The Charge of the Very Light Brigade
A/N I didn’t think this was needed, or I’d have done it long ago. This is a re-post of a story that is on FF.net called The Beginning of the End. I am the author, this is not plagiarism. I am editing the story which is why I didn’t post it all at once. I am also going to change the last chapter, and possibly add a thing or two on the way. As previously stated, I have no proprietary claims to either Buffy the Vampire Slayer or the Works of HP Lovecraft. I do have proprietary claims to a cranky basset hound named Isis, but that doesn’t really pay the bills.
THE CHARGE OF THE VERY LIGHT BRIGADE
Xander Harris regarded the two guests in his office and suppressed a sigh. ‘How did this always seem to happen to him,’ he wondered. Briefly he gave thanks to whatever Gods were listening at the time that Faith, Dawn and Oz were not here to witness this, or he’d never hear the end of it. Dawn and Oz were out “relaxing” after the last adventure they’d had and Faith was currently teaching his ‘Unconventional Religions’ class; he also suppressed the grin he felt at the notion of Faith teaching. Snapping himself out of his momentary reverie, Xander turned his attention back to his guests, his two female guests. His two female non-human guests, they were K’Pfastead Demons; Xander didn’t know if they should be classified as humanoid or reptiloid but he did think they looked a lot like the Cardassians on Star Trek. ‘How did I get to be Murphy’s test case,’ he wondered, not for the first time. Well he doubted the answers were coming any time soon, so he decided to make the best of this and smiled at the two ladies as he entered the room.
It had started out innocently enough. The four of them had stopped at a bar, much like the Alibi Room back in Sunnydale, to get the news and have a drink. There had been a party going on in the back that they hadn’t paid any attention to; till all the fighting started. It turned out that it was a wedding party, a wedding where all the participants weren’t voluntary. It was probably a very common occurrence, in Medieval times; ugly but powerful prince falls in love with beautiful princess (in this case the ‘prince’ was the warlord of the Yuan Tunq tribe), the princess says ‘no’ so the prince decides she really meant ‘yes’, then comes the kidnapping and the shotgun (or some other sort of weapon) wedding. In this case the princess had objected most strenuously and had laid out more than half of the warlord’s body guard then she broke away and hid behind Xander and begged the four of them to protect her honor. They had all thought it was a set-up or a practical joke gone wrong until one of the remaining guards had tried to backhand Xander out of the way while the princess was pleading her case; that was his first and last mistake. Xander had ducked under the blow, pulled his .357 Python and put a blessed hollow point right through the guard’s right eye. The bullet proceeded to exit the rear of the foolish beings head taking most of its brain with it. The fight after that was short, brutal and very one sided, ending when Faith snapped the warlord’s neck. Now the princess was here with her mother to personally extend their thanks, a motive that Xander didn’t believe for a moment.
“Majesty,” he bowed then turned to the younger female. “Highness, you honor me with your presence.”
“No, it is we who are honored Alexander, after the service you have rendered us, we would be remiss in not thanking you formally.”
“My friends and I only did what anyone else would have Majesty, thanks; while welcome, are un-needed gestures.”
The Queen chuckled at this, “monarchs thrive on un-needed gestures Alexander; in a way it is what reigning is all about.”
Xander wanted to answer that, but just then the Princess stepped forward. “I also offer my personal thanks for your timely intervention.”
“Our help was hardly necessary,” he replied. “You were doing quite well on your own.” He then gestured to the chairs, “Would you both care to be seated?”
Everyone sat down and got comfortable and then the Queen got down to business. “Alexander, in addition to my thanks I also wanted to make you an offer.”
“An offer Majesty?”
“Yes, if my daughter were pledged to someone, then these rather tiresome intrigues to win her hand would be at an end. I would very much like the someone she is pledged to to be you. You have proven yourself in battle and are respected in our world.”
