Buffy didn’t know what was going on but being plunged into darkness after hours in Sunnydale High was never a good omen of any kind. Maybe it was Spike? This did have a bit of a callback feel to it to when he attacked parent teacher night. If it was him he had just made his last mistake, she was going to kill him with extreme prejudice.
She could practically hear Xander and Willows hearts pounding in their chests, unlike her they didn’t have much in the way of defense should something jump out of the dark and grab them. She needed to get them to safety first, then worry about everything else. It was late enough in the evening that even if there had been any club meetings or the like after school they would have been long gone by now, that was one good thing about Sunnydale the majority of its residents had a healthy fear of the dark. That just left her, Willow, Xander, Giles and apparently Ms. Calendar to worry about.
If Spike stayed true to form he would be headed for the library with whatever minions he brought with him in tow. It was always the library whether for the many demonic books or the hellmouth itself it was always the library. Turning back towards her friends she whispered her plan to them hoping that none of the vamps were close enough to overhear them, she didn’t sense any nearby but that didn’t always mean anything. Some of those ugly bastards could hear better than others. Giles had once said it was an age thing, but she could have that backwards after all humans lost their hearing as they aged didn’t they.
“I’m gonna go to the library and find Giles, try to figure out what’s what with this. You two need to head back down the hall and lock yourselves in the teachers lounge. It has the least amount of windows and the door was just replaced this week so it’s still sturdy enough to hold off any vamp that finds you long enough for you to make a plan.” Before she had even finished speaking two heads were already shaking rapidly back and forth in denial. They never wanted to leave her to fight on her own.
“No way Buffster, we stay with you.” They were always so determined to stay by her side, but this time that was the last thing she wanted or needed. If she came across Spike on her way to find Giles she didn’t want to have to worry about protecting anyone, she wanted all of her focus to be on avenging someone instead.
“This is not an argument you guys. Just do this for me, I can’t be worried about you right now.” The mutinous looks of impotent anger at all but being called liabilities made her sure that tomorrow was going to be a long talking day for her. She couldn’t care about that now though, tonight needed to be about fighting, she’d let apologizing be tomorrow’s problem.
As they slowly backed away from her reluctantly doing what she asked she mentally prepared herself for what was to come. This was it.
Rupert Giles had never felt so old in his life, every bone in his body felt too heavy to move at all, all he wanted to do was sit down and fade away. He thought he knew what it was to regret past actions, to despair over the arrogance of youth, but that all paled in comparison to this latest mistake not only on his part but on all others involved.
When Jenny had first told him that Angel was no more and Angelus was once more a threat he hadn’t wanted to believe it. His first reaction was a very human denial and desire to close his eyes and wish away the monster in the dark, if what she said was true the reality of their new situation would be too painful to confront. In more ways than one.
It was one thing for Buffy to be pining after a paramour who had simply lost interest in her but for her to be lost in an adolescent lustful haze when being stalked by a predator could doom them all. He had wanted to deny it but the revelation had brought clarity to more than a few things over the past few weeks that had made no sense before. Angel’s treatment of Buffy and his near constant amusement at the devastation he caused, they had all thought he was simply standing up for himself finally in a relationship where he had constantly been the concession maker. The deaths that had occured recently that were so reminiscent of his past kills, so much so he had even commented on it in passing, none of them taking the comparison lightly but still Angel had seemed to almost be laughing at them.
The tales of Angelus’ past exploits were still fresh in his mind after his lessons with Cordelia and he still hadn’t seen it. Oh god! Cordelia. Angel had been the one to stalk her and then he had swept in and played at being her savior and they had all fallen for it, leaving the poor girl to navigate treacherous waters all on her own. The rift that had only seemed to grow as days passed, the fact that no one was close enough to the victimized girl to truly see if she needed help. Oz’s warnings to him not even twenty-four hours ago that something was wrong now took on a more ominous undertone.
What had they done?
He needed to find her and quickly, with that thought his body no longer weighed him down, he could move again only to have his way blocked by Jenny.
There were so many feelings roiling inside him at the sight of her now, he didn’t have the time or the mental faculties to unravel it all in the moment, even if things had not been so dire he wasn’t sure he would have been able to. There were more pressing issues to handle before he could sit down with a glass of scotch and sort himself out once more. He had lost his equilibrium it would seem and he desperately needed to find it again.
