AN: My little take on the Band Candy episode mixed in with a little post-possession blues and just a hint of Jimi Hendrix.
“Sunnydale! I never thought I would come back here,” Ethan Rayne said as he sat in a blinded car that sped him from the town's airport.
“I can imagine that,” Trick said as he drove the car on, “I've read your file on what you pulled here. It was quite….. interesting.”
“It gladdens my heart from time to time,” Ethan replied, “to bad I never managed to quite replicate what happened that night.”
Mr. Trick had picked up Ethan Rayne from the airport where the mage had flown in from his current stomping ground, Cleveland. It had also cost Trick's boss a great deal of money to engage the services of the chaos mage, especially once he heard the name Sunnydale.
“Indeed,” Trick said, “I wouldn’t mind being at the end of that spell like what happened to the kid.”
“Ah, the infamous friend of the Slayer,” Ethan replied, “you know, like I told your boss, that spell was supposed to be quite harmless. I’ve never heard of a case where somebody even remembered anything of their possession.”
“To bad,” Trick sighed, “I had my costume all picked out.”
“Besides, it’s long past Halloween. Nor is it carnival.”
“Yeah, to bad,” Trick said. He wasn’t really disappointed. Neither he, nor his boss, Mayor Wilkins, had brought in the chaos mage for a Halloween repeat. To many unknown variables that might go wrong.
The ride to the Sunnydale’s Mayor’s office went without a hitch. Trick drove the car into the underground garage where he parked the blinded car in its reserved parking space, grabbed the chaos mage’s bag and took him to the Mayor’s office. Once they arrived outside Trick knocked on the door.
“Come in,” came a voice from the other side. Trick opened the door and gestured the chaos mage to enter.
“Ah, so good of you to come,” Wilkins said as he rose from behind his desk to come and greet the mage, “I take it you had a good flight?”
“I’ve had far worse,” Ethan replied shaking the Mayor’s hand, “I have to say, first class is the way to fly. Thanks for the ticket.”
“It is of no matter,” Wilkins smiled and gestured for Ethan to sit. Then he turned to Trick,
“That will be all,” he said. Trick nodded, put down the bag and left, closing the door behind him.
“Interesting choice of assistants,” Ethan said as he sat down.
“He serves his purpose,” Wilkins smiled, “can I get you anything to drink? Coffee? Tea? Something more stronger?”
“Tea will be fine,” Ethan said. Wilkins went a cart standing against the wall and fetched a pot, a cup and a packet of teabags.
“Unfortunately I cannot offer you anything better then teabags,” Wilkins said as he put the items in front of Ethan, “but at least I can spare you those atrocious disposable plastic cups. We are very environmentally aware here in Sunnydale.”
“That is okay,” Ethan replied as he poured some water in his cup and put in a tea bag, “contrary to public myth most people back home also use tea bags.”
“I take it my associate explained to you what we had in mind,” Wilkins said as he sat down opposite the chaos mage, a dossier on his lap.
Ethan nodded as he stirred his tea.
“He explained the plan to me. I have to say it was innovative.”
“That was his little contribution,” Wilkins said approving, “it never even occurred to me. Force of habit shall we say.”
Wilkins opened the dossier on his lap.
“I hope we can count on something equally as entertaining as your last prank in this town,” he smiled, “just without the unforeseen side effects this time.”
“Look, that wasn’t my fault,” Ethan said defensively, “I must have done that stunt at least three times and it never happened before. As soon as I heard what happened to that kid I went over that spell backwards and forwards. Maybe it was the alien costume that that alien ordered me to make.”
“Relax,” Wilkins said, holding up a hand, “it is of little concern right now. Just make sure nothing similar can happen. Do you have anything planned?”
“As a matter of fact,” Ethan grinned and told the Mayor what he had planned, to the obvious delight of the Mayor.
“Excellent, I can see Trick spent my money wisely.”
“I have to say though,” Ethan said as he sipped his tea, “as much as I like taking your money and pulling another prank on Ripper, why did you order my services? If it’s a diversion you wanted, you could have easily staged one yourself.”
“Straight to the point, I like that,” Wilkins said approvingly, “yes, I do have ulterior motives in hiring you.”
“And these are,” Ethan asked putting down his cup.
“It was my associate Trick that suggested that we hire your services. I suspect he had ulterior motives as well. He’s probably fishing after that power increasing spell you came up with for our late friend Angelus.”
If Ethan was surprised he didn’t show it much. Wilkins reached out and patted Ethan’s knee
“It is okay,” Wilkins said, “I don’t mind it if you sell it to him. As long as he pays for it out of his own pocket. Ha ha!”
While it was a normal human laugh in every respect, perfectly passable for a politician, once you got to know the man’s dark side it made villains cackling laugh sound warm and compassionate by comparison. As soon as Wilkins withdrew his had Ethan had the strong urge to pull back his knee and start scrubbing it with strong soap.
“You are right,” Wilkins said as he got up and walked away, to stand in front of the window as he opened the curtains, “if it was a mere diversion I’m looking for I could have done so without your services, Mr. Rayne. I would not have become Mayor of this town if I didn’t plan ahead. I have need for your contacts as well, Mr. Rayne. Once you finish this job I need you to bring me into contact with a necromancer.”
Ethan looked surprised, and then thought it over.
“Why do you need me to find you a necromancer if you don’t mind me asking? There are places to go to. Renowned institutions like Wolfram & Hart could get you a good one faster then I could.”
“Maybe I wish not to go through Wolfram & Hart,” Wilkins replied, still looking out the window, “nor any of the others. I’m looking for an independent. One who doesn’t ask any questions other then how much. Can you do that for me, Mr. Rayne?”
“I can do that,” Ethan said after some thinking, ”it will cost you though. I would have to know what our boy is required to do. Resurrection takes some major mojo. Few independents can do that.”
Wilkins turned around and smiled a sickly smile.
“Nothing of that sort,” he said, “I require a channeling.”
“Pfft,” Ethan snorted, “any local amateur can do a channeling. What do you need me for?”
Wilkins smile hardened.
“You mistake me for a fool, Mr. Rayne,” he said, his cheerful tone gone, “I do not require a simple channeling of some dead simpleton. The being I’m trying to reach fried the brains of the local amateur as you called it within seconds.”
“I see,” Ethan said, “that complicates things indeed. If it’s that dangerous I would have to tell my boy what to expect so he can properly prepare. Who is it that you are trying to reach from the underworld?”
“More of a what,” Wilkins said and gave Ethan a slip of paper with some information.
Ethan looked puzzled as he read the note.
“Freeza?” “It’s going to be, a glorious day! I feel my luck could cha…”
“Damn alarm clocks,” Buffy muttered as she silenced her radio alarm clock. Still inwardly cursing the damn things she kicked off her blanket and got out of bed. Outside the sun was shining and illuminating her room through the curtains.
“Yep, another glorious day,” Buffy muttered as she opened her curtains and looked out over sunny Sunnydale. Next she went to the bathroom to undergo a quick shower and fully waken up. Having refreshed herself she got dressed for school and went downstairs, where her mother was preparing breakfast. And where he sat.
With several morning papers strewn in front of him, Belmovekk, Saiyan spy/warrior and sorcerer from a distant world was reading the newspapers. He looked up from his reading briefly, then he returned to whatever he was reading.
“Hi honey,” Buffy’s mother said while she put a plate of bread and cheese in front of the Saiyan, “can I get you something?”
“It’s okay,” Buffy said and opened the fridge to get something, “I’m not a baby anymore. You on the other hand carry two of them.”
Buffy then looked at Belmovekk.
“Why don’t you ever lift a finger to help her? She’s always bringing you food even though she can hardly fit through the door any more.”
“Buffy,” Joyce said in a tone that sounded way to motherly.
“Your mother likes doing these chores, young lady,” the Saiyan said without looking up from his paper, “as they make her feel she is still fully capable. And if she needs my help, all she needs to do is ask.”
“Typical male chauvinist answer,” Buffy snorted as she sat down with some food.
“Think what you will,” the Saiyan retorted, “your mother is made of sterner stuff then you think.”
“So, anything in the papers,” Buffy asked as she changed the subject. True to his word Belmovekk had stopped interfering in her life. In fact he had stopped going to their conference sessions in the library altogether. In the last one and a half month since his return from outer space he had even stopped supervising most of their training sessions, relying more and more on a pre-programmed hologram to instruct them into the lesson of the day. Only at breakfast and dinner did she still see him regularly. Always politely asking how her day was. It was almost…. Hank Summers like
Besides his self imposed absence driving Xander mad it also started to bug out Buffy as well. It was one thing having him decide things for her, this was going to the other extreme. In a way it felt even more creepy Dad like then the control freakery as it reminded her of her real father. Hank Summers had always been a busy career man, with Buffy only rarely seeing him other then at meal time. It now surprised Buffy that she’d rather have a little more of the control freakery and a little less of the disinterested Hank Summers routine.
“Same thing,” the Saiyan replied to her question and offered her a newspaper, which she declined, “still the same sex scandals from your government. Or the same sports and celebrity worship. If I ever get to tell Beldin that people here actually pay money for old wives gossip he will never believe it.”
“Nothing wrong with a little gossip,” Buffy replied.
“I am sure the people being hounded by your news investigators would think otherwise,” Belmovekk said while he flipped a page.
“Some of them actually encourage it,” Joyce said butting in, “as they say in show business, if they don’t write about you, you are in trouble.”
Belmovekk looked at both women, then he shook his head.
“This is a strange world! Even without the demons.”
“Freaky deaky,” Buffy agreed sipping some coffee.
“I also cannot understand why there is always so little attention in these newspapers to events in the rest of the world,” Belmovekk said, “sometimes I get the impression this country thinks the world ends at its borders.”
“Why don’t you log into the internet,” Buffy suggested, “Will says there are tons of free news to be found there.”
“I prefer paper,” the Saiyan replied, “it feels more tangible that way.”
“And the long lost brother of Giles award goes to…,” Buffy said teasing as the Saiyan rolled his eyes.
“I am not like master Giles,” he objected, “technology has no fear for me. And for your information, young lady, Willow has written a program for me that scours the news services of your internet for those things I like to know.”
“Then why do you read all these papers,” Buffy asked.
“Maybe I like to read,” Belmovekk replied offhand.
“She’s just goading you,” Joyce said, “yanking your chain.”
“I know,” Belmovekk said as he looked at Joyce and smiled, “which is why I will refrain from killing her.”
“Ouch,” the Saiyan said as he rubbed his head where Joyce had hit him, “I was just joking, Joyce.”
“We don’t say things like that in this household,” Joyce said, “otherwise there is the door.”
Even though she pointed her arm towards the door she was joking herself of course, as a she smiled a sly smile.
“I thought only Son Goku’s wife was crazy,” the Saiyan muttered semi-complaining, “now it turns out all Earth women are crazy.”
“Don’t look at me, I’m part of the species,” Buffy grinned, “so will you grace us with your presence this afternoon in the gym or do we have to make do with Ahnuld again?”
She was referring of course to the gravity gym hologram, dubbed Ahnuld after the hologram Arnold Schwarzenegger used in Total Recall. As Buffy asked her question Belmovekk’s light hearted mood turned a bit too serious again.
“I will see what I can do,” he said. Then he got up, kissed Joyce on the cheeks and said goodbye as he left for the day. As he went out the door Buffy noticed he hadn’t even touched his breakfast.
No matter how often he got them, whenever one of those vengeance demons paid them a visit it always upset him. This time was no exception as Rupert Giles read the latest report, always personally delivered by which ever vengeance demon was in town. She sat opposite to him. As chance would have it was Vankhnesh again. And she looked mightily bored while he read the report.
Once there had been a time when the mere thought of pissing off a vengeance demon was the stuff of Watcher nightmares. Now they gave him reports of their deeds and he made small talk with them. The times they are a changin’ indeed!
“So,” Giles said once he had finished reading the report, “tea?”
The angry scowl on Vankhnesh’ face deepened.
“Coffee perhaps,” Giles offered. Usually whenever a vengeance demon came along they stayed long enough to have a drink and a chat. In fact most of them relished a chance to talk about their exploits. But Vankhnesh had hardly said a word once she got here. All she did was sit there looking both bored and pissed off.
“Spare me your beverages,” she said through gritted teeth.
“I was only being polite,” Giles countered but Vankhnesh got up and leaned over across his desk until her face was close to his.
