Saving Souls, Sunnydale Style
Notes. This is set in early season six with a few tweaks that mean less
problems with the Scoobies. It was beta read by Jennifer who did a
great job (as usual!). Thanks, Jen.
Sunnydale lay bathed in sunlight, the sky holding in the warmth and
peace of another beautiful late summer day. Children played in the
quiet streets, a growing awareness of Labor Day approaching filling
their games with frantic energy.
Relieved parents noted
the signs of autumn and braced themselves to
cope with the last week of vacation, basking in the knowledge that
their children would soon be someone else's problem for eight hours a
Summer was winding down
and it had been a good one.
Sunnydale was not known
for peaceful serenity though. An observer with
a trace of psychic ability would have sensed a build up of malice and
power that was set to unleash a storm upon the sleepy town.
Sunnydale would ride it
out, as ever, lick its wounds, bury its dead -
and hope and pray that they would stay dead...
WEDNESDAY AUGUST 28
(SUNRISE 05.29, SUNSET 18.30)
The Magic Box was one of
Sunnydale’s more haunted shops. Rupert Giles
was well aware of this but, with a recklessness caused by acute
boredom, had taken over the shop anyway. His former careers of school
librarian and Watcher had both ended. The first quite spectacularly
when the school was blown up, the second, well, perhaps he was still
technically Buffy’s Watcher but she had moved far beyond needing him
for training or guidance. He had no intention of leaving Sunnydale
though; his knowledge of all things demonic made him an invaluable
member of the team. The Hellmouth was always spawning new adversaries
for the Slayer and her friends to battle.
Employing Anya as his
shop assistant had struck some of the Scoobies as
riskier still, but it had turned out surprisingly well. After a
thousand years as a demon, Anya was struggling to fit into a human
world again. In her desire to merge with her fellow Americans, she had
wholeheartedly embraced the cult of making money. This made some
customers nervous, as leaving the shop without buying anything could
change Anya’s parting words from, ‘Have a nice day’ to, ‘ Please return
when you’re serious about buying something or are no longer financially
On this perfect summer day though, customers or browsers were few.
Beaches, parks, fresh air and sunshine held more appeal than dim shops
smelling of musty books and oddly scented candles.
Undeterred by her
solitude and bursting with energy, Anya was briskly
flicking away the few dust motes that had dared to settle since her
last feather duster attack. A movement at the window and a shadow cast
on the display she was working on caught her attention. She
automatically glanced up to see if it was a customer. A frown creased
her forehead as she saw that a poster now disfigured the pristine
glass. An unauthorised, unwanted poster. Anya felt annoyance rise
within her at the sight. Telling herself to calm down, she marched over
to the door and flung it open, setting the bell jangling discordantly.
Looking up and down the street, she could see no youngster with a
bucket of paste and a bag bulging with flyers. No likely culprits at
all in fact, though she gave an elderly man with two shopping bags a
suspicious look that bordered on a threat. Clutching his groceries, he
hurried off, casting back rather apprehensive glances until he rounded
the corner and felt safe again.
Denied a target, she turned to vent her wrath on the poster itself.
Barely registering the subject, she took hold of a corner and pulled,
ripping the paper with a satisfying tearing noise. Unfortunately, she
had only removed a few square inches; the rest of the poster was stuck
Anya gritted her teeth and began to scrape away at the paper, removing
it in tiny shreds. Noticing the damage this was doing to her nails, she
stopped, aghast and stepped back to look at the window from a distance.
It looked messy. Firming her lips, Anya went in search of something to
help her, emerging from the shop with a hand axe that looked promising
as a substitute for her freshly manicured nails. About thirty seconds
later she studied the hole in the window, the cut on her hand and the
ruined edge on the axe, unable to make up her mind which distressed her
Anya dealt with her cut first. No point in having blood to mop up as
well as glass to sweep. It proved difficult to do first aid with only
one working hand, but she managed to wrap enough bandage around the
injury to make a mummy jealous. Which in turn made holding a broom
After examining the blunted axe from various angles, she wrote out a
new label for it, describing it as "antique, distressed and ceremonial"
rather than "perfect for preparing wood for ritual fires”. She then
called an emergency glazier, who added to her gloom by penciling her in
for early next week - if she was lucky.
Anya leaned on the
counter, resting her chin on her good hand, and
brooded for a while. She finally cheered up when a regular (and rich)
customer fluttered in, clutching a promisingly long shopping list.
Peeling her chin off her hand (had she got ointment all over her?) she
went to greet Mrs Palton the Third.
Ointment and a bandage
were soothing her hand but she felt a need for
some cash register calisthenics, too.
Xander left work for the day as soon as he could. They were well ahead
of schedule on a new office building and he had a feeling that he was
breaking some unwritten rule by being too efficient. Xander didn’t want
to make waves. Finishing early slowed things down and kept his crew
happy. Come pay day, they might complain about a lack of overtime but
Xander was living for the moment tonight.
Humming happily to
himself he headed for his car. He intended to drop
by and pick up Anya from the shop. She seemed to be extending the
opening hours more and more and Giles was only too happy to let her, as
long as he wasn't expected to join her behind the counter.
“Slacker,” muttered Xander, somewhat unfairly as he'd spent the evening
before carefully explaining to Anya that making money wasn't as
important as spending time with him. Giles didn’t have a honey – didn’t
have a social life at all and it was probably more exciting for him at
the shop than it was at his apartment. Which is why Anya should get to
leave early. Logical. Sensible. More time for the important things in
life for those who actually had one.
Tonight he planned to
sweep her away in a grand, romantic gesture. Only
back to the apartment but he'd make up for the venue. Maybe he should
buy flowers on the way to the shop? They made her sneeze if he got the
wrong sort, but they also made her go all mushy. And when Anya got
mushy, she got passionate moments later.
He got into the car, his
head full of nicely naughty little thoughts.
That was probably why it wasn't until he began to pull away that he
noticed the flyer tucked neatly under his wiper blade, obscuring his
vision. Cursing mildly, he unbuckled his seat belt, opened the door,
grabbed the flyer and gave it a swift once over before screwing it into
a loose ball. Looking round, he spotted a trashcan and lobbed the paper
at it, scoring a direct hit.
"And still the champion," he murmured, pleased with himself. Getting
back into the car and pulling away, he discovered that his palms were
clinging to the wheel. Wiping them down his jeans, one at a time, he
carried on driving.
Buffy reached for the mail with as much enthusiasm as a student
collecting a homework assignment and extracted the usual jumble of junk
mail and bills. The flyers and free papers went straight into the
recycling bin after she'd flicked through for any upcoming shoe sales.
One was stuck to the back of another and only part of it was visible.
Buffy started to unpeel it but stopped when she realised that it was
talking about ‘souls’, not ‘soles’.
"So not interested in
the afterlife deal," she murmured. "Though I
could always write a book...."
She considered this
option for a while and was just planning out the
locations on her book signing tour of Europe when reality in the form
of the bills brought her air castles crashing down with dry rot and
The bills almost joined
the junk but she restrained herself. Ripping
them open and absorbing the totals took away all her happy feelings (as
paying them would her bank balance) but she shrugged. At least they
weren't final demands.
Deciding that training
would take her mind off her financial woes, she
got changed into comfortable clothes and headed for the Magic Box. It
was so nice having somewhere with plenty of things for her to punch and
kick. Very therapeutic. As she closed the door behind her, she found
her hand sticking to the handle. Had Dawn got gum all over it or
something? Buffy added cleaning the door handle to the list of chores
planned for the weekend, but put it right at the bottom, beneath
ironing, weeding, window washing and a thorough spring clean of her
Willow was also headed toward the shop, to pick up a surprise gift for
Tara, a 'just because I love you' present. They were the best kind,
unexpected and romantic. She smiled, remembering the time that Tara had
given her a witch’s hat, a genuine pointy hat in traditional basic
black, with a slight crook in the point, and dared her to wear to
class. She had, and they had giggled all night about the scolding she’d
received from the leader of the college Wicca group for ‘reinforcing
damaging stereotypes and just before the Solstice Bring and Buy sale
Like Xander, her
attention was less on her familiar surroundings and
more on anticipating a passion-filled evening, but gradually she was
distracted by a low level buzz. She instinctively looked around for an
insect, keen on making her a meal, wondering with another part of her
mind if vampires and mosquitoes shared any genes. Seeing nothing, she
realised that it wasn't something in the physical world that she was
hearing. It was an indicator of magical activity. Minor, almost
background really, but just strong enough that she could sense it. In
fact, it was making her skin tingle slightly.
A quick scan showed
nothing obvious. She was alone in the street, there
were no mystic sigils scrawled on the walls, no obviously magical
objects on the ground. Unless the trash can was a demon in disguise?
Her curiosity aroused,
she began to experiment. She moved up and down
to determine when the signal peaked, but she discovered that her
sensitivity wasn't sufficiently acute to allow her to home in on the
source. She could, however, narrow it down. After a short while, she
spotted the poster, tacked up on a wooden telephone pole. Bingo.
Flyers for garage sales,
local bands and MLS opportunities usually
decorate such poles but not in Sunnydale. The Mayor had a great dislike
of such untidy, homemade advertising and during his time in office he
had discouraged them. Which is to say, he sent round a henchman or two
to the address involved and gave them an hour to remove the poster,
making good any damage.
Since he'd been removed
from office, the posters had begun to creep
back. Willow gingerly reached out a hand to the poster and found
herself prodding it with a finger when she had intended to just study
it. Murmuring a simple incantation designed to reveal magic, she
noticed with interest that the poster was coated with several spells.
She would need time to work out what they did and something told her
that this was going to be difficult.
Willow was puzzled. The
spells weren't designed to attract attention;
she had been well past it when she'd noticed the magical hum. Nor were
they designed to make it invisible. Unless there was a hidden message
that she couldn't read? Glancing down the street, she saw that every
pole had a poster attached and she was certain that they'd been bare
the day before.
Walking towards the
Magic Box, she saw that shop windows had posters,
cars had flyers; she even glanced up at a passing plane to see if it
was sky writing...
When she got to the Magic Box she checked out the window for a poster
and made an educated guess as to the cause of the hole. The shop was
empty of browsing customers in search of that little something to add
sparkle to their drab lives. Not surprising as it was about the time
that most people were cooking, eating or washing dishes depending on
their schedules. Generally there was a Scooby or two around about now,
catching up on gossip, homework, research or training. Tonight there
was just Anya behind the counter, meticulously polishing the cash
"Hey, Anya," called
Willow. "Where is everyone?"
She was more relaxed
with the ex-demon nowadays. Cowering together as a
troll decided which of them to kill first had done wonders for
increased camaraderie. She still preferred being with her when there
were others around though. Anya was sometimes a little overpowering,
"Xander is still working
and Giles is depositing money at the bank. I
sent Dawn home when she disarranged a stack of candles I'd spent
thirty-three minutes building into a scale replica of the Temple of
Imon. They really should make children do something useful during
school vacations. Picking up litter perhaps. I haven't seen Buffy or
Tara today," replied Anya with her usual precision.
"Ah, okay,” replied
Willow, a little stunned by the flow of
information. “I was just here to get something for Tara but that can
wait. I wanted to ask you about - "
shouldn't have to wait," said Anya in a firm, but
determinedly pleasant tone. "Please feel free to browse - without
touching - while you talk."
"Umm, sure," said
Willow, drifting over to a display of essential oils.
"Well, it's nothing really. I just wondered about the broken window. It
didn't happen when you were trying to scrape off a poster, did it?"
Anya glanced over at the
cracked and smeared glass around the large,
"Yes," she replied
crisply. "Someone with no manners stuck it there
without asking. I have a strict policy about using my premises to give
other people free advertising. I don't do it."
"I remember," said
Willow, moving on to jewelry. "I don't think the
Brownies will ever get over being charged for selling their cookies
outside the shop."
"Once their function in
society was explained, I reduced the fee to a
box of the chocolate mint ones for Xander," Anya replied defensively,
smoothing back her hair. In her quest for the perfect human appearance,
she tended to change hair colour more often than some people changed
sheets. Today it was a rich brown.
"Anyway, that poster -
did it seem odd to you at all?" asked Willow,
getting back to the important topic.
"I didn't really read
it," said Anya shrugging. "It seemed to be about
a meeting on Friday night and I have other plans. To do with Xander." A
dreamy smile passed over her face and she reached up to smooth back her
hair yet again. Willow wondered if it was like Giles’ habit of removing
and polishing his glasses. Did she have a habit, too? She’d have to ask
"It's a meeting all
right," said Willow, ignoring the reference to sex
with Xander, which made her feel a little uncomfortable even now.
“Unfortunately, it's not something I've got a whole lot of
with. I need one of those posters to examine. One without glue all over
it, if possible. I think I'll just go and take one of the flyers. There
are a few cars parked nearby with them on. Stupid of me not to do it as
I walked by them."
"But you didn't buy anything!" said Anya plaintively as Willow left the
shop quickly, an intent look on her face.
The bell jingled a few moments later and she perked up but only for a
second. It was Buffy and she wasn't known for being a big spender on
magical items. Clothes, yes. Candles and chicken feet, no.
"Where was Willow going in such a rush?" inquired Buffy. “I waved and
she just kept on going.”
"To steal something from a car," said Anya simply, walking over to the
essential oils display. Tutting with disapproval, she began to tidy the
bottles that Willow had moved around, making sure that all the labels
Buffy opened her mouth then closed it again, shaking her head.
"I just know there's a better way you could have phrased that. Want to
Anya huffed impatiently. "There are pieces of paper stuck underneath
the wiper blades on some of the vehicles parked on the street. Willow
wants one and as the one on my window was damaged, she's gone to get -
"But you don't have a car," interrupted Buffy.
"The shop window," said Anya with an eye roll that
Buffy mentally gave an 8 out of 10.
Willow came back in, this time accompanied by Tara. She was flourishing
the flyer triumphantly and mercifully unaware of Anya’s description of
“Oh, hi, Buffy,” she said. “Did Anya tell you all about it? I just
bumped into Tara outside, and updated her on the Hellmouth’s latest
attempt to stop us all getting bored with life.”
“Do you think it’s a demon, Buffy?” asked Tara eagerly.
Before Buffy had chance to ask - or answer - any of the questions
hovering in the air, Xander joined them, twirling his car keys
"Well, hello, beautiful ladies," he said smiling. "One of you lucky,
lucky people is headed for a night of passion and pizza at the Harris
"That would be her," Buffy and Willow replied in unison, pointing at
Anya, who was smiling fondly at her fiancé but also sneaking a
look at her watch. It was way too early to close!
"You are absolutely correct!" he declaimed grandly. "We'll save you
three the crusts if you're lucky."
"Sorry to interrupt this romantic extravaganza but it might be all
hands to the research pump, rather than the, umm, never mind," said
Willow, her voice trailing off as her brain caught up with her mouth.
"What's the deal with the poster then, Will?" asked Buffy curiously.
"Anya said she had one on the shop window and you were going out to get
one off a car. What gives?”
"That looks like one I had on my windshield," said Xander, walking over
to Willow. "If I'd known you wanted it I wouldn't have given it the
patented, Harris heave ho into the nearest trash can. Not really your
thing is it, Will?"
Buffy craned her neck to read the upside down flyer.
"I had one in the mail too, but I just threw it out. What's the biggie?
It's just a revival meeting. One of those white-suited, flashy smiley
guys from TV who guarantees to save your soul if you give him mucho
money. Like you could ask for a refund if you ended up elsewhere.”
"And you don't think the Hellmouth town is an odd place to target?"
Willow asked pointedly. "I've lived here all my life and never seen one
before. Anyway, I seriously doubt it's as straightforward a con as
that. The posters are giving off a kind of magical hum. This is coated
with spells and I want to know why."
"I suppose we should skip the passion and order pizza for here?" said
Xander, pulling out a chair, reversing it and sitting down with a look
Willow took pity on him. "You and Anya go home. Until I find out a bit
more, there's not a lot you can do. Just try not to get too close to
"I touched one!" exclaimed Anya. "And I bled. That can't be good." She
stared at her hand, a worried look on her face.
“Hey, Anya, that looks bad!” exclaimed Xander, spotting the bandage for
the first time and looking concerned.
"You got a paper cut?" asked Buffy, a little lacking with the sympathy.
Anya gingerly peeled back her bandage to show a jagged but shallow
"Ooh, that does look nasty!" exclaimed Buffy, trying to remember that
not everyone had Slayer-powered healing.
"It is throbbing a little," admitted Anya bravely.
"But it was from the window, not the paper. So that's all right then,
She gazed around at the group with an anxious frown and was hastily
reassured that glass cuts, even from glass that had enchanted posters
stuck to it, were hardly ever fatal.
Their babbling and Anya's incipient hysteria were mercifully
interrupted by Spike, who sauntered in with a bland, "Evening, all,"
and perched on a nearby table.
"What is it, Spike?" asked Buffy impatiently. When Spike was patrolling
with her, they were often quite friendly, but in front of the Scoobies
she found herself reverting to insults. Spike played along with it but
it annoyed him sometimes.
A faint look of hurt crossed his face. "Just had something to show you,
Slayer.” He glanced over to Willow, who had picked up the poster again
and was reading it carefully. “Oh, Red's beaten me to it, has she? I'll
be leaving then, shall I?"
He was edging slowly out of the door, waiting to be called back and
getting the message that it wasn't going to happen, when Willow stopped
him, asking, "Wait! Spike, where did you get your poster? They've been
mailed, stuck on cars and shops; where do you fit into that? And why
did you think the Slayer needed to know anyway?"
Spike was back inside and sitting comfortably before she'd finished
speaking. "Not sure what you mean, love. It was stuck to the outside of
door. I don't have Postman Pat popping by that often, funnily enough,
so I assumed all the vamps were getting them hand delivered."