Xander couldn’t believe what he was hearing. It was bad enough that demon girls seemed to be attracted to him, now he had demon moms setting him up with their daughters. He tried to think of a way out of this one without pissing off the two very attractive ladies that could rend him limb from limb. Finally he said, “Majesty, as flattered as I am at your offer, I am hesitant to accept it. Were I to do so, I would open your people up to censure for mingling your royal line with human stock. Doing so would also embarrass the young men of yours and other tribes as well. There is also the fact that I am already pledged to another, I would not want to break faith with her. Not only would it be unfair to her, it would demonstrate my willingness to go back on my word, and you could never trust me after.” Xander had considered why the demons would want him affiliated with their tribe and figured that it must be for security reasons, so he made a counter offer. “I do feel the need to make amends for refusing your remarkable offer so please let it be known that you, your daughter and your people are under the personal protection of Miskatonic in general and our department in particular.” He decided to stop while he was ahead and looked hard at his visitors to see what their reaction was. The Princess looked disappointed while the Queen looked pleased.
“Your reputation for wisdom is well earned,” she said. “Those are indeed crucial points. It is clear that no joining can take place; however recompense for your actions is still owed. I would offer you this,” she pulled a leather looking gauntlet out from her robes. “It is a gauntlet of Galen. It is not known in the human world that Galen was a Strygthal and only studied the healing of humans because of his own races near invulnerability. He made several of these during his life; they will heal nearly any affliction, either natural or mystical. It is not painless and it utilizes the life force of who is being healed, so it is not without cost; however I believe you will find uses for it.”
“Indeed Majesty,” Xander said as he rose and bowed again; then took the offered gauntlet. “It is a remarkable gift, and I thank you most profoundly for it.”
The two demonic royals stood as well, “you are certainly welcome Alexander; unfortunately,” here she glanced at the clock, “we must leave. I do look forward to speaking to you again.”
“You are always welcome Majesty, as are you Highness,” he nodded to the princess.
“Thank you,” the queen said, turning towards the door, “come daughter.”
The princess turned and then turned back to Xander. “I have no reward to give you, so I shall pay my debt in information. The Slayer Prime’s former paramour was not happy with how things were left and is seeking to make his displeasure known to her.”
Xander’s eye widened at what he was hearing, ‘Morty’ was gonna be gunning for Buffy; that could get real ugly, real quickly. “Thank you Highness, you are truly extraordinary,” he said, kissing her hand.
She shot him a brief smile and then was gone. Xander dropped back down into his chair and breathed a sigh of relief. Right now he was glad that he had watched all that ‘Masterpiece Theater’ with Giles. If he hadn’t he probably would have started a diplomatic incident, maybe even a minor war. Xander was also glad again that no one else knew about this little visit, otherwise it would take him years to live it down. He glanced briefly at the gauntlet then set it aside; there were more important things to deal with at the moment. Picking up his phone he called one of the few numbers he had ever memorized. It only rang a couple of times when it was picked up, “Hello.”
“Hey there Giles, sorry to bother you but I just heard some very disturbing news.”
Buffy Summers hung up the phone and leaned her forehead against the wall. It was happening again and she was having trouble believing it; another ex-boyfriend had gone off the rails and now Buffy and everyone she cared about was in danger. Buffy briefly wondered if maybe she ought to rethink her boyfriend choosing paradigm. She took a deep breath and slipped into business mode. Giles had gotten the word that the ‘Immortal’ was gunning for her, this meant that everyone here at Cleveland House was in danger and they needed to figure out how to deal with it. She wasn’t looking forward to explaining to everyone why all of this was happening, but her personal discomfort was meaningless when compared to someone being hurt or killed because they weren’t prepared. ‘OK then,’ Buffy thought, ‘talk to Al and come up with a plan, then we’ll spill to the whole house.’ Having worked out a course of action, Buffy went looking for her Watcher.
“ . . . . . and that’s the whole story,” Buffy concluded, head down, afraid to see what reaction her story had produced.
“Well, I’d say you’ve had some rum luck when it comes to dating.”
“Rum luck, that’s what you’re calling it, rum luck; how about ‘maybe you shouldn’t date guys that are evil and twisted’.”
“Well, you didn’t know they were evil when the relationships started.”
Buffy snorted at this, “I knew they weren’t good.” Then she sighed and scrubbed her face with her hands, “why am I so attracted to guys that I know are gonna hurt me?”
“Honestly I can’t say Buffy, maybe it has something to do with your father.”
