A Modest Proposal
A/N I would like to thank everyone that has take the time to read and review my story. Unfortunately real life must intrude from time to time and I won't be able to post for a couple of weeks. Sorry about that. As always, I have no proprietary claim to the works of HP Lovecraft.
A MODEST PROPOSAL
Administration Building, Miskatonic University
Randolph Carter was nervous. It wasn’t obvious, he was too good at controlling himself for it to
be apparent, but it was none the less true. As he read through the budget report he stole a
glance at the source of his discomfort; only to have the man drop an impudent wink back at him.
Actually it wasn’t the man that had him on edge; it was the conjunction of the man and the
monstrosity of a chair that he was sitting in. Carter had no idea how the chair had gotten there,
to the best of his knowledge the room had been locked and his secretary hadn’t been out of the
office. He looked back at the budget report and figured that he was better off not knowing how
it had gotten to where it was. He had seen the chair before, many years before; Abner Whatley
had used the thing on a regular basis. He had asked some of the older faculty members if they
knew where the thing had come from or what it was made out of, but no one knew anything
beyond rumor. Carter could tell that he wasn’t the only nervous one in the meeting; several of
the department heads were sweating and casting furtive glances at the chair and its occupant. It
was as though everyone could tell that something was coming, like a storm; but no one knew
what it was about or how bad it would be. Finally the budget report was done and Carter looked
at the gathered men and women, “any questions.” Silence was the reply. He hesitated, sorely
tempted to adjourn the meeting right there before whatever was coming had a chance to occur;
but he didn’t. “Any new business?”
There was a moment of silence, then, “I’ve got something.”
There was a collective hiss as the faculty members recoiled, afraid; for some unknown reason, of what was about to come. “Dr. Harris.”
The man in question leaned forward, he was immaculately dressed in a navy blue pin stripe suit that was clearly custom tailored and included a matching eye patch. “I noticed in the budget report that the overall revenues were down for the third year in a row, but that a crucial level had not yet been reached; is that correct?”
“Then I would like to make a suggestion as to how we reverse our financial situation.”
“And that would be,” Carter could see the other’s faces wincing involuntarily as the awaited the answer.
“Expand the range of students admitted.”
There was a moment of silence and then a rush of sound as breaths that were being held were released in relief; there was even some relieved laughter. “But how do we do that,” asked Dr. Prescot of the History department. “We have no restrictions on race, gender country of origin or sexual orientation, what other population is there?”
Xander gave a little chuckle, “as cliché as it sounds, I’m glad you asked that.” He straightened up, “the population that I’m suggesting we appeal to is the non-human population.”
There was more nervous laughter as his words sank in, then Laughlin, the Chemistry head spoke up, “that’s absurd, are we to admit chimps, dogs and dolphins now?”
“Actually no,” Xander said with a grin that didn’t reach his eyes. He then proceeded to pull a stack of file folders from his briefcase which he then distributed around the table. “This was prepared by my staff and should explain things adequately.”
A ponderous silence reigned as the various department heads slowly opened the folders, each one acting as though they were dealing with a barely sub-critical mass of Plutonium. Eventually mutters and gasps of surprise were heard as the various men and women read through the report and were introduced to a world that they didn’t even know had existed. Each was looking at the other, wondering who would speak, wondering what there was to say; finally the Dean of Students asked, “this is real, not some sort of elaborate practical joke?”
“No sir, this isn’t a joke. This is a way to attract an untapped portion of the population without only a modest outlay of funds. I realize that this …….. revelation is quite a shock, however it is indeed a way to solve our financial dilemma.”
“And how did you learn of these things,” Laughlin asked.
“I’ve known about them since I was fifteen, so it’s obvious why I’m a bit more comfortable with this than you all however I am serious in suggesting that this population would be a tremendous addition to our school.”
“But monsters . . .. . .”
“Not monsters,” Xander cut in firmly, “people like any one of us, just the biology is different. They live in the same country; they want many of the same things, peace, security, a chance to thrive and a better life for their children. Think about this, a little over one hundred and fifty years ago the same discussions were being held at schools concerning the admission of African Americans. I don’t see how this is any different.”