"Vampires getting told about a revival?" asked Xander, sarcasm and
bewilderment fighting it out for supremacy. "You don't even have souls,
so why would this guy want you lot around when he threatens people with
theirs getting deep fried in hellfire and brimstone? To provide an
Spike stood up, his heavy boots slamming against the wooden floor with
a decisive thud.
"Something screwy here, even allowing for ‘I sniffed my glue gun once
too often’ Harris, confusing matters. My poster isn’t about saving
souls." He chuckled. “Quite the contrary.”
Xander gave Spike a halfhearted smirk but didn't respond with a quip.
He had the feeling that the night in with Anya was now history and
squabbling with Spike was a poor second to smoochies. Better than
nothing though. He opened his mouth but the golden moment had passed.
Willow took Spike’s poster from him and spread both flyers out on a
large table. Bending over, she began to compare them. It didn’t take
her long. As she finished reading them, she looked up at him.
“Is this some sort of trick?” she demanded crossly. “These posters are
the same. It’s just the date, time and place for the meeting, along
with some religious stuff about needing to save souls because, shock,
horror, there’s an Armageddon coming at an unspecified time in the
“Boy, they sure missed the boat on the last three or four,” murmured
Spike looked genuinely taken aback. “No, they’re not. Yours might say
that, fair enough, I haven’t read it,
but mine doesn’t.”
Buffy intervened as Xander’s face clouded over and he rose, taking a
step towards the vampire. Spike did many things that were evil,
despicable and grounds for staking, but practical jokes weren’t one of
them. Or she’d have dusted him a long time ago.
“Spike, everyone, go look at the posters and let’s find out what’s
Anya looked reluctant but she walked over and gave them a cursory
glance. “Look the same to me,” she declared. One by one, everyone took
turns at reading the posters. They were unanimous that both were
identical – even Spike, but Spike persisted in his claim that they read
very differently to his eyes.
“Hate to break it to you, lads and lasses,” he said sarcastically, “but
what you have there is an invitation to every vampire in town to come
and feed till their fangs are blunt. It’s at that park on the edge of
town, Friday night, after sundown. Seems there’s going to be a whole
lot of people gathered together at six o’clock, expecting to be making
with the singing. Instead, they’ll get hit by the magic and by the time
sunset comes, half an hour later, they’ll be under a spell that stops
them running away. Enter the hungry vampires. So, now do I get some
credit for wasting valuable drinking time to come and fill you in?”
“What are you on, fang boy?” asked Xander in disbelief. “Are delusions
a side effect of the chip?”
Tara hesitantly said, earning a grateful smile from Spike, “M-maybe
it’s the spells on the posters? Willow, could they change the way the
posters appear to demons and humans? Each sees a different version?”
Willow looked intrigued. “It could,” she said. “There are so many
spells plastered all over it,
anything’s possible. It’d make sense, I suppose.”
“Well, thanks for finally admitting it,” growled Spike.
“We don’t know it for certain yet,” Buffy snapped back, with an
apologetic smile towards Tara. “We’ll check it out of course.”
Despite her words, no one really doubted Spike was, for once, telling
the truth, and there was a pensive silence for a moment.
Buffy and the gang could easily manage a small group of vampires, but
this sounded more like the social event of the year for the undead
population of Sunnydale. An audience of terrified humans wouldn't help
"Just how many vampires got this flyer?" asked Buffy, turning to Spike.
"Doesn't matter. They’re stuck up all over the place, remember? By this
time tomorrow every vamp in town will know about it."
"And that would be how many exactly?" she asked, moving closer to stare
at him challengingly. Spike wasn't quite sure why he was supposed to
feel guilty, so he didn't.
"Your guess is as good as mine, pet," he said with an aggravating
eyebrow twitch. "Can't be more than a few hundred I suppose. I mean -
you're out there killing them all the time, aren't you?"
"I could make that a few hundred less one right now, Spike," she
muttered giving his chest a hard look, as though pinpointing exactly
where to thrust her stake.
Spike chuckled low in his throat. "I love it when you threaten me,
Slayer. Your nose sort of twitches.
Buffy made a complicated sound of frustration and stomped off to join
Willow. She was gamely embarking on the first stage of research: a
random search for anything useful in the face of overwhelming ignorance
of the topic.
"I can't do much here," Buffy said, never much for the bookwork
involved in battling evil. "I'm going to see if I can find the people
running this show and pick up any clues."
“That could be dangerous!" Willow exclaimed. "We should get some
information about how powerful they are, what kind of demons we're up
against before you do that.” She smiled in relief. “ Oh good, here's
Giles walked in, his brow furrowed, his spirit weakened. "Anya, next
time, please make sure there's no fairy gold mixed in with
the takings. I just had the most annoying encounter with that woman at
the bank, you know the one who always looks as if she’s chewing on
nails. I had to stop off for a cup of tea to calm me down - oh, are we
doing research? The perfect end to a hellish day."
Twisting his head around, he took in the damage to the shop window for
the first time. "What on earth has been going on, Anya?"
"Someone stuck a poster up on the window," she replied.
"And you couldn't have just peeled it off?" said Giles pettishly.
Finding an insurance company willing to cover the shop was getting
trickier. It wasn’t that long either since Anya’s ex had done an
unwanted demolition job on most of it. A new window was going to have
to come out of his pocket. He couldn’t risk making another claim this
Anya stalked over and confronted Giles, hands on hips, face thrust
forward. "No. I couldn't. And yes, I am damaged, thank you for noticing
Giles took a deep breath, polished his glasses and went to stand behind
the counter, well away from Anya who seemed to be in an Anyanka, the
Vengeance Demon, frame of mind. "Would someone care to fill me in on
the details here before I resort
to drinking during business hours?"
Deciding that customers were likely to be few at seven o’clock, he
began reaching for the supply of single malt anyway. It was
conveniently located under the counter and his fingers had just closed
around a fiery, ten-year-old Talisker when Spike said, "Make mine a
double, mate. Before we start boozing, I’ll fill you in though -”
Giles straightened and put empty hands flat on the counter. He was
damned if Spike was getting his good stuff. Olivia had brought him that
bottle on what had turned out to be her last visit. Not only did it
have sentimental value, it was far too expensive to waste on a vampire
whose taste buds were ruined with cheap rotgut. Spike looked
disappointed but not surprised.
Buffy, Willow and Anya all began to talk at the same time and Giles
flinched as he was bombarded with a confused tale involving blood,
posters, and excessively white teeth. He sighed and quelled the tumult
with an upraised hand.
"Everyone, quiet. Xander, you tell me."
Xander looked surprised, then pleased. "Thanks for the vote of
"Not really; you probably know least so it'll take less time to tell
me," said Giles a little unkindly.
Xander’s jaw dropped but he made a swift recovery. “I know as much as
anyone here,” he answered indignantly. “Which isn’t
much, granted, but still!”
Seeing that Giles was getting impatient, he
quickly hit the high spots on the magical posters that had sprung up
all over town and the possibility that the prayer meeting would turn
out to be a massacre.
When he had finished there was a short silence.
"Most odd," said Giles finally, drumming his fingers on the counter as
Spike gave a derisive snort of laughter. "Trust the Watcher to remain
calm in the face of a problem, especially when he knows sod all about
what's going on."
"Actually, I might well have come across this type of event before,"
said Giles calmly, giving Spike a supercilious glare.
There was an impressed silence and Giles flushed slightly, coughing to
hide his pleasure at their admiration. Precious little of that he got
nowadays since they’d gone off to college and learned everything worth
knowing in their first week.
"Some decades ago,” he began to lecture, “in the early stages of the
Depression, here in the States, revivals and fairs were a way of
escaping dull reality for many people. They went, had fun, spent some
money they could ill afford but it was a social event and it brought a
“All well and good but at one such evangelical show, in a small town
called Talbotville, the entire audience was killed, some three hundred
people. They never found out how and there wasn't a mark on the bodies.
It was hushed up, as best one could, and as there weren't many people
left in the town, there wasn't anyone to discuss it. A year later, the
town was virtually abandoned. It’s almost certain that there was
demonic activity behind the deaths."
"How do you know about this, Giles?" asked Willow curiously. “If they
never found out?"
Giles raised his eyebrows. "That much concentrated pain and evil? It
would have set off alarm bells with every sensitive in reach. The
Council would have been informed in advance and they're probably the
ones responsible for much of the cover up."
"If they knew, why didn't they stop it?" wondered Xander.
"I don't know all the details but you'll probably find that some of
those dead were Council operatives, trying to do just that. I'll call
London; see what they can send me. In the meantime..."
"I'll be out there asking some questions," interrupted Buffy. "This is
Wednesday night; we don't have much time. Willow, is there a name on
Willow scanned it again. "I can't see one," she said doubtfully.
"Usually don't they play up the star attraction?"
"Are you blind, Red?" said Spike, "It's right there on the top line of
my poster in big letters...oh, that’s missing off yours, too, is it?”
Spike shrugged. “I can write out exactly what I see, so you can compare
it. Probably easiest and there might be a clue or something."
Taking paper and pen from behind the counter, he walked over to the
circular table that was reserved for the Scoobies and began to write in
a surprisingly neat, flowing style. As he wrote, he became aware of a
stunned silence behind him and wriggled uneasily as he sensed that
there were many people staring at his back.
"Talk amongst yourselves, why don't you," he suggested without turning.
"It's only Spike being helpful, not the first time, is it now?"
"Well..." said Anya.
Spike did turn then and gave them all a steady look. "I don't like the
idea of some nutter coming to my town and taking out
most of the population. I don't like getting junk mail and, in case you
hadn't noticed, someone not from Sunnydale knows where I live. I don't
like that much either. So I'm helping, okay?"
Buffy walked over to him and rested her hand fleetingly on his
shoulder. "Fine. You help. Tell me a name; get me an address. Fast. I
to do something."
Spike nodded and turned back to his writing.
A few minutes later, he passed over the demonic version and Willow read
the name aloud. "’Brother Saul’. I can check the hotels and such, I
suppose. Easy enough to hack into their guest registers if they're
computerised. Giles,” she added diffidently, ” as you’re the expert on
this guy, maybe you should be the one to check the poster? See if it
rings any bells?”
“Of course,” said Giles agreeably. He reached for the poster and found
that he almost had to tug it free from Willow’s grasp. It was as if it
were glued to her hand.
Fifteen minutes later, Willow had located the motel; not one of
Sunnydale's finest but a step up from the one Faith had lived in for a
while. It was on the edge of town and, not surprisingly, the closest
one to the large field where the revival meeting was to be held.
"Just thought," said Xander. "If he's using the park, doesn't he need a
permit or something? Can you trace the paperwork on that, Willow?"
"I'll try," she replied, her fingers busy again on the keyboard.
Buffy grabbed an assortment of weapons, concealed them here and there
and headed for the door.
"Hang about, Slayer," said Spike. "I'm coming with you. In fact, I'm
the one going in, while you watch my back."
"Are you insane?" snapped Buffy, looking as if she might reach for one
of her weapons before she even left the shop. "Since when did you
become the leader and since when - "
"He won't tell you anything. You're the enemy. He might tell me because
I'm an invited diner at his little feast. Use your brains, girl."
"Spike's right," said Giles, neatly defusing the confrontation with the
ease of much practice. "If he can play along with this person, we might
get some useful information."
"And if I just kill him, we won't need it!" said Buffy impatiently.
Giles gave her a look that he saved for emergencies. It reduced her to
kindergarten level. "Buffy - we don't know he's a demon. You can't kill
Buffy threw up her hands and said, "Fine! I'll take a babysitter! Come
on then and if I overhear even the tiniest hint of a double cross, I'll
"Stake me, where I stand. Got it."
As they left, with Spike enquiring innocently if he got paid for
babysitting the Slayer and getting a fist in the ribs in reply, Xander
shook his head and muttered something.
"What was that?" asked Anya curiously.
"Nothing," said Xander, giving her a bright and insincere smile. "Just
hoping Spike keeps needling Buffy so that she remembers what her job
Buffy would have been astonished and pleased to see how complimentary
Giles was on the subject of her planning abilities; within the pages of
his Watcher’s Diary at least. She was perhaps the first Slayer to have
need of the skill of delegating and assigning roles to her helpers.
Most Slayers worked alone, their Watcher their only resource. They
might have planned attacks and formed strategies but more often they
simply responded to a threat by killing or being killed.
Buffy was different. She had a group of helpers and they needed to have
their various skills coordinated and directed. The ease with which she
had taken to this role might have been part of her character before
being Called but it had certainly blossomed during her years as Slayer.
Spike was under no illusions that Buffy had surrendered control of the
night’s events to him. She might have reluctantly agreed to let him
confront Brother Saul but he had a feeling that she was just waiting
for an excuse to upgrade her role.
“All atremble wanting to get those fists flying,” he thought to himself
with reluctant sympathy. He thought back to the weeks after he’d been
fitted with the behaviour-modifying chip. Eventually he’d discovered
that it didn’t stop him from hurting non-humans but the memory of weeks
of watching others fight, while he stood aside, still filled him with a
“Right, Spike,” whispered Buffy, leaning in close. Spike breathed in
the familiar scent of her hair and restrained himself from even
attempting to brush it with his fingers. Buffy was tense enough that
she might overreact and do something he’d regret. A solid thump to his
side made him realise that he’d missed Buffy’s instructions as he
drifted into erotic daydreams.
Buffy glared at him and repeated, “It’s that room over there. You’ll
need an invitation, of course. They might not spot that you’re a
vampire if they’re human, so you’ll have to just make them think you’re
polite when you ask for one. Talk more like Giles and they’ll put it
down to you being English. Try and find out about their plans. If they
start to attack you, reveal you’re a vampire. Or would it be best to
admit that at once?” Buffy hesitated, uncertain under Spike’s bored
gaze and raised eyebrow.
“Oh, enough with the clever plans. Just hang about and if you hear me
scream, which you won’t, since I’m not a nancy boy like some people we
both know and I hate, then come running. That suit you, Your
“If you mess this up, I’ll make Giles pay for taking your side,” Buffy
replied through clenched teeth.
“Jealous are we?” asked Spike curiously, leaning closer and studying
her face, his head tilted slightly to one side and his eyes quizzical.
Buffy flushed, stepped back and said coolly, “If I’m not watching you
walk towards that door in the next three seconds, I’m going in myself.
“I’m going, I’m going! Sheesh, don’t get your knickers in a twist.
Especially if it’s those red lacy ones with the little hearts–“
Only the fact that Spike was knocking at the motel room door saved him
from Buffy’s wrath but she made a mental note to hit him at the first
available opportunity. Those panties were new. Had Spike been going
through her stuff again? Or, worse still, helping Dawn with the
laundry? Dawn was getting way too good at convincing other people to do
her assigned chores.
She watched as the door opened and he stepped confidently into the room
after a short conversation with a man. She felt a pang of worry. Not
about Spike of course, certainly not, but about this new menace that
was plaguing Sunnydale. She’d got to the point where she trusted Spike
– more or less – but there was still the chance that he would turn on
them. Trying to convince herself that that was only reason she wanted
to see what was happening, she moved in as close as she dared and tried
Spike rapped at the door and waited for it to open. He could sense evil
behind the door, could feel the tingle on his skin that came from
magic. Bracing himself, he smiled as the door opened a crack and tried
to appear friendly but confident.
“Yes? What do you want?” The voice was low and not threatening but
Spike felt a slight shiver even so.
“Just wondered if I could come in and have a little chat about this
meeting you’re setting up. This is the place, right?”
“You want to be invited in?” There was a thread of amusement running
through the voice now. “Why, certainly. Step inside, Mr -?”
“The name’s Ripper,” said Spike with an inward chuckle of his own. He
was getting the feeling that Brother Saul knew just a little too much
about Sunnydale and that might include his own history. Plenty of
demons would have been only too pleased to see Spike dusted for his
crimes of associating with the Slayer and killing demons as a way of
keeping busy. Giving a false name might not do much if Brother Saul had
a description; Spike flattered himself that he was unmistakable, but if
he just had a name, incognito was the way to go. And just thinking
about Giles’ reaction if he ever found out that Spike had borrowed his
own nickname, well, it made Spike feel all warm inside.
“A name with an interesting history, I’m sure. Well, this being a
motel, I’m not sure if you need one but let’s be safe shall we? You’re
Spike gave a nod of his head and stepped into a dimly lit room,
furnished in the usual bland, rather worn style of most motels. His
host was alone, which surprised Spike. He’d expected a larger place,
and certainly a bodyguard or two. He scanned the room quickly but
didn’t see any posters. Nor did he see a Bible.
“So, sit down, make yourself at home. I’m always glad to meet the
locals when I come to a new town.” The man took one chair and waved at
another. His eyes were cold, his voice unaccented and flat.
“Didn’t catch your name,” said Spike abruptly, remaining standing.
‘You’re this Brother Saul, are you?”
“I certainly am. And you received an invitation to my little gathering
and felt, hmm, suspicious perhaps? Am I right?”
Spike took a moment to study Brother Saul. He saw a man who was so
normal that it seemed odd. Average height and build, pale eyes, brown
hair, middle aged. You would pass him in the street and forget his face
before you’d gone two steps. His suit was black, his shirt white, his
tie a dull blue. It made Spike’s eyes ache just looking at so much
Then he spoke and his voice had power. Natural or magically enhanced?
Spike wasn’t sure, but he remained wary.
“Just wondering what’s going on, is all. Not your normal kind of get
together, now is it? And all those people with their Bibles and
crosses, praying, well, let’s just say they’re not the people I
normally hang out with on a Friday night.”
“I’m sure that’s quite true, Mr Ripper. I can promise you, it’s going
to be a night like no other, for you and all the people like you in
“’People like me’? You do know what I am, don’t you? Why not come out
and say it?”
