Blame Canada by Joanna C
to Growin' Up (Karaoke Kids Series). The final, epic showdown: Lilah is up tp no good, and the fate of the world, as usual, hangs in the balance. Will good triumph over evil? Will justice triumph over lawlessness? Will Lilah EVER sleep with Spike? All your questions, and more, answered here...
role played in this story by the city of Kingston, Ontario, is
in no way intended as an insult. It's just that I've lived there (and have lovely memories of the time)
and know my way around the place...
title courtesy my little brother Nathaniel, who loves all things South Park and
feels that if I must write fanfic, I should write it
for THAT and not waste my time on this whole Buffy/Angel thing...
Chase cast a squinty eye to her watch, then to
the gate of the airport terminal.
they, already?" she whined. "We'll never make
our flight if they don't get here soon."
Angel did not even
glance up from his book. With a
half-attention, he reached into his pocket, snatched
out a bundle of quarters, and pressed it into Cordelia's
palm. She pushed him aside with an
DONE vending machines," she told him. "I'm
He glanced up
briefly from his intent reading. "Um hmmm."
He said nothing
else. The book was one of Cordelia's
and had, a mere three chapters ago,
explained to him
that sometimes women Got That
Way---and when they
did, there was Nothing You Could
Do. He had wisely
resolved to keep his mouth shut
until Buffy and
Giles arrived. Perhaps seeing Giles
again would ease
Cordelia's travel stress...
"They should BE
here," she said again. "Angel, why aren't
Finally, he put the
book down. "Cordelia, our flight
doesn't leave for
just...we've been here for over an hour
already. It's hot.
It's crowded. There are too many
sticky children, and
people who didn't shower, and at
especially pungent ethnic food vendors. I may
have my demon temper under control, but my vampire sense
of smell is driving me crazy!"
he said, not unsympathetically. "But you can
never be too early for these kinds of things. If there
had been traffic...."
could have been. It's a lot to juggle,
us all on the same flight on such
finding a connection from Sunnydale that would
get them here in time to meet us for it...it's a lot
to juggle. But we still have time, and they'll still
get here, and it'll be fine."
She narrowed her
eyes dangerously. "Don't get smug on me,
unflappable boy. YOU had nothing to do with this brilliant
scheme. Why I ever agreed to let the
tell me what to..."
why," he interrupted. "Cordelia, we talked about
world's gonna end, too bad, very sorry, I
know. Angel, I KNOW.
Just wish it could blow up on a
Ah. There it was. He
closed the book and tucked it
into his bag.
"Is that the problem? It's only a few days,
Cordelia. You can make up the classes."
she pouted. "But missing classes in the first
week...well, Professor Tsuji was kind of a pain about
it, but at least Ivany was okay. When she heard about
my poor, dead Aunt Petunia..."
Angel smothered a
she huffed. "I wasn't gonna tell her we're going
to prevent some evil lawyers from opening a Hellmouth
and bringing about the end of life as we know
it, was I? And it's not like the watchers gave us much
time to come up with a proper cover story for those
of us with actual lives..."
He sensed a tunnel
of adrenaline beneath the rising
flush in her cheeks.
"Why don't we practice our deep breathing
for awhile?" he suggested.
Her nostrils flared.
"You don't breathe! And don't treat
me like a baby."
"Don't act like
He winced slightly
at her withering glare. He was
ready to cut her
some slack for the shock of another
watcher visit and
resulting Bad News, and for the
trip, and the overload of her
But still...they had a long day
ahead of them. She
had to manage, didn't she?
"Look, I'm not
the best traveler either," he began carefully.
"And I know the watcher's council tends to...well,
"Freak me out?
Heck, yeah. But can you blame me? They
swoop in all
mysterious and go here, do this, and they run
experiments on innocent people just because they happen
to be human/vampire hybrids, and then they..."
he soothed. "I was saying, I know they make you
feel that way. But I also know how much progress you've
been making at keeping your demon attributes under
control. You're really going to let them get you mad
enough to cause a relapse?"
Her frenzied pacing
slowed microscopically. "Angel..."
"And it's not
SO bad, is it?" he pressed. "I mean, free
vacation---and one American dollar is, like, a dollar-fifty
there. There could be shopping. Who can
She was nearly still
again. "I guess..."
"And hey, Giles
She broke into a
grin. "He is! And Buffy too."
"So why don't
we sit down and do our breathing for a
Angel said calmly. "And before you know it,
their plane will be here, and we can get this show on
She took a deep
breath and slowly breathed out, body
slackening and eyes
drifting closed. "Okay," she said. "Okay."
Alamo Summers had
been cruising along for his morning
walk and stopping
occasionally to sniffle at some
interesting leaves, so his mistress Dawn had
let the leash slacken, and was caught off-guard when
he suddenly burst into a trot.
come," Dawn commanded, tugging on his collar. "Alamo!
Alamo, what are you..." They rounded the corner,
and she suddenly broke into a grin. "Did you see
your little friend? Is that what has you all excited?
Well, we're almost home. Go on, then." She unhooked
the leash and sent him running straight for the
front lawn of Kate Lockley.
Bruiser was nosing
in the bushes, but shook off the
leaves and went
tearing after Alamo with an
Kate was otherwise occupied, and
didn't even look up.
Several open boxes
lay scattered at her feet. On her
one side lay a
half-filled garbage bag, and on the
other lay her car,
parked crookedly, trunk open. Kate
was humming along
with the radio and reaching randomly
into the boxes,
pitching some items into the trunk and
others into the
cavernous bag. Dawn took in the scene
Kate looked up.
"Oh, hi. Want this?" She waved the belonging
in question, a moldy-smelling novelty rubber chicken,
"No. Um, Kate,
what's going on here?"
Kate pitched the
rubber chicken into her garbage bag.
it looks like. I'm leaving this dump,
and going back to
L.A. I turned in my resignation this
I," said Kate grandly. "Am unemployed. At leisure.
Between jobs. Pursuing new opportunities." She
dug a grubby hand into the nearest box, and pulled out
six assorted pairs of scissors, bound together with
a grubby elastic. "Want these?"
"No. Kate ,
what's going on here? What are you DOING?"
nothing," said Kate breezily. "Which explains
the whole unemployment thing. Want these?"
no," said Dawn, not even dignifying the item in
question with so much as a glance. "But Kate, are you...look,
are you okay?"
said Kate. "Wonderful. And I'll tell you why,
Dawn. I had an epiphany."
Kate nodded. "I
did. And do you know what I realized? I
realized that I had no effing idea what the hell I was
doing with my life. I mean, sure, I was a cop, fighting
the fight and all that, and that's good, I guess.
But how did I get there? I'll tell you how I got
there. My grandfather was a cop. My father was a cop.
And if Mom had lived long enough to have a son, HE
would have been a cop. Do you see what I am saying?"
"It's a family
business?" Dawn guessed.
right," said Kate. "A family business. I just got
INTO it. I never CHOSE."
"And now you're
saying you've had this epiphany or something,
and you realize you want to choose
"Maybe not. Maybe I really am meant to be
a cop. But maybe I'm meant to be something else, Dawn.
Maybe I'm meant to be a Spanish teacher. Or a social
worker. Or a waitress at Caritas, for all I know.
I never really thought beyond...But I need to figure
it out. I need to figure out what in this world I'm
meant to do."
"And right now,
you feel like you're meant to pack up and
"Only one thing
I do know for sure," said Kate, slowing
her excited pacing just long enough to toss some
rusted barbecue tongs into the trunk of her car. "Whatever
it is I'm meant to do be doing, I want Lorne to
be there. Kind of ironic, isn't it? All these normal,
awful men who love me and leave me, and it would
be a demon who would finally get it right?"
She reached into her
box again, and pulled out a
stuffed toy that was
shaped like Elvis Presley.
Dawn shrieked. Her loyal puppy reluctantly drew
himself away from a vitally important twig, and ambled
happily into her embrace. "How do I get myself into
these messes?" she asked him. He slobbered her with
oblivious doggy kisses, betraying no answer.
unclenched her fists, eyes sharp with
beginnings of panic.
working, is it?" she said.
evasively, and looked away. He had no
idea what to do with
her. They had worked through all
of her exercises,
and her breathing HAD slowed a
little---but it was
shaky and strained, and her heart
was still beating
too fast. She was managing, but she
was working much too
hard at it.
"Why can't I
relax?" she pressed. "Angel, seriously. I'm
starting to wonder if this isn't something more than
just tired and travel-stressed . I'm all tense and
ick and I just feel...weird, you know?" She looked at
he said after a long silence.
"You know? You
KNOW? God, stop that! I see what you're
doing, and it isn't
helping, Angel. You're keeping
your mouth shut
because you don't want to freak me
out, but it's only
making it worse! God, what's WRONG
"And don't tell
me that getting upset will only make it
worse, I know. Angel, I KNOW. It just drives me crazy
when you get like this! And no, I don't want to eat
something. And no, I don't want to practice my breathing
exercises. I just want you to STOP that!"
helping!" she whined. "God, Angel, just shut
breathlessly beside him, utterly exhausted by
her tantrum. He gave her a moment to collect herself.
"I WAS shutting
up," he said quietly. "THAT'S what got you
upset in the first place."
She closed her eyes.
Clenched her fists. Then suddenly
sprang to her feet
and tore away from him.
She launched herself
down the corridor and threw
herself into the
arms of the arriving watcher.
slightly, reeling from the collision.
managed. "Hello, Cordelia. Good to see you..."
Giles," said Angel shyly. "Buffy..."
Buffy, loaded down
with Giles' bag as well as her own,
trundled over to the
nearest bank of chairs, where she
set down her burden.
"You guys been
waiting long?" she asked.
That, finally, set
Cordelia off. Still wrapped tightly
around a nearly
suffocating Giles, she burst into
tears. Giles looked
questioningly at Angel.
tired," Angel said.
Giles nodded, and
gently began to stroke Cordelia's
hair. "It's all
right, love," he soothed. "Hush now..."
"That's quite a
tantrum," Buffy observed.
"It's been a long day."
Buffy watched the
display impassively. "Probably best she
gets it out of her system now, isn't it? BEFORE the
big holy mission?"
"And this is
exactly what I was saying," sobbed
don't know what's WRONG with me!"
With an unbearably
comforting smile, Giles gently
lifted her chin.
"Would it surprise you very much to learn
that I do know?"
slowed to a watery trickle. "You do?"
"What, did you
think that ponce Zabuto was the only
one who was doing a
They stared back at
"They tell me
we're delayed again," said Giles. "We've got
some time..." He gently pried Cordelia off of him. "So
why don't you go with Buffy right now and get yourself
cleaned up a little, hmmm? And when you come back,
Angel and I will have some juice and some cookies
and all sorts of pretty answers, all right?"
She snuffled noisily
and pulled herself together. With a
nod of encouragement from Giles, she allowed Buffy to
lead her away.
Lilah Morgan backed
slowly into her hotel room,
her hand behind her.
there," she commanded. "That's right..."
Jenny Calendar's arm
flopped to the floor with a thud
as Spike released
"She's not a
bloody couch, Lilah."
Lilah rolled her
eyes. "I know that. Just...fine, put her
anywhere, I don't care, just keep her out of my way!"
"But she's your
little pet, love. Don't you want to play
Lilah gave Jenny a
thoughtful once-over. "Well, it
WOULD be a little
more fun if she were interactive.
But then...if she
can move, she can bolt, can't she?" Lilah
shrugged. "She's harmless this way."
even more harmless once you've put her
through the paces
and made sure she's as out of it as
Lilah shook her
head. "You just want an excuse to play with
"Maybe I do.
But being horny don't make me a dunce,
pet. I know her
type---do-gooder through and through.
If she's pulling the
mojo on us...well, Just want to
make sure it all
goes off okay..."
Lilah thumped Jenny
with her boot and studied the
carefully for signs of a reaction.
crowed Spike. "She winced, did you see?"
"Really?" She leaned forward, mouth inches
from Jenny's face. "Is somebody waking up in there?
The eyes looked
perhaps a tiny bit more watchful than
they previously had,
but Jenny Calendar remained, on
the surface at
least, impassive. She was already
herself for that reflexive show of
life---but they had
been away from a computer going on
three days, and
without the exhaustion of spellcasting
to keep her drained
and dazed, she was finding it
harder and harder to
keep up the act. And to keep up
hoped Lorne was all right. She
hoped the kids were
all right. She hoped she was ready
snitted Lilah. "Find a doctor, get her checked.
I need to stay here though---I'm expecting a delivery
and I need to be here in case it..."
scoffed Spike. "A delivery."
a hellmouth's a tricky thing, Spike.
There are supplies
already had your bloody supplies," he complained.
"Well, most of
them. But some of it has to be sourced
locally, you know.
When you open a hellmouth, you do
need some things
from...well, the actual hellmouth...look,
I'm giving in, Spike. You win. Have fun,
do you want, see you at dinnertime. Take Harmony, take
the witch and go do whatever it is you think you have
to. You are completely in charge of this section of
He puffed up
importantly. "In charge, am I?"
she said, nodding seriously. "Completely. As
long as she comes back alive and un-sampled-from, you
can do whatever you want with her."