The silence that followed that statement was finally broken by Michael Stebbins, the chair of the Communications department, “this is ridiculous, the school is in trouble and we’re listening to this lunatic as he conjures up fairy tales to help us out. Non-humans indeed, and all we’ve got is the word of a man that ought to still be doing his post-graduate work, not heading a department of dubious value that these things even exist, report or not; there isn’t anything in here that couldn’t be faked.”
“Are you calling me a liar,” the question was quietly delivered but it cut through the room like a knife.
Stebbins belatedly realized what he had just said, unfortunately the damage had been done, and now he looked down the table to find himself pinned in place by the gaze of a furious brown eye. Darkness seemed to spill from the gaze, like a void overflowing and right then Stebbins knew just how dangerous the new faculty member was. He immediately began back-pedaling. “I’m sorry if I gave that impression, it is simply that all of this goes against everything I’ve ever learned so I’m not as comfortable with it as yourself. I do not believe that you are lying to us or deceiving us in any way, however I would like some time to consider other options before taking this rather radical step.”
Xander held the man’s gaze for a moment more, then nodded his head in acknowledgment of the apology. “I understand your difficulty, and indeed it is a radical step, however I do believe that it is or soon will be a necessary step.” He turned to face Carter, “there is no need to push the issue now, but I do think it is a course to seriously consider in the near future; until then if any of you feel that you would like more information, please feel free to contact myself or any member of my department.”
“Very well,” Carter said after a moment of silence. “I move that we table Dr. Harris’ suggestion for the time being, with the understanding that it will be discussed in the future.” The motion was seconded and passed and the meeting dismissed. “Dr. Harris, might I have a word with you before you leave?”
“Certainly Dr. Carter,” Xander replied and then waited till the room cleared.
As soon as it was just the two of them Carter asked his question, “why is this so important to you?”
“Do you want the truth?”
“Then this might take a while. You see a few years ago, before I went to college some friends of mine and I were part of a war …………….. so with all the active slayers out there, its only a matter of time before the hidden world isn’t so hidden any more. When the truth finally comes out it’s gonna be open season on anything non-human and that would mean wiping out a bunch of beings that would be pacifists at the worst and allies at the best; unless something can be done to change the mind set of the people; because I don’t plan on being on the loosing side when the shooting stops.”
“And having these beings enrolled in a college just like everyone’s sons and daughters would go a long way to achieving that.”
“Yeah, it’ll make the humans stop and think before they do the whole mob thing, and it’ll create some useful contacts between the humans and non-humans.”
“As well as pulling the school out of the financial pinch it’s in.”
“Also a consideration.”
“And it would bestow a tremendous amount of prestige on you and your department.”
“I never said I was an altruist.”
“No, you never did,” a pause, “thank you for your candor, and your suggestion.”
Standing and picking up his briefcase, Xander held the gaze of the President for a moment, “thank you for giving me this chance.”
“One final thing,” Carter asked as Xander reached the door. “What’s to prevent someone that was here from releasing the information you gave us to the press or the government?”
“Magic,” Xander replied, then seeing the look on Carter’s face he continued. “I had a geas cast on the folders that would prevent the information being told to anyone that wasn’t here, and if the folders are shown to anyone that wasn’t here, well all that will be seen are blank pages.” Carter looked a bit dumb-struck, so Xander took the opportunity and said, “good night Dr. Carter,” and quietly left the room.
Carter nodded once as Xander headed out the door; then he went back to his office, locked the doors and pulled out some papers that might shed some light on what was to come.
Dawn and Oz were standing on the cracked sidewalk in front of a dilapidated house that stood on the border between the residential and commercial areas of Boston. It was obvious that the house wasn’t currently occupied, the boarded up windows were the first clue, and there was no graffiti or signs of forced entry; it seemed as though even the gangbangers and the homeless shunned the place.
“What’s here,” Oz asked the tall brunette.
“Well I was doing a search on cases of multiple homicides, seeing if there was some sort of demonic influence or that kind of thing when this address came up a lot of times.”