He got a long, level stare in reply and a cool smile. “Why, surely.
You’re a vampire. I’ve got no problem with that. The Lord
might but I’m a broad-minded man, myself.”
Spike snorted.“So why the front? What do you think you’re going to get
from this town
that needs a lot of hymn singing hopefuls to make it work?”
The smile was gentle now, almost pitying. “Now, you’re just full of
questions, aren’t you? And I can understand
that, I truly can. But it really doesn’t concern you, now does it?”
His voice slipped easily into an exaggerated Southern drawl, mocking
the stereotype he had chosen as a disguise. It rang false but warmly
comforting too and Spike had to shake off a wave of dizziness as the
two impressions collided in his mind.
Brother Saul watched him struggle, a benign smile on his face. As the
confusion on the vampire’s face receded and was replaced by rage, Saul
stood up. Walking over, he placed an arm around Spike’s shoulders and
ushered him to the door.
“Now, don’t you worry one little bit. You and your friends just get
yourself there come sundown and you’ll be in for one helluva treat.
Promise. Now, watch how you go, you hear? Nice chattin’ with you.”
Spike found himself outside again, with the door firmly closed. Raising
his eyes in disbelief, he walked off, not bothering to look for Buffy.
He was fairly certain that she was just waiting to jump out from a bush
and yes, there she was.
“Spike! What happened in there? I couldn’t hear a thing,” Buffy said in
an agitated whisper.
“Wouldn’t have mattered if you did,” muttered Spike, striding away from
the motel. “That tight-mouthed, bloody git’s giving nothing away.”
“You didn’t find out anything? I knew it was a waste of time you going
She yelped in surprise as Spike turned and grabbed her arms. “If you’d
gone in there, I don’t know if you’d have made it out, Buffy.
He was human, he seems Mr Average, but he felt as evil as anyone,
anything I’ve ever seen. I don’t know what he wants and he wouldn’t
tell me. But he’s not got my vote for Host with the Most, let me tell
“Lighten up,” said Buffy uneasily, knocking his hands away and rubbing
her arms absentmindedly. “He sounds like the Mayor and look what
happened to him.”
Spike reflected for a moment. “Wilkins, yeah, he’s got that feel to
him. I met him once. Didn’t like
“Thought you villains all hung together,” said Buffy sarcastically.
Spike shook his head in exasperation, plunging his hands into his coat
“You should know better, then. Told you once, I don’t like demons or
humans who want to mess things up too much. A little mayhem and
confusion; fine. Too much and I’m likely to end up dead, along with the
Buffy stared at him for a moment, as though measuring his sincerity and
then shrugged. “Let’s just get back to the Magic Box and see what
Willow’s found out.”
Spike hid his surprise at the invitation and readily fell into step
beside her. After two paces, Buffy remembered the underwear comment and
hit him. After that, the conversation became heated, frequent glares
were exchanged and both reached the shop feeling pleasantly energized.
Inside the motel room, Brother Saul stood facing the door, wrapped in
thought. After a moment, he said, without raising his voice. “Well,
now. A visit from the Slayer’s lapdog. Isn’t that a sweet welcome,
The door to the bathroom opened and a figure swathed in dark fabric
stepped out. “It was only to be expected. Has he touched a poster?”
“Yes. I could feel the traces.”
“Then it’s already too late for him.” The fabric wrapped around the
figure slipped a little, revealing a woman’s face, once beautiful, now
scarred and pitted. “I am in such pain. I cannot remain on this side.
It seems to hurt more here, somehow.” Her voice was as plaintive as a
child’s but there was no innocence in it.
“It won’t be much longer,” Saul said reassuringly. “When I get back
what I lost, you’ll be healed just like that.” He snapped his fingers
and grinned at her.
She nodded her head, responding with a wan smile.
“You go home and rest up, my dear. I’m going to call round some of the
movers and shakers in this town. I don’t want anyone to miss my little
She nodded obediently again, stepped back inside the bathroom and kept
walking. The bathroom walls melted away as she approached and vanished
from sight. After she had gone, a swirling vortex of colours appeared
on the wall, and the air became charged with static.
Alone again, Brother Saul closed the bathroom door to hide the portal
and then sat down, pulling the phone towards him. This part was dull
but a necessary part of his role. Studying a list of names and numbers
in front of him, he picked one at random.
“Hello, there. I’m so sorry to disturb a fine lady like yourself but I
was wondering. Have you been saved?”
His voice was persuasive and charming but his expression was one of
amused contempt as he drew a line through one name after another. The
gullible were to be found in every dimension, he’d discovered. That was
one thing you could count on – and exploit.
By the time Buffy and Spike returned to the Magic Box, Willow and Tara
had managed to identify most of the spells on the poster. That was the
good news. The bad news was that Willow had discovered a little too
late that touching the posters was not a good idea.
“See,” she explained rapidly to the group, “when you touch them, you
pick up some of the magic. It’s like they’re sticky but it’s not
something you can wash off.”
“So, how many of us have touched one?” asked Buffy, rubbing her hands
on her jeans without realising it. Anya, who was sitting down, cradling
her injured hand, gave an anguished moan. Xander patted her shoulder
Willow looked a little sheepish. “I, uh, only just found out and well,
all of us have. Did any of you notice that after you touched them for
the first time, your hands felt sort of like you’d been eating pancakes
and the syrup bottle was all oozy at the top?”
“Not very scientifically phrased,” said Giles with a smile, “ but yes,
I know exactly what you mean.”
Buffy got a tiny happy as she scratched off one chore from her list. No
need to clean that door handle after all. Then the bigger picture
destroyed the moment.
“What about Dawn?” said Buffy sharply. “She’s over at Janice’s. She
should be safe but we have to warn her –“
“Already done that,” said Willow. “Dawn called a few minutes ago to see
if she should come here or go home. I told her as much as I could
without freaking her out. She didn’t think she’d touched one yet.”
“Good,” said Buffy. ‘So, what’s this sticky stuff going to do to us,
Will? And how do we stop it?”
Tara made a small attention-seeking noise and then flushed as everyone
stared at her expectantly. She was working on not going to pieces when
everyone was staring at her but it was difficult.
“I think, that is, from what Willow found out, well, it’s lots of
spells. That’s what’s making it hard; they’re all twisted together and
we have to unravel them. One is still in a knot. When we untie it, it
should make sense of it all.”
“How long do you estimate that will be?” asked Giles, a worried frown
on his face.
Tara and Willow exchanged glances.
“Not long,” they chorused.
Giles looked far from reassured. “Good,” he said doubtfully. “Buffy,
Spike, what transpired at the motel? Did you get any useful
Buffy threw Spike a disgusted look that he parried with a sardonically
“Spike went in with nothing and came out with nothing,” she said.
“Not quite,” corrected Spike. “I can tell you that he’s human, he’s
evil and, I don’t know, he was on his own in there but I could sense
something hovering. A demon of some sort maybe but it didn’t feel evil,
not next to him anyway. It was giving off this signal, can’t really say
it plainer than that.” His voice trailed off and he shook his head in
Willow nodded, understanding his difficulty. "I know,” she said. “It
sounds the same as the feeling I got off the
posters. You can sense it because you’re a demon and I can because of
the Wicca thing. It makes me feel itchy.”
“Are you sure he was alone in there?” asked Giles.
“Unless there was someone hiding under the bed. Well, I suppose there
could have been a small army in the bathroom but believe me, we didn’t
get on good enough terms for me to ask to take a leak.”
Giles looked thoughtful but said nothing.
Spike stood up and headed for the door.
“Where are you going?” Buffy asked quickly.
“I’m going to see what the reaction is in the bars. Someone might know
this guy or have some idea about the posters. I’ll keep an eye open for
Niblet too. If I see her, I’ll walk her back here.”
“Thanks,’ said Buffy giving him a rare, approving smile. He grinned
back, adjusted his duster and swaggered out. Research was fine for the
likes of Harris or the witches but he didn’t fancy straining his eyes
over musty books when he could be just as useful and drink a beer at
the same time.
Some tension left the room with the vampire. He was a little like Tara
in some ways; connected to the group but not yet fully in it.
Complicating matters, though Xander was firmly closing eyes, ears and
mind to it, was the fact that Spike’s feelings for Buffy and her
contempt for him were changing. They were slowly becoming a team,
patrolling together, bickering more or less amiably and building on the
emotions that had linked them when Buffy had come back from the grave.
Xander preferred Spike when he was trying to kill Buffy. Which wasn’t
good of course, but it had the virtue of being a more predictable state
As the door closed, Xander perked up noticeably and volunteered to go
out for donuts and coffee, essential research tools, right up there
with paper and pencils. Tara and Willow retreated to a quiet corner to
solve the remaining spell puzzle, leaving Giles, Anya and Buffy to
discuss Saul’s motivations.
“It sounds as if he’s going to kill a lot of people,” offered Anya.
“That could be a deal with a demon; the demon gets the souls, he gets
“Yes,” said Giles. “That’s a fairly standard exchange but I can’t help
feeling that there’s more to this than we’re seeing.” He flicked over a
page or two in the tome before him, and then slammed the book shut –
carefully – with a frustrated sigh.
“Are there any pictures of the person involved in the last massacre?”
asked Buffy. ‘I mean, we’re assuming it was the preacher who was the
bad guy back then too, aren’t we?"
“Nothing in my books. I spoke to the Council while you were out but
only got the person on night shift. He took down the details but it’ll
be tomorrow before we hear anything, I’m afraid. Are you thinking that
it’s the same person? It was seventy years ago. Spike said Brother Saul
was human and middle-aged, so he’s either a different man or already
heavily involved with a demon who can extend his lifespan.”
Anya frowned. “If it happened here in the States, why can’t we just
look it up on Willow’s computer? I know you said it was hushed up but
these things tend to get gossiped about.”
“It’s worth a try if Willow solves the problem of that last spell,”
replied Giles. “However, as none of us are particularly good with that
thing,” he waved a dismissive hand at Willow’s laptop, “ and the spell
is the most pressing concern, well, it will have to wait.”
The door opened and Dawn came in as he finished speaking.
“What will?” she asked. “Ooh, research! Can I help?”
“No!” said Buffy automatically. ‘And stay away from these posters.
“Yes, I can see the fangs from here,” said Dawn sarcastically. “Willow
warned me about them already. I’m not stupid, you know.”
Anya looked impatient. “Buffy, Dawn’s old enough to help. Idle hands
and all that. Let her do the computer stuff. It might stop her from
destroying carefully arranged window displays.”
“I said I was sorry,” Dawn whined defensively. “I just thought the blue
candle would have looked better a little further to the left.”
Buffy chewed her lip then gave in more or less gracefully. ”Okay, Dawn.
You can look something up. But it’s not real research,
more of a history project.” She looked at Dawn hopefully, thinking that
this might put her off the idea.
Dawn gave her an annoying smirk and sat down, flexing her hands. “Just
tell me what you want. Willow’s given me all sorts of tips on this.”
“Really?” murmured Buffy. “That was nice of her. Not connected with
your grades going up at the end of last semester is it? I hear there’s
all these sites to help with your homework?”
Dawn blushed. “I promised I wouldn’t do anything sneaky,” she said with
Buffy softened. “I know, sweetheart. I’m going to do some training
until Willow and Tara finish. Giles will tell you what we need to look
Heading for the training room at the back of the store, she wondered
just when Dawn had started to grow up – and whether she should feel
glad or worried.
It took two hours for Willow and Tara to finally unravel the
intertwined spells on the poster. By this time, everyone else was
sitting around, chatting quietly. Dawn had come up with nothing further
about the earlier incident, Giles hadn’t heard from the Watcher’s
Council and Buffy had trained until even she was tired.
When Willow pushed back her chair and walked over to them, their faces
registered relief. It was short lived. Willow seemed to be very
concerned and her hands were trembling slightly.
“What is it, Willow?” asked Giles quietly.
She turned wide eyes on him and swallowed. Tara joined her, slipping a
comforting arm around her and hugging her gently.
Willow visibly made an effort to steady herself and began to talk.
“There are three elements to this, apart from the spell that confuses
the words. The first is the sticky stuff I told you about. It’s a spell
that transfers magic from an object to a person. Physical contact has
to be involved; it’s not enough to just be in the room. It’s not
transferable between people either; if I shook Dawn’s hand, it wouldn’t
“’Infect’?” said Anya, alarm in her face and voice. “I’m going to die,
aren’t I? I hate being human! This would never have happened if I were
still a demon!”
Willow gave her a look of mingled pity and scorn. “We’ve all gotten
infected, Anya, except for Dawn. And being a demon wouldn’t have helped
you. Let me finish.”
“Yes, listen to Willow,” urged Xander. “She’s going to spray us with
some magical disinfectant mojo any second now. Right, Will?”
“Umm, no. Not exactly. You see -”
“What? You mean you can’t do anything? But you and Tara are witches!
You have to -” His voice rose, indignation making him shrill.
Buffy laid a hand on his arm and said, “Xander. Shut up. You’re scaring
“He so is not,” said Dawn indignantly. “But he’s being a big wuss.”
Xander gulped, looked around at his friends and abruptly sat down.
“Sorry, sorry. Just carry on. I’m fine.”
Willow reached over and patted his hand reassuringly, then looked at
the notes she had made. “So, the sticky stuff is on us and it’s
carrying these other spells
with it. The good news is that it will wear off by itself. I can only
estimate it but Tara, you think it’s about a week, tops?”
Tara nodded. “Probably less. But that’s only a little bit of good news
because Friday night is less than forty-eight hours away and it’ll
certainly last that long.”
‘But it has no ill effects of itself?” asked Giles.
“None that I can see,” replied Willow. “Anyway, the spells. One is an
attraction spell. Anyone who touched a poster is going to be at that
meeting if they have to die trying. It’s that strong. They won’t know
why, they won’t think they’re behaving strangely, but they’ll trample
down their grandmother if she’s in the way, trust me.”
Buffy stood up and began to pace. “With those posters flooding the
town, not many people will escape. They’re still out there too. People
will carry on getting infected tomorrow and Friday. Can we destroy
them? We’re already affected so it doesn’t matter to us.”
“Probably too late,” said Xander. ‘People aren’t likely to touch the
ones stuck up - yes sweetie, apart from you - but everyone who had one
on their car is infected. The ones in the mail mean at least one person
in each house got a dose too. We’re too late.”
“What about whoever printed them?” said Dawn. “Or maybe he brought them
with him? And who stuck them up? Who’s helping him?”
Buffy looked pensive. “Spike said he was in a little room, all alone.
No staff, no helpers. He has to be using magic.”
Willow coughed. “I wasn’t done but yes; I don’t think he’s using human
helpers. Anya went out into the street as soon as the poster was put up
on the shop window. She didn’t see anyone, just a shadow. I’d guess
there wasn’t anyone to see. And I don’t think they were printed as
such. I think from the feel of it, that they were magically generated.
It’s quite easy, really. You take something similar to what you want;
he could have used old newspapers maybe, and you move around the
“Willow, that’s fascinating,” interrupted Buffy. “Maybe we should focus
Willow gave her an apologetic smile and continued. “Anyway, where was
I? Oh, right. So everyone’s there at the park - and
there’s no sign of an application for a permit by the way - and then
the final part of the spell activates. This was the tricky part. I’m
not absolutely sure we got it all. There’s a trigger word, or phrase
that I don’t know. It could be anything. When the people hear it spoken
by the spell caster, they’ll just switch off. They’ll be his slaves and
they’ll do anything he tells them to do.”
“Like stand still as the vampires feed off them,” said Buffy, a sick
look on her face.
“Wait,” said Anya. “You said the demons were affected too. What’s going
to happen to the vampires?”
Tara answered her. “As far as we can tell, their poster is exactly the
same. It might be a different trigger word but other than that, it’s
Giles looked perplexed. “Why is he doing that? You couldn’t keep the
vampires away. Can it be that he thinks they’ll turn on him?”
Buffy shook her head. “I’m not so sure they would turn up in droves,
Giles. The average Sunnydale vampire is a bit wary. I get the stupid
ones after all. They might think it’s a trap. It seems to me that this
guy isn’t one to take chances. He wants his party to be a success and
it won’t be if the vamps are a no show.”
“True,” said Giles. He passed a hand over his forehead, then adjusted
his glasses automatically. “Willow, is there any way to reverse this
spell? We really can’t fight well if we’re down there in the crowd
doing our best mindless zombie impression.”
“Whoa, that was almost funny, Giles,” said Xander, trying to quip his
way into calmness.
“It really wasn’t intended to be,” murmured Giles. “Willow?”
She shook her head apologetically. “That’s as far as we’ve got. We’ll
do our best.”
“What happens if we kill him?” said Buffy abruptly. “Will that cancel
“Buffy!” said Giles, reproof sharpening his voice. “We can’t kill
anyone until we’re sure of a lot more facts.”
“It might work,” admitted Willow. “But, Buffy, supposing he has an
accomplice? A magic user in the background who’s doing the spells? You
can’t be sure he’s the one that needs killing.”
“Yes, I can,” muttered Buffy savagely. “But you’re right. We need to
find out more first. Like what he’s getting out of this, besides the
heartfelt gratitude of the vamps.”
Dawn wandered over to the poster and stood looking down at it.
“Dawn! Keep away from that!” called Buffy.
“I’m not going to touch it, I’m just looking,” Dawn replied
impatiently. “And it’s a good thing I did.”
“Why?” asked Willow coming up behind her and grabbing Dawn’s wrist as
she reached for the poster.
Dawn swung round and stared at Willow. “ I wasn’t going to touch it! I
was just telling you, you’ve made a
mistake. You all keep going on about it being on Friday night; it’s
not. It says Saturday, clear as anything. Hah. You’d have been there a
day too soon!” She smiled triumphantly.
