The Greedy Howl of the Wind
Echoes of the Fallen:
Chapter 13: The Greedy Howl of the Wind
Disclaimer: Marvel owns Magneto and a host of other characters. Buffy, Xander and Co belong to Joss Whedon and the studios.
Author’s Notes: A quiet step and acceptance. The lingering memories of the path unfurl as we find ourselves reaching our destination.
Though, I probably rushed this a bit. Sorry about that, just needed it over and done with.
Balthazar blinked slightly, then blinked again. Around him, lay the dust and ash of El Eliminati, torn to pieces by the savage fury of the quartet of hell hounds. Carefully, he looked again over his shoulder, twisting as best he could to see nothing left of his forces, before he sighed slightly.
“Well… Apparently a new plan was needed.” Balthazar quietly shook his head as he couldn’t help but lament, that telling his minions to ‘Attack, Attack, Attack!’ had not been the best course of action.
As the demons growled darkly in their advance on him, the obese demon shifted nervously as he glanced down at them. “Um… good doggies? No need for you to…”
With that, the beasts lunged forward, snarling darkly as they began to tear the glistening flesh of the moistened demon to bits, before they ripped away his skull to feast on his brains.
“Ah, so nice to see results again!” The Mayor chuckled softly as he nodded in approval as the hell hounds dragged back the emptied skull of Balthazar. “Excellent work my boy, excellent.” For a moment, the Mayor said nothing, before he let loose a soft cough. “They are house broken though, aren’t they?”
“…” Glory slowly stared at the rent flesh that had once been Balthazar before twitching slightly as she pursed her lips a bit. “Oh, that little cockroach…”
For a moment, she simply strutted around the room, frowning as she glanced from item to item, studying things as she noticed the piles of dust spread here and there, as well as the fallen swords and the decayed pile of remains that had once been a demon. Shaking her head she sighed slightly and glared around her. “Ugh, fine, little bastard. I take his little fellow insects, he takes Balthazar. And before he could find my key too!”
Grumbling slightly she lightly kicked a sword out of the way before lightly rubbing her forehead. “Well, looks like I’ll have to kick things up a notch again. Damn, just when I was starting to like the little bug.”
“Well, so much for the El Eliminati and Balthazar.” Xander noted with a quietly subdued tone of voice as he glanced towards the rotted remains of the once powerful demon as he glanced at one of the fallen pairs of swords “Ugh, talk about nasty.”
“Ain’t that the truth.” Faith agreed, shuddering slightly as her gaze flicked around the room. “So, we…?”
“Yeah, wonder what kinda demons they were?” Xander shook his head and sighed just a bit before he glanced over at Buffy. “Any clues, Buff?”
“They got one of em, whatever they were.” Buffy responded with a shrug. “Other than that… not so much.”
“Not much on the remains, huh?” Faith offered up as she glanced arounds.
“Yeah, like most demons, hell hounds tend to leave a nasty bit of clean up.” A new voice spoke up as a blonde woman clad in red strode into view. “Really, really did suck, Balthazar hadn’t even found my Key yet too! And I was actually starting to like that little cockroach until he did this!”
“I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess… Glorificus?” Xander offered up carefully as he studied what appeared to be a woman in front of him.
“Huh, whadda ya know, guess the cockroach isn’t the only one of you insects with a brain.” The Hell God responded with a slight shrug of her shoulders. “Ugh, now I’ve got to go and find another group of minions that brains they actually use.”
“Good luck with that.” Faith snorted softly as she smirked a bit even as she kept herself tensed and wary. “You think any of the ones with brains are still around after that brawl in the park a while back?”
“Eh, just a little bump in the road, that’s all.” Glory waved her hand casually, before smirking just a bit. “So, two Slayers huh? That’s a bit different. I suppose you found that little ant who ran when I went looking for my Key amongst the rest of his brethren?”
“Huh, interesting.” Xander nodded with a light pursing of his lips a he glanced over at Buffy. “And I thought she was supposed to be a blonde air head?”
“Well, that was how Willy described her.” Buffy responded, here eyes never leaving Glory. “Admittedly, he did say she was the scariest thing that had ever given him a boner.” She paused a moment and shuddered visibly. “And, Ew! Scary mental places!”
“And here I thought he was a smart little bug.” Glory responded with a sigh of mock exaggeration. “Guess I’ll have to be making him go squish after all.”
“Well, if you can find him that is.” Faith supplied with a shrug. “Because, guy like that? He recognized he was a rate on a sinking ship and ran as fast as he could once he let everything slip.”
“Ugh, too many of you insects are damned cockroaches.” Glory sighed a moment before brightening. “But, I bet you could tell me where I can find my Key!”
“’Fraid not.” Xander responded with a quiet sigh. “You see, sadly the monk grabbed the Key and jumped on a ship…” Glancing down at his watch he paused a moment. “Well, that’s what he said at least. If you hurry you might be able to catch him.”
“Right, and I’m just supposed to believe that, huh?” Glory chuckled slightly in a bit of amusement as she smirked back at Xander.
“Well, I’m not sure honestly.” Xander shrugged slightly before he turned to Faith. “Hey Faith, did Cordy and Dawn get the monk to the boat?”
“Nah, just the princess.” Faith shot back as she shrugged. “Little D wasn’t much in the mood to have the princess of thieves rifle through her wallet again.”