“Yeah, at least four times in the last hundred years there has been a multiple killing at this address; and that could go up because I haven’t even searched before 1900. Anyway, the first was a wife killing the husband, then her family, then herself. According to the reports the marriage seemed to be happy and stable before she picked up the cleaver. The place was deserted for a while, then occupied by several families over the years with no reports of anything unusual, then in 1935 the family that lived here had a cousin that stayed with them; one night the cousin kills and dismembers the family. He was caught trying to burn up the bodies in the fireplace; apparently the smell of the burning bodies offended the neighbors and they called the police. After two years the house was torn down and the area was re-zoned for commercial use. When everything was finished a bar stood here. Like before, there were a lot of years where nothing happened; then in 1952, the bartender went crazy one night and killed all the patrons with poison then put the bodies out of sight and proceeded to shoot anyone that walked in. Eventually 21 people died. He was captured alive, but he managed to hang himself in his cell that night. After the dust settled the property cycled through a lot of different businesses, again without incident. After a while the area was re-zoned for residential again and the houses came back. This particular house was built in 1985 and two years later a,” here she glanced at her notes, “Steve Mullins killed his daughter and the five other girls that were having a slumber party to celebrate her 11th birthday; he slit all their throats.”
“Was he captured?”
“No, the wife,” another glance at the notes, “Donna, emptied a .38 revolver into his chest from a distance of five feet.”
“Right there with ya, now all of the cases have some interesting commonalities. No prior history of violence or mental instability, or any of the other indicators suggesting that violence was likely to occur. This can happen on occasion, someone snaps and there ya go, but for it to happen four times at one address is statistically impossible.”
“Well, I figured that since everything seemed to happen in the basement, we’d sorta stake the place out with the usual equipment and see if something comes out to play.”
“Then I file it away until something happens here again.”
Dawn gave a furtive glance and pulled out a leather wallet that she opened to reveal a set of lock-picks, “never leave home without em,” she said with a wan grin.
Oz just smiled and Dawn extracted a couple of tools and went to work on the padlock currently gracing the front door. “How’d you learn,” he asked quietly.
“Spike taught me originally, but I’ve kept current since then,” and with a final twist, the lock sprang open. Dawn opened the door with a flourish and a, “ta-daaa.”
“Quick,” was all Oz had to say on the matter.
“Thanks, you wanna go ahead and scout us out a place; I’ll get the stuff out of the trunk.”
“Cool,” Oz muttered as he moved into the deserted home. His biggest fear was that they’d find an inconvenient nest of vampires or something equally as nasty inside, but there wasn’t anything that suggested anyone, human or otherwise, had been in here for some time. But despite the visual clues he was immediately on high alert, something was wrong here, very wrong. He could feel something tickling the edge of his senses, constantly causing the hairs on the back of his neck to stand up. He stood there in the entrance hall, trying to figure out what it was and where the threat was, but he just couldn’t localize it. He was still standing there when Dawn tapped him on the shoulder. Oz yelled and jumped about four feet then he landed and spun around, breathing hard.
“Stealthy,” Dawn joked.
Oz just shook his head.
“What is it?”
“I really can’t describe it, it feels like there’s a cloud here, violent…….evil……malevolent,” he shook his head again, “none of those are quite right.”
Dawn put down what she was carrying and hugged the obviously distraught young man, “you OK?”
Oz gave her a wan smile. “No, but I will be.”
“You sure, I’ve got no problem with leaving if you want.”
His gaze softened, “I’ll be fine”.
Dawn held the gaze for a moment longer, then said, “if you’re sure then, how about helping me get this junk set up and then you can sack out on a couch or something while I take a look at the really old history of this place.”
“Sounds good,” Oz replied and later he fell asleep to the sound of fingers tapping keys.
Haasen’s wasn’t the finest restaurant in Boston, but it was in the top ten. What made it so special was that everything on the menu was pretty darn good, whether it was seafood, pasta or steak. Melville’s had better seafood, but the pasta was almost inedible, The Craftsman Chop House had better steaks, but trying the seafood was an invitation to have your stomach pumped; Lentini’s had the best pasta in town, but if you ordered a steak you’d better be prepared to loose a tooth.
They were a very attractive couple, her brunette hair cascaded down her back in waves until it touched the sea green cocktail dress she was wearing, her cupid bow lips were pursed in a small smile and her warm brown eyes sparkled with mirth. He was a trifle less striking, but only just with his immaculately tailored suit and whimsically matching eye-patch. The eye you could see was chocolate brown and warm with the kind of wrinkles around it that you got from smiling a lot. He was well built and moved with an economy of motion that belied his rather staid image. It was obvious to their waiter and most of the patrons that they were a couple in love.