Willow slumped down in a chair after moving the poster away from
Dawn.“How many versions of this poster are there?” she asked
“I can guess what’s going on,” said Anya unexpectedly. “He knows that
some people will read but not touch. He doesn’t want them showing up
and getting in the way of the zombies. So, if you read it, you see
Saturday, if you touch it, you see Friday. There’s probably a
compulsion spell in the mix too, Willow, making people want to touch it
to increase the potential victims even more. Look at the way I was made
to go over to it, breaking that window all through no fault of my own.
Not to mention Dawn who is even now trying to reach the high shelf
where you placed the poster, Willow.”
“Dawn!” said Buffy in exasperation. Willow sighed and gestured at the
poster, murmuring an incantation. The poster flew up to the ceiling and
Willow looked irritated that Anya was implying that she’d missed a
spell but she had to admit that it was possible.
“It could have been that one spell strand we weren’t sure about,” Tara
ventured. “The one that was so entwined with the compulsion to go to
the meeting. They were almost identical. Dawn; it was only a weak
compulsion spell as far as duration goes; it should wear off in a
minute or two.”
Dawn looked at her and smiled gratefully. “I feel fine,” she said.
Willow sighed. “I guess I’d better take another look -”
“No. Now, we should all rest,” said Giles firmly, removing a book from
Willow’s hands and placing it carefully on the table.
“Rest! With magic goop all over me?” exclaimed Anya. “I think not. I’m
going home to have a bath. A deep, hot bath with bubbles. Xander, you
can scrub the hard to reach areas on my –”
“And leaving right now,” said Xander, ushering Anya towards the door
THURSDAY AUGUST 29 (SUNRISE 05.30, SUNSET 18.29)
The next morning, Giles arrived at the shop at the usual time,
wondering as he did so, if there was really any point in opening. In a
month or so, the pre-Halloween rush would begin but at the moment the
shop was getting few customers. He also wanted to concentrate on this
current problem and somehow, selling magical items to people due to be
enslaved and eaten the next day seemed, well, tacky.
At precisely nine o’clock, just as he was flipping the door sign to
read, ‘open’, the phone rang. Giles knew who it would be.
“Hello, Quentin,” he said without bothering to wait for his caller to
identify himself. “What do you have for me? You sent me an e-mail and a
photograph? How progressive of you. Do you mind just going over it
again so I can write something down? I prefer that, silly of me, I
Ten minutes later, he hung up and looked at the notes he had jotted
down. They didn’t make for encouraging reading, nor did they add a
great deal to what he already knew.
Moving over to the computer, he logged on to his e-mail account and
downloaded a picture of the evangelist presumably responsible for the
1930s deaths. He felt more at ease with the computer when he was alone.
When Willow was hanging over his shoulder, correcting his every
keystroke, he felt like a kindergarten student told to read Shakespeare
Travers had only been able to find one photograph, a grainy, black and
white one, showing a man in profile. It seemed he had called himself
Brother Saul then, too. Giles printed it off and studied it without
getting any insight. The chap looked nondescript indeed.
Glancing up as the doorbell jangled, he saw to his relief that it was
Willow and Tara rather than a customer.
“Morning, Giles” said Willow. Her face was pale and her eyes shadowed.
Giles suspected that she had continued to work, even after he had
shooed them out of the shop. A look at Tara’s equally exhausted face
“Hello, both of you,” replied Giles. “Where’s Buffy?”
“She’ll be here in a moment, with Dawn. Every poster we saw, she
insisted on tearing down and it slowed her down so much, we came on
“Have you made any progress?”
Willow nodded but did not look happy. “Some. I’ll tell you about it
when Buffy gets here. I’ve got some things to set up; a little
experiment I want to try. Can you close the shop?”
Anya walked in as Giles was flipping over the door sign and looked
horrified. “We’re closing? But we only just opened! What will our
regulars think? There’s a man who comes in every Thursday for his hair
tonic. He’ll freak if he can’t get it.”
“I didn’t know we sold that,’ said Giles curiously, sidetracked into
“It’s actually the paralyzing slime excreted by a Nerenian snail but it
perks up the follicles as well for some reason. Demons use it all the
“Isn’t that stuff dangerous?”
“Only if you swallow it. If he chooses not to read the label, I can’t
be held responsible for any outbreak of fur on his nether regions,”
Anya replied with a sniff.
Giles ran a hand over his own receding hairline speculatively and then
stopped, flushing slightly. Buffy and Dawn’s arrival provided a welcome
“No Xander?” asked Buffy, after greeting Giles and Anya.
“He has to work, you know,” said Anya reprovingly. “Xander has a lot of
responsibility and he takes it very seriously. People depend on him.
He’s in charge of a whole crew of strong, sweaty men with tools.”
The door swung open and Xander walked in. “I changed my mind and called
in sick,” he explained. “I just can’t
concentrate knowing I’m all sticky in a non-sugary, magical kind of a
Buffy tried to stop her mouth from twitching into a smile but failed.
Anya glared at them both and pointedly moved away to the back of the
shop, where Willow and Tara were arranging some small bottles on a
“Okay,” said Willow. “We’re ready. Dawn, you stand over here and
Xander, you go over there by the counter.”
“Is this going to hurt?” asked Xander warily. “Because, officially, I’m
sick you know. I should probably be resting.”
Tara smiled. “We’ve found out a way to make the magic traces visible.
It won’t hurt at all.”
Giles looked puzzled. “What is the purpose of that?”
Willow walked over to Dawn with a bottle of silvery blue powder in her
hand. “Making it visible means we can tell when we get rid of it, but
it also breaks it down a bit. Lets us get a hold of it so we can cancel
Giles still looked doubtful and she gave him a mock scolding glance.
“Just trust us, Giles. We know what we’re doing. Anya, switch off the
lights, please. The powder will show up better.”
Anya flipped a switch and Willow tipped the bottle up, pouring the
powder into her palm. Murmuring an incantation, she cast it over Dawn
and then Xander. Stepping back, she said clearly, “Reveal!”
The powder swirled and spun then swept up to form a halo around their
heads. Dawn’s halo was blue, pure and clear. Xander’s was a murky grey.
Anya gasped in horror and Xander panicked, trying to crane his neck so
that he could squint up at the powder over his head.
“What’s the matter? Aren’t I blue and pretty like Dawn?”
“No,” said Willow. “But let’s try this –”
Linking hands with Tara, she began to recite a spell. Tara waited until
she had spoken one phrase and then began to repeat the spell herself.
Their voices merged, amplifying the spell’s effects, and the powder
over Xander’s head turned jet black. Willow’s eyes glinted and she
began to speak faster. There was no effect and without stopping the
incantation, she reached for another bottle. Tara held out her free
hand, Willow poured powder into it and Tara scattered it on Xander with
a sweep of her hand.
The halo sparkled as the powder hit it and then turned blue, an exact
match of Dawn’s.
Willow and Tara staggered apart and sat down, looking drained.
“Did it work?” exclaimed Xander. "Am I clean? Oh, I feel much better, I
Willow nodded wearily. “Yes, you’re fine but that took a lot of doing.
There’s no way we can do that to everyone in Sunnydale.”
“Even if you could, I doubt they’d stand there and let you,” said Buffy
sensibly. “Question is, do you have enough energy to clear us up and
how will it work when you’re doing the spell on yourselves? Each other.
You know what I mean.”
Willow and Tara exchanged troubled glances.
“We can remove the spell from you three, no problem. We have plenty of
time to rest – but I don’t know if we’ve got the power to do the spell
alone, to cleanse each other. It took both of us with Xander and even
that was an effort,’ said Tara doubtfully.
“Maybe we can do the powder throwing for you?” said Buffy.
Willow stood up, looking rather shaky. “We’ll have to see. Now we know
it works, I’ll mix some more of the powder.”
As she walked unsteadily over to the supplies behind the counter, Buffy
and Giles wore identical looks of concern. Willow had been known to
push herself beyond her capabilities when it came to research and
magic. Sometimes it resulted in a painful physical aftermath. Neither
of them wanted that to happen again.
By the end of the afternoon, the two witches had managed to remove the
spells from everyone in the shop but had yet to try it on themselves.
The recovery time between spells had stretched to an hour and both were
Buffy had insisted on being cleansed first, over Anya’s protests, and
had gone to see what Brother Saul was doing, after another training
session and a quick lunch. Giles was persevering with research, looking
for evangelists who disappeared suddenly, demons who got power from
large numbers of deaths and anything mundane about Brother Saul, like
an address or date of birth. He was getting more and more frustrated as
book after book proved to be useless. Dawn was less enthusiastic about
research than she had been the night before but was gamely trying to
copy Giles, using the computer instead of the books.
Anya and Xander volunteered to go and look at the park where the
revival was to be held, to see if there was any activity. They left the
shop only after Anya had found several pairs of gloves. “Just in case
we have to touch something magical,” she explained. Xander looked as if
no power on earth would make him wear bright yellow rubber gloves in
public but wisely said nothing.
Willow stood up, after eating her third donut. She looked queasy, even
though the energy rush from the sugar was giving her a temporary lift.
“Do you feel up to me chanting at you?” she asked Tara. “We need to
know if we can do this so we can try something else if it doesn’t work.”
“I’m sure you can do it solo,” said Tara encouragingly. “Just not so
sure I can.”
Willow opened her mouth to reassure Tara then stopped as she saw the
humour glinting in her lover’s eyes.
“I know you’re stronger than me,” whispered Tara, hugging Willow
tightly for a moment. “I don’t mind normally – but now I wish I had
your power. I hate the thought of leaving you open to whatever this
creep has planned.”
Willow looked determined. “We’re both going to succeed. We have to.”
Buffy arrived at the motel before two and made her way to the
reception. Glancing up at the board behind the counter, she saw that
the key to Saul’s room was missing. Good. He was still at home and if
she was patient, maybe he’d leave and she could follow him to somewhere
that would magically reveal the clue to defeating him. Hmm. Well, it
had to happen sometime.
A spotty youth in his early twenties shuffled out from a room just off
the counter area. Buffy guessed that she’d interrupted some quality T.V
watching and chip munching, given the crumbs down his ample front. His
vacant eyes lit up as they took in Buffy’s blonde good looks. Telling
herself that it was all in a good cause, she made a supreme effort and
smiled charmingly at him.
“I wonder if you can help me?” she asked sweetly.
It took a while to get much out of Jason; he kept trying to get things
she wasn’t willing to give; her name, phone number and vital statistics
being just some of them. After she let a little steel creep into her
voice, he was more forthcoming.
Saul hadn’t ordered the rudimentary room service (not that she was too
surprised that he’d passed up on that after reading the menu pinned up
on the reception wall) and had had no visitors apart from Spike. Buffy
was amused by the youth’s description of him but decided not to share
it with Spike. Vampires had long memories and if Spike did ever get the
chip out, he’d make this one of his first stops. Murmuring gleefully to
herself, “’Skinny guy with white hair, looked like a dealer or a pimp,
y’know? All that leather and way tight jeans,’” she headed out of the
“Hey,” he called after her when she began to leave without showing
signs of tipping him or arranging a date. “The guy’s making lots of
calls, if that’s any help. Going to cost him a fortune when he settles
Buffy turned back. “Any way of telling where he’s calling?”
He looked at her with a salacious leer that made Buffy feel an urgent
need for a shower. “Sure. But it’ll cost you.”
Buffy gave him a level stare from Slayer eyes.
“But you can just, like, owe me, right?” he added hurriedly.
Buffy made it through ninety minutes of lurking behind a dumpster, then
decided to head back to the Magic Box. There was only so much waiting
patiently she could take. She was a Slayer, not a stalker. And the
dumpster was very smelly. Just as she stood up, stretching out the
kinks, she heard footsteps and hastily crouched down again. Brother
Saul walked by; his steps faltering for a second as he passed her
hiding spot and then went into his room, closing the door behind him.
Buffy processed this for a moment. There were no doors and windows at
the back and no connecting doors. The only way in or out was through
the door she could see. She’d either been staking out an empty room, in
which case that receptionist was toast, or Saul had unusual powers. It
occurred to her, too late, that he could have left and not handed in
his key to the office. They had giant slabs of wood attached to
discourage this but it was possible. And not a guarantee of an evil
soul, though she’d like to think so.
Buffy could think of several ways that Saul could be apparently inside
his room and also walking around Sunnydale. Identical twins,
shape-shifting demons and the ability to turn invisible and walk
through walls were just a few of them. They were imaginative ideas but
totally wrong, as she was to discover.
Saul watched her leave, a smile on his face. He had, of course, left
the room through the portal, needing to sort out a few last minute
details. When he stepped back, the Guardian he had left in his room had
reported a spy outside. Buffy’s stealth did leave a lot to be desired.
It wasn’t usually a vital part of Slaying.
Just to puzzle her, Saul had ducked back inside the portal and arranged
a temporary exit behind the motel. The energy it cost was well spent as
he relished the Slayer’s astonished bewilderment and saw her leave,
clearly in a bad mood.
He wasn’t going to underestimate her though. Killing her early was to
be avoided but if she made it necessary then that was that. Brow
furrowed, he contemplated sending out a diversion, a warning of some
kind, and then slowly shook his head. This one wouldn’t back off out of
personal fear no matter how many demons he sent her way. He needed a
lever. There were ample targets of course but he decided to choose the
That would teach him to lie to his betters.
After a much-needed shower and yet another meal eaten standing up,
Buffy headed over to the Magic Box. Willow and Tara both looked
“What’s up, you guys?” she asked. “Are we all sparkly clean with no
waxy buildup?” She spotted Giles shaking his head and sighed. “It
didn’t work did it?”
Giles walked over to her, clearing his throat. “Willow managed to
cleanse Tara but, unfortunately, she herself remains affected.”
“I’m just not strong enough,” said Tara despairingly. “I’m sorry,
Willow!” Her customary calm had left her and she seemed on the verge of
“Shush,” said Willow, smoothing Tara’s hair back from her face. “We’ve
got all tomorrow to work on it. You’re tired, baby, maybe you just need
Tara nodded but she knew that rest wouldn’t help. She just wasn’t
strong enough to defeat the spell. No amount of rest would change that.
Anya and Xander came through the door, looking dispirited.
“No luck,” Xander said, pulling out a chair and sitting down heavily.
“We must have covered every inch of that park. There’s nothing and no
one. Apart from way too many people with dogs who’ve never heard of
pooping and scooping. Of course, it’s tomorrow that the stage crew will
come in and set up the lights, speakers that kind of thing. Not to
mention the stage.”
Anya gave him a furious look. “Then why did we bother going there
today?” she screeched.
“Good point,” admitted Xander sheepishly. “So, how did the rest of you
waste your day?”
Tara winced and Willow joined Anya in glaring at Xander.
Xander sensed their disapproval and looked first surprised and then
aghast. “Oh, did you not, I mean, you’re still...oops.”
Buffy decided to give them her meagre information as a distraction.
Giles looked thoughtful. “I wouldn’t place too much importance on
Saul seemingly coming and
going unnoticed. That might well have been down to a mistake on the
part of the receptionist or even your scrutiny, careful though I’m sure
Buffy rolled her eyes but didn’t disagree.
“However, these phone calls bear investigating. You say he was
targeting women of some importance in the town?”
“Yes. I didn’t recognise all the names but they’re the people who crop
up in the paper opening things, or giving donations. You know the sort.”
Giles nodded but continued to look perplexed.
“Maybe he’s after their money,” said Dawn, dragging herself away from
the computer where a computer game had replaced the research, and
joining in the conversation.
“Maybe it’s part of his cover. It’s what people like him would normally
do?” offered Tara.
Buffy shrugged. “Maybe we can just call them and ask them? You do it
Giles. You’ll wow them with your accent and they’ll crumble like
cookies. Here’s a copy of the numbers he called.”
Giles took the paper gingerly and went over to the phone. Clearing his
throat and looking incredibly bashful, he began to work his way down
the list. Ten minutes later, he slammed the phone down in disgust.
“Really, those women! They’ve been brainwashed already, if you ask me.
Refused to tell me what he wanted, denied he’d even called in some
cases. One of them told me I was damned to hell fire for trying to
hinder the Lord’s work. Complete waste of time.”
“Calm down, Giles,” said Buffy in a comforting tone. “So they didn’t
crumble. It happens. We can’t all do telesales.”
Muttering, Giles went off to make himself a cup of tea. Along with
whisky, it was the universal panacea, in his opinion.
Buffy glanced at the shop window. “It’s dark,” she discovered.
“That’s what normally happens at night, Buffy,” said Xander, deadpan.
“Funny man,” she replied. “But where’s Spike? I expected he’d check in
to see what we’ve come up with about the poster spell. Or maybe to
report on what he found out in the bars last night.”
Willow groaned. “I’d forgotten we had to do Spike, too.”
Xander looked at her. “Rephrase that last comment, Will, before my mind
takes me to places I’d really rather not visit.”
Willow pulled a face but refused to rise to his bait. She was just too
tired for witty repartee.
“I’m going out to look for him,” said Buffy restlessly pacing. “I’ll
just check his place, Willy’s, that sort of thing. Back soon.”
After she’d gone, Xander whispered, “Zombie Spike doesn’t sound like
such a bad thing to me.”
“No, but it’s not how most girls prefer their boyfriends,” answered
Anya, overhearing him.
Dawn began to laugh. Anya’s instincts when it came to money and sex
were always spot on, however lacking she was in the finer details of
being human. Xander knew that too, which accounted for the spluttering
Buffy reached Spike’s crypt and found it dark and empty. It wasn’t a
totally wasted journey, as she’d bumped into two vampires on the way.
“Two less for Saul’s little buffet for the fanged and tan free,” she
thought with satisfaction.
