This is set in my non-canon, but canon-esque series following Uncontrollable and Unmentionable. If you haven't read those first, please do, or this won't read nearly as well or make much sense. Unknown begins a few weeks after the end of Unmentionable, around the beginning of season five.
Author's note: Things are moving more quickly here, and I hope everyone buckles up and enjoys the ride. Thank you!
Dedicated to: ginar369, omslagspapper, Illusera, Sirius120, Kerry220, The-Darkness-Befalls, Jewel74, kse93, skeezix, xXxblacklilyxXx, Alottalove, Rachel, AGriffinWriter, Annamonk, austexfan, Cavemenftw, Fumi Raisin, Rosalea12, mike13z50, , and DidiSummers. Thank you so much, wonderful readers and reviewers!
Direct Quotes are obviously not mine, but belong to the fabulously talented and creative people who wrote them. In this case, some of season five's dialogue will be used.
Disclaimer: Nothing of Buffy belongs to me, except my sincere admiration. However, this story is all mine.
"We found her."
"Her? The Slayer? Anyone can find the Slayer in this town. I haven't bothered her with yet because I don't need to do a battle right now. Priorities." Glory snarled.
"The Key. We've found the Key. It's- she's- disguised as a human female."
Glory paused. The whole room paused, the air seemed to still, and then shatter with her gleeful cackle, and a huge, collective sigh of relief. "Yes! Yes, oh yes, yes, yes! Finally!" Her manic eyes started scanning behind them, her laughter slowing. "Well- where is she?"
"Where is-? Ah, well- we found her while tracking the queller. She killed the beast. It was in a yard on a street in the -"
"Not where was she. Where is she? Where is she now?" Glory stepped closer, an increasingly dangerous look in her permanently dangerous eyes.
"You said no one should touch the Key but you, Your Most Explicitly Clear One." Her minion answered faintly, the trembling in his hands changing from eager excitement to fear.
"That's when it was pure energy. Energy that can be used to unlock something, energy I need. But it's a human now? A human! Those filthy little monks, putting it in a human..." She muttered, mused, then whirled, hurling some expensive glass object d'art at his head. "You can touch a human! You idiot! You bring me humans all the time! You let my Key go wandering off in this city, stuck in a stupid, fragile, human skin bag?" Her voice soared, the shattered air split, and blue shocks singed the carpet and unfortunate skin.
"Most Mighty Glorificus, wait! Wait..." Jinx held up placating hands even as he bowed. "The human shell- can it be harmed?"
"Of course it can. It's human." Glory stabbed her blood red nails into her arm and showed jagged scratches where the skin tore. "Humans are weak. Even I can get hurt- if something is strong enough."
"Then perhaps they were prudent not to touch it. The Key could be damaged."
"No, the Key is inside, it's still pure energy, inside the human!"
"She's right- of course." Dreg ventured to speak, throwing a hasty, groveling glance at his goddess. "It would be something like a soul. A spiritual energy of the purest form. In humans, that would have to be the soul."
"Still, if they hurt the vessel, if they killed it- could the 'soul' escape? Would the Key be lost?"
Too horrifying to think about. The room was silent but for her uneven breathing as she tried to calm her rage. "Fine. No one touch her, but me. Do you know where she is now? Can you take me to that place?"
"She doesn't live there."
"How do you know that?"
"We performed a spell, a simple one. It wouldn't attract any attention!" Her scout held up placating hands.
"Nothing with unnatural powers calls that place home." The second minion who'd been on the hunt bore witness. "And - oh, there was another human there, she was praising the girl for swallowing the queller whole, and she was comforting her, saying it was hard to be new to this life."
"Ate the queller whole?" Glory frowned. "That's weird. The Key should be hidden better than that..."
"She's a powerful force."
"She doesn't care about hiding it either. If she's not careful those damn army crusaders are gonna be all over my nice evil Hellmouth. Just before my big coming out party, too."
"Or the Slayer will protect her."