With a slight inward
cringe, Jenny steeled herself for the
day ahead. She really needed to get on-line.
"I hope you've
got money," Giles remarked to Angel. They
were standing in front of a bank of vending machines,
which he was studying intently.
Angel regarded him
dubiously. "You didn't bring
should I? I brought the supplies, and Buffy brought
the money. And I believe she still has it with her.
Ah, there we go." He stopped before the right-most
concession. "Oatmeal cookies," he pronounced,
poking the glass display to show Angel.
"This is what
we want. I was starting to worry that
they only had those
horrid creamy fudge things."
"What, Oreos? Cordelia loves Oreos."
muttered Giles. "Loves them, does she? You don't
think that would be a little much, in her present
condition? I daresay we have enough to handle without
getting her sick on top of it, Angel. Oatmeal would
be a far, far better choice."
Angel clamped his
mouth shut and held out a grubby
stash of quarters.
"Ah. Thank you.
There we go." He made his selections, then
drifted over to the bank of chairs.
"That's quite a
state she's in, isn't it?" Giles
The watcher's eyes
went suddenly flinty. "You need to
take better care of
A stunned Angel
stared back at him. "But this
"Oh, I know
that," said Giles. "Or at least, a part of me
does. Lord knows these things happen, and Cordelia's
impulse control was hardly her most
trait even before you came along."
He opened a package
of cookies and broke it into
then..." He shrugged, tossing a cookie piece
into his mouth and crunching noisily. "A part of me
also knows that YOU had her last, and she certainly wasn't
in this state when I left her."
Angel backed away
"Oh, we'll take
care of her," Giles was saying. "Don't you
worry about that. But Angel...I shan't wish to find
like this again"
Angel slowly nodded.
Two slender legs
slung themselves over the embankment
themselves down on Giles' lap.
said Buffy, settling in comfortably. "I was worried
we'd missed that part."
Gunn, still pumped from his pre-dinner patrol, bounced
innocently into Caritas.
Lorne," he called. "Defender of the universe, here!
What can you get me?"
Lorne popped up from
behind the bar, smiling largely.
"Charles, my friend, my buddy...how about a
drink, old buddy, old pal? No charge!"
a charge," said Gunn suspiciously.
"Seeing as how
I have a tab..."
yes," agreed Lorne. "But this is a special occasion,
Gunn. A special night."
Gunn raised a wary
eye. "For you or for me?"
Lorne's red eyes
glowed suddenly with ominous threat.
interesting situation you find yourself in, Charles.
YOU have the sole power to either maintain my glorious
mood, or to ruin it. You don't want to ruin my
fabulous mood, do you Charles?"
dazedly. "Um, no. Guess not. Um,
here," the demon explained. "And she wants to take
me out for dinner. She's wearing a dress, Gunn. A DRESS."
is..." Lorne gestured expansively around him.
"Fella's gotta earn a living, you know? Can't shut
down the place just cause he's in love, can he?"
pronounced Lorne. "So here I am, going about my business,
de-stingering the Jubailian entrails for the crudite
tray, when Willow calls. She and Tara are staying
with Dawn during the hellmouth thing, and she had
front row seats to the Kate-absconding-from-Sunnydale
show...and now I have my
lady on her way over and me with this bar to run...you
see my dilemma, don't you, Charles?"
patrolling," said Gunn, shaking his head in dismayed---and
growing---realization. "I just got
"And you, my
friend, will not be the only one to find himself
in such a bind. Which is why we have bars, isn't
it? And when you have a bar...you need a bartender."
the bartender," said Gunn hopefully.
amigo. She washed her hair. She put a
little ribbon in
"So what you're
saying is you want me to stay here and sell
drinks to people so you can go out?"
The door creaked
open and a large blue demon with
three heads peered
anxiously in. "You guys open?"
"What can I get you?"
unhappily against the sweaty plastic
chair, face newly
washed, hair pulled back in some
attempt at comfort,
and features pinched in exquisite
now," said Giles softly. "You're all right, then."
She took a tiny
nibble of oatmeal cookie. "Umm hmm."
profound, I'm afraid," said Giles,
giving her a
resigned smile as he settled back into
his seat. "It's
overload, plain and simple. You haven't
been in a crowd this large since your
She shook her head
school," clarified Angel.
"I expected as much. Now, double the number
of people, put them in a building half the size of
the LACU campus, and stir them all into irritable tempers
with flight delays, poor air quality and blindingly
grating fluorescent lighting..."
"But what does any of that have to do with
the price of tea in...wait, you're telling us she can
"Not in the
sense I suspect you mean. But in a matter of
speaking...well, ask Angel how HE knew that Cordelia
was in a state. For someone with enhanced senses,
it wouldn't be hard to deduce..."
breathing..." said Angel softly. "Her heartbeat..."
yes," said Giles. "But Cordelia has shown herself
to be especially sensitive to scent, hasn't she?
And...well, under pressure, people sweat, don't they?
They fidget and they pace and they sweat, and she
can smell it on them. All of these frantic, over-heated
travelers...it must feel like walking
through a field of
apples, and having them all go
suddenly rotten on
"No wonder she's a little grumpy. And ewwwww."
imagine even a supremely centered person would
find it difficult to filter the stimulus from a crowd
this size, never mind someone as raw and untested
unhappily and rested her head on
"And funnily enough, having an
making it any easier..." she whined.
now," he said gently. "We'll try to help you, all
right? Buffy, my bag..."
Buffy hefted his bag
onto the chair beside them.
it feels like you have bricks in here," she
He withdrew two
small, dense boxes from the front
pocket, and Buffy
groaned. "And since you do, that
He pressed the sides
of the boxes and popped the lid
to reveal a mass of
crystals. They were in pieces of
various sizes, some
loose, and others bound pendant-like
to necklaces, or fastened to strips of leather
in crude, makeshift armbands.
crystals," he explained. "They'll have no effect
on Angel, I'm afraid---it's the same principle as
a mirror. They reflect the aura of the wearer."
mood," clarified Giles. "We simply keep our
minds on soothing, happy thoughts, and the crystals
will boost our auras enough to hopefully create
a barrier---a sort of karmic white noise, if you
will, to drown out the static."
Buffy picked up a
crystal and hefted it casually in
"Happy thoughts, huh? Like sunshine and puppy
"Well, it's not
entirely that simple. But yes,
interrupted as the loudspeaker blared to life
and announced that flight 463 to Toronto was finally
boarding. The relief in the waiting lounge was palpable,
and it fortified Cordelia enough that she managed
to stagger to her feet unassisted, and follow the
others onto the jetway.
Gunn rested his chin
on the bar, straining to keep his
eyes open as the
three-headed blue demon chattered
when Vern explained it to me," he was saying.
Gunn raised half a
finger and pointed to the right-most
head. "That's Vern?"
The left-most head,
already identified as Harvey,
huh. Nearly killed him, doing it. He's
Esmeralda, but he and I go back WAY
Gunn eyed the scaly
blue torso that joined the heads
though he KNEW it would break my heart,
he felt that I
deserved to know the truth." The demon paused
for weighty emphasis. "She was cheating on me! With
my own brother Marv!"
Gunn cocked an eye
at the middle head. "That's Marv?"
The Marv-head nodded
sheepishly, then looked away.
Gunn directed his
attention back to the Harvey-head.
"And you had no
idea," he clarified.
"Why would I?
To think that all of this time...they
had been sneaking
around! Having clandestine meetings!"
Gunn tried to puzzle
out the logistics of that. "And while
that was going on, you were..."
Or possibly passed
out in drunken stupor, theorized
Gunn. The dude was
packing it away. He regarded the
Vern and Marv heads
suspiciously. "You guys want some
The Marv-head, still
shamed, was avoiding his gaze.
clearly not the brightest of the bunch,
notwithstanding, looked bored and
on me with my own brother!" fumed
Harvey. "Do you believe that? I wish I could make
her pay. I wish...I wish her lying, cheating, oral-pleasure-giving
hands would just rot off in a
of...rot!" He paused his rant and looked at Gunn
know," said Gunn. "I'm not actually a vengeance demon,
per se. Although I have seen their work..."
Harvey frowned in
disappointment. "Oh. Well, can I
have more of this
purple stuff, at least?
The flight was
crowded to capacity, and amidst the
crush of people,
Giles attempted to stake out their
territory. They had
two seats in each of two rows, one
there," he said to Buffy, nodding at the farther row.
And to Angel, he added "And you."
plaintively at Cordelia. "But Giles..."
Angel, you aren't the one with the
and of Buffy or I, I am the most
practiced at the
form of mental control it takes to
keep it working. I
should be closest to her."
Angel looked at
Cordelia again. "But I...Giles, I want to
sit with her."
Giles took his
glasses off and leveled his gaze at
Angel with as much
severity as he could muster. "You
sit with Buffy."
Angel," Giles sighed. "You are nearly three centuries
old. Surely, by this time, you've mastered sufficient
self-control that you can be apart from her for
a mere few hours..."
limply from her seat. "I'm fine,
Then she arched in her seat with a blinding
shriek of pain. "Oh god, Angel..."
They were instantly
surrounded by people, and amidst
the melee, a flight
attendant pushed herself upon
'what's going on?'
Giles, nearest to
Cordelia, had to literally dive
through the crush
and between the legs of a well-dressed
executive to reach her.
he muttered, fixing his glasses. "She's fine."
He braced Cordelia's body with his own to minimize
the writhing, and block the flight
look fine," said the flight attendant. She
poked her head down the aisle. "Hey! Hey, anyone! We
got a doctor here?"
Cordelia, still in
the throes of the vision, heard
just enough to shake
her head mutely with wide,
fine," Giles repeated. "Just a little dehydrated,
that's all." He smiled winsomely.
The flight attendant
watched dubiously as Cordelia
choked and gasped
beside him. "Dehydration. Really."
hypoglycemic," Giles suggested. "Hits her harder
than it would you or I. Some water, some protein,
get her electrolytes back up there..." He rummaged
in his bag, then pulled out a cheese string, which
he waved at them triumphantly. "There, see?"
The flight attendant
squinted at the wan, sweaty face and
already slowing breathing. "You sure? It's a long flight,
mister. We don't want any problems..."
either," said Giles sincerely. "Really, just give
The flight attendant
backed away, still watching
Giles waited until she was out of
earshot, then hissed
"What did you see?"
Cordelia, still a
little thrown, pointed weakly at a
a large, scruffy man in a motorcycle
jacket. "Trip him," she croaked.
Angel casually stuck
his foot in the aisle, and
moments later, the
man went tumbling. A long, narrow
illegal knife tumbled out of his jacket
pocket as he flipped
to the floor. The flight
hovering nearby suspiciously was on
hand to subdue him.
weakly and curled up in her window
seat. "I need
to go to sleep now," she said in a tiny voice.
And she did.
strolled out of the steamy hotel bathroom,
off her dark, thick hair, and
nearly tripping over
the detritus of a recent blood
bank theft. Spike
and Harmony, near-drunk from their
feed, lolled on the
floor, slurping up the last of it.
Lilah wrinkled her
nose in disgust. "Well, this is
quite a scene."
"You know what they say about those Canadians,
don't you, pet? Paris, the city of lights. New
York, the city that never sleeps. And Toronto, working
towards a smoke-free environment. Sodding nation's
so damn nice and polite their blood tastes practically
all you're getting from ME," Lilah
warned you to ration this haul. You're on your
won't," taunted Harmony. "You have the chip, remember?"
piddly dump's a college town, Harm. Punk kids...shoddy
housing...rats aplenty. I'll manage."
She nodded to the
remains of their feast. "Maybe so.
But it won't be like
THIS, will it? Well, not for you,
anyway. Some of us
can hunt on virginal college
students any time we
"Well, this IS
the hellmouth," he said. "Maybe the rats
will be magic rats. Those are always fun."
Harmony patted his
arm with a condescending smile.
"You just keep
telling yourself that."
Lilah collapsed on
the nearest double bed with an
"Can we PLEASE go to bed now? We have a
big day tomorrow---you have your thing with the thing,
and I will be getting the last of my supplies together..."
Spike sighed and
rose to his feet, surveying the
bloody mess of
plastic. "'Spose we should tidy up a little..."
"Are you a
moron?" snitted Harmony. "Why should we? This
dump has maid service. "We're PAYING for maid service."
"Works for me." He peeled off his shirt
and made for Lilah's bed. Harmony cast her eye to
the other bed, where Jenny already lay unconscious. "Why
do I have to sleep with HER again?" Harmony complained.
don't want to sleep with Lilah, do you?"
"I wouldn't be
'sleeping' with her any more than you
will. It's just
sharing a bed, Spike. And I don't like
the witch. She's
creepy. And she's gone all spacey
again. What's up
"Beats me. But
Lilah has shower-hair, Harm. She'll get
the sheets all
this for a moment, then hopped into
bed with Jenny.
Lorne strolled into
Caritas well past closing time, a
cheery spring to his
step and a noticeable smear of
against his green and scaly cheek.
He strolled behind
the counter and booted up his
computer to check
for messages. "Gunn? Buddy?"
