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The Compass of Erised

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This story is No. 2 in the series "Traveling Scoobies". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: The Scoobies go on the hunt for a legendary compass.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
BtVS/AtS Non-Crossover > General
Movies > Pirates of the Caribbean
loyaleskamoeFR13421,6960127,47916 Jun 078 Aug 07Yes

LA!

The sun was setting over the ocean.  Buffy walked along the beach, covering herself with her arms.  It was a little chilly, and she was wearing only a simple sun dress.


He came from behind and wrapped his arms around her waist.  She leaned into his shoulder, relishing his warmth, and caressed his face.


"Angel." She murmured breathlessly. "I missed you."


She could hear the smile in his voice when he responded. "I missed you too."


Buffy turned around to kiss him, but he wasn't there. "Angel?" 


Her beach was littered with corpses, bloody and cold.  Among them, friends long gone.  Her mother.  Children, women, men.  All dead.


"This is what happens when I try, Lover." Angel said from beside her.  His voice was cavalier, derisive, as he looked at the devastation he has wrought. "Next time I won't bother."


She turned to him. "What?  Angel, how can you say that?"


He grabbed her throat. "Easy."


-


Buffy woke with a start.  Hell, after a nightmare like that, she's lucky she didn't wake with a blood curdling scream.  She rubbed her face tiredly.  The nightmares have been coming for a while, and all the recent talk about Wolfram and Hart wasn't helping any.  Ignoring them hasn't worked, (Not that she thought it would, but a girl could hope.) so now it was time for sharing.  She'd talk to Xander about them.  Willow had enough on her mind right now.  The last thing she needed was to be bothered with Buffy's petty concerns.


-


Xander opened the door to his hotel room and stared sleepily at Buffy. "It's 5 in the morning.  Unless you're here for a booty call, I'm closing the door."


"Wait!  Please?" She tried using puppy eyes on him, but he expected that tactic and was staring resolutely at ceiling.


"No." He began closing the door.


"I've been having nightmares about Angel!" She blurted.  Xander sighed and let her in.


"I'm really sorry about this." She told him sincerely as they sat down.


He waved off her concern. "No big.  Though why you don't wait until the sun comes up, I'll never know."


"I don't want Willow to worry."


"Okay, I guess I will know.  But let me just say.  What I said about the two of you being girls?  I meant that.  She'll get you better than I can.  If you don't want to add your problems to Willow's, you might wanna try Dawn instead."


Buffy shook her head. "Dawn's not here.  Plus she really doesn't want to hear ANY of the details."


Xander took a deep breath. "Right.  Lay it on me Buff."


So she did.  She told him the details of that night's nightmare, and of the other ones she's had.  All of them featured Angel in an unforgiving, or repentant, or miserable light.


"It's like I can't decide if he's guilty, a victim, or a jackass." Buffy lamented.


"You don't think these are Slayer Dreams, do you?  I mean, Angel is supposed to feature pretty heavily in, "The Apocalypse" right?  If he's missing, maybe this is the Powers' way of getting you to find him."


Buffy shook her head. "I don't think so.  The scrolls of Abercrombie didn't ever mention him by name.  They just talked about an ensouled vampire."


"You think they were about about Spike?" Xander asked in surprise.


"I think they were about Angel.  Until he disappeared." Buffy said sadly.


"Why bother looking for one champion, when you've got another just waiting to fill his shoes?  Man that sucks!" Xander said, disgusted.  He chuckled sardonically. "I don't even like the guy, and already I feel sorry for him."


He looked at Buffy meaningfully. "So what are we gonna do about it?"


The slayer gave her friend a grateful, if a little teary, expression. "I suppose we should start in LA.  While we're looking for Dalthezar's codex, we ask around about Angel."


"Good plan.  I'm going back to bed now.  Wanna join me?" He grinned hopefully.


Buffy rolled her eyes, amused, then left.


-


Willow was focused intently at her laptop screen.  As such, she didn't notice Xander creeping up behind her.  Buffy looked on with mixed feelings.  On one hand, she should show female solidarity.  On the other hand, funny was funny.  Who was she to interrupt?"