“Get out of my way.”
“Where are you going, Rupert?” She sounded so concerned it nearly broke his heart, which filled him with anger at the sound of her voice.
“You no longer have the right to call me that, only my friends are allowed to do so and you are no longer counted amongst them. As for where I am going, I am going to find Cordelia and make sure she is safe, if you will recall Angel has taken a fair shine to her and you yourself have just informed me what a dangerous situation that is. Now move.” She seemed to relent instantly, her own body sinking in on itself much as his own had done before, she moved out of his way only for the lights to cut out plunging them into darkness.
There was no reason to assume the worst, they lived on the hellmouth there could be any number of demons or entities at play here, but deep down he knew it was Angelus. They had stood still for too long and the monster had changed the game without them noticing.
As the door to the library began to swing open slowly he began to pray for the safety of the children. If he could not be there for them he hoped they would find the strength necessary to be there for each other.
Xander wasn’t sure that locking themselves in the teachers lounge was the best option. It wasn’t like any of the evil deads that had walked these halls in the past had ever had a problem getting into locked rooms before. If a vampire wanted to get at their necks the only safe place to be was behind Buffy and they all knew it but because she had gotten all huffy about their safety he and Willow were left to creep down the halls clutching crosses while praying to a god who had long abandoned them and this hellhole of a town that they made it to their destination in one piece.
A creaking noise behind them had them both spinning around a girlish scream trapped in his throat only to see his worst nightmare. Again.
“Jeez deadboy, lurk much. I know the lights are out but that’s no excuse to hide in the corners like a ghost.” His humor fell flat like it usually did when Angel was involved, the guy had no sense of humor anywhere in his body and Willow refused to laugh at what she saw as her best friend’s pain. Still he had to try, jokes were a bullied losers only defense on most days after all.
“I just got here, what’s up with the lights?” He spoke in a hushed tone, something that Xander had never heard him do before, but Buffy had whispered too so maybe it was a supernatural thing he didn’t understand. He would personally move towards the hissed conversations if he was looking for someone to eat, but what did he know.
“We don’t know. Buffy went to try and find Giles, we were on our way to the teachers lounge to wait it out.” Even saying the stupid plan out loud to Angel didn’t make it seem like a more viable option. Huh. Usually saying stupid things out loud made them at least seem less stupid, for a second at least.
“Buffy’s here?” Figures that was the only part he paid attention to, dead boy might be his nemesis for life but he was at least consistent for the most part. Here lately he hadn’t seemed overly attentive, maybe the winds were changing back or something. He did seem to be acting different than before.
“Yeah we saw her on the way in, she looked kinda freaked so whatever this is it’s probably on the bigger side of the scare me scale. You got any clues handy?” He usually did especially when he showed up in the middle of something of the supernatural variety, when they didn’t call him, it was because he had gotten a tip from the darker side of Sunnydale’s nightlife.
“Maybe, I found something outside that looks mystical. It might have something to do with this. Xander why don’t you go get Buffy, Willow and I can take a look and see if between the two of us we can figure out how to stop this.” He wanted to refuse on principle, messenger boy was a little lower down the importance ladder than he really wanted to sink today but Willow was already walking towards him looking eager to get him alone.
She probably wanted to feel him out about what he knew about the whole Willow putting Cordelia in a coma thing while offering a non-apology and pushing him back towards Buffy all at the same time. For all that stress could make Willow babble the power of said babble was not to be underestimated. Maybe Willow helping Angel out could be a good thing? Sure couldn’t hurt.
He was about halfway back down the hall when he finally paid attention to the little voice in the back of his head telling him something was wrong.
She hadn’t been with Angel and ever since the spell and even slightly before that the two had been attached at the hip so where was she? He hadn’t even mentioned her and lately he’d found a way to slip her name into nearly every conversation, like he was reminding them that she existed, like they could ever forget it.
Turning back he rushed back to where he last saw them and found nothing. He knew they were supposed to go check out some witchy thing Angel had found but something inside of him was twisting at the sight of the empty hall. This wasn’t good. They needed Buffy. Hearing a small noise from a little farther down the hall he crept forward every step he took seemed to echo even louder against the walls in the empty halls. Stealthy he was not. He knew he should go back and get Buffy, that he should stop and turn back now, but this was Willow and nothing would stop him from checking on her. Nothing.