“That’s all your fault you know.” Buffy responded with a slight smirk on her lips and a shake of her head as she sighed. “She never would have learned any of it if you hadn’t taught her.”
“Huh, you know, generally? Bad idea to ignore the Hell God.” Glory spoke up as she glanced at the three. “Though, you three are kinda amusing.”
“We do try.” Xander noted as he glanced carefully over Glory. “Even if we really do have to stop you from heading home.”
“Oh…?” Glory’s arms crossed about her chest as she pursed her lips, glaring coldly back at Xander.
“Yeah, personally?” Xander shrugged a bit. “I got no problems with you wanting to go home. Or, even sending you home.” He paused before coughing a bit. “I do however, have a problem with you wanting to destroy this entire dimension in the process.”
“Heard about that, huh?” Glory paused a moment before nodding her head in acceptance. “Now, I suppose that puts you ahead of the rest of the little insects.”
“Huh, I never realized how annoying the superior lifeform spiel was until now.” Xander noted absently as he glanced over at Buffy. “It really gets a bit aggravating when you're on the other end of it, isn't it?”
“Just a bit.” Buffy admitted as she warily watched the Hell God with her full attention. “Though, I'm sure you're much scarier when you do it.”
“You saying I'm not scary?” Glory arched a brow as she leveled a flat stare at the girl.
“Well, it's hard to be afraid of a girl that seems to have taken her dress sense from Cordelia during her hooker wear days.” Xander admitted as he quirked his lips in amusement. “Expensive, designer clothes, just like hers, but still, the effect is... Urk!”
Xander's little commentary derailed as he dangled in the slender grip of the Hell God, his feet dangling in the air as she held him aloft. “Now, you see, that just wasn't nice.”
Buffy blinked slightly in shock at the pure speed the creature had displayed, before instantly she was in motion, her eyes burning as she quickly threw herself into a savage kick against Glory's arm. Resulting in a slight grunt of annoyance from the woman as she unconsciously dropped Xander to the ground. “Hey, no one man handles my boyfriend but me!”
“Oh, you want to play now, little insect?” Glory sneered back at the girl, her eyes burning slightly as she glared at the girl, batting away a punch sent with an absent flick of her wrist. “Fine, we'll play.”
And with that, Buffy was suddenly rocketting back through the air, Glory's fist held out where the blonde Slayer's body had once been, before the Hell God herself was knocked slightly backwards by another kick from Faith. A moment later the brunette Slayer herself was flying through the air, landing next to Buffy as they stared in shock at the woman in front of them even as Xander quickly scrambled over to them. Shaking her head, and lightly rubbing at her side, Glory smirked at the trio.
“Now, that actually stung a bit.” The smirking admittance wasn't a comforting thing to the trio as the woman slowly stalked forward in her clicking heels. “Now, I'll ask you again, where... is... my... Key?!”
“Ya know, I did already tell you, we sent the monk away by boat. He's the one that knew where your key was.” Xander shot back even as he rubbed at his throat, coughing slightly. “But, hey, no one believes the clown.”
“Right, because after you've told me you know what's going to happen to your world, I'm really ready to believe you're telling me where to find my Key.” Glory snorted softly as she crossed her arms about her chest. “What do you think I am, stupid?”
“Nah...” Xander shook his head as he pulled out a cylindrical object into his hands and grinned a bit. “Blind, maybe, but stupid? I'm dating a blonde, so I know how smart they can be.”
“Uh huh. Where's my Key?” Glory growled back and glared mildly at the boy. “And you should know, some stupid little human explosive isn't going to do anything more than ruin my dress... and that's just going to piss me off.”
“I honestly don't know where your Key is.” Xander admitted with a grin before he shot a meaningful look towards Buffy and Faith. “What I don't know means is what I can't share.” He grinned again back at her, before pulling the pin on the cylinder in his hand and lightly tossed it in front of Glory's feet as he and the girls ducked and covered.
“I told you...” There was a sudden brilliant explosion of light and sound ripping through the warehouse, forcing Glory to look away as her ears rang with the violent concussive sound. Growling angrily, the Hell God rubbed at her e yes, dazed and unable to really see. “What... the... Fuck?!”
Finally coming out of her daze, Glory rubbed roughly at her eyes and glared around her, sighing just a bit as she noticed she was completely alone in the warehouse once more. “Well...” She glanced down, seeing her dress was still in one piece, and unsinged before smirking just slightly. “At least my dress is fine this time. Two cockroaches, and two little wasps then. This gets more and more interesting as things go on.”
“Well, that was certainly a kick in the ass.” Faith commented as she lightly rubbed against the dark bruise that had sprouted on her chest where Glory had struck. “I could barely see the bitch move.”
“Yeah, we're definitely going to need a plan for her.” Xander agreed as he lightly rubbed on his own throat where the delicate seeming fingers of the Hell God had dug into his flesh. “Man, I haven't felt that out classed since...” He paused a moment, before chuckling softly as he smirked just a bit, his voice shifting into that European drawl. “Well, let us just say it was a humbling experience and leave it at that, hmmm?”
“Heavy duty planning time it seems.” Buffy noted before blinking over at Xander. “What the hell was that thing you threw at her, it looked like a grenade, but...”
“It was.” Xander responded quickly as he quirked his lips just a bit. “A flash bang to be precise. Good for disorienting the opponent prior to an attack, or retreat.”