Xander pulled out a fairly large rubber spider and lowered it in front of Willow.  He did his best to keep quiet, but it was so damned hard!  His valiant efforts were proven worthwhile a full minute later when Willow finally noticed the thing.


"GHYAAAAA!" She leapt backwards in her chair, sending paper and pens flying.  Xander caught her, then started laughing hysterically after seeing her shocked expression.  Meanwhile, Buffy had to lean against the door frame to keep from falling, she was laughing so hard.


It took Willow a couple of seconds to realize what happened, but when she did...


"XANDER!" She shrieked and got to her feet, glaring hard enough to melt his face.  Grinning like a loon, Xander held out the rubber spider and wiggled it a little, causing Willow to glare even harder.  Evidently Xander has no self-preservation instinct, because the moment he saw her face, he broke out into a fresh set of hysterics.


Willow snatched the spider from his hands and smacked him in the head with it.  Buffy actually fell on her ass laughing.  She chased him around the room for a bit, but soon noticed her other best friend reaping the benefits of Xander's evil, yet suffering none of the consequences.  Willow threw the rubber spider at Buffy and because the slayer was blinded by tears of amusement, it whacked her on the nose.


Buffy said "Ow!", but continued laughing.  Xander poked his head out from under the table, only to dodge another attack from the irate redhead.


"I surrender!" He shouted as he ran away. "Buffy save me!" He jumped behind the still laughing woman.


"I can't!" She gasped. "My sides hurt too much!"


"Some help you are!" He said, panicked, and threw her to Willow.


She looked at the uncontrollably giggling blonde for a moment before tossing her aside and rampaging forward.


"Alexander Lavelle Harris, you get back here!"


"Oh god!" He looked from side to side.  He was trapped!  Xander grimaced determinedly.  He had one last desperate gambit.


Xander dashed forwards, INTO the arms of the hurricane, and proceeded to tickle her.


"Xander!" Willow shrieked again, this time with laughter, as he mercilessly ran his fingers up and down her ribs. "I'm gonna kill you!"


Deciding now was the time for female solidarity, Buffy tackled Xander off of Willow and straddled him to keep him from fleeing.


"Traitor." He muttered up at her.


She smirked impishly. "Sorry."


It took Willow a few moments to catch her breath.  When she did, there was a look of anticipation on her face that was illegal in twelve states AND Puerto Rico. 


Xander gazed upon that expression and knew fear "C'mon Buff," he pleaded, "don't throw me to the wolves here.  Gimme a fighting chance."


She grinned. "Weren't you the one who tossed me at her?"


"Yeah, but you're a slayer." He reasoned.


Willow looked down at her hapless, yet deserving, foe.


She smiled.


"Hi Will." Xander said nervously. "So what's up?"


She knelt down next to his head and looked him straight in the eye. 


"I'm going to get you back Xander.  You won't know when, and you won't know how.  The only thing you WILL know is just how badly I did it." She smiled sweetly at him. "You can let him up now Buffy."


Buffy got to her feet. "So whatcha got for us Will?" She asked brightly.


"Three tickets to LA and reservations at the Hyperion."


"What?" 


"I thought it would be kinda fitting to stay there." 


Xander stood up and brushed himself off. "I thought the Hyperion was condemned?"


Willow shrugged. "Some guy bought the place and restored it.  It's more than just a hotel now though.  It's a nightclub too."


-


A day later, the Scoobies walked into the lobby of the Hyperion.  Willow was surprised to see how little had changed.  It looked the same as it did when Angel was living in it.  Except for all the guests lounging about of course.  They went up to the receptionists desk.


"Hi." Willow greeted. "We reserved some rooms?  Under "Rosenburg"?"


The receptionist smiled. "Okay." She typed the name into her computer. "Uh, There's a message for you.  From management." She got up and went to the mail boxes.


Willow frowned and glanced back at her friends questioningly. Buffy and Xander shrugged.  Why would management leave them a message?  The only logical answer was, said management knew them.


The receptionist returned and handed them an envelope along with three keycards. "Here you go.  The Champion suites." She smiled. "Finest rooms in LA."