"She must already be protecting her. Remember the spawn of Sobek?"
"Wasn't it a witch?"
"She had power beyond a normal witch."
"Not a witch, the Key!"
Voices clamored and rose, while Glory was oddly silent. For a minute. "Did you follow her?"
"She left the place of the queller after an hour or so, and went to the university campus in the company of another female."
"Damn. Shouldn't have killed the ones who followed my snake... They could tell if it was the same pair of little bitches. What happened next?"
"Then we came here. We knew you'd want to know at once."
"At once would have been when you had her in your sight." Glory seethed. But then smiled. "That's okay. You can find her just as well tomorrow night, now that you know where she is and what she looks like. Come here. I need to get a little looksee in that brain of yours, and then everyone will know what our little ball of sunshine is disguised as. Next time you see her, you can summon me. I'll have that soul in my hands before she can even blink..."
"I was thinking."
"How? My brain is toasted after last night." Anya asked glumly, leaning wearily against the gallery counter. "I don't think the mortal body was meant to do so much supernatural stain removing."
Tara sighed and nodded her agreement to that. "I was thinking about how Glory's attacks are getting closer and closer to home. First that lizard-snake thing after Spike. Then that queller demon after Joyce."
"That's a coincidence. It went after all the crazies. Not that she's crazy." Anya told the pale blonde. "Just acting crazy..." Fingers knitted on the glass, then a sleeve hastily polished off the prints, while eyes drifted far away.
Silence in the store. Tara turned the pages of her textbook as it was balanced on her knees. Anya balanced the register drawer, not even the sight of their hard earned money making her smile. "Was there a point to your thinking? Or were you just talking out loud? Humans do that. I think they think their minds will empty out and make more room."
Tara smiled gently. "Sometimes that works. Try it."
Anya rubbed her temples. "I wish Joyce would get better. I wish we could fry this Glory person. I wish Giles was already here to check these invoices. Or Xander was here to give me orgasms." Anya paused. "I feel better, but I don't think it really helped."
Tara shrugged and tried again. "I was thinking- Glory's followers have to be around here, but we don't perceive them, right?"
"That's what Stuffed Suit guy said." Anya shrugged.
"Um... When m-my d-dad wrote me and said he was c-coming to t-town, I was so scared that no one w-would want me around if they knew I w-was part demon-"
"But you're not. And that's stupid. Spike's a vampire. I'm ex-demon. The leader of the pack and her right hand man are consumed with demon love. You know, for the right kind of morally upstanding, contributing to society types of demon. Which Spike isn't..." Anya frowned. "Well, sometimes he is..."
Tara waited patiently for Anya to talk herself into silence. "There's this spell." Tara flushed a guilty rose. "I didn't do it, but I thought about doing it. It drops a veil." Anya stared at her. "So people can't see demons. I d-didn't want anyone to know I was one. I thought if they couldn't see me for what I was, if I changed ..."
Anya's stare coupled with a frown. "That's really sad."
"I know that now." Tara murmured.
"How is this helpful?"
"I think there's a way to make counter spell. To lift the veil. Unbind the eyes. If we could do it on a big enough area-"
"We could show them up? Glory's demons will suddenly be un-hidden?" Anya looked excited- then worried. "That'll show all the other demons in town too. The ones with glamours."
"Are there a lot of them?" Tara blinked.
"Enough that people would notice. And freak. Then stampede. I don't know if your counter spell would show vampires as vampires, like in their demon faces, but the last thing we need is someone staking him. Can't you do the spell on Buffy and Spike and all of us to unbind just our eyes and let us see, or do you have to do it on the demon population to unveil them?"
"I don't know." Tara chewed her thumb nail nervously. "I'd have to-"
"Don't say research." Anya groaned.
Tara paused. "Look stuff up."
"And they say I'm the one who takes things literally..."
Giles paused in his research as the front door opened. "Buffy?"
