Child of the Hellmouth
word count: 7600
Author's Notes: I know that in the episode Xan and Cordy were dancing at the Bronze when Ben approached Buffy about the Sadie Hawkins dance...but I didn't realize they were there until I was eleven pages into the chapter and had the episode playing in the background. Oops.
Koenma stared at the folder. He'd been staring at it for over an hour...or at least it seemed that long. It was tempting to just put the whole thing into an incinerator, not that he would, his father's wrath scared him much more than this manila folder full of a young man's life.
Alexander LaVelle Harris.
The boy the Faerie Queen Nimue had dubbed a Prophecy Breaker. The man-child that the vampire Angelus had named the White Knight. He worried what other titles the kid might have.
He opened the folder.
He'd read through it before, when he first discovered the connection between Xander and Yusuke...before Xander had broken the Prophecy. Some things were familiar...some things not. He continued to flip through the pages, wincing at the updates, the trials the guardians/children of the Hellmouth had already endured.
The side notes jotted in the margins were less than comforting. The Fates considered the kid annoying and were not kind in their descriptions. And then he saw it...the new title, the new name, the new label bestowed on the boy by the Fates themselves.
Koenma let his head thump loudly on his desk. “Fuck.”
From the doorway King Enma shook his head in amusement at his son's antics, he was tempted to make his son's world tilt even more off scale but decided that Koenma wouldn't be able to handle that at the moment. After all, he would eventually figure the rest out; Xander wasn't going to be the only handful of the bunch.
Buffy sighed as Ben walked away from her, shot down in record time, but she knew that if she even thought about inviting new romance into her life Angel would only make them his newest target...not that she wanted anyone new.
“You okay?” Heidi asked her, touching her arm briefly.
She gave Heidi the barest of smiles. “Maybe. I guess you saw that huh.”
“Saw what?” Heidi asked her, though her eyes flickered toward Ben.
Buffy's smile deepened. “Go ahead, my eyes do still work, I'm just not in the mood. And he is a hottie.”
“Really? I hadn't noticed.” Heidi considered her words a success when the briefest flash of amusement appeared on Buffy's face.
“Have fun. I'm gonna check in with Giles, see you at school tomorrow?”
“Sure. Be careful.” She watched as Buffy made her way to the lower level of the Bronze, where Willow stopped her for a few moments. Heidi gave the scene a small smile before catching up to Ben. She touched his shoulder and stepped back, giving him room to turn around.
“Yes? Heidi, right?”
“Yeah. Listen, I'm sorry about Buffy shooting you down like that. It’s really not you. She's still suffering from a really bad break up. The guy ended up being a real psycho.”
“Oh...so she's gun shy then.”
“Majorly, and it doesn't help that he still stalks her sometimes.”
“Oh...wow. That's messed up.”
“Yeah. So I just wanted to let you know that it really wasn't anything against you personally.”
“Thanks. You're close, you and Buffy?”
“Pretty close...and she probably wouldn't mind if I asked you to the dance.”
“Really? Are you sure?”
“Then it’s a date.”
He gave Jenny one last look, taking in the sight she made, and thought she appeared as a peaceful dark-haired angel in slumber...or at least she would have been without all the monitoring equipment such as the IV and breathing tube. At least she was breathing on her own, but it had been two weeks since they'd brought her in and the doctors were less hopeful everyday that she remained in her coma.
“Any change?” Cordelia asked him, her arm linking through his.
“No.” He sighed and pulled her just a bit closer. “Let's go.” They moved out of the room, he spared the wards a brief check over, they were working perfectly. He and Willow had had to redo them once already because some of the younger hospital staff had taken them down not realizing what they were.
“No problems this time?”
“No, we're good. Just need to check in with the nurse's station before we leave.”
“We've all wondered about that.”
He looked at her curiously. “We who and about what?”
“How tight you seem to be with the older nurses.”
Xander couldn't stop the bitter little smile that graced his face. “You know how I was a clumsy kid. Always coming to school with bruises.”
