Everything either belongs to Joss or it should, no infringement is intended and no profit is to be made. When you get right down to it I’m not really worth suing anyway unless you want a share of an underpaid civil servants wages and it just wouldn’t be worth the hassle trust me.Sunnydale High School – Sunnydale – May 2003
‘Room to breathe’ Faith declared, stretching out her arms and slumping back into a seat by the edge of the basketball court. ‘Not going to play?’ she asked Robin Wood sitting nearby who was watching an impromptu basketball game between a mix of potentials and others.
‘Not my speed’ Wood replied, turning to face the slayer. ‘Anyhow, seeing as how I cancelled this evenings practice to let you use the court instead, imagine if someone ratted me out and told the student body I was shooting hoops here instead’ he said. ‘The school board would have my head on a stick’ he declared.
Faith laughed. ‘From what I hear you’ve only just got enough of a student body left to fill out the team’ she said, watching the game with mild interest.
Wood shrugged. ‘Lost more than two-thirds of the faculty too’ he admitted. ‘People are leaving the town in droves, anyone would think there was something strange going on in Sunnydale’ he said in puzzlement.
‘Paranoia’ Faith replied, turning away from watching the game to observe the witch Willow setting up to cast a spell with the assistance of a near immortal Guardian and with an ancient Demon God watching over the proceeding with interest. ‘Just another normal day in an ordinary California town’ she said putting her feet up on the row of chairs in front.
Down on the court Gunn passed to Wesley. ‘Shoot English’ he yelled and the former watcher made a shot at the basket. He couldn’t actually play basketball worth a damn otherwise but he could throw just about anything accurately and he was a lot taller than the majority of the girls which helped a lot.
He still missed though and the ball was caught on the rebound from the hoop by Kennedy who turned and quickly passed off to Connor. Once that guy got moving there was no catching him.
Well except of course for his Dad, who jumped up and intercepted the ball with inhuman reflexes, and started looking for an opening, Connor had already sprinted up to close him down and he looked for somewhere to pass it instead. ‘I’m clear’ Rona told him and he feinted to swerve left before passing to the potential.
Spike intercepted and darted past two girls before passing back to Gunn who made a shot himself. ‘Nothing but net’ he yelled triumphantly as the basketball sailed through the air and dropped straight through the hoop. ‘And you are toast
’ he told the other team.
‘We are so
doing this again after we’ve been activated’ Kennedy told Angel, breathing heavily.
‘Hey! Human here’ Gunn pointed out, raising his hand. ‘Not my fault you white people can’t keep up without the superpowers’ he joked then turned to Wesley. ‘I thought you never missed?’ he asked his friend, grinning.
‘I’d like to see you play Cricket’ Wesley replied in mock defensiveness. ‘Bloody silly American game’ he added with a chuckle.
‘I watched WG play a few times you know’ Spike told Wesley, overhearing his conversation with Gunn. ‘Before I got turned that is, outdoor summer games not too good for the complexion’ he said wryly. ‘I don’t tan like I used to’ he noted.
Wesley looked at the vampire in surprise. ‘Was he as good as they say?’ he asked.
‘I watched him score 344 for the MCC against Kent back in 1876 I think it was’ Spike replied. ‘He got over twenty-five hundred runs that year and they were harder to get back then’ Spike told him. ‘He wasn’t just good, he was bloody phenomenal.’
‘What the hell are you talking about?’ Gunn wanted to know.
‘William Gilbert Grace’ Wesley replied, ‘known to cricket fans everywhere as “WG”. The Michael Jordan of the 19th Century so to speak’ he explained. ‘Rupert’ he called over to the older watcher. ‘Spike here saw WG play’ he told him.
Giles looked over with raised eyebrows. ‘He never mentioned that to me’ he replied.
Spike shrugged. ‘It’s funny what else matters when you get your soul back’ he explained.
‘I never understood what the English saw in that game’ Angel commented.
Spike looked at him askance and snorted. ‘The Irish invented Hurling and Gaelic Football which are only played in sodding Ireland’ he retorted. ‘The British invented Football, Rugby, Cricket, Golf and Tennis which are played right across the globe’ he pointed out. ‘I think we’ve got the edge on understanding what makes for a decent bleeding sport’ he declared.