The bar was
spotless, and Gunn had cleaned the place as
well as Lorne himself---tables wiped down shiny, chairs
stacked atop them---all but the one he was sleeping
in, feet propped up on a barstool, stake clutched
in his sleeping hand, and his leather jacket tossed
over his lap like a blanket.
Lorne smiled and
gently shook his friend awake.
'You've got mail!'
blared the computer loudly. Gunn
jumped to his feet.
"Huh? What? Who's here?"
said Lorne softly. "Sit back down, why dontcha,
and give yourself a minute..."
lowered himself back into the chair.
"Uh, hi. How'd
never seen Kate like this---she's had an epiphany,
and she's...she's wild, amigo. Wild."
"She was just
so...open, so...so full of energy..."
"Had sex, didja?"
"And how. Turns
out that Pylean genitalia
way that human penises are not.
And the pressure
points just happen to line up exactly
with the erogenous
zones of the human female..."
said Gunn. "TMI, Lorne. TMI."
So, how'd you do here?"
"Quiet night, I guess. A few stragglers here
and there, and one guy who stayed all night and didn't
stop yapping the entire time---or possibly three
guys, depending on how you look at it..."
squealed Lorne. "I love those guys! Three-headed
blue guy who came in just as I was
"Uh huh. Man oh man, can that guy pack it away.
By the third drink or so, I started watering 'em down
"And a good
thing you did," said Lorne. "Since their species
has no taste receptors anyway. Alcohol's a total
waste on them."
just here for the pretty colours, my
guess---he had the purple stuff, didn't
"He's a regular. You'll get to know them after
awhile. You did good, my friend. Really, really good,
actually---HMV on your first night? That's skill!
You wouldn't be interested in doing some moonlighting,
by any chance, would you?"
"Why not? Crime does pay, but not a whole
lot these days. I could use the cash."
Lorne grinned and
shook his hand. "I think this is the start
of a beautiful friendship," he beamed.
He showed Gunn out,
then settled at the bar to read
his email. Jenny had
found herself an Internet Café
just down the street
from her hotel, it looked like.
Far enough away to
make the spellcasting even more
debilitating than it
used to be. Poor thing was tired,
importantly---she was scared.
They were nearly
over Lake Ontario when Cordelia woke
said Giles softly. He smiled gently and
gently snapped shut
"Is it morning
already?" she said.
We'll land in a few minutes..."
She nodded, then
unbuckled her seatbelt and climbed to
her knees, peering
over the seatback at Angel and
cute," she said. "Giles, look..."
Against the black of
the cabin wall, Angel looked
in sleep---his back an unmoving
anchor, his legs
splayed out into Buffy's personal
space, and arms
wrapped easily around the tiny blond
slayer, who was fast
asleep in his embrace...
He returned her
smile, then grew serious. "How are you feeling?"
Giles. Don't worry about me."
really," she said, glancing pointedly at his amplifying
crystal. "Don't worry."
"Sorry. I wasn't...but truly---how ARE you feeling?"
She settled back
into her chair. "A little headachey. A
little nauseous. A little hungry." She shrugged. "I'll
ready," she insisted. "Giles, I'm fine, really."
"If you did
need to...look, there's nothing wrong
"I know. Happy
He closed his eyes
for a moment. "You're right. It's
healthier for all of
She winced suddenly
and swatted him on the arm. "Not
THOSE kind of happy
thoughts, though. Ewwww."
He blushed again,
then ruefully smiled. "Well, your
filtering skills are
improving, at any rate. That's a
good sign, I
Just like I told you. Demoned and visioned and
ready for action. So how does this work, exactly? They
gonna meet us when we land?"
Seems they split the trip up for us in
deference to Angel,
to assure as only night-time
travel. We've a ways
to go yet. We land in Toronto and
have the day to
spend as we see fit, so long as we get
ourselves to Union
Station by 7 to claim our tickets."
said. Typical council nonsense---saving
up their information
for a pompous lecture when we get there,
"Not that we're
bitter," she observed with a wry smile.
"Happy thoughts, Giles. Sunshine and puppy dogs."
he said. "Sunshine and puppy dogs." He waited for
her eye to wander, then immediately removed the amplifying
crystal and stowed it in his carry-on. They had
a battle ahead of them, and nearly everyone he loved
was diving headfirst into it. He'd brood if he bloody
well wanted to.
Morgan clambered awake to the shrill pierce of a ringing
phone. She fumbled for the receiver. "Hello?"
chirped the desk clerk. "Rabbit Courier Company's
here. Should I send them up?"
She hopped out of
bed, tossing her pillows at her
sleeping lackeys to
rouse them. "Yes," she said,
Spike and Harmony
were slowly coming too. "Visitors?" drawled
said Lilah. "I think my supplies are here."
That got him out of
bed instantly. "This I've got to
There was a timid
knock at the door, and Spike propped
the latch open.
Clipboard-armed and in a standard
courier uniform, one almost didn't
notice that their
messenger was a Chaos demon.
Lilah stared at him,
eyes widening in sudden
The demon pulled a
handkerchief out of his pocket and
wiped his dripping
antlers. He smiled sheepishly.
There were braces on
Lilah repeated. "Oh my god..."
"Your name is Kevin?"
The demon shrugged.
"So? Hey, Lilah. Long time, no
"And you KNOW
each other?" Spike marveled.
Freshman year. There was a thing. Oh my god, Kevin,
you look FABulous! Have you been working out?"
Kevin flexed a tiny
bicep that would be pathetic even
by human standards.
"A little," he said with a shy grin.
now," muttered Spike under his breath.
"So this is
where you wound up," Lilah mused. "Who would
have thought...you do know there's a hellmouth, right?"
Kevin's lazy eye
popped to alertness. "Really? Huh."
guessing you're the only one who FINISHED college,"
Spike snarked to Lilah.
"I thought you
joined the Peace Corps," Lilah was
teased Spike. "And working for a low-rent courier
in a dippy little college town pays SO much better..."
Kevin glared at
Spike, then turned to Lilah. "Who is this
yutz? But oh, hey, speaking of..." He hauled a large
carton in from the hallway and handed her the clipboard.
Lilah signed it absently.
"We MUST get
caught up," she was gushing. "There's this
thing we're doing...you want in?"
squeaked Spike. "I bust my ass for you for WEEKS
with barely a thanks, and Drippy-McAntler shows up
all minimum wage and gets invited in just like that?"
"Never hurts to
have some muscle, Spike," said Lilah. Kevin
smiled weakly. His antlers looked heavy enough to
nearly topple him over.
Cordelia caught up
with them just inside Museum
jammed with ice cream cones.
letting me stop," she said, collapsing against
a wall to catch her breath. "The concierge at the
hotel said no visit to Toronto would be complete without
a visit to Greg's for ice cream..."
"We're cool in here. We have a day
pass. We can get on
and off the subway as many times
as we want to."
enthusiastically. "This is a GREAT city. The
whole thing's, like, underground..."
"So what'd you get us?"
marshmallow," said Cordelia. "Greg's specialty.
With chocolate syrup for you and me, and without
it for the guys." She passed out the ice cream "Where
we're already AT Museum station," said Giles
hopefully. "It would stand to reason that the museum
must be nearby..."
The girls both
groaned. "Giles, no," whined Buffy.
"But it's the
Royal Ontario Museum," Giles complained. "I
haven't been to that one. I hear they have a stunning
collection of Egyptian artifacts..."
said Buffy. "I don't think so." She shook her
head firmly. "We are so not doing that."
collection of first dynasty gems is
mind," piped up Angel. "I'll go."
But they were beyond
hearing him now. Giles' face was
as close to a pout
as it ever got, and his voice was
"I went up and down this bloody
subway all day for
you girls," he was ranting. "I did not
go into any libraries to look up arcane regional mythologies
that might help us in the impending
battle. I did not
hole up in our hotel room and pore
over musty old books
to supplement my cache of
protection spells. I
did chain myself literally OR
Cordelia's laptop computer so I could
instant message with
Wesley and recruit him to fill in
the numerous missing
pieces we have yet to unravel.
Instead, I went to
several large malls because you
wanted shoes. I went
to several designer outlets
wanted a bag. I stood in line at the
cashiers while you
paid for a novelty t-shirt, then
again at another
store while Cordelia bought a small
stuffed animal. And
I did all of this without complaining,
Buffy. Now, it is nearly four, we have a train
to catch in less than three hours, and I want to go
to a museum. Do you have a problem with that?"
Buffy fidgeted and
stared at the wall, stalling.
know," said Angel helpfully. "It's very important to
take an interest in your partner's hobbies and activities."
She glared at him,
then sighed. "All right. But NO
Wesley walked into
the Hyperion at noonish to check
the messages, and
did a double-take when he saw the
front desk. He was
nearly getting used to the feeling
of walking into his
office and feeling like he had
stumbled in on the
tail-end of one of those gleefully
movies, but this...
He took a deep
breath and located Gunn amidst the
"Morning," he said.
"Why is our
front desk covered in muffin trays?"
Gunn shrugged off
his oven mitts. "It's taken me a few tries
to get it right," he explained. "I've been baking."
"Well, I was at
Caritas last night," Gunn explained. "And...hey,
Wes, I have a job now! I am gainfully
had a job. You work for me."
right," said Gunn. "And fun as that might be, the hours
are unpredictable and the pay almost as much. So I
was at Caritas and there was this thing with three heads
that was there cause Lorne was doing Kate, and then
there were these purple drinks, and then Lorne was
telling me that I am just what that place needs."
Wesley gave himself
a moment to process this narrative.
"Well," he said.
"So anyway, I
was thinking this morning that maybe now that
I am board, that place might have a chance to diversify
a little. I mean, purple drinks are one
thing, but the food?
SO greasy spoon, which is fine
and all, but obesity
is a growing problem in America, you
know? The menu at Caritas may be fried and tasty, but
it's hardly very socially responsible."
are demons," said Wesley. "I hardly think
that social responsibility is a dominating factor."
"Well, maybe it
should be," said Gunn. "Maybe this is my
thing, you know? Those PTB paying attention to ME for
once and giving ME a chance to make a difference!"
"You do make a difference---working for
me. Helping your OWN kind."
"And I still
will. This Caritas gig is just a
again. "Why is our front desk covered in
Gunn sighed in
frustration. "They just don't look
right, Wes. I mean,
they TASTE okay, but they just
look so...so pale
and dull. Things ain't right if they
don't have some
colour, you know?"
"Does Lorne know you're doing this?"
"I'm a new
employee, Wes. Got to take some initiative if
I want to get noticed."
Wesley nodded. This
was the first thing Gunn had said
that made even the
remotest bit of logical sense, and
he rewarded his
friend with a pat on the arm and a
he told him, stepping carefully over the five-pound
bag of flour in the entryway and heading into
syrup," he repeated. "Use brown sugar, not white,
and replace the vanilla extract with maple syrup."
He turned on the
computer to check for any messages
from Cordelia or
Giles, leaving a dumb-founded Gunn to
scramble after him
with an incredulous "How the HELL
do you know
The train ride was
brief and uneventful.
that," complained Buffy. "They build it up to
this whole big thing, then we're two hours into the train
ride and that's it?"
that's this town's selling point," said Cordelia,
reading off a tourist pamphlet she had
picked up just
beside the taxi stand where they now
"Kingston, Ontario, the gateway to the Thousand
Islands, is centrally located halfway between Toronto
claim to fame? Geography?"
the brochure again. "Well, that and prisons.
They have almost as many of those as they do universities."
quantities of limestone," observed Giles, reading
over her shoulder.
"Oooh, and a
fort," said Cordelia, pointing to one of the
hellmouth," offered Angel. He frowned. "Although
I guess they probably don't publicize that too
Giles gave a weak
smile. "Well, then. Suppose we find a
They lugged their
bags into the nearest car, and Giles
with the driver about the instructions
they had found with their tickets. They reached
the downtown core in less than twenty minutes, and
when the taxi stopped, a large imposing building loomed
in front of them.
Angel took in the
officious structure and frowned.
"That can't be
figures," said Cordelia with a groan. "It would be another
library, wouldn't it?"
Gunn ambled into
Caritas whistling a jaunty tune.
Gunn, reporting for duty, as ordered."
Lorne peeked out
from behind the counter. "Evening,
employerino. Just in
Gunn nodded. "I
try and be prompt. But I do have patrol
responsibilities, you know?"
good buddy, understood. I would certainly never
want something so pedestrian as the purple love of
Harvey, Marv and Vern to compromise the safety of the
Gunn nodded again.
"My man! I knew we was cool."
so...there IS more to this job than schmoozing with
the lounge lizards, you know. I took care of the Jubalian
entrails for you THIS time, but you really are
going to have to take some initiative, Charles. I am
only one man; I can only do so much."
"Uh huh. Sooooo....you into muffins?"
may be one of Canada's oldest
the Stauffer Library is among its
Even at this almost late hour, the
facility was crowded with students.
Collections," said Giles, reading off his directions.
"Apparently, they're to meet us at...ah, this
A helpfully posted
sign directed them downward---away
from the students,
away from the shiny email terminals
that crowded the
rotunda, and down into the basement.