Buffy pushed her way into the library ready for a quick back and forth to make sure Giles was safe followed by a lot of violence. Spike had to be around here somewhere, close by, if this was an attack he would be looking for her just like last time. The only difference was she was looking for him too this time and she was looking for blood.
“Giles, good you’re okay.” She had expected to find the two lovebirds together, and they were, but something was off about it all. They were standing close to each other but even she could feel the tension and the distance here, seems like their relationship just hit a rocky patch.
God she couldn’t handle this right now she had to deal with Spike not their issues, thankfully Giles seemed to agree because he straightened himself up and went straight into watcher mode.
“Yes, there has been no movement here as of yet. Do you know who may have cut the power?”
“Best guess? Spike. This is too much like our first fight not to be him, plus by now he’s got to know I’m looking for him after what he did. Guess this is him trying to strike first.” Not that it would do him any good.
“What he did? Has he made a move I’m unaware of I thought he and Drusilla were laying low in the past few weeks.”
The image of Kendra on the table flooded in behind her eyes, powerful enough to nearly move her to tears, it would have if she wasn’t so damn angry. Taking a deep breath she looked Giles in the eyes and told him, she owed him that much. She knew that while Kendra had her own watcher when she was sent alone to Sunnydale Giles felt responsible for her, like she did.
“He killed Kendra. I found her body in his warehouse tonight. The place is covered in dust and their things are gone so they must have split after they did the deed.”
“Oh dear.” The glasses came off, but he didn’t clean them. It was like he just needed something to do with his hands. She understood the impulse. She could think of a few other things she’d like to do with her hands now.
“I’m gonna go get him and return the favor.” She turned to leave as quickly as she came, as bad as it was she couldn’t deal with this right now. Her own grief was already trying to swallow her up; she couldn’t handle his on top of it. Not yet.
“No, we need to talk first.” Buffy paused, she didn’t want to just keep going but she needed to get to Spike, she needed somewhere to put these feelings that wasn’t into herself or anyone she cared about. “Buffy, it’s important.”
Hearing the raw pain in his voice and seeing that he made no move to close the gap between himself and Ms. Calendar decided it for her. She could give him a few more minutes, she could keep it together that long. For Giles she could.
“Spike may not be the one doing this, and he may not be the one who killed Kendra either. I learned tonight that there is another possibility and I’m afraid you aren’t going to like it.”
Willow tried to stop the tears from running down her face, but she couldn’t. The hand around her throat hurt so much, but all she could feel in that moment was confusion. Everything had been fine, other than the lack of lights thing. Angel had been beside her doing the strong silent type thing he was known for while she did the blabbering thing she was known for then from one moment to the next after they turned the corner everything just changed. He grabbed the wrist of the hand holding the cross, as far away from him as she could get it, and twisted it hard enough to hurt so much she didn’t know what to do. She felt the smooth wood slip between her fingers and heard the clatter as it fell to the linoleum but she couldn’t seem to make her mind understand what was happening.
“Let her go.”
It was Oz, her Oz. He had come to save her. Oh god, she loved her Oz so much, and she was so sorry about their fight and if she could she’d tell him all of that but the hand around her throat was making it too hard to breathe let alone talk. Looking at him with tear filled eyes she tried to tell him everything she should have told him before. She hoped he knew.
“I don’t think so dog-boy. You see I have this plan going here and I kind of need this one to make it work.”
“What plan?” Yeah, what plan. This wasn’t Angel, it couldn’t be, their Angel didn’t do things like this.
“Well, I would tell you but that would ruin the surprise.” Willow usually liked surprises but she wasn’t sure she was going to like this one, the way he said the word made her think that this was the wrong kind of surprise.
“Fine don’t tell me, I don’t really care, I was just trying to distract you anyway. Thanks for playing along.” What?
She was suddenly dropped, a deep growl sounding from behind her and when she looked back to see what had happened there was Xander with his cross in one hand and hers in the other walking Angel back and away from them. Her friends had saved her, she knew that they would.
Feeling Oz’s hands on her arms trying to help her stand she turned away from the very wrong image of Xander going up against Angel and into his arms. Her Oz.
