Disclaimer: Somehow, none of these characters have come to belong to me. Sometimes life just isn't fair.
“We should have gotten cell phones,” Buffy murmured. She was leaning forward in her seat as though she could push the vehicle faster by a bare act of will.
“Been telling you that for years, luv.” Spike said. At Buffy’s sharp glance he shrugged and said “In my head, anyway. Wasn’t going to give you lot any hints back when we were enemies.”
“Where are we going,” Xander asked. “Are we loading up and heading for the loony bin?”
“You’ve been there for a while,” Spike said, smirking.
The last of the trees vanished behind them, and the town of Smallville was spread out before them, its lights gleaming on the horizon.
“We’ll stop by the hotel and leave a note,” Buffy said. “If they aren’t already there we’ll head down the main road to Metropolis and keep an eye out for them.”
If they didn’t see them there, they’d have to storm the asylum, which would be very difficult without Willow or Tara’s help, especially since the place was surrounded by police cars and fire trucks.
“If we knock out a fireman, I’ll go in after them,” Spike said.
“Like vampires aren’t extra flammable,” Xander said.
“I always said splitting up was a bad idea,” Anya said. “It never works out in the movies, when the man with the hockey mask and the chainsaw comes around.”
“Sex doesn’t work out in those movies either, Ahn,” Xander said. “Still…maybe we should have gone with this time.”
“Who knew an insane asylum filled with superhuman maniacs would be so dangerous?’ Dawn said.
“Fine,” Buffy said. “It was a mistake. Does anyone have any constructive ideas about what we’re to do from here?”
“I vote for cell phones next time,” Dawn said. At the looks from the others, she said “I’m just saying.”
Buffy glanced at the others and they all fell silent.
“Then we’re going ahead with my plan,” she said.
Lex stood over his desk, staring at his computer. He’d kept going over and over the footage and he still hadn’t been able to make sense of it. Given what he’d seen with the meteor infected in town, the conclusion that Clark was one of them was almost easy to make.
He’s survived being hit by a car at high velocities. He was able to be in places where he logically wouldn’t have had time to reach. He was always where he was needed.
Clark denied everything, of course, but Lex could have dismissed that out of hand with an easy cynicism; he’d seen every variety of bottom feeder in his time and he knew liars. Given enough reason, anyone would lie.
Yet somehow, unlike all the other infected individuals Lex had ever seen, Clark had somehow managed to retain his humanity. He’d continued to be the sort of person Lex could admire. He was the sort of person Lex wished he could be.
The sound of his door slamming open was the only warning he had as an attractive woman entered the room followed by three men in brown robes. The men were short and appeared to have contracted some sort of skin disease.
“Well, compared to home this place is a dump, but it’s better than most places in this craphole dimension. I’ll take it.”
“How did you get in here?” he asked. He was going to have to fire yet another set of guards. Somehow, despite all the money he spent on security, teenagers and passers by of all sorts seemed to have no trouble just walking in on him.
The woman lifted one hand, and Lex realized it was covered in blood.
“It’s hard to keep good help these days,” she said. “That’s why I usually bring my own.”
The three short, ugly men began to move toward him. Lex reached into his desk and pulled out a pistol.
“A few people have tried to kill me already this year,” he said. “Contrary to expectations, I have been known to learn a thing or two.”
“How dare you threaten her great and mightiness with your puny mortal weapons!” one of the men bleated.
Lex shot him in the leg, and the man fell to his knees screaming in pain.
“I suggest that you-“he began to say. He wasn’t able to complete his sentence because the woman blurred somehow and a moment later her hand was around his throat.
She pulled the gun from his hand and tossed it away. It felt as though his hand was being ripped off.
“Of all the places in the world to flee, the Slayer came here,” she said. “There must be a reason.”
His vision began to gray as he gasped for air which would not come.
“You wouldn’t happen to know what’s so special about this place, would you?” she asked. “Some sort of holy artifact or mystic shrine hereabouts maybe? Maybe some kind of mystic trinkets with a prophecy attached?”
“Your eminence, perhaps he’d be able to speak if he had air,’ one of the short men said.
She threw him against the wall, and he thought he felt one of his ribs crack. He grimaced as he slid to the floor and tried to gasp for breath.
“How can you be so sure that the Slayer has not run from this place as she did the last, your magnificence, and how will we get the Key back in time?”
Both of the remaining men were helping lift the third to his feet.
“The timing is immutable,” the woman said, “but the place….all you need is a crack in the walls, and this world is riddled with them. Without the hellmouth, she’ll have to bleed a little longer, and the destruction will be a little less that I would have liked, but it will have to do.”
The sounds of many feet walking in unison echoed from the hallway outside and the doors opened again to reveal a horde of men and women in hospital gowns.
Lex reached behind him, and he found the secret button in the mantle behind him. The contracting work had been finished only last week and he was relieved as he felt the button.
“It’s time,” one said, and this was repeated again and again.
Spotting someone in the middle of the pack, the woman gestured and the crowd opened.
“The Slayer is a hero,” she said. She smiled brightly. “She’s not going anywhere. She’d never leave one of her own behind.”
From the crowd she pulled a whimpering girl. She was attractive in a muted way and was about Lex’s age. She cried out as the woman put her hand on her shoulders.
