And Away-y-y We Go!
CHAPTER FOUR: And Away-y-y We Go!
WARNING: Slightly more adult themes in this chapter, including vampires and personal trauma. * * *
Later that morning, while Willow and Xander unpacked – David wouldn’t hear of them staying at the MacTyrie Motor Lodge, when the Sullivans had three extra bedrooms, with Big Billy and JoAnne down in Atlanta at a farm-equipment show until the next Monday – David got on the phone with his Uncle Dale, to have him come up from his own place a few miles down the hollow and have dinner with the rest of the group.
“Be there with bells on, Davy,” the old man had chuckled, “an’ I just talked with Katie; she and the Traders are plannin’ a trip up here ‘round the first week of August, an’ we’ll talk about that
when I get there,” he finished. “See you shortly.” He hung up, leaving David pleased but a little bemused.
David liked Katie McNally very much; the old Irish Trader lady had been terrific for his great-uncle after everything that had happened four summers before, with Ailill and his insane twin Fionna wreaking havoc in the Worlds. David couldn’t help but feel, however, that this was all far too big a coincidence: Liz earning this mysterious scholarship to study abroad; Big Billy and JoAnne not being around when Willow and Xander arrived; and now, Katie’s kin planning a visit, when they hadn’t been back for almost four years? In his experience, things tended to come in threes, and this was three coincidences too many. And since he didn’t believe in coincidences anyway...
He shook his head, trying to dislodge the germ of an idea that had taken root there. No, Sullivan, you are not gettin’ the MacTyrie Gang involved in this one!
The “gang” in question consisted of David; his best friend, Alec McLean; and their other three friends who had quested with them in the lands of Faerie over the last several years: the foolishly handsome, fleet-footed Darrell “Runnerman” Buchanan, who was now being scouted for the Olympics; stocky, bespectacled and blindingly smart Aikin “Mighty Hunter” Daniels, attending UGA on a forestry scholarship; and serious bodybuilder Gary “G-Man” Hudson, who would, upon his graduation that spring from MacTyrie Junior College, be starting work for his father as chief mechanic at the older Hudson’s BMW dealership in MacTyrie. Gary was also the only member of the M-Gang who was married with a child. He and his wife, Tracey, had been married right after the lot of them had graduated high school, and their son was almost three years old.
Somewhere in the house, David heard a telephone ring; glancing down at the cordless receiver he still held in his hand, he saw no lights on it to show that it was the phone in question. Must be a cell phone,
he decided, probably Mi—Willow or Xander’s.
Mentally shrugging, as it was really none of his business, David dropped the handset back onto the charger base and set off to pick up the kitchen a bit before his guests came back downstairs, hollering for Little Billy to come and give him a hand.* * *Upstairs, Sullivan Farmhouse, Enotah County, GA, Same Time
Willow dug frantically through her oversized shoulder bag. “C’mon, c’mon, stupid frilly weird service phone, where are you hidi—ah!” she cackled, pulling the offending item triumphantly out of the bag. “Hello? Oh, hi, Giles!” She flapped her hand at Xander, getting his attention. “Pen?” she mouthed, making writing motions with her finger.
Xander obligingly handed her the pen he’d clipped onto the kangaroo pocket of his sweatshirt, following it with a small spiral notebook, already open to a fresh page.
Scribbling quickly in the notebook, Willow sat on the edge of the neatly made twin bed, bouncing a little as she wrote. “Yes, we made it, uh-huh, right. No, we aren’t in MacTyrie, we’re in Enotah County now, a place called Sulliv—oh, you’ve heard of it? Sullivan Cove? Really?” The redhead pouted a little, even though she knew Giles couldn’t see it. “Oh. Okay, we’re staying at the Sullivan home instead of the MacTyrie Motor Lodge,” she went on. “And I’m guessing the metaphysical properties of that big ole mountain won’t interfere too much with phone service.” There was a long silence, then a furious, “He’s what
?” Willow began to pace, hissing into the phone, “Well, you tell Roger Wyndham-Pryce that he can take that big pompous Watcher-boy attitude and he can sti—yes, yes, I know he’s Wesley’s father, but Wesley grew up
! Why can’t he
?” She paused. “Giiiiles, I can’t do that!” she wailed. “He’s a really nice kid, why would I want to involve him in our crap?”