Willow looked confused. "Um.  We didn't..." Buffy elbowed her. "Ow!" She glared. 


Buffy took the keycards and the envelope with a smile. "Thanks."


They picked up their things and headed off towards the elevators. 


"What was that for?" Willow asked, huffily.


"Yeah Buff, we didn't reserve those rooms.  Unless you did."


Buffy shook her head. "Nope.  But hey, if they wanna give us the best, who are we to argue?"


Willow rolled her eyes. "Cordelia much?" She asked in distain.


Xander shook his head in exasperation. "What does the note say?" He asked after a moment.


Buffy opened it and read aloud. "I hope you don't mind, but I took the liberty of upgrading your rooms for you.  Champs such as yourselves ought to have the finest we've got.  Enjoy the fruit baskets.  Signed, Your Host.  P.S. The cherries are to die for!"


"So they do know us." Willow said in fascination.


"Yeah but who is it?" Xander asked.


Buffy pulled three invitations from the note. "We'll find out at 9 o'clock."


-


The suite was, in a word, opulent.  There was a communal living room with a state-of-the-art LCD TV and sound system that gave Xander fits of joy when he saw them.  From the ceiling hung gorgeous chandeliers, Much to Willow's delight. (She has a secret love of them.) And last, but certainly not least, some of the comfiest couches Buffy has ever sat in.  It was almost like melting into a puddle of relaxation.  And of course, we can't forget the actual bar that was off to the side.  It had stools and everything!


Their rooms were, if possible, even more comfortable.  The beds were huge!  And you seemed to want to drift off to sleep just by laying on them.  The closets were walk in, which was of no concern to Will and Xander, but Buffy seemed pleased by it.  Each room also had a large-ish TV and a mini-fridge almost bursting with food and drink.


After the Scoobies finished settling in, they met up in the living room.


"Anything?" Buffy asked Willow.


She shook her head. "Nothing.  The rooms are clean."


"Wow.  That's honestly surprising." 


"Hey!  You guys gotta try these cherries!  They ARE to die for!" Xander stated happily as he munched down on his fruit basket.


The girls looked at each other and giggled.


-


Several hours later, the gang decided to check out the nightclub before they met up with whoever sent those invitations.


"How do I look?" Buffy asked when she came into the living room.  She was wearing a blue halter top, with an elegant dragon pictured on the front, leather pants, and black high-heeled boots.


Xander gave out a slow whistle and Willow pantomimed fanning herself. 


"Looking good Buff." He said appreciatively.


She beamed. "You're not looking too bad yourself." He wore a dark green button down shirt, a brown belt, brown cargo pants, and tan boots.


"What about me?" Willow asked excitedly, striking a pose.  Xander was thrilled.  He knew Buffy would bring Willow out of her funk.  She hadn't been this involved with anything other than work since she broke up with her girlfriend.


"You look very pretty." Buffy told her sincerely.  She had on an adorable pink blouse with a jean-jacket over it.  She completed her look with a matching jean-dress and sandals.


Buffy grinned. "Now what say we go out there and turn some heads?"


"You got the invites?" Willow asked.  Buffy nodded. "Then let's."


The girls linked arms and Xander opened the door for them. 


"After you ladies."


-


The club was like any other club they'd been to.  Fun and loud, but not much more than that.  Willow was only allowed one drink, as the other two didn't want her too tipsy before making their appointment.  They danced a bit, with each other, with other people, and basically had a good time.


9 o'clock rolled around and the Scoobies made their way towards the back of the club to the "invitation only" room, where a bouncer waved them through after they showed him they were indeed invited.


The first thing Buffy noticed, was all the demons.  They were everywhere!  Sitting at the bar, sitting in the lounge, and singing on stage?


"There's something you don't see everyday." Xander commented as a Thesolo demon belted out a surprisingly beautiful rendition of "Sweet Child of Mine" by Guns and Roses.


"Oh my god." Willow breathed as realization kicked in. 


Buffy, who was seriously curbing her slaying impulse, turned to look at her.


"Care to share?"