"Always a good
sign," chirped Buffy. "Going AWAY from all
"This is the
hellmouth," said Giles impatiently. "Not the
best place to be looking for good signs, Buffy."
What's up with that?"
then dumped her bag at Angel's feet,
and, with a resigned
sigh, pulled Giles aside.
right," she prompted, keeping her voice low. "What
"Nice try. I
don't need an amplifying crystal to read you
anymore, Rupert Giles. You're wigging out."
"I'm not sure
that's the term I would use."
then? We've done battles before. We've done hellmouths
before. But this one has you all wound up."
"And there is a
time and a place for wigging. On the
stairwell of a
library in a strange town far from
home, in the middle
of the night with dozens of
milling around us would not be that
"It's been a
Giles, come on, you can talk to me. Is it the
"Cause I don't
like 'em much either, if that's any
to do experiments on innocent
people just because
they happen to be..."
Her eyes widened.
"Miss Calendar! We still haven't
seen her, and god,
you must be..."
She took an obliging
step away from him, brow
"It isn't just that, is it? It's all
of it. One thing, you could handle---one battle, one
ghost, one problem---but all of it together---the hellmouth,
the council and Miss Calendar too..."
His fingers clenched
into fists at his side. "I'm fine,"
he said stiffly.
"Sure you are.
And using that tone of voice with me is
convince me. Look, can I talk to Buffy
trying, okay? I'm letting you snit at me and
I'm not saying anything cause I think you're kind of
at your breaking point here. And I won't make you talk
if you don't think you can right now, but Giles, if
you don't tell her what's going through your head, she'll
get upset, and she'll get pushy, and she'll get mad
and she won't back away like I'm doing right now, and
then we'll just have one more problem to deal with.
Now, the fact that I am even asking you before I talk
to her should tell you something. This is not an ambush.
This is not an intervention. This is just me being
your friend and her being your lover and both of us
wanting to do this right..."
He nodded briefly,
then walked away, his face unreadable.
He did not say a word until he had reached the
Special Collections information desk in the library's
basement, and found it utterly deserted. He closed
his eyes, muttered a brief "Bloody hell..." and
rang the small bell
that rested helpfully on the
counter. A familiar
face popped up before them.
here. Wonderful, wonderful...let's get
started, then. May I
be the first to say it?" Fiona
proudly and opened her arms in
"Welcome to the hellmouth."
They stared at her
whined Cordelia. "YOU'RE the council contact?"
"Well, who did you think it would be?"
said...he told us you'd been placed far
"It took you
two days to get here."
"In a less
about a week ago, this WAS. They didn't
know about the
hellmouth," she admitted.
Giles cracked a tiny
"So how'd YOU
find it?" asked Cordelia.
Wesley's suggestion and doing a little bit of
research. Obviously, there HAS been paranormal activity---it
wouldn't be an area of interest to the
But there are so many such areas,
and this is such a
small town---oh sure, it IS the
largest urban centre
between Toronto and Montreal, but
only if you count
the outlying townships and transient
"Right. I owe
that to Wesley, really. We've been
nice, after all of these years, but
anyway, he was
telling about his early days as an
Mid-sized town, about two hours from
the region's largest
urban centre. Well-regarded, if
university. And a military presence
to boot. Sound
Sunnydale," said Buffy.
Kingston," said Fiona with a smirk. "Stunning coincidence,
isn’t it? Two hours from Toronto by
University, which is, depending on your
source, the number
one or the number two school in the
country. They have a
military base AND a military
variety for a town this size, no?
"And it's just
SWIMMING in mythology," said Fiona much too
cheerfully. "Their sports teams are called the Golden
Gaels, Gael as in Gaelic, and their unofficial motto
is 'Cha Gheill.'" She beamed at Angel. "Care to translate?"
surrender," he said. "Cha Gheill. It means no surrender."
"And of course,
there were Indians," continued Fiona cheerfully.
"Should we talk about those?"
Giles took off his
glasses and rubbed between his
"So I started
taking some readings," said Fiona. "That imbecile
Zabuto always teased me about my
new-fangled for his tastes, I suppose,
but in my mind
there's no more reliable a way...and
nervously down at her feet. "Here?"
"Of course not
here. Who would be stupid enough to
build a library on
top of a hellmouth?"
The scoobies traded
bemused looks. "So...where?" said Cordelia.
"Under the pub,
of course," said Fiona. "This campus has
three of them, but two of them are in the same building.
If that doesn't just SCREAM suspicious..."
"Should we go
see it?" said Buffy.
keeping on eye on things, but it isn't doing anything
yet. There's a full moon in two days. I think they'll
make their move then."
"So do we have
a plan yet?"
"I'm still trying to work on getting the pub---Alfie's,
it's called---closed down for the
night. It's a hard
sell, I admit---it's fairly
popular. It's in the
basement of the JDUC---that's the
student centre here,
you know, food courts, meeting
rooms, and, among
many, many other things, a residence
students. Those people have filed more
than a few noise
complaints this year---it's been a
small scandal. I'm
trying to leverage that a little,
but I'm just a
help," said Buffy.
course you'll help. I wouldn't have sent for you,
otherwise. I'll have Giles for research, I think, and
you in case I need a 'student.' Cordelia, I'd like you
and Angel to do some shopping, if you don't mind---there
are still some volumes I'm missing, and
this town has quite
the profusion of used book stores..."
They nodded their
assent, and Fiona smiled, genuinely,
this time. "You
must be tired. I've found some rooms for
you in that graduate residence I mentioned---it's just
across the street. Just go through the upper ceilidh
to the staircase..."
"More Gaelic. They do like their
history, don't they?
It means meeting place."
"If you can
call a hallway that. Go in the side
entrance past the
food court, and that large open
space is the lower
ceilidh. Just follow the stairs. I
have your keys
"I should do a
patrol, I guess," said Buffy. "Well we're
here...I mean, this IS a hellmouth, after all..."
come," said Cordelia. "It's been awhile since I've
done a real patrol..."
come," she repeated. Her tone was significant; no
one questioned her further.
"I'll go the
other way," said Angel. "Do a quick pass before
heading back here..."
They headed outside,
and nobody even thought to ask
Giles if he had
plans. He watched the others head off
in three different
directions, then waited until they
were out of sight
and took the fourth.
It was almost 9, and
Caritas was hopping. Wesley,
distastefully as he worked his way through the
crowd, stepped delicately up to the bar to search for
He found him aproned
and active, tossing drinks with
the speed of a god,
and boredly tuning out a large
who was prattling like an idiot
about a woman called
He tapped his
knuckles on the counter. "Hello?" he called.
Gunn broke off the
drink-pouring and greeted him with
a relieved grin.
"Wes! My man, thank god you are here. Yo!
Ramone!" He flagged down the nearest bartender. "I got
a business meeting. Get my buddy HMV some more purple
stuff and watch the bar a few minutes, will ya?"
They retreated into
Lorne's small office. "Wes, thank
Wesley shrugged and
calmly took a seat. "You called, I
came. No less than I
would do for any friend, really.
What can I do for
"I so need your
help," Gunn whined. "Remember that muffin
"Well, I told
Lorne about it," he said. "And he really likes
the idea of expanding our repertoire. But he thought
the apple-cinnamon might be a little
for our clientele, you know? He told
me if I beefed it up
some---and no, I don't mean
might go over better."
involves me because..."
"Do I have to
spell it out for you? I know jack about
regular baking, and
jack-all about the demon kind. You
gotta help me, Wes.
I don't know how you know the
"It isn't hard,
really. My Nanna always said that all you
need is a recipe with clear instructions, and anyone
can produce a moist and fluffy..."
said Gunn. "I don't know what a Nanna is, and I
don't think I even want to know. But one thing I do know
is that unless you help me come up with an alternate
menu, I'm going to be de-stingering Jubalian entrails
'til the cows come home. And no, I don't mean literal
cows. Look, bail a brother out, will you? If you
were a scaly- blue-skinned purple-loving three-headed
demon, what would YOU want with your
Wesley thought for a
moment. "All right," he finally said.
"But I'll need a day or so to do some research..."
He headed back into
the bar. "With my own brother
blue-skinned demon was exclaiming, poking three
stubby blue fingers into Ramone's arm for emphasis.
Wesley shook his head. He was far too good for
They passed through
nearly three Byzantine campus
blocks of buildings
named after people before Buffy
herself down on a park bench and
rested her stake in
right," she sighed. "Let's get it over with."
Cordelia sat down
beside her and smiled sweetly. "What on
earth are you talking about?"
"Oh no you
don't. Don't play innocent with me, missy, you've
been biding your time all night trying to get me
alone for a heart-to-heart, haven't you? So spill. Are
you the one in trouble, or am I?"
that kind of conversation."
"Giles..." She kicked a pebble unhappily.
"Figures he'd talk to YOU about it first."
"He didn't talk
Buffy flexed her
fingers back and forth in near-fists.
trust me when I tell you that this really isn't
something you need to get jealous over. You think
this is some kind of contest? Spot the stress first?
Please! The man was projecting like a drive-in movie!
I saw the same thing you saw. I'm just brave enough
to talk about it, unlike some people."
"So for totally
selfish reasons , namely that I don't want
to listen to either of you complaining to me when you
handle this the way you usually do and make things worse,
I'm going for option two and butting my nose in to
give you a heads-up on this."
heads-up," repeated Buffy tonelessly. "You think THAT'S
what I need? You think I really don't see what's
going on here? He gets a little stressed sometimes.
All he needs to do is..."
"What? Fight it
out, like you do? Rant it out, like I do?
You know that's not the way he handles things."
worse," said Buffy. "What he does...it's worse."
exactly why you need to back off a little.
You might not like
the brood thing---god knows I sure
don't when Angel
does it. But Giles has stuff on his
mind right now---the
hellmouth and the watchers are bad
enough, but there's the whole Miss Calendar angle too..."
"Oh, that one's
okay," said Buffy. "We already talked about
it's that easy..."
"Now, just a
minute..." Buffy fumed.
"No, YOU just a
minute. Giles is strong, he's smart
and he's tough, but
you know as well as I do that he's
not the best
emotional multitasker. One problem, and
you never even see
it on him. But two or three at
once, and he starts
showing cracks. Jamming in a
chisel before he has
a chance to smooth them over is
not going to help
Buffy looked torn.
"I know," she said weakly. "But Cordy,
you weren't here the last time he did this. When
he gets overwhelmed---like the kind of
talking about---he completely shuts
"He can't help
"I know he
can't. But that doesn't mean I'm going to stand
by and let him be vamp-food just cause he wants to
broodfully hide out in the dark and lick his wounds!
If what you're saying is true, he's in pain right
now. You really want me to just sit by and let it
run its course?"
"I think what I want right now is
kind of immaterial,
exhaling slowly. "You're right. Damn you."
She drummed her fingers on her knees. "So what happens
He had been walking
for less than twenty minutes when
he hit the
"Such a cliché,"
Giles muttered, taking in the brooding
landscape with a disgusted sigh. "Inky water, craggy
stones...like a bloody painting..."
He kicked a stone
with his foot, then looked up
sharply when he
heard a soft voice behind him. "You shouldn't
He turned his head
and exhaled slowly. "Oh. You."
Fiona crouched down
beside him. "I know, I know,
cranking up the trauma, aren't I? Bad,
evil watcher and all
that. But Mr. Giles, really, you
shouldn't be here.
Things hide in shadows, you know.
know," he said archly. "I do actually live on a hellmouth.
I know how these things work."
She arched her brow.
He tensed to his
feet and met her gaze with a stony
glare. "Are you
"Oh, come on.
You think you're the first man to ever
have a girlfriend
who talks too much? I know how this
works. Or at least,
I know how it works HERE. Man goes
off to find himself
a dank and gloomy hideaway to suit
his mood. Man sits
on the craggy rocks and gazes out
into the water, lost
in his past, or his love, or his
demon or hellhound of nefarious evil
sneaks up behind man
and tears his bloody throat to
"And I, for
once, have no desire to piss the slayer
off by letting the
likes of you run off and get
Go," she said, shooing him forward
with her hands.
"Do your thing. I'll wait."
"Oh. Is that
She fumbled in her
backpack and emerged with a stake
in one hand and a
taser in the other.
yes," she prompted. "I've got you. Now, go, do your
thing already so I can walk you home and get this over
He gave her an odd
glance, then walked away from her
and perched himself
on a high, broad stone. The water
was oddly soothing,
and it briefly crossed his mind
that perhaps, at
least, one problem---the council
blessedly taken care of.
into her tiny room and plopped
herself down on the
He was sitting in
the desk chair, book in hand and
comfortably on the keyboard tray. "Hey. Patrol
Now let's have sex," he said.
"Wow. Um, way to preamble there, buddy. You
"Why wouldn't I
"That had all
the subtlety of a cement truck, Angel.
What's up with
bad," he said. "They are emotionally immature and
have difficulty articulating their feelings."
"Have you been reading my self-help books again?"
