The Cold Light of Day (Part 1)
Again, I'm so incredibly impressed with how many people liked this story (on TtH at least) and took the time to review. Your reviews really helped me get past some of the more annoying parts of this chapter. I hope that this section meets with a similar amount of favor.
And the site screwed up my apostrophes and quotation marks again. Think I caught them all again but . . .
Once again, I own nothing but my fickle, semi-psychotic muse. Do not sue me; I have nothing worth taking.
The Cold Light of Day (Part I)
Mayor Richard Wilkins the third came as close to glaring as he ever permitted himself as he read the report from his sources about the chaos of the night before. If that arrogant fool Rayne hadn't gotten himself killed . . .
But he had, and no point in crying over spilled milk. A sigh escaped his lips as he finally released his anger as unproductive. This was, after all, one of the plurality of reasons he'd built Sunnydale over a Hellmouth. Even the most blatant evidence of the supernatural was forgotten quickly under the mind-numbing influence of the dimensional shear created by the poorly sealed portal. Aside from those already aware of the 'nightlife,' everyone should forget about it within the week. Any memories distorted, so that, within a month the people would only remember that the children had been particularly poorly behaved. All of the violence and deaths forgotten in favor of "Those teenagers and their rap music!"
Finished with his perusal of the statement, Mayor Wilkins looked up at his deputy, "Very well done as usual, Allen. A model report!" his customary smile decorating his features, and some of the tension bled out of the Deputy Mayor's shoulders. "The only problem I see is that we don't have any information on who attacked poor mister Rayne," and there was the tension again. No reason to let the help get too complacent, after all.
"My apologies, sir," he squeaked, "but I'm afraid that most of our sources were, ah, occupied with their own concerns at the time,"
He'd expected that. Good help was so hard to find these last few decades. "Well, gosh, Allen. I'm afraid we're going to have to terminate some contracts over this little gaffe. Draw up a list of those responsible, and I'll make the cuts later," Allen nodded gathering his things up and preparing to get started on his newest task.
That was his . . . humanity-challenged constituents dealt with, now what was he forgetting . . .
"Oh, Allen, one more thing," he called as the other man was walking out the door.
"Sir?" ah, nervous again. Poor Allen, he really needed to consider a vacation.
"Is there any evidence that the Slayer might have been involved in Mister Rayne's regrettable demise?"
"No, Sir, the . . . brutal nature of the assault is far outside of what our profiles suggest the Slayer feels comfortable with. And that doesn't even consider her known reluctance to kill humans. Its more likely that he was killed by someone possessed by one of his own costumes,"
"Ironic, that. Thank you, Allen."
Giles shot straight into a sitting position as he woke, the last memories of his dreams flashing through his thoughts. He looked around in a panic for several moments before he realized where he was. The davenport in my office.
He realized suddenly. Bloody idiotic place to fall asleep. All it would take is one vampire wandering up from the sewers . . .
Not a pleasant thought, that. And the dreams he'd had the night before! Willow and Buffy as vampires, Dawn pointing a gun at me.
It must have been the presence of the Hellmouth below the library infiltrating his sleep.
A clank from the main room of the library drew his attention, but a muttered comment calmed his suddenly racing heart. Xander's voice.
Giles frowned and glanced at the clock. What, in the name of all that is yet Holy could cause
Xander to be in the library at seven o'clock in the morning on a Saturday?
He wracked his brain for anything Buffy might have said about a project for one of her classes but came up empty-handed.
Maybe it was just a remnant of his nightmares, but fresh anxiety began to stir in the pit of his stomach. It took several seconds and an effort of will to calm his heartbeat and slow his breathing back to something approaching normal. Calmly, old boy, no need for that.
Adrenaline, he decided, was the province of the young, but there was no need to unsettle the children by seeming flustered. He looked around his office for his electric kettle, hoping to use the familiar ritual of preparing a pot of Earl Grey to settle his still shaky nerves a bit only to find it missing. Must have taken it home to wash.
Irrationally irritated by its absence, he resolved himself to suffering through the sludge that passed for coffee from the dispensing machine in the Teacher's Lounge. For having slept all night, he certainly felt exhausted.
He walked out into the main area of the library to check on the children before he left in search of caffeine only to freeze in shock at what he saw. The blood in his face drained clear of his throat and for a moment he swayed slightly on his feet.