Cordelia's grip tightened on his arm. “If your dad wasn't missing I'd wait for him outside his favorite bar and run him over with my car when he stumbled out.”
“Have I told you how awesome you are today?”
“Well you're awesome, and I'm very lucky.”
“Of course you are.” They shared a grin as they stopped by the nurse's station.
“Hey Merry, let me know if there's any change with Jenny Calendar, better or worse, okay?”
A thin gray-haired woman with gentle green eyes smiled at him tiredly. “Don't worry kiddo. We'll take good care of her.”
As they left Cordelia slipped her hand into his. “Do you think Jenny will wake up?”
“Will she still be...well, Jenny?”
“Her soul is still here, but I don't know how her brain's been affected.”
“So you can sense souls.”
“And that's how you knew Angel had gone dark side.”
“Our lives are so very screwed up.”
He grinned at her. “But we're alive.”
The next morning Tor plopped himself down in a seat beside Xander, the first bell had rung but the stragglers had a few more minutes to get to their classes. There own class room was already half full. Tor gave him a curious look. “So, what's up?”
Xander blinked. “Up?”
Tor nodded. “Snyder dragged Buffy into his office the second she came through the doors.”
“Huh. Usually she at least has to be on the scene of some catastrophe before the troll nabs her. What's the rumor mill say?”
“No much, just that there was weirdness last night.”
“That's nothing new.”
Tor grimaced. “It is when there's a gun.”
That caused Xander to sit up straight and focus all his attention on Tor. “There were guns?”
He shook his head. “A gun. I haven't heard much else. I'll keep listening though.”
“Alright, you do that. At least until we get a chance to talk to Buffy.”
Rhonda drifted into the room them, walked towards them...and stared at the girl sitting in front of Tor until the poor thing got the hint and gathered up her books and took a different seat...on the other side of the room.
“Wow. You don't even have to talk to be intimidating.” Xander sent an apologetic look towards the girl, though she was refusing to look their way. “You could have asked her to move, or you know...sit in the empty seat in front of me.”
Rhonda blinked at him, then the aforementioned seat before looking a little sheepish. “Habit.” She sat down in front of Tor. “So, Billy Crandle has chained himself to a snack machine again.”
Tor rolled his eyes. “Dude is weird.”
Xander snorted. “Aren't we all?”
“Something weird is going on.”
Xander snorted and gave Buffy a look. “Buff, when is something weird not going on at this school, much less in this town? I mean, look at all the crap we've seen this year, and last year! Face it, we are weird central and it’s probably gonna stay that way.”
She stuck out her lip just a bit. “This is different though. Usually we have a demon to face, slay, whatever. But so far it’s just people acting weird...and not even realizing that they're being weird. The couple last night just up and started fighting, but didn’t' even remember why, or where the gun came from. And then that thing in class, the teacher didn't even realize what he'd written until after people started laughing. It’s not just weird; it’s weird with all capital letters.”
“We'll just have to keep our eyes open...and our ears. Tor's keeping his trained to the rumor mill, see if any other couples are having any weird fights with guns.” He paused as they reached his locker and he gave it a wary glance. “Uh...Buffy.”
“Have I by chance mentioned that I can sorta see and uh...sense ghosts?”
She blinked. “No. When did that happen?”
“Not sure when...it just happened. And I might have helped Kagome put some spirits to rest over break. Although I stayed out of her way and let her work over the Poltergeist.”
“Why are you telling me all this now?”
He gave his locker another glance. “I think there's a ghost in my locker.”
“You're not serious.”
“As a heart-attack.”
She looked at his locker. “So how do you want to do this?”
“I open it and we see what happens?”
“Usually your plans are better than this.”
“Heh.” He could feel his cheeks heat up just a bit. “Let’s just be careful.” Slowly he put in the combination, and opened the door, both of them keeping to the side.
An arm made of rotting flesh, somewhere between the colors gray and green shot out thrashing and reaching for them. Luckily they were out of reach.