“Probably saved our asses.” Faith agreed with a nod of her head and a shudder. “We really need to find some heavy duty stuff to take this bitch on.”
“We'll figure something out.” Xander agreed quietly as he pursed his lips. “I've got a few ideas already... The problem being, on if they're enough. We know she can take a hit, even a Slayer hit apparently, with little or any damage. What we need is a way to multiply what we've got.”
They pushed their way into the library, to find an irritated Giles mildly glaring back at a puffed up Wesley. Glancing at one another, the trio paused as they chose to simply listen in for the moment instead of drawing attention to themselves.
“Now, Mr. Giles, the Council has been most generous, perhaps overly so, in allowing you to continue to exert this... influence you have over the Slayers. However, we cannot afford to have them distracted by split loyalties in this dire time.” Wesley drew himself up, shoulders squared and back straight as he glared at the man. “So, you will kindly cease and desist you attempts at undermining the Council's authority!”
“Wesley, all I have done is present the Council with the information that has been collected by the Slayers concerning this threat, as well as the details I've managed to uncover from my own, personal tomes.” Giles was pinching the bridge of his nose as he sighed slightly in exasperation. “Including the information we've learned from the remaining member of the Order of Dagon.”
“Yes, well the Council feels that your reliance on this individual is not in the best interests of those involved.” Wesley paused, puffing up his chest a bit more as he stared down his nose at Giles. “As such, they have contacted the Knights of Byzantium...”
“Shit...” Faith paled, visibly as she stared at the Watcher and turned her wide eyes to the other two as she spoke in a soft, hushed voice. “This is bad.”
“The... Are you bloody twits insane?!” Giles half growled out his words as he tore his glasses from his face. “Those damned fanatics were the LAST people you should have contacted! The Order of Dagon...”
“Had their chance to deal with the Key, however, as is our understanding, they chose instead to study it instead of dispose of it as they should have.” Wesley continued, ignoring the man's protests. “The Council has instructed me to take charge of the situation and offer the Knights whatever...”
Whatever else the man might've said was cut off, as Faith stalked up behind him and viciously kicked in the back of Wesley's knees as she slammed his face down into the table with a brutal force as her voice practically screamed down into the man's ear. “YOU STUPID FUCKING BASTARD!”
“Faith...” Xander spoke up quickly, moving to her side where she was pinning the Brit in place, her booted foot savagely pressing against the man's knee. “Ease up some.”
“These stupid... They're fucking serving up the world to her!” Faith growled as she twisted Wesley's head painfully to the side. “The Order tried to destroy the Key! For CENTURIES! That's why they were studying it you moron! If the Knights get their hands on its vessel and destroy it, they're practically handing it and the World to the bitch on a silver platter!”
“The Knights...” Wesley let out a pained, fearful whimper of protest as he could feel his glasses digging back against his face.
“Are fanatics, zealots.” Xander spoke up again, shaking his head as he glared down at Wesley. “In other words, narrow minded fools. The Key is ENERGY at its base. It can be stored, it can be channeled, but it cannot be simply destroyed by destroying what it's stored in! While it's stored, its hidden from Glorificus' sight. She can only follow it the same ways the rest of us can, mortal observation. If the Knights succeed, then they'll be handing Glory what she needs to rip this entire universe apart.”
“I'm certain that...” Again, Wesley attempted to take control of the conversation, gasping slightly as he could feel Faith exerting even more pressure on his body.
“You, and the Council just don't get it, do you?” It was Buffy's turn to speak as she glared down at the man, pursing her lips softly as she let off a slight growl of anger. “The answer isn't always strength. It isn't always about power, it isn't always about forcing things the way you think they should be.”
“The answer is in adapting, never being stuck in one way of thinking, one way of acting.” Xander picked up where she'd left off, his eyes dark as he glared down at where Wesley was pinned painfully against the table. “Not in doing something simply because it's how it's always been done. Not being chained to tradition simply because it's tradition.”
“You and those pieces of shit on the Council... If we fail because you shit heads stuck your heads up your asses on this and ignored the intel we gave you...” Faith growled softly as she tightened her grip on Wesley. “I am going to personally drag each and every one of your worthless souls down to the deepest, darkest Hell I can find and fucking Crucify you there. GOT IT?”
“T-there is no need for...” Wesley began in protest, his eyes glistening with fear as he struggled to regain his composure. “T-the Council...!”
“Get the fuck gone.” Faith roughly pulled the man away, shoving him towards the door with an angry flash of her eyes. “This isn't a place for pussy little Watchers. This is a place for people who get their hands fucking dirty and get the job fucking done.”
His eyes wild, Wesley's eyes flicked from Faith to Buffy, the blonde girl shaking her head, a look of detatched pity. “Just go, Wesley. We gave you and your Council a chance to that you could help instead of making things worse. You've proven that you have no place here.”
Stumbling away, the British man stared, wildly back at them for a moment before pushing away again, and fearfully almost running out the door. Once he was gone, Faith collapsed down into a chair and buried her face in her hand. “Shit, shit, shit. As if we didn't have enough fucking problems as it fucking is.”
“I take it from Faith's rather... explicit vocabulary, things didn't go too well?” Giles' face was carefully neutral as he studied the trio of teenagers in front of him.
“Balthazar and his El Eliminati are dead.” Xander answered him quietly as he collapsed down into a seat himself. “And we finally met Glorificus.”