"No one is so
perfect that they can't learn from
problem," he explained, "Is that men too often hide
their feelings because they think that expressing need
is a sign of weakness. So they play mind games, Cordelia:
the mind games of repression, of
as I am sure you'll agree, is NOT
healthy. The reality
is that we ALL would be happier
if only men could
just allow themselves to TELL women
what it is they're
really feeling, instead of fooling
"And what you
are feeling right now is that you want
to have sex with
"Yes. Cordelia, I am feeling lust, and I am
not ashamed about it because it is perfectly natural."
"Don't be an
idiot," she told him firmly. "I'll have sex
with you, all right. But I want the flirting. I want
the foreplay. I actually LIKE the pointless pretty
stuff, and don't you forget it."
"See, there you
go," he said happily. "Clearly expressing
your needs and emotions. You picked up on this
MUCH faster than I thought you would, Cordelia. Good
she said, peeling off her jacket and tossing
it onto the bed. "And Angel---stay out of my self-help
books, will you?"
impatiently outside the bathroom, pausing intermittently
to bang on the door.
Harm," he growled. "Some of us need to get in
The door cracked
open infinitesimally. "Well, excuse me
for living," Harmony drawled. "Or unliving, as the case
may be. You're the one who made me share a bed with
the witch, Spike. And I don't know what kind of experiments
you've been running on her, but she smells funny.
Like magic and sweat and stuff. Ewwww." Harmony shuddered.
"I just can't get clean."
"YOU can't get
clean?" he roared. "YOU can't get clean?"
"You're the one
who made me share a bed with her,"
"A fact I am
sorely regretting," grumbled Spike. "Didn't
know Lilah'd ask HIM to stay."
He pointed to the
bed he had just vacated, where Lilah
lay fast asleep in
demon Kevin's arms, his pointy
vaguely sexually against Lilah's
breasts, the flow of
drippy slime only moderately
slowed by his
again," said Spike dryly. "YOU can't get clean?"
He ran a finger
through his hair. It came out sticky,
and Harmony burst
into giggles. "Do you have any idea what
you look like right now? Like that scene in that movie
with Cameron Diaz, where they use the spermy stuff
"Well, you do.
I can't help it that you do. Seriously,
Spike, why didn't
you just sleep on the floor or
something? Are you
THAT desperate to cop a feel?"
"Shut up! And
lemme in, Harm. I need a shower."
"Well, I don't
think so," said Harmony. I haven't even done
my hair yet. She ran a silky finger through her long,
high-maintenance tresses. "I don't think so at all."
She closed the door
on him with a haughty pout, and
not for the first
time, he lamented the fact that
since she was
already a vampire, he couldn't even shut her
up by eating her.
The Book Shop was
their third stop of the morning, and
Cordelia was already
tired of looking. Their first two destinations
had been complete wastes of time: too
paperbacks in the first and too many
textbooks in the second. So when
they stepped inside
this third one, she didn't even
seriously. As she wandered off into the
accosted the elderly shop-keeper.
"Morning. Can I
help you find something?"
doing some research into local myths and legends---you
know, folklore, ghost stories,
occurrences, that sort of thing..."
"Ah. Well, you
don't need a book for that. There's a
tour you can
take---Haunted Kingston, they call it.
Very popular with
The shopkeeper gave
him a funny look. "Paranormal
mean...look, what sources have you already consulted?"
Collection," said Angel. "At the university..."
nodded, and reached behind the desk,
pressing a hidden
button. The desktop rolled back to
reveal a hidden
shelf stacked as high as possible with
musty old volumes.
Cordelia wandered over. "Jackpot..."
"Have a look
and see what you can use," the shopkeeper said.
"Now, you understand, I am sure, that most of these
books are priceless and irreplaceable, but word on
the net is something big is brewing here. I do my part,
"Word on the
net..." muttered Cordelia, frowning. "Are you...you're
He smiled. "I
believe the word you are looking for is
Nothing to be alarmed about, Miss."
me," said Cordelia. "You want to alarm me,
you're going to have to do a lot better than that."
He gave them an odd
frown. "Now, you wouldn't happen
to be Angel, would
Angel looked up from
his reading. "How did you..."
lament my death, betimes, and mourn my life, that
it must be kept prisoner by sins and crimes so long
before I am set free...'" He plunked a slim paperback
on the table in front of Angel. "St. John of the
Cross," he explained. "Had a devil of a time finding
it on such short notice..."
Angel frowned in
order," than man said. "Three days ago? The website?"
did. The Campbell translation, as I recall.
More obscure than the Kavanaugh version, but definitely
worth the bother, if you want my opinion. I have
your receipt right here," he said, waving the piece
of paper at him triumphantly.
"Is there a
billing address?" asked Angel.
The man shook his
head. "We go through ABEbooks.com...they
bill, and all we do is fill the order.
You telling me you didn't order this book?"
"Yes. I mean,
no. I didn't order it."
paid for," he shrugged. "So it's yours. You
really have no idea who sent it?"
skimming the slim volume, looked up
have some idea," he said with a sudden smirk.
He looked at Cordelia. "Know any other technopagans?"
Her eyes widened.
He looked down at
the pages again. "'Over the ramparts fanned,
while the fresh wind was fluttering his
tresses, with his
serenest hand, my neck he wounded,
and suspended every
sense with its caresses.' It's
her, Cordelia. It's
Jenny. She's sending us a message."
"We need to find Giles," she said.
Angel fingered the
volume thoughtfully. "I don't think so,"
he said. "I think this one's for us."
looked up sedately from her book
and beamed a shy
smile at her lone remaining charge.
like a break?" she suggested.
The slayer, hair
tied back messily, pants dusted with
book must, one hand nervously
fisting at her side
while the other lazily gripped a
priceless book with
sweaty fingers, ceased her infernal
pacing and appeared to give the sentiment a moment's
could at least...well, slow down for a
suggested. "Perhaps clutch the ancient, irreplaceable
volume with a smidge less vigour?"
Buffy carefully put
the book down, then glowered at
Fiona with dark,
flat eyes. "Bite me," she said.
"Another tantrum. This is SO not the time!"
Buffy cracked a tiny
smile. "Ah ha," she said softly. "She
shows signs of life at last. Emotion. Actual, human,
Fiona slammed her
book shut, then seemed to reconsider.
Eyes never leaving Buffy's, she pointedly opened
it again, then gently folded it closed. "Is that
really how you see me?" she said with horrifying softness.
"How all of you...really..."
Buffy squeezed shut
her eyes and slowly counted to
three. "Oh god.
Please don't tell me you're going to cry
or something. Look, I'm sorry, okay? I..."
said Fiona calmly. "I truly am genuinely curious.
Is it only because I'm a watcher, or is
it...is it me?"
"She grows a
heart," said Buffy wearily. "Although, to paraphrase...this
is SO not the time!"
"That's not a
paraphrase. It's a direct quote."
"Bitch. Are we
"I think so.
Look, I really am sorry, okay? I admit,
not the best
play-nicer with the council, especially
with a new, improved
hellmouth on our hands complete with
evil lawyers and broody MIA Giles...but still, I haven't
been...I mean, here you are trying to help, and
I'm..." She hesitated. "You ARE trying to help, aren't
"I am. Look,
Buffy, I know that I didn't make the
absolute BEST first
"I'll say. I
seem to recall someone threatening to
lock up my sister in
a watcher lab and run experiments
crimson. "I was saying, perhaps it was not
my best possible beginning...but I had never MET a slayer
before in person, and all I had to go on was the
fact that Faith tried to KILL my brother and that YOU
actually bested him. And here I was, still a naïve,
untested little trainee who had never even left bloody
England, and suddenly I'm in the middle of all of
you and with that dunce Zabuto breathing down my neck
saying draw the line, draw the line..."
"Guess we both
made the same mistake, didn't we?" said Buffy
thoughtfully. "Forgetting that in all the power and
magic and history, there really is another person in
Fiona took a deep
breath. "We're okay. Gods help us,
"I'm glad YOU
Fiona looked down at
her hands and idly picked at a
well we do still have work to do," she mumbled.
"Uh huh. So
what time did you program Giles to come
Fiona winced. "Buffy,
about that, I'm..."
Buffy gave her a
reassuring smile. "It's okay. You
think you're the
first person who ever gave Giles and
me a night apart to
cool off? Although Lorne is not a
se...look, it's okay, Fiona, you did good this
time. He came home, and I was sleeping. I woke up,
and he was gone---on YOUR errand---but now that I've
had a chance to calm down a little, I know he'll be
back. I peg lunch at, what, half an hour away? Cordy's
bringing donuts. He'll come."
better, when I left him," Fiona offered.
Buffy gave the
girl's hand a comforting squeeze. "I'm sure
Gunn stood before the
tray of Jubalian entrails and poked them delicately with his paring knife.
he said, grimacing only slightly.
Lorne shook his head.
"Here," he said. "Like this." He took the knife from
Gunn's hand, and stabbed the platter of entrails dramatically. "I mean,
sure, they LOOK fairly dead," he remarked off-handedly. "Especially being already extracted from the
body of the Jubala demon and everything. But, as I am
sure you can understand, one can never be too
"So we always
whack it a few times with the knife like this," said
Lorne, demonstrating. "Just to be on the safe side."
said Gunn again. "Of course we do."
delighted that his protégé was understanding. He then put down the paring knife
and picked up a larger, machete-sized chef's knife,
which he used to enthusiastically hack the mass of
entrails into smaller pieces while he continued talking.
"I'm glad you're picking up on this so quickly, bro.
Makes me feel a whole lot better about leaving you
solo, you know?"
Gunn's eyes widened.
"Solo?" he gulped.
"That was a really good segue, wasn't it?"
Lorne began tossing entrail pieces into a smoking saucepan.
"There's a thing I need to take care of---with Kate, you
know? She's had an epiphany, you see, and I'm thinking she needs a little karmic nudge---and there's
this...well, I hesitate to use the term fortune teller, cause that's SO b-movie, but anyway, he's really, really good and I want to
"But isn't that the kind of mojo the stuff YOU do?"
Lorne shook his head.
"You know Kate as well as I do, buddy. Well, okay, you don't, exactly, but you do
know that she's not the type to let the likes of me
inside her head on a regular basis. Freaks her out
enough that I'm green and scaly and in love with her and
so amazing in bed that she nearly passes out from
the orgasms. Plus which," he added, pointedly
ignoring Gunn's wince of disgust. "There's that whole
conflict of interest thing. Pretty hard to read someone
else's fate when your own is so entangled in it. No, my friend---for this, we
need an outsider, and not just any outsider, but a good one. Our plane for
Shanghai departs this very afternoon."
"Oh, relax. We'll
only be gone a week---two, at most. Or possibly, three if
we sight-see. And it's not like you don't have your very own Wes-man at your beck
and call. You'll be fine!"
Lorne poured some
purple stuff into the saucepan, then stood back as it ignited in a dramatic fiery
said Gunn hollowly. "Fine."
"Only one tiny
thing," said Lorne casually. "Just the teensiest favour being
that we sort of need someone to watch Bruiser."
The flames died down,
and Gunn stared dubiously into the blackened saucepan. "We naming the
"No, not that,
dummy. Bruiser. You know, Bruiser? Kate's widdle puppy?"
Gunn shook his head.
"No. No way. Nu-uh."
"But he's really
a very sweet little..."
"No. Nope. Not
happening. Me and puppies---unmixy things."
Lorne shook his head.
"I'd just hate to think what Wesley will say," he said with mock sadness.
"When I tell him HE has to do it because you're scared of
a tiny widdle defenseless puppy..."
"I'd do it,
Charles. I'd tell him."
Lorne smirked in
triumph. "Looks like we have an understanding. You know, you and I really do work
well together. Does my heart good..." He poured
the flambéed entrails onto the serving tray. They
had, in the heat, turned a rich orange and shrunk into
tiny, crunchy strips. They looked suspiciously like
said Lorne, embellishing them with a dollop of blue cheese
dressing. "All ready."
repeated Gunn hollowly. "Ready."
Giles returned at
lunchtime, directly on the heels of Angel and Cordelia. He nodded briefly to Buffy
with a shy smile, then stiffly reached over to help
Cordelia arrange the sandwiches.
"Well look at
that," said Fiona, flustering nervously with a messy sheaf of
papers. "Time to...time to go do some library work, I think. On account of
my...working in a library. Cover story, you know. Has to
She snitched a
sandwich and bolted up the stairs as the light dawned in Cordelia's eyes.
"Right," Cordelia said, looking around her and realizing that Angel
had, bless his undead heart, already disappeared.
"I should go find Angel. Cause he's...not here. So I should
go find him!"
She grabbed a salad
and plastic fork and scrambled away, leaving Buffy and Giles alone in the work
area. They looked at each other and simultaneously
burst into giggles.
Giles pointed at the
departing Cordelia. "That...was..."
Buffy nodded, eyes
watering. "All the subtlety...of a cement truck," she gasped out.
He nodded, growing
serious again. "Thank you."
problem." She took a step toward him. "Can I...oh god, I think I need a
He embraced her, and
was surprised to find her shaking. "It's okay," he soothed.
"Let it out..."
was...worried..." she blubbered. "I hate it when you do that! I was
worried and you wouldn't talk to me and it scared me!"