“Holy crap!” Xander shared a look with Buffy and they moved as one to get the locker closed again. With the both of them working together they just barely were able to get the arm back in.
Buffy leaned her head against the locker door. “What is it with us and monster arms?”
“I was wondering the same thing...hear anything?”
She shook her head. “You sense anything?”
They opened the locker again. There was nothing inside, the arm was gone and the contents of his locker were undisturbed.
“Think we better see Giles. What do you think?” Buffy asked him, taking another peek inside.
“Definitely. We are so Giles bound.”
When they entered the library they found Willow and Tor at a table, surrounded by books, possibly discussing a history report, and Giles behind them shelving books on the lower shelves. Willow's eyes widened when she saw them, Xander felt a bit insulted at that, they weren't that roughed up from their encounter with the arm monster.
Tor merely blinked and closed the book in front of him. “What happened?”
Xander pulled out a chair across him. “Well, we definitely have a ghost.”
Giles nearly popped up from his shelving like a jack in the box, an eager expression on his face. “Oh, really?”
Buffy eyed him warily as she too took a seat. “Is it just me or is it creepy to you guys too that he gets perky whenever something new shows up.” All three of them raised their hands. “I don't feel so alone and judgmental now.”
“You lot just don't appreciate the classics.” Giles muttered, as he grabbed a book and went back to his shelving. “Well, what makes you think it was a ghost?”
Xander snorted. “Well, Buffy's history teacher did this weird channeling thing in the middle of class, and there was a ghastly, ghoulie arm waiting for me in my locker.”
“Lucky for us Xander sensed it so the thing didn't get a chance to grab either of us.” She gave him a glance. “I'm guessing it’s not like what you and Kagome took care of over break.”
Willow smiled. “She told me about that in an e-mail, about the little boy and his dog and that mean poltergeist that was feeding off the little boy's ghost.”
Giles sighed. “Really Xander, that would have been a story worth sharing. It is rather fascinating. Do you think the spirit here is a poltergeist?”
Xander shook his head. “Doesn't feel the same. I think it’s an actual ghost.”
Willow blinked and made a note on a piece of paper. “There's a difference?”
“Yeah. A ghost is what's left of a human soul, or I guess more like a human soul that's trapped.”
Buffy frowned. “So what's a poltergeist?”
“It’s a spirit thingy that was never human.”
Tor smirked. “The word would be entity.”
“Eh, thingy, entity, whichever. But they feed on the energy that kids and teens give off, all that chaos energy we stir up? They love it. But they're kinda constant and they usually end up at people’s homes, not at a school.”
Willow made another note. “So we're dealing with a dead kid then.”
Tor shook his head. “Or a dead teacher.”
She nodded at his logic. “True.”
Buffy sighed. “Well we have that much figured out, but how do we find out who it is? Or rather was I guess.”
He shrugged. “Just wait for more clues. Maybe it will try to communicate again...hopefully without maniacal ghoul arms of doom.”
Yusuke let the cream warm in his hands a bit before soothing it onto Keiko's stomach. She was six months along and the skin was growing taught as the baby grew. Yukina had made a salve to soften the skin and help prevent the stretch marks, and heal the ones she'd already had.
Applying the salve was a soothing ritual for them both, plus it gave Yusuke a chance to escape his worries.
At least until Keiko wanted to talk about them. “Yeah?”
“It’s going to be pretty crowded this summer. Not everyone will fit in the apartment.”
He looked at her, his hands still rubbing the salve into her skin. “Just how many kids are you planning on having?” She punched his shoulder. “Ow!”
“You know what I meant you jerk. Xander will be here and probably Kyle, Tor, and who knows how many others.”
“Genkai can put them up while they're here.”
“You'd better run that by her first.”
“He'll be okay Yusuke.” Keiko moved her hands on top of his and held them against her stomach.
“We don't know that, and I'm not allowed to protect him.”
She rolled her eyes. “He's your little brother.”