“Four months,” she said softly, causing Giles to flinch away.
“I-I-I b-beg your pardon,” Giles stammered, instinctively reaching for his glasses.
“Four months,” Vankhnesh repeated, holding up four fingers, “four months of living hell! Thanks to your little stunt D'Hoffryn stripped me of my powers for four months and dropped me off in one of the most misogynistic shit holes of this miserable planet! If it wasn’t for a demonpower shortage I’d still be there!”
“Look, I-I-I’m terribly s-sorry,” Giles stammered under the verbal assault, “b-but whatever y-your demonic boss puts y-you through i-i-is not our fault. Y-you broke the edict a-a-and m-my colleague d-did ask your boss not to p-punish you.”
Vankhnesh sank back in her chair.
“How could I have known of your stupid edict,” she huffed, “it’s not like you advertised or put up signs.”
Which wasn’t quite true, Giles almost objected. Maybe they didn’t place adds in the local paper but every known demon hangout, from Willy’s to the poker dens, they all had the Edict hanging on the wall.
“T-to quote from human j-jurisprudence, ignorance of the law is no d-d-defence,” Giles said.
“I hate you guys,” Vankhnesh said angry, then she mimicked Giles, ”ignorance of the law is no d-d-defence. Just be very glad you have the broad shoulders of the Golden One and the Chosen One to hide behind!”
And with that she disappeared, causing Giles to sigh and lean back. Then he poured himself another cup of tea to calm his nerves
“All things considered I think that went rather well,” he said before taking a sip.
“What on Earth am I going to do with all of this chocolate,” Buffy moaned as she and her friends entered the library. As if to illustrate her point each of them was sporting several boxes of chocolate. Only Xander’s load was slightly less as he had opened one box and begun eating them. Munching on a chocolate bar he put down his load and sat down next to the table where they found Giles sitting, staring at the wall absentmindedly while holding a cup of tea.
Buffy walked up to Giles who until then hardly acknowledged their presence.
“Hallo,” she said as she waved a hand in front of his face, “anybody at home in Tweedville?”
“Uh, what,” Giles muttered as Buffy’s voice shook him out of his funk, “oh, Buffy, I didn’t hear you guys come in.”
“What’s up with the grim,” she asked, “you trying to imitate Angel or something?”
“I was just thinking,” Giles said, “I just had one of those vengeance demons report in. Something she said.”
“Was it about me,” Xander grinned as he wrapped up his empty chocolate wrapper and threw it gracefully into the dustbin, “from what I heard most of them are hot chicks, right?”
“No wonder you’re a demon magnet,” Willow said shaking her head.
“Cordy’s no demon,” Xander countered quickly.
“Considering she used to be the queen bitch of school there were times we doubted even that,” Willow replied, “remember? You used to be the president of the away with Cordelia society’!”
Xander smiled at the memory.
“Ah, happy days,” he smiled while Giles rolled his eyes at yet another interruption. Then he noticed the boxes of chocolate everyone had.
“What’s with the chocolate,” he asked. Buffy looked at hers.
“Another Snyder hoop of the week,” she said, “he wants us to sell chocolate for the band.”
“He does,” Giles remarked slightly surprised.
“Don’t you know, G-Man,” Xander asked, “surely being a paid member of this school you know what old Snyder’s up to?”
“I’m afraid our good principal isn’t keeping me much informed anymore these days,” Giles remarked, then a slight smile came to his face, “probably something I said.”
“You wanna buy,” Buffy grinned as she held out a box to Giles, “surely as my Watcher you see it as your task to support me in every way, right?”
Giles suddenly looked like a deer caught in a headlight.
“I, uh, um, I’m not sure,” he stammered.
“You know you want it,” Buffy grinned while she dangled the box in front of him.
“Well, I used to have a bit of a sweet tooth,” Giles admitted, “especially those Cadbury bars, but your American chocolate tastes like, um, crap. No offense.”
“Taste it,” Xander said and threw a half opened bar to Giles, “I’ve tasted every known chocolate bar known to man and this tastes quite British.”
Giles caught the bar and sniffed it cautiously, then he bit into it, carefully tasting it. Then his face lit up.
“It’s Cadbury,” he exclaimed with a big smile on his face.
“Told ya,” Xander grinned as well.
“But you’re gonna buy mine, right,” Buffy quickly asked pouting.
“Relax, Buff,” Xander said, “I’m not going to sell mine. These are all going into my tummy.”
“But Xander,” Willow said shocked, “that’s band candy! I mean, it’s for the band!”
“It’s free chocolaty goodness as far as the Xandman is concerned,” Xander grinned and opened another bar.
“But Snyder, won’t he…”
“Haven’t you heard,” Xander said, “ever since murder is down, robberies and burglaries are up. I’ll just say they got stolen.”
“You can have mine as well,“ Oz said and pushed his boxes towards Xander.
“Why thank you, bro,” Xander said as he accepted Oz’s princely gift
“Aren’t you going to sell,” Willow asked her boyfriend, ”it’s for the school band! Aren’t you going to help your fellow musicians?”
“Nobody’s selling chocolate to help raise money for my band,” Oz shrugged, “so why should I help them?”
“Right on,” agreed Xander, “we fought and bled to save their asses, as far as I’m concerned that entitles me not to care how they get their gear. Speaking of fighting, will the B-man grace us with his presence at training or should we call on the services of Ahnuld again?”
“Ahem,” Giles coughed discretely, “as it happens Belmovekk called in a few hours ago and told me he will take another short leave of absence again.”
Xander hit the table with his forehead and groaned.
“Not again! I tire of that hologram,” he groaned and then he looked up at Buffy.
“Buff. Buffy. Hasn’t this separation thing gone on long enough? Can’t you two just make up again? Ever since he returned from Spaceworm Central we only ever get to see him at training. And even that’s when we’re lucky.”
“Hey, it’s not my fault,” Buffy said defensively, “I didn’t ask him to leave .I’m cordial. He’s the one who suddenly went all broody on us.”
“I hate it when people go Angel on us,” Xander said, leaning back in his chair, “I didn’t like it when he did, don’t like it now that the B-man does it. This has to stop. I’m going to speak to him about this.”
“That would be a, um, bit hard,” Giles said, taking out a bar of chocolate from one of Buffy’s boxes.
“Oh, Giles,” she said,” you do know that breaking and opening means you just bought that box, right?”
“He told me he was going to his cabin in the mountains,” Giles said as he opened the plastic wrapper.
“He has a cabin,” Buffy exclaimed, the others all looking surprised, besides Oz, “since when?”
“Didn't he tell you,” Giles said absentminded, “He bought it last year to meditate. He said the Hellmouth and meditation didn't go well together.”
“Still keeping secrets,” Buffy said shaking her head.
“Well, in all fairness it’s hardly a secret if he told me,” Giles replied, “otherwise he would have asked me to keep it a secret. It's more likely it slipped his mind because we had so many other things on our mind.”
“And do you happen to know where he has his little hideaway,” Buffy asked.
“Somewhere to the northwest, in the San Rafael Mountains,” Giles said before taking a bite.
“Maybe we should go there for a barbecue and a confrontation,” Oz suggested.
“The man just had a lot on his mind,” Giles said with a full mouth, “he was taken over by an alien parasite, for god sakes. Now, go back to class, and I’ll see you this afternoon as I’ll be supervising your training session.
“But you still owe me $50 for that chocolate, all right,” Buffy asked before leaving.
In the Best Chocolate Bar factory, Sunnydale industrial development area, a worker opened the top box of a still unopened case and reached in for a bar. Carefully looking around to see if anybody sees him he started to open the bar. Suddenly a hand grabbed his shoulder.
“Trust me,” Ethan Rayne said as he stepped out from behind the worker, “you don't want
to eat that!”
The worker looked back at Ethan sheepishly, then put back the bar into the box for sealing and shipping.
“Giles, would you mind if I skipped the remainder,” Buffy spoke up, “I have to go home.”
She and Xander had just done their workout, a set of gruelling katas under intense gravity. Normally it would be followed by an equally intense high gravity spar.
“What on Earth for,” came Giles’ voice over the gravity gym’s intercom.
“Yeah, what on Earth for,” Xander panted, sweat dripping of his face, “that’s the part that I always look forward to. Me, Buffy, lots of touching and sweatiness, what’s not to like?”
“Xander Lavelle Harris, I heard that,” an angry female voice came over the intercom causing Xander to wince.
“Crap, busted,” he spoke out, “sorry babe! Only joking, you know you’re the only one for me!”
“Cordelia, you should not just grab the microphone like that,” Giles’ voice spoke, “Now, Buffy why would you need to go home?”
“Why do you think,” Buffy replied, already wiping herself with a towel and reaching for the refrigerator to get herself a sports drink, “Mom needs me. She looks bigger then a pregnant Yak and that crazy Saiyan has gone off again to who knows where. She needs me.”
There came no immediate reply, only the sounds of somebody eating.
“Giles,” Buffy asked.
“Are you eating chocolate again,” she asked, “while I’m pouring my heart out?”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Giles’ voice replied, “it’s only my first one of the evening.”
“Giles, you lying Brit,” came Cordelia’s voice again, “you finished half of that box during training alone!”
“That does it,” Buffy said as she took a big swig of her sports drink, closed the bottle and de-activated the gravity gym, “I’m going home. If you want more candy there’s plenty more where that came from. Be seeing you!”
She turned to Xander.
“Sorry Xan, have to go home, you can understand it, right?.”
“No problem,” Xander replied as he reached for a sports drink himself, “Joyce needs you, give my regards. Maybe I’ll swing by in a couple of hours. Oh, G-Man?”
“I really wish you’d stop calling me that,” Giles’ voice sighed over the intercom.
“You do realize the more you complain, the more I keep on doing it,” Xander spoke up sardonic, “now, have the Ozmaster and her Faithness arrived?”
“They just came in.”
“Then please be so kind to tell our part-time canine friend that he should tell Faith to get her shapely ass in here. And himself as well.”
Before the sounds of angry answers could clutter the intercom Xander reached for the control panel and switched it off. Buffy gave him a strange look, then she shook her head and opened the door. Stepping out in the hallway she saw Oz and Faith coming up. Oz nodded towards her and she nodded back. Faith just gave her a look, like she wanted to say something but then didn’t. Ignoring Faith Buffy packed her bag hanging on a hook in the hallway and quickly put on a sweater.
She didn’t bother changing from her workout gear and just exchanged her shoes. For some strange reason Belmovekk disapproved of her going into the gym using high heeled footwear, citing some strange excuse on how they could scratch the floor tiles. That man was even more fashion impaired then Giles. Like you could call her 3.5” heeled boots high!
Shouting a quick goodbye to Giles she opened the front door and got out of Little Vegeta. Checking to see if nobody was around she used her chi to lift off slowly into the air and then took off. A little later she landed in the old industrial zone. She effortlessly lifted up a manhole cover and jumped inside, closing up the manhole cover behind her.
Once underground she walked at a brisk pace through the wide sewers, seemingly knowing where to go. Occasionally she passed a denizen of the underworld. Who usually stood aside quickly for her, with even the biggest demons trembling as she passed. The sewers gave way to more primitive looking corridors, then to a more cave like appearance. It took her ten minutes but she finally found her destination, a heavy canvas cloth barring off a corridor which she pulled aside and closed behind her.
Inside the corridor gave way to a familiar sight, the caves and chambers that Angelus, Spike and Drusilla had used as their final base of operations. Where they had taken Acathla and where she had killed Angel. And where the same Angel was now busy practising his chi katas.
In the light of torches Angel was busy doing the 3rd Saiyan basic form. A normal well trained black belt martial artist could do this form, assuming he’d know the movements, in over forty minutes and be totally exhausted afterwards. Belmovekk expected his students to be able to do it in under 5 minutes at top speed, and at 50G’s. And still have enough breath left to speak afterwards. Angel lacked the 50 G gravity gym environment but it still took him 15 minutes to do so and he felt exhausted afterwards. It was only when he was finished that he noticed Buffy’s presence. Luckily for him, unlike a human, he wasn’t out of breath.
“Buffy,” Angel greeted her.
“You did that quite well,” Buffy said impressed.
“Yeah, I think I’m finally up to myself again,” Angel said as he gave himself a quick look over.
“Yet only ten times as strong,” Buffy said as she put down her bag.