Angel looked around the room and noted the disproportionate number of Brits nodding in agreement with Spike. They’d increased in number so gradually he’d barely noticed. He thought about it and headed over to Buffy who had been talking to Xander. ‘A word of warning’ he told her. ‘Take it from an Irishman. Beware the British in large numbers’ he cautioned. ‘When you’ve only got a couple you’ve got politeness and the dry wit, but keep allowing them to congregate and you’ll end up with Soccer Hooliganism or Empire mark my words’ he said with mock seriousness. ‘If any more of them turn up at your door send them away or they’ll start thinking they can take back the Thirteen Colonies.’
‘Bugger’ Giles said loudly, turning to Stephen who was sat next to him with Emily and her sisters. ‘He’s onto us.’
‘Right you two’ Wesley told Molly and Natasha who had joined in the game, although netball was more their speed. ‘You distract the Colonials and we’ll raise the Union Jack on the flagpole out front while we’ve still got the element of surprise’ he instructed the pair.
Angel shook his head sadly. ‘This is how it starts you know’ he said. ‘The King of Leinster invited them over in 1167 and we’ve been trying to get rid of them again ever since’ he muttered.
‘The Mick knows too much’ Spike deadpanned. ‘Quick somebody drug his Guinness… or just give him a really big barrel of the stuff and let him drug himself.’
‘Soccer hooliganism or Empire I’m telling you’ Angel repeated with a knowing expression. ‘You know why the Sun never set on the Union Jack? It’s because God didn’t trust the Brits in the dark.’
Stephen ignored the second half of Angels’ diatribe and looked at Giles. ‘Soccer?’ he queried. ‘Isn’t that what they call football here?’ he asked.
Giles nodded. ‘They don’t seem to grasp that, by definition, any game called “Football” should be primarily played with the feet’ he replied. ‘You’d think it would be blatantly obvious?’ he continued in feigned puzzlement.
‘Alright that’s enough’ Buffy declared. ‘Anyone else from the Mother-Country says one word and I’ll throw their tea in the harbour’ she said. The slayer smirked at their reaction. That did the trick she thought, threaten what they hold most dear.
‘I’m nearly ready’ Willow announced, making herself comfortable sitting cross-legged at the far end of the court.
Illyria looked down at her. ‘I will go outside’ she told the witch. ‘Any magicks involving the scythe may react badly to my presence’ she explained. ‘Or I
may react badly to theirs’ the God-King added with a mild touch of apprehension. Back in her original form, countless millennia ago, Illyria would have laughed at such puny magicks, now though she wasn’t so sure if her shell was sufficiently hardy to deflect them.
‘Are we expecting something spectacular?’ Dawn asked Illyria, as she strode down the court.
‘I was not there last time I do not know the specifics’ Illyria replied. ‘I was told something about a “new look” for Willow but as to what that meant I am not certain’ she informed Dawn off-handedly, continuing on her way.
Continuing on she stopped next to Wesley. ‘I would like to talk to you’ she told him.
Wesley looked less than enthused but nodded his agreement and followed Illyria outside. Cordelia frowned and watched them leave together. ‘There’s definitely something going on with those two’ she told Fred who was sat with her drawing little plans of mechanical things on a notepad. Cordelia had earlier tried to persuade her to join her in starting up a cheer for the basketball players but cheerleading wasn’t really a Fred thing.
Fred looked up from her drawing. ‘Illyria and Wesley?’ she queried. ‘I think she’s lonely’ she told Cordelia.
‘Lonely?’ Cordy responded, raising her eyebrows.
‘Yes’ Fred confirmed with a nod. ‘We’ve talked a few times and for all the bluster she’s completely lost in our world’ she told Cordelia. ‘I think she finds Wesley… comforting somehow’ she theorised. ‘Did you know that Illyria is claustrophobic?’ she asked randomly.
‘No’ Cordelia replied, taken even more aback at such a human weakness.