“Dear Lord...” Giles' voice was a hoarse whisper as he noticed the visible bruises on Faith's and Xander's bodies. “How did you...?”
“Flash bang grenade.” Xander responded simply with a slight grunt. “I pulled a few of them when we got the rocket launchers. Been making sure I had one on me during patrols, just in case.”
“Yes, well, what can you tell me about her?”
“She has Cordelia's taste in hooker wear, but doesn't make it look as good.” Xander offered with a slight smirk on his lips before wincing a bit at the slight glare Buffy threw at him.
“Bad, Xan.” The blonde girl chided slightly as she glared mildly at the boy.
“Yeah, yeah...” Xander shrugged a bit and grinned at her. “You're still the one I'm taking to Prom, remember?”
“You better be.” The blonde agreed primly, before smirking just a bit as she glanced over at Faith. “Oh, by the way, I found out who Cordy's date is going to be.”
“... Fuck.” Faith paled slightly as she glared a bit at Buffy. “Come on, B... It's bad enough I lost that bet with her, you gotta rub it in too?”
“Nah, I'm just going to make certain I get plenty of photos for all my future blackmail needs.” Buffy grinned down right evilly back at Faith. “After all, you do recall that Cordy is the one who's picking out your dress, right?”
“Bend me over and fuck me up the ass.” Faith groaned even louder as she buried her face in her hands and sighed. “This just isn't my day.”
“Well, I'm kinda curious if Buff is going to take you up on your offer.” Xander offered up, waggling his brows suggestively as he ignored the death glares both Slayers were sending him. “Though, I doubt I'd be lucky enough to get to see it.”
“Or live long afterwards if you did.” Faith growled slightly as she blushed brilliantly.
“Probably not.” Xander admitted serenely as he could feel his girlfriend glaring at him as well. “But, what a way to go.”
“Pervert.” Buffy muttered softly and sighed just a bit as she lightly punched him on the arm.
“Only where you're involved my dear, only where you're involved.” Xander assured the girl, even as he ducked away from another blow. “I'm gonna go with the hey, that hurts!”
“Right, it'd better hurt.” Buffy grumbled a bit and sighed as she shook her head. “Come on, we gotta go get your tux.”
“... Bought, paid for and fitted, thank you very much.” Xander shot back with a casual sniff. “And I look quite dashing in magenta, I must say.”
“... PLEASE tell me you're joking.” Buffy stared back at the boy who smirked in turn at her.
“The purple shirt should fit in absolutely wonderfully.”
“I kid, I kid.” He quickly held up his hands in quiet surrender. “Sorry, I couldn't help it.”
“... You're taking me to your tuxedo, NOW.” The blonde growled as she took hold of her boyfriend's arm and dragged him, angrily away from the other two.
“If I fail to return, remember me as I was!” Xander called out, his eyes dancing merrily as he ignored the growing growl from Buffy. “And know, I died with honor!”
“Oh, I am, sooooo going to hurt you for that.” Buffy grumbled a bit as she pulled him through the doors.
“My... Xander certainly seems... “ Giles began as he struggled for the right words.
“Insane? Bonkers? Crazy?” Faith offered helpfully as she stared where the pair had just exitted.
“His age for a change.” Giles noted quietly and smiled just a bit. “More like how he used to be, before things changed.”
“... He used to be like that all the time?” Faith stared at Giles, her brow arching up slightly in question.
“Yes, he was.” The man agreed with a quiet nod of his head as he began to thumb through a book. “Though, perhaps not quite as blatantly perverse.”
“... How'd he survive?” Faith could only blink again as she tried to wrap her mind around how the clown she'd seen was still the same Xander she'd known for most of the year, was in fact the Xander she'd never had a chance to really know.
“There has always been more to Xander than most people realize I think.” Giles responded simply as he smiled faintly. “It makes them underestimate what he's capable of.”
“All right.” Faith nodded her head slightly before sighing just a bit. “So, know any spells that keep a person from showing up in photographs?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact.” Giles noted with a slight smirk on his lips even he flipped through the book in hand.
“Indeed.” He paused a moment before that smirk settled more fully on his lips. “That doesn't mean I going to share it with you though.”
“Ugh, I'm gonna kill him.” Buffy muttered audibly as she paced with a quick click of her heels as the pale lavender dress rippled slightly against her slim frame. “Slowly, painfully, permanently!”
“Permanently?” Joyce offered up as she studied her daughter carefully, her eyes dancing with amusement as she quirked a brow, her own body decked out in a subdued auburn dress as she lightly placed her hands on her hips. “And tell me, young lady, exactly what's wrong with Rupert taking me as his date to help chaperone?”
“Eh? Giles?” Buffy blinked slightly, her eyes almost popping out of her face as she froze that way for just a moment. “When was I going to be informed of such?!”
“Probably when he showed up to take me?” Joyce offered, smiling a bit more as she settled her hands on her hips. “Now, as we've ruled out Rupert, you wouldn't be talking about killing your date would you?”
“Mom... He refused to let me see his tuxedo.” Buffy's voice was flat and hard as she glared mildly back at her mother. “I mean, completely, flat out refused! Told me he didn't want to miss the expression on my face when I saw it.”
“Oh, dear.” Joyce fought back the urge to laugh at the expression racing across her daughter's face. “And you think...?”
“It's Xander.” Buffy's response was simple and flat as she levelled a look at her mother. “I love him, I really do, but would YOU trust him to not show up in a Hawaiian print tuxedo?”