Another, longer silence, followed by, “Yes, Giles. All right, okay
, I said! Geeze! Okay, I have to go...yes, thank you, and tell Buffy and Dawn I sent my love...” Willow looked over and grinned broadly at Xander, who was making a little heart shape with his hands, and batting his eyelashes at her, “and Xander sends his, too. Good night, Giles, yes, we miss you too, big mushy British man,” she giggled. She closed the phone and replaced it in her bag.
And flopped backwards on the bed, grabbed the pillow, placed it over her face, and let loose with a frustrated bellow. “ARRRRRGGGHHHHHH!!”
Willow bounced up immediately, tossing the pillow at Xander, who caught it. “Oh, just wait till you hear this
one, Xand,” she began, getting to her feet and beginning to pace. “Roger Wyndham-Pryce, the pompous ass
, wants us to” – she held up her fingers in sarcastic air-quotes – “recruit
David for his little team of Seers and psychics.”
Xander was horrified. Wesley was OK, and had earned the Scoobies’ respect despite a rather shaky start. Roger was a different story altogether, a certifiable nightmare walking around in Watcher-y clothing. Not only had he managed to claw, weasel, and back-stab his way into Quentin Travers’ old position as Head of the Council after the First’s attack on the London headquarters, but he had always maintained that the Slayer – now Slayers, plural, by several hundred, if not thousands – were tools. Expendable.
In his eyes, the Council toolbox just got a whole bunch of brand-new, shiny hammers.
Too bad all their problems weren’t nails.
Though most of them had
nails. Or claws. Or really, really sharp teeth, sometimes in multiple rows.
“Oh, not just no, but hell
, no!” exclaimed the carpenter, his eye widening. “There’s nothing on this Earth – or the next several convenient parallel dimensions – that would make me turn that boy into one of old Windbag’s pawns!” He joined Willow in her pacing. “What makes him think that we’d throw a nice kid like that to the wolves?”Idiot,
Xander thought ferociously at Wyndham-Pryce. Old goat needs that stick removed before the brain damage is irreversible.
Xander flopped onto the bed where Willow had been sitting, hands dangling loosely between his knees as he looked at his best friend in angry confusion. “Wills, what’s got Giles’s pants in such a twist, anyway? You were almost mad at him, and you don’t get mad at Giles—well, not often,” he amended.
The redhead sprawled onto her belly next to Xander, turning to her side so she could better see him. Willow chewed her bottom lip thoughtfully for a moment, looking less annoyed by the moment. “Giles doesn’t like Windy, you know that, Xand,” she mused. “But I think he likes the idea of an untrained Seer even less.... David isn’t
an untrained Seer, though. I just can’t tell what kind
of training he’s had, or where he got it from,” Willow concluded, sighing.
“There’s one easy way to find out.” Xander spoke quietly, with a thread of amusement.
“How? I can’t read him past his aura, something blocks me out,” the redhead replied with a puzzled frown.
“Ask David about his training,” Xander said slowly, raising his eyebrows at Willow.
It was so simple. And so very not Watcher-like.
Willow began to smile.
And the One Who Sees saw why all the trainee magick practitioners were scared witless of his best friend.
A Willow turbo-charged with black magicks? That had been scary. But a Willow charged up with white magick, and
in research mode? That
scary, and Xander hoped fervently that nobody would get between her and what she was hoping to find. * * *Same Time, Gainesville, GA, Route 129 Northbound
The black Mustang zipped along the two-lane highway, music just audible outside the windows as it passed by a small group of browsing deer at the side of the road. At the wheel was a petite, pretty red-haired girl, dressed in jeans, hiking shoes, and an oversized black Governors Honors t-shirt belonging to her fiancé, one David Kevin Sullivan.
Liz Hughes frowned a little as the sun increased, glaring off the highway. She reached into the console without taking her eyes off the road, snagging her sunglasses and sliding them onto her nose.