Fred smiled gently. ‘Well she is, she told me’ she said. ‘The funny thing is I find small places comforting, like my cave on Pylea, but if she’s not busy the walls close in on her and she gets nervous, or maybe agitated, and has to go outside and look at the sky.’
‘I’m kinda surprised she told you that’ Cordelia remarked.
Fred nodded. ‘So was I at first but I figured out it was something else that made us different’ she said. ‘Illyria wants to have her own identity despite having my face and her claustrophobia is the antithesis of my old problems with agoraphobia, when you and the boys bought me back home’ she noted. ‘It’s strange that she has so many of my memories but she’s still so different’ Fred continued. ‘The claustrophobia thing does explain why she was such a monumental bitch during her car-ride from LA, when Wesley and I drove her to Sunnydale. I thought she was a whiny nostalgic egomaniac, which she kinda is I suppose, but she’s a lot more bearable when she’s not twitchy about being in an enclosed space.’
Cordelia looked thoughtful. ‘Maybe she found herself a purpose, a reason to go on, but the vengeance thing wasn’t enough and she needs people now too?’ she said. ‘Assuming she thinks of us as people, and not barely evolved ooze’ she added.
Fred sighed. ‘Sounds about right’ she agreed. ‘Surviving isn’t enough. I was alive in that cave all those years but I didn’t really live
again until I had you guys’ she said smiling at her friend. ‘I’d like to do the same for Illyria’ she declared. ‘I know some people think of her like some sort of super-weapon but she deserves to be treated as a real person’ she opined. ‘Do it enough and she might even act like it a little more maybe?’ she suggested.
‘You’re a good person Fred’ Cordelia told her. ‘But Illyria has an agenda of her own’ she pointed out. ‘Maybe we should keep her at arms length instead?’
if her agenda’s not
ours we can change it so it is?’ Fred countered. ‘What’s to lose?’ she asked with a gentle knowing smile. ‘A few kind words now could save a lot of heartbreak, by which I mean broken bones and ripped out hearts, later on’ she joked.
Cordelia grinned back. ‘And hey, if nothing else we’ve found out from her being here that you totally suit the dominatrix look’ she joked. ‘If you give up science you could make a fortune playing Mistress of Pain missy.’
‘Who says I’d be playing
?’ Fred replied with a wink.
A few yards away the potentials were gathering in a semi-circle around Willow. ‘We’re not like going to have to chant and hold hands are we?’ Molly asked. ‘I’m not good with Hippy’ she declared. One of her uncles was a left-over child of the sixties and he’d creeped her out for years.
‘The only chanting is my department’ Willow told her and looked around the group looking first to Faith then Buffy. ‘Ready to lose your specialness?’ she asked.
‘Already thinking about retirement’ Faith replied. ‘Let the next generation carry the load.’
Buffy looked at her. ‘They’ll still need training and if you want to get paid you have to work’ she told her. ‘Is there something else on your resume I don’t know about?’ she asked sardonically.
‘If I wanted to hang out with girls and hit things the rest of my life I’d have gone back to prison’ Faith told her. ‘It’s pork chop night there tonight’ she noted. ‘And they cooked better than you anyhow’ she added with a smirk. Buffy was under the delusion she could cook and glared in response.
‘What about you Buffy?’ Andrew asked. ‘What are your thoughts at this auspicious moment?’ he asked. ‘The Chosen one herself choosing to activate the potentials and in doing so sacrifice her claim to uniqueness’ he continued then turning to Faith added ‘I mean biniqueness’ he said then paused. ‘Is biniqueness a word?’ he asked Giles who shook his head. ‘Well it should be’ Andrew opined.
Buffy threw Andrew a stern look. ‘Turn that thing off’ she ordered and he reluctantly complied, putting down his video camera.
The slayer looked around the room. ‘I’m glad that you are all going to achieve your potential’ Buffy told the girls. ‘You were all already special for who you are, but now you’ll be special for what you can do for others’ she informed them. ‘We fight evil because we can
fight evil on its own terms and most people can’t’ she declared. ‘Giles once read me a quote that stuck with me, “All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”, nothing’ she repeated. ‘Well we’re
going to do something
and it’ll be us
that triumphs’ Buffy declared. ‘I don’t mind being one of many as long as the many are doing the right thing and I know
you will’ she told them assertively.