Before Willow could say anything however, a green skinned demon with tiny red horns on his head and dressed in the gaudiest, yet still tasteful, purple lounge suit the world has ever seen walked up to her.


"Willow, you little mimsy, c'mere!"


"Lorne!" Willow threw herself into his outstretched arms. "Oh my god!" She repeated.


Buffy cleared her throat.


Lorne looked at Willow's companions up and down appreciatively. "And who are your devastatingly beautiful friends?" His eyes widened as he recognized Buffy. "Wait a tic, this one needs no introductions." He took Buffy's hand and kissed it gently. "It's an honor to meet you my dear, and may I say "thank you" for all those times you saved our collective heinies." He finished with a chuckle and a charming grin.


Buffy was completely taken aback. "Umm.  You're welcome?"


The green-skinned demon turned his attentions to Xander. "And this must be Xander." He shook his hand. "Cordelia never talked about you, but I could tell what a positive influence you had on her." He leaned in and said in a stage whisper. "Although I never realized you were this handsome!"


"Uhh. Thanks?" He scratched his head. "Wait.  You knew Cordelia?"


Lorne's smile became sad. "It was my indescribable pleasure to have known the indelible Miss Chase."


Xander smiled back. "Yeah.  She was that all right, if nothing else."


Buffy goggled at a Slevloth and a Slovleth making nice with each other.  The species were not exactly known for their tolerance of one another.


"Why aren't they trying to kill each other?" She wondered out loud.


Lorne happily answered her question. "Well my blueberry-Buffin, that's because I've put up a no violence spell around the ENTIRE hotel."


"Oh, cool." Buffy nodded in approval.  Then she frowned and mouthed the word "Buffin" with a quasi-disgusted expression.


Xander and Willow merely smirked and resolved to call her that as often as they could get away with.


The Thosolo's song on stage was winding down, and Lorne took the slayer gently by the arm. 


"Listen, I've got to go talk to Degnak the Deviant up there, why don't you three mouseketeers take a seat and I'll be right back.  Hey, and feel free to order anything.  It's on me." He gave them all a fond smile and was off.


"He seems nice." Xander said as they sat down.


Buffy nodded. "Yeah.  Especially for a demon.  Heck, he's nice for people."


WIllow looked back to where Lorne and Degnak were speaking. "He's such a sweetie." She turned back to her friends. "When Faith got doped up on that Orpheus crap and was in another coma, he held her hand and serenaded her." She told them with a sappy expression.


Buffy looked around at the various demons she wasn't slaying. "It's weird.  I see them, yet I don't want to slay them.  I mean, I do, but I don't, y'know?"


Xander gave her a funny look. "No, I don't know.  I'm just glad they aren't interested in slaying us."


A waiter came up and gave them some menus.


"Why is that anyway?" Buffy asked as they deliberated on what to order. "I mean, yeah, anti-violence spell, but that wouldn't take away the bad blood."


Xander shrugged philosophically.  Willow was busy trying to read the demon language dishes.


The waiter came back and the Scoobies ordered their food.


A Lourat demon took to the stage and began a spirited, if awful, rendition of "Hey Jude" by The Beatles.


Lorne sat down next to Willow. "And what did you get my little Willow-tree?" She giggled and told him the cheesecake delight.  The Host gave her a big toothy grin. "Heck yeah!  You deserve it Honey.  What about the rest of you heroes?" Xander got a steak and cheese sub and Buffy a Caesar salad. 

Lorne called a waiter over. "Hey Larry, be a treasure and bring me an Incredible Hulk, would you?  I've got a gamma sized thirst!"


He turned back to the Scoobies. "So what can I do for you cats today?"


They looked at one another in confusion. "You did invite us, right?" Willow questioned hesitantly.


The green demon chuckled. "Of course I did, but you're all here for a reason, am I right?"


Xander and Buffy exchanged a pregnant look, one that did not go unnoticed by Willow.  She decided to ignore it for the moment and asked Lorne if he knew anything about Desire's compass.


"You know how I roll, Red.  I gotta hear those pipes sing." He reminded.


Willow's face paled. "Pipes?  Sing?  No.  Bad." 