“Now dear, he's out grown the loud color phase, and you know it.” Joyce chided lightly even as her eyes danced softly. “Though, you do seem to bring out the kid in him.”
“It feels good, just talking with him like that, you know?” Buffy sighed slightly and shook her head a moment before collapsing down against a chair. “Still... the fact that he flat out refused... REFUSED! To show me...”
“I guess she knows me too well.” Xander spoke up, his eyes dancing merrily as he stepped in, decked out in a vividly bright yellow tuxedo with red flowers printed across it, splashed with leaves of green, with matching tie and cumber bun.
“... Oh, Xander...” Joyce bit back a laugh as her daughter stared dumbfounded at her date, gaping at him incredulously like a fish out of water, before a flash of light and the click of a camera could be heard.
“Got it!” Cordelia's voice could be heard crowing triumphantly as she slipped out in her black prom dress, camera in hand as she smirked triumphantly.
“Cool, I'll go get changed.” Xander responded with a grin as he quickly went to work undoing his tie and shucking his jacket.
“Stop!” Buffy's voice ordered angrily. “Splainy, now!”
“They played a joke on you, B.” Faith's voice rang out, dripping with amusement before the girl almost awkwardly swayed into the room. “Ugh, I hate heels.”
“... Faith?” Buffy simply blinked, and stared in utter and complete shock at the girl in front of her.
“At least I know I'm not alone in it.” Faith muttered slightly as she lightly shifted uncomfortably in the soft pink silk that clung all the way from her neck down to her ankles, save for the slit up to her hip that showed off the well formed length of her leg. “And yeah, not a word about it. I'm doing this because I'm no squelcher, doesn't mean I have to fuckin like it.”
“You look beautiful, Faith.” Joyce assured the girl, smiling softly as she strode over and plucked the camera from Cordelia's hands. “And Xander, I'm getting a picture of you in the tuxedo.”
“Moooooom!” Buffy groaned audibly as Xander pulled the jacket back over his shoulders and laughed softly.
“Sure. But we can do that anytime. I had to have this thing custom made.” Xander grinned just a bit. “Completely worth it to get the look on Buffy's face...”
“As long as you give me a copy for the family album.” Joyce agreed with a grin on her face. “And I want a picture of the two of you together, we can get one with the real tuxedo after you change, but I still want one with you like that.”
“Yes ma'am.” Xander laughed softly as he slipped over next to Buffy, and lightly moved to slide his arm against hers. “Forgive me?”
“... You have a real tux to change into?” Buffy demanded, glaring mildly at her boyfriend.
“Yup. I'm hurt you think so little of me, beautiful.” Xander spread his fingers across his chest and pouted softly down at her. “Really, what have I...”
“Xan, shush and smile for my mom.”
“Whatever you say, beautiful, whatever you say.”
“This… is nice.” Buffy’s voice murmured softly against the grey silk of Xander’s vest as his black, jacketed arms wrapped gently about her waist, holding her so gently in his arms.
“Yeah, I’d say so,” Xander agreed quietly as he lightly placed a soft kiss atop her head, his arms cradling her so tenderly as they swayed to the music. “Though, I’m still waiting to wake up and find myself back to being alone.”
“Mm… If this is a dream, when you wake up, you can take me with you.” Buffy countered with a slight smile on her lips before she glanced up at him. “It wouldn’t be a dream without you.”
“Hey, that’s my line.” Xander chuckled even as they song slowly came to an end, his fingers slipping up, lightly stroking against her cheek, his palm lightly cupping against her face as he smiled at her.
“Mmm maybe, but doesn’t make it any less true.”
“Um, excuse me?” The nervous voice of Jonathan Levinson as he spoke up carefully glancing around the room while he shifted, obviously uncomfortable. “It’s time for the class awards…”
As the groups of students settled back into their various groups, Buffy leaned back against Xander’s chest as the teen held his arms wrapped firmly about her waist. There was a slight, wistful sigh escaping Xander’s lips when the class clown award came and passed without so much of a mention of his name. Seeing the slight longing in his eyes Buffy grinned up at him and lay her head back against his chest.
“You’ll always be my clown prince charming, Xan.”
His lips quirking slightly, Xander chuckled and leaned down, placing a soft, gentle kiss on the nape of her neck. “Thanks, Beautiful.”
“All right, all the regular awards have been given out…” Jonathan spoke up his voice filling the gym as slowly the nervousness began to melt away. “You know, this last year and a half has been intense. Things kept happening, things we couldn’t explain, things that we didn’t want to explain. There’s always been something… there, just under the surface. Something dark, something most of us would never want to know about.”
An uneasy agreement rippled through the air as Scoobies one and all now focused their attention onto the podium. “I mean… what other high school in the US has an obituary section?” A slight ripple of nervous laughter echoed across the room, before the boy continued. “But… Starting our sophomore year, something changed in Sunnydale. And most of, if not all of us know the who, if not the why. Is Buffy Summers here tonight?”
Eyes turned onto her, and Buffy blinked slightly in shock as she felt the light fall on her, illuminating as she rested back against her boyfriend. Seeing her pointed out, Jonathan smiled slightly and continued. “To Buffy Summers, goes an award via write in on our ballots. Buffy Summers, our Class Protector.”