“So how’d everything go at the faculty meeting?”
“Pretty well, all things considered. By the way, the chair was an excellent touch, nice idea there.”
“Thanks, I thought it might help create the right mood.”
“It scared the shit out of most of em, so I’d say mission accomplished.”
“The Undertaker wanna talk afterwards?"
“You tell him the truth?”
“Yeah I did.”
“No, not everything; I just told him that a conflict was coming and I was doing what I could to gather allies.”
“And he bought that?”
“Sure, it is the truth after all.”
“Yeah, but you left out the part about how you and the University would be the central players in the whole thing.”
Xander looked a little embarrassed, “I didn’t want to freak him out any more than he already was.”
“Sure X, as long as you believe that.”
Xander leaned forward and took Faith’s hand, “what do you say, no more work talk tonight, just us.”
Faith leaned forward with an almost predatory grin, “now that sounds like an idea.”
Oz had no idea what woke him up, he was asleep one moment and awake the next. He didn’t move though, he just opened his eyes, trying to figure out where he was. The first thing he saw was Dawn, hunched over her laptop, a worried expression on her face. At that instant his head seemed to explode, as though his brain were on fire, and when the feeling was gone he looked at Dawn again. He knew he was going to have to take care of her soon, after all Willow had cheated on him, he had cheated on her, Xander had cheated on Cordelia; it was inevitable. Oz wasn’t going to wait around for Dawn to stray, no this time he’d be more……….proactive. He closed his eyes but didn’t go back to sleep, images of Dawn’s punishment raging in his mind.
‘This isn’t good,’ Dawn thought as she checked through old copies of the Boston Herald. It seemed as though there had been violence here for as long as people had lived in the area. The records were full of beatings, murders, homicide, fratricide, suicide; the violence was almost always within families or at least a group of people that were emotionally close, that was the only commonality she could find. As to the root cause, she was thinking something along the lines of a spell that sowed discord or a demon that interacted on this plane to feed. She couldn’t think of any other reason for the pattern of behavior that was documented. She looked over at Oz, she’d have to wake him soon, there was something that she was missing and a fresh brain would help immensely. It had surprised her at first that they had ended up together, since they seemed so different; but Dawn knew that those differences were only the surface clutter, down where it mattered she and Oz were almost identical. In the way they felt, in the way they approached life, in their approach to other people. He was truly her other half. Sure, Buffy had kicked up a fuss when she’d found out, but the older Summers sister really didn’t have a leg to stand on and Dawn quickly reminded her of that. Willow had been shocked as well, but over all had been pretty laid back about the news; Dawn figured it had to do with the whole moving to India thing, the Wicca was searching for inner tranquility and seemed to be making progress. With a sigh Dawn turned back to her computer, she’d wake Oz up in a half hour, right now she was gonna see if she could trace the property back to the original owners, that might shed some light. She was so intent on this that she completely missed the faint yellow mist that seemed to come up out of the floor and settle around Oz’s head.
“……so then all three of us rear back and throw em as hard as possible, and for once all of us hit what we were aiming at. Unfortunately we didn’t know that the house had been sold and the new owners were in there doing an inspection. So Jesse’s rock breaks an upstairs window, mine hits the porch light, and Willow’s flies through the same window as Jesse’s and hits the new owner right in the forehead.”
Faith just sat there, listening to Xander regale her with stories from his childhood. It helped her in a way to realize that despite the shit that he’d dealt with at home, he’d had a pretty normal childhood, or at least moments of normality.
“So rather than run we just stand there frozen, then the owner comes storming out and immediately Willow tries to explain, well you know Will, pretty soon she’s babbling and the poor guy can’t understand a thing she’s saying. He finally started laughing and told us to go home. It was quite the learning experience.”
“What did ya learn; not to throw rocks at houses?”
“Nope, we learned that if we got nailed, just let Willow do the talking and whoever would be so baffled by her babble that they’d forget what they were mad about.”
“I bet,” she paused, “can I ask you kind of a touchy question X?”
“How come you and Red never got together?”
Xander sat back and sighed, “that’s pretty complicated, but if you really want to know I’ll give it a try.” Faith simply nodded in reply and Xander took a moment to collect his thoughts.