Lorne gave her face a tender stroke. "C'mon beautiful, what've you got to be afraid of?" He nodded his head in direction of the stage. "Go on.  Dazzle us."


Willow blushed beet red and ducked her head. "I don't like to sing.  Even when we had that musical that one time, I only had a couple of lines."


He smiled. "Maybe you'll change your mind if you're friends go up with you?" He grinned hopefully to Buffy and Xander, who both looked like a deer caught in the headlights.


Xander laughed nervously. "To sing makes your hearing bad."


Buffy just shook her head frantically.


Lorne sighed, disappointed. "Then I guess I can't help you."


-


As the night progressed, the three Scoobies imbibed much alcohol.  Not enough to actually get on stage and sing, but enough so that Buffy was boasting about being a slayer to a bunch of equally drunken demons.  Lorne managed to keep the peace by treating everyone, except Buffy, to a round of drinks.  


Xander, who hadn't had nearly as much as the others, enlisted Lorne's aid in bringing his friends back to their rooms.  He carried a staggeringly drunk Buffy in his arms, while Lorne piggy-backed a sleeping Willow.


"Y'know, this isn't what I imagined when I said I'd help you." Lorne complained good-naturedly. "Not that I mind, per se, but our little Willow's not so little."


Buffy giggled drunkenly. "Y'called Willow fat.  Sheez not gonna like it." She looked up at Xander as if she only just realized he was carrying her. "Hey!  I can walk y'know." Buffy squirmed a bit.


He just shrugged and set her down on her feet.  Buffy staggered and crashed into the wall. "Okay, 'parently not so much." Xander sighed and pulled her into a fireman's carry, bringing her face to face with Lorne. "Hi Lorne!" She greeted cheerily.


"Hello." He greeted back, just as cheerily. "Feel like gracing us with a song?"


"Yur tryin ta trick me." Buffy told him seriously.


"Well you're right about that." He conceded gracefully.


"That's okay, I forgive you."


"Y'know Buff, It might behoove you, in the future, to not drink so much next time." Xander said as he tried to get his keycard out.


"I had fun." She said sleepily.


"You sure did." Lorne agreed. "You had fun all over my lounge floor." He chuckled. "It's going to take poor Randy all night to clean that up."


Xander continued on as if everybody was listening to him. "I'm just saying, carrying you?  Not good for the back." He opened the door and headed for the couch.  Lorne followed him.


After they placed the sleeping girls on the couch, Xander covered them in a blanket.  He smiled fondly as he gazed down at them.


"Buffy's been having nightmares." He told Lorne.


Lorne, who had moseyed over to the bar, gave Xander a piercing look.


"Shouldn't that be something you keep to yourself?" He asked pointedly.


"They're about Angel."


Loren didn't reply immediately, he just fixed himself a drink.


"Then you definitely shouldn't say anything." He sipped his beverage. "Whatever's going on in that pretty blonde head of hers is none of our business unless she makes it our business."


"I promised I'd help her find him." He turned to the demon. "I only opened with her nightmares because I wanted an easy segue."


"Into what?  As if I didn't know." Lorne polished off his drink and poured another. "Hit me hero."


Xander looked down at his girls, opened his mouth, and began to sing.


"I took a walk around the world to 

Ease my troubled mind 

I left my body laying somewhere 

In the sands of time 

I watched the world float to the dark 

Side of the moon 

I feel there is nothing I can do 


I watched the world float to the 

Dark side of the moon 

After all I knew it had to be something 

To do with you 

I really don't mind what happens now and then 

As long as you'll be my friend at the end 


If I go crazy then will you still 

Call me Superman 

If I'm alive and well, will you be 

There holding my hand 

I'll keep you by my side with 

My superhuman might 

Kryptonite 


You called me strong, you called me weak 

But your secrets I will keep 

You took for granted all the times I 

Never let you down 

You stumbled in and bumped your head, if 

Not for me then you would be dead 

I picked you up and put you back 

On solid ground 


If I go crazy then will you still 

Call me Superman 

If I'm alive and well will you be 

There holding my hand 

I'll keep you by my side with my 

Superhuman might 

Kryptonite"


When he was done, Lorne clapped his hands softly. 