The past few months had been, to say the very least, weird. One night, she’d been dead asleep over her desk, and a woman’s voice had whispered in her ear...Liz’s Dorm Room, UGA, April 14th
Head cradled on her folded arms, Liz Hughes slept peacefully, despite the fact that she was fully clothed and sitting in her hard, uncomfortable desk chair. Her arms rested on a composition book, next to which were stacked several thick textbooks.
The clock on the bedside table read 9:30 PM. And Liz dreamed...Cloaked figures with huge, shiny knives...faces, there’s something wrong with their faces...!
Monsters, bluish skin and misshapen bodies, mouths full of fangs...
And then a rush of faces, with three appearing the most important:
A small blonde woman with enormous hazel-green eyes, speaking to a group of scared-looking teenage girls...
Slayer... her mind told her.
A slightly taller red-haired woman, looking nervous as the blonde spoke...
White Witch, she heard.
A tall, dark-haired man with one soft chocolate-brown eye, the other covered by an eyepatch...
The One Who Sees.
“...every girl who can stand up, will stand up. ...Are you ready?
“...are you ready to be strong?”
“Yes!” Liz’s heart cried gladly.
Shortly after that, the weirdness had really
Running late for class one morning, Liz had nearly locked her keys in the room, and had reached back quickly to stop the door from closing. She heard an alarming creaking sound, looked down at the handle—and found dents
in it. Slowly closing her hand around the knob, she realized that the dents were exactly the size and shape of her own fingers.
That was only the beginning of the weird. The next day, she had met up with David and Alec for lunch off campus at their favorite burger place. Absolutely ravenous for some reason, Liz had ordered two
bacon cheeseburgers and waffle fries topped with cheese, and stunned both boys rigid when she had not only finished her entire plate, but looked hungrily at theirs and asked if they were going to finish.
Alec had given her his onion rings, and David, his coleslaw. Finally content, Liz had wiped her mouth and hands daintily and smiled sweetly at her fiancé and his best friend, saying, “What? I was starving!”
Blinking his gray eyes rapidly, Alec pushed his brown hair off his forehead, ducking his head. “Liz, you have never, ever, in your whole life, eaten that much food at once,” he stated firmly. “Not even when Mike Wheeler dared you to eat that giant banana split when we were in fourth grade.”
Beside her, David nodded in agreement. “The Scotsman’s right, Liz; I never saw you eat that much...you got a tapeworm or somethin’?” he joked, but with a worried light in his eyes.
Liz had laughed it off, saying, “Maybe I’m just a growing girl,” but she was just as worried as David and Alec.
Because she had no idea
what the hell was going on.
Walking back to her dorm after a late class, Liz had heard a rustling in the shrubs over near the turn to the next building. Her neck prickling uneasily, she’d turned slowly to see two scruffy-looking townie types, dressed in dirty jeans and plaid shirts, walking purposefully toward her.
They grinned at her. “Hey, pretty lady, why you out here all by your lonesome? Why’n’t you come party with us?” the shorter one leered, looking Liz up and down like she was a steak. He pushed his greasy ball cap back and gave her what was clearly intended to be a winning smile. There were an awful lot of teeth in it.
Liz’s nerves were shrieking at her that something was very wrong here. The last few days, she’d been able to hear people breathing three rooms away, and her own heartbeat was almost deafening. But these two...she took a deep breath and almost gagged.
They were not human. If they ever had been, they definitely weren’t now. What were they? She looked around. Too far to run for her dorm, and her cell phone was in her bag, buried under notes and texts. Crap!
While Liz had been considering her options, she’d been outflanked. Taller Scruff-bag was now behind her, reaching for her; his face was oddly distorted. And were those yellow eyes
? Then, Shorter Scruff-bag touched her arm.
And the Slayer awoke.
“Vampire...” Liz hissed. With speed she’d never had before, she smashed the shorter vampire across the jaw with a brutal right hook, the silver ring that she never removed making his flesh bubble. Shrieking in agony and anger, he fell back, nursing his broken jaw. His partner in blood-suckery tried to grab Liz, but she was no longer where she had been.