“Well, to start out with I’ve known Willow since I was five, so I just thought of her more as ‘Willow’ then ‘Willow the girl’; but once I did start to notice that she had girl parts and all, well so did Jesse. It created a strain in our friendship for about two months, then I found out that he was writing poems about Willow.”
“Yeah, fairly sappy love poems, the kind of thing you’d find in a Hallmark card; but not bad for eleven. Xander paused, “well he tried, I’ll say that for him. Anyway, it was clear that he was a lot more interested in Willow ‘that way’ then I was, so I backed off.”
“But Red told me he was always hitting on the cheer-girl?”
“True, he was and that was my fault.”
“I knew that Jesse had fallen really hard for Willow, but that Willow was crushing on me; so I figured if she saw Jesse hitting on Cordelia, someone we all hated at the time, then she’d become interested in him because she’d be afraid of losing him. Willow can be very possessive of people she cares about. Unfortunately it wasn’t working, at least in terms of getting Willow’s attentions shifted from me to Jesse, but we at least had some fun with it. We’d try and predict what Cordelia would call him, how many times she’d use the word loser, that kind of thing; heck Jesse even had a notebook where he’d write down some of the more creative things she’d say. So to kinda sum up, I knew Willow was interested, but Jesse had loved her more so I backed off, and after he was gone, well it just felt wrong if you know what I mean. Like making a play for the widow of a relative ….. or something like that.” Xander paused for a moment then went on, “it also kinda bugged me how she’d never talk about him you know, like after he was dead, it was like he’d never been alive, at least to her.”
“That musta been weird, knowing so many people that died.”
“It was, but in a way it taught you to hold on to the friends that you had. I also think that’s why Willow was so gaga about me being ‘fray adjacent’. I was the one big constant in her life, even more than her parents and I don’t think she could have handled me being gone for good. I think that’s also why she was so down on anyone I dated, she was afraid that they’d ‘take me away’ from her.”
“I dunno, it sounds kinda sweet.”
“It is in a way, but not when it isn’t a mutual decision. This was all ‘Willow decrees it will be thus’ and that’s the end of the discussion. You know me, I wasn’t gonna stand having decisions made for me and I guess that’s what kept us apart.”
“Do ya love her?”
“Til my dying day I’ll love her, but I’m not in love with her; I don’t think I ever could be.”
Faith just nodded at his response, so Xander followed it up, “how about you, anyone in your past that you loved like that?”
Xander watcher her for a moment, Faith’s childhood had been the one ‘out of bounds’ conversation topic with her, just like Africa had been with him. He’d finally opened up about Africa in hopes that she’d finally start talking about her pre-slayer days.
Finally, “nah, no one like that. I had some good buds but Ma moved a lot so there wasn’t a chance to really get to know anyone and by the time she finally settled down, well friendship wasn’t what they were interested in.”
“That must’ve hurt.”
“It did,” she finally replied, “but for me that was just how life was; I adapted.”
“It just made it hard for you to trust anyone.”
“That’s true; I mean even now there’s you, Wolfie, G, maybe this Al guy that B’s so hot for, you’re the only guys I really trust. And even with you guys I’m afraid that one day you’re just gonna move on and leave me hangin’.”
Xander leaned across the table and took her hand, “what if I promised to never willingly leave you, would that help.”
“It wouldn’t hurt,” Faith replied, giving his hand a light squeeze.
“OK then,” he said and reached into his coat pocket with his left hand, pulled out a box, flipped it open and slid it across the table. “Faith, will you marry me?”
Dawn’s fingers’ flew over the keyboard, what she was finding was bringing everything into focus. The original owners of the property had been named Pudeator. One offspring of the family was named Ann and she had been hung as a witch in 1692, what if she had tried a demon raising or summoning. Dawn knew from Giles’ recounting of the whole Eyghon mess that sometimes demons returned to where they’d originally been summoned to feed again. That would explain the periodic nature of the violence that had occurred here as well as the perpetrators having no history of violence. It made too much sense. She decided that it was time to wake up Oz and see what he thought of her conclusions. She turned to him but as she did a low growl started from his direction. Her eyes widened as he stood up, seemingly larger than he had been, with eyes a sulfurous yellow. As Dawn was backing away she noticed something strange, there was no extra hair and his body wasn’t re-configuring, this wasn’t the wolf coming out when it shouldn’t, no this was something else. The truth hit her immediately, it wasn’t the wolf; it was the demon they’d come to investigate. There was a brief flair of relief when she figured out what was up, this was quickly dispelled though, by the realization that she still had a possessed boyfriend to deal with. Dawn knew she could banish the demon, that wasn’t so hard; getting him to sit still for the whole banishment ritual, now that was gonna be hard.
