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.Shadow Valley Vineyards – May 2003
As he had expected the acoustics in the cavern were perfect Andrew decided. He had spent the best part of two hours placing the speakers just right and now his efforts were paying off, the musical accompaniment to the presentation was superb even if he did think so himself, stirring, martial and even a touch whimsical at times.
‘And on this next slide we can see how the number of demons in town was rising sharply until two days ago’ he told his audience, clicking the mouse again so that the PowerPoint presentation switched to the next graph in the sequence.
‘Where the hell did he get the projector and the screen?’ Buffy whispered to Faith who looked like she was already well on the way to brain death. Andrew’s presentation was already on at least its thirtieth slide, many of them being drawings and brief descriptions of the most common, and/or most dangerous of the Sunnydale demon fraternity and it was starting to wear. The slayers were sat in rows on folding metal chairs watching the screen, some more intently than others. Molly was furiously taking notes like she was going to have to take a test on it later while Rona for one had glazed over a while ago.
‘You will note the drastic fall in the demon population resulting from what our contacts in the underworld tell us is already being called the “Slayer Jihad” or what I prefer to call the Great Activation’ Andrew said, using a laser pointer to indicate the downturn on the six foot wide projection. ‘Even so the numbers remain far above the average and since the less intelligent demons, and the most poorly concealed lairs have already been weeded out we should expect future operations to be far less effective’ he told them, reaching for the laptop again which was sat on a folding table next to the projector connected to it.
‘If we concentrate on merely the vampyre contingent however’ Andrew continued, clicking the next slide into view, ‘we can see an utterly unprecedented fall in the estimated population within the town limits of at least eighty-five percent over the last two nights’ he said, ‘assuming that is that everyone has been filling in their after-action reports correctly’ he added. ‘Those whose reports were immediately suspect or illegible were left out of Anya’s calculations when she helped me compile the data’ he told them.
Anya stood up to address the girls. ‘The slayer that reported single-handedly defeating a, and I quote, “Big Fucking Demon with huge teeth that was like thirty feet tall at least” end quote, has had the rest of their reports treated with suspicion too’ she said, not actually naming her but looking directly at the girl concerned so that nobody could be in doubt who the guilty party was. ‘There’s no point in exaggerating Missy’ she declared sternly. ‘And as for the reports I couldn’t even read
, good penmanship is now compulsory’ she insisted.
‘I can’t believe we have to do paperwork’ a slayer mumbled from the back. ‘Isn’t that what watchers are for?’ she asked with more than a few mutters of agreement.
Buffy stood up herself and glared at the group collectively. ‘Most of the watchers are dead
’ she pointed out sharply. ‘I know that Giles and Wesley have been helping out any of you that don’t have English as a first language but I’m not putting up with anyone too damn lazy to spend five minutes a day writing out a neat, accurate
report on what they did on patrol’ she told the assembled slayers. ‘Good intelligence on what’s going on can save lives, civilian, another person on the team, or maybe even your own’ she said then turned to Anya and Andrew ‘Thanks for all your work’ she said. ‘Some
of us have the brains to appreciate the importance of it’ she said then sat back down feigning to be riveted in the presentation.
Faith was already half asleep but straightened up in her chair after Buffy’s little rebuke to the newbies, she knew she had to set an example.
Andrew gave Buffy a nod of appreciation for her words. The Supreme Slayer, as he liked to call her, was truly a benevolent and wise leader he thought, and certainly a big step up from Warren or The First, or the First pretending to be Warren for that matter. ‘If you want to see an example of a first rate report’ he said ‘please take a look at either one of Molly’s or Illyria’s’ he suggested.
‘Illyria hands in Patrol Reports?’ Rona asked in surprise.
‘Typed’ Anya replied, ‘and with diagrams.’
Molly quickly scribbled on her notebook “add diagrams to patrol reports”.
‘Plotting the recent engagements with the demon foe on a map of Sunnydale’ Andrew continued, switching to yet another slide and raising his laser pointer, ‘we can see a definite pattern which not only radiates out from the focal point of the Hellmouth under the High School here’ he said indicating the location of the school on the projected map, ‘but also clusters at these locations…’Crawford Street Mansion – Sunnydale – May 2003
‘Penny for your thoughts’ Emily asked Stephen who was continuing to watch the assembly work with fascination.
‘Robot Wars next year’ Stephen replied. ‘They wouldn’t stand a chance’ he said sincerely watching Fred continue to mount the second chainsaw on her Seal guarding mechanism. Anything that tried to come up through the Seal of Danthazar, that they didn’t want
coming through, would have to contend with being automatically sliced and diced. Turok-Han were tough but they weren’t exactly chainsaw resistant. Fred had deliberately sought out the heaviest duty saws with the toughest blades available because she wasn’t exactly one to under-engineer things either.