Black hair, just like the dream. And before she could have even begun to turn around he knew he'd see eyes the color of fresh blood. The dreamlike quality the night before had taken on was stripped away by the light of All Saints Day, revealed as a comforting delusion. Had it simply been his charge, he might still have been tempted to believe himself dreaming or insane, but Xander was there as well as Dawn pouring over books from his extensive Occult collection. While a fourth person, a young woman he didn't recognize tapped away at one of the school's infernal computers. And they were drinking tea out of his missing kettle. Fortunately, they were all intent enough on their work that they hadn't noticed him as he entered.
So he took a breath for calm, then a second, and cleared his throat. All of their eyes turned to him, and suddenly he was surrounded by a quartet of concerned students, though Buffy and the other high-school aged girl hung back a bit. He inspected his charge's face, only peripherally aware of Dawn carefully checking his pulse and temperature.
She was worried, though she hid it well; masking it first with a Slayer's cold confidence and again a second time with something he couldn't quite recognize. But a Watcher had to be able to read his Slayer's body language as well as if not better than he could read dead languages. She was afraid-though of course she'd
never call it that-that he wouldn't be able to accept her. But layered over that concern was an-an armor of cultured apathy that his Buffy had never carried. He could almost hear a sneer in her voice just looking at her. He'd need to talk to her and to get her to talk to him, but this wasn't the time.
He allowed his inspection to pass to the young woman beside her, and for another half-second he didn't recognize her. But then something about the way she seemed to fidget nervously without moving, about the way she almost but not quite bit her lip anxiously registered and his eyes flew wide. "Dear Lord, you're Willow,"
There was absolute silence for a moment before Buffy began sniggering behind her hand. Willow shot her a glare and started to open her mouth, a ferocious scowl on her features, but before she could speak Xander and Dawn lost their own battle to contain their laughter and even Giles found himself chuckling, stress bleeding off of him in waves. Finally Willow shook her head and began to laugh as well.
His children had been changed the night before, altered in a fundamental way, but they were alive and together, and for the moment that was all that mattered.
Dawn flipped the page roughly in disgust. She'd only been reading through this book for a few minutes, but she could tell there was nothing in it that would be worthwhile at all. Just like all of the other books in the Watc-In Mr. Giles-collection, and despite claims to the contrary, it discussed only the demonic breed of Vampires that plagued Sunnydale in detail. I'd give away the Manor right now for a single reliable text!
The thought slipped out naturally and Dawn grimaced at it. May that idiot Rayne burn forever for that reckless stunt.
The movement was small. If Dawn had been focused on her work she might have missed it. For a single instant more sensed than seen, her sister froze. There were very few things in Heaven or on Earth or in the Pit that could bother Alucard, and if one of them was around they were all probably dead anyway. More likely that this was a purely Buffy issue. Which meant . . .
/Alu-Lilith, give him a moment/ she ordered over the telepathic link the seals gave her to her family's 'pet.' A feeling of irritation flowed back down the link along with some small amount of martyred patience.
/Would you like to teach me how to tie my shoes as well, Master?/ though her sister's face remained impassive, she could feel the annoyed glower camouflaged under it. Still, better that Bu-Lilith-work out her annoyance on someone other than the Watcher. A quick glance confirmed that Xander had noticed her sister's flinch, but had also extrapolated the reason that she'd done it. No harm to be done there. Dawn didn't even bother to look at Willow. Despite the fact that she was now True Nosferatu, she simply didn't have the experience that Integra and Walter had possessed.
So when Giles cleared his throat, the only one in the room who was genuinely surprised was Willow over at her computer. An outside observer could be forgiven for not noticing it. Xander immediately ducked back behind his 'look at me, I'm an idiot' mask, joking and smiling like he always did. His own serious side, now reinforced by Walter's sense of duty hidden behind the jester's faÃ§ade.
Dawn made the appropriate sounds of greeting before immediately checking the aging librarian's vitals. He'd been in a severe state of shock earlier that morning, and he was probably having issues with stress at the moment as well. The last thing they needed was for him to have a heart attack on top of everything else.
Willow and Bu-Lilith-she corrected herself quickly, the last thing she needed was for her sister to have a hissy fit and upset the librarian, held back with something that approached actual nervousness from both vampires.Will wonders never cease?