“And that's what worries me; I've taken some pretty shitty risks.”
“And most of the time they were the right choice.”
“That's not comforting Keiko.”
“You're thinking about it too much. Come here.”
Yusuke complied and let her distract him from his thoughts, if only for a while. Maybe Keiko was right...maybe Xander would be okay.
Cordelia sighed as the three of them made their way toward the library. Rhonda looked at her oddly. “Problem?”
She let her lip stick out a bit. “I never thought I'd spend my valuable dating time in the school library for medieval weapons training.”
Heidi grinned. “Beats getting eaten.”
Rhonda smirked. “The next time you need some alone time with Xander we'll distract Book Man him so you guys can sneak out.”
“Gee thanks, I really--” There was a shriek, a woman's voice raised in fear up ahead of them. “Oh come on! We're here for training, not ghost busting.”
Heidi shrugged. “Better go check it out.”
Cordelia sighed. “Let’s go.”
They moved faster now, but cautiously, one never knew what was lurking in the halls of Sunnydale High. For all they knew Snyder was still around and bullying some poor girl. Unfortunately that wasn't the case.
They peaked around a corner, there was a terrified woman...and a hysterical man...and he had a gun pointed at her.
“Oh my god.” Cordelia whispered.
Rhonda nodded. “Isn't that Ms. Frank?”
Heidi was gaping open mouthed. “Why the hell is George the janitor pointing a gun at her?”
Cordelia shook her head. “Don't know...but we need to do something. His hand is really starting to shake...” As she spoke Ms Frank turned to run. “Now!”
They rushed the two adults. Cordelia made a dash for Ms. Frank, managing to knock her to the floor...just as the gun went off, and Ms. Frank let out a cry of pain. Behind her there was the sounds of a scuffle and the clatter of the gun hitting the floor and sliding away. She spared a glance at the other girls and George. Rhonda was using her belt to tie his hands behind his back while Heidi was keeping him still. Satisfied that he was under control she turned back to Ms. Frank.
“Are you okay?”
“My shoulder...it hurts...what happened?”
Cordelia looked at the blood seeping through the torn sleeve of Ms. Franks' blouse. The bullet had only grazed her. She let out a sigh. “I'm not sure...let’s get you patched up.”
The sound of someone running reached her ears just a moment before Giles rounded the corner. “Good lord. What happened?”
All three girls looked up at him, Heidi glared. “Where the heck have you been?”
“I...was in the library when I heard the shot.”
Cordelia sighed. “Whatever it was, it’s over...do you happen to see a gun anywhere?”
They all glanced around...the gun was nowhere in sight. Giles cleared his throat. “I take it the ghost has struck again?”
They continued to glare at him. “Ya think?”
Xander frowned as he followed Marshal through the darkened streets of Sunnydale. They were in one of the older neighborhoods, one where both sides of the street had small mansions surrounded by high fences. Some fences were stone, some iron, very few were wooden. This was where the old money lived, including Mayor Wilkins, newer money like Cordy's parents lived in a different part of town.
“I can't believe you're just showing me where Spike is now.” Well we have been busy. And Angel just moved them here recently, they were in a real dump last week.
“So which house is it?” That one, the really old fashioned one.
Xander stopped, and stared. “The old Crawford place?” Yep.
“That's actually sort of a relief.”
Marshal looked up at him in surprise. Why?
“Cause it’s been abandoned for years. The Crawford’s moved to LA back when I was in third grade. Their daughter disappeared not long after Crawford Senior was found dead in the back yard from blood loss. So the widow Crawford, and her son and daughter-in-law took the rest of the family to LA. They haven't been back since.” Whoa. Come on, I'll show you the best way to get in.
Xander grabbed his tail and gave it a gentle tug. “Hold up. Let’s not get any closer.” Ow, and why?
“I don't want Angel to know we're anywhere near here.” How would he know?
“He has a nose Marshal. He'd be able to smell us; I'm pretty sure by now he knows my scent.” Oh...I knew that.