"Wonderful!  You, my friend, have a secret talent."


Xander blushed. "So, uh, so what did you...?"


Lorne refreshed his drink. "Sit down." He gestured to the stool next to him. Xander sat. "Let's start with the easy one first.  The compass.  You wanna find it, but you don't know where it is.  That book you guys are after is the right path.  If I were you, I'd start with old friends.  Things they might've left behind.  Things they might've given to friends and," Lorne paused meaningfully. "...family."


He finished off his drink and poured himself another.  He stared at it morosely for a second.  Lorne glanced up at a concerned Xander. "Heh, don't mind me, I only get like this all the time."


"Anything I can do?" Xander asked. 


The demon shook his head. "Don't worry about it.  If I could live with my mother, I can live with this." He raised his glass in salute. 


"Now.  About the other stuff." Lorne started, setting his glass down.  He looked at Buffy. "Do what you can for her.  She's going to need you, both of you really, but you especially."


"Why?" Xander asked, alarmed.


Lorne shook his head, apologetically. "Sorry kiddo, I can only tell you what I tell you.  The rest is up to you."  He gave the young man a friendly pat on the shoulder, and left.


Xander stayed up and thought about what was said, and what wasn't.


-


"You sang?!" Willow stared at him, shocked. "What happened to singing making the hearing bad or whatever?"


Xander shrugged. "We needed info."


"So what did you learn?" Buffy asked.  The three of them were sitting in the living room.  The girls had showered and changed, but Xander was still in the same clothes he wore last night.  He hadn't slept and it showed.


"The Dalthezar Codex is what we need to find the compass."


"We already knew that." Willow pointed out.


"No.  We knew the codex mentions the compass, but we had no idea if it would lead us to it.  Now we do."


Buffy was staring at him shrewdly. "So what else did Lorne tell you?"


"Huh?" 


The slayer rolled her eyes in exasperation. "Don't play dumb Xander.  If all Lorne talked to you about was the codex, then why were up all night?"


Willow nodded. "Yeah!  You only stay up all night when you're depressed.  Or worried.  Or there's an apocalypse, which I suppose would be cause for both worry and depression.  There isn't an apocalypse is there?"


"Not that I know of." 


"Okay fine.  That leaves worried or depressed." Willow put her hands on her hips. "So which is it buster?  Fess up."


Xander let out a wry chuckle. "I guess I can't hide anything from you two, huh?"


"Nope." Buffy told him.


"Damn right." Willow agreed.


"Then I confess. Our generous host did indeed speak to me of other things." 


"And?" Buffy asked, after a few moments, when it became clear Xander wasn't going to continue.


"And what he said was between me and him.  If you want your very own psychic reading, you'll just have to sing."


Xander gave a sarcastic, though not mean, bow and went to bed.


-


Later, after he'd gotten some sleep, Xander joined Willow and Buffy as they researched the history of the Dalthezar Codex.


According to Willow, after he wrote the codex, Dalthezar gave it to a friend of his in the, "Les Domestiques du Destin", or "Destiny's Servants." As the name implies, they were a group that felt as though they served destiny.  Whether they meant Destiny of the Endless, or destiny in general, was unclear.  And ultimately, unimportant.


What they needed to know was who had the book before the Watcher's Council, and what happened to it after it was stolen from their library.  The book remained in Les domestiques du Destin's care until it was stolen in 1935 by a, "vampire master who's visage was more terrifying than the devil's."


Willow chewed her lip nervously. "D'you think it could've been The Master that took it?"


Buffy shuddered as she remembered the only demon to have ever killed her.


"I don't know.  Maybe." She read the passage. "1935.  Two years before he got trapped in the hellmouth."


"It's too bad." Willow reflected. "If Sunnydale didn't ker-implode!, we might've been able to find some clues.  It was The Master's last known location after all."


Xander looked at her funny. "He lived on top of the hellmouth."


"So?"


"Were you gonna search above, or below, the scary-beyond-belief Seal of Danzelthar?"