Dawn was well aware of how the Watcher's silence was affecting Willow and her sister.
"Dear Lord, you're Willow,"
Lilith lost it, completely and totally. Dawn truly tried to remain calm, if only to help preserve the poor girl's injured dignity, but the irrepressible amusement flowing down her bond from her sister in waves was simply too much to resist. After a few moments even Willow joined in. Injured dignity or not, Giles' shock was still hilarious.
And they'd needed
that laughter. As a shared moment and a reduction of tensions it was absolutely invaluable, a necessary reminder that, despite the previous night's events, they were still them
. And all of them were loath to let the moment end.
But end it did, Giles, ever the stoic Englishman, disentangled himself from the quartet of students, retrieved his teacup from behind the Library's counter, and poured himself a generous portion of the electric kettle's contents. That seemed to be enough like a signal for everyone else to re-congregate around the research table, once more somber.
Giles took a sip of his tea, apparently trying to gather his thoughts, then started and stared into his cup. "Good Lord," another sip. "This is quite remarkable," Giles shot a look around the table, obviously searching for the one responsible for what he was no doubt considering a minor miracle.
"No trouble at all, G-man," Xander said, a grin developing on his face as Giles stared.
"I take it that this is a manifestation of your costumed persona?"
"Yep, I dressed as Walter Dornez,"
Giles nodded as though that meant something to him while he continued to drink what Dawn knew was extremely well prepared tea. "That leads in well enough to what we need to discuss," Giles said as he set his cup down on its saucer. He took a deep breath and looked at each of the others in turn. "I need to know everything you can remember about what happened last night and about the characters you dressed as and I need to know it now."
Dawn was taken aback by Giles' forceful statement and the urgency behind it. A quick glance around the room showed that the others shared her astonishment. The normally calm, cool, and collected Watcher and Librarian was very, very worried.
Their suddenly nervous stares must have been a sight because Giles sighed and began to point out a problem that Dawn, even with Integra's memories, hadn't anticipated and Lilith, despite Alucard's powers, had overlooked. "Buffy," he said ignoring Lilith's irritated glare, "was the Slayer. One girl in all the world. And when one dies . . ." he trailed off as Dawn, Xander, and Willow paled and Lilith flinched.
"Another is called," Lilith bit out. "Damn."
"Indeed," Xander agreed with a concerned frown, "They'll discover a new Slayer has been activated soon if they haven't already."
"That's not the worst of it, though," Giles interrupted. "All Field Watchers are required to report to the Council as soon as possible after their Slayer has died; there have been cases where particularly resourceful vampires have managed to turn both a Slayer and her Watcher. If I fail to report for more than fifteen or twenty hours they will send a number of persons to Sunnydale to make certain that none of the secrets of the Council can be exposed.
"Furthermore," he continued in an even more dire tone, "the Council has ways to make certain that they aren't being lied to. Any report I send to them will have to first, cover up the fact that Buffy-or rather Lilith-is a vampire, second, assure the Council that she is not in any position to reveal any classified information, third be professional and detailed enough that the senior members of the Council feel no need to investigate the matter, and finally contain absolutely nothing that is untrue." The Watcher looked out over the small assembly in front of him. "Time is of the essence here. Let's be about it."
Giles removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes as he looked down at the letter in front of him, making absolutely certain that every detail was correct and, at least as importantly, convincing.
It had taken until just before noon. Longer than he'd hoped, but not so long as he'd feared for his children to give him an adequate understanding of Mideons-which he still wasn't sure he believed, despite having seen B-Lilith and Willow standing in the sunlight-and the background of the Hellsing organization and the Royal Protestant Knights and their enemies in general. Then it had been up to him to craft an explanation for the night before that was correct in every particular and yet entirely illusory. Now he looked at the finished product on his desk and hoped that it would pass muster.
'Gentlemen and Ladies of the Council of Watchers,' it began.
