everyone was gone for the day. The Kent girl needed saving. Or, possibly, exhuming.
"Nevermind," she said, shaking her head, caught somewhere between disappointed and distracted. "Bit busy right now."
She hurried over to the computer and scribbled down an address. "Giles is waiting for me…we've got a…"
Willow smiled and turned toward the door. "Something like that." She paused just before leaving, and turned back to look at him.
"You know, you should come down from the stacks sometime," she said shyly. "We don't bite."
She blushed a little at her own pun, and Sherlock blinked at her in surprise. "You knew I was there?"
She shrugged. "Fingerprints show up like neon signs on leather bindings."
"You can't possibly tell which fingerprints are mine," Sherlock sputtered.
"Also? We generally don't spend too much time researching every species of demon known to man, unless we think Buffy's gonna have to fight one. Well, maybe Giles does," Willow added as an after thought.
Willow grinned at his speechlessness, and hesitantly, Sherlock smiled back.
She flinched at the sound of someone — someone Sherlock didn't know; he could just make out his leather-clothed figure running down the hall through the window in the library door — calling her name. "Ack! I have to go! But you should come by. Maybe tomorrow? Tomorrow's mystery meat day in the cafeteria -" She wrinkled her nose at the thought. "You really don't wanna try the mystery meat."
"Especially on a Hellmouth?"
Willow's eyes widened and her hand slipped on the door. "I never thought of that," she said. "Eugh!"
"Are you sure it'd be okay if I were to -" Sherlock looked away.
"Yes - coming - yeah! Of course! The more, the…Uh, sorry, I really have to - but be careful on your way home!" Willow called, backing out of the library. "No alleys! See you tomorrow!" And she sprinted down the hall, waving the address that she'd copied at her companion as he pulled her toward the exit.
The walk home was — somewhat disappointingly — uneventful. Perhaps it was because he walked straight to Harmony's house only using the well-lit main road. Possibly it had something to do with the fact that he was exuberantly swinging the mace he'd filched from the weapons closet. Or maybe whatever the Scoobies were fighting had the rest of the supernatural horde in Sunnydale otherwise preoccupied. Either way, Sherlock got back to Harmony's house in record time, and without a scratch on him.
Once up in his room, he started to pack. For all that Mycroft could be a bother, he knew that tonight would probably be his last night staying with Harmony and her parents. In fact, when he went downstairs for dinner, Harmony's mother told him as much.
"Well, we're happy that Sunnydale made such a good impression on you!" she said excitedly, fixing him a plate of pale gray meet and soggy greens. "I know Harmony's thrilled you're staying." Mrs. Kendall looked slyly at her daughter. "Right, Harm?"
"Whatever," Harmony said, pushing her untouched plate away. "I'm going to the Bronze."
"Okay, dear. Why don't you ask Sherlock if he wants to go with you?"
Harmony aimed a withering look his way, and Sherlock was quick to decline. "Too much homework, Mrs. Kendall, and I've already eaten -"
"At school, dear?" Mrs. Kendall sounded surprised.
"He hangs out with those freaks in the library," Harmony said, rolling her eyes. "Do you weirdos have potluck dinners while you sit around trying to out-lame each other? Is that why you're not hungry?"
"Harmony!" Mrs. Kendall looked at Sherlock, mortified. "I'm sorry - you're probably used to much better manners back in Britain," she babbled. "Harmony, don't be so rude, Sherlock is still our guest."
"It's quite alright, Mrs. Kendall," Sherlock said politely. She practically simpered right into the floor, and Sherlock held a grin in check in order to continue blithely: "I expect Harmony's rather preoccupied. From her freshly manicured nails - French rather than the usual garish pink or orange; classier, sophisticated - it's clear she's got a date tonight. Likely with an older man — according to Cordelia, those are the only ones worth dating, aren't they? Lip stick — pale pink, and lipstain rather than gloss, which is stickier, messier — suggests a trip to Sunnydale's local 'lovers' lane,' am I correct?"
"What!" Harmony said angrily, spots of red appearing on her cheeks.
"Don't worry, Mrs. Kendall. The halter top is a bit flirtatious, maybe, but the choice of slacks rather than a skirt should assure you you've got nothing to worry about -"
"How dare you!"
"Stop right there, young lady! Don't you even think about taking a step out the door! An older man?!"
Sherlock nicked a bread stick from the table and darted his way back up the stairs. "Nothing at all to worry about now, it seems," he said smugly to himself as he finished packing. From the sounds of the row building downstairs, Harmony certainly wouldn't be making it to the Bronze tonight.
Sherlock dreamed of the woman in the alley again that night. She was different in his dreams. She dressed in gowns of blood red velvet and wore her hair piled high on her head. She smiled at him, and it wasn't the waifish smile of the creature he'd met that night Buffy saved his life. It was a vicious smile. She showed her teeth.
She was, undoubtedly, a vampire.
She was also completely mad.
Sometimes she waltzed through his dreams, humming to herself, adjusted the lace bows in the hair of her many porcelain dolls. In those dreams, she ignored him completely, except to draw her nails through his own curly hair and lick along the shell of his ear. He shuddered, turning in his sleep, wanting to cry out. Her tongue was cold. Her fingertips were like ice, and her nails — filed into points that were polished as white as her glowing dead skin — threatened to draw blood.