Without Spike in it, the crypt became exactly what it was; a damp, dark
tomb without a view. Feeling like an intruder, Buffy turned back to the
A large demon appeared, on cue, blocking the exit. “Looking for your
Buffy gave a shriek of indignation and lashed out at the demon,
avoiding the squirming tentacles writing around its head with a shudder
of distaste. Her boot landed squarely in its chest, sending it flying
back a few feet.
“Spike is not my...oh, what do I care. You’ll be
dead in thirty seconds.”
“Dead?” croaked the figure. “No, no need for that. If you want to see
your, umm, the vampire again, then you need me alive.”
“I really don’t you know. If Spike’s gone missing, well, he’s a big
“I thought you said he wasn’t your…”
“One more word and you’re going to die ahead of schedule. Fifteen
A moment passed and Buffy sighed. “I didn’t mean you couldn’t deliver
your message, just don’t use the
‘b’ word, okay? Any time you’re ready.”
The demon eyed her nervously. “I don’t know anything, Slayer. I was
just drinking in Willy’s and this
human came in. He didn’t seem to notice anything strange about us and
he didn’t seem scared. Weird, no one went near him. He just looked at
me and said he’d pay me if I came to Spike’s place and waited for the
Slayer to show.”
“And you didn’t mind doing that? It didn’t seem, ooh, kinda risky?”
asked Buffy sarcastically. She stared hard at the demon. “Hey, I know
you! Giles got you to come and get rid of the rats in the storeroom
The demon looked wistful. “They were nice rats. Very juicy.”
Buffy sighed again. Saul had chosen his messenger well. Too stupid to
see that his errand was potentially life threatening, too harmless for
Buffy to kill before – or after - the message was delivered.
“He just looked at me and I didn’t seem able to refuse,” said the demon
“I bet. So where’s Spike then? Tied to a railway line with the 8.12
from L.A. due any minute now?”
“I don’t understand," said the demon, desperation creeping into his
voice as Buffy became more and more incomprehensible to him.
Buffy rolled her eyes, then wondered why she expected a demon to
appreciate humour and cultural references to silent movie
“Just give me the message.”
“Spike is beyond your reach and will die at sunrise if you don’t back
off. Saul promises that no humans will die tomorrow, despite what you
might think. You’re to send a message that you agree to a truce and
he’ll release Spike after it’s all over,” said the demon, obviously
reciting a memorized message.
“What? I never heard anything so crazy. Forget it.”
“Then Spike will die.”
“Newsflash; he’s a vampire. He’s overdue and past his sell by date.”
“Well, I don’t think he’s much loss myself. He was mean to me once.
Stole all my kittens. Can I go now? You weren’t serious about killing
me, were you?”
Buffy waved a hand in dismissal and then reconsidered. “Where do I send
the message?” she called out.
The demon reluctantly stopped running away and shouted, “Go to the
motel and leave it there.”
It backed off cautiously then broke into a run again, tentacles swaying
as it picked up speed.
Buffy fumed, and without a target for her anger, kicked at Spike’s
armchair. The leg cracked and the chair slowly sagged.
“Oh, great. Now I have to rescue Spike and get him a
new chair.” She studied the chair. “A replacement chair from the dump,”
The demon reached the cemetery gates and paused for breath. He was
fairly certain that he was safe from Buffy. She had other things on her
mind. As he walked, he began to mull over the message he had just
delivered. Had his forehead been the right shape, he would have
wrinkled it. Willy’s had been buzzing with the news of the meeting
tomorrow and the weird posters. The vampires there were passing up on
Willy’s bottled blood, boasting that tomorrow they’d have blood running
out of their ears. The demon found that image revolting but he’d smiled
and nodded in an effort to share the joy. How then, did it make sense
for Saul to tell Buffy that no humans would die?
Deciding that he’d better spread the word about a possible trap, he
began to walk quickly back to Willy’s.
He never got there. Saul stepped out of the shadows, right in front of
a brick wall in fact. The demon shied away nervously at this clear sign
of magic use, then smiled ingratiatingly.
“M-message delivered, just like you wanted,” he stuttered.
“That’s just wonderful!” beamed Saul. “You’ve been so helpful that it
just breaks my heart to do this – and this –oh and this, for sure.”
Stepping back into the portal, he vanished. The streetlight shone down
on the demon, illuminating his death throes for any who cared to watch.
But the street was empty.
“That was fast,” said Giles, looking up in surprise as Buffy walked
back into the shop. “Did you locate Spike?”
“Not exactly,” said Buffy. “Seems quiet. Where is everyone?”
“Since we’ve been here for hours and Willow and Tara are exhausted,
we’ve called it a night. We need to be fresh for tomorrow. I was just
heading home myself.” Giles stood and reached for his jacket.
Buffy shook her head. “Sorry, Giles but I need you. Spike’s being held
hostage, the big dope
and I had this really strange message from Saul –”
PORTAL DIMENSION : SUNNYDALE TIME 20.00
Spike was bored. In danger, probably, in pain, definitely, but he could
deal with that. It was the mindless tedium that was driving him nuts.
He was tied to a bed, the cords cutting into his flesh. He was in a
room with an inconveniently undraped window and sunrise was not far
off. He had been kidnapped and he was fairly certain that he wasn’t,
technically, in Sunnydale anymore.
None of that mattered compared to the fact that he had been here for
hours with no telly, no visitors and only blank stone walls to look at.
The window was no help either. By the time it grew light enough for him
to see what lay outside, he’d be dust.
After the few seconds of agonising pain of course. Not something to
anticipate with pleasure.
Spike wasn’t one to give in though. Most of the pain in his wrists was
self-inflicted. He’d been tied in the classic way, wrists and ankles
tethered to the bedposts. Except this bed was a slab of stone and the
posts were stone too. Seemed to be a theme the decorator had gone in
for in a big way.
He had pulled, tugged and torn at the metal chains until blood was
seeping, warm and sticky, down his arms. Licking at it had been his
only food and as it had come out of him to begin with, he wasn’t sure
how useful that was from a nutritional point of view.
In sheer temper, he began to sing, screaming out lyrics to every song
he could remember that was offensive, obscene or disgusting. If that
didn’t work, he was prepared to dredge up his memories of some of the
music Dawn had made him listen to over the summer he babysat her.
“Let’s see how you buggers like it, ‘cos it did my bloody head in!” he
Another thing that was tormenting Spike was that he wasn’t even locked
in. There was an open archway cut into one of the walls. It was
tantalising to think that all he had to do was break the chains to
escape. The arch revealed more of the plain stone walls. No one had
walked past, no one had come in.
Spike tried to piece together what had happened. He had been in
Willy’s, drinking less than normal out of sense of being on duty, and
casually asking around about the posters. The reaction had been pretty
much as he’d expected. No one who knew him would give him the time of
day and those who didn’t know him knew nothing useful.
He missed the days when he’d been welcome at Willy’s, when he’d had a
reputation as a bit of a lad, instead as a killer of his own kind. Even
after he’d been beaten up there by a demon determined to show him the
error of his ways, Spike had refused to give up going. It was a
question of pride. Besides, you got some good fights there and not all
the demons were unfriendly. Fear made for friends. To your face at
One genuine friend, a poker buddy named Clem, might have shared some
information but despite this being his usual night to prop up the bar,
he'd never showed up.
Deciding to move on, Spike had headed out of the door and taken two
steps. Then he’d come to a halt, staring at a swirling vortex in front
of him. Before he’d had chance to run, a sharp blow from behind had
pushed him into it. It was fuzzy but he remembered screaming, falling –
then nothing. He’d woken up tied to the bed.
“Hell of a way to treat someone,” Spike muttered, his throat hurting so
much that he called off the concert. “You’d think I’d at least rate a
bit of torturing.”
As if someone was just waiting to be asked, a figure appeared in the
archway, paused for a second and then walked over to the bed.
“About bloody time,” Spike said coolly. “And if that’s my curtain
you’re wearing, do me a favour and put it back. I really don’t want to
die in, oh, about five minutes or so.”
“I cover myself because many here do not enjoy looking at what I have
become,” replied Nalia.
“Well, I really don’t have a weak stomach, love,” responded Spike,
turning on the charm as he identified the voice as female.
She shrugged and pulled back the fabric from her face. Spike studied
the scarring with a professional eye and didn’t comment.
As if annoyed by his lack of reaction, she pulled up the concealing
folds again and turned to leave.
“Hey!” called Spike, panicking now. “I just told you; the sun’s coming
up. Get me out of here! Umm, please?”
She took two steps before replying. “Until the Slayer ceases her
actions against us, you are ours. You will have to hope we are
honourable enough to give you back to her as you are now – not as you
will be in so short a time.”
“What?” Spike frowned, trying to work out what she meant. By the time
he did, she had gone. Cursing, he pulled again at his shackles, eying
the window. It was dark grey out there now.
Buffy got to the motel in a very bad mood. On the one hand, better
Spike taken than Dawn. He had far more experience of evil and would
cope better with threats and torture. Though she had a feeling that
Dawn had probably been kidnapped more often than he had.
On the other hand, he was not her boyfriend and she would be damned if
people were going to act as though he mattered, and kidnap him to put
pressure on her, and assume that it would make her upset and angry and
“You’re doing it again, Buffy!” said Giles sharply.
“Huh?” said Buffy, making an effort to concentrate on Giles.
“You’re muttering and grinding your teeth. I must ask that you stop.
It’s terribly aggravating. I know you’re concerned –”
“‘Concerned’? I’m a little puzzled, sure. But concerned? No way. This
is Spike we’re talking about, remember?”
Giles gave her an uncertain look. He had reasons of his own for
disliking Spike but he had also come to respect the vampire for certain
qualities. As a Watcher, he could not exactly say that Spike’s death,
by whatever means, would sadden him but, yes, he’d miss him. A little.
Buffy on the other hand, seemed to be driven by conflicting emotions on
the thorny subject of the vampire. That was all well and good but if it
affected her fighting and concentration, it could be a lethal
distraction. Giles resolved that when there was a lull in the
excitement, he would have a serious talk with his Slayer. And he might
combine that with a visit to Spike too. Assuming they found him of
course and they all survived this latest adventure.
As they reached the motel door, Buffy glanced around to check that
there was no one lurking, then hammered on the door with a clenched
Giles sighed. Obviously the subtle approach wasn’t popular tonight.
The door opened and Brother Saul gave his visitors a pleasant smile.
“I was hoping it was you,” he said, directing his words at Buffy. “Come
in, and you too, of course, Mr. Giles.”
Giles peered past Saul. The room appeared empty. He glanced idly over
towards the bathroom door, remembering Spike’s comment. It was shut.
Not unusual perhaps but if Saul was the only occupant, why bother?
“Very well,” he replied. They walked in and took seats, Buffy making
sure her back was against a wall.
“No need for caution,” said Saul, observing her choice of position.
“This is a friendly meeting between people on the same side of the
fence, believe me. Though I have to say, I’m a little astonished to
find the Slayer and her Watcher on good terms with a vampire. Times
have changed, indeed they have.”
Giles flushed. “Spike is far from a normal vampire,” he said.
Saul raised a sceptical eyebrow. “Turned vegetarian has he? Well, let’s
“I don’t have a problem with quarrelling,” said Buffy brightly. “Or
fighting. Or slaying, if it comes to that.”
“I took your little pet just to get your attention, my dear. He’s fine,
trust me. A little battered because he keeps trying to escape but
that’s really his own fault.”
Buffy’s lips thinned and she spoke in clipped, controlled tones.
“Spike is not my pet, nor my boyfriend. You should have chosen your
hostage a little better. He’s tried to kill me more times than I care
“In that case, I’ll kill him now, instead of waiting for him to die
tomorrow,” replied Saul easily.
Buffy glared at him, her bluff called.
Giles frowned. “You seem to have a slightly different version of that
event, depending on whom you’re talking to.”
Brother Saul chuckled. “I don’t mind telling you what’s going to happen
if it stops you
interfering. I’m on a mission, a quest to rid the world of vampires.
Tomorrow night, I’ll clean up Sunnydale. It seemed like a good place to
“’Start’? What about the events of seventy years ago, in Talbotville?”
asked Giles, watching closely to see if Saul would react to this.
He did. He laughed.
“You must have me mixed up with my grandfather. That was tragic, just
awful. He died in that freak tornado too, you know.”
Giles gave him a look of disgust but didn’t bother arguing with his
version of events.
“So just how does inviting the vampires to feast on the town equal
killing them? Hoping they’ll get heartburn and self combust?” asked
He gave an irritatingly unctuous chuckle. “So you got your tame demon
to read you the other version of my poster have you? I guessed as much.
And, let me see, either you managed not to touch them or you’ve got a
mighty powerful magic user on your team. Well done. You move quickly.
We could make a good team ourselves but I won’t even bother asking for
that. I just need your promise to back off and let me do your job for
just one night.”
Buffy stood up and shook her head. “No. I’m not backing off. Stop
stalling and tell me what’s going to
“I’m going to get me a nice little crowd. Bait, if you like. They’ll
come to no harm; they’ll just lose a few hours of their lives. When
I’ve done with them, they won’t even remember leaving their houses. And
once I’ve released them, they’ll be living in a safe town. That’s worth
it all, don’t you agree?
“Because, see, once they’ve attracted those nasty vampires, they’ll go
straight home, safe and sound, but the vampires, well, they’ll be stuck
out on that field.
“And you know what? They’ll stand there until sunup. It’ll get a mite
dusty around then but I’m sure it won’t bother people. Forecast is for
a windy day. I checked.”
He beamed at them both, folded his hands in his lap and waited for
their applause. When it wasn’t forthcoming he frowned and added, “Now,
I’m helping you out here, little lady. I can kill more of those
bloodsuckers in one night than you do in a year. Least you can do is
show some appreciation!”
Buffy walked over to him and leaned down, placing her hands on the arms
of his chair.
“Read my lips,” she said calmly. “I’m the Slayer, you’re a creep with a
cunning plan. How stupid do you think I am? Why do you need the people
at all then? The posters will force the vampires to go there even if
there isn’t any ‘bait’ visible.”
Saul shook his head admiringly. “My, but you see things clearly, dear.
It’s a gift; treasure it. But
you see, not all the vampires will be affected. Some might well read a
poster without touching it. They’re not going to get close if there’s
an empty field and their friends are acting all crazy-like, now are
they? But you put those people there and I guarantee, the blood hunger
will take away any tendency to think rationally.”
Buffy curled her lip in disgust at both his plan and his complacency.
She noticed that Saul was lying, obviously assuming they didn’t know
that only controlled vampires and humans would be showing up at the
Friday meeting. Which, in turn, meant that the humans weren’t needed as
bait. That was ominous.
Giles stood while Saul was talking and moved towards the bathroom door.
What Xander called ‘Spidey sense’ was tingling every time he glanced
that way. Giles preferred to label it intuition based on decades of
experience. Ignoring the protest from Saul, pinned in his chair, he
threw open the door. He took one look inside and gasped.
“You’ve opened a portal and anchored it? Are you mad? The power
required is phenomenal. If your control slips, the whole town could get
Saul smiled from his chair. “But I’m not the one doing any of that
complicated stuff. Wouldn’t know
how to start. Rest easy; my friend on the other side is very competent.
She’s got too much resting on this to let the portal close.”
Buffy grabbed Saul by the collar and hauled him up out of his seat. “Is
Spike in there?” she demanded.
Saul choked, “Yes and sunrise is getting awful close for him, on that
side, so if you want to see him again, better behave yourself.”
“No,” said Buffy. “If you want to live to see tomorrow start, let alone
finish, you’ll –”
“You can’t kill a human,” Saul gasped, laughing, even as her grip
tightened. “Especially not with your Watcher standing right there.”
Giles twisted his head to look at them briefly and very deliberately
turned his back on the scene.
Buffy grinned and said, “What were those final words of yours then?”
Saul was turning red in the face. “You want your toy, you go through
there and get him. I estimate you’ve got about four minutes.”
“Then you’re coming with me.” She twisted his arm up his back and began
to march him towards the portal.
“No, you mustn’t, Buffy!” Giles cried out. She ignored him and made
straight for the swirling emptiness of the portal.
PORTAL DIMENSION : SUNNYDALE TIME 20.45
Spike was going out screaming. This wasn’t how he’d imagined it
happening. Where was the glory, the worthy opponent? Where was the
audience? No one would ever know what had happened to him. Buffy would
think he’d done a runner. Buffy. He loved her and he hadn’t even kissed
“Hey! Get yourself back in here, scarf girl. You didn’t tie me up for
nothing. What do you want then? Need something killing? I can do that.
Just don’t let me die like this, tied down…”
His voice broke and for just a second, he lay back. Then, with a roar
of rage, he began to make one final effort to break the chains that
held him in place. The sky was a delicate pink now but he was in no
mood to appreciate its beauty.
Absorbed in his struggle, it took him a moment to realise that he was
no longer alone.
“I will watch you die, if that is what you desire, vampire.”
Spike looked at her. “You daft or what? I desire not to bloody well
die, thank you very
much. Why are you doing this? At least tell me that. Cover up the
window and talk to me. It’s going to be sunny all day; kill me later.”
She seemed to be startled by his words. As Spike watched, indecision
passed over her face. When she looked down at him, Spike put on his
best puppy dog eyes and pleaded with her silently.
Whirling, she left the room. Spike cried out in despair, as the sun
broke free of the horizon and began to flood into the room. With
exquisite timing, she returned, hurrying now, and flung a thick blanket
over him. It was itchy and heavy enough that he would have smothered
had he needed to breathe, but Spike wasn’t inclined to complain.
He heard her moving something into the room and guessed that she was
screening the window. The blanket was pulled off him gently and he saw
that the room was now blessedly dim again.
She was kneeling by the bed, her face very close to his. Looking at
her, he said quietly, ”Thanks love,” and pulled up so that he could
brush her lips with his.