Watching from the seats, Dawn looked at her sister with interest. This was one of her better speeches she thought. Not her best but she was delivering it well enough.
Buffy turned to Willow. ‘Ball’s in your court now Willow’ she joked, looking at the young witch sitting there on the basketball court.
Willow took a breath and lit the candles laid out in front of her starting the ritual. ‘If I go all homicidal and world-endy someone kill me okay?’ she requested earnestly thought she doubted it would come to that, wrong kind of magic.
‘No problem’ Gunn announced, everyone turning to look at him. ‘Hey redheads make me nervous at the best of times’ he told the group.
‘You will be fine Willow’ the Guardian told her confidently. She was still trying to adjust to the new circumstances, and spent most of her time back at her pyramid, but since this spell involved channelling some of the power she had helped infuse into the scythe in the first place, and
since to be honest she was curious to see if it was actually going to work, she had asked to attend, getting Buffy to collect her in case The First wanted to have another go at assassination.
Willow took a deep cleansing breath and making sure everything was ready she signalled for the lights to be turned down and began to chant quietly.
Outside, Illyria, in her Ria form in case anyone came along, looked at the clouds as twilight approached. It was going to be a red sunset she thought, Wesley had nearly ruined the aesthetic appeal by explaining the science that caused such a sunset but it was still going to be worth watching. She had already known the science of course thanks to the shells’ memories, but it was easier to suppress the knowledge than it was to ignore Wesley.
They were sat on a bench outside the school sports hall. Wesley not exactly squeezing close but he wasn’t keeping as far away as possible. ‘So your plan to raise a Slayer Army is continuing on schedule’ he noted. ‘You must be very pleased?’ he suggested.
‘With the slayers yes’ Illyria replied. ‘Otherwise no’ she told him.
‘You’re talking about “us” I take it?’ Wesley responded looking at her.
Illyria turned to look back at him. ‘Do you think me so shallow, and yourself so important, that such a matter would dominate my thoughts?’ she asked coldly. ‘There is far more going on than my unfortunate infatuation with a scruffy human’ she stated.
Wesley flinched. ‘I’m sorry, I imagine you are continuing to develop your plans’ he said apologetically.
Illyria frowned. ‘I was
thinking about “us” but I thought your assumption was unwarranted and egotistical’ she admitted. ‘I do not spend my time wallowing in an adolescent crush like some of my female students’ she said forcefully. ‘I am master of my emotions they are not yet the master of me.’
Wesley smiled. ‘You’re cute when you’re indignant’ he responded with a chuckle.
‘Do not mock me human’ Illyria snapped back angrily then paused. ‘I am?’ she asked in a soft tone before grimacing. ‘I hate this’ she declared through gritted teeth. ‘I would kill you if I thought it would go away but it would just make me feel worse’ she said in exasperation.
‘Well I’ve got to say that for my part I’m glad that killing me is not an option’ Wesley said earnestly but with a wisp of a smile.
‘I did not say it was not an option’ Illyria told him, ‘you are lucky it is a poor one’ she explained. ‘However if you continue to leave me hanging it may start to look more attractive’ she warned.
Wesley reached over and took her hand in his, she gave him a look of wonderment in return. ‘Illyria’ he began. ‘I do not have the feelings for you that you have for me’ he said, ‘but I am willing to accept your feelings are real and I’m not saying I could not develop affection for you. I already think of you as a friend of sorts albeit a highly unusual one, even for a man who counts several supernatural beings as comrades, I find you fascinating, and admirable and frankly highly attractive’ he told her. ‘And while we’re talking about it your offer to sleep with me has required depths of resolve I didn’t think I had to turn down’ he told her, his eyes twinkling.
‘You do not love me but you think you perhaps could?’ Illyria queried.
Wesley nodded. ‘Yes but I cannot say if I will
’ he said. ‘I have no more control over my emotions than you do yours.’
Illyria looked back at the sky. ‘Can you at least provide a timescale on how long I might have to wait to know if you have developed romantic feelings for me?’ she asked. ‘I am immortal but you are not so I cannot wait forever’ she said.