"Yep. How is she?" That's how we say hi to each other now. Right to the bad stuff...
"Confused about last night. Weak. Tired. But much more lucid." Giles greeted Buffy as she came in from her classes. "She's slept most of today, but the doctor assures me that's normal."
Buffy nodded, feeling like the doctor could jump off a bridge, because no, it wasn't normal, not for her mom. She swallowed a sigh. "How are you?"
"Hm? Oh, I'm well. Very well." Giles put the down book he was reading.
"Liar." Buffy smiled crookedly and sat down on the couch, her school bag still draped over one shoulder, still in her coat.
"Care to answer the question yourself?" Giles gave her a cool smile of his own.
She didn't. "Big books again, huh? What is it this time?" Buffy's weary smile was suddenly replaced by a look of panic as she sat up. "Please tell me quellers don't come in pairs."
"Not that I have evidence of." Giles motioned her to sit back. "I'm cross referencing everything I have on the monks, Glory, the queller- everything, in short. Again." He sighed heavily. "Trying to find something that harms her, if we should need it."
"You mean in case we can't keep Spike away from her." Buffy rubbed her bagged eyes. "Something to take her out in case she gets the Key, and she's just waiting for the door to slide into this dimension or whatever the right term is."
"You're feeling very morbid today." Giles assessed, a statement, not an inquiry.
Buffy stared at him, hands supporting her faded tan cheeks. "It was in my house, Giles. It was on my mother, Giles. You didn't see her- with that- that stuff over her face..." She shuddered. "Yeah. I'm all about the morbid today."
"I am sorry, Dear." Giles joined her in eye rubbing.
"I'm sorry, too. I know you're just as freaked. Mom's your-" Buffy paused. Girlfriend didn't seem serious enough. Like "boyfriend" rang hollow when she described Spike.
Giles paused. Fiancee. Wife. None of the above at this moment, and all of the above every moment. "She certainly is. She is my- hrm. Mine."
Buffy reached across the coffee table and squeezed his hand. "Pass me a book. Something in English this time, okay?"
"Can you come over?"
"We can't. Since the magic store's still closed, we have to drive out of town to get ingredients for this spell Tara wants to try. The only other store that's really good is like an hour away."
"How'd she get all her stuff before?"
"Catalogs. But there's not time to wait for seven to ten days." Willow twirled the phone cord around her finger as she sat on the edge of the bed in the dorm room she shared with her sweetheart. "Is it urgent? Well, everything's urgent, but-"
"No, I get you. It's not mega urgent. Not more urgent than usual. What's this spell supposed to do?"
"Make all the demons visible."
"Glory's demon to us. Weeks of looking for them and no one's seen anything, aside from that one night at the bar? And all of patrolling, and people still ending up in the hospital with their brains fried? C'mon. It's gotta be part of that mind-warp stuff."
"So there's a spell to make us aware of them?" Buffy said slowly.
"Sort of. Tara knows there's a spell that hides demons, but she thinks there's a reverse incantation."
"Wait, does that work? I thought you had to be really, really careful about messing around with spells and what words you say. 'cause you could accidentally blind people." Or make them get engaged. Not sounding so bad now, even if it'll never ever happen. Lips of Spike. Spike lips. I really need some of that. Wait, focus. Impending doom, impending mojo meltdown. "Wills? Did you hear what I said? Does this stuff work?"
Buffy winced. "Does Giles know you're trying this?"
"Not exactly. He's been busy!"
"We're all always busy."
"And nothing works." Willow cried desperately. "C'mon, Buffy. Sometimes you have to bend the rules, take risks."
Everything I've done in the last year has been about ignoring the rules, taking the risks. Slayers who play by the rules die...
"Promise you'll be careful. Promise you won't get hurt. I can't stand anyone else getting hurt."
"I promise. Giles said everyone comes out fine in the end, Buffy. Okay?"
Buffy let the phone fall back into the cradle. "Okay."