‘Robot Wars?’ Fred asked, tightening up a support bar with a ratchet screwdriver.
‘Television series back home’ Stephen explained. ‘People build machines, like remote control robots, that smash each other to pieces with hammers and things’ he told her.
‘Oh I know what it is’ Fred replied, ‘they show it on PBS’ she told him. ‘I just never saw any worthwhile competition on the show so never thought to enter’ she declared with a grin before getting to grips with the controls that worked the chainsaws.
Gunn and Wesley carried in the last of the crates, they had ordered another load of supplies from Emil and he was so impressed by the repeat business he’d waived the delivery charge he’d normally add for shipping merchandise outside LA. It wasn’t as large a purchase as the initial one but it was still a decent amount and the arms dealer liked to keep relations with his clients cordial and friendly, it was just good business practice.
‘Did he send the other night-vision goggles?’ Angel asked, wandering in with Connor, they’d been sparring elsewhere in the mansion. ‘Buffy was chasing after them’ he told Wesley.
‘Dark blue box over there’ Wesley replied, ‘he couldn’t get all we wanted so he threw in a few old Infra-Red rifle scopes to make up the numbers.’
‘Not much help with vampires’ Angel noted, he was strictly room temperature himself.
Wesley nodded. ‘Yes, but most other demons are warm blooded, some very
warm, so they’ll be useful otherwise’ he told him. ‘They weren’t pricy at all, they’re old Warsaw Pact gear, rugged but cheap as chips.’
‘Did you get the collapsible sword for Buffy?’ Stephen asked. ‘Giles told me to ask you about it.’
‘Collapsible Sword?’ Angel queried.
Wesley chuckled. ‘I gave one to Faith and then Buffy made a comment in Giles presence about Faith’s watcher getting her
‘Giles felt he had to get Buffy one too’ Angel completed the sentence. ‘I thought he'd be harder to manipulate than that’ he commented.
Wesley smirked. ‘I didn’t tell Giles I’d ordered Faith a harpoon grapnel gun for her other arm though’ he said. ‘Got to keep ahead of the game after all’ he added.
‘That’s really petty Wes’ Angel told him disapprovingly.
‘You know this kind of watcher rivalry could become endemic now there’s a horde of slayers around’ Stephen theorised. ‘It’ll be all “my watcher got me a better sword than your watcher” or some such foolishness’ he observed.
Wesley turned to him. ‘And I suppose you’ll be above that yourself?’ he asked doubtfully.
Stephen adopted an offended expression. ‘Given that any slayer I am assigned to will already have the cream of the watcher community at her back I’d imagine that she wouldn’t feel any need to compete with her less fortunate sisters’ he replied.
Emily narrowed her eyes at Stephen. ‘If I thought you were being serious there for one second’ she said eventually, ‘I’d tell Mr Wyndham-Pryce to give you a clout around the head’ she told him.
Stephen grinned back at her in response. ‘Only joking of course’ he responded.
‘Good boy’ Emily replied. ‘In any case it’s patently obvious that it’ll be my slayer that’s won the watcher sweepstake’ she opined. ‘I mean look at the competition’ she said. ‘Mr Giles is old and a complete luddite, Mr Wyndham-Pryce is a scruffy gun-nut and you
think you’re Errol Flynn’ she declared.
‘I am not
a gun-nut’ Wesley protested, surrepticiously edging away from the assault rifle he’d been cleaning earlier.
‘Oh please’ Gunn interjected dismissively. ‘There are guys in the NRA that look at you funny’ he told the Englishman.
‘I don't think I'm Errol Flynn’ Stephen denied.
‘Don’t knock it’ Angel told him. ‘I met the guy in the Thirties and the films didn’t do him justice’ he said.
‘You met Errol Flynn?’ Wesley asked in surprise. ‘And you actually whined because I
got to meet Chow Yun-Fat and you didn’t?’
‘I did not
whine’ Angel snapped back.
‘Yes you did’ Wesley retorted. ‘And you made me watch all those films so I knew who he was.’
Angel crossed his arms. ‘It worked out for you didn’t it?’ he responded. ‘Don’t tell me that dual pistol thing you do had nothing
to do with seeing Hard Boiled?’ he asked.
Wesley opened his mouth to deny it but stopped. ‘You’re only jealous’ he told Angel.
‘Of what exactly?’ Angel responded.