“Well from what I’ve read and heard, your father caused your mother quite a bit of pain and whatnot, perhaps you believe that causing emotional pain is something men are supposed to do and you seek out those that will do so.”
Buffy started to say something, but then really thought about what Alistair had just said and closed her mouth.
Alistair paused for a moment then added, “then again it has been my observation that given a choice, girls do tend to go after the ‘bad boy’ much more often than not.”
Again Buffy started to say something, and again she closed her mouth after she started thinking. “Maybe you’re right,” she finally allowed, “so does that mean I’m doomed to relationship suckage?”
“Not at all, you just have to use a different relationship model than your father?”
“Well off the top of my head, how about Xander? He’s always been there for you, and from my readings of Mr. Giles diaries he was always a staunch supporter of yours, both physically and emotionally. Mr. Giles even observed that for most of your time in Sunnydale, Xander was effectively your boyfriend; just without any of the usual benefits of the position.”
Now Buffy was well and truly speechless, Giles had thought that; how could he possibly think that? But then Buffy started to consider the seven years in Sunnydale from an outsider’s point of view and realized that the observation was pretty much right on the money.
“I always wondered why you two never dated.”
“Well, it’s complicated. When I first got there I thought that there were some possibilities, but Willow had kind of claimed him as her territory so I put those thoughts aside. Then he asked me out and I turned him down flat, later that night he brought me back from the dead and I never thanked him. Actually I went so far as to rub the fact in his face. After that I really don’t think he would have gone out with me. I mean there were times when we might have had a second thought or two, but the timing never really worked out for either of us. There are lots of times that I’ve wondered ‘what if’, but in the end it just never happened.”
“I see,” Alistair said finally. “I appreciate you’ve shown me by telling me all this, now lets go down and inform the girls about the changes we need to make.”
The news went over better than Buffy had expected. The girls were sympathetic and seemed to take her warnings to heart. The changes were fairly simple, no one does anything alone. Everyone was on high alert, even during the day because there was no guarantee that the Immortal would only use vampires or that he would even use them in the first place.
XANDER’S OFFICE, RIGHT AFTER HE CALLED GILES
Xander pulled out his cell phone and gave a call to Dawn, knowing that wherever she was, Oz was nearby. After a number of rings it was answered.
“Hey Dawn-star, it’s me.”
“ . . . . . . .”
“No, I called you because the copier needs toner, yes it’s important.”
“I need you and Oz to get in here ASAP.”
“No it’s not an apocalypse, but it is planning on how to prevent one.”
“Yes, and that’s why I want everyone in here, so we can bounce ideas off each other and come up with the best plan possible.”
“No, you can’t have fifteen minutes.”
“No, I don’t want to hear it and no I don’t care what you two were doing, just get your butts in here now.”
“Cause if you don’t I’ll tell Buffy about the chocolate pudding and you’ll never hear the end of it.”
“Yes, I know I’m a meanie, but right now I don’t care. Get here in ten minutes or the story goes out to every Slayer house in the Western Hemisphere.”
“Yes, I’d tell Giles too. Goodbye Dawn.” Xander sat back with a sigh.
Exactly nine and a half minutes later, Hurricane Dawn blew into Xander’s office. The young brunette was spitting fire when she arrived, and even Oz seemed to almost have an expression on his face. She slammed the door open and yelled, “OK, what the hell is so important?”
Xander knew what had been interrupted so he was prepared to cut Dawn a lot of slack and just ignored her attitude. “Word is that the Immortal has decided that his reputation can’t tolerate being dumped so he’s going after Buffy to ‘persuade’ her to change her mind.”
The news immediately put a damper on Dawn’s anger, “what are we going to do?”
“Plan out what to do when your sister calls in re-enforcements. We’ll need to him em hard and fast because there’ll probably be slayers caught in the crossfire.”
“So, any ideas X?”
“Actually I do,” he picked an item up off his desk and handed it to Dawn. “This is a gauntlet of Galen, it’s primarily a healing device but I need you to figure out everything it can do and practice using it.” He turned to Oz and handed him a list, “here’s a list of contacts in Cleveland that the council may not know about; give em all a call and see what they know and make sure they know to contact us if they learn anything.”
“What about you and Faith?”
Xander picked up the Necronomicon and gave a little shudder. “Faith and I have a little book work to do.”