The next few days felt like some sort of magical cooking show as Tara and Willow experimented with potions and herbs to create the right spells to bind and unbind the eyes of demons and humans. Giles researched in the midst of it, having decided protesting was futile, and knowing in the back of his mind, somehow, that they all came out all right in the end. Too desperate to voice concerns, too crunched to prevent them from trying every option.
"Only don't blind me." He muttered crossly, sitting on the floor of his flat, nose bent to a withered text. "I'm having enough trouble seeing as it is."
Tara nodded. "It shouldn't blind you. Um. Even th-though they say blind..."
"Get on with it!" Spike tossed a cigarette down and stomped it, and Giles let out a single, absent, intemperate curse.
"Blind Cadria, desolate queen, work my will upon them all. Your curse upon them, my obeisance to you." Tara's delicate lips puffed a glittering red powder into the air.
The air shimmered, and they all blinked.
"Spike?" Buffy looked to her side. "Spike!"
"I'm right here!" Spike shouted, though no one heard him.
"Bring him back!"
"He's r-right there, w-we can't see him. That didn't work. I- I need to change the wording, not just the powder." She muttered hastily, flipping pages of Willow's neat handwriting, "Blind Cadria, lift your veil. Give evil form and break my spell."
"Thank God!" Buffy fell into Spike's arms.
"Never do that again!" Spike snarled.
"Hey! No growling!" Willow warned sternly.
"I-it's an idea. I want to hide us from them. But I want to make them visible to us. T-two spells in one. Willow's idea."
"It makes sense. Double the advantage." Willow pointed out.
"Gift. Not curse." Giles muttered from below.
"Ask Cadria to gift them. Not curse them. She was cursed with blindness, you asked for her curse about them." He pointed out, thin lips, fingers tapping anxiously on the page.
"Wait, wait, curse the demons..."
"What about me?"
"But lift the spell from Spike."
"No, you have to hide Spike!"
"All this magic on my person is makin' me very bloody nervous. Buffy, give that back, I need a smoke..."
Several hours and a lot of attempts later...
"I don't like wearing make up." Xander tried not to squirm as a symbol of an inverted eye was placed between his own.
"It's not eyeliner, it's water and ash." Tara drew it on with a skilled hand. "It'll wash off. You just need it until Willow's finished. Ready, Sweetie?"
"I hope so." Willow didn't need a book this time. This was her spell. Her calling on something old and dark, something that made her spine tingle.
"Blind Cadria, desolate queen, work your will upon the evil in demon form, hide us from their sight, bind their eyes, and open ours." Willow intoned this time, and something was- different.
Her power wasn't gentle or tentative. It was huge and hunched her shoulders, then threw them back. Her hands were locked in Tara's, as her anchor, but then their joined fingers suddenly streamed apart as her arms were flung wide.
Giles looked up as his book blew shut, a gust of wind from the wicca who owned the Air, blowing her spell across the Hellmouth.
Spike remained visible- but his face changed dramatically. Not into vampire form, into a look of wariness, his hands stretching out. "Buffy? Red?"
"We can see you!"
"I can't see you, Slayer, an' that's a bloody big problem!" Spike groped forward and smacked into his lover. "Still can feel you though. Hm. This could be fun." Hands latched onto hips, and he swayed into the petite blonde.
"No, it's freaky." Buffy pushed him back a few inches before her friends could witness him dry humping her. "Willow!"
"We have to lift the spell from him." Tara sighed. "We need to see him, and he needs to see us."
"I just need the rest of you to be safe. One less thing to worry about." Spike shouted.
"We're invisible, not deaf!" Xander shouted back.
"I find myself rather disliking magic at times." Giles sighed, and sat back, as the process started again.
"You told me where she was. I gave her image to all of you, plucked it from his eyes and smashed it into all of your brains. How come you can't find her?"
"She must not be on the campus at night! Perhaps she was just visiting a friend!" Jinx reasoned desperately.