In the instant before his mouth touched her skin, she recoiled and
lashed out with her hand, slapping his face hard.
“You filthy creature! How dare you profane me with your touch? You feed
off blood, your mouth is your weapon and you would kiss me with it?”
Spike had rarely felt so rejected. This woman could give Buffy pointers.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean – and I don’t kill anymore, you
know. Doesn’t mean much, maybe, but it’s been months, years even, since
I – fed.”
She frowned. “You lie. Vampires must feed or they wither. You look well
“I drink blood, yes; animal blood. Why did you capture me if you don’t
know who I am?”
“You are the Slayer’s friend, she values you.”
“I wish,” muttered Spike.
“It is puzzling. She exists to kill your kind, yet she works with you.
Explain this to me.”
Spike unsuccessfully tried to get comfortable on the stone slab.
“I’ve been fitted with a chip in my head. A device that gives me pain
if I try to hurt someone. I’m harmless and so the Slayer won’t kill
me.” Silently he added, “Yet.”
“This cannot be. It is unnatural,” Nalia said, looking agitated.
“Too bloody true. But there you are. Wouldn’t hurt a fly. So can I go
now?” Spike said hopefully.
His rescuer stood and paced the room. “Saul will kill vampires, many
vampires soon. He has explained their
evil, their blood lust to me. They deserve to die and their deaths will
bring great happiness.”
“Is that right?” asked Spike. “Who to?”
She smiled at him happily, but it was a travesty of a smile in her
“He will gain power from their deaths. Enough power to restore me. He
promised. Last time, it went wrong; the people died before he could
attract the vampires. He was very sorry and he suffered greatly for it,
losing all his strength for many years. This time, all will be well.”
Spike felt a shiver run down his spine as he guessed that she was
talking about the Talbotville massacre. He sensed something very wrong
“I’m a bit lost, love. Thought the whole idea was to kill the people.”
She laughed. “It is a trap of course! Saul will let the people go and
keep the vampires with him till sunrise. Then –”
She held up her hand and pretended to blow dust off it.
Spike lay back and stared up at the ceiling, trying to make sense of
this. He failed.
“How do you know this Saul then? He’s human, isn’t he?”
She shrugged. “We are human, too. He is one of us. Our world lies by
yours but touches only now and then. Time runs differently for us here.
I have been like this for ten long years. Years of pain but soon I will
be whole again. The portal will remain open until the morning after
Saul’s spell. Just long enough.”
She stood and began to untie him.
“I am going to let you go back. The Slayer did not save you so
obviously you are of no value to her after all. If you go back, you
will become part of the spell and your death will benefit people. If
you die here, it will do nothing.”
Spike was shocked. Burying the hurt her words had caused him, he asked
her bluntly, “You trust this Saul then? Because he seems a bit of a con
man if you ask me.”
She gave him a look of disdain. “When I am beautiful again, we will
marry. Come with me, carrion eater
and get back to your world.”
Spike got up from his bed, wincing as his cramped muscles eased and
followed her. The portal lay outside his door. She gestured to it with
an unpleasant smile.
“Pass through; and enjoy your final hours on earth.”
Spike glared at her. "Up yours, lady.”
He walked forward quickly, in case she changed her mind and entered the
portal, then emerged into a very crowded bathroom.
Buffy was hauling Saul along, despite his struggles and Giles’
protests. She was within reach of the portal when Spike suddenly
appeared, his momentum slamming him against her and Saul.
Saul took advantage of Buffy’s slackened grip and twisted out of her
hold. Pushing Spike out of his way, he leapt into the portal. A moment
later, it vanished.
“Will someone tell me what the hell is going on around here?” said
Spike. Buffy recovered from her surprise and ignored the feeling of
relief that seeing Spike unharmed had given her.
“Good question,” she replied. “Glad you could join us at last.”
Spike reacted badly to her sarcastic tone and opened his mouth to
retaliate. Giles anticipated this and decided that he couldn’t bear to
listen to another Spike and Buffy bickerfest.
“Children,” he said firmly.
Two heads swiveled as one to look at him, identical expressions of
disbelief and outrage on their faces.
“The portal has been closed but it could reappear at any moment. I
suggest we go to my house and pool our knowledge. And then, I’m going
to bed. I’m bloody knackered.”
Giles’s lapse into the vernacular stunned Buffy and sent a grin across
“Right you are,” he said. “Could use a bit of your single malt, myself.
I just nearly died, you know.”
“Drama queen,” muttered Buffy.
Giles cast his eyes upwards as the squabbling began again.
An hour later, after stories had been exchanged and theories discussed,
Giles left Spike and Buffy still talking and went to bed, yawning
As he disappeared upstairs, Spike stood and reached for his coat.
“I’ll be off then. Wouldn’t want you to miss your beauty sleep, pet.
I’ll be round at the shop tomorrow some time, so the witches can fix me
Buffy looked down. “I was coming to get you, you know,” she said
softly. “I wouldn’t have
just left you there to die.”
Spike stood still, looking at her bent head. Bewildered, hopeful,
yearning, he replied, “I know, love. Never thought you would, no matter
what that daft bint said.”
Buffy raised her head and looked at him directly. “But you’re still not
Spike flinched then grinned.
“Not yet, Slayer. Not yet.”
Still grinning, he swung around and out of the door then paused.
“You staying here then? ‘Cos I’ll walk you home if you like.”
Buffy smiled. “I’ll stay a little while. Thanks.”
He nodded and left her staring into space.
FRIDAY AUGUST 30 (SUNRISE 05.31, SUNSET 18.28, MOONRISE 23.52)
The next morning, it was a tired, apprehensive group that gathered at
the Magic Box (temporarily closed for inventory check according to the
sign on the door). The news that Saul wanted to kill vampires not
humans was a relief of course but not totally reassuring.
“After all,” said Xander, summing it up, “ I don’t feel inclined to
trust someone who thinks nothing of turning me into a zombie. And
what’s with the girlfriend thing? Seems like a lot of trouble to go to
for some cosmetic surgery.”
Giles nodded. “Saul has lied to the vampires and there’s no reason to
think he told us or his lady friend the truth. From what Spike learned,
their dimension swings close to ours every seventy years or so, by our
reckoning anyway. Portals can only operate over a certain spatial
distance. Last time, apparently, the humans weren’t sent home in safety
but died. The spell must have had serious side effects. Willow, are you
sure that isn’t the case with these spells?”
Willow shrugged helplessly. “As far as I can tell, no, they should keep
the people safe, if Saul just tells them to go home. But it’s awfully
risky. He’s got to juggle controlling them with trapping the vampires.
He’s going to be one busy little preacher. One mistake and he’s knee
deep in hungry, disappointed vampires. Or corpses. Neither of which is
of the good.”
“So what can we do?” asked Tara.
Buffy stood up.
“We can stop him, that’s what.”
“Don’t you want him to kill the vampires? Are you worried about job
security? I wouldn’t be. Vampires can’t be eliminated entirely. You’ll
get a nice break for a week or two and then more will arrive. In fact,
they’ll flood in, once word gets round. All that prime real estate in
the cemeteries going begging? They’ll be fighting over it like-”
“Well, that’s something to look forward to,” said Buffy dryly,
interrupting her. “No, Anya, dusting vampires who’re there to massacre
helpless victims is fine by me but I really don’t want to take any
chances. I’m sure he’s not going to let the people go; why should he?
It’s like Will says, this plan is a little too hit and miss.” She
paused and added hesitantly, “ Besides – unless we lock you up or
something, Willow, you’re, well, you’re going to be down there on that
field too, aren’t you?”
There was a momentary silence as this sunk in. A look of determination
passed over Tara’s face.
“I want to have another go at taking that spell off you, sweetie,” she
said firmly. “We need you tonight.”
Willow hadn’t been looking happy at the reminder that she was hours
away from being entranced but this startled her. Unwilling to hurt
Tara’s fragile self-esteem, she hadn’t wanted to ask her to try again.
“Do you think you’re stronger today then? Because – ”
Tara interrupted. “No, I’m pretty sure I can’t do it alone but you’re
forgetting that at least three other people in this room have some
magic in them. Giles, from the stories Willow’s told me, you’ve got a
lot of experience in the arts.” Giles nodded, looking rather strained
as the memories flooded back.
“Buffy,” continued Tara, “you managed to do the spell that well, that
made you realise Dawn wasn’t exactly, umm,” her voice tailed off as
Dawn looked stricken but with her mind fixed on helping Willow she
“Anya, you did a spell with Willow once, trying to get back your
Anya nodded. “I see. You think that the four of us all working together
might be enough?”
Tara said, “Yes. I do.” She stood up and faced them all, no stammer and
no shyness. “Willow? Help me train them in the spell?”
Willow gave her a grateful look and took time out to hug her before
going over to the three potential spell casters.
As the powder turned blue around Willow’s head, Tara felt happy tears
stinging her eyes. She hadn’t been able to cleanse Willow by herself
but it didn’t matter. Willow was safe.
“What about Spike?’ said Dawn, her voice cutting effortlessly through
the relieved babble. “Hadn’t we better make sure he’s cured too? If we
wait till sunset, or whenever he’s supposed to be coming here, it might
be too late.”
“Look, Dawn,” said Xander, “Willow and Tara are pretty tired now and…”
“And what? It’s not like before, when the worst that could happen is
Spike goes there and gets a headache when he tries to feed. If he gets
caught up in this, he’s dust.”
Xander opened his mouth, then had the grace to back down.
“Fine, let’s go and do the whammy on him then.”
Willow squeezed Tara’s hand and said, “Buffy, I can go with you to the
crypt and do the spell right there if you like. Tara, you stop here and
rest up a bit, huh?”
Buffy had been looking a little shamefaced after Dawn’s outburst. It
had almost slipped her mind that Spike would be affected along with the
“Sure. Let’s go. I really want us all to be together when it gets
closer to the time. If these portals can pop up anywhere - well, let’s
not get separated if we can help it. Dawn, you stay here with Giles and
Tara and do research, since you’re so fond of it. Xander, do you and
Anya want to look at the park again? We’ll all meet back here well
before sundown if possible.”
Buffy pushed open the crypt door, hoping that this time she wouldn’t be
faced with echoing emptiness. Sunset was still over six hours away so
Spike might be annoyed to be woken up, but it was in a good cause.
Willow followed her in, looking around curiously. She hadn’t been a
regular visitor to Spike’s home in the past, but she remembered it as
being less, well, homey than this.
“It’s quite cosy,” she remarked.
Buffy cast her a surprised look.
“Yeah, sure. If you go for trailer park gothic. Anyway, I’ll just see
if he’s downstairs. That’s where the bed is, umm, well, he’s obviously
not up here so he must be –“
Willow gave her an amused look and waved her hand at the opening
“Go and wake him up with a –“
“You say ‘kiss’ and I’ll slay you where you stand, Willow Rosenberg!”
Willow giggled. Buffy gave her a look that only a best friend could get
away with and headed below. She wasn’t there long enough to even blow a
kiss to someone.
“Gone,” she said tersely. “Where is that man? Does he live here or
“Leave him a note,” suggested Willow practically. “He can get around in
daylight when he needs to, so he might be able to make it to the Magic
Box before we leave to take out Saul.”
Buffy perched on the edge of a stone slab, swinging her feet. She
looked at Willow, almost pleadingly.
“I don’t know what to do about that Willow. I know I told Anya we’d
have to stop him but supposing I’m wrong? This is a chance to kill
hundreds of vampires, save hundreds of lives; should I intervene?”
Willow thought about it. This was tricky. Normally, the villains were
planning something evil and there was no ambiguity about their plans or
the need to stop them. This time was different. Spike had been
threatened but not hurt, the magic on the posters was harmless and
would wear off, and Saul was going to kill vampires not people…maybe.
She shook her head sharply as though waking up from a dream.
“He’s evil, Buffy,” she said firmly. “Good people don’t kidnap your
friends to put pressure on you, or use magic to control other people,
no matter how noble their aims. And what about all those dead people at
his last meeting? Don’t let him fool you. He’s not on our side. He’s
all ulterior motive guy, I can just tell.”
Buffy nodded slowly, then smiled. Jumping down, she went over to Willow
and gave her a hug.
“You always make sense, Willow,” she said. “So now it’s simple. I have
to stop Saul without killing him, because he‘s human –”
“Ooh, from another dimension though! Maybe he doesn’t count?” said
“That would make it easier but I don’t think we can be all judgy about
people based on their address, Will. Anyway, I’ve got no chance of
fighting all those vampires and you can’t take the spell off the people
“So, what?” Willow asked curiously.
Buffy grinned at her.
“You want me to spoil the surprise?”
“There is no plan is there?”
“Not as such, no.”
Willow had gone back to the shop, in case Spike appeared. Buffy had
decided to take one more look around the motel room. They hadn’t really
examined it the night before. Saul was unlikely to be there of course;
he would probably just open the portal and step into the park. The need
for the preacher disguise had passed.
She went straight to the room, bypassing the possible delights of
another conversation with Jason, and twisted open the door lock with
little difficulty and even less guilt. That comfortable feeling of
being on a mission where breaking and entering was a peccadillo at best
fled as she walked in on a couple having imaginative and highly
athletic sex on the bed. They’d been very quiet, but the gag on the man
might account for that, Buffy thought distantly, as she backed off,
She doubted that they’d chase her; those knots would take a while to
undo and they weren’t exactly dressed for the street.
Anya and Xander had returned to the park for a last look around. There
was still no sign of any preparations being made for a large-scale
event. Which made sense really. Xander began to think aloud, “ No
permit, no portaloos, no P.A. He’s not even going to pretend to have a
show is he? Just get them here, zap them and then wait for the undead
Anya nodded. She wasn’t going to be one of the zombies and neither was
Xander, so she was feeling more detached about it than he was.
“We should get back to the shop,” she suggested. “Buffy wanted us all
“Yeah, sure,” replied Xander absently. He was scanning the area, trying
to think where Saul was likely to position himself. He saw the perfect
spot, some way off; a natural stage where the ground rose sharply to a
small plateau. If Saul stood there he could see what was going on, but
it would be hard to get to him.
“Let’s go and see what’s behind that place over there. I bet it’s where
he’ll be,” he said, setting off at a jog.
Anya followed him at a more leisurely pace, her interest waning as more
and more physical effort was required of her.
Xander got to the plateau and stood looking out. Yes, this was ideal.
He turned and saw that there was grass for about twenty feet, then
“I’m going to take a look in there; coming, Anya?”
Anya gave him a look of disbelief.
“I’m exhausted. My shoes are covered in dirt and those trees look like
the kind that have falling leaves and caterpillars. I’ll wait here.”
“Fine, fine,” murmured Xander, not really surprised. “Won’t be a sec.”
He walked over, found an overgrown but usable path into the wood and
began to search for possible places to hide. He had gone about a
hundred feet when the Guardian that Saul had left monitoring the area,
homed in on him.
Sitting on her coat to avoid getting closer to the grass than she had
to, Anya rested, blissfully unaware of Xander’s danger.
Until the screams got louder.
“Where is Spike?” fretted Dawn. “If he doesn’t come soon, he’ll be
right in the middle of it all. We need to find him. Sunset’s in two
Giles sighed. “Spike may well have decided to leave town, Dawn,
especially after what happened to him. He’s a vampire and as such, he
puts his own survival above all else.”
Dawn sputtered with outrage. “Giles, how can you say that? Spike’s
different, you know he is!”
Buffy, still recovering from the incident at the motel, looked up from
the book she was pretending to read. Willow and Tara were at the table
with her, open books and notes scattered in front of them.
“Spike wouldn’t leave town, Giles. I don’t know where he is but he
wouldn’t do that.”
Dawn gave her a grateful smile.
“Be that as it may, we need to concentrate on stopping Saul,” said
Giles firmly. “Then it won’t matter if Spike is still under the spell’s
influence or not.”
“If we’re sure he’s going to appear at the park, can’t we set up a
barrier, something to stop the portal from opening? We’d only have to
keep it in place until the morning, if what Spike learned is true,”
Giles rubbed his forehead distractedly.
“I’m not sure we can prevent it from appearing, Tara. We can’t shield
the whole area after all. If we block it at one point, he only needs to
reposition it a few yards away. We wouldn’t be able to move fast
“And we’d still have the people and the vampires to contend with,” said
The afternoon had been spent in research. Eye wearying, mind numbing
browsing of books and the Net. Buffy had joined them after sorting out
weapons. She wasn’t sure what she was going to be fighting but she
would have put money on there being something that needed hitting. She
also laid a selection out on the counter for Giles to choose from.
With time running out, there was an air of desperation creeping into
Buffy looked towards the door for what felt like the twentieth time.
“Xander and Anya should have been back long before this, never mind
Spike,” she fretted. “Maybe we should just go over to the park and join
“And do what?” asked Giles pointedly. “Buffy, we have no plan, no clear
idea of Saul’s motivations –”
“Now we do,” said Willow softly. She held up the book she was reading,
a muted triumph in her eyes.
Anya stood up quickly. She recognized those screams. Her feet got
tangled in her coat and she kicked it aside impatiently. No longer
grudging the exertion, she ran in the direction of the screams,
wondering just what had possessed her to fall in love with someone who
was in deadly peril so often.
The woods were dim and Anya found it difficult to move quickly. The
branches seemed to be grabbing at her hair, the roots at her ankles.
The screams were getting louder and she didn’t think she could get more
concerned. Until they stopped. Then she really began to panic.
Forcing her way into a small clearing, she felt her heart thud
painfully as she saw Xander slumped on the ground, blood oozing from
his ears. Hovering over him was a winged demon, small enough to pass
for a bird to the casual observer.