Xander snickered and Marshal ignored him for a bit while they waited in a sort of nook within a particularly tall and bushy overgrown hedge. He was just starting to get fidgety when he saw Spike wheel himself through the open gate of the Crawford place. The vampire paused just outside the gate, as if unsure which direction to go, Xander made the decision for him when he stepped out of his hiding place. The movement caught Spike's eyes and he blinked before wheeling towards Xander. He stepped back into the hedge and Spike wheeled in after him, they were completely hidden from prying eyes there.
Marshal looked from Spike to Xander, rolled his eyes, and slipped away, leaving them alone. Xander could just see the beginnings of tear trails at the corners of Spike's eyes in the dim light from the nearest lamp-post. He frowned as he took a step toward the vampire his hands moving of their own accord to wipe the tears away.
“Nothing unusual. Just the same bloody story of my entire bloody unlife. After all this time it shouldn't hurt so much...especially since I've betrayed her with you.”
Xander blinked. “Drusilla?”
“Crazy bird all but forgets about me when Angelus is around.”
Xander sighed and settled himself on Spike's lap, his legs hanging over one arm of the wheelchair. “We're a little insane doing this aren't we. You've got guilt because of Drusilla, I've got guilt because I haven't told my best friends about this...but I don't think I can stop.”
“Addicted to me pet?”
Xander felt his own eyes water and leaned his head on Spike's shoulder, all but burying his face in the older male's throat. “I think it’s more than that. I don't know what I'd do without either of you.”
He felt Spike's arm shift and then cool fingers started to run through his hair. “Where is your Princess tonight?”
“Weapons training with Giles.”
Xander shrugged and breathed in Spike's scent. “The more she knows the better prepared she'll be. I can't be with her 24/7 to protect her.”
They sat in silence for a while; Xander all but huddled in Spike's lap and Spike running his hand through Xander's hair. When Xander raised his face, his lips were captured in a very demanding kiss, and he yielded. He let Spike lead, let the vampire manipulate every move of his mouth, lips and tongue as if he were a puppet.
While their mouths were occupied Xander slipped his pocket knife out and sliced into his finger, just a bit. The scent of fresh blood brought Spike to a halt and he tore his mouth from Xander's. “What are you doing?”
“Here.” He gulped and held out the bleeding digit. “Blood given freely.”
Spike stared at him in surprise, even as he gently grasped Xander's wrist and brought the bloodied finger to his lips. When he closed his mouth over the wet tip his eyes widened, and a moan slipped out. Xander smiled and felt his cheeks redden as Spike's tongue worried at the cut, trying to wring every drop free that it could.
When Spike pulled back the cut looked a day old and well on its way to healing. “Huh.”
“Hell pet, you taste divine.”
“Like sunshine and chocolate.”
His blush deepened and he ducked his head, smiling. Spike took hold of his chin and pressed their lips together again, in a chaster kiss. When he pulled back Xander sighed.
“I guess that was goodnight.”
“It will have to be.” Spike murmured, then he smirked. “Give your girl a kiss for me.”
“With pleasure. Oh, here.” He reached into his jacket and pulled a pack of blood out. “Happy eating.”
“You spoil me.” They shared a smile and Xander slipped away into the night.
Marshal caught up with him a block later. Won't Angel be able to smell you all over him?
“Quit using my logic against me.” Then stop thinking with the wrong head.
“I'm seventeen, its gonna happen. Besides, Spike always smokes after he's been around me and Cordy, and he'll wait a while before going back inside.”
Marshal simply snorted.
The three of them watched as Giles paced back and forth alongside the counter, as he spoke, his glasses moved from hand to hand as he gestured. “I think the incident with Xander's locker was in fact the only time this spirit was able to make direct contact. For the most part I believe it’s stuck in a form of purgatory.”
Buffy frowned. “What makes you so sure?”
“I believe that a traumatic experience has trapped it in some sort of loop, doomed it so to speak to repeat the event that led to its demise.”