'I regret to inform you that at or about nine o'clock in the evening on October the Thirty-first of the Year of Our Lord 1997, Slayer Buffy Summers was lost to the foul magic of the Chaos Mage, Ethan Rayne. Magus Rayne invoked the god Janus to power an incantation that transformed unwitting humans into what they had dressed as for Halloween. Upon becoming aware of the disturbance I tracked the spell back to the Costume shop Ethan had set up to facilitate his activities. Upon my arrival I discovered Ethan dead, and his spell broken; however, Slayer Summers body was almost completely liquefied by the backlash caused by the destruction of the spell's focus. I apologize for the tardiness of this report, I'm afraid that due to the difficulty of positively identifying the remains the delay was unavoidable.
With Sincerest Regret,
Watcher Rupert Giles'
The stilted, formal phraseology was nothing more than the Council would expect from a formal communiquÃ©, and the content . . .Reasonably detailed. To the point. Truthful.
And yet completely misleading. It wasn't perfect, but it was the best he was capable of coming up with on short notice. In the future, I'll be certain to have a form letter prepared just in case my Slayer ever gets turned into a non-demonic, blood-sucking, vampire.
A pause And these bloody Americans are starting to infect me with their sarcastic wit.
Giles sighed once again as he began to polish his glasses. He could only hope that the children would be spared what the Council would desire to inflict on them if they were aware of what had truly occurred the previous night. Giles looked at the clock and winced. It was well into the afternoon now, and he'd had less than three hours of sleep in the last day and a half. He wanted his bed in the worst possible way. Instead, he picked up his phone.
Genuine weariness would help confuse any conflicting impressions that the Council's spells might pick up. Besides, he'd sound like an exhausted professional working beyond any consideration of his own comfort to accomplish his duties.
The phone only rang once before it was picked up by the Council's secretary in England. "This is Watcher Giles. I need to speak to Mr. Travers immediately. . ."
Dawn could only be grateful when they arrived at home to find their mother's car still absent from its usual place. Still not back from Los Angeles.
That was nothing but a good thing in her mind. Longer for her to remember that she was no longer nobility, no longer master and commander after God of the Order of Royal Protestant Knights.
And longer for her to convince her sister that she really
needed to at least pretend
to be human. Speaking of acting human . . .
"You know, Lilith, you really ought to stop glaring at the sun; people are starting to notice." An indecipherable mutter answered her cajoling and annoyance filled their mental link.
And the more things changed, the more they stayed the same. Expecting someone with Alucard's memories and ingrained attitudes to voluntarily open up to anyone was a lost cause. "What was that, Lilith? I'm afraid I didn't hear you," she spat at the Nosferatu in an astringent voice.
Lilith glared back for a moment before allowing an exasperated sigh to escape her lips. "These people are fools," she muttered, almost too softly for Dawn to hear her and in a pitch far lower than Buffy would have been able to use. "They live their lives surrounded by the darkness and yet refuse to believe that it exists until they run headlong into it in some dark alley." A snort, "Doubtless some disbelieve it even then."
Dawn strangled a wince, shielding it as well as she could from her link to Lilith. Alucard and, apparently now Lilith as well, had a . . . certain system for classifying people; discreet boxes that she could slot someone into. Those perceptions affected how she treated the person, how well she'd listen to their orders . . . hell, half the time it had determined whether or not Alucard would shoot them outright.
Man, monster, or dog. And Lilith had decided that the vast majority of the human population of Sunnydale wasn't worth the bullet it would take to kill them.
That was . . . suboptimal. "And all the people of England that had no idea that Vampires or Freaks existed? You were not nearly so caustic when it came to them." Dawn responded, never noticing the hint of England that crept into her voice.
Lilith sneered disgustedly, "Ignorance is one thing; willful stupidity is another." A couple people on the street turned and glanced questioningly at her. She ignored them with iron clad disdain. "In nature, nothing so idiotic would be permitted to live," Looking at Lilith, Dawn felt a true prickle of fear and for just a moment, she wondered if her sister had decided to start a massacre after all. But the moment ended and the people that had been watching them blinked and shook themselves, and Dawn could almost see it as they lost interest in their eavesdropping.
"See? Willful stupidity," Lilith indicated the people that had overheard her with a toss of her head, disgust flowing down their link. And Dawn belatedly recognized that her fear hadn't been caused by worry. Lilith had, for just a second, allowed some of her incredible reserve of power loose from her usually strict control, and when she had, everyone that had been giving them odd looks found something else to do with their time.