These dreams were preferable to the ones in which she spoke.
"Such a lovely, clever boy," she'd whisper. "Stay here, my love. Come to find me, come to me, be in me, sweeting." Sherlock, in his dream, always tried to pull away from her when she spoke, but her grip was like a vice. She was stronger than the vampire he'd met that night. Her every movement was controlled; potential energy coiled in her, turbulent just beneath the surface, but her movements were precise and sure. He knew, without knowing how he knew it, that she had been like that in the alleyway that night, too. Like an animal. She had seemed frail — there were bruises up and down her thin, pale arms — but she was still immortal. "The bad mob hurt me long ago," she told him sweetly. "Now Mummy can't have any fun." And she'd laugh, and laugh, and her voice would echo in the high vaults of his mind until he wanted to wake screaming just to drown her out.
"Spike says he'll make me well again some day soon. The blood of the Slayer will do it. You can hide while you can, poppet, and dream, and dream. A mind like yours should always be dreaming, especially here."
Then she'd open a box and fill Sherlock's head with nightmares.
He didn't sleep well that night and was late to class in the morning. The Kendalls had left the house empty for him, and Sherlock didn't expect to be coming back to their house after school. Mycroft would have arranged to have his things moved to wherever he was to stay next, and would find an infuriatingly stealthy way to communicate it to him somehow while he was at school. He wasn't much one for subtly displaying the extent of his reach, his brother.
When he walked into the library during lunch, Willow was the only one who looked happy to see him. Buffy was pale and slumped in a chair at the head of the table, her usually meticulously styled hair hanging limp around her face.
"Oh, it's you," she said hoarsely. Then she put her face flat down on the desk.
"Hello," Sherlock said.
"Hi!" Willow said eagerly, and Buffy groaned.
"Try to ignore the hungover Vampire Slayer," Xander said from Buffy's other side. He was sitting with his arms crossed over his chest, an attitude of distinct disapproval radiating from him.
"Shut up," Buffy said tonelessly.
"I take it you had a successful night?" Sherlock addressed Willow.
Sherlock shifted his weight from foot to foot, not wanting to pry, but desperately wanting to know what happened with the Kent girl.
"Oh!" Willow said, standing up suddenly and causing her chair to screech resoundingly on the tile.
"Nooo…" Buffy complained.
Willow winced. "Sorry," she said. "H-here. Why don't you sit?" She gestured to the seat next to her, and Sherlock tried to ignore how Xander was attempting to stare him down. Thankfully, Giles chose that moment to bustle out of his office carrying a tray laden with tea things.
"Oh, hello, Sherlock," Giles said. "Have you come to join our, ah…study group?"
"He's going to be a Slayerette," Willow answered for him, and Sherlock smiled and shrugged.
"I guess we're just letting everyone in now, then?" Xander muttered, and at the sound of heels clacking behind him, Sherlock turned to see Cordelia walking in. "Case in point."
"Can we please be a little quieter?" Buffy said, picking her head up. Her eyes widened when she saw Cordelia. "Why do you not look like death?" she demanded.
Cordelia shrugged. "I only had one drink."
"It's called hydrating, Buffy," Cordelia said, her eyebrows furrowed. "You look awful."
"Wellll…that's what the hooch'll do ya. Isn't that what we learned yesterday, Buffster? Please don't punch me. Not even in jest," Xander said quickly, and Buffy rolled her eyes at him.
"Is there anything we can do for you, Cordelia?" Giles asked. "Tea?"
"No thanks," Cordelia said, grimacing. "I don't wanna be here any longer than necessary…I did want to say thank you, though. For last night."
Willow recovered first. "Oh," she said, surprised. Everyone else was speechless.
"Sorry," Sherlock said, seizing the opportunity. "But…what happened last night?"
"Oh, okay, right! Well, there were these frat guys — just as slimey as you'd probably expect, and they've been around for decades... although, do you...d'you have frat guys in Britain? Because the maybe you wouldn't expect..." Willow turned to Sherlock as Cordelia clacked out as suddenly as came, and he assured her he did indeed have a schema for the American fraternity brother. "So what they do is, they invite these girls to their parties and then drug them…"
"Ugh, Giles. Tea. Please." Buffy covered her face with her hands and then sighed when Giles handed her a tea cup.
"So, it was a ritual killing?" Sherlock asked, fascinated.
"Yeah! Big snake demon, Makkida. Probably at least forty feet long, but Buffy managed to get out of her cuffs and kill it with the frat guys' own swo-"
Willow's mouth clicked shut just as the door behind them opened again. Sherlock turned around to see in the doorway a short blond man, young, probably only a few years out of high school.
"Hello," he said. British. He put his hands behind his back, standing at ease as everyone turned to look at him. Military training, then.
"I'm looking for a Sherlock Holmes?"
"Who's asking?" Sherlock said brusquely.
"Watson." Buffy whistled under her breath, and Xander muttered something about the redcoats coming. The blond man smiled, very slightly. "John Watson. Your brother sent me."