The campus maintenance men had been by earlier that day to trim up some deadfall that had come down in a wind storm. There were still some good-sized limbs stacked up on the leeward side of the building, and Liz raced for the pile now.
Reaching it, not even a little out of breath, she caught up several thick branches and snapped them over her knee, making about a half-dozen decent stakes. Then, she waited, knowing somehow that these vampires were stupid enough to chase her.
Sure enough, there they came now, cussing at each other for being dumb and “lettin’ dinner get away!”
“Come on, Silas, she’s gotta be around here somewheres, how far could a little bitty gal like that go?” Taller Scruff-bag complained.
“Hell if I know, Edgar,” Shorter Scruff-bag, or as we must now call him, Silas, replied.
“I ain’t never seed a gal run that fast,” Silas continued, peering around nearsightedly for Liz.
Edgar felt a sudden pinch in his chest, and thought it might be that football player he’d eaten yesterday – that boy had some fat on him, for sure! He was quite surprised to suddenly burst into a dusty cloud.
“Edgar!” whined Silas, smacking his filthy ball cap on his equally filthy jeans, “what you let her git you for, ya dang fool? Now I ain’t got...” Poof!
Silas, or as we must now call him, Dusty, spoke no further, joining his cousin, hat and all, in the realm of Dustbuster chow.
Facing the two dust piles stood Liz Hughes, broken tree branch in hand, green eyes wide and shocky. She dropped the stake from her suddenly nerveless hand and ran like the wind for her dorm.
Liz fairly flew in the door of her room, remembering at the last moment to let go of the handle as she shut it behind her.
She dropped into her desk chair, panting as though she’d run a marathon twice, though she was not at all out of breath. No, this was fear, plain and simple. “What the hell was all that?” Liz wondered out loud.
Those two men – vampires, she corrected herself – might have been dumb, but they’d been strong. How had she –
Oh. No. “I killed
them!” she exclaimed in horror. “But, if they were vampires...then, they were already dead...” OhGodohGodohGod...
Her mind ran frantically in circles. She jumped when the phone on her desk rang.
“Hello?” Liz almost whispered. “Davy? Oh, Davy, c-can you come over here? Somethin’ weird is goin’ on...no, I’d rather not over the phone...yes, bring Alec, I think he’ll want to be here...see you in ten...I love you too,” this last spoken with a sweetness that no amount of nervous fidgets could mask.
While she’d been talking to David, Liz had decided not to tell him everything. She was afraid she was going off the deep end, and she just needed a little time to deal on her own. Besides, she told herself firmly, vampires weren’t real...
...Oh please, yes they were. She couldn’t even lie to herself. Still, she reasoned, no reason to worry Davy and Alec with this, right?* * *
The boys arrived in five minutes, instead of the promised ten. The moment they came through the door, Liz wrapped herself around David, shivering violently. The three of them moved to the futon that doubled as Liz’s bed, Alec blushing at the reminder, and curled up with Liz held firmly in the curve of David’s arm, practically in his lap.
“What’s goin’ on, Liz?” David asked softly, rubbing her arms. Her shivering was less now; David had wondered if she were going into shock, but she seemed to be warming up and relaxing now.
“There were...these...two guys...” Liz babbled.
David shot bolt upright. “They didn’t,” he began dangerously. His dark brows furrowed over his blue eyes, looking intently at her.
“No!” she cried. “No, they didn’t, I kicked one in the shins and I ran for it! They didn’t have a chance to...to...” To her horror, Liz started to cry, huge, gulping sobs.
Holding her tightly (but not as tightly as she was holding him, Liz realized, and let up her grip a little), David rocked gently back and forth, comforting her.
Alec reached over and put his hand on the side of her face lightly, and smiled when she looked up at him. “You give us a description, Miss Liz, an’ me an’ Davy’ll go beat ‘em up for you,” he grinned, wiping the tears off her cheek.
Liz snorted a surprised laugh through her tears, and gave Alec a watery smile of her own. “You would, wouldn’t you, Mr. McLean?” She caught his hand and cradled it to her cheek.