“But at what cost,” Angel said reaching for a towel. He was of course referring to the spell Angelus had used to make himself ten times stronger. It required however that for every times increase he had to sacrifice a life. Since Angelus had been a vampire it meant sacrificing ten vampires It had involved quite the logistical operation of turning a multitude of humans into vampires and then sacrificing them as soon as they rose. And it couldn’t be done in Sunnydale, as any death by ‘forkmarks’ would get noticed. They had to go to various other places away from Sunnydale. This why the number of enhanced vampires had been relatively small.
After wiping himself with the towel Angel grabbed some clothes and made himself more presentable. They then moved into the living area, where Angel had a stove with a kettle on it. He picked up two cups and proceeded to pour hot water in them to make some tea for the both of them.
“You’re early,” he asked handing her a cup, “how’d you get away?”
“Aw, it was easy,” she said, “started a fire in the prison laundry room. Rode out in the garbage truck.”
“Oh,” Angel said a little unsure.
“Just kidding,” Buffy smiled, “no garbage, just smell me.”
She realized her mistake as soon as she spoke those words. Luckily for her Angel stayed put where he was.
“It’s okay,” he said, “I can smell you from here.”
The living area had a couple of couches and Angel sat down on one. Buffy decided to sit on the other one.
“So how’s life upstairs,” he asked reclining.
“Same old,” Buffy shrugged, “Giles jittery, Mom’s looking as if she’s about ready to give birth to a whale and that Saiyan has gone off again. To his secret cabin in the mountains of all places. Yet another stupid secret!”
“Oh that cabin,” Angel chuckled.
“You knew about it,” Buffy gasped, “why am I always the last to know about these things.”
“I was Angelus, he was my enemy,” Angel shrugged, “he had me on a tight leash. It was my business to know. I think I even contemplated hitting him there with the Judge at one time.”
“Don’t say stuff like that,” Buffy said angry, putting down her cup.
“What stuff,” Angel asked surprised.
“That you were Angelus! You’re not. He was someone else. Something that wore your face. Not you.”
“Angelus is a part of me,” Angel said looking down, “he’ll always be a part of me. And we should do better to never forget it.”
“It sucks,” Buffy sulked
“What is, is,” Angel shrugged, “we didn’t make the world, we only try to live in it.”
Buffy just nodded, then she reached for her bag and pushed it towards Angel.
“That’s for you,” she said, as Angel took her bag and pulled out a quart sized tub of blood.
“Thanks,” he said and put the tub beside his couch, out of sight. Clearly Angel felt uneasy about eating in front of her.
“That was quite impressive,” Buffy said.
“You doing that ,” she said and pointed to where she had found Angel exercising.
“I’m making good progress,” Angel said, “I’m still not at full strength though, but I’m getting there. I have to say, I really like this new third form. I had only begun the second form when it happened.”
“Wait until you learn how to fly,” Buffy smiled, then she regretted her words immediately.
“You know I can’t do that,” Angel said, “not unless you tell the others I’ve returned.”
“I will,” Buffy said defensively, then she looked away, “just not now. I’m looking for….., the right moment.”
“And when is that ,” Angel asked, “I’ve been here for almost two months. You do realize the longer you wait the more difficult it becomes.”
“Maybe when you’re completely up to strength,” Buffy said quickly, “look how well you’re doing already. Pretty soon you don’t need me at all.”
“That’ll be better,” Angel said, causing Buffy to be confused as to how to interpret that.
Later that evening Buffy returned home, only to find her mother standing on the stairs.
“Hey,” Buffy said quickly, “uh, sorry I’m late. But you know Giles, forever training, right?”
No sooner had she said that as Giles stepped in from the dining room.
“Hello, Buffy,” he said. Looking very sheepishly Buffy gestured towards the living room.
“Do you guys wanna watch some television? I hear there's a very insightful Nightline on.”
“Buffy, you lied to us. And you made us into your alibi,” Joyce said concerned, “that’s... playing us against each other, and that's not fair.”
“I called Willow,” Giles said, “we thought maybe you had gone to her. But she didn’t know either. We were all concerned.”
As Joyce came down the stairs Giles walked over to her and held out his arm.
“Oh, thank you,” Joyce said grateful, Ï need to sit.”
“Lets go over there,” Giles said and nodded towards the living room
“Were you at the Bronze,” Joyce asked as Giles escorted her into the living room, ”what was happening there that was so important?”
Buffy sighed in exasperation and followed the duo into the living room and let herself fall into a chair. Joyce and Giles sat down together on the couch. On the table stood a box of chocolate bars Buffy had sold to her mother. Giles reached inside and took out a chocolate bar which he gave to Joyce. Then he held out the box to Buffy.
“No thanks,” Buffy said while shaking her head. Giles shrugged and took one bar for himself.
“Look,” Buffy said, “I had Bronze things to do. Things of Bronze. I just needed to relax a little. It’s all train this, homework that, get home early.”
“You're acting really immature Buffy,” Joyce said while eating her chocolate bar.
“I know I'm not your parent,” Giles said with a mouth full of chocolate, “but I am responsible for you. I think your mum’s right.”
“Okay, fine,” Buffy said, throwing her hands in the air in exasperation, “I'm acting like a child. Maybe that's because you're both treating me like a child.”
“Buffy,” Joyce exclaimed.
“You're both scheduling me twenty-four hours a day,” Buffy continued, “between the
two of you, that's forty-eight hours. I should count my lucky stars that at least Belmo has stopped doing it, otherwise it be seventy-two. Speaking of which, I’m surprised he hasn’t shown up for this little let’s all confront Buffy-a-thon!”
Giles and Joyce looked at each other for a moment, before each bit off a piece a chocolate.
“I, uh, you know he’s gone to his cabin for meditation,” Giles said.
“And you don’t find that strange at all,” Buffy said and pointed to her mother. “she’s like over eight months pregnant and the father just keeps on coming and going as he pleases?”
“You know he has responsibilities,” Giles said reaching for another bar.
“Maybe if he’s after a lead or something,” Buffy countered, “but to go meditating when the mother of your children is eight months pregnant?”
”Okay, you may have a point,” Giles admitted as he pulled off the wrapping, “but he’s an alien, Buffy, you can’t ascribe complete human behaviour onto him.”
“Come on,” Buffy said raising her hands, “hasn’t he said many times how he loves to have children, how he regrets he didn’t have any? Does that sound like: oh hi honey, I’m off to meditate, there’s dinner in the fridge?”
“She has a point,” Joyce said gesturing for Giles to give her another bar, “he does seem rather pre-occupied lately. And it all started when he came back from the Air force.”
Buffy leaned over.
“Do you think he’s starting drinking again?”
Giles and Joyce looked at each other.
“I don’t smell any alcohol on his breath when he comes home,” Joyce said.
“There,” Giles said relaxing and the tension seemed to drop.
“But he does behave oddly,” Joyce suddenly said.
“I-I-In what w-way,” Giles asked.
“He’s started to talk to himself,” she said.
“Lots of people talk to themselves,” Giles countered, “that doesn’t have to mean anything.”
“Doesn’t qualify you for the front page of Sanity Fair either,” Buffy snorted.
“Buffy,” Joyce said exasperated, then she looked at Giles again, “maybe I should rephrase that. I don’t mean talking to himself, I mean like he’s talking to someone else. Like somebody who’s on a cell phone. Only when I ask him about it he says it means nothing.”
“Nope, certainly not Sanity Fair material,” Buffy said to herself, barely able to contain her glee at having successfully diverted the topic from her to Belmovekk.
“Haven’t you noticed anything, Rupert,” Joyce asked as Giles gave her another chocolate bar.
“Well, I-I-I admit that he has been a little distant since his return. I chalked it up to the stress of having gone through the ordeal.”
“He hasn’t told anybody anything,” Joyce said, “unless he told you.”
Giles raised on eye upwards while munching a chocolate bar.
“No, I can’t say he talked to me about it either.”
“He’s even overseeing training less and less,” Buffy said, “if it’s become even less I’m sure Xander will start to show withdrawal symptoms.”
“Maybe we should confront him,” Joyce suggested, “make him tell us what happened, so he can deal with it.”
“That might be a good idea,” Giles agreed nodding, “but I don’t know when he will be back.”
“If you’d like, me and Xander could hop over tomorrow after school to his cabin and do the confronting,” Buffy suggested, “you know Xander, he can be quite the confronter.”
Giles thought it over for a moment while he finished his chocolate bar.
“That’s a good idea, Buffy,” he finally said, “you should most definitely do that!”
“Good,” Buffy said as she hopped off her chair and kissed her mom on her cheek, “I’ll do that. Good night mom, bye Giles!”
And then she was upstairs to her room in an instant.
Giles looked at Joyce, who was munching her chocolate bar, then he realized something.
“I think we’ve just been had.”
An unruly classroom full of students sat bored out their skull while they await the arrival of their teacher.
“I heard that there was a secret rule that if a teacher's more than ten minutes late, we can all leave,” Cordelia spoke, her eyes on the clock.
“It's Giles' turn to watch study hall,” Buffy said looking up, “he'll be here. He's allergic to late.
“He is wound a little tight,” Cordelia sighed, “I had this philosophy book checked out from the library for, like, a year, and he made me pay the fine, even though it was huge.
Cordelia sighed again, then she smiled.
“I was sad to return it. It was perfect for starting conversations with college boys. Of course, that was B.X.
“B.X.,” Buffy asked, only to then get it, “before Xander. Clever.”
Buffy turned around and leaned over to where Xander and Willow are sitting. Willow of course is engrossed in her books but Xander is busy munching down one of those chocolate bar that are now everywhere.
“You still have any of them left,” Buffy asked incredulously, “Mom and Giles keep on buying every box I bring them. It's like Trick-or-Treating in reverse.”
“I like chocolate,” Xander said while looking at the bar in his hands, “there is no bad here.”
“There everywhere,” Willow said looking up, “whenever I try to sell them they’re gone by the third or fourth house
“I know,” Xander grinned while looking at his bar, “these things are selling like hot cakes... which is ironic, 'cause the hot cakes really aren't moving...”
“Xan,” Buffy asked, “I’m going to Belmo this afternoon. To his mountain hideout.”
“Fortress of solitude,” Xander smiled.
Buffy leaned on Xander’s desk.
“I’ve talked it over with Mom and Giles, This has gone on long enough. Now while I prefer a more hands off approach by that man, it has gotten way to off. He’s starting to act weird again.”
“Which is kinda ironic coming from you,” Xander said between bites.
“I’m doing it more for Mom,” Buffy said not very amused, “she’s sitting back home all alone like a pregnant Yak. You’re his biggest fan. Come along and talk some sense into that man.”
“But we’re getting extra boxes after school,” Xander whimpered.
“Willow and Cordelia will save you some,” Buffy said.
“Alright,” Xander sighed, then he looked at Willow, “you’ll save me a box right? This was my last bar.”
Before she can reply the door opened and one of the teachers, a Mrs. Barton came in and clapped her hands to get the students attention.
“Hey! We're all stuck here, okay? So now let's just sit quietly and, and pretend we're reading something until we're really sure that old Commandant Snyder's gone. Then we're all outta here!
While the class roars in agreement Mrs. Barton smiles from ear to ear.
“Does anyone else wanna marry Ms. Barton,” Xander exclaimed in awe.
“Get in line,” Cordelia said in agreement.
“I guess Giles isn't coming,” Willow remarked, with only Buffy hearing.
“I guess not,” Buffy said softly.
A little later Buffy and Xander enter the library, only to find it empty.
“Well there’s a first,” Buffy said as she looked around, to see if Giles was hiding somewhere.
“The world is doomed,” Xander agreed, he was also looking around, only to see if Giles had a hidden stash of chocolate laying about. But if the Librarian did, he couldn’t find it, or maybe he took it with him as Xander’s search came up empty.
“No Giles,” Buffy finally said.
“I reckon so,” Xander agreed as he scratched his shaggy hair. Buffy walked over to the cage and opened the special cabinet that held their scouters.
“What do you think,” she asked, “with or without?”
She was referring of course to Xander teaching her to rely more and more on her senses to look for the baddies and less on technology. Even if it was helpful and state of the art, over-reliance on one thing was never a good thing.
“Let’s leave them,” Xander said after some thinking, looking somewhat absentminded.
“You sure,” Buffy asked, “maybe just one for communication?”
“Nah, it will be okay,” Xander said as he waved away her objection, “it will be good for training. Besides, what can go w…..”
Before he knew it Buffy came forth and put her hand on his mouth.