“Even if she doesn’t, the witch will come, and with her the others. Heroes are predictable that way.”
It was a good thing he wasn’t a hero, Lex reflected as he slipped through the secret passageway unseen. He limped a little as he made his way quickly through the darkness.
Giles was leaning over the sink, a white towel held to his head tinged with red. As Buffy burst through the door he grimaced.
“Head wounds always bleed alarmingly,” he said. “I’ll be fine.”
“What happened?” she asked flatly. “Willow said something about Tara and Glory, but she wasn’t really coherent.”
“Glory apparently has the ability to summon the insane, even those she did not create herself.” Giles scowled as he lifted the towel a little to look at his wound. “Including Tara.”
“So she doesn’t just have her godliness now…she’s got an army of mutants.”
“Essentially, that is correct.”
Buffy allowed herself to sag against the doorframe. “What are we going to do?”
“Get out of town again before she finds us,” Giles said. “Or go and confront your young man immediately.”
“Kent?” Buffy asked. “What changed your mind about his being the one?”
“He showed up, after most of them escaped.”
“Did you talk to him?”
Giles shook his head. “He wouldn’t listen, and it was all Willow could do to hold him for even a moment.”
At Willow’s current level of power, Buffy doubted that even with Slayer strength she could have gotten through a spell that had held Glory.
“How did you get away?”
“There was a group of normal patients lead by a mutant with lightning abilities,” Giles closed his eyes for a moment.
Buffy was silent for a moment. “What happened? What aren’t you telling me?”
“He’s got all the power of Glory and none of the restraint.”
“Glory? Restraint?” Buffy couldn’t keep the incredulity out of her voice. The woman had ripped an entire dorm room wall down and had charged through other walls on her way to getting to Dawn. Restraint and Glory weren’t exactly terms that belonged in the same sentence.
“He was throwing people into walls and I could hear bones cracking,” Giles said.
Buffy rubbed her shoulder. Glory had thrown her into a wall so hard it had cracked concrete. “That seems to be a favorite attack of god-types.”
“These weren’t demons or vampires,” Giles said. “They were ordinary people. He was lucky he didn’t kill someone.”
“But he didn’t,” Buffy said. The fact that he was going out of his way not to kill anyone seemed like an encouraging sign to her.” What’s really got you so spooked?”
“It was his speed.” Giles looked up at her and his expression was disturbed. He was silent for a long moment. “It was simply terrifying. In the time it took Willow to say an invisibility spell, he’d already bludgeoned thirty inmates unconscious. He was beating on the lightning mutant as we left.”
“So he’s fast.” Buffy said flatly.
The look he gave her made her think for a moment. She’d seen Glory moving so fast she was a blur. If Glory had ever turned that kind of speed against her, their battles would have been over before they’d started.
The sense of defeat that had been haunting her ever since her decision to run washed over her again. The knowledge that no matter what she did, she could win was almost overpowering. It tasted like bile in her throat.
“That only means we need him more than ever,’ Buffy said.
This was the one hope any of them had of getting out of this alive. Even if Glory was unable to use the Key, and the world was saved, Buffy had no doubt that she would track every one of them down and make them pay.
Without this, they were all dead.
Spike appeared behind her and said, “We need to get moving, kiddies. This is a one motel town, and even for a bint as slow as Glory it’s only a matter of time before she puts two and two together.”
Giles sighed, and for a moment he looked as though he was ten years older. It frightened Buffy; she’d come to depend on his strength and support.
“He was reckless, utterly reckless. I think he really is fifteen and it terrifies me.”
“Let’s go,” Buffy said.
As he stepped out of the bathroom, she took his arm.
“I was fifteen,” she said as they walked slowly through the hotel room.
“Slayers tend to mature quickly,” Giles said. He coughed uncomfortably. “The specter of death hanging over one’s head on a daily basis tends to ground them in reality.”
They stepped out into the parking lot.
“We’re abandoning the motor home,” she said. “It’s too conspicuous. It may mean that Spike will have to stay in the trunk of one of the Kias during the day, but we don’t have much of a choice.”
As they paused beside one of the cars, while the others were busily transferring luggage from their rooms and the motor homes to the cars, Giles looked at Buffy.
“Most fifteen year olds have no conception of mortality and only the barest conception of morality. Imagine that Cordelia, as she was when you first met, had acquired the power of Glorificus…or Dawn had.”
“Hey!” Dawn said, stopping.
“I shudder to think what I would have done with that kind of power at that age,” Giles said to Dawn.
From the glimpse they’d had of his past self during the band candy incident, Buffy could only imagine.
“Imagine going through a world where with the slightest outburst of temper you could kill someone,” Giles said quietly.
“I once lived in that world,” Anya said. “I found it quite invigorating.”
At their looks she shrugged and dropped a box in the open trunk. “It’s not as though half the kids out there can’t get a gun if they want it, and a gun kills just as well as a spell. Better sometimes even.”
“Power should be earned,” Giles said, shaking his head. “So that you have time to grow into it, to use it responsibly.”
He glanced at Willow meaningfully for a moment before saying, “The fate of the world is being left up to a fifteen year old, and it terrifies me.”
Spike grinned as he passed. “Ironic, isn’t it?”