He stroked her hair.
"No more tears," he said gently. "I know. And I'm
sorry for it. But Buffy, I couldn't help it. You know I couldn't."
She nodded, lifting up
hear head with a weak smile and blinking back the last of her tears. "I know
it," she admitted with a sniffle. "But I still hate
"And I still had
to do it---and likely will again on more than one occasion. Thank you," he said
"You needed space and I gave it to you. Would have been worse
if I hadn't. Did you get it out of your system, at least?"
"It shouldn't. I
won't run off again, if that's what you mean. Not tonight, anyway. But Buffy, there
is nothing good about this situation. The hellmouth
could open. You could die---Cordelia could die---there
is NOTHING good about that, and even a night of
solid brooding can't make it good."
She gave him a funny
look. "But that's not all of it."
"No, that's not
all of it. Buffy, I have this feeling---I don't know how to explain it, but I know---I KNOW I'm
She flushed guiltily.
He nodded. "She's
going to die again, Buffy. Tomorrow night, when they try
and open the hellmouth---one way or another, she's going to die."
Buffy nodded, hands
clenching by her sides. "Okay," she said. "If
you're right...if we know it now...we'll protect her." She
nodded confidently. "Don't worry, Giles. We'll protect
"It won't matter.
One way or another---there's no stopping it. She'll die, Buffy. She'll
He punched the wall in
nervous anger. "Damn it! That'll teach me to believe in second
She led him to a chair
and sat down on his lap, touching his face gently. "Do you really
"Come on, Buffy,
you know how this works. You really mean to tell me you haven't thought of it too,
thought of---thought of HER too?"
"I've been trying
really, really hard not too, actually. And doing a pretty good job, I thought. Lawyers---bad. Hellmouth---bad. Giles---awwww.
That's pretty much my thought process right now."
He looked up at her
unhappily. "She's come back, Buffy. She's come back, and they'll take her away again."
He allowed his cheek
to nuzzle into her hand. "I just get so tired sometimes. Bloody fate pulls you out
of line...I dared to hope that maybe we had gotten
points somehow. Maybe they were saying this time, you
CAN have a second chance. Poor Jenny---she lost her
life for the cause same as we did. And I thought---I thought that MAYBE
they were giving her her just reward...but they were toying with her, with US,
just as they've always been. They brought her back,
and now they'll let her die again. How can one night of
pain and anger possibly begin to make sense of
"I'm a second
chance too," she said, voice breaking.
that," he said, tears dripping soundlessly from his stony eyes.
"And if I lose YOU again too..."
He slid off his
glasses to catch the wetness on his fingers, and in his bare eyes, she saw the glint
of Ripper, silently finishing the thought.
** Cordelia wandered
through the bowels of the library basement, munching idly on a turkey wrap and
boredly keeping half an eye out for Angel. After a few moments, she doubled
back and quietly slipped into Fiona's tiny office.
greeted Angel. He was comfortably ensconced in Fiona's desk chair, feet perched
casually on her keyboard tray, and book resting
comfortably on his lap, a cocky grin on his face as he watched
"Angel! What are you..."
He shrugged. "I
heard you come in."
"Like heard me as
in I was being too noisy or heard me as in heard the tread of my shoes on the carpet
from rooms away with your sicko vampire hearing?"
He didn't answer.
"All right," she sighed. "That was a low blow, and I
apologize. I'll be good, okay?"
He regarded her
"So how's the
interesting, actually. I've never read a poem written by a vampire.
I mean, I was always a drawing sort of guy myself, and it never occurred to me
"Whoa, back up a
second here. VAMPIRE?"
that's..." she snatched the book from his hands and skimmed through
the biographical introduction. "St. John of the Cross, Founder, with St.
Teresa of Avila, of the Discalced Carmelites. Born at Hontoveros, Old
Castile, in 1542. Ecstatic visions, exiled to Gaol, saved from death by the Blessed Virgin, yada, yada,
yada...where exactly are you getting vampire from again?"
He handed off the book
with a smug grin. "The Dark Night of the Soul. Fun stuff. Read THAT and tell
me it wasn't written by a vampire!"
She scanned the poem
impatiently. "Darkened night, flame of love...okay, so the virginal maiden
sneaks out into the abyss to rendezvous with her lover,
and he...whoa." Her eyes skimmed down the bottom
of the page. "'From all endeavour ceasing...threw
them amongst the lilies there to fade.' He KILLS
her," Angel corrected. "'My neck he wounded, and suspended every
sense with its caresses.' He bites her, and they 'joined ...transfiguring them each
into the other.' Come on, Cordelia! It's so obvious.
her," finished Cordelia softly. "Night---transfigures...oh my god, Angel, he
bites her, then he turns her."
pronounced Angel with satisfaction. "Told you!"
She shrugged away from
him. "Well, don't sound so proud about it. It's kind of gory, isn't
beautiful too," he said. "Night that was my guide..."
"But why would
than the morning's pride..."
"Stop quoting at
me," she snapped. "I'm trying to think!"
"You don't have
to. It's us, don't you see? That same power...that same transformation...it took
Jenny's life, but it also SAVED yours. I think...Cordelia,
I think she sent me this because it's her way of
giving us her blessing. I think she's telling me that maybe...maybe she
They were just
cranking up the karaoke, when, for the second night in a row, Wesley marched himself
past the scaly bouncer, through the tables stacked high
with Planter's Peanuts, past the three-headed
blue-skinned demon who was loudly demanding more purple stuff,
and up to the bar at Caritas.
A harried-looking Gunn
popped up from behind the counter. "Wes! Thank god!"
Wesley took this
greeting in stride. "Umm hmm. I must say, I was surprised
to hear from you again like this. I was fairly thorough in my instructions
regarding the baking soda. I thought we had the crisis
"No, not THAT
crisis," said Gunn. "This is another one. You know about
the Lorne and Kate thing, right?"
"Drove them to the airport myself not a mere two hours ago, as
is..." said Gunn. "They left behind a little something---I mean,
besides the demon bar I'm now in charge of. Ramone!"
He snapped his
fingers, and the waiter approached them. "Cover me," said Gunn. "Me
and Mr. Wyndam-Pryce here have some stuff."
said Ramone, saluting smartly at Gunn. He smirked at Wesley.
Wesley opted not to
comment on that one, and silently followed Gunn into Lorne's apartment. The demon bartender had
apparently begun redecorating, in deference to his newly acquired live-in girlfriend---stray
belongings had been stowed in neatly stacked boxes, and several bookshelves lay empty, awaiting Kate's influence. It was onto one
of these that Bruiser the puppy had climbed, and on
which he had apparently gotten himself stranded. Gunn pointed at the quivery
ball of fur with concern.
"It won't come
down," he said.
"But that's...THIS is the crisis?"
"It won't come
down," Gunn repeated. "Which means it won't eat. Which means
it will die. Which means Kate will be sad. And when Kate gets sad, Lorne
Charles," said Wesley in genuine confusion. "That's...all you
have to do is reach across these boxes here, pick him up, and..."
him?" said Gunn. "I don't think so." He squatted to the floor
and timidly patted his knee. "Here, Bruiser. C'mere, puppy. Here..."
goodness' sake," sighed Wesley. He stepped delicately over Gunn,
reached above his head and snatched the now-whimpering puppy off the shelf. Bruiser had it in him
to be a big dog, but he hadn't grown to near his potential yet, and he fit
easily in the watcher's arms.
said Wesley, putting the dog gently down. "See that?"
"No problem at
all, Charles. But really, you must learn to manage these sorts of things on your
own. Now, shall I add desensitization exercises to the lengthy, lengthy lists of things we need to work
"You're the boss."
They convened their
evening meeting at the hotel's pool---dripping wet like the rest of them, Kevin
the Chaos demon's oozing antlers were slightly less conspicuous.
"So, we're set
for tomorrow, then," began Lilah.
whined Spike. "Like we could NOT be. Not like the hellmouth's going
"Don't call me that." She turned to Kevin. "He does
that all the time. It's irritating."
Kevin balled a girly
fist at Spike. "This is not the time for games, vampire."
"Demon-come-lately's giving ME commands? Oh, come on."
Harmony adjusted the
straps of her leopard-skin bikini and cleared her throat impatiently. "Hello?
This is our last night before we blow up the world, and
we're going to spend it bickering? I mean, hello! We
have things to do, people! With the spells, and the potions, and the
killing the slayer and all her friends so they don't get in our..."
Kevin raised a timid
hand. "We're not blowing UP the world, actually. It's more of a..."
minute," interrupted Lilah. "Slayer? What slayer?"
"THE slayer! The
one I saw lurking near the hellmouth when I was coming back from shopping!"
clarified Lilah. "You are talking about today, are you? THIS
hellmouth---not the other one?"
"Of course this
hellmouth, stupid. I'm not dumb, you know. Well, okay, I am, but not about this! I saw
the slayer. She's here!"
Beside them, Jenny
twitched a little. They didn't notice.
Spike. "Wondered how long it would take THEM to turn up."
worry," said Kevin. "It's not a problem."
Kevin shook his head,
raining goopy slime down on them from his swaying antlers. "Remember that
thing?" he told Lilah.
She snapped her
fingers. "Right! That!"
"There's a thing
we talked about," said Lilah. "While you were in the
worry," said Lilah, patting Kevin on his arm with a
self-satisfied smile. "Kevin's taking care of it."
Spike rolled his eyes.
"Of course, he is," he muttered darkly. "Why
wouldn't he be?"
Buffy snuggled into a
blanket, feet tucked under her knees and phone balanced comfortably in the crook
of her shoulder.
Willow sounded thrilled to hear from her. "How are things?
You guys okay? Did you see the hellmouth yet? Is it just like our hellmouth?"
yes," said Buffy. "Which is why is IS a hellmouth. Willow,
"Do you have all
the books you need?" said Willow. "Do you know what's
happening? Is there snow there? Do you need me to do any spells?"
"No, yes, no, and
no," said Buffy impatiently. "Willow that isn't why I
Willow, deflating a little. "Right. The whole pre-apocalypse
sharing the love in case you die thing. I'll get Dawn."
okay," said Willow. "I'll get Dawn. Once sec..."
She heard faint sounds
of scuffling in the background, followed by a whiny 'I got it!'
"Hey Buffy. You
"Are YOU okay?
"Left me all
alone with only Willow, Tara, Xander and Anya watching my every
move and caring for my every need? Geez, Buffy. Over-protective much?"
"Wish you didn't
have to go off like this and save the world and maybe die and stuff, I know. Buffy, honestly. You have
enough to worry about without getting all concerned over my math grades and
whether or not I'm taking my
vitamins. Which I am, by the way. We're cool here."
She let herself
exhale. "Fine. Good."
vitamins, doing my homework, limiting my television to one hour
per night---do you need to know what I had for breakfast too?"
Buffy bit her lip and
burrowed deeper into the blankets. Dawn picked up on the vibe. "Hey,
it's okay," she hastily reassured. "I was
just teasing, Buffy. Maybe that was inappropriate, with you stressing and all,
but...look, you ARE okay, right? I mean, you HAVE done this kind of thing
"So that doesn't
mean it gets any easier, Dawnie Opening a hellmouth is still opening a hellmouth,
and we've got evil lawyers and Miss Calendar, and
Giles is freaking out, and on top of it all I've been a
bad sister and left YOU all alone..."
"You really feel
guilty about that? Buffy, that's so sweet! But you're a great sister. And I've been
having a blast with Willow and Tara and the gang.
There's this thingie Tara does with the blender, a jar of marshmallow fluff and some peanut butter that is
just amazing, and...wait, Giles is freaking?"
"As we speak.
He's been really, really trying to work it through with me, but it's not something so
easy to get your head around. I mean, his ex, who was practically killed
before his very eyes by my then-evil ex-boyfriend is magically resurrected
by evil lawyers...not exactly something you can just shrug off, is it? It's like the rational part of
his brain is all trying to figure it out rationally,
but meanwhile the rest of his brain is all 'ahhh!'
and the net result is mucho scrambled circuits and no
easy answers and nighttime brood-walks on the
waterfront that help nobody, least of all him."
"Oh, Dawnie, I'm
so worried about him I don't know what to do."
Dawn. "That's convenient."
you worry about him like that? Keeps the worried circuits nice and busy so you can
avoid thinking about how YOU feel. That's kinda co-dependent, isn't
it? The way you have that whole thing set up?"
"Really? You knew
Miss Calendar too, Buffy. And it was YOUR evil boyfriend
who killed her. How do YOU feel about having her back?"
"I feel sick with
worry about what this is doing to Giles."
"Oh indeed. He's
probably out there right now punching a brick wall or something, isn't he?"
"Well, I'd follow
his lead if I were you. Take some time for yourself. Go
to the gym or something, I don't know. But work through it---now. Or it'll hit
you, hard, when you don't want it to. And Buffy?"
"I love you too.
I mean, in case the world DOES end and stuff? I wanted you to know that."
The phone clicked off
and Buffy sat there dumbly with the receiver in her hand, not even processing.
Cordelia Chase rolled
onto her back and gazed up at the stars from beneath the leafy shadows.