‘I’ll try not to keep you “hanging” forever, since I, at least, don’t have that long’ he told her, lifting her hand and kissing it.
Illyria slid along the bench and sat right next to him. She leaned her head on his shoulder and seeing her sad expression he put his arm around her. ‘This is just a friendly hug’ he explained, not wanting her to get the wrong idea.
‘This will do’ Illyria replied. ‘For now at least’ she added quietly.
The God-King suddenly sat bolt upright. ‘Willow is reaching the conclusion of the spell’ she declared.
‘How do you know?’
‘I can feel the scythe reaching out across the globe’ Illyria told him. ‘Only a being of my power could feel it’ she said. ‘It is quite repellent to me. I feel nauseous’ she said with distaste.
There was a row of windows behind them, high up on the wall, that opened to the basketball court. They suddenly flashed brightly and Illyria shuddered. ‘I dislike that weapon intensely and the feeling is mutual’ she told Wesley. ‘Willow has succeeded, the potentials are activated. Do you wish to go back inside to speak with them?’ she asked.
Wesley shook his head. ‘Hyped up teenage girls aren’t quite my thing’ he told her. ‘We could watch the sunset’ he suggested instead.
Illyria smiled and put her head back on his shoulder. ‘I would like that’ she replied.
‘Just one more thing’ Wesley added.
‘If my resolve crumbles is the offer to sleep with me still on the cards?’ Wesley asked.
‘Yes’ Illyria confirmed.
Wesley winced. ‘I’d have felt better if you’d said no’ he told her.
‘All’s fair in love and war’ Illyria declared. ‘It would be foolish for me to disarm just because we are in an armistice of sorts for now.’
The ex-watcher laughed. ‘You like those military analogies don’t you?’ he asked. ‘Okay here’s a line you’ll like, “Those who beat swords into ploughshares will plough for those who don’t”.’
Illyria lifted her head from his shoulder and looked at him. ‘A good line indeed’ she agreed. ‘ And are you perhaps subconciously hinting that you wish to “plough” me Wesley?’ she asked with a coy smile.
‘This being the United States I’m taking the Fifth’ Wesley told her.Motel - Five Miles Southeast of Sunnydale – May 2003
‘It was the witch’ Vail stated, looking at a still shaken Glory. ‘She has activated the potential slayers as expected.’
‘It feels like I ate bad Chinese’ Glory replied, rubbing her midsection. ‘There was this little grad student from Beijing I sucked the brain out of one time…’ she began to explain then stopped due to the Warlock’s expression. ‘You know that anything as easily broken as you are shouldn’t look at me that way’ she warned him.
Vail ignored her threats, she needed him alive even if his magic infused brain would
be a meal fit for a HellGod.
Thinking of meals, two of the Wolfram and Hart mercenaries dragged in supper. They were set up in the room next door with two more of them in the room the other side. The rest of the Motel was empty, the law firm had hired the whole place then given the manager some money to make himself scarce.
The girl the black clad mercenaries had bought in was perhaps twenty-five and reasonably pretty. She was also tied and gagged of course and a black eye indicated she’s put up some fight.
‘Thanks boys’ Glory told the mercenaries. ‘Are we supposed to tip these guys like you do the Pizza Delivery boy?’ she asked Vail who ignored her again. ‘I’ll make sure you get a bonus’ she told the Merc’s who seemed happy about it and let go of the girl, Glory taking hold of her personally before they bowed to her respectfully and left the room.
The bowing was a nice touch, Glory thought. She really would make sure they got a bit extra in their pay-packet. Good help was hard to find and harder to keep and they were better looking and hunkier than her old minions too she decided.
Vail watched Glory eat, the girl struggling futilely against her then screaming beneath her gag when the HellGod slid her fingers into her head to suck out her neural energy, then the warlock returned to reading his scrolls, preparing for the Senior Partners to make their move.
The opposition had just got themselves a few more slayers. The question was how would they fare against ten times that number of Turok-Han not to mention untold numbers of Bringers and lesser demons? Vail wondered. A better question he pondered to himself was how this witch, who had the power to activate the slayers, would match up to him
in a fight?