“What’s wrong with you,” she asked bewildered, “did you finally OD on sugar or something? You know better then to say stuff like that!”
“Sorry,” Xander replied from behind her hand, “I don’t know what came over me.”
Shaking her head she signaled Xander to follow her to the roof of the school. Once they got there she tried to orientate herself.
“Now, let’s see,” she said, “northeast, San Rafael mountains, that way right?”
“The other north, Buff,” Xander said, pointing to the opposite direction.
“What I meant,” Buffy said quickly as she lifted off and disappeared into the air.
“And they wonder why we denied them the vote for so long,” Xander sighed before lifting off after her.
“So, are you nervous,” Willow asked her boyfriend as Oz drove the official touring van of Dingo’s Ate My Baby through the streets several hours later. He had just picked up Willow as he usually did prior to a hometown show, with the rest of the band and their gear already at the Bronze.
“Nah,” Oz shrugged, “done it a million times before. The Bronze holds no more mystery for us. Other then being a nexus for all things evil of course.”
“Yeah, but this is your first gig there in, how long was it,” Willow asked.
“Three weeks,” Oz said taking another corner.
“Three weeks’ a long time,” Willow said, “a lot of things can change in three week, you know, they could have changed the sound system, or the lighting, cause the lighting is more important then people think, or they could have re-designed the stage, making it smaller, so your pedal board won’t fit no more, or your amp, or change the acoustics of the room so you suddenly can’t hear yourself playing on stage any more….”
Oz put his hand on her shoulder.
“Babe, relax,” he said, “what’s gotten in to you? You’ve been to many of our shows. Lots of things go wrong. We solved them. What’s got you so worried?”
Willow put her head on Oz’s hand.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “it’s just that…., I still don’t get it why Giles didn’t show up on study hall. I even went to his apartment but he wasn’t there.”
“He’ll be fine,” Oz said, then he tried to wiggle his hand free from underneath Willow’s head, “babe, we’re going to have to take the next turn and I need my hand to shift!”
“Oh, sorry,” Willow said as Oz withdrew his hand.
“No problem,” Oz smiled as he turned, “relax, Giles will be fine. Nobody’s going to dare even lay a finger on him. He’s probably studying his old books again. He’s been doing that a lot, remember.”
“Books that deal with vampires and demons, remember,” Willow countered, “and prophecies that spell gloom and doom.”
“If he’s studying works of doom then I take great comfort in that the fact that he hasn’t told us something is up yet,” Oz said, “remember, if he did find something bad, we would know it by now.”
“I guess,” Willow sighed, still not put at ease. Suddenly Oz hit the brakes and the van came to an abrupt stop. From the left came two cars that ignored the stop signal and rushed by at breakneck speed. From one of the cars somebody was sitting in the car window with his naked ass hanging out.
“What was that,” Willow asked surprised.
“Illegal drag race it would seem,” Oz said as he restarted the car, the motor having stalled during the sudden halt, ”together with some illegal mooning.”
“Did I just see some very old and flabby looking behind come by as well?”
“I reckon so,” Oz said as he drove the van on, rounded a corner and onto the terrain to the back of the Bronze. Where they found Faith waiting for them.
“What’s she doing here,” Willow said surprised.
“She volunteered to be our roadie for the evening.” Oz said as he reversed the van, “and she’s doing a great job, the guys love her.”
“I bet they do,” Willow sniggered. Ever since Faith had come to town and Oz had been assigned as first her teacher, then her teammate, Willow had grown increasingly dismissive of the new Slayer. Always suspecting something more was going on between them, not always talking nice about her behind her back. It was a problem Oz needed to tackle one of these days. One for which he would like to have Belmovekk’s advice.
Oz liked Faith. Not in the way he suspected Willow suspected of him. Sure Faith could be very direct, preferred to be more stand offish from the other Scoobies and had a sexual drive that saw her sleeping her way through the male population of Sunnydale. But deep down Oz knew she longed to be a part of something other then her band of one. She was fun to be around, never a dull moment and that you could count on her in a crisis. To be honest he liked her more then Buffy, who Willow worshipped. And since Buffy still more or less ignored Faith, Willow felt free to continue her prejudice.
“Hey, in all fairness, she still hasn’t slept with any of the band,” Oz said, putting the hand brake on before putting the car in neutral and turning it off.
“She will,” Willow said snidely.
Oz turned to face Willow.
“She’s just trying to be helpful,” he said, taking her hands into his, “let’s be nice to each other tonight, okay?”
“Okay,” Willow said. Oz kissed her on the cheek and nodded approvingly.
“Good, let’s blow off the roof of this joint, shall we?”
As Oz opened the van door and jumped out Faith came up to him.
“The band ready,” Oz asked. Faith looked slightly uncomfortable.
“Oh, they’re ready alright, Short Stuff,” she finally said, “and ripe as well.”
Oz looked at Willow, then at Faith, who pointed to the Bronze behind her.
“Sometimes there is no substitute for seeing is believing,” she said with a big impish smile on her face. Oz looked at Willow again, who looked back equally puzzled. Then he went inside. As soon as he opened the door he heard a band play Purple Haze, which was strange since as far as he knew Dingoes Ate My Baby were the only act booked to play that evening. The back entrance led to the backstage area which was empty. Only the remains of a finished takeaway group meal present. Opening the door to the stage he found his band at the side steps to the stage. And for once Oz lost his legendary cool.
With a gaping mouth he saw as a bunch of 30- to 50-somethings were playing on stage. And well, as a crowd of equal 30- to 50-somethings were cheering them in their rendition of the Jimi Hendrix classic. But worst of all, they were playing on Dingoes Ate My Baby’s gear. Including Oz’s beloved Stratocaster guitar.
“What the…” Oz exclaimed out loud and his band members finally noticed him.
“They just stormed the place and took over,” their drummer said, “it’s like they opened the floodgates to a wormhole straight from Woodstock.”
“Only with an aging effect,” the singer added.
“They’re completely out of control, the bass player said shaking his head, “they’re like those European soccer hooligans. They told us to fuck off!”
“Where’s the manager, where’s Anita,” Oz asked. The band shrugged.
“We haven’t seen her, or Ron either,” the singer said, “it’s like they left their office and never came back.”
“This could be bad,” Oz said, “any signs of breakage and entrance?”
“No, just go…..”
The question as to where the missing owners of the Bronze were was suddenly answered as Ron climbed on the stage and then dived into the audience. The members of Dingo Ate My Baby just stared dumbfounded as it dawned on them that management wasn’t coming to their rescue..
“I can’t watch this,” Oz finally said and went back backstage. If there was one thing he hated it was people playing and fiddling around with his gear. He sat down on the sofa and closed his eyes.
“What’s going on,” Willow’s voice asked. Oz opened his eyes again and saw Willow’s concerned face before.
“Generation Mom and Dad have stormed the place and taken over,” he said, still having a hard time believing what he’d seen.
“Isn’t it cool,” Faith said as she opened the door to the stage again and looked out. Willow joined her and looked to the impromptu band playing.
“That man playing guitar,” she said looking back at Oz, “I know him. That’s mister Tomlinson. He lives in my street. Whenever somebody even thinks of playing loud music he’s already called the police.”
“It would seem he’s also a closet Hendrix fan,” Oz sighed dejected.
“And he plays a damn mean Hendrix as well,” Faith said appreciating, “no offense, Short Stuff, but he’s got some serious chops over you.”
“It’s not about playing sixty notes a second, Faith,” Oz sighed, eyes still closed.
“He also seems to be getting a better tone from your amp then you do.”
“I’ll write down his settings later,” Oz said leaning backwards, “are you done rubbing it in, Faith?”
“For now,” Faith grinned, then she received a hit on her shoulder from Willow, “hey, quit it, Red!”
“Couldn’t you have stopped them,” Willow said angry, “I mean, you were ‘sposed to be their roadie!”
Faith pointed towards the band playing and the crowd going nuts.
“Hey, they’re not bringing forth the end of the world,” she said, “and am I not supposed to keep a low profile, and only reveal my power in case of an emergency?”
Faith was right, but Willow wasn’t ready to give up yet.
“Yeah, but this is also an emergency. A Dingoes Ate My Baby kind of emergency. As a roadie you’re supposed to protect them and their stuff!”
“Nobody told me, Red,” Faith shrugged, “as far as I know roadies only carry stuff for the band to and fro, and select which groupies get to sleep with which band members.”
“I, uh,” Willow tried to say, then she looked at Oz, “groupies?”
“She’s just messing with you, babe,” Oz said without looking up.
Before Willow could answer Faith tapped her on the shoulder.
“Hey, isn’t that the creep who’s your principal,” she said and pointed towards Snyder, who, with a tie wrapped around his head, was having the time of his life crowd surfing the audience.
“He is,” Willow said flabbergasted, “he’s crowd surfing! Xander is going to be so pissed he missed that.”
“What about me,” Oz complained, “they’re playing on my stuff!”
“Oh Oz,” Willow said, “maybe you should see this.”
“I can’t bear watching other people play my gear,” the guitarist said shaking his head.
“I think you should definitely see this, Short Stuff,” Faith said.
“I can live not having seen Snyder crowd surf,” Oz said.
“Then how about not seeing how that guitar player is setting your guitar on fire,” Faith asked.
In a flash Oz pushed Faith and Willow aside and climbed on stage. Where Mr. Tomlinson knelt before a burning guitar, feedback howling from the amp and an empty can of lighter fluid beside him.
“ARE YOU CRAZY,” Oz yelled as he picked up Tomlinson as if he weighed nothing and threw him into the audience. Next, while he desperately tried to come up with a way to use chi to extinguish fire, Tomlinson’s abrupt departure was the sign for the other impromptu musicians to also start thrashing their gear. The drummer, a fat 40 year old and normal quiet father of three, now kicked his bass drum into the audience. While the bass player, also a 40 something, suddenly began stabbing the bass amp speakers with his bass guitar. The resulting pandemonium announcing the end of this impromptu set and the audience started to cheer madly. Somewhere someone was still working something as the lights went on and the background music came on.
“Look at my guitar,” Oz moaned in despair, “my beautiful guitar!”
He had finally managed to extinguish the fire, but the damage had been extensive. The pickups and electronics were damaged beyond repair, the body was scorched, the only thing still intact was the neck. As Oz bemoaned the destruction of his favorite guitar Willow knelt beside him and put her arm around him, trying to comfort the grieving musician. Behind them Faith also came up.
“I’m sorry,” she said dejected, “I should have done something when they rushed the stage.”
“Yes you should,” Willow bit back angry, “they trusted you!”
Faith said nothing and went away.
“Are you okay,” Willow asked Oz, still straddling his guitar. It took him a moment, then the young man nodded before looking at her.
“I am,” he said as he let go of the burned guitar, “even though it was my favorite guitar in the end it is only a thing. A material possession. And they can be replaced.”
Oz sighed deeply and put the guitar back onto its stand.
“You know, if you ask him Belmo will give you a new one,” Willow said, still holding Oz, “he may even do that materialization thing and give you an exact copy.”
“It’s okay,” Oz said squeezing her hand slightly, “like I said, it can be replaced. Some things however can’t. Like you.”
Sometimes Willow wished certain moments would last forever. And despite Oz’s recent loss this was now one of them. Naturally it was cut short mercilessly.
“Hey,” Faith interrupted and pointed somewhere in the crowd, “isn’t that Buffy’s mom?”
Willow and Oz looked around. There, sitting by a table sat the highly pregnant Joyce Summers. And she was there together with Giles. Who had undergone a transformation. Gone was the tweed suit and tie uniform and glasses, on was a black leather jacket and copious amounts of hair gel. And a cigarette.
“Pinch me, I’m dreaming,” Willow said. Faith reached out.
“Auw,” Willow yelped and looked angry at Faith, “you enjoyed that way to much!”
“Did it help,” Faith asked slyly.
“Uh, since I’m also seeing it I assume it didn’t,” Oz said and hopped off the stage, followed by the others as he made his way towards Giles. Once he got there he just stood there, waiting for Giles or Joyce to take notice. Who seemed to be quite self-absorbed with each other to take notice. It was Faith who finally broke the silence.
“Hey Jeeves, what ya doin’?”
As he turned his head slowly to look at them Oz couldn’t help but think that Giles looked like some poor James Dean imitation. They way he tried to look cool with a cigarette hanging casually from his mouth, the carefully adopted bored look.