‘The hyphenated name, you can’t do it properly without the hyphenated surname, it’s absolutely essential’ Wesley maintained. ‘Chow Yun-Fat
, Wesley Wyndham-Pryce
, think about it’ he told Angel with his most earnest tones but with the hint of a smile being desperately suppressed in the corner of his mouth.
‘I feel so much better now about being told I’m an Errol Flynn wannabe’ Stephen said to Emily. ‘And so much worse about the fact we went to the same school as him’ he added sadly.
‘Oh go get your sword and slice through a candle or something’ Wesley told him. ‘Or take Olivia de Havilland there out for a coffee’ he said indicating Emily. ‘Just get back before dark’ he ordered.
‘Olivia who?’ Emily queried.
Angel looked at her in amazement. ‘Olivia de Havilland’ he repeated. ‘Actress, starred with Errol Flynn in a lot of films’ he explained.
‘Oh right’ the girl replied with a shrug.
‘I feel old’ Angel said sadly.
old’ Gunn pointed out. ‘But I knew who she was, so me feeling old is a lot worse’ he stated.
‘I couldn’t borrow a car could I?’ Stephen asked. ‘I’ve got my license’ he told them.
‘Not a chance’ Wesley replied. ‘This is a small town, walk you lazy little sod.'
Stephen sighed. ‘Want to go to the pictures?’ he asked Emily.
‘Okay but no action films’ she agreed, following him out of the room.
‘Young love, isn’t it sweet?’ Fred commented, still working on the chainsaws.
Wesley frowned ‘I think she’s too young for him’ he said.
‘And what’s the age gap between you and blue?’ Gunn asked in amusement. ‘If she dated a tyrannosaur she’d be the older woman.’
‘I am not dating Illyria’ Wesley replied quickly.
‘Yet’ Angel, Gunn and Fred chorused.Eastern Suburbs – Sunnydale – May 2003
Buffy had been completely silent for the past ten minutes then finally she broke. ‘How can you be so sanguine about it?’ she asked Spike. ‘You’re going to die
’ she said, lashing out with her foot and sending an empty discarded coke can hurtling off into the shadows.
‘Been dead for over a century Love’ Spike replied. ‘You get used to the idea after the first few decades.’
Buffy stopped dead in her tracks and turned to face him, Spike stopping too. ‘Don’t you dare make a joke of it’ she snapped. ‘You might be technically dead but you’re not dead
dead’ she declared.
Spike looked away. ‘I don’t want to die Buffy, but if what Bluebird says is true, and she hasn’t steered us wrong yet, I need to go through the amulet thing to beat the First’ he reminded her.
‘We’ll find another way’ Buffy told him. ‘We’ve got money now’ she added desperately.
Spike smiled gently. ‘You can’t buy your way out of destiny’ he told her, ‘at least not this kind of destiny’ he continued. ‘If I don’t take down the army of vampness it doesn’t matter how many slayers you’ve got you’ll be overwhelmed.’ He looked up at the moon, it looked good tonight. ‘I don’t want to die’ he repeated, ‘but I don’t want you to die a hell of a lot more’ he said softly.
Buffy looked at the ground. ‘I’d feel better if I thought you were doing it to save the world’ she told him.
‘I am’ he said. ‘But what makes the world worth saving to me the most is that you’re in it’ he said looking away from the moon and towards the girl. ‘Maybe that makes me shallow?’ he suggested.
‘It makes you human’ Buffy told him. ‘You being shallow is like totally incidental’ she added with a hint of a smile.
Spike frowned. ‘I was going to write you an epic poem to remember me by’ he told her. ‘I don’t think I’ll bother now’ he said before smiling back.
Buffy stepped closer and kissed him gently on the lips. ‘It’s not likely I’d forget you anyway’ she told him earnestly. He wanted to kiss her back hard but resisted the urge, he didn’t want to ruin the night.
‘Unforgettable. That’s what I am’ Spike sang. ‘Unforgettable, as vamp or man…’
‘If your poetry is as bad as those lyrics I’d really prefer another souvenir’ Buffy responded.
Spike thought about that. ‘I already promised Andrew he could have the coat if it survived’ he told her.
‘He actually asked?’ Buffy said incredulously. ‘Are you sure you shouldn’t leave it to Robin though?’ she asked.
Spike shook his head. ‘I like the nerd a hell of a lot more than I like that son-of-a-slayer’ he told her. ‘But don’t tell Andrew that, at least not while I’m alive’ he requested.
‘Ah… so you are
alive’ Buffy retorted.
‘Figure of speech’ Spike replied. ‘Shall we continue Milady?’ he asked.
The two of them continued their patrol. To his surprise she took his hand and they wandered along the tree lined suburban roads hand in hand for the next few blocks. It was damn near perfect he thought.