Buffy looked around the table and wanted to cry. It had happened; the Immortal had made his move and hit one of their patrols last night. Irina was dead, Alistair captured and Stephanie was blaming herself because she had escaped relatively unscathed. Around the table were the remaining slayers and watchers and right now they were all looking to her; and she was mortally afraid that this was gonna turn into Sunnydale part II and she’d end up getting everyone killed. The note from the Immortal demanding that she exchange herself for Alistair didn’t help matters. “So what are we going to do, Miss Summers,” Cassie asked.
“First of all we’re on lock down until this is over, jobs, school, whatever; you’re calling in sick. No one leaves the house unless it’s day and even then you always take someone with you. We know that he’s got lots of vamps working for him, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have other demons, more sunlight friendly demons working for him as well. As for this,” Buffy picked up the note, “this is for me and me alone to deal with.”
“You’re not going to actually trust him to make the exchange, are you?” An Australian Watcher named Brigit asked.
“No I’m not; however he knows our strength so we can’t just meet him head on.”
“So what are you going to do?”
Buffy answered with a feral grin, “I’m gonna cheat.”
Buffy tried to fight down a completely inappropriate smile, the Immortal and about sixty five vampires were holding Alistair in an abandoned church and all Buffy could think was, ‘cliché much.’ She was standing on the steps at the front of the church and all the doors were open so she could see clearly, at least she could see the altar clearly. That’s where the Immortal was as well as Alistair. The Watcher was tied spread eagle on the altar table, his chest bared; the Immortal was standing behind him with a smile that was both triumphant and psychotic. As for the vampires, well she didn’t need her sight for them; the sheer number had her slayer senses pegged off scale. The church seemed to be lit by torches and the flickering shadows offered too many places of concealment, there would be no sneaking and hiding, this was gonna be head on. She briefly looked down at the shirt Xander had insisted she wear, it was bright yellow with a smiley face and ‘Have a Nice Day’ printed on the front. ‘Even if I wanted to, there’s no way I could sneak around in this monstrosity,’ she thought. Taking a breath she leapt from the stairs, through the vestibule and landed softly in the sanctuary, her sudden appearance startled the vamps around her; they pulled back, showing their game faces. But her focus was entirely on the Immortal, seeing her he simply looked more psychotic, something Buffy hadn’t thought possible. “You all can leave now and stay un-dusty,” Buffy called out in a clear voice. “If you choose to stay put then all bets are off.”
“Hiding behind bad jokes Elizabeth, that really isn’t you,” the Immortal replied as the vampires chuckled.
“No hiding Morty, I’m serious,” she finally looked around at the vampires. “Anything that stays is dust, simple as that.”
The vamps looked a bit uncertain in the face of Buffy’s confidence but the Immortal just laughed again. “And how are you going to accomplish that?”
In response Buffy said nothing, she just smiled.
This disconcerted the Immortal momentarily, so much so that he didn’t notice her heading for him. It was only when the vampires started circling in preparation for attacking that he realized she had moved. His voice rang out through the church, “leave her be, her fate is mine and mine alone.” He smiled once more at the diminutive blond that had sought to leave him, the thought of her long and arduous correction making his smile grow larger.
Reluctantly the vampires backed off as Buffy faced her ex across Alistair’s body. “I’m here, now let him go.”
The Immortal smirked down at her, “you know, I’m feeling inclined to alter our deal, how about I kill him and have them turn you?”
“Why is it that every time something like this goes down you nutsy evil types have to feel like you can just change a deal on a whim.” Buffy then gave an involuntary shiver as her slayer sense started pinging even louder than before.
“That is simple my dear, it’s because I am in control here, so I am free to indulge my whims.”
“Yeah, but this isn’t the first time I’ve been through something like this, and notice that I’m still here and the jerk-offs that thought they were in ‘control’ are all fertilizer. Are you beginning to see a pattern here?”
The Immortal’s grin got even larger and, if possible; crazier, “yes, it tells me that you have been dealing with inferior opponents, none that have my centuries of experience.”
“Yeah, like the First Evil was just a babe in the woods compared to a poser like you,” Buffy sneered. Then she looked around at the assembled vampires and the overly Gothic setting, “yeah, this is real original. So how about you just give up now before very bad things occur to you, because you might be immortal, but I’ll bet I can make you wish you could die.”