"She's a Key! She's new to this world, she shouldn't have any friends!" Glory raged.
"Then- then she hasn't been there lately. Perhaps she caught wind of us-"
"How exactly would she do that?" Glory seized a random minion, a mere pawn to her, and shook him. "Is someone telling her? Who? Who!?"
"You need to rest, and you need to eat." Jinx bowed before her entreatingly.
"I'm resting all day! This is my time to-" Glory paused in mid rant. "At night. I have to hunt her at night. Why send a scab to do a goddess's job?"
"But the Slayer is surely hunting for you now!"
"I don't really have a lot of time to waste, boys. She can hunt me all she wants, she can't hurt me."
"The Dagon must be the key."
"No, Spike's the Key."
"Not like that! The key to harming her."
"I seriously don't think we can harm this bint. No offense, Slayer, but they're called gods for reasons."
"Ah, but I've been thinking." Giles looked mildly hopeful for the first time in a week.
"People keep doing that." Anya groaned and poured out more coffee. "You guys have fun with that. I'm going to go watch Christmas movies with Joyce."
Buffy bit back a longing sigh, and a jealous wince. "Tell her I'll be up soon."
"I will. Maybe I can get her to come down."
"No... let her rest. Her appointment is at seven tomorrow." Buffy regretfully waved the ex-demon on, and turned back to Giles, who wore the same sort of miserable longing expression. "You had thoughts, Watcher-mine?"
"Yeah. Share with the class." Xander yawned and reclined against the base of the couch.
"I have been re-reading some ancient mythologies, and I-"
"Wait." Spike interrupted.
"Dammit, Spike, I've barely gotten started!" Giles hissed.
"Mythologies? anicent, as in ancient Greek? Zeus and his harems? Mythologies aren't reliable." Spike examined the book cover. "This was cooked up by some blind poet."
"Some blind poet who was also a living oracle." Giles informed them, taking the book back.
"Hansel and Gretel were actually demons. One demon, anyway. We'll buy the oracle thing, keep talking." Buffy insisted, and Spike scowled with a shrug.
"The stories recorded, while I'm sure they are embellished, Spike, seem to have a few promising mentions of the Greeks finding ways to hurt or hinder gods- at least when the gods were in mortal forms. One just needs the right trap or device. Or weapon. Something that can cut through the mortal body to the god-like core, if you follow."
"I'll follow you wherever you go, G-Man, but I'm not a hundred percent sure I get what you're saying." Xander spoke up. "Problem one, we don't know where Glory is, problem two, if we did- what kind of weapon smashes god-disguised humans down to the chewy immortal center?"
Willow made a sudden squeak, flailed her hands in over-eager excitement, and sent coffee spiraling off the edge of the end table. Spike snagged it with vampiric speed, though the red headed witch was too busy chattering to notice. "A Delothrian's arrow! A Delothrian's arrow! It can pierce things containing ephemeral contents! Like- like it could have broken Pandora's box!"
"Well, load up my crossbow! Giles, can we overnight a d'what-ian's arrow?" Buffy looked beside herself with joy.
"Delothrian's arrow pierces the container and breaks the ephemeral contents free. A freed Glory may be equally as dangerous, I simply don't know."
"Well- do the Delothrian people make shotguns?" Xander demanded.
"Or knives?" Spike asked.
Giles paused. "Wait. I did hear- once- that a Delothrian's blade could be made."
"Made? How is it made? How long does it take to make?" Buffy practically shook him.
"Buffy, this isn't something you wield, this doesn't go in the hand. It's a powerful projected magic. Only the most extremely talented witches have the power and focus to master it."
"W-well, maybe I'm not focused, but I'm getting more powerful. And when Tara anchors me, or- no, hey Tara's got tons of power! Ancient power! She could do it!" Willow cried. Tara paled and resisted the urge to shake her head, not wanting to let down the team, though she personally thought it was beyond her power.