‘Surprised we haven’t run into one of the kiddie patrols yet’ Spike noted.
Buffy looked around. ‘We’ve got them in three slayer teams all over Sunnydale but I had Andrew leave this part of town to us so we could talk’ she told him. ‘We haven’t really had much time to be alone.’
‘To be honest when I think of us two being alone together this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind’ Spike commented, looking at another well maintained front lawn, this one with a children’s bicycle laying on it.
‘You weren’t expecting pity sex I hope’ Buffy asked with a smile.
‘No but that’s a pity in itself’ Spike replied with a wink. ‘The holding hands is nice but I can think of nicer things.’
‘Let’s not go into details’ Buffy responded.
Spike shrugged. ‘Do you maybe think Willow could make you invisible again?’ he asked. ‘Because that was just…’
‘Spike!’ Buffy warned with a grin to match his own.
‘A man can dream can’t he?’ Spike asked.
‘I don’t want to hear about those either’ Buffy told him.
Spike nodded. ‘Not even the one where we find out you’re really one of three identical triplets and there’s a sale on whipped cream at the…’
not that one’ Buffy cut him off.
‘So just the holding hands?’ Spike checked.
‘Well it’s still better than most men ever get’ he told her honestly. ‘Probably better than I deserve’ he added. ‘If I was like Captain Forehead the hand-holding would have probably made my soul go AWOL two hundred yards back.’
‘Perfect happiness?’ Buffy asked, unconvinced.
‘As good as’ Spike replied, ‘but I’m not sure if you’ve been handling that scythe too much, you might need a manicure’ he deadpanned.
Buffy chuckled. ‘I’m going cold turkey on that thing’ she said. ‘It was when Kennedy said to me “Don’t Bogart the Scythe” that I realised I was starting to have a problem’ she joked.
‘How are her and Red, White and Black getting on now?’ Spike asked.
Buffy laughed at Spike's new nickname for Willow. Everyone was waiting for her to add blue to her various hair colours now so she could match Illyria. ‘They’re getting on okay’ she replied. ‘Things have been too busy for romance I think but it’s nice to see Will happy again.’
‘You should always make time for romance’ Spike said. ‘Look at Illyria, she’s making lots of time for her prey.’
‘He does have the hunted look about him doesn’t he?’ Buffy agreed, smiling.
‘With just a smidgeon of the wanting to be caught in there too’ Spike added. ‘You don’t know whether to envy or pity the poor sod’ he said.
‘It’s good for the ego to be pursued by hot demonic types with superhuman strength’ Buffy declared from personal experience.
‘So I’m hot am I?’ Spike asked.
‘Not according to that Infra-Red scopey thing we tried out’ Buffy replied with a laugh. ‘And I might
have been talking about Angel’ she continued. ‘Your ego doesn’t need any boosting anyhow.’
‘He’s not hot by any definition of the word’ Spike retorted. ‘And he’s no fun at parties, he’s dull as ditchwater and he can’t sing.’
‘But I could take you
anyway right?’ Buffy asked.
‘Social chameleon me’ Spike assured her. ‘I can talk literature with the intelligentsia, and afterwards watch sports and drink beer with the best of them’ he declared.
‘The ideal man’ Buffy responded. ‘Oh be still my beating heart’ she continued with a chuckle.
‘That can be arranged’ a voice interrupted.
Buffy and Spike stopped walking and looked at the figure standing in front of them.
‘That’s a new one’ Buffy observed. ‘Nice to see you varying your repertoire’ she told The First.
‘Couldn’t you just bugger-off?’ Spike asked. ‘We were talking here’ he continued in an annoyed tone.
Buffy sighed. ‘Must have thought we’d be intimidated’ she theorised. ‘Do we look
intimidated?’ she asked rhetorically. ‘It doesn’t matter what you look like, you’re still just as incorporeal’ she said.
‘Oh to hell with this’ Spike said, and stuck his hand out to wave it through The First's non-existent body.
His hand stopped the moment it ran up against Glory’s shoulder.
‘And who gave you
permission to touch the merchandise’ the HellGod asked him with a smirk.
‘Oh bugger’ a dumbfounded Spike swore a split second before Glory's backhanded slap drove him a good twenty yards up the road to bounce off a parked car and land in a heap.
Buffy was still too stunned to do much more than watch the vampire fly through the air. She turned back to the HellGod in shock, mouth agape.
‘This time I really do want to fight’ Glory told the Slayer. ‘I’m fair though’ she continued. ‘How about a ten second head start’ she offered with an evil glint in her eye. ‘Nine, eight, seven…’