“Come on Will we need to get to the library the others need to know about this.” He was right of course he was right.
Something was wrong with Angel and they needed to fix it. Now. Before someone got really hurt.
Angelus was pissed, he’d had them! The witches neck had been in his hands and he could almost see the slayer weeping in a useless heap when she found the body then the boy wonder came out of nowhere with his cross and ruined everything. His death was going to be one this town whispered about for generations to come!
Before it had simply been about finishing out the game so he could move on and start something new, he had gotten bored with the scooby gang and was feeling that itch for new prey. They were so stupid they hadn’t even figured out they were playing a game at all yet and that was never any fun. Now though he was going to draw it all out even more, make them suffer in ways no one had even imagined before. By the time the sun finally rose Sunnydale would have no slayer. He would be the true Master of the Hellmouth.
He was so focused on his plans and the beauty of his future that when a scent wafted past his nose he was startled back to reality. He knew this scent, had smelled it recently but he couldn’t seem to put his finger on it. Whatever it was it made him angry in a way that few things ever could. By and large he was an easy going guy, everyone knew that it took a lot to truly rile up his hatred but this scent did it. It made him want to snarl and tear.
The old man in the hotel. The gypsy who had looked at him with such disgust. The present that his darling Dru had found for him. That’s where this smell was from, it was those stupid herbs the old man had hung around his room for protection. Someone had been in that room, but who?
Sweeping around the corner he found the teacher that good old Rupert seemed so fond of. He had been going back and forth about his plans for her for a while now, Giles was so intimately aware of his past it seemed a waste to not use her death as a homage to his greatest gifts. Maybe leave her body somewhere for him to find on valentines day or the anniversary of the night they met, he was such a romantic that it sent shivers down his spine just thinking about it.
Now though, as their eyes met, he knew. She was just like the old man, a gypsy. The old mans heart had given out long before he’d finished with him, lucky for him he had just stumbled across a second chance. Watching the realisation fill her eyes he felt his face begin to shift and change as his demon came to the surface, this was going to be fun.
Watching her run away he started to laugh, it had been so long since he’d had a good hunt out in the open, then he would circle back for the ones that got away. Ahhh, the good old days.
Oz knew they were taking too long to get to the library, Willow couldn’t stop shaking and Xander was too busy ranting to help him get her to calm down. He wasn’t completely sure what was going on, but he did know they needed to get to Giles and Buffy fast if they had any hope of stopping it. They were in sight of the familiar double doors when he felt a pair of strong hands grab his shoulders and pull him back into a firm chest.
“Sorry doggy can’t have you warning them now can I?” Angel.
It had been stupid wishful thinking to believe that after Xander chased him off the first time that was the end of the fight for the night, but somehow that’s what they had all believed. He knew it was tied into that strong feeling that Angel would never really hurt them, they had been wrong and now they were paying for it.
When he was pulled back Willow had lost her balance and fallen to the hard floor looking dazed and confused. Xander was holding out his cross but couldn’t get close enough to Angel to force him to let go like he had with Willow. He was doomed.
He felt a sense of peace wash over him with the realization, sure he was probably going to die and since Angel was a vampire he couldn’t even hope that killing him infected the bastard with his little monthly problem, but Willow and Xander were still closer to the library and if they yelled he knew Buffy would come and rescue them. He might be dying tonight but there was a good chance he would be dying alone and in Sunnydale sometimes that was as good as it was going to get.
Just as he felt strong hands shift towards either side of his jaw intent on snapping his neck, he supposed werewolf blood must taste too gamey for the fanged crowd, Angel lurched forward and passed him falling to the floor. Looking back he found Cordelia standing where Angel had just been holding a baseball bat.
Cordelia had saved him.
Grabbing her hand he dragged the dazed girl behind him as they all sprinted for the library doors, where hopefully they would find some safety. What they hadn’t expected to find beyond the doors was verbal world war three. Giles and Buffy stood opposite each other, arms crossed and seemingly battle line drawn. This was an old argument, one that had been going on for a while if the frustration and fatigue coming off the two of them in waves was anything to go by. Their abrupt entrance made the two break eye contact and face them.
“So Angel just tried to kill us. Any thoughts on that?” His greeting seemed to break Buffy her whole face crumbling in a mask of sorrow and disbelief. So this wasn’t news to either of them.