As the ripple of applause greeted her, Buffy blinked again, staring in disbelieving shock as she felt a slight nudge against her back as Xander urged her forward. As the crowd rippled away, the blonde Slayer blushed softly as she walked up to the stage. Taking the umbrella bearing plaque she smiled, lifting it up as she glanced around the room, letting her eyes convey the thanks she felt, before quietly pulling away without a word as she slipped back towards the crowd.
“Normally, this would have been the end of our little awards ceremony.” Jonathan continued after the girl had left the stage. “But, Buffy, could you stay up here a moment?”
At the bewildered look on her face the boy smiled nervously back at her before looking back over across the crowd. “Invariably, where there was trouble Buffy was there, helping out, fighting to keep us safe… But, we also know she wasn’t alone. We, the Sunnydale class of 1999 would like to thank all of you. Could Xander Harris, Willow Rosenberg, Cordelia Chase and date, Oz Osbourne, and Rupert Giles please come up here?”
As the suddenly bewildered group of seniors and one librarian stepped up to the stage, Larry Blaisdell stepped up to the mic next to Jonathan and looked at his fellow teen for permission. When Jonathan nodded and stepped back, the former football player carefully adjusted the mic and smiled out across the room before glancing over at the still confused looking Scoobies. “Well, I kinda volunteered for this, but lemme say sorry we’re kinda ambushing you guys like this.”
As a soft chuckling rippled through the room, Larry took a moment, taking a slow, deep breath before he continued. “Looking over the past few years, we’ve faced things that no one really should. We’ve seen monsters and nightmares and things we didn’t want to acknowledge as real. Some of us repressed, some of us ignored, some of us refused to see, but some few of us chose to stand up and fight for all of us.”
Turning his head, he looked at the Scoobies and smiled a sad, solemn smile. “They did so, even as so many of us targeted them as weak, as weird, as strange and bizarre. They shielded us, even as we tried to bully them or belittle them. They fought for us, when we stood like sheep before the slaughter, not wanting to believe the danger we faced.”
For a moment, he let his words hang in the air, the shame in his voice causing a ripple of shifting nervousness in the crowd around him before he continued. “ And when one of us finally stepped up and joined them, many of us were quick to ridicule her as well. But, still they did what we should have been doing all along. What was right, not what was easy. So, on behalf of everyone in the class of 1999, I want to say thank you for showing us what it means to have that kind of strength.”
For a moment, a heavy silence reigned around the room, before slowly a trickle of applause rippled out. A trickle, that moments later erupted into a full out roar for the group a moment later, causing them to shift nervously under the praise.
Blood coursed and pulsed through his veins as he looked up into the almost bored gaze of the blonde creature looming over him. Blood that rose up over his lips and erupted was a wet cough sent spikes of pain through his broken, shattered flesh. Blood that burned like bile on his tongue as Tucker Wells looked up at the eyes that looked upon him like a man does an ant, just before his boot crushes it underfoot.
“So, I suppose that’s it?” Glory’s brow rose on her features as she lightly glanced down at her nails for a moment. “Ya know, with all the frustrations I’ve been going through with you insects of late, I kinda expected… more, you know?”
Tucker almost laughed at the way the Hell God seemed disappointed. His lips, quirking slightly in a grim moment of humor as he managed to offer her the slightest of shrugs as the grim certainty of death began to settle into his form. “S-sorry…t-to… dis… appoint.”
“Meh, I just suppose the cockroaches have raised the standard a bit more than I’m used to.” Glory sighed slightly as she glanced down at the boy, broken and dying in front of her with the bodies of three hell hounds surrounding him. “I think I’m almost going to miss them once I leave this place and it, ya know, completely ceases to exist.”
Shaking her head, Glory chuckled slightly, quickly as she let her eyes wander over Tucker’s body. “So, certain you won’t tell me where I can find him, hmmm?”
“W-why?” The word struggled to escape his lips, his eyes heavy, struggling to keep them open as he looked at the being who wore the body of a woman. “I… I… m-m-might be… damned… But… even I… have something to protect here.”
He managed a grin then, looking up at his death with a calm acceptance that he couldn’t quite understand. All the anger, the wrath, the vengeance he’d wanted, it all seemed so distant now. So worthless as his body faded away into the icy grips of death.
“Ya know, I’ll never get you insects.” Glory shook her head, growling slightly as she threw her hands up into the air. “It’s inevitable, this little pathetic reality of yours? Gone, kaput, good bye! Nothing you do or say is going to stop me! In the end, I AM going to win!”
And in response, Tucker Wells merely smiled at her, a soft look of final pity as if he’d known something she didn’t. As if what she’d said was a joke as his bloody lips parted and Tucker’s final words gurgled into the air. “Enjoy…. Graduation… day.”
As Glory’s eyes burned in anger, the blows that reined down on his broken body were felt as only a corpse could feel. For Tucker Wells slipped away before she could have any measure of satisfaction.
“So, the Mayor’s going to be at Graduation.” Xander offered up quietly as he settled into his seat and glanced around him. Giles wore a look of quiet determination as he sat next to Joyce, his hand gripping firmly onto the woman’s own as Dawn sat with a nervous apprehension on her face. Buffy’s head nodded quietly in time with Faith’s as Cordelia rested her chin in her palm before she spoke.