"I love it when
we do this," she said quietly.
Angel propped himself
up on his elbows and looked at her. "Do what?"
"Find ourselves a
quiet spot under a tree somewhere and just enjoy the quiet..."
"I mean, we've
been here, what, two days, and we haven't even gone for a walk yet. Why haven't
hellmouth," Angel suggested.
"Right. But besides that, I mean. Who knows when we'll get
up this way again?"
soon," said Angel. "What with the probably permanent council
presence and the hellmouth being here..."
She swatted him on the
arm. "Do you mind? I'm kinda trying to enjoy the moment here."
He thought about this.
"You know," he said after a moment. "We could
probably have sex right now and nobody would see us. There's a tree in our
She looked briefly
exasperated. Then, her eyes abruptly sparkled as she appeared to consider his proposal. After a
moment's though, she made her decision. After all, she figured, shrugging
calmly out of her sweatshirt, they all could die tomorrow.
Buffy took a deep
breath and closed her eyes, giving herself a moment to centre her breathing before
she jumped her feet back and stretched her arms out
on front of her.
wobbly," said a voice behind her.
She let her knees cave
in and picked herself up off the floor to find Giles resting casually against
a pile of exercise mats and watching with open
smirk as she tried to untangle her limbs.
"The shaky arms
would not have been a problem," he elaborated, studying her bare limbs appraisingly
as she stretched. "If you had your core
properly aligned before you extended. But your knees...decidedly wobbly."
He shrugged. "Is
it my fault that you telegraph your feelings through your posture? Although, I am
sorry if I made you angry," he said.
"You are. It's in
your elbows. Sadness goes straight to your knees, and anger---elbows. I could see it
as soon as you extended, and I'm sorry if I was the cause."
She sat up again, all
pretense of workout gone. "You weren't. Well, okay, you were, but...not like
that. Not really. It's complicated."
He smiled. "And
you're just now realizing that?"
She took a deep
breath. "I was talking to Dawn before," she told him. "And she
suggested that maybe the reason I get so caught up in your stress is
not that I care so much, but that I'm using it as a
coping skill to avoid dealing with my own."
"And is she
"Maybe a little. I mean, I do care about you for you, don't get me wrong, but at the
same time---it's like I wasn't even processing the
whole Jenny thing. On an emotional level, I mean. I was
all dealing with you, and battle strategy and
hellmouth issues and what does her being here mean in THAT context, but in terms
of what it really...means..." She took a deep breath. "It's simpler for
me, I think, cause I can just feel guilty."
"And guilty is
easier than sad?"
"Heck, yeah. Sad
is hopeless. Sad is woe is me, why do bad things happen to good people. Guilt is
miserable, but it's my own damn fault so I grin and bear it
and that's the way it is."
He nodded. "And
you really don't think that I feel guilty too?"
"Why should you?
You didn't make Angel turn evil. You didn't have a chance to kill him before he did
any harm, and you didn't pass up that chance when you
did have it. I killed her, Giles. The only reason
she's back is cause she died---because of me."
"And me," he
He gave her a sad
smile. "You really haven't learned it yet, have you? It's all connected, Buffy---everything,
it's all connected. Your moment with Angel---that didn't happen in a vacuum. I
was there. Your friends were there. We all made what
were, at the time, the best decisions we could. Jenny
kept her past a secret. Her elders kept the curse a
secret. And I myself never connected the dots, never
pieced together what was really going on back then. But
at the time---we did our best. We're ALL
"So we're all guilty, yet at the same time, it's not our
"Something like that."
don't think I really feel better. I mean, I do, but I sort
of...don't, you know?"
He smiled again.
He pulled her into his
lap and they held each other, drawing from the warmth what comfort they could.
They met in the early
hours of the morning for coffee at the JDUC Tim Horton's, then doubled back
outside and to the underground Alfie's entrance to scout
the pub for signs of hellmouth---or
"There's only the
one entry point," Fiona had told them. "The sewer
access goes into another side of the building---this is the only way in. If they're
here, we'll see them..."
They hadn't counted on
the security guard. "Boss said there might be trouble," he told them,
stoutly barring the door.
"It's seven in
the morning," said Fiona impatiently. "You don't
open---if you DO open tonight at all---for another twelve
The man shrugged.
"Boss said there might be trouble. Wants guys here all day."
"But we need to
get in there!" Fiona whined.
The guard shrugged.
"There might be trouble."
Fiona looked like she
was going to open her mouth again, when Buffy pulled her aside. "They
can't start the ritual till sundown, right?"
"So that leaves
us a good six hours to find another way in. I say we retreat. See if that library of
yours has any floor plans to this building or
From the rooftop of
the gymnasium, Lilah and Kevin watched the proceedings with binoculars.
"Didn't think a bunch of locals would be smart enough to sense
the vibe," said Lilah, eyeing the student
guards. "Those won't be a problem, will they?"
"They might be. If we weren't planning to teleport in, I
said Lilah. "That thing of yours. Lucky for us, then. So, you up
for some breakfast? Heard the Tim Hortons has pretty good donuts."
Kevin gave his
festering antlers a perfunctory swipe with the back of his sleeve . "Why not? I
need to get some more paper napkins."
"Okay. We'll just
stop back at the hotel and get your Tilly hat..."
"In this town? Don't need one. Half of them think I'm a goth.
The other half think I'm an engineering student. I just love clueless college kids. Especially deep fried and with butter
all," said Lilah, nodding sagely. "Don't we all."
The lunch crowd had
come and gone, and Gunn motored busily up and down the bar, wiping tables. He
heard the key turn in the lock of the now-closed
Caritas, and looked up from his wiping to see Wesley,
patting his brand new spare key securely in his pocket.
Lunch was a SMASH," he enthused. "Those muffins? Went over
like the purple stuff, but in solid form."
In his enthusiasm,
Gunn had stopped watching where he was going. He tripped over Bruiser, and nearly
went flying. "Damn!"
Wesley's smirk was far
too self-satisfied. "Having trouble?" he asked breezily.
"Wipe that grin
off your face, man. I'm warning you."
warning me, are you?" He looked down at the waggy-tailed
widdle puppy, then up at the glaring, disgust-pinched grimace Gunn was leveling at it.
"Very threatening," he told his friend
reassuringly. "On both counts."
Gunn stepped carefully
away from Bruiser, and settled numbly into a chair.
"I just don't get it, Wes. Damn thing's been following me around all
"Because he senses you don't like him much, I expect. He's
trying to win you over. Trixie did that too---followed father around like
puppy dog we had when I was small. A school-friend of Fiona's had just had a litter,
and she brought one home one day. Lovely little thing---snowy white,
with fluffy tufts of fur that curled out just so...Father hated her on sight,
Gunn fidgeted, his
happy mood suddenly sapping out of him. "Right. Of course."
"But we took SUCH
good care of her, Fiona and I. Fed her, played with her, took her for little walks...everything
just so. That was actually how Mother wound up positioning it to Father when it
came to decide on keeping her---the education of it
all. Teaching us responsibility, you see. Discipline. Structure."
There was an
uncomfortable clench to Wesley's jaw.
"And we thought
we were handling it," said Wesley. "We thought we were doing
a good job. And we continued thinking so right up until the day he took us to
the park and drowned her in the river."
cast a protective glance at Bruiser. "He WHAT? Why?"
"He drowned her
in the river. We were getting too attached, you see. You must never get too
attached to your charges, because emotion is the enemy of control."
Gunn let his hand drop
to his side, and Bruiser took advantage of this lapse of control to try a tiny
"Oh, man," said Gunn after a moment.
"That sucks, bro."
bravely in his seat. "Well, I'd like to think I've evolved since then. Done
better than HE thought I would, bleeding heart notwithstanding..."
Gunn gave Bruiser's furry chin an off-hand stroke.
"You have, Wes. You have. Only reason we've done so well is
cause we stick together. It's those kinds of relationships that...look, you do
need a brain, but you need a heart just as
much---can't fight so well if you don't have anything at
stake, can you?"
"I know that,
Charles. But at the same time---brutal and heartless as it was, it WAS an effective
lesson. You should try picturing it in your head sometime---with, say,
for example, Wolfram and Hart playing Father, and Cordelia playing poor, dead Trixie..."
"It isn't like that."
"But it COULD be,
and it's why we have to be so careful. We have to..."
"What? Be cold,
unfeeling bastards just so nobody ever hurts us? Nothing ventured, nothing gained? Wes,
it doesn't work that way. You're not a little kid anymore, and it's not
just you and little sis against the big scary world. We're all in this together,
bro. You and I and Angel and them---we're ALL in this together, no matter
what your psycho Vulcan father might say."
"I know that,
Charles," Wesley said again. "Most of the time...I know it,
I really do."
Gunn watched him for a
moment, then casually picked up the towel and started polishing the bar again.
Bruiser zipped by, giving his new friend an
almost-knowing almost-wink before hopping onto Wesley's lap and nuzzling insistently
into the distracted watcher's balled-up, shaking fist.
It was just after five
at Mission Central, in the bowels of the Stauffer Library at Queen's
University, when one of Fiona's monitoring crystals began
wailing like a siren and emitting magical purple flares.
grumbled Fiona, rushing to check on her readings. "They've gone around us!
They've...they've teleported inside!"
They gathered their
backpacks, and grimly made their preparations, but when they arrived at their
hotspot, the same security guard was casually resting
against a garbage dumpster, smoking a cigarette.
said Fiona, smiling sweetly. "We need to get in there."
The guard shook his
head. "We're closed tonight," he said.
course," said Fiona. "And I have MY extermination crew in
there right now dealing with them. I need to go in there and supervise."
The guard frowned.
"I don't think so."
said Fiona calmly. "If we could just talk about this for a
With an impatient
sigh, Angel shoved his way in front of her. "You know, I really hate doing
this," he apologized. Then, he growled, vamped out and
barked "Let us in."
The guard hopped to
his feet. "Okay."
They tiptoed carefully
into the dark, cavernous pub and Buffy winced. "Why is it always the bad
guys who have the hordes of backup?" she grumbled.
Lilah had clearly come prepared. They'd set up shop on a makeshift dais,
probably to allow the scoobies a suitably distressing view, but they had barred
the way with what looked like every vampire they could
get their hands on.
Lilah, Spike and
Harmony, each with crystal in hand, formed a triangle around a bound and prostrate
Jenny, who was not even pretending to be out of it
anymore. She struggled openly, in obvious
distress---quieting eerily when she caught sight of Buffy and her
Tiny cones of light
flowed between the crystals. Lilah beamed. "Slayer! Good of you to join us. Unfortunately, you're
too late, of course---the ritual's already started. I can feel the floor
going all warm and fuzzily evil beneath us even as we speak..."
Beneath them, it was
true, tiny cracks were starting to chip into the floor as the hellmouth fought
its way open. Lilah smiled benignly at the pack of
The scoobies went
flying in four directions at once. Buffy dove headfirst into the crowd, trying to
make headway, trying to reach the dais, where the
cracks of the hellmouth widened.
Giles whispered. He looked desperately up at the dais, took a
halting breath, and threw himself once more into the melee. They had to thin the
Cordelia fought her
way through the rumble, ducking flying stakes left and right, her heartbeat accelerating
dangerously. Careful, she mentally warned. With great anger comes great power---but
with great calm, comes greater precision...
Slayer," taunted Lilah, as the crystals ominously glowed.
"You can do better than that..."
Buffy lunged, stifling
a distracted moan as Giles dove to her aid, then
stumbled under the crush of the onslaught. She looked away from Lilah just long
enough to catch Angel's eye and wave him over to her watcher's aid, as
Giles raised half a knee and got in a desperate but well-placed kick that sent three vampires tumbling.
Cordelia ducked, and
found herself an unoccupied corner where she could get her bearings before
diving back in. There was nothing they could do. She saw
that now. They were outnumbered, they were too late,
and there was nothing they could do...careful, she
warned herself sharply. Calm down...
Buffy found herself a
tiny scrap of footing, and with sudden slayer energy, leapt to the
dais---noticing, at the same time Angel did, that it wasn't Lilah
chanting the spell at all. It was cover, all of it
was---cover for a tiny gray chaos demon who suddenly yelped
the last of his spell, antlers crackling magic as he
dove into the protection of the melee. Tentacles
started creeping their way out of the hellmouth, and in Buffy's eyes, Cordelia
saw the first, faint glint of uncontrolled panic.
She took deep breaths
and tried to calm herself, her gaze drifted around her and landing unwittingly
on the bound and struggling Jenny. Her soul abruptly
starting reeling---from stress, from panic, from
guilt...but she couldn't tear her eyes away. Their gazes
locked--- and suddenly, the jumble of alphabet soup in her battle-panicked brain
starting spelling out words...
She gasped, and
slumped a little. ---Jenny?---
---'Bout time you got
here.--- On the dais, Jenny's eyes glowed, and magic leaked out of her fingers
and dribbled onto the growing maw of the hellmouth.