“Just having a little fun,” Giles said as he contemptuously blew his cigarette smoke towards the Scoobies.”
“You tell them, Ripper,” Joyce giggled encouragingly.
“Ripper,” Willow said surprised.
“Who’s Ripper,” Faith asked.
“Giles former nickname when he was in college,” Willow explained, “when he was more rash, brazen, and irresponsible.”
“Really,” Faith grinned, “I like him already.”
“Ripper was also into dark magicks,” Oz said, “some of which nearly cost Buffy’s life decades later.”
“Even better,” Faith smiled.
“But Giles,” Willow said, “you shouldn’t be here. Something is wrong.”
“As far as I can see for once everything is just right,” Giles said, “now please be a good little wannabee sorceress and bugger off. Me and my lady have some things to discuss.”
Waving his hand dismissively Giles turned towards Joyce again.
“Did you see that,” Willow said to Oz, “this can’t be! That’s not Giles! I feel I’m suddenly in the invasion of the bodysnatchers.”
“I don’t know, Red,” Faith said, “I kinda like it.”
“No, this cannot be,” Willow said ignoring Faith, “they…., it’s like…”
“Their teenagers,“ Oz said and then gestured around, “they’re all behaving like teenagers.”
“That does explain certain behaviors we’ve seen all day,” Willow said thinking out loud, “Giles not showing up for class, that strange teacher.”
“The Jimi Hendrix Experience that probably saw the original Experience,” Oz said, “or Giles making the move on a certain Saiyan’s girlfriend.”
“Well, is that so bad,” Faith asked.
“It will be for Giles once Belmo returns,” Oz replied.
“No I mean them,” Faith said and pointed to the rowdy adults, “no offense, Short Stuff, I’m really sorry about your guitar, but all in all the people just seem to be having a much needed good time. I kinda like that.”
A very pudgy middle-aged man came up to them, by the looks of his thick glasses an accountant. On his head a toupee had slipped towards the back of his head revealing a very large bald spot. The man nervously munched on a bar of chocolate.
“Hi,” he said nervously towards Faith, “I’m John. I like you. Wanna go steady?”
Faith looked towards Oz and Willow, then to John and back to Oz and Willow again.
“Okay, new plan,” she said, “teenaging adults, bad! What’s the plan?”
Suddenly a wild song came on and some of the men started pogoing, pushing each other around wildly and bumping into each other equally wild. One man was pushed by closely and bumped into John. As he turned around he saw that John was still munching on his chocolate bar. He ripped it from John’s hands and triumphantly rejoined the wild mosh pit.
“I found another one,” were the last words that could be heard from him. A very dejected hey was all that John could utter, as he walked away with his tail between his legs.
“What is it with that chocolate,” Faith said, “I see them eat that stuff everywhere.”
“That’s it,” Willow said, “this all started when we had to sell that band candy.”
“I heard it sold like hot cakes,” Oz added.
“If you think about it, it sold way to fast,” Willow continued her train of thought, “and now it’s turned them all into teenagers.”
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking,” Oz said.
“Illegal substances in the candy,” Faith asked.
“It’s cursed,” Willow said, “it’s the only explanation.”
“I agree, babe,” Oz concurred.
“Hang on a sec,” Faith said, “what’s wrong with illegal substances? They can alter behavior you know. Why are you two looking at me like that?”
“Puhlease,” Willow snorted.
“It is the Hellmouth, Faith,” Oz said.
“Fine! So it’s cursed. What are we going to do about it, Red,” Faith asked. Willow looked unsure.
“I don’t know,” she said, “maybe we should wait for Buffy.”
“Buffy, Buffy, always Buffy,” Faith cried out in desperation, “I’m sick and tired of little miss perfect! Who just happens to not be present for the moment. And guess what, Red, I am. That makes me the senior Slayer present. And I say we’re going to do something about it, now!”
Willow looked to Oz for support, but he nodded in agreement.
“She’s right, Wills,” he said, “Buffy’s not here, Xander’s not here, even Belmo’s not here. Giles, well, he is here, but he’s sixteen again. We’re on our own.”
For a slight moment Willow looked hurt, then she relented.
“Alright,” she said, “but we should go back to the Library. And take Giles with us.”
“What for,” Faith asked slyly, “like Short Stuff said, he’s sweet sixteen again.”
“Even though he’s a sixteen year old, he’s still Giles, right,” Willow said vehemently, “he still knows stuff.”
“Fine, you go with loverboy to Book Central, me and Short Stuff are going to find out where this candy came from,” Faith said, then she realized something, “where did it come from actually?”
“If Snyder gave it to us to sell then he’s probably the one to tell you that,” Oz said and pointed to their trollish principal, who was now in the midst of the mosh pit. Faith nodded in appreciation and then walked right into the mosh pit. Within seconds she grabbed Snyder by the tie tied around his head and dragged him back to Oz and Willow.
“Xander’s going to be so pissed he missed all this,” Oz couldn’t help but smile.
“Now listen here,” Faith said in no uncertain terms to the little troll, “this candy, where did you get it from and who’s behind it!”
She then proceeded to twist his ear, causing Snyder to yelp in pain.
“Auw, auw, auw, auw, auw, auw, auw,” Snyder yelped, “I don't know. It came through the school board!”
“Then at least tell me where it came from,” Faith said as she applied some more pressure.
“Auw, auw, auw, auw, auw,,” Snyder winced, “there, there’s this factory, the Milkbar factory, in the industrial zone, they make it.!”
Faith let go and shooed Snyder away, who walked away clutching his ear, as he looked at Faith with a strange look in his eyes.
“There,” Faith said with a big smirk, “now we have a place to go to. Was that so difficult?”
“Never be afraid to be the first to resort to violence,” Oz chuckled.
“Damn straight, Short Stuff,” Faith nodded and pointed to the door, “to the Bat-mobile! Do you have scouters?”
“I keep mine in my van,” Oz said.
“Then let’s go!”
“Hey,” Willow exclaimed as the two started to leave, “what about Giles?”
Faith turned around.
“I guess you better take him along to Book Central, and I’d hurry if I were you, Red, before you need to activate the sprinklers for a cold shower.”
Willow turned around and saw how Giles was about to do the smoochies with Joyce.
“No, no, no, no, no, no, no!”
Meanwhile Oz and Faith had left the Bronze, entered the van and were about to drive away when suddenly the side door opened and Principal Snyder jumped in. The two of them looked at each other, then Faith looked at Snyder..
“And where the hell do you think you’re going,” she asked.
“I’m coming with you guys,” Snyder said as he sat in the back, “that party is past its point and I’m not going to be the last man standing. And you’re not going to ditch me either!”
Faith looked at Oz.
“We should really be going,” Oz said, as he shifted the car into drive and started driving.
The van drove off the Bronze back parking lot and onto the street when suddenly the side door opened and a small Snyder shaped man was thrown into a heap of garbage. Once she closed the side door Faith slipped back into her front seat and dusted off her hands.
“What,” she asked as Oz looked quizzically at her.
“Xander’s going to be so pissed he missed all of this,” Oz grinned.
Without clear directions it took Buffy and Xander several hours before arriving at Belmovekk’s cabin. It didn’t help that Xander didn’t prove to be of much use. He had always been a goofball of some sorts, although the last half year he had gotten somewhat more serious as his confidence had grown. But now the goofball seemed to be back with a vengeance. Buffy had been tempted, sorely tempted, to leave him behind. In the end she didn’t. They were a team and nobody was going to be left behind again. Not ever!
What complicated matters was that that damn Saiyan had gone to ground, lowering his chi to a very low level. A level a scouter might still detect, but not one Buffy ‘Sensory Trainee’ Summers, and certainly not Xander ‘Goofball’ Harris. It was only because Angel had given her some details and because they had stopped along the way for directions that they finally arrived at the cabin.
As they landed outside the cabin Buffy quickly examined the place. It reminded her of their survival trip last school year. Which, even though she hated going on it beforehand, it quickly turned out as one of her favorite experiences. And certainly as one of her few happy memories in that dark gloomy period, when Angel had turned into Angelus. She and Xander had forged a great bond on that trip. Only to have it brutally severed when Angelus had made his move to end the world.
Xander betrayed her in that crisis, not telling her of Willow’s plan to re-soul Angel. When she had realized what happened afterwards she had come close to finding Xander and make a eunuch out of him. Xander later told her why he had done it. She could see the rationale behind it, but she still suspected there was more behind it. But at least he had apologized for it. So she had come back.
At first it had been hard to resume training with Xander. Trust had been violated. But when they had teamed up on Faith’s nemesis Kakistos she realized she had missed their bond, fighting shoulder to shoulder together against evil. The ride thereafter had been bumpy but their bond had been reformed to a degree. It also didn’t hurt Xander’s case that Angel had returned from hell. It’s hard to carry a grudge when the reason for that grudge had been lifted. It may not be what it was before in those final happy days, but she knew she could count on him.
Yet for some strange reason not at this very moment, as the teen was stomping around like in the bad old days. When she had to save his clumsy ass about every week.
“Xander,” Buffy exclaimed exasperated as he inadvertently kicked over a wooden bucket and sent it noisily into a stack of wood, causing the stack to fall over.
“Sorry,” Xander said, “I don’t get why I’m so clumsy today.”
“Whatever it is, put a stop to it,” Buffy said annoyed, “well, at least now we know he’s not in the house.”
“Strange house though,” Xander said as he examined the cabin.
“Why,” Buffy asked, to her one wooden cabin looked just the same as the other.
“It doesn’t seem like a typical wooden American cabin,” Xander said as he pointed at several details, “don’t you see that the construction method is way different then is usual?”
Buffy looked surprised at Xander, this was the first time in days he actually sounded coherent.
“First of all, he’s not your typical American male,” she said, “secondly, how would you know?”
Xander put one hand on the wall as if to feel it up.
“Before you came I spent the summers at my uncle Rory’s carpentry business. To earn some extra money and to get away from my parents. I wonder if he used Saiyan methods of construction, or from that fun medieval world of his.”
“Knowing him he probably used that sorcery thing,” Buffy said, holding up a hand up side down and pretending that something fell from it.
“Probably,” agreed Xander, “I wonder if the door is o….uaahhh!”
Competent Xander had clearly outstayed his welcome and goofball Xander re-emerged as Xander tripped and fell as the door turned out to be unlocked.
“At least now we know the door isn’t locked either,” Buffy said as she stepped over Xander and went inside. Inside the cabin the place was totally different then Belmovekk’s place back in Sunnydale. That one was Spartan, clean, without any clutter. His cabin however put the clutter in cluttered. There was a fireplace, doubling as a kitchen with a large pot hanging over it, a table with some chairs and the remains of a meal, a bed that had recently been slept in. And there was a desk. It had stacks of books, papers and even scrolls strewn across it. There were various maps hanging on the walls. There was a map of the world, with various pins at various locations, a map of the western United States, one of California and one of Sunnydale. Which caught Buffy’s interest.
“It looks like he was trying to map the underground passage system,” she said as she tracked various lines drawn on the map. There were also some pictures, although none of them, her or her mother, which kinda stung a little. Mostly they were of unknown men, including one black and white of a particular nasty looking long haired individual in a uniform, with a double triangle R-R emblem on his lapels.
“What do you think,” she asked Xander, “doesn’t this guy have crazy scientist written all over him?”
“I wonder if he’s got something to eat,” Xander said, more interested in the large cooking pit in the fireplace. Fed up with Xander’s behavior Buffy shook her head and looked at the rest of the cabin, which had a lot of boxes stacked against the walls.
“Now wonder his own place is always so clean,” she said, “he keeps all of his stuff here.”
“It’s a stew,” Xander said as he tasted what was inside the cooking pot. Ignoring his odd behavior Buffy returned her attention to the desk.
“I wonder if he keeps a diary,” she said as she started to examine some of the papers on it, “dear diary, today I found new ways to ruin a certain young lady’s life”
“Give it a rest, Buff,” Xander said, putting a finger in the pot, “that train has left the station long ago. You screwed up, he screwed up, I screwed up. We all did. I thought you were over it. Hmm, tasty!”
Xander turned around and started looking for a plate. Buffy didn’t answer Xander’s statement. She just continued rummaging for a while before giving up.
“Bah,” she said, “most of this is written in a language I suspect even Giles can’t read. It’s probably Saiyan.”
“Saiyango,” Xander said.
“No, the language,” Xander said, “the language wasn’t called Saiyan, it was called Saiyango. Ha, found one!”