Anya had come across the species before; had even used them herself
once or twice. They were sentient but at an animal level. Once they had
been common; now a scant thousand survived, making them valuable pets
to own or rent out. When instructed, they would guard an area,
attacking intruders but not usually killing them. A Guardian’s weapon
was its voice - its screams caused dizziness and acute pain. Xander
would have been wiser feigning unconsciousness but from the length of
time the screams had gone on, Anya guessed he had tried to fight it.
Anya watched as the Guardian registered her presence, gnawing her lip
frantically as she tried to remember what the controlling words were.
They would still be the same; this species was long-lived, practically
immortal, but their trainer had died centuries ago. They retained the
implanted words of command but could learn no others. They could speak,
a little, but it was pointless to reason with them.
Xander began to move, moaning and pawing at his ears. Anya saw the
Guardian twist in the air, as though trying to decide whom to attack.
Just as it opened its mouth to begin screaming again, she remembered
“Rekrath! Lintoth!” she called out. Hopefully that meant, ‘Stop!
Leave!’ Or had she just told it to attack and kill? She had to admit
that they would have been words she was more likely to have used in her
days as a vengeance demon. Relief washed away the fear as the creature
hesitated then vanished. Anya wondered if it had gone back to its owner
or to Saul; assuming they were different. She doubted Saul could have
afforded to own a Guardian though. They were a little out of most
people’s price range.
Running over to Xander, she knelt beside him, cradling his head gently
on her lap. She couldn’t leave him and he wasn’t capable of walking. He
would recover but not for some time. They would have to wait.
Anya twisted her hand round so that she could look at her watch. Sunset
was still well over three hours away.
She hoped it would be long enough.
Buffy jumped up and walked over to Willow.
“Tell me what you’ve got,” she said.
Willow said, “It’s all fancy in the book but I’ll give you the quick
version. Saul’s spell went wrong because he didn’t - oh, how can I put
it - he didn’t put the plug in. All their spirit drained away, leaving
nothing for him to command, nothing to control. That’s why no one could
find out what killed them. Physically they were fine but your body
needs at least a little bit of spirit to keep it going. These people
weren’t in a coma, weren’t vegetables; it was much worse than that.
“After they’d done what they were told to do and made their way to the
site, they just got weaker and weaker until they died. The awful part
is,” Willow shuddered, “I’m not sure about their souls. They might
still be on this plane but with no body to anchor them and no spirit to
guide them onwards.”
Buffy looked suitably appalled but it was clear to Giles that she was
“She wants to know how to kill Saul,” he thought. “Wants to be told
that he’s a demon and fair game.”
Tara reached over and took Willow’s hand, sensing her distress. Willow
squeezed it gratefully and then continued.
“Anyway, Saul failed. There weren’t any vampires involved that time, no
matter what his girlfriend told Spike; he planned to kill the humans
and get a massive energy boost from their deaths. His companion was
doing all the magic; he was to be the host for the power.”
“I’m guessing that would be this scarred woman?” Buffy asked grimly.
“Her name’s Nalia. The backlash from what happened must have injured
her terribly but the portal would have been so close to closing that
they had no choice but to retreat. And wait.”
“And now he’s back,” mused Buffy. “So why the change in plans, Will?
Why use vampires instead?”
Willow shrugged helplessly.
“This book is all about the massacre, written by a man who saw it but
wasn’t involved. He was a local hermit; never came down to town much.
He was actually meditating and practicing shape shifting but he kept
that secret, I guess.”
Giles looked rather stunned.
“I swear those books mate when I’m not looking,” he said. “I had no
idea I owned that book.”
“You don’t,” said Willow with a sad smile. “It’s mine. I got it back
when I was trying to cure Oz. I thought if this man could change shape,
he might have found out how a werewolf could stay human. But he didn’t.
Ever since you mentioned Talbotville, I thought it sounded familiar but
I never read all of the book, just the parts about the shifting. The
massacre is right at the end, in an appendix. It clicked when I was on
my way back from Spike’s so I stopped off at the house and grabbed all
my werewolf books. I wasn’t sure which one it was in.”
There was a slightly uncomfortable silence as they all spared a thought
for Oz. Giles broke it with an exclamation of disgust.
“How could I have been so dense! The gathering of innocents and demons,
the magic user to act as a conduit…Saul’s trying to perform the Rite of
Amrion. I wonder if Nalia realises how it ends?”
“With her death?” asked Tara quietly.
“Yes. Somehow, Saul will channel all the life force from the slaughter
into her. There are several methods he could use. Then, the final act
of horror; he will betray her and in absorbing her power he will
become, well, a force to be reckoned with, is putting it mildly.”
“What does he want?” asked Dawn. She had been listening silently, her
face pale, hands locked together in her lap. Buffy thought how hard it
must be for her to listen to all this talk of rituals and death after
what she had endured at Glory’s hands.
“Who knows? With the power he would wield, he could literally move
mountains, command armies of demons; he would be unstoppable. We simply
can’t let him complete the ritual.”
Buffy stood up.
“We can’t even let him start, Giles. Because it seems to me that the
way this thing begins is with most of Sunnydale dying. I’m not going to
let that happen.”
“S-so, he’s not going to just let the people go, like he said?” asked
Dawn, almost pleading for a reassuring answer. Buffy gave her a quick
shake of the head and patted her shoulder.
Tara had been sitting, deep in thought, her hands clasped, her face
downcast. Suddenly she looked up and said, “Willow? About the souls of
the people from Talbotville?”
Willow looked at her hopefully. “Yes? Do you think that we can –”
“Locate them on the astral plane and -”
“Use their trapped energy to distract Saul?”
“I speak for all those people, not you two, in the room and go, ‘Huh?’”
“No, I can guess what they mean,” said Giles, an intent look on his
face. “It’s a long shot of course. We have no way of knowing if those
people are trapped in between this realm and the next. If they are,
they might be anchored to their place of death. But if we can summon
them at the meeting, well, it would be a distraction, if nothing else.”
“I’ll look up what we need for that,” said Willow. “It’s a variant on
the spells I used when I, well, brought back Buffy so it shouldn’t take
long. Don’t go looking all disapproving, Giles!”
Giles shook his head. “I still think you took a big chance then,
Willow, but despite that, I do respect your undeniable talent, believe
Willow beamed and headed for the bookshelves as Giles added silently,
“And you scare the life out of me with it, too…”
“What time is it?” asked Dawn suddenly. “I mean, how long until sunset
or whenever that meeting starts?”
Tara had drifted over to the window.
“It’s starting now,” she said tightly.
The others came over to join her and watched as groups of people
drifted past, their faces empty, their movements jerky. It was a
fascinating but frightening sight and Spike’s entrance from the
storeroom under the shop made them all jump.
“Sorry,” he said, “Seemed a bit busy out there and it was light when I
set out so I used the tunnels.”
Buffy stalked over to him, “Where have you been?” she yelled, pointing
out of the window. “Look out there; that’ll be you soon. You were
supposed to be here, so we could do the spell on you.”
Spike shrugged. “I was planning on being here, love but something came
“I bet you were out drinking, or playing cards,” she said bitterly.
“You just can’t stay focused, can you? This is all a big game,
something to keep you entertained because you can’t kill anymore.”
Spike froze, hurt and anger clear on his face. “A friend of mine died
last night,” he said “A friend who was last seen
headed to my place to give you a
message. Want to share anything, Slayer of demons? Did you off him just
for the hell of it?”
Buffy looked stunned. “He was your friend? I didn’t know that. In fact
he –” She broke off,
not wanting to tell Spike that the demon had seemed quite happy with
the idea that Spike was dead. “I didn’t hurt him. Last I saw, he was
headed out of the cemetery, on his way back to Willy’s probably. Saul
had hired him; if he’s dead, why not put him at the top of the list of
Spike whirled around and slammed his fist into a wall and then leaned
forward, his palms flat against the surface, his arms braced. His head
sank low as he regained his composure. Straightening up, he faced Buffy.
“Sorry,” he said hoarsely. “I should’ve known it wasn’t you. Poor guy
had his entrails yanked out by the yard. Not your style.”
Buffy made a face at the image but Spike’s distress had taken the edge
off her annoyance.
“Come here and let Willow and Tara take the spell off you,” she said
urgently. “It will trigger for you as soon as sunset comes I suppose.
We have to hurry.”
Spike gave them all a rather weak grin and, with a return of the old
swagger, walked to the back of the room. Willow and Tara, for what they
hoped was the last time, began the spell. Dawn was still at the window,
looking at the people, recognising some neighbours or school friends.
They were thinning out now.
“We don’t have much time,” she thought. “Maybe Buffy should just go on
She turned to suggest this, then screamed. Spike had left it too late
and the summoning spell began to work on him. Suddenly morphing into
game face, he began to run for the door. Buffy was taken by surprise
but not for long. She tripped him neatly and landed on top of him.
“Finish the spell!” she cried. “You have – to – I can’t hold him!”
“He has to stay here,” said Willow frantically. “We can’t finish it if
he’s not close to us. There’s only a bit left to do.”
Spike had fought Buffy before, with the full intention of killing her.
She’d faced that and always emerged the victor. This was different.
Spike wasn’t interested in fighting her; he just wanted to get to the
door. Inch by inch, he dragged himself along, eventually making it to
his feet. Buffy’s punches were doing nothing to slow him down. Giles
joined her, simply hanging on grimly to one of Spike’s arms but the
vampire threw him off. This finally triggered the chip and he cried out
in agony, his back arching as he grabbed at his head.
Dawn snatched a club from the counter, one of the weapons Buffy had
left out for Giles. Taking advantage of Spike’s incapacity, she took a
good swing at his head, knocking him out for long enough that Willow
and Tara could finish chanting and casting the powder. As the powder
turned blue, Spike’s face reverted to human but he remained unconscious.
Buffy ran her hands through her hair and took a deep breath.
“We have to move out. Dawn, I want you to stay here with Spike. He’ll
be back to himself soon and he’ll protect you. This is safe; everyone’s
at the park by now.”
“What? No way! I want to come, too!”
Buffy gave her a level glance.
“Spike’s looked after you plenty. You just going to leave him hurt?
Especially when you’re the one who did it?”
Dawn looked guilty and confused. Buffy left it at that, feeling mean
but justified if it kept Dawn safe, and turned to the others.
“Got everything you need? Let’s go.”
Anya was getting worried. Xander wasn’t showing any signs of coming
round and it was almost night. Making a difficult decision, she left
him and went to investigate. Moving as silently as she could, she
reached the edge of the woods. The plateau was still empty but she
could see scores of people arriving, filling up the large field. The
scene was eerie and she suddenly realised why; no one was speaking. A
crowd that size should have been noisy; talking, coughing, shouting.
She shivered and peered through the gathering darkness, anxiously
looking for Buffy or the vampires.
She made her way back to Xander and cried out with relief. He was
struggling to sit up, holding onto his head and moaning.
“Xander! You’re finally awake, thank goodness.”
“A-anya? There was this thing, this terrible noise –“
“I know, sweetheart,’ she crooned, kissing him. “I made it go away.”
“You didn’t kill it?” Xander asked, a little disappointed.
“Do you know how much those things cost? I’d have been hit with a bill
that would have taken both of our wages for the next century to pay
“Oh. Right.” Xander stood up, wobbly but determined to soldier on.
“What time is it? What’s happening? God, Buffy must be out of her mind,
wondering where we are.”
“Not enough to come looking for us,” said Anya tartly. “It’s sunset.
There’s a huge crowd of people over there and no sign of Saul. We have
no weapons, no plan and no way out. We’re doomed. Again. I suggest we
stay very quiet and hope no one sees us.”
Xander shook his head, then winced. “It’s too late to go back to the
shop. We have to circle round, try and meet up with the others. If I
know the Buffster, she’ll have spare weapons to, well, spare.”
Anya sighed but followed him as he led the way out of the wood. It had
been a good plan but it was never executed. As they stepped cautiously
to the edge of the trees, they saw a figure ahead of them, on the
plateau, lit with a ghostly light.
Brother Saul had arrived.
Anya and Xander huddled in the shelter of the trees while Xander
assessed the situation. Saul was not alone. From Spike’s description,
he guessed the figure swaddled in cloth was Saul’s girlfriend. She was
setting up a copper bowl on a tripod. Under it was a heap of kindling.
On a blanket nearby, Xander could see a wickedly sharp knife. He
gulped. Knives…fires…that added up to a sacrifice. He just hoped that
Buffy knew all about it and was about to leap in and stop it in the
nick of time. From where he was, he couldn’t see the crowd but surely
amongst it was Buffy?
Saul stepped forward to the edge of the plateau and raised his arms
high. He hesitated for a moment, then called out a word, high and
clear. Xander strained to hear it but it seemed to enter his head, then
vanish before he could pin it down The silent crowd surged forward and
raised their heads, staring at Saul vacantly. He smiled in pleasure at
“Friends,” he called out, his voice traveling effortlessly to the edge
of the group. “Welcome to my gathering. I ask that you remain here and
do not move until I order you to go home. Stay. Here.”
He turned his back on them and joined Nalia.
“Pathetic how easy it was,” he said conversationally. “Now let’s hope
the second half of the guests come soon.”
She turned to fuss with the placing of the bowl and he allowed himself
the luxury of an unguarded emotion. In this case, the contempt he had
felt for the audience spilled over to include Nalia.
Buffy and her friends reached the edge of the field just as Saul spoke
the controlling word. They felt the ripple of magic break over them and
shimmer into nothingness.
“Do any of you see Xander and Anya?” whispered Willow.
Buffy looked around, trying to see in the dim light cast by Saul’s
“Not yet. We need to get behind Saul. We can’t rush at him; he’s picked
his spot too well.”
Taking a less direct route, they made for the woods Xander and Anya had
spent so long hiding in. Unfortunately, they were now the only moving
people in a crowd of statues. Dodging and weaving, they tried to use
the people as shields to avoid attracting Saul’s attention. They were
helped by the fact that Saul had his back to them, chatting to Nalia
but they knew that he had only to turn round for them to be spotted.
They reached the edge of the crowd as close to the stage as they dared,
to lessen the amount of time spent in the open. Just as they were
readying themselves to dash for the hill, scramble up it and fade into
the woods, a welcome diversion arrived. Or perhaps, not so welcome.
“The vampires are here!” said Tara urgently.
From their vantage point, Xander and Anya had noticed the new
arrivals too. Surrounding the still crowd was a thin line of vampires,
as silent as their intended prey. They moved stiffly forward then
halted as Saul’s voice rang out, giving the word of command.
Xander nudged Anya. They had to move. Not only were they too close to
Saul, they had to find Buffy. Cautiously, they stepped back into the
woods then moved as quietly as possible to the edge. Which, in darkness
and thick undergrowth wasn’t all that quiet.
Saul’s head snapped round then relaxed as three vampires emerged from
the wood, latecomers to the party. He stepped closer and said the word
again, then gestured at the field. The vampires walked onwards,
following his command. They reached the edge of the plateau and kept on
going. As the ground fell sharply away, they tumbled, ending up in a
broken heap. It was pitiful to see them continue to struggle to reach
their assigned positions but Saul did nothing to prevent them trying.
The vampires’ arrival gave Anya and Xander plenty of time to get out of
earshot. Emerging from the woods, Xander sighed in relief as he spotted
his friends. Using the slope of the hill as cover, they slid down,
keeping low and came up behind the group. Buffy whirled round and then
stopped her attack. Smiling, as she saw that they were safe, she
mouthed instructions and gestured off to the side. Quietly, they moved
away from the field to regroup.
When they were at a safe distance, Xander quickly updated Buffy and in
turn was told of Willow’s discovery.
“So; he’s got everyone together; what happens now?” Xander asked,
reaching eagerly for a weapon, in this case a heavy double bladed axe.
“Now we wait.”
“What for?” asked Anya. “Why not just kill them now?”
“Demon girl’s got a point,” said Spike from the shadows.
Dawn had tried bathing Spike’s face with water, she’d applied ice to
the lump on his head and she was seriously contemplating slapping his
face, when he stirred. Vampires healed fast and he sat up as his eyes
opened, looking around wildly.
“It’s okay,’ said Dawn, anticipating his questions. “You went nutso and
tried to walk through walls to get to the park. I, well, I knocked you
out with a club and that let Willow and Tara finish cleaning you up. So
they all went off to have fun and save the world – again – and I got
left babysitting you for a change.”
Spike mulled that over for a moment then stood up, gripping the edge of
the table for a moment.
“Get me some of Giles’s whisky, there’s a good girl,” he said.
“You’re not supposed to drink alcohol with a concussion,” said Dawn
Spike stared at her in disbelief.
“I’m a vampire you ninny, not a babe in arms. Oh, I’ll get it myself.”
He walked round the counter, reached for the nearest bottle, pulled out
the stopper and took a hefty slug.
“Much better. Right. Did they leave any decent weapons then? Bet they
hogged all the good stuff.”
Dawn looked puzzled. “Do you think someone’s going to attack the shop,
Spike looked equally puzzled. “Can’t see why they’d bother but we’ll
make sure to lock up on the way
out, if you’re really concerned. Now get a move on.”
“What? We’re going to the park? But Buffy said we had to stay here.”
“And do you want to stay here?” asked Spike. He
tried out a wicked looking sword and nodded in satisfaction as it
sliced through a wooden candlestick without even noticing it was there.
He turned and cocked an eyebrow at her.
Dawn flushed and tried to remain cool. “I can go? You don’t think I’m
too young or whatever?”
Spike gave her an appraising look, skimming his eyes up and down her
“You’re bigger than your sis was the first time I tried to kill her,"
he noted dispassionately. “I’d say you’re in. Here; catch this stake.”
He sighed. “Butterfingers.”
“Spike?’ said Buffy in disbelief. “You left Dawn on her – oh.”
“Hi, Buffy,” said Dawn stepping out to stand beside Spike.