---Not that it matters
much,--- continued Jenny with a wry smile. ---It's already started. And only
blood will close it now. My blood. You knew that,
Cordelia nodded, and
felt her eyes sting with tears. ---I'm sorry.---
Everything for a reason, kiddo. You know how it works.---
Cordelia shook her
head. ---It's so unfair...---
Jenny twitched, eyes
alight like circuits. ---Not really. I had a second chance, and I did what I
needed to with it.--- On the dais, still bound, she
struggled weakly, breath coming in deep, hitching heaves as
the telepathy exerted her. ---At least, I hope I did.
You got my message, didn't you?---
---St. John the
vampire bard? It WAS a message. I knew it!---
The bond briefly
wavered as Jenny collected herself. ---It's important that you understand,---she
said. ---There's power out there, Cordelia. There's
power, and there's danger and magic---but in spite of everything, it's
beautiful, and you know---you're none of you the first. Others have seen, others have
felt, others have...have shared...and it's there, if
you know where to look for it. There's power out
there, Cordelia. But there's comfort out there too...---
Cordelia stumbled, the
mental effort draining her also. ---Should we...?---
Jenny nodded. ---It's
almost time. You'll tell them...---
The letters faded, and
Cordelia cried out. ---Jenny, wait! Wait...---
flickered to life again. ---Tell them...what?--- Cordelia pleaded.
not forgiven. He never CAN be, you know. But he's redeemed---in my eyes, anyway.
It's a fine distinction, but it's one he'll
---Tell Buffy I'm
proud of her. And tell Giles...--- She smiled oddly. ---Tell Giles that sometimes,
you really DO get second chances---even if they
aren't what they might seem.---
---Okay, THAT one I
Jenny's bindings suddenly melted beneath her, and she raised a finger wearily and stared straight at
Cordelia. ---You want a boost?---
Jenny touched her
finger to the ground, and a snake of blue energy coursed beneath it and traveled the
length of the of the floor, immolating vampire after
vampire as it swept the room, and zapping Cordelia from beneath her feet,
momentarily dazing her.
---Jenny? You there?
She heard a strangled
cry from Giles, and before they could react, Jenny had stumbled to her feet---and
dove directly into the maw of the hellmouth. She
crackled with magic, and as the energy beams caught on the edges of the pit, they snared the gap closed.
Cordelia shouted. She lunged through the thinning herd of
vampires and threw herself at the whirlwind that was slowly blinking out beneath
her. She tripped, and caught her hand on the
hellmouth's edge. Her skin glowed blue, as Jenny herself
had---and the current of magic sealed up the hellmouth
Buffy came to with a
groggy wince of pain. "Owwww."
She sat up. "Lilah..."
said Giles softly. "By the time we got our bearings..."
said Buffy again.
He smiled. "It
was a very big fight," he told her. "A hundred vampires at
least. You did well, Buffy."
She frowned. "Owww
again. And why are YOU not limpy?"
he said. "I'm not entirely clear what happened, but
somehow...she got herself a boost. And after using it to close the hellmouth, she had
just enough of it left to heal the worst of our
injuries. She tapped herself out on Angel's chest wound,
and I made her stop---figured that with your slayer strength, you'd
rebound a lot faster than she would. She's with Angel now---still sparking a little,
and trying to process this whole thing."
okay? Miss Calendar..."
have been here," said Giles, more rueful than sad. "The magic they used to
MAKE her here---it was dangerous. It was wrong. She
clearly knew it. And in my heart of hearts, I suppose I
knew it too. She came to our rescue---then she
went...to where she was meant to be, I suppose. She's at
peace, Buffy. She earned it."
"We're all okay," she said, eyes wide with wonder.
"After all that...Cordy, And Angel, and...hey, has anyone
seen Fiona? Is she..."
"On the phone
with the council putting in my request for vacation time," said Giles with a grin.
"We're taking a honeymoon."
halfway to Montreal," he told her. "All those old castles and
things, it's frightfully romantic."
"But to have a
honeymoon," said Buffy slowly. "You kind of have to...get
"It generally works that way, yes."
In a small private
airplane hangar on the outskirts of town, Spike and Harmony slouched lethargically in fold-up deck chairs, and watched Lilah pace with Kevin, anxiously
checking on arrangements.
longer?" Harmony whined.
Spike sighed heavily.
"Wouldn't take so long if Sir Goops-a-Lot didn't keep dripping antler slime all
over the sodding propellers."
Kevin briefly turned
their way and pouted, waving a puny fist at Spike. "You stop right now with
the racial slurs, vampire! I can't help it that I
"Well, if you
weren't cuddling in so close with officious boss lady over there," said Spike,
cocking a finger at Lilah, "You wouldn't be getting
close enough to the bloody plane to gum it up."
Harmony rolled her
eyes. "Oh, great. Here we go..."
Kevin, quaking hard enough from anger that little drips of slime
rained furiously down on his cheeks. "We are not doing this. I've had
enough, Spike. I have had ENOUGH! So let me lay it out
for you, man: she doesn't love you. She never did
love you. You can just stop trying right now because
it isn't going to happen."
Spike gazed dubiously
at Kevin's flabby bicep as it wobbled with fury. "Right," he scoffed.
"You're a MUCH better specimen than I am..."
Kevin briefly looked
like he was going to sock him. Then, he turned on his heels and whined "Lilah!"
Lilah stalked regally
over and leveled her gaze at Spike. "Are you behaving?"
whined Kevin. "Lilah, he's making fun of me again. He called my
are," said Spike.
Lilah hauled Spike to
his feet and dragged him bodily away from the group. "We need to talk,"
she told him.
His face crumpled.
"You mean you're serious? It's not just antler-boy getting all many and you're
"Look," she said gently. "You've been loyal, and you've been
helpful, so I'm trying to let you down easy here. It isn't you, Spike. It's
again...we have a history, do you understand? There no way you could possibly
compete with...look, it's like Drusilla and you. A love
He eyed Kevin
suspiciously. "Really? Like Dru and I?"
She nodded. "And
seeing him again....FIGHTING with him again, and doing acts of nefarious evil...it
brought it all back to me. And it made me realize that
life is short and love is fleeting. If he's the
one...like Dru and you...don't I owe it to myself to find out if
we can make it work? To at least give it a
Spike felt himself
tearing up. "You do, pet. To have it like that...you do."
"We'll drop off
you and Harmony anywhere you want," she reassured him.
"Sunnydale, or L.A. or who knows where..."
"And I hope we
can still be friends," she told him.
He nodded. "Sure.
Lilah clapped her
hands together briskly. "Well, than. Shall we?"
Cordelia Chase stood
shivering in the Kingston train station, fidgeting with her bags.
taking so long?" she complained. "How long does it take a
person to buy some coffee and a candy bar from a vending machine?"
"For a person,
not long," said Buffy with a smirk. "But Angel's not
a person, is he?"
Cordelia let go of her
bag and swatted Buffy on the arm. "Smart ass."
"It's one of my
She shivered again.
Fiona looked up
briefly from a file folder she'd been fiddling with all afternoon. "It's not so
bad," she said absently. "It's not the temperature,
it's the wind chill."
"Is that, like, the Canada equivalent of 'it's not the heat,
it's the humidity?'"
The door stumbled open
behind them, and Angel emerged with a tray of coffee and a handful of candy
bars, both of which he distributed to the girls. He
also produced a styrofoam cup of water and a flaccid teabag, which he
offered to Giles.
"Thanks for the
ride to the train station," he said to Fiona.
She looked up again.
"Hmmm? Oh, no problem. I had to be here anyway to pick up my new trainee. She
should be arriving any second now."
said Giles curiously. "You're awfully young to be getting one of
those. I didn't get one until I had been with the council for years."
"Well, Mr. Giles,
I do actually have a hellmouth here," she huffed. "That's rather a
He nodded. "You
do. And a solemn burden it is, my dear."
appropriately, then broke into a grin. "Stop nagging! I'll keep in touch, I already
promised I would!"
"Good girl. I
believe this is your train, is it?"
They stood back from
the tracks as the train pulled to a stop with a dramatic whistle. Fiona began
scanning the crowd.
go," said Buffy. "Our train leaves from the other platform,
and it's all the way over thataway, and..."
said a distracted Fiona. "Lovely trip, then. Don't be a
Cordelia flew into
Giles' arms. "You're leaving? Already?"
he soothed. "It's not like we'll never see you again. We'll be
home in just a few weeks, Cordelia."
"And our flight
home connects through Los Angeles, as all flights invariably do," said Buffy,
smiling. "You can meet us or something."
"And it's not
like you don't deserve the vacation and all," sniffled Cordelia, tearing up a
little. "But we'll miss you SO much, won't we, Angel?"
Angel. "Right. Of course we will."
Giles laughed, and
Buffy gave him a happy squeeze. "It's so good to see you like this! I love
you. I mean, I loved you when you were all dark and
broody too---that was kind of sexy, actually, even if it
WAS really irritating, but this, this
happy-vacation-us stuff is really fun too."
he beamed. "Not only did Fiona get us actual council
approval for this little vacation, she managed to get all expenses paid too. It seems
that, amidst all the hellmouths and slayers and such,
the council accidentally, well...neglected some of
the mundanities of running an actual, legal business.
Such as, for example, statutory vacation pay. Which
has, now that Fiona here caught the error, been paid retroactively---with
Buffy's eyes widened.
"You did that?" she said to Fiona.
"God is in the details. Let this be a lesson to us all about
getting so caught up in the supernatural that we forget our humbler responsibilities. Such
as, for example, employee payroll deductions."
complaining," grinned Buffy. "Well, not now, anyway."
either," said Giles. "Two weeks alone with you, to do whatever I
Cordelia swatted him
on the arm. "Hey! Keep the thoughts clean around the vampire-sense-y, why dontcha!"
He flushed, grateful
for the interruption of the tiny stranger in the large woolen cloak who tapped him suddenly on the shoulder. "Excuse me. I'm
looking for a Fiona Wyndam-Pryce?"
Fiona briskly, running over to investigate. "I'm Fiona, right here."
The figure unwrapped
itself from the cloak to reveal a slim woman with long, stringy hair that fell over
her face in messy, travel-sweated clumps. The girl withdrew a clammy hand
from beneath the cloak and extended it warmly.
Cordelia stared at the
new arrival. "Fred?" she squeaked.
The girl gave a tiny
bow. "Winnifred Burkle at your service. Hey, Cordelia. Great to see you
thought you were in Texas, safe in the bosom of your loving family, recovering, after
your rescue, by us, from the Pylean hell
chirped Fred. "Right up until the watcher's council recruited me.
Guess there aren't too many people out there who can handle metaphysical
anomalies from both a scientific AND experiential point of view."
"Train ride was
pleasant?" said Fiona.
"Oh, sure it was.
VERY exciting. I've never been on a train before. They
have little sandwiches."
"So you're a
watcher now?" goggled Cordelia.
trainee." She turned to Fiona. "So is the anomaly here? Cause I
was really told that there would be a metaphysical anomaly."
said Buffy. "You'll have about as much anomaly as you can
handle. Good luck with that, nice meeting you, and we really do have a train to catch..."
She took advantage of
Cordelia's distraction with the new arrival to sneak on her way with Giles.
Fred, looking around her. "Can we go see the anomaly now? Is it
said Angel, watching Fiona and her new trainee get acquainted, "It's so nice to see
young people these days who are excited about their
Cordelia. "Just what we've been missing. Young girls who like
to play with hellmouths."
still," said Angel. "She does look pretty pumped about it.
"Well, it can be a TINY bit sexy," she conceded.
"With the kicking, and the fighting, and the ripply training
muscles, and the..."
He slung his arm
around her shoulder and walked her to the waiting train. "Think they'll be
she said, turning back to watch Fiona and Fred.
He cast his eye in the
other direction, toward Buffy and Giles' departing train, and she nodded.
"Oh, that? Sure they will. You know how it goes. It will get
bad again. But it will get good too..."
He leaned over and
gave her a tiny kiss. "When did you get so smart?"
She shrugged him off.
"And when did you get so sappy? Have you been into my self-help books
said soberly, climbing onto the train with him. "Kinda
let the snark get the best of me there for a second. Guess it still freaks me out
a little that sometimes, you need comfort
He looked so stricken
that she smiled again, and nuzzled into his arms as they settled themselves. "They're good. We're good."
"I almost lost
you," he told her. "Last night...we were in deep."
she agreed. "But, in the words of the immortal Indigo Girls,
'not as deep as the love I'm in. I know not how, I sink or swim.'"
He let her enjoy the
sentiment for a moment. Then, he said "They didn't say that."
"Well, okay, they
didn't. Not directly, anyway. But 'in the words of some immortal unnamed folk song writer, as co-opted by
the still otherwise very good Indigo Girls' just doesn't have the same ring to
it, does it?"
The train pulled out
of the station. "We are so finding you a new band," said Angel.
She raised her head
from his comfy chest in huffy indignation. "ME? You're one to talk, Mr. There-is-no-sentiment-that-cannot-be-expressed-by-a-Manilow lyric!"
The train rolled
smoothly, and they drifted slowly toward home. For a long while, they didn't speak again. They didn't
parts of the Karaoke Kids series located at: http://www.geocities.com/masked_spangler/