“So, we’re thinking what, showdown?” There cheerleader’s voice was quietly subdued as she glanced out around the room. “I mean… all things considered…”
“It’s the town’s centennial,” Giles said with a quiet certainty that did nothing to assure the rest of the group. “It’s almost a given that well…”
“Yeah.” Xander spoke softly as he looked around the room. “And all things considered… I’m not sure if we wanna stop him or not.”
“Is this… Glorificus really that bad?” Joyce spoke up quietly, her eyes wide, fearful as she glanced around the room.
“She tossed us around like we were nothing, Mrs. S.” Faith spoke up quietly as she shuddered a bit. “I hit her as hard as I could, and she shrugged it off like it was nothing.”
“We have some cards to play against her still. Faith has the Orb of Dagon from that monk.” Xander responded quietly as he glanced around them. “I’ve got a surprise or two I can use…”
“We just don’t know if that will be enough.” Buffy finished the unspoken sentiment as she glanced over at Xander.
“No, we don't.” The dark haired teen agreed with a slow nod of his head. “Hell, we don't even know what to do about the Mayor, other than letting the two of them duke it out and hope we can take out the victor.” For a moment, he leaned his head back, staring at the ceiling before he took a slow, deep breath, then released it into the air.
As the rest of the group shifted uneasily, Xander stared up at the ceiling, his eyes somewhat distant, lost in his thoughts as he let the silence hang in the air for a long moment, before he finally spoke. “Still, if Charles taught me anything, it's that there is always hope. That there will always be something that can be done.” Pausing a moment, Xander then let off a slow, soft chuckle. “Damned if I can figure it out though.”
“So, what, we're just going to sit around on our asses, waiting for things to come falling down on our heads?” Faith's voice growled out as her dark eyes flashed angrily. “Fuck that! I don't know about the rest of you, but if I'm going out, no way in hell I'm going to go out like some chump!”
“If we die, it will be fighting.” Xander agreed, a slight nod of his head signaling his acceptance as he slowly leaned back, staring up at the ceiling for a long, lingering moment. “And should that end come, we shall see the gates of Valhalla, and the ranks of the einherjar shall greet us, for they shall know, we fought with the strength they did. That we managed, even if it was but a short moment in time, to thwart the will of a god.”
“Poetic,” Giles noted with a quiet voice as he studied the boy whose eyes again seemed so ancient and haunted. “If a bit overly fatalistic I would think.”
“Gods can be thwarted. They can be stopped, they can be beaten,” Xander responded back, his eyes falling slowly closed. “I've seen it done.” For a moment, he merely sat there, speculation rippling across his mind. “Of course, generally there a bit more resources to be had in the process. Nor a god of our own on our side. What I'd give for Thor to pop up for a fight.”
“Yes, well, I'm afraid your little comic book deities won't be able to help us much.” Giles noted dryly with a touch of humor in his eyes.
His lips pursed into a thin line, Xander finally shook his head as he paused a moment. “All right, we know the Mayor is up to something. We know he’s some how been able to hold of Glorificus, and pissed her off in the process. Do we know anything special about Graduation Day for him to be willing to show up in a place she can catch him?”
“Other than it being the Town’s Centennial?” Willow offered up helpfully. “100 years of Hellmouthy goodness.”
“Um… 100 years on a Hellmouth?” Dawn spoke up, a slight hesitance. “How long has this guy been around?”
“Oh! Well, Actually we’ve only really had 3 mayors here!” Willow offered up helpfully. “Richard Wilkins I, Richard Wilkins II and now Richard Wilkins III!”
“… Ok, is it just me or is that… odd?” Dawn offered up with a cold shiver running down her spine. “Giles… ya know when you had me running through all those books? There was this passage, talking about something called an Ascension and 100 years on a Hellmouth.”
“More than odd.” Giles quickly agreed as he quickly pulled out his glasses and went to work polishing them. “More like… very suspicious.”
“That’s putting it more than a little mildly,” Xander drawled as he reached over and lightly took hold of Buffy’s hand, giving it a light, reassuring squeeze. “But… can we really afford to take our attention off of Glory to try and figure out just what he’s up to?”
“I don’t know about the rest of you, but seriously, I don’t think that the Mayor is going to be plotting anything nearly as bad as destroying our entire dimension like that bitch is.” Faith spoke up as she crossed her arms about her chest. “Look, we deal with the shit from the Mayor as it comes, but, seriously, this Glory needs way more attention.”
“So, any new ideas on how we can handle her then?” Xander offered up as he glanced around. “I’ve got a few…” He paused a moment, before giving Buffy’s hand another squeeze. “And, um… We might wanna try to call in Angel, as much as I hate it. We’ll need all the help we can get.”
“Extra big guns are of the good you know.” Buffy agreed quietly as she lightly offered him a simple, gentle smile, like a summer breeze brushing back against his skin.
For a moment, he said nothing, allowing that moment of doubt to have it’s time, it’s moment of respite and it’s indulgence, before grinding it away as he let himself drink in that smile and the truth it held. Nodding quietly, he again gave the softest of squeezes to her hand, before he looked out across the room. “All right, we start planning… and we let as many people from school know to coming to Graduation is a bad idea.”
“But, if they’re determined to come, to make sure they come armed.” Buffy noted seriously as she looked around the group, who gave their assent as one.
“Then, let’s get started.” Xander stated with the grim look of almost fatalistic resolve on his face.
“We don’t have to do this you know.” Xander’s words were soft as his head rested against hers, his arm her shoulders, his body atop her own, and her scent washing away everything else.