"If it misses its target- a matter of distraction, a matter of injury to the caster- the arrow shoots freely, misses its target. It could aim at any physical container containing something from the supernatural realms."
"Like my Key. You could burst this rugged physique, Red, and send Glory that package she's been waiting for."
Silence. Hopes fading yet again.
"The blade is to be used at close range. Hands touch the object. If one could be made."
"Then one of you guys would have to walk right up to Glory and do hand to hand?" Buffy looked stricken as she glanced between Tara and Willow. "No. No, that's way too dangerous."
"You would do it." Willow whispered.
"But I'm supposed to do it."
"You're not supposed to do it alone." Spike put his arm across her shoulders, looking at the two chits in front of them. All soft and sweet, wide eyed and scared. And willin' to do it anyway. Nothin' is the way it oughta be in this town. What's one more surprise?
"I don't like it." Xander finally murmured, knowing he sounded selfish, and giving up the fight.
"It may not even work. It's risky to try." Giles cautioned.
"Everything is risky." Tara took Willow's hand.
Upstairs the sound of the television and Joyce's laughter tinkled into the grave atmosphere.
"You don't know unless you try." Willow tried to make a brave smile, but all that happened was that her lip wobbled in an upwards fashion.
"We'd better patrol then." Spike said briskly.
"Huh? What?" Buffy found herself tugged to her feet.
"You want the queen bee, get one of her workers to take you back to the hive. It's been a few nights. Those demonic monks oughta be out and about by now. She has to eat, and I reckon they're the catering service."
Glory pushed a mumbling, weeping figure away, and licked her fingertips. "Mmm. Musicians. Very flavorful. Now. Where's my main course?" She stalked the campus in heels and scowls.
Across town, in the streets below the mansionettes of the rich and snobby, Spike and Buffy hunted with peeled eyes.
No demons seen.
"But at least no demons can see us." Buffy sighed as the first pink traces of dawn began to lighten the night.
"True. Hey, Luv... Glory's not a demon. She's a goddess. Ex-goddess, goddess-to-be, whatever."
"She's not a demon. I don't think Red's spell is gonna help against the head horror herself."
She saw her. She saw her from far away, maybe half a mile across the damp green quad, but clear as anything. A wearily shuffling blend of red and gold, holding hands as they climbed from a small compact. Her lips quivered. Power. Oh yes, power, all over them, like the smell of animals in heat, ripe, dripping power that they were flush with, just been using.
Senses weak and bottled up in this imperfect form, tired and desperate, Glory didn't think about the things wrong with this picture. The fact that the power felt both old, and new, and that it was blended, shared. She just smiled and began to move, smoothly, quickly, faster than the speed of sight.
But not of light.
"No!" Glory screeched as she fell, skin and sinews rippled and twisted. "Not now!" As her form shriveled into her brother's, she watched the females turn towards a residence hall and disappear inside.
Ben "woke up", shaking and chilled, hands skidding in grass, knees scuffed on sidewalk.
"Dude... who the hell are you pledging for?" A skeptical male voice startled him, and he whirled, standing hastily- in his dress and heels.
"What? Where am I?"
"Oh man... they got you good. How many shots did you have?" The guy chuckled.
"Oh... Yeah. Hazing. Out of hand." Ben slid from his shoes and shrugged uncomfortably.
"Hope what you're doing is worth it, bro."
Ben stood alone, in the first light.
She was here. On a campus. A college campus. Full of young people like me. Like I could have been. If she hadn't been the parasite infecting me.
He shuddered to think what she'd been doing there that night, and knew, sickeningly, that it wouldn't make a difference, whatever it had been.
Nothing's going to change... Nothing I can do to make it change... He had to hurry to work. He took off barefoot, at a run, stopped wondering what his sister had been doing out so close to daylight, what would make her take such risks.
His stomach twisted with some unknown realization. She must be close. She must have found something.
He pushed the thought away. Not like it matters if she had or not. Nothing I can do. No point in wondering, worth it or not.