Buffy ignored her, stepping up to Spike and jabbing him in the chest.
“How dare you endanger her like this? What were you thinking?”
Spike gazed off into the distance, then turned and met Buffy’s angry
stare. “She’s old enough, she can handle herself and we need all the
can get. Fill me in, if you can, otherwise point me at a demon.
Curtain’s rising, Buffy. It’s show time.”
She bit her lip, then nodded.
“But we’ll discuss this later,” she hissed at Dawn who had an
unrepentant grin on her face.
Looking around, Buffy’s head drooped for a second, then rose.
“I’m going up there to do all I can to stop Saul. If I have to kill
him, I will.” She held up a hand to forestall any comments. “I know
he’s human but it doesn’t matter. If he were a demon, I’d kill him in a
heartbeat. No one else can stop him and I’m not waiting for him to
unleash the vampires. I’ll try not to harm him –“
“Don’t know why,” muttered Spike.
“But he has to be stopped,” she finished.
Willow looked at her uncertainly. “Shall we begin the spell, try to
summon the souls? That might help.”
Buffy nodded. “Yes; you and Tara go as close as you need to and do
that. I need some
back up to go with me to the hill and some people ready down here in
case it all goes wrong and the vampires start to kill.” She hesitated,
glancing at the group remaining.
“I’ll go with you,” said Giles quietly. “Spike and Xander can lead the
fight here if needed.”
Buffy smiled at her Watcher with affection. “There’s no one I’d rather
have at my back,” she said simply. Turning
to Dawn and Anya she said, “Keep out of sight, if you can.”
Dawn rushed over and gave her a hug. Buffy returned it, stroking Dawn’s
long hair comfortingly. “I’ll be fine,” she said. “Now, it’s time.”
Giles and Buffy vanished into the shadows, followed by Willow and Tara.
The remaining four exchanged glances, then crept as close as possible
to the clearing. So far, all seemed still.
Spike looked around. “What’s he waiting for?” he murmured.
“Moonrise, perhaps?” replied Anya. “Some rituals require a heavenly
body to be in ascension or decline.”
Spike shook his head. “Moon won’t be up till midnight; it’s too long.
He’s not going to wait
there like a lemon for another four hours. Could be something else but
I don’t have a bloody almanac in my head. Might be an eclipse scheduled
for all I know.”
Dawn looked up at the night sky. “What’s that reddish blob?” she asked.
Anya glanced up. “Mars. Named for the God of War.”
“And I’m no astronomer,” said Xander, “but not only is that ominous but
the planet seems to be setting. Never knew they did that.”
“Not got long to go, either,” said Spike. “Better get ready, troops.
There must be a couple of hundred vamps out there - Hey! What the hell?”
A bright green light had suddenly flashed out from the hillside,
spreading until it covered a large area.
He pushed through the bushes and stared at the field. The whole group,
humans and vampires alike, were enclosed within a translucent shell,
“Bugger’s only gone and put up a force field,” said Spike, half
admiringly. “Now, what’s to do?”
Buffy and Giles were a few yards away from Saul and Nalia. Buffy
shrugged. One man, one woman. Seemed easy enough.
Standing, she walked out to confront them, leaving Giles in hiding.
“Thought you were taking the worm off the hook when the fish arrived,”
she said, keeping a few feet back.
Nalia looked bewildered. “Why are you here, Slayer? Your vampire was
not harmed and you are free
of the spell.”
Buffy spared her a glance, her attention focused on Saul who seemed
“You think you can come to my town and kill half the inhabitants and
I’ll just let you?” she demanded.
Nalia looked uneasy. “I – did not know that they were to die as well,
not at first,” she
admitted. “But Saul explained it to me and –”
“He did, huh? Well, maybe he can explain it to me,” Buffy said through
Saul shook his head. “There’s really no time for this, Slayer. Mars
will set at ten past
eight exactly.” He smiled. “I looked it up on one of your computers.
Very handy, I like them. When it vanishes, I will take its place as the
symbol of war on this plane. Symbols are great, aren’t they? But the
real thing – well that’s something else again.”
“So, going to let me in on your vision?” asked Buffy sarcastically.
“Your sort always has one.”
“Vision? Well, yes, I suppose I do have a vision. Me. In charge. Of
everything. You and all your demon friends, well, dead I’m afraid. And
now, I really have to begin.”
“You can’t think I’m just going to let you –”
Saul turned his back on Buffy and gestured to Nalia. She raised her
arms, called out a short incantation and green light shot from her
hands to cover the field.
Buffy gasped as the people below were isolated within a dome of green
“What did she do?” she demanded.
Saul smiled. “You just never stop asking questions, do you? It’s for
One, it stops you or your friends - yes, I know they’re around - from
going in. Two, it stops those inside getting out…and they’re all going
to want to get out, believe me.
“The humans are going to want to get out once the vampires begin to
feed. Then, when they’re all dead, I’m going to make it very sunny in
there. That’ll finish off the vampires. Then – ” He hesitated for a
Nalia chimed in, “Then I will channel the combined life force of both
living and undead into Saul and he will reign forever with me by his
“In an urn, maybe,” sneered Buffy. “The spell ends when he kills you.
You’re such a magical genius and you didn’t know about that?”
Nalia and Saul exchanged glances of complicity and amusement. As though
addressing a child, Nalia told Buffy, “Of course, I know that, foolish
girl. But after the power is within Saul, he can bring me back. You of
all people should know that death is never final.”
“You’re as bad as each other,” Buffy said, disgusted. “There are
hundreds, maybe thousands of people down there. They’re not counters in
a game, they’re real people with – ”
“They’re not us, so they don’t matter,” said Saul. He turned toward the
crowd and Buffy knew that he was about to order the vampires to kill.
Springing forward, she launched a kick at him. Nalia hissed in shock as
Saul went sprawling to the ground. Murmuring under her breath, she sent
more of the green light in between Buffy and Saul, blocking him off.
Buffy found that she could not push through it.
She turned on Nalia, who smiled mockingly and encased herself in the
same protective field.
“Now what will you do?” said Nalia.
If Buffy were honest, she would have admitted that she really didn’t
Willow and Tara began to prepare for the spell. Sitting on the floor,
their hands linked, they sank into a light trance. At the cardinal
points of the small glade they were in, lit candles spread
incense-laden smoke into the air. All the sounds of the night melted
away, leaving them both poised to enter a different world.
Shedding their bodies, their merged spirits soared, searching, seeking,
calling. Time had no meaning here and their search seemed endless.
Trapped souls surged around them, clamouring for attention, pleading
for release. The fusion of their spirits brushed them aside gently,
sending out a continuous call. Gradually, the press of souls eased and
they were left only with those they sought.
* we need you to help us*
*we can help no one , we are trapped*
*we can help free you*
In flashing images, the fusion told of the events since their death,
explained how another town was to suffer their fate. A shudder passed
through the group and a cold, remorseless anger began to build.
Abruptly, Willow and Tara jerked awake, panting and trembling.
“What happened there, at the end?” whispered Tara. “I’ve never felt
“We have allies,” said Willow grimly. “And I think we’re going to need
Standing, they went back to the others.
Spike turned as the witches approached. "Hope you two can pull a rabbit
out of a hat because – what’s up with
“Don’t mention those animals,” said Anya through clenched teeth. “They
“Sorry,” said Spike with a total absence of regret.
“We contacted the souls. They said they’d help. I think. It’s hard to
talk to them,” said Tara doubtfully.
“They’re here, and they’re angry,” said Willow, with more certainty.
“Shouldn’t we be doing something?” said Dawn, fidgeting. “Buffy and
Giles have been gone a while and I can’t see her from here.”
Spike said, “Time to get a look,” and began to walk to where he could
see the plateau. Xander grabbed his arm.
“Not too good at following orders are you?”
“Lousy at it, mate. What’s your point?”
“Buffy said to wait.”
“And put me, us, in charge. And I’m saying, we move the hell out and
see what’s bloody well going on.”
Xander hesitated and then nodded resignedly. He would rather have been
fighting than waiting, too. Hiding was another option but in the years
since he met Buffy, that just wasn’t ever one of the choices, somehow.
The group moved forward, able to see because of the green glow from the
field and the plateau. Glancing up, they saw Buffy facing her two
“Can she hit them if they’re in there?” asked Tara.
Spike picked up a stone and hurled it at the crowd. It hit the magical
barrier and bounced back.
“Doesn’t look like it,” he said. “Any chance of you two girls breaking
Tara and Willow studied it.
“Maybe. But I’m not sure we have time,” replied Willow.
Giles decided that he was serving no useful purpose in remaining
hidden. He walked swiftly over to Buffy and said, “What is happening?”
Saul and Nalia ignored him, waiting for the moment to begin the
killing, secure within their protective shells.
She gestured at the scene. “Just your basic magical force field
thingies. Can’t get through.
Saul’s about to tell the vampires to feed. Giles, we have to do
something to get rid of those barriers and stop the magic user from
Giles opened his mouth but never spoke. The air was suddenly filled
with insubstantial figures, hovering and swooping like ghostly birds.
“They reached the souls,” Buffy said in wonder.
Giles studied the forms and flinched. He grabbed Buffy’s arm and began
to pull her back.
“Buffy; they don’t look happy. I think we need to retreat. Now!”
Turning as one, Buffy and Giles ran for the edge of the plateau and
dived off it, bumping and rolling to the bottom of the hill.
Saul and Nalia sensed danger and looked around. The souls cried out, a
terrible keening that echoed across the field and grew in power. Nalia
flinched and the shields trembled as her control weakened. The souls
focused on her, battering against the shield, still crying out their
anger and pain, each note a blow, a stinging cut.
The shields dropped.
Saul looked at Nalia, fury twisting his face. “Weakling! Protect me!
She stared at him, a vast disillusionment on her face.
“They are talking to me,” she whispered, “telling me your thoughts…you
were never going to restore me, never going to bring me back.
That was to be the betrayal that completed the
spell. I should have realised. I would have been a willing
sacrifice…not enough. It wouldn’t have been enough. Nothing is ever
enough for you!” Her voice rose into a scream and she turned to attack
– but the souls encased her, trapping her.
Saul whirled around to face the field, raising his arms. He began to
shout out to the vampires but the souls were too fast. They wrapped
around his face, smothering his words and choking him. Below, the
vampires and the humans began to move, his control over them weakening.
Buffy and Giles landed, bruised and shaken at the bottom of the hill.
They struggled to their feet just as the barrier disappeared.
“I have to go back up,” Buffy said urgently. “I can fight them now.”
“No,” said Willow, joining her, the others a few feet behind. “It’s too
dangerous, Buffy. I can feel the souls and they will attack you if you
try to rob them of their revenge.”
Buffy shook her head.
“It can’t be all about revenge, Will. Not if they want to move on.
They’ve done their bit. They have to stop now, have to let me finish
it. Talk to them.”
Willow and Tara looked at her, then sank down on the floor, their
friends forming a protective circle around them. They slipped into
trance immediately and went to the souls.
*leave us alone. we have them now*
*you have helped us. we thank you. but you must not kill them*
*we will exact retribution*
*what will you do?*
The souls milled around, confusion rendering them speechless. Finally
*we will take them with us when we go*
*they still live. you cannot*
*then we will kill them first*
*if you do you will be trapped here. they will drag you down with them.
we have a better way*
There was a pause, then,
The fusion of Willow and Tara’s spirits gathered the souls to itself,
cradling them as a mother would a hurt child. It soothed and comforted,
healing their wounds.
The souls sighed and calmed, swirling softly around them. Finally they
moved upwards, their path clear at last.
Willow’s eyes snapped open.
“They’ve gone,” she said. “Hurry, Buffy!”
Buffy ran at the slope and began to climb swiftly. After a moment,
Spike followed her.
Giles looked at the people and the vampires, still enthralled but not
“If Buffy, if she kills them, the control will break and we’ll have a
massacre on our hands.”
“What do you suggest?” said Xander.
Giles looked grim.
“We start to kill the vampires ourselves. Right now, while they’re
Dawn gasped and Xander looked a little sick.
“It doesn’t seem, well, fair. I mean, they can’t fight back or
Giles gave him a look of astonishment.
“Pray that state of affairs continues,” he replied. “Everyone! Get a
stake and start slaying. We don’t know how much time we’ve got.”
As the Scoobies moved off, Giles shook his head.
‘’Fair’. Words fail me sometimes,” he muttered. Pulling out a stake, he
plunged it into the nearest vampire, hoping that they were all in game
face, as this one was. As the dust showered over him, he did his best
not to inhale.
Buffy reached the plateau, Spike close on her heels. Nalia was lying on
the floor, moaning piteously. Saul was crawling toward the knife,
mumbling to himself. As his hand reached for the hilt, Buffy’s foot
stamped down on his wrist.
“I don’t think so,” she said. Hauling him up, she allowed herself the
satisfaction of one good punch. Saul collapsed like a punctured
balloon. Spike stood, an axe in one hand, unsure of what to do.
“Do you need me to kill anyone, then, Slayer?” he called.
“Human, Spike. Don’t think you can.”
“Ah. I’ll just be going back then. Looks like your lot are going in for
some mass slaughter down there; wouldn’t want to miss it.”
“They’re doing what?” said Buffy in astonishment. She joined Spike and
She was torn between approval and shock.
Spike glanced at her.
“Has to be done, Buffy. Doubt that Saul guy’s going to be helpful and
tell them all to go home.”
“No,” said a voice behind them. “I won’t.”
Buffy spun round and faced Saul, a frightening intensity chasing away
the madness on his face. His hand held the knife and he brought it
flashing down towards her. Buffy automatically blocked the slashing
movement, sending the knife flying out of Saul’s hand.
“It’s over,” she said. “Send the people home.”
“No. I’m going to kill them, I’m going to kill you. I’m going to –“
“Die. You’re going to die,” said Nalia. Unnoticed by Buffy – but not by
Spike, who watched with approval, Nalia emerged from her daze and
picked up the knife. Saul’s back was still turned to her when the knife
entered. He collapsed, his hands clawing at the soil, his body seeming
to shrink as his spirit fled.
Nalia pulled out the knife and stabbed herself with it, casually and
without emotion. Buffy lunged forward but Spike’s arm barred the way.
“This is best, love,” he said softly. “She’s been betrayed by the one
she loved. After that, you just want to die. I know.”
With the deaths of Nalia and Saul, all the spells on the crowd
shimmered into oblivion.
“We’d better go and make sure all the vamps are dusted,” suggested
Buffy looked at him for a long moment, then turned away and went down
the slope, this time a little slower.
As the spell dissipated, the remaining vampires looked confused. Seeing
people who were quite obviously not going to stay still while they were
eaten and watching Giles and his crew efficiently staking their way
through the crowd, most of the vampires simply scattered into the
darkness. Those who stayed to fight died quickly as Spike and Buffy
joined their friends
The darkness was useful in convincing the humans that they hadn’t
really seen what they had really seen. Stakes were tucked away and the
Scoobies moved around the field, calling out that the meeting had been
cancelled. Inside fifteen minutes, the place was empty.
Wearily, Buffy and her friends headed back to her house. It had been a
long few days.
Supplied with drinks, curled up on sofas or floor cushions, the group
began to relax. The silence was broken with comments, the noise level
rose, and soon there was an excited babble as stories were exchanged,
battles re-enacted and success celebrated.
Reaction might come tomorrow but just for a brief space of time, all
“So, what about the bodies?” asked Xander.
Buffy shrugged. “Let the police add them to the list of unsolved
murders. Bet you they show up as suicide pact lovers in the paper by
“Not too far off the mark…” said Giles thoughtfully. “Might I trouble
you for some tea, Buffy? I’m sure root beer is delightful but I have a
hankering for some Earl Grey.”
Buffy found herself in the kitchen with Spike, doing her best to make
Giles a proper cup of tea.
“You have to warm the pot first,” began Spike. “Then it’s one spoon per
person and one for the pot –”
“Huh? What pot? He gets a teabag in a mug and that’s as far as I go.”
Spike rolled his eyes. “Bloody colonial,” he said.
Buffy left the teabag steeping and walked over to Spike.
“I’m sorry – those things I said to you earlier – your friend –" her
voice faded away.
Spike smiled. “Forgotten them already. Well, not poor old Bill, but it
what you said. I never listen.”
Buffy drew back, indignantly. “You never listen?”
Spike pulled her to him gently, his arms around her neck. She stood
very still, her eyes fixed on his.
“I never listen when you tell me I’m not your boyfriend. I just look at
your eyes and they say –”
“What?” whispered Buffy.
“They say -”
“We forgot about tomorrow night!” announced Dawn, bursting into the
kitchen and ignoring the flustered way Buffy sprang backwards about
“What about tomorrow night?” said Spike through clenched teeth.
Dawn gave him a surprised look. “All the people – and the vampires –
who read the poster and didn’t
touch it will think there’s a meeting tomorrow. They’ll still go, some
at least. There might be trouble. We should make plans! I staked eight
vamps tonight you know! I’m good at it! I can make it ten, I bet.
Buffy, did you ever get eight vamps in under five minutes? I did.”
Spike shook his head, and headed for the door.
“Spike!” called Buffy and then paused.
Spike turned and looked at her with a wry smile. “Guess I’ll be seeing
you tomorrow night then.”
She nodded. He was half way out of the door when he called out
casually, “It can be our first date.”
“Huh? Spike! Come back here! It is so not a date. You are so not my…oh,
what the hell.”
Spike grinned as he made his way down the path. He may even have hummed
a happy tune.
Some vampires never learn.
The Hellmouth, suffering the loss of so many friends that night, sensed
his happiness and howled in anger. It began to broadcast an invitation
to any evil in the neighbourhood.
It wouldn’t be lonely for long. Spike wouldn’t be happy for long.
But that’s another story.
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