Triumphantly Xander held up a clean plate and walked to the cooking pot.
“You’re not really thinking of eating right now, are you,” Buffy asked incredulously, “firstly it looks days old. Secondly, we have to go out and find him.
“Why not,” Xander asked surprised, “it’s dark out there. It’s way past dinner time. We might as well stay here and wait for him to return. Besides, compared to what I have to eat at home this still looks good.”
“What if he’s not coming back here,” she said and pointed to Sunnydale, “he might as well have gone back home. Then we would be wasting our time.”
Xander thought that over for a moment,
“But why would he leave his stew behind?”
Buffy gave him a patented deathglare.
“Alright,” Xander sighed as he put down the plate, “I guess if we find him we’ll come back here eventually.”
“Finally,” Buffy sighed and walked to the door, “you coming?”
“Hey Buff, look what I found,” Xander said out loud. Buffy turned around and saw Xander wearing a leather pork pie hat. He then made two O’s with his fingers and put them in front of his eyes, pretending they were glasses.
“It’s a 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a packet of cigarettes, it’s dark and we’re wearing Scouters! Except we’re kinda not.”
Sighing deeply Buffy walked over to Xander, grabbed the hat and pointed towards the door.
“Hit it, Elwood,” she said.
“Spoil sport,” Xander muttered as he walked outside. Shaking her head Buffy was about to throw away the hat when she looked at it. It looked familiar.
:”Where did I see you before,” she said to herself.
“I thought we had to go, Buff,” Xander called from outside, “or does this mean I do get to stay and eat?”
“Xander Lavelle Harris,” Buffy yelled as she threw away the hat, “get your ass in the air or so help you that meddlesome nosey green God!”
“Look at the size of that crowd,” Faith said as she and Oz arrived at the chocolate factory. Outside before the loading dock hundreds of Sunnydale adults had gathered to receive the candy bars being thrown around by two factory employees.
“We could go ‘round the back,” Oz said, tapping his scouter, “the mob is smaller there.”
“So is the entrance,” Faith said, then she looked at the guitarist and smiled, “besides, I’m done skulking.”
“We hardly did any skulking,” Oz countered.
“Precisely,” she grinned and made for the crowd. Oz shook his head at her impetuosity and then followed. Using her chi as a wedge Faith walked through the crowd like a hot knife through butter.
“Coming through, step aside,” she yelled, when suddenly a stone hit her head.
“Auw,” she cried as she looked around to see where it had come from.
“Get your own candy,” one adult said with a particular nasty look in his eyes, “we’re here first!”
Her eyes flashing in anger Faith raised a fist to punch the man in his face when a strong hand gripped it.
“No, Faith,” Oz said shaking his head, “no matter how much of an asshole he’s is, he’s still only under the influence.”
Faith glanced at Oz’s face, then sighed and relented. Short Stuff was right. An asshole couldn’t help being an asshole. Still, he needed a lesson. She smiled at Oz and then opened her hand palm towards the asshole and let go of a wave of chi. It picked up the asshole and sent him crashing back into a wall.
“What? Why the look,” Faith said quasi-indignant afterwards, “I didn’t even touch him!”
Oz shook his head disapproving and gestured her to get moving again. Sporting a smug smirk Faith moved on through the mob and this time it parted without her having to do anything. Arriving at the dock she jumped on top effortlessly and signaled the two men holding boxes of chocolate to take a hike.
One got the message, dropped his box and ran. The other still had some fight in him.
“Hey,” he shouted, “you can’t come here.”
Faith just smirked, extended her hand and let go of another chi wave, sending the man flying across the crowd to make a painful landing against the factory fence.
“Anything to add,” she asked Oz, who just shook his head. Faith then picked the boxes still standing on the dock.
“You want this,” she shouted to the mob. And to the approving roar of the mob she threw the boxes right in their midst. The mob went into a frenzy and now totally forgot about Faith and Oz on the docks.
“You do realize that was the cursed candy, right,” Oz asked Faith, who just shrugged.
“It won’t kill them,” she said, wiping her hands on her leather pants, “and at least they’re now to busy to get in our way.”
“Just asking,” Oz shrugged, who saw the logic in her actions. Faith next opened the door and they went inside the factory.
On the other side of town Willow was doing her utmost not to lose patience with the very juvenile behaving Giles and Joyce, who were now walking hand in hand behind her. It had taken her considerable amounts of cajoling and patience to get Giles to come along and even now he was driving her nuts. No, as far as Willow was concerned she couldn’t reach the Library soon enough.
Then suddenly from behind came the sound of glass shattering, followed by an alarm going off. As Willow turned around she saw Giles climbing into a store window that had been shattered. Her jaw almost dropped to the ground as she saw Joyce encouraging Giles while he took a dress off from some mannequin and took a hat from another. Putting on the hat himself he crawled out onto the curb and proceeded to help dress Joyce in the dress.
“It doesn’t fit,” Joyce said frustrated as her huge belly got in the way.
“Maybe later,” Giles grinned as he rubbed her belly.
“Oh, you,” Joyce giggled.
“Giles,” Willow yelled, her voice going up an octave, “what the hell did you just do! Did you just break in? You can’t do that!”
“Oh, hush,” Giles said and waved his hand dismissively towards Willow, “you’re not my mum.”
Suddenly a policeman jumped into view, gun drawn towards them.
Willow, Giles and Joyce froze for a moment. Then Giles stepped in front of Joyce and pushed her to the back. He threw away his hat and stepped towards the officer,
“Ooo... Copper's got a gun,” Giles said defiantly, starting to jump around, still taunting the officer, “you'll never use it, though, man!”
“Will so,” the officer said nervously.
“This is bad,” Willow said, on the verge of bursting into a massive self-denial attack. As Giles and the officer stare each other up he sees a candy bar in the officer’s front pocket.
“Ripper, be careful,” Joyce cried out suddenly.
This caused the officer to look away. Giving Giles the opportunity to grab the man’s gun holding hand with his left hand and bat it aside. His right hand reached out to the neck of the officer and once he grabbed it an electrical discharge followed. The eyes of the officer grew big in surprise, then they went limp, just like the rest of his body. Giles let the unconscious officer fall to the ground and took both his chocolate bar and his gun. The bar he put in his own pocket, the gun in the back of his pants.
“Ha,” Giles shouted excitedly at the unconscious officer, “that Saiyan wanker isn’t the only one who can do that!”
“Oh, Giles, you are sooo cool,” Joyce said admiringly as she came up to Giles, “You're like Burt Reynolds.”
Giles reached out towards Joyce and grabbed her by her neck and back, then he proceeded to kiss her, with heavy emphasis on the oral interaction.
“You guys,” Willow said desperately, “you can’t do that! Remember?”
“Oh, shut up,” Giles said without even giving Willow a glance.
Willow looked up to the skies in despair.
“Oh, kind, green God,” she said pleadingly, “please don’t let it be so that we’re like that!”
Ethan Rayne was a nervous man. By now he thought his little operation should have run its course. Time to get moving before the Slayer hit his joint. So he picked up the phone and dialed a number.
“It’s me,” he said, “I’ve done as you wanted. The whole town is wide open and nutty…. I thought you would enjoy that little pun. Tell your men to get started. I’m out of here.”
Ethan hung up the phone when he saw one of the workers came by running. He stepped after the man.
“What’s going on,” he asked but the man didn’t answer as he slammed the back entrance door behind him.
Suddenly he felt a hand, a very strong and very powerful hand on his shoulder.
“Aw bugger,” Ethan sighed and turned around.
“Look,” he said and then stopped. Instead of seeing Ripper’s little blond lapdog he now saw a stunning dark haired girl dressed in leather. A smile crept on his face.
“Hello,” he tried to say but then she threw him effortlessly against a stack of crates. Luckily his chocolate was packed well in sturdy cardboard so it didn’t hurt. Much. It still knocked the wind out of him.
“Bugger,” he muttered. Then he realized, the girl was stronger then she appeared. Which can only mean one thing…..
“Bugger,” he muttered again as he got up and started to run for the exit, throwing boxes, carts and whatever he can find to slow her down. Close to the exit he looked over his shoulder to see if she’s following him. As he’s not looking in front of him he didn’t see it when suddenly an immovable object stood in his way. The sudden deceleration of the collision send him crashing painfully onto the ground.
“What the….” he muttered. Instead of the girl it was a boy, kinda short, with blond hair and a strange device clipped over his left ear and eye. Then the girl made an impossible jump across his impromptu obstacles and landed right next to him.
“Who are you,” Ethan asked surprised.
“Wrong question,” the young man said shaking his head.
“Want me to hurt him a little, or a lot, Short Stuff,” the girl asked the boy as she put her booted foot on his chest to prevent him from escaping.
“Maybe just a little,” the boy said, “for now. Meanwhile I’ll go look around.”
The boy turned around and started to walk around the factory while the girl started to grin evilly. She lifted him up from the ground, pinned him against the wall with one hand and held up two fingers of the other hand. Next electricity started to arc around them. She just barely touched him on his chest and already Ethan felt his body spasm wildly in pain.
“Alright,” he yelled, “what do you want to know?”
“That’s quick,” the boy called as he examined Ethan’s former desk.
“But it is the right question this time,” the girl smirked, “alright what s going on here and who’s behind it?”
Even though he was at their mercy it suddenly dawned on Ethan. They don’t know me, he thought. They seemed to be part of Rupert’s posse alright, they might even have heard of his name, but they didn’t seem to know him by face.
“I’m the foreman,” Ethan said quickly, “I’m in charge of the workmen!”
“What’s your name,” the girl asked weary, “and why were you running from us?”
Ethan’s brain worked on a fever pitch.
“I was scared, what was I supposed to do, you came here barging in. And let’s face it, I don’t think they were doing stuff here that was legal.”
“Then why did you work for them,” the girl asked.
“I needed the bloody money,” Ethan replied. The girl looked at the boy, who nodded as he returned with a stack of papers. Which he put on a nearby table. He then pulled up a chair, onto which the girl dumped him roughly. As she stood behind him, the kid pulled up another chair and sat down in front of him. He picked up some of the papers as he stared down Ethan.
“Now, what can you tell about this place and…,” the kid said as he looked onto the papers, “a certain, Ethan Rayne?”
Willow had finally managed to return to the library with Giles and Joyce in her wake. Or maybe despite of them. Constantly giggling as they shared a bar of that accursed chocolate. Of course when they did arrive Willow’s hope that Giles might prove of some use was quickly dashed as the librarian started to show Joyce all of the nifty gear, books and weapons he kept.
Feeling useless and depressed Willow collapsed into a chair. As the librarian was busy impressing Joyce Willow couldn’t help but wonder why Giles was so bloody useless at age sixteen. Surely if Buffy at that age could save the world a few times, if she could hack into whatever they needed hacking into or restore a soul, then why could Giles not rise to the occasion? Even Faith was useful at times when she wasn’t busy sleeping with the male half of Sunnydale.
“Oh, I can hear voices,” Joyce’s voice said, causing Willow to look up. Giles had given Joyce a scouter which she had put on and held another in his hands.
“Nifty little buggers, aren’t they,” Giles said, “you can hear whatever is being said near the one the other feller is wearing.
“Can I have one, Giles,” Willow asked suddenly. Maybe she wasn’t of much use here, but if she listened in to Oz and Faith she at least wasn’t completely out of the loop.
Giles sighed deeply, then he threw one towards Willow.
“If it will shut you up,” he said irritated. Then he opened another cabinet to show Joyce something else cool. Willow meanwhile put on her scouter and activated it.
“Look, all I know is this fellow comes and goes as he pleases,” a voice said in a very familiar British accent.
“And you don’t know where he is now,” Oz’s voice said.
“If I knew it I’d tell you.” the familiar British voice said. Now where did she hear that voice before?
“And you’re sure you don’t know who his contact is,” Oz’s voice asked again.
“I think he’s lying,” Faith’s voice said, ‘want me to hurt him some more?”
“Look I’m telling you the truth,” the familiar British voice said vehemently, “I’m just a small cog in a bigger machine.”
“No, I don’t think he knows where our boy is,” Oz’s voice said.
“Fine,” Faith’s voice said, “then we go elsewhere. To Willy’s and beat up some demons. It’s been a long time since I got to kill anything. I’m sure that if I kill a few demons they will start telling me where I can find this Ethan Rayne.”
“Ethan Rayne,” Willow exclaimed out loud.