“It would seem Angel has lost his soul and become Angelus once more. Jenny is a member of the clan that originally cursed him and has provided us with the necessary tools to re-ensoul him, but it takes more than just two people to perform the ritual. Jenny has gone to try and get the lights back on so that we might have a better chance at fighting off whatever minions might be lurking about, no need for them to retain the element of surprise since the majority of us can’t see them in the dark.”
From the tone alone Oz figured that Jenny less volunteered for the lights assignment and more go volunteered for it by a very pissed off Buffy. He hoped she was okay but there was nothing he could do about it now, but there was something he could do about the ritual, something they all could do.
“Well we’re here now, how many does this ritual take?” The relief that overtook Giles said more than anything just how stubborn Buffy had been about Angel before they got here. Without proof she would have refused to believe it. He only hoped Buffy continued to focus on Angel and completely overlooked Cordelia, now that everything was out in the open so to speak the last thing they needed was another distraction in the form of a cat fight.
Angelus made his way into the library with his minions at his back, this was it the end of the line for one of their sides. He knew the chances of him dying were slim to none, but the chances of him having that filthy soul shoved back down his throat was too much for him to live with. He would not go back to that non-existence without a fight.
Giles, Oz, and Willow were gathered around the table with an orb of Thesulah in the center and a print out in each hand. The smell of burned herbs stank up the whole place and they were clearly focused on their task. Buffy and Xander stood in front of them blocking his path, each of them armed to the teeth, though only one of them was any kind of a threat. That left Cordelia up in the stacks wringing her hands in self punishment. His little vixen had stood against him for the wolf and they both knew it, he was going to enjoy delivering his own punishment when this was all over. Hell maybe he would make the wolf watch before he finally killed and skinned the fucking mutt. He obviously had some kind of hold over his girl and that shit just wasn’t allowed; he was the only one allowed to have a hold on her. Him.
“Angel I know you can hear me, we’re going to fix you. Fix this. Everything will be all better soon.” God this girl was delusional sometimes. It was a miracle that she’s made it as far as she has with her lack of basic reasoning skills.
Smirking he thought about entering into the quipping contest that seemed to weave in and out of every fight the slayer ever had, but from the glow of the orb he didn’t have time. Too bad, he would have been good at it too. Lunging forward he went for Xander while his minions swarmed the slayer the goal was for someone, anyone to get past the two and break the orb. No orb, no curse.
The slayer was holding her own and surprisingly so was Harris. He might not have any training to speak of but what the boy did have was a sword coupled with a hatred in his heart for Angel that had festered there since day one. He wasn’t holding back at all. If he was being honest it was kind of fun.
A few minions made it past them all and attacked the table but the watcher and the wolf abandoned their herb waving duties to run interference for the witch. They got knocked around a fair bit, but no one was making enough progress to make a difference in the spell. Seeing his opening when Harris got distracted by the slayer being thrown to the ground he ran for the table kicking the watcher away and through the glass door of his office as he went. The wolf received a punch at full strength that sent him careening into the cage that kept him contained every month. Hello irony.
He was so close, his fingers almost ghosting across the surface of the glass, when he was pulled back by the slayer and slammed into the ground.
He knew it was over, he was pinned down, his minions were dust, and the slayer had convinced herself that this would fix not only him but them. The sick part was she was probably right, soul boy would go running back to her with his tail wagging, ready to pretend at being a real boy again. Too bad for the both of them that he wasn’t going to let that happen this time. He could hear the chanting in the background of that same old song and dance that echoed in his head last time, time was running short but he had the last laugh. They just didn’t know it yet.
Hell even when soul boy came back he would have no idea what was coming their way, and have no way to stop it, the only one that knew was Dru. His baby girl had learned from last time too and she wasn’t letting go of her daddy so easily this time.
Laughing he stared past the huffing and puffing heroes and right into his vixens eyes. He really would miss her.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be back before you know it.” Fire burned through his veins as the chanting reached its crescendo and his world fell apart, it didn’t stop the laugher though. Nothing would this time.
Xander sat by Giles’ bedside at the hospital and tried to wrap his mind around what the hell happened that night. It all seemed like a fever dream and where they ended was so far away from where they had all been that morning it was like one of those stories you hear about something awful that happened to somebody else.