“Bitch,” it said, “stay still and take what’s coming to you.”
“There’s nothing coming to me, I’ve done nothing wrong.”
“Of course not, that’s what they all say; I have called down vengeance on thousands and they all claimed their innocence, why should you be any different.”
“So what is it I’ve done,” Dawn asked as she gauged her chances of making it to the door.
“Cheating, just like all of them before you, the shell I currently inhabit cheated, as did his girlfriend, as did many acquaintances of his; just as you will, it is inevitable.”
Dawn stood up straight and blinked, that last bit sounded very familiar, “you sound just like Anya, except for the whole gender thing.”
“I don’t know any Anya.”
“How about Anyanka, does that name ring a bell?”
All the while Dawn had been moving about the room, the demon currently possessing Oz wasn’t gonna let her get near the door, but it wasn’t coming straight for her either, apparently it was one of those that liked to play before the kill. Desperately she was searching for something, anything that would help; so far except for the distracting talk she was coming up blank.
“You know of my counterpart?”
“Sure, she lived in the same town as me after she became human.”
“Indeed, it is terrible what happened to her, she had so many millennia of avenging wrongs ahead of her, and then she goes from being the patron of scorned women to being a scorned woman herself; ironic isn’t it.”
“Yes, very; so you’re the patron for scorned men?” At the demon’s nod she continued, “so how did you come to be tied to this place?”
“A rather delicious story actually,” the demon said, a savage mirth lighting up its face. “A woman whose husband had strayed attempted to summon Anyanka to her. Unfortunately her husband knew of the arts and changed the spell so that she summoned me instead,” the demon chuckled, “the look of surprise on her face was truly priceless. She just stood there trying to figure out what had gone wrong; even as I slaughtered her she just stood there puzzling.”
“Well, that’s how you got here the first time, but the times after that?”
“As I said the husband knew of the arts, but he was as much of a novice as his wife, so he didn’t properly banish me, rather he doomed me to come back to this place periodically,” then the demon chuckled, “the first time it happened, I took my vengeance on him, other times there have been other suitable candidates for what I have to offer, sometimes there was no one here and I left.” It gathered itself, “now I’ve enjoyed our little chat, but I believe that I owe you some discipline,” and with that it sprang.
At that moment Dawn was thankful that she’d been sparring with Faith lately, because it allowed her to see the attack before it came, and thus she was able to dodge it. As the demon inhabiting Oz’s body lunged at her, she was able to crouch down and let fly with an elbow strike into the meaty part of the thigh; it was an injury that would slow the thing down without doing permanent damage. Dawn knew that no matter how much her first strike had hurt the demon, she had no real chance going hand to hand with the thing, she needed a weapon and she needed it now. Unfortunately the demon wasn’t giving her time to either search or think as it lunged again. In the middle of her duck and roll Dawn noted that her strike hadn’t slowed the thing down much at all. As she stood she caught a glimpse of something that gave her an idea, an idea that would let her walk out of here alive. Unfortunately the idea caused her to hesitate and that hesitation resulted in her being tackled. The demon was on top of Dawn and after a brief but vicious struggle was straddling her torso. Dawn was frantic, she almost had what she needed but the monster wasn’t giving an inch. With a sadistic grin on its face it wrapped a hand around her neck and started to squeeze.
Dawn didn’t panic, somehow in the struggle she had gone past panic, her mind was clear and she knew exactly what she had to do. Hoarsely, she managed to get out, “come on Oz, I know you’re in there, you beat the wolf, you’re not gonna go belly up to this wanna be, are you?” She could see the struggle on the demons face and for a moment the yellow came out of its eyes and more importantly, the hand on her throat eased its grip. As soon as she felt the grip loosen, Dawn wriggled just enough to get her hands on what she’d been aiming for.