"Huh." Willow frowned. "Dalthezar and Danzelthar sound an awful lot alike.  You don't suppose there's any connection, do you?" She asked of her two friends.


"God I hope not." Buffy said. "It would truly suck if the thing we're looking for was evil."


Xander closed his book with a thump, prompting the girls to look at him sharply.


"Here's what we're gonna do." He began decisively. "Willow, you look into the possible connection between The Master and the book.  Buffy, you and me are gonna hit the streets to see if anybody's knows anything about it's current location."


His directions were met with stares. "What?" He asked nervously.


"When did you get all leader like?" Buffy asked.  Willow nodded in agreement with the question.


Xander scratched  his head, embarrassed. "Sorry.  Lorne said we should look for the book by "starting with old friends" and I think that might mean the Master.  But if it isn't, me and you should start other avenues of inquiry."


The girls exchanged a look.  It was better than anything they've come up with.


"Sounds like a plan." Buffy said. 


Willow smirked. "Yeah, but only 'cuz you said "inquiry"." She told him, then went to work.


-


Buffy gave Xander a sidelong glance as they walked the dark streets of nighttime LA, and because she was standing to his right, he caught it.


"What?" He asked.


"Nothing." She rolled her eyes and grinned at her own silliness. "It's just...  You're different, but not.  Y'know?"


"Okay." Xander replied, clearly not knowing.


"You're still you, but a grownup you." She clarified.


"Willow said the same thing." Xander shrugged. "Guess my manliness has finally overcome my boy-ness."


"Willow also threatened to kill you because you scared her with a rubber spider." Buffy reminded him.


"Heh.  Point.  Oh look, we're here." They stopped in front of what was, basically, a demonic convenience store.  The place sold parts.  Organic parts.  Animal and other kinds that weren't so animal.  It also had a small selection of dangerous books as well as similarly dangerous objects and ingredients.


Buffy pulled out her sword and smiled predatorily. 


"Good."


-


Vallard has had a good existence.  Being a Moordenaarin demon he, of course, had no moral qualms about the slaughter and selling of humans and their organs.  As such, he was able to make a nice little life for himself catering to the needs of the depraved in LA. (Or at least his little corner of it.) The business was doing well, he was making a tidy profit, which in turn allowed him to branch out a bit.  A few mystical totems capable of submitting a human unto your will here, a couple of tomes capable of summoning spirits and demonic presences then binding them to your will there.  There was a lot in Vallard's shop that involved the binding of will.  It was a nice way to get revenge on your enemies and lure dinner into dark and secluded areas. (Not that demons needed too much help with that.  Humans just love to walk down alleys.)


Of course, everything changed as soon as THE Slayer showed up.  THE FREAKING SLAYER!  Not one of the newbies, someone his bouncer, a Grappler demon, (Very efficient at his work too.)  could've handled.  No.  He had to have the one slayer in all of history that was able to close a goddamned hellmouth!


Vallard watched as the blonde haired bringer of death walked into his shop, hopped over his counter, and jabbed a sword under his neck.


"Hi." She said cheerfully. "I was wondering if you can help me find something?"


Tony, the Grappler, bellowed a mighty roar and charged the slayer from behind.  She actually rolled her eyes!  The slayer whipped her sword around, (Almost taking Vallard's head with it!) and sliced Tony's neck.


The bouncer stumbled back and clutched his neck as blue blood streamed freely from it.  His foe readjusted her grip on her weapon and was about to charge, when suddenly Tony let out a shrieking wail of agony.


"Take that!" Vallard heard from behind his (almost) former employee.  The Grappler whirled around and swung his massive fist.  There was an axe imbedded into the poor demon's back.  


"Yow!" Cried his second attacker, a human with only one eye, as the creature jumped away from Tony's wrath.


"Xander!" The slayer shouted in worry.  Excellent.  She is concerned for the well being of this human.  Vallard could use this.  The slayer continued her attack on Tony and Vallard used her distraction to his advantage.