Giles was laid up with so much of his body busted up and battered that he could barely hold his hand without hurting him even more. The doctor said he would have to stay at least overnight but they would possibly want him to stay at least one more day beyond that to be sure. Sure of what no one seemed to want to say out loud but the silence was loud enough for him to know.
They hadn’t found Ms. Calendar’s body until after the ambulance had taken Giles away so he didn’t know yet about what Angel had done to her and he wasn’t looking forward to being the one to have to tell him. Hell, he didn’t even know if he should tell him or not. If he told him while he was laid up and hurt it might make things worse but if he kept it from him and didn’t say anything until after he was at least out of the hospital that might be worse than telling him in a controlled environment. Either way it was going to wreck him. No matter what else she had done Jenny Calendar had loved Giles as much as he had loved her and right now that was going to be the only part that mattered, not the lies or the fight, the love.
Brightside if he told him in the hospital he was less likely to be attacked for it. Not that he thought Giles would blame him or anything, but there’s a reason why people still say not to shoot the messenger, and even all busted up Giles was scary in his own Giles type way. Hopefully he would take one look at his broken arm and bruised up face and be moved more to pity than anger no matter what he did or didn’t tell him. He hated himself for thinking about his own injuries when he really got off lightly in comparison to some others but he couldn’t help it.
Oz had taken a hell of a beating himself, he was half convinced that if the other boy had still been just an ordinary boy rather than a werewolf he probably would have died from what had been done to him. Thankfully, in a sort of ironic way, being a monster had saved him from the monsters. He couldn’t come to the hospital and risk them running tests that he would miserably fail so instead Willow had volunteered to stay with him and play nurse until he could heal up enough to not need any help, which given what he was should only be until morning or tomorrow afternoon at the latest.
Willow herself had gotten off relatively lightly only a few bruises, mainly around the neck and wrist from her initial run in with Angelus and that was it. Some soreness from getting knocked on her keister but that was to be expected after the whole showdown in the library thing. He was pretty sure that while her offer of playing doctor had been partially done as a way to get back in the guitarists good graces after her recent behavior in an attempt to salvage their relationship it was just as equally an apology of sorts. There was still a very good chance that the two of them would remain split even after this, but they would at least have the time, privacy, and space to really figure it out.
Speaking of wanting space Buffy and Angel had run off together before the smoke had even really cleared. Buffy had gone with Giles to the hospital and waited for the doctor to declare him well enough before grabbing lover boys hand and all but sprinting for the exit. Angel had been completely out of it the whole time, confused and almost scared. He hadn’t seemed to remember anything that had happened while he was without his soul, though he did seem to know that he had been without one for a while but that might have been more about that cursed feeling than any real memory, but that wouldn’t last long and he wasn’t sure what would happen with the two of them when the amnesia wore off. One thing he was sure of was that Giles was not going to be happy about that when he woke up, just one more in a line of things that were going to piss the old man off. At this rate he would find more peace of mind by not waking up at all. Not only would Giles be livid at the lovebirds disappearing act but Cordelia would probably be none too pleased herself.
He wasn’t sure what the Angelus revelation meant for each of them individually but he was even less sure what it meant for Cordelia. Not that he had to figure it out right away anyway since he had no idea where to even find her. When everything had stopped moving for two seconds he had looked around to take inventory and she was gone, running off to lick her wounds probably and he couldn’t blame her. He would give her a few days and once everyone was relatively back on their feet they would figure out what to do about Cordelia and everything else. Right now his head was pounding too much to even try to work it out himself.
What a night.
Cordelia tried to hold back her tears, though she knew it was a losing battle from the start. She had been crying before she had even made it home; the reception once she made it over the threshold hadn’t helped things at all. Drusilla was nearly inconsolable but kept shifting from crying to laughing like she was hearing a joke no one else could hear. Once they had all settled down though, Dru had announced that Cordelia needed to be punished for going against wicked daddy and Spike had eagerly obliged.
Spike’s hand came down hard across her ass again leaving stinging flesh in his wake while her tears continued to fall and her sobs hitch her breath.
“Don’t worry sister, we’ll take such good care of you until daddy comes back.” Leaning forward Dru’s tongue swept away the salty proof of her misery.
He had left her.