“Will, is that you,” Oz’s voice asked.
“Ethan,” Giles said, suddenly all business, as he looked at Willow, then at Joyce, “give me that thing.”
“Oz,” Willow said into the scouter, “that guy you’re with , the one with the accent, that’s Ethan Rayne.”
“You sure,” Oz asked.
“I heard his voice last year, Oz,” Willow said, “that’s the voice of Ethan Rayne!”
Then Giles butted in the conversation as he put on the scouter Joyce had been wearing.
“If you’re holding Ethan I hereby order you to kick him in the nuts,” he said viciously, “I want you to hurt that sodding wanker!”
“Are you going to continue doing that,” Amün, former Goa’uld warlord asked looking out over the moonlit mountains.
Belmovekk didn't bother reply to the gold clad replica of himself and continued his meditative kata. It didn’t help with driving the Goa'uld presence from his mind but at least it allowed him to ignore his unwanted visitor. He wasn't sure how the Goa'uld had survived. Yet somehow he did. He seemed invisible to anyone but him. At first he thought Amün was just a figment of his imagination. Maybe he had gone mad.
But he didn't feel mad. He felt the same as ever, with some new bad memories and an imaginary friend richer. Now he could possibly return to the SGC and have them check him out. But he didn't exactly relish being probed by their doctors again. And asking for help came hard to Saiyans. The greater the problem, the greater the reluctance.
So he had shut himself off from the others and tried finding a solution for his problem his own way. He had gone for excessive meditation. Of course, being Saiyan, the Saiyan way to meditate meant clearing the mind through rigorous exercise, not quiet contemplation. Which is why he had come again to his mountain lodge. Meditating was hard enough in Sunnydale and the accursed Hellmouth interfering all the time. He also held the small hope that maybe it was that which somehow caused the Goa'uld spectre to be manifest.
Moving to the lodge however didn't drive away the Goa'uld presence, neither did the meditation. Like a mosquito it continued buzzing around his consciousness, always just out of reach yet never far away either. From time to time he manifested himself to make some snide comments.
“We’re wasting time,” Amün spoke again, “the vision of Anubis continues to grow ever closer.”
Belmovekk said nothing, but continued his exercises. The Goa’uld spectre turned around and faced the Saiyan.
“Don’t you even care,” Amün asked gesturing around, “I thought you cared for this world as well?”
Belmovekk still refused to acknowledge the Goa’uld. Who then rolled his eyes and sighed. Then he looked to his side.
“You have company,” he said.
Belmovekk looked up. Flying in low across the forest came in Buffy and Xander.
“Now I wonder what they want,” Amün said softly in Belmovekk’s ears. Who gave his tormentor a death glare before standing up straight while he tightened up his training gi as he awaited the arrival of Buffy and Xander.
“B-man, long time no see,” Xander smiled as he and Buffy landed in front of the Saiyan, “in fact a very long time.”
“What brings you kids here,” Belmovekk replied.
“They’re worried about you,” Buffy answered, folding her arms across her chest.
“Again,” the Saiyan said semi-surprised, “it seems like we have been her before, right?”
“I wasn’t there, remember,” Buffy said back.
“I wish I had some chocolate,” Xander said wistfully. Belmovekk gave him an odd look.
“You can go back,” he said, “tell them I am fine. There is no flight into alcohol’s bitter embrace here. I am just meditating.”
“Bull,” Buffy snorted, “you’re on a guilt trip. Don’t deny it. I’ve seen it with Angel. He wrote the book on brooding.”
From the periphery of Belmovekk’s vision Amün came by and walked around Buffy.
“You should listen to her, Saiyan. You’ve been ‘brooding’ for far too long. Smart girl,” he said, then he looked at her, “she’s hiding something though.”
“I am not brooding,” Belmovekk countered, “I am meditating. I can’t do that back in Sunnydale. The Hellmouth interferes with that.”
“So you’re just going to leave my mother alone like that,” Buffy said accusingly, “what kind of man are you? She’s eight months pregnant and bloated like a whale!”
Belmovekk winced somewhat under those words. Then he recovered.
“Your mother is not as frail as she seems, young lady. She is a strong woman, and very independent I might add. She also has plenty of time left.”
“You do know that nine months is just a guideline, right,” Buffy pointed out, “and babies don’t exactly come with a schedule in mind.”
“Saiyan births are like clockwork,” Belmovekk shrugged, “I have no worries. Have faith!”
“It’s hard to have faith in the likes of you,” Buffy said angry, “every time I think you may not be so bad as I thought you pull another stunt like this.”
Xander stepped up and put his hand on Buffy’s shoulder. She looked around with venom in her eyes.
“Are you going to defend him again,” she said, “riding to the rescue again?”
Xander shook his head.
“No, you made some good points. And I think deep down he also knows they’re true. Maybe the question we should be asking is why he feels the need to leave Joyce and come here meditating?”
“Feisty and smart,” Amün said smiling at Belmovekk, “so, what are you going to say to that, Saiyan?”
“I am fine,” Belmovekk said to the two teens, “honest. It is just that…”
“Just what,” asked Amün with a big grin.
“… it is of no concern,” Belmovekk finally said, “you can go back. Once I have concluded my meditations I will return and stand by your mother.”
Both Buffy and Amün rolled their eyes. The only difference was that the Goa’uld acted first.
“This has gone on long enough,” Amün said and reached to touch the Saiyan, “if you’re not going to listen to reason from your friends then listen to this!”
As soon as the Goa’uld apparition touched him Belmovekk found himself suddenly transported back into the Vale of Aldur, standing underneath the eternal tree that stood at its center. Also standing there alone.
“There’s something you don’t see every day,” he said and reached out to touch the tree. He half expected it to be an apparition but it felt surprisingly solid.
“Hello, old friend,” he said wistfully, “long time no see.”
Belmovekk looked around and took a deep breath. It smelt exactly as he remembered. In the distance he could see the towers from his fellow sorcerers on the other side his own dome. He felt tempted to go visit the twins, to see if they had something on the fire. They nearly always had. Or go visit Belgarath and have a pot of ale. But why bother. This place couldn’t be real, right?
“Do I now have your attention,” a familiar voice said beside him. It was his ever present gnat and current bane of his existence.
“Where are we,” Belmovekk asked his evil twin Amün
“Your mind,” Amün said and gestured around, “a somewhat boring place, but from what I gather it seems to have a tranquil effect on you. Will you now, finally, please listen to me?”
“If it means you will shut up,” Belmovekk said and sat down against the tree.
“Finally,” Amün sighed and sat opposite him.
“How did you do this,” Belmovekk asked.
“I’ve been burrowing around in your mind these past weeks,” Amün said, “you’ve certainly led an interesting life shall we say.”
“I’ve been around,” Belmovekk said, “now let’s get to the point, shall we.”
“You must act to stop the vision of Anubis,” Amün said. Belmovekk threw his head back against the tree in exasperation.
“You’ve been blabbering on about that vision for ever since I returned,” he said, “and you bored your own men also. Risking their lives. Now tell me this. You loathed Anubis. You hated him so much you went to extra-ordinary lengths to capture me for my power. Why did you suddenly change from Anubis hater to Anubis follower?”
“I did not,” Amün huffed indignant, “I still hate him. But he had a vision that motivated him that he shared with me. When I destroyed his body, in a moment of perfect clarity, I saw what it was. It scared me to the bones. It must not come to pass. You know of the Ancients?”
“Mortal beings who shed their mortal bodies in favor of an immortal existence as bodiless shades and think they improved themselves. They probably fancy themselves as Gods. Like you lot.”
Amün ignored the barb and continued.
“Anubis was unique in the sense that when we united against him and cast him out he didn’t die, but ascended. The only Goa’uld to ever do so. He joined the Ancients and learned of their secrets and lore. Naturally him being his own self they eventually cast him out. But he took with him some of their knowledge, the ability to exist between life and death and the vision. He sought to become overlord to prevent that vision from coming to fruition.”
“Then why didn’t you help him?”
“Like I said,” Amün snorted in disgust, “Anubis can’t help being Anubis. He may wish to unite the Goa’uld against the coming darkness, it will not stop him from seeking revenge against us for overthrowing him in the first place. If he is the cure, it will be just as bad as the disease.”
“Puhlease,” Belmovekk snorted in return, “last time I checked, once you defeated him and learned of this vision you came straight to Earth to destroy it.”
“That was because I knew very little of the Tau’ri homeworld,” Amün countered, “all I knew was that the Tau’ri were cunning and resourceful warriors who wouldn’t take kindly to me coming to their world and looking things over. I had to resort to brute force tactics. The danger was too great. Also the destruction of the Tau’ri homeworld meant that my ascension to Goa’uld overlord would be assured.”
“For your own good,” Belmovekk said.
“No, never,” Amün said passionately, “you must believe me that I had only the best intentions. Lust for power was never my main goal. I only had the welfare of my people and the peoples of this Galaxy at heart. Besides the danger coming from the Tau’ri homeworld there were also threats coming from other Galaxies. Threats which require that my people would cease their endless bickering and unite to face the common threats.”
Suddenly from across the hills came a low rumbling sound, one that seemed to grow ever nearer. As Belmovekk looked up he could see an army of small robotic insects come crawling into view. There must have been tens of millions of them as they crawled into the Vale, onto and over everything, covering the landscape from the west as far as he could see. And then they stopped, just a few meters away from them.
“Impressive,” Belmovekk said as he got up and walked over to the creatures. They just stood there as he knelt before them.
“They seem relatively harmless. Nothing a Super Saiyan can’t handle.”
“Can you or your friends be everywhere,” Amün asked behind him, “for they are currently ravaging the Asgard Galaxy and the Asgard are losing.”
“You are kidding, right,” Belmovekk said, looking over his shoulder, “even Freeza took care dealing with the Asgard. They are the most technologically advanced beings known in the universe.”
“They’re drawn to advanced technology,” Amün said, kneeling besides Belmovekk, he then touched one of the creatures and it fell apart into a multitude of smaller blocks. He then picked up a block and gave it to Belmovekk.
“This is what they really are,” Amün said, “they can combine into any shape they desire and adapt to every situation. Once one of these gets onto one of your ships it will create new ones at an exponential rate. The Asgard fleets and worlds are being overrun one at a time. The Tau’ri know this. They give aid and council to the Asgard.”
“I see,” Belmovekk said as he threw the block back on its heap, “why am I not surprised?”
“But because they give aid and council to the Asgard, Anubis foresaw that the Replicators will learn of this Galaxy. It almost happened once, as the struggle between Apophis and the Tau’ri caused their ships to stray into Replicator space. It is inevitable, Saiyan, they will come to this Galaxy. And my people will be unable to stop them unless they unite. And when my people fall, so will this Galaxy.”
From the east came another noise, the sound of many feet marching. Aircraft flow over the eastern hills and started circling the Vale. Then an army, as far as the eye could see walked over the hills and into the Vale. High in the sky several large spaceships could be seen, taking up station over the Vale. As the army neared it also halted. Then it parted and a man walked up, carrying a staff. He had a hood that covered his face but Belmovekk could see that the man’s eyes were clouded in milky white. The man, looking very much a priest, walked up to the duo, past the tree and then halted. He threw off his hood, showing a bald head. Then he spoke.
“Hallowed are the Ori.”
“HALLOWED ARE THE ORI,” the army shouted.
Amün walked up to the priest like figure and then around him.
“From other Galaxies come the Ori,” he said.
“They don’t look that impressive,” Belmovekk said as he followed the Goa’uld spectre, “as armies come I’ve seen better. The Jaffa alone could whip their asses.”
“Their numbers are boundless,” the Goa’uld said, “their faith unshakable and their priests can perform miracles.”
Belmovekk stood before the priest, who now ignored them and tried to look into those milky white eyes.
“Who do they worship,” he asked, “who are those Ori?”
“Ancients who demand they be worshipped,” Amün said.
“Stole a book from your pages then,” Belmovekk smiled at the Goa’uld spectre.
“This is nothing to be trifled with,” Amün said angry, “the Goa’uld are flawed, I’ll admit that. But we only demand that our orders be followed. To us religion is a tool. To the Ori religion is a goal in itself. They demand total obedience, total submission. They will not rest until every being in this Galaxy bows down to them, and does nothing else but that. Think what you may of my kind but compared to the Ori we are the lesser of two evils.”
Belmovekk thought it over for a moment.