Dawn found that she couldn't take much exception with her sister's assessment. In England, that little blast of power would have had people fleeing in all directions. Here, most of those affected hadn't even begun to walk faster, and all of them were still going about their day casually, as though they didn't have a care in the world.
Dawn was relieved to duck into their house; her mind was still spinning as Lilith quietly sauntered through a wall and into the kitchen. /You do realize that when Mom gets home you won't be able to do that anymore, don't you?/
The mental equivalent of a snort came back at her down their link. "Why?" the voice echoed out from the kitchen, "Do you really think she'd notice any more than those idiots on the street?"
And that pissed Dawn off. So their mother wasn't the best parent in the world! She tried! Which was better than a lot of parents in this day and age. But she was just as oblivious to the nightlife as anyone else in this Godforsaken town.
Another thought occurred to her, one that she didn't like, but one that was-given Alucard's history-probably affecting Lilith to an unfortunately degree. Her mother and the bastard formerly known as her father had put Buffy in a mental institution after the disaster at Hemery. And while Buffy had managed to forget about it most of the time, Lilith's well hidden fury made it obvious that she hadn't forgiven her parents for it.
And just as she was coming to the conclusion that she needed a lot
more time to even start getting a grip on Lilith's anger issues, she heard her mom's key turn in the lock. Lovely. It doesn't rain but that it pours.
/Oh Lilith, I have a plan . . ./
Joyce walked through the front door thoroughly exhausted. The simple meeting she'd anticipated the evening before had turned into an all night negotiation fest with none of the other participants able to agree on anything except that they required further negotiation. She could barely believe that a bare two years ago, she'd have been right in the thick of the battle and loving it.
Now, though, it all seemed so futile. All she wanted was to take a shower and curl up with her daughters and a good movie for the rest of the afternoon.
Dawn, still in her Halloween costume met her at the door with an enthusiastic hug and Joyce couldn't help but smile. If Buffy hadn't been able to get her out of it, then she must have had a good time the night before. Joyce settled her hand in her youngest daughter's wig, ready to start on getting her back into more normal clothes when the texture of the 'wig' percolated through her tired brain.
"Dawn! You were supposed to wear a wig last night, not dye your hair!" Joyce saw Dawn's wince and forced herself to calm down. All the books she'd read said that teens were going to be rebellious, no matter what she did to try and nip it in the bud. Dawn was just starting earlier than her sister had. At least there wasn't any fire involved this time.
"Its alright, dear, but next time ask me before you decide to become a blond like your sister," Another almost hidden wince and Joyce's mom instincts sat up and took notice. "Dawn, what did Buffy do?"
"Um," Dawn hesitated fidgeting and looking at the floor, "She might have gotten into a fight last night, and there might have been a boy involved, and she might
have dyed her hair and not want to be called Buffy anymore?"
Joyce took a deep breath and tried to calm herself. This was not what she needed after pulling an all nighter at her age. "I think you'd better tell me what happened, Dawn,"
Dawn seemed caught between betraying her sister and listening to her mother for a moment before she spoke, "A boy made her think that her name made her sound easy. She was really mad, Mom," now it was Joyce's turn to wince which turned into a full blown grimace when Dawn continued, "What does 'easy' mean?"
"I'll tell you when you're older, dear" she said as she walked by her youngest, never noticing the amused gleam in Dawn's eyes. It was a measure of how tired she was that she got to the bottom of the stairs before she remembered what else Dawn had said about her older daughter. "And if she doesn't want to be called Buffy, then what does she want to be called?" She'll probably go with Ann if someone's made her think 'Buffy' insinuates . . . something. Poor girl, when I find out what boy is responsible for this he'll wish his mother had never even met his father. In fact-
"She wants to be called Lilith,"
And Joyce closed her eyes and rubbed her forehead in a vain attempt to quell her incipient headache. She couldn't remember precisely what her books said about a teen's mental state when she divorced herself entirely from her former identity, but she knew it wasn't good at all. As she walked up the stairs, she mentally upgraded what she intended to do to the person responsible from 'discussion with parents/disciplinary actions' to 'physical harm/lawsuits.'
With some trepidation, Joyce knocked on her elder daughter's door. "Lilith?"