“Xander, this isn’t something I have to do. This is something I want to do.” She smiled back at him, her eyes open for a brief moment, the smile on her lips almost serene, in a molten, hungry manner. “And this is something you want to do too.”
“Well, I wasn’t going to mention that part.” A slight quirk of his lips she could feel just above her own even as he slowly slide his hands down, and she could feel that touch, flesh, slightly rough, moving beneath her shirt, caressing up the soft, smooth flesh.
“So, no more trying to convince me not to do this?” Lips hand shifted, that smile melting into a hungry, saucy smirk as she would thread her fingers behind his back, and she could feel the lightest dig of her nails fought down against his skin.
“No, no more,” he agreed, before their lips met and together, melted as two bodies worked against one another, until they became one.
A cold, distant smile blossomed across the face of Richard Wilkins as the precise chime of 5 am echoed through his room. His eyes snapping open, full of serpentine anticipation, he would take a moment to savor the feel of his sheets, their warmth, their cushioning embrace. It the small things, he decided with a moment’s musing, that he’d miss the most, but such was the price of power, and he’d come too far to falter now.
Throwing back the sheets, he took a moment’s pause as his feet slipped down into a familiar, snug pair of slippers, before he stood up and glanced back at the rumpled expanse of his sheets. For a moment, his lips pursed in thoughtful consideration, as he glanced towards his closet. Finally, a decision in mind a soft murmur could have been heard, if any had been there to see it.
“Ah well, it simply wouldn’t due to leave something so untidy on a day like today.” And with that, the man calmly and quietly made his bed in an almost militaristic display of neat precision.
Groaning softly, Glory groggily pushed herself up out of the velveteen embrace of her sheets and grumbled as she stumbled slightly before gaining her bearings, the sun already shining eagerly through the window. Pushing a hand to her head, she forced away the sleep mussed locks of her hair with a huff of annoyance. Glancing around, she took a look at the room, her clothing scattered about, shoes haphazardly sticking out from most visible surfaces before she grunted slightly.
“Minions! Get in here and get to cleaning!” The words snapped out, The Beast turned her head and stalked into the bathroom, intent on getting ready for finally crushing a certain little cockroach. That, and she could really, really use a shower.
Glancing around, Xander sighed just a bit as he lightly fingered the axe underneath his robes as he lightly took a moment to glance to his right, his hand snaking out to take that of the blonde next to him as their robes stirred restlessly. As Buffy offered him back a simple little smile, His eyes glanced around as he couldn’t help but frown slightly as he looked at the chairs.
They were full for one. Full of his classmates, their faces a mix of fear and determination as they too shifted uneasily where they sat. He’d tried to convince them, to keep them away, but it seemed that the Sunnydale class of 1999 was tired of living in the dark and ignoring the shadows around them.
It stirred no small amount of pride in the young man, even as he wished they were away at home and safe. As he glanced back towards the stage, he caught sight of the silently fuming glare a certain Principal directed his way as he glanced away from his chat with the Mayor. A smoldering, venom-laden glare meant to pierce the depths of his soul and fill him with a cold dread.
Really, he couldn’t help bug grin back at the man, as the impotent threat in the look filled him with all manner of warm fuzziness.
“So, if we live through this, we hitting the Bronze?” His voice left his lips before he even realized he’d spoke, a calm acceptance in his words as he leaned back in his seat and slowly turned his head to glance around at his friends.
“Depends on the level of badness.” Buffy answered back with a slight smirk. “As long as none of the good guys die or get sent to Hell, I’m all for the partying.”
“Definitely.” Cordelia agreed as she smirked slightly. “And don’t worry about the tab…” She flashed an unfamiliar looking credit card. “Snyder’s going to be paying.”
“Ya know, more and more Faith’s wallet on a chain idea is sounding like really, really good advice.” Willow noted warily as she glanced back her long time former tormenter nervously.
“Plus, makes for a handy weapon in a jiff.” Buffy offered up with a sage nod of her head. “I once saw her use it to strangle this pink demon.”
“Pink?” Xander blinked slightly as he looked over at Buffy. “One of your girl nights out?”
“What, did you think we sat around painting our nails and gossiping?” There was a moment where he couldn’t help but smirk and nod, a smirk that only grew even larger when Willow could be seen nodding with him, much to Buffy’s chagrin. “Oh, come on, seriously! Do you think FAITH is that kinda girl?”
This time, Cordelia was the one nodding, drawing a quartet of looks onto herself. “What? I live with the girl, I know more about her habits than any of you.”
“… That is disturbing on so many levels.” Buffy noted with a shudder and a shake of her head.
“Ah, I think things are about to start.” Xander noted as he pointed towards the stage where Snyder was glaring about at the various student body before almost grunting into the mic. “All right, sit down you little monsters. Though you don’t deserve it, the Mayor here would like to address you all. So sit up straight and pay attention!”
“Ah, thank you Principal Snyder, that was just, ah, inspiring.” The Mayor himself noted jovially as he glanced out across the group. “As I look out at you, I see the future… The future of this town, this state, this country and possibly even this world…”
“Really? What I see are buncha little insects that are going to be dead soon enough, and their grand-cockroach of a Mayor.” A familiar, female voice before all hell broke loose.
End Notes: Next Chapter is the last. I was going to make this one extra long, but I changed my mind.
Good to be writing again though.