“Sorry Elizabeth,” the Immortal said, pulling a dagger from the folds of the robe he was wearing, “tonight I decide who dies and how.”
“If you really believe that, then you’re a lot dumber than I thought.”
The Immortal sneered and started to say something when he looked up, something wasn’t right and he could feel it. The vampires were all looking around, feeling the danger but not finding the source. Seemingly at once everyone looked up and saw a vertical line of light, right after the light appeared there was the sound. It was as though a door that was thoroughly rusted shut was being forced open only more so, the sound was more fundamental somehow. As the sound increased the line opened into a gateway, and something came through. The easiest analogy would be to compare it to a gigantic amoeba; it was essentially shapeless, with whatever equipment it deemed necessary forming and fading as the situation demanded. Then many things happened at once; a voice spoke in Buffy’s head, telling her to cover Alistair’s body with her own, dozens of tendrils lashed out of the dimensional visitor and destroyed the vampires, ripping off heads and limbs seemingly without effort and the Immortal overcame his fear, and the realization that he’d been played and tried to take away Buffy’s victory by stabbing down into the Watcher’s body. He only got one strike because as he raised his arm again he felt the air move and suddenly whatever it was, was looming over him. He looked up in fear and the thing darted forward and enveloped him in itself. He hung there writhing and screaming as the monster backed away from the altar and back through the gateway and into whatever dimension it had come from. The rift closed with another shriek and suddenly the church was silent except for Alistair’s screaming. Buffy looked at the body under hers and realized that the Immortal had stabbed the Watcher in the gut; she couldn’t even imagine the pain he was enduring at the moment. Looking up she yelled, “get down here you all, he’s hurt bad.”
There was the sound of feet hurrying on unseen stairs and suddenly, and though teleported; Dawn and Oz were there by her. Oz got her off the injured man while Dawn examined the wound; absently Buffy noted that she was wearing this weird glove thingy that she’d never seen before. Turning to Oz and Buffy, Dawn said “I need you two to hold him down, I can heal him but it won’t be painless. The two glanced at each other and Buffy grabbed the Watcher’s thighs while Oz moved and took hold of the man’s arms. As she watcher her younger sister move into position, Buffy wondered where Xander and Faith were.
‘Just cleaning up the summoning ritual B,’ the dark Slayer’s voice echoed in her head. ‘You don’t want to screw it up and have ugly come back for you.’
‘That’s for sure,’ Buffy thought, ‘and what the hell was that thing anyway?’
‘Xander called it a Shoggoth,’ came the reply. ‘We had to make a deal with it so it would help.’
‘What was the deal?’
‘Well it’s been studying humans for damn near ever, but we die to easy, so we promised it one that would be a lot harder to kill.’
Buffy shuddered at the thought of the Immortal’s fate, but seeing Alistair’s pain as Dawn healed the messy wound tempered her sympathy a great deal. ‘Was that why I had to wear this god-awful shirt,’ Buffy asked her sister slayer.
‘Yeah, we needed something easy to ID you so you wouldn’t end up as a specimen as well.’
‘Thanks Faith, and thank Xander too please.’
‘Sure thing B, glad we could help.’
‘I’m betting you’re whipped, you guys just wanna spend the night here?’
There was a moment of silence as Dawn finished up with Alistair, who had blessedly passed out; Dawn was looking a bit whipped as well. ‘Sure B, sounds like a plan,’ came Faith’s reply and later the six of them left the church and headed back to Cleveland House, Alistair being supported by Xander and Oz.
“So how close did you all cut it,” Buffy asked as they moved through the Cleveland night.
Dawn answered her sister. “We had the transport set up before hand, and Xander and Faith rehearsed the ritual to summon Big Ugly. But we had to wait until you were distracting everyone before we could come here and start summoning the Shoggoth. It sounded like Willow was doing the summoning, they were reciting so fast.”
Buffy looked at her sister as she continued on about the evenings events. It was strange for Buffy, comparing the woman Dawn had become to the whiny brat that she had been. It made her wonder what other things had she missed when she’d not been paying much attention.