As the demon turned back to its prey, having dealt with the moment of inner rebellion, its world turned a brilliant white. Reflexively it covered its eyes trying to assess the damage and in that moment, Dawn struck. Smashing the heavy camera into the demons head, hard enough to make it loose consciousness without doing too much damage (she hoped). As it slumped to the floor, she sagged with relief, then after this momentary respite, she got up and went looking for some duct tape so she could secure the demon until she could banish it properly.
It had taken more time than she’d wanted it to, and Dawn had been forced to be creative with the spell ingredients; but it was worth it to see the tension leave Oz’s body as she finished the incantation. She looked down at the man she loved, “you OK now?”
“Yeah, headache but yeah.”
Dawn gave a little grin at his reply and started the rather tedious and slightly painful task of letting him go. She’d used a lot of duct tape because she really didn’t want to have to fight him again, she didn’t know if Xander’s camera could take another pounding like that. As soon as he was free Oz stood and pulled Dawn into a hug. The young brunette returned it, but soon she could feel Oz stiffen and pull away slightly. She knew that he remembered what had happened and was feeling guilty about what had been done in his body. She eased back and looked him in the eye, “it wasn’t your fault, remember the demon was one geared to men, so of course its gonna go for you.”
“Shoulda fought harder,” he managed to say as he looked away.
Dawn turned his head back so he was facing her, “you fought when I needed you the most, and it bought me the time I needed. So I don’t want to hear any argument, remember we work together, you can’t be saving me all the time.”
Oz smiled at his girlfriend, “you’re right”.
“Of course I’m right,” she responded promptly.
Realizing that silence was the best response to that one, Oz looked around at the room and said, “we should clean up, it’s gonna be light soon.”
Dawn looked at the shambles around her, “yeah, thank God there’s no class today or I’d be the one falling asleep and not my students.”
Oz just chuckled and together they started putting the basement back together.
Xander didn’t know what had woken him up. Rolling to his right he found himself spooning a smaller, softer body. He smiled as he inhaled the unique spice and musk scent that told him it was Faith next to him. Without opening his eyes, he knew that the light was on and she was awake. “You’re looking at it again, aren’t you,” he asked around a mouthful of hair.
“Uh huh,” was the languid response.
“Why, I promise it’s real.”
“That’s what I was wondering.”
“Huh,” he asked, cracking his eyes open.
“I keep thinking I’ll wake up without this thing.”
“Cause I wasn’t supposed to ever get anything like this,” she said, waving the ring around until it caught the light. “I was supposed to live hard and die young; I never planned on living long enough to even think about something like this. Cause that was the deal, get in as much living as you can before your ticket gets punched but you don’t have to worry about shit like taxes and babies cause you won’t be alive long enough for anything like that to happen. I mean if you go by the old Watcher’s statistics, I should have been in the ground ten years ago, not teaching students and thinking about my wedding.” Her words drifted off as she stared at the ring on her finger. “Girls like me ain’t supposed to get a ring.”
At this Xander sat up, “that’s crap Faith, the way I figure it, you’re just like everyone else. I mean sure you haven’t been Mother Teresa, but everyone has got stuff on the minus side of the ledger that we need to atone for; that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve a little happiness on the way. I mean just because Deadboy had the whole ‘brooding king of pain’ thing going for him doesn’t mean that it’s the only way to atone for past mistakes.” He lowered himself until he was looking right into Faith’s eyes, “I honestly can’t think of anyone that deserves happiness more than you, and I’m honored that you’re letting me be a part of that,” his head dipped in and he planted a feather light kiss on her lips. As he pulled back he could see the gleam of tears in his fiancé’s eyes.
“You’re serious,” she said with a touch of wonder in her voice.
“As I’ve ever been.”
“And you really want to …….”
“Faith, no one else on this Earth could make me as happy as you; so yes, I really want to.”
Faith’s smile practically lit up the room and she raised herself up and planted one good and hard on Xander. When they both finally came back up for air, a lazy grin worked its way onto her face, “fess up Harris, you just slipped me a ring just so you could finally get into my panties.”
Grinning himself at her tease, he leaned forward until his breath was tickling her ear, “already been there and done that; lover-girl.”
Faith gaped for a second then she let loose with an outraged, “WHAT,” and rolled Xander over until she was straddling him. There was laughter then there was love; lots and lots of love.