The voice was clearly audible even through the door. As was the anger that voice carried. "Bu-Lilith, please tell me wha-"
"I said, go away!" she snarled, then, almost as if it had been dragged out of her, "Please. Just leave me alone for a while,"
Joyce hesitated, torn between respecting her daughter's desire for some space and the need to help her, to provide a shoulder for her to cry on. To get the story out of her so that she'd know what was going on. Without time to consult the manual, as it were, she went with her gut feeling. "I'll bring you up some dinner later, dear," she said, trying to keep the worry out of her voice as she headed back down the stairs wondering the whole time if she was making the right decision.
Lilith leaned back on her bed as Joyce walked down the stairs and tried to reconcile her divergent views of the woman. The part of her that was Alucard felt largely contemptuous of her. She'd put her head in the sand after those filth that claimed to be Nosferatu attacked her daughter and refused to take it back out and deal with reality. If it were up to her Alucard-self, she wouldn't have even acknowledged the woman's existence. And yet . . .
'And yet' indeed,
Lilith reflected as she considered the other perspective from the smaller, quieter part of herself; a part of her that had been largely quiet since she woke with her various pieces scattered over the back room of Ethan's shop. Her Buffy-self, in sharp contrast to the part of her that was a four century old Mideon, felt a mix of love and embarrassed gratitude that her mother cared enough to try and help her through a hard time. Gratitude that her mother spent so much of her free time reading those dumb 'How to Raise your Children' books trying so hard to understand her willful sometimes even bratty daughters. She might not be the best mom ever, but she did her best, and Lilith's Buffy-self loved her mother very much.
All this left Lilith in a quandary. Her Buffy-self and her Alucard-self were in direct opposition to each other, and the conflicting emotions were driving her nuts. Shaking her head, she forced the battle into the back of her mind, deliberately thinking about something else while her component selves fought over who was right.
Lilith sat back and thought over what Dawn had said to their mother and felt a certain amount of amusement. It was amazing how much she'd implied without actually saying anything false. One of the few things Buffy and Alucard agreed on was that they were annoyed at being ordered to their room by their younger sister/master and then ordered to follow along with her story. Another was that they needed to get back at Dawn for it.
Speaking of . . . the sun was going down. After a moment's consideration, Lilith decided to follow her Alucard-self's nightly ritual and report to Dawn/Integra for her orders and a very Alucard smile spread over her features. Now, when was the most inconvenient time to show up?
Dawn had just stepped out of the shower and was in the process of reaching for a towel when Lilith stepped through the wall in front of her. She tried to stifle her shriek, but the amused smile on her sister's face told her that she'd failed as did the humor flowing down their telepathic bond. She had a feeling that she'd just been one upped in the 'annoy my sister' department. She briefly contemplated finding her pistol before remembering that she wasn't in the Manor anymore and it was quite likely that the police would be called if she started putting holes in her vampiric servant.
Refusing to give the Mideon any more satisfaction, Dawn composed herself before she spoke, only the hint of England in her voice giving her annoyance away. "I could have sworn I ordered you not to do that here, Lilith," she said in an almost
level voice, glaring at the offending Nosferatu.
The Nosferatu who grinned at her statement, lips pulling back from teeth just
too far for the smile to look right on a human face. "Actually, your exact words were, 'Don't use any of your more inexplicable powers where Mom might see,'" the grin widened. "There was no chance of her seeing anything untoward in this case, so the letter of your order has been obeyed, Little Sister."
Dawn scowled. Damnable annoying vampire.
"Very well, Lilith, were you just pointing out the hole in my orders, or is there a reason you decided to wander in here now?"
The grin widened again
, this time skin slid far enough back to display a wide swath of molars, "Sunset approaches. What are your orders, Master?"
The severity of Dawn's glare at her sister jumped up a notch or two for a moment before she admitted that Lilith had a point, even if she'd been using that point as an excuse to be a pain. "Even in this reality, and even without the Order of Royal Protestant Knights, your orders remain the same. Search and Destroy,"
Sorry about cutting this chapter off in the middle, but if I'd kept going, it would have ended up as a 10,000 word monster. So, in the interest of keeping the chapters roughly the same size, I cut this one in half. This time I covered Giles, Dawn, and Buffy. The next half of the chapter covers what the other half of the group was doing.
Thanks again for all your reviews, and remember to feed the muse.
And that's it, I'm goin' back to bed.'