“Hmm, while I agree these can be problematic, I still fail to see why you were so gung ho to destroy Earth?”
Amün held up three fingers.
“Anubis foresaw three threats that would come forth and bring ruin to the Goa’uld. You have seen the two that would come from outside the Galaxy. Behold the abomination that will come from this world.”
He didn’t have to look around to know something was there. He did anyway.
It was the weirdest creature he had ever seen. It was mottled green, like an insect, with black wings on its back. Yet also man shaped with a very human looking face. One that dripped with pure malice.”
“Behold the true face of Anubis’ terror,” Amün said. Then it was gone. As were the armies of both Replicators and the Ori.
“Don’t you see,” he said, “our missions are identical. You were sent to fight a great evil. Now you’ve seen its face. Can you now please stop fighting me and your friends and get on with stopping it?”
Before Belmovekk could reply he found himself suddenly back on his mountain on Earth again, with Buffy and Xander looking at him curiously.
“Are you alright,” Xander asked, “you were gone there for a moment.”
“I’m fine, young man,” the Saiyan said.
“So you’re stayin’ then,” Buffy asked sullen.
“No,” Belmovekk said after some thinking, “maybe I have been wrapped up to much in my own pain lately. It is time to resume my responsibilities. I will return with you.”
Buffy looked too surprised to say anything.
“Why the sudden reversal,” Xander asked equally surprised, “and does this mean you will be back with us?”
“No,” Belmovekk said shaking his head, “I meant it when I said I was going to mind my own business, young man, It is just that I do have business of my own to tend to. Business that I have been neglecting.”
“Bummer,” Xander sighed, then he smiled, “I guess this means I’ll finally get some more chocolate again.
“Xander,” Buffy sighed in despair. The Goa’uld spectre walked up to Xander who had this wistful smile on his face.
“Maybe you should hasten your return, Saiyan,” he said as he examined Xander up close, “this child is under the influence of something.”
In the factory Ethan knew something was up as soon as he saw the kid react to some unheard voice.
“Will, is that you,” he said, one hand on that thing on his left ear.
“Is that Red,” the girl asked as she looked over her shoulder., “she finally got Jeeves to do something useful?”
The kid held up an arm to signal her to be quiet.
“You sure,” he asked. Oh, that didn’t look good. Time for plan B. To bad it took so long.
“What’s going on,” Ethan asked, looking at both of their faces. The look the kid gave him next told Ethan everything he needed to know. The jig was indeed up.
“Will says this is Ethan Rayne,” the kid said pointing at him. Next they both looked at him. The girl especially looked pissed.
“Told you he was lying,” she said angry, then kicked over his chair, causing Ethan to fall onto the floor. She then put her boot on his neck and applied pressed down hard, making him gasp for air as he clawed at her boot.
“You’re going to tell us what we want to know or I’m going to break stuff,” she said angry, “and I don’t mean inanimate objects!”
“Ah…..can’t….breathe,” Ethan gasped. Meanwhile the kid knelt beside him, holding up three fingers.
“Why, who and how,” he said.
By now Ethan started to turn quite blue and the kid signaled the girl to ease off. Reluctantly she did and Ethan could finally start breathing again. Her boot was still on his neck though
“Again with the why,” the kid asked.
“It was just a harmless little fun,” Ethan said panting, “Nothing more.”
The kid picked up a paper and held it in front of Ethan’s face.
“Harmless little fun,” he said and pointed at a set of figures, “it says here this whole operation costs more then it brings in. You sell this candy below cost. Again with the why?”
“I’m telling the truth,” Ethan said, if only he could stall for a little longer.
“I think he needs more encouragement,” the girl said. She replaced her foot on his neck with her knee and brought one hand to his crotch.
“Some say electro-stimulation can be quite pleasurable,” she smiled viciously, then electricity started to arc from her hand and Ethan felt pain like he never had before. After what seemed like an eternity in which he screamed his lungs out she stopped her torture.
“I guess you’re not into that particular kink,” she said, “now, to rephrase Short Stuff, why, who and how!”
“Alright,” Ethan gasped, sweat dripping down his forehead, “it was a diversion.”
“A diversion for what,” the kid asked.
“I don’t know,” Ethan said, “they just paid me to do it.”
“Who did,” the girl asked.
“Some black vampire,” Ethan said and the two teens looked at each other.
“Trick,” the girl said, sounding very annoyed. They then looked at Ethan again.
”How do we end this,” the kid asked.
“It will wear out eventually,” Ethan replied, “once they stop eating the candy. Even quicker if you perform a simple purgative spell.”
The kid put his hand on the device on his left ear.
“You getting that, Will,” he asked.
“I still don’t get it,” the girl said, “a diversion to what? What would be the point?”
“I guess nobody is paying much attention to their belongings at the moment,” the kid said, “they could probably rob the whole town and walk away with everything.”
“That does sound very much like Trick, the greedy bastard,” the girl agreed, she then got up and pointed towards Ethan, “and what do we do with this piece of garbage?”
As soon as she stopped touching Ethan a ring on his left hand started to glow.
“Finally,” Ethan muttered, then he looked up at the two teens, “wish we could chat further, darlings, but unfortunately, vincere!”
And with that he disappeared before their very eyes. In the Library where Willow was still listening over her scouter she could suddenly hear a lot of agitated and very colorful language.
As Belmovekk, Buffy and Xander returned to Sunnydale they noticed something was wrong. The town felt like spring summer break had come to town with a vengeance. To the surprise of the trio, gangs of adults of all ages roamed the town, looking for some fun to be had. They also came across a few demons taking advantage of the situation as they were engaged in some breaking and entering. After having set them straight in the error of their ways the trio made for the Library.
In the Library they found the other Scoobies. Giles, dressed in a leather jacket and with way to much hair gel in his hair, sat at the head of the table, his head resting on his arms looking like the proverbial cat had had him for dinner, then coughed him up in a giant hairball. Joyce also was present, looking equally forlorn, only sitting at the other end of the table. Willow sat in between them, a magic book in front of her, together with some magical items. Oz sat beside her, nodding in recognition as they came in, while Faith sat on the counter looking very, very, pissed. From Giles’ office came the sound of a radio playing softly.
“What happened,” Buffy asked. At the sound of her question both Giles and Joyce glance at each other briefly.
“Something's happened,” Oz said, “not sure what though.”
“The whole town’s in chaos,” Buffy said pointing outside.
“Funny you should mention chaos,” Willow said somewhat uncomfortable, then she bit her lip for a while, “Ethan Rayne was in town.”
“Ethan,” Buffy shrieked, her voice going up an octave, “he did this? Please tell me you got him, right?”
“Bastard got away,” Faith said angry from her counter. Buffy gave her a quick glance.
“Why am I not surprised,” she snorted.
“Hey,” Faith exploded in anger, “it’s not my fault the bad guys come with teleporters these days. In Boston the baddies don’t teleport when you got your foot on their necks!”
“He fooled me as well,” Oz interjected, who then proceeded to tell what happened, together with Willow. From the crashed gig in the Bronze to what happened after Ethan’s escape. When they found out that someone had indeed hit every bank and jeweller in Sunnydale. That even now Sunnydale was still under the ‘influence’ as it were. They told that Willow had used a purgative spell to cleanse Giles and Joyce, but they skipped on the twosome having done the smoochies period.
“I don't get this,” Xander said afterwards, “the candy's supposed to make you feel all immature and stuff, but I've had a ton, and I didn't feel any dif...”
Xander stopped talking after Buffy gave him a glare o’doom.
“You sure about that, Elwood,” she said sternly.
“Never mind,” Xander said.
As the talk went on regarding the recent events Belmovekk sat down next to Joyce and took her in his arms.
“I am sorry,” he said, “I should have been here.”
She said nothing but returned his embrace.
“They must have gotten away with millions,” he heard Oz say, “tomorrow was going to be the first day of the month. Pay day.”
“They didn’t do this for the money,” an all too familiar voice, laid over with overtones, said. Belmovekk turned his head and saw Amün leaning against the cage.
“Anybody who can pull this off doesn’t need to resort to gaudy tricks just to steal some money,” the Goa’uld said, “whoever he is, he’s smart and resourceful. But he overplayed his hand. This town hasn’t got the amount of money to warrant flaunting so much power. The question you should ask yourself, Saiyan, what was he really after?”
Belmovekk thought it over and he found himself in agreement with the Goa’uld.
“Now you see what happens when you neglect your duties,” Amün said, “your enemies won’t take a break when you take one.”
As the group was all busy discussing what had happened, nobody paid any attention to the radio playing in Giles’ office.
“In a shocking accident today in Oxnard General Medical hospital a fire broke out in the maternity ward. Firefighters fought the blaze and managed to rescue most of the infants to the relief of worried parents. Firefighters however were unable to rescue six of the infants and the children died in the fire. In a show of solidarity Oxnard Mayor Desmond Daly declared that tomorrow would be a day of mourning for the stricken city. Our thoughts and prayers go the poor families who were….”
“I’m very pleased,” Mayor Wilkins said as he seated himself on his desk in his office. In the other side of the room Mr. Trick and Ethan Rayne stood at attention.
“We managed to obfuscate the Slayers, our alien friend and managed to pay off my debt to Lurconis without anybody taking notice.”
Trick smiled self-congratulatory.
“Like I told Kakistos. This is the 20th century. No need to shop local when you can shop global.”
“Indeed,” Wilkins smiled, “and he should have done well heeding your advice. And maybe so should the Slayers.”
Wilkins started to laugh about his own joke. Trick didn’t join in, but smiled slightly as he waited for Wilkins to stop laughing. Ethan didn’t smile at all.
“About those Slayers,” Ethan said, “I don’t appreciate being kept in the dark, there are now suddenly two of them. I thought one was one to many, thank you very much! I barely made it out in time.”
To illustrate his point he pointed to his neck which still had Faith’s footprint.
“You got away, didn’t you,” Trick shrugged.
“No thanks to your men,” Ethan bit back, “they were nowhere to be seen when that other Slayer hit my factory. And my own men were watching for the wrong Slayer!”
“Maybe you stayed to long,” Trick shrugged, “why did you stay, the plan had already worked.”
“I had things to finish,” Ethan countered, “now it cost me my ring.”
“Ah, the ring of Casanova,” Wilkins said admiringly as he noticed a dull looking gem ring on Ethan’s left hand, “the one which got him more then once out of the clutches from jealous husbands.”
“If you ask me, one time too many,” Ethan said looking at his ring, “it barely worked.”
“Such is the fate of magical artifacts, Mr. Rayne, they aren’t inexhaustible.”
“Well, it’s going to cost you extra,” Ethan huffed.
“Relax, Mr. Rayne,” Wilkins said, holding up a hand, “thanks to you we not only got our job done, we managed to score a little on the side as well. Money won’t be a problem.”
“Good! And next time it will cost even more,” Ethan said. Wilkins nodded, he could understand the sentiment.
“Of course,” he said as he got off his desk and walked up to Trick.
“Now, if you excuse us,” he said to the vampire, “you can rest now. Mr. Rayne and I have to work out a little ‘additional compensation’ before he leaves again.”
Trick looked at Wilkins, then at Ethan and then back at Wilkins again.
“Relax,” Wilkins smiled, “you’ll still have plenty of time to beg him for that spell you’re dying to get.”
Trick’s eyes grew a little bigger in surprise, then they became normal again and he nodded, before leaving the room. Wilkins smiled at Ethan and invited him to sit. Then he walked to his drinks cabinet.
“Now,” he said as he opened the cabinet, “about that other matter….”
It was late at night when Belmovekk returned to his place. He had dropped off Joyce earlier and feigned he’d be back a little later. As he closed the front door he saw a familiar figure standing in the corridor.
“It is time,” Amün said.
“I know,” Belmovekk replied and walked past the Goa’uld, “that does not mean I look forward to it.”
“If it’s any consolation, Saiyan, I do not like it any much either,” Amün said as he followed Belmovekk, “I forbade it when I was still, well, me. But we have no choice. We have wasted enough time already. Your enemy has made his move. We need to know the full picture.”
“I agree,” Belmovekk said as he entered the gravity gym control room. Carefully not to drop any of Cordelia’s Cosmos stacked on top of a small table he pulled it aside to gain access to the wall. He then tapped a particular pattern with his fingers on a section of the wall, then he applied pressure. The wall opened to reveal a hidden passageway going downstairs.
“After you,” Amün said. Belmovekk stepped inside and the wall closed behind him.