The demon hurried to his more expensive stock and selected a potentially lethal device.  It was the prototype of a weapon created by the legendary Toth.  It's purpose was to lessen the strength of a mystical being and, in all probability, kill a normal one.  Vallard smiled evilly as he took aim at the battling slayer's friend.  Soon she would die!  Then he could charge demons admission for the opportunity to shop at the store where her final stand took place.


Xander froze as the demon aimed it's weapon at him.  The first thing that ran through his mind was that he would never live this down. 


"Slayer!" Vallard yelled.  Buffy decapitated Tony and then turned to face him.  She paled gratifyingly as she took stock of the situation.


"If that thing goes off, I swear you'll regret it!"


Vallard swallowed.  He was hoping the slayer would've stopped BEFORE killing Tony.  He wasn't exactly a strong demon, you see, and the now ex-Grappler would've been a most reassuring presence.


"Put down your sword!" He demanded.  Buffy did.


A full minute passed and Vallard said nothing else.  His eyes, all three of them, were darting back and forth between the slayer and her friend.


"Well?" She asked, getting impatient.  The human male had begun leaning against a fairly expensive statue of Ba'al, a bored expression on his face.


"I'm thinking!  I don't exactly have experience with this sort of thing!" The demon admitted.


Xander smirked. "Well in that case..." He charged.


"Xander!" Buffy charged as well, but she was too slow.  In his panic, Vallard pulled the trigger of the weapon, striking Xander in the chest.


Everybody stopped in their tracks as the one-eyed adventurer looked down at his glowing torso.


After another minute passed, the glow faded, leaving no trace in the apparently unaffected human.  He looked at the slayer and shrugged.


"I guess not." 


She turned her attentions to Vallard with a truly terrifying expression.  She stormed up to the quivering demon.


"I was just going to ask a couple of questions and leave, seriously." She said at his doubtful expression. "But now you're gonna die.  The only questions now, are:  How soon?  And by what?"


As Buffy did her thing, Xander picked up the weapon that Vallard used on him.  He read the description. 


"Ah crap.  Hey Buff!  This thing was built by Toth!"


"What?  Really?" The slayer turned to her captive and punched him in the face. "What's it do!"


"Nothing!" The demon recoiled as Buffy raised her fist to strike him again. "It was supposed to lessen a mystical beings power, that's it!"


"Then why did you aim it at Xander!" 


"I thought he was a warlock or something!" He flinched when Buffy broke the wall next to his head.


"Are you lying to me?" She asked dangerously. "Because if you are, I'm afraid I can't be held accountable for my actions." The slayer leaned in close. "I don't like being lied too.  It makes me angry."


"Oh, I know this one!" Xander piped in. "You wouldn't like her when she's angry." He said in an equally dangerous tone.  Buffy smiled.


"All right!  It was supposed to kill normal people, but obviously it doesn't!  Please don't hit me again!"


"I won't." The demon sagged in relief. "If you tell me everything you know about the Dalthezar Codex."


The demon's eyes, all three of them, widened in recognition.  Buffy slammed him against the wall.


"What do you know?"


Meanwhile, Xander was rummaging through the rest of the store.  There was an engraving.  Some kind of ritual was depicted on it.  He did his best to read the language underneath it.  It looked like some kind of ancient latin.  The ritual looked like something that he and Willow had seen before when they were in England.  He took the engraving and placed it in his pocket.


He moseyed on over to where Vallard was now telling Buffy where she might find someone who might know where the book is.


The slayer nodded her head. "Listen carefully.  I have only one last question to ask, and it's by far the most important one you will ever hear.  Where's Angel?"


Vallard began to shake in terror. "The vampire?" She nodded. "I don't know!  We haven't heard anything from him in months, years even!  Everybody thinks he's dead!  Except..." He paused thoughtfully. "There's been rumors about a vampire fighting a cult of sorcerers.  One of the sorcerers that managed to escape said there was something off about the vampire that attacked him.  It could've been a soul."


"Where do I find this sorcerer?"


The Moordenaarin demon a truly regretful expression.  She would not like what he has to say and it would most definitely mean his death.


"The Destroyer killed him."


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"Kryptonite" was written and is owned by Three Doors Down.
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