David smirked at the both of them. “Damn straight,” he vowed. “We both would. And nothing in the Worlds could stop us if somethin’ happened to you,” David finished in a near whisper, kissing Liz on the forehead.
One long arm extending nearly to Liz’s desk, Alec snagged the box of tissues she kept there and offered it to Liz wordlessly.
Liz took a long, long breath in, and let it out on a jaw-cracking yawn that made them all laugh as she took the tissues from Alec and set about cleaning herself up. She made no move to remove herself from David’s lap, however. “You guys wanna stay here tonight?” she asked, hating the weakness in her voice.
Over her head, the boys had a wordless conversation consisting of facial contortions and eyebrow movements, making her grin as she watched them.
“This crouton thing-a-ma-jig got room for three, Miss Hughes?” David purred in her ear, making the hairs on her arms stand up.
“Futon, David Sullivan,” she corrected him with mock hauteur. Liz slapped (very) lightly at his chest with her free hand. “And yes, it certainly does...Alec?”
The Scotsman in question had a very deer-in-the-headlights expression. “Mmm?”
“You staying? Plenty of room,” Liz wheedled, widening her eyes at him. She hoped he would stay; she’d been craving extra physical contact lately, for some odd reason.
And, she was ravenously hungry all of a sudden. Must be the adrenaline from earlier,
she mused. “We can order in some Chinese, watch a movie...it’s Friday night, after all, no classes tomorrow for anybody, right?” The boys nodded in the affirmative. Energy returning, Liz hoisted herself off David’s lap, leaving a warm kiss on his lips in exchange.
She reached into her desk drawer, pulling out the folder that held all the take-out menus and separating out the four Chinese places that delivered to campus. “You pick; I need a shower, I kinda stink,” Liz grimaced. “Just no kim chee, David! Last time you ate that, we needed to fumigate the place.”
With a “back in ten”, she left the boys to order the food, grabbing her towel and bath kit off the shelf by the front door, and sashayed down the hall to the large shower room.
Liz reached the sanctuary of the ceramic-tiled shower, and turned the water on to very warm, stripping quickly and stepping into the only private stall, pulling the door tightly shut behind her and turning the lock.
Shielded by the water, she sat cross-legged on the floor and tried to clear her mind, using the meditation techniques the Morrigu had taught her. Quiet place, rushing water...quiet place, rushing water...
One by one, Liz began to pull her strange experiences out, examining them and then laying them aside.
First, the dreams.
Then, the faces. The blonde, the redhead, and the one-eyed man.
Then, at last, the question. Are you ready to be strong?
It had resounded in her head, and in her heart. A call to battle. A call to do
Do battle with what?
As Liz meditated, letting each moment rise to the surface of her thoughts like a bubble, they began to coalesce, concluding with the two...
...she had (killed!)...No! Slain,
as in Slayer
, as in...Vampire Slayer.
Liz’s eyes flew open. “Vampires...and I...”
She began to smile, tears flowing down her cheeks. “I’m a Slayer.
”* * *
Liz came back to herself from the memories of the last few months, shaking her head as the little old lady in front of her seemed to forget which lane she belonged in. At least she can see over the wheel,
she thought good-humoredly, and smiled when the old dear signaled a left turn and then turned right into the parking lot of the Kroger. No cars were coming on either side; it was just a tad too early for that, being summer vacation and the high tourist season not having started yet.
Looking at the digital readout on the dashboard, Liz discovered it was almost nine o’clock. That meant it was about time to make the phone call she’d been dreading.
The one to her mom, who had gotten unexpectedly...clingy, the last year or so.
Lureen Hughes was expecting Liz to stay the rest of the summer under her roof, and then go back to school with David, Alec, and the rest of the college-enrolled MacTyrie Gang.
That was so
not happening, if Liz had anything to say about it. She loved her mother, Lord knew she did, but the prospect of two entire months spent doing every little thing her maternal parent demanded of her was hellishly unappealing.
Her mind made up, Liz hoisted her cell phone out of the little bucket console, bit her bottom lip, and hit a number on the speed dial. * * *
Author's Note: For the inevitable question of "did they, or didn't they", canon says no. I say, I haven't decided quite yet. You'll find out when I do.