Willow frowned. “I don't remember any recent shootings at school, and even if it happened when we were in junior high or elementary school we would have heard about it.”
Xander shrugged. “So go back further.”
Willow shot him a look, even as she started typing. “Well it would be nice to have a starting point Mr. Smarty-pants.”
All eyes focused on Buffy, though Willow's fingers really started flying over the keyboard at that point. Giles slipped his glasses back on. “What makes you think that?”
“I...sort of had a vision just before my history teacher did the channeling thing. It was of a teacher and student that were having an affair.” She gave them an almost sheepish look. “And then when I was in Snyder's office an old year book shot off the shelf, one from 1955.”
“I have a copy of it here, just a moment.” Giles retreated into his office, and returned with a copy of the book.
“Oh hey, I found them!” Willow exclaimed. “Here, there's an old article in the paper.”
Xander blinked. “Really? Who the heck takes the time to put old articles from the fifties online?”
“Don't knock it Xander, since it just came in handy and everything.” Willow scolded him. “Hey, Buffy, the couple from 1955, were they Ms. Grace Newman and James Stanly?”
Buffy at that point had already opened the book and located James' picture. “Yeah...he looks just like a regular guy doesn't he. What's the article say?”
“Murder/Suicide. Looks like James went a little crazy when she broke up with him.” Willow winced. “He shot her on the balcony, and then killed himself in the music room.”
Buffy slammed the book closed. “Sicko.”
Giles gave her a look. “Buffy.”
“He deserves to be trapped the way he is. He couldn't make her love him, so he killed her.”
Xander took a breath. “Buffy. He's been suffering for over forty years for his mistake, don't you think four decades trapped in this place is punishment enough.”
Her eyes nearly crackled with sudden hatred. “No.”
“You don't feel sorry for them at all?” Willow asked quietly.
“For her yeah, but not for him. He destroyed the one person he loved most in a blind moment of rage. He should go on paying for it.”
Giles stepped closer to her and placed his hands on her shoulders and forced her too look at him. “Perhaps, perhaps not. But it would be best to resolve this issue regardless, before a woman dies, because if the pattern holds that is what will happen.”
Xander suddenly wanted to smack himself. “What if they're both trapped?”
They all looked at him, and Buffy had a very confused look on her face. “What?”
He continued with his thought. “Someone's possessing the woman right? What if they're both trapped in the loop? And the only one able to lash out is James because he's so torn up about what he did.”
Buffy nodded. “Then we need to find a way to help her.”
He sighed. “Them.”
Buffy glared at him. “We need to find a way to free her, or something.”
“Oh, Ms. Calendar had a bunch of spell and Wicca sites bookmarked on her computer.”
“Whoa Wills, we don't want to get involved with any unfamiliar magic. Neither of us is familiar with Western spells. E-mail Kagome; see if she has any suggestions, because this is way beyond me.”
Giles looked perplexed. “You did say that you had experience in laying spirits to rest Xander.”
“Yeah...but the kid was in a talking mood and all I had to do was reunite him with his dog. James's isn't very cuddly in case you hadn't noticed.”
Willow shuddered. “Right, I'll e-mail Kagome, and then we can go to lunch.”
He grinned. “Thank god.”
Buffy picked at her food, even as she stared at Xander as he inhaled his own lunch. Willow was munching on a celery stick, watching them both in amusement, and Kyle was perched on Larry's lap, the two of them sharing a tray.
Buffy pushed her plate aside, an almost disgusted look on her face. “Xander, you do realize that school food is only a step above hospital food.”
He swallowed and grinned at her. “You forget my little friend, I like all food.”
Willow gave him a little smirk. “Except Brussels sprouts.”
He shuddered and nodded in agreement. “Except those.”
Buffy sighed and sat back. “No one eats Brussels sprouts...you think Kagome will be able to help us?”
Willow shrugged. “She's a fully trained miko odds are she's faced something like this, she just won't be able to help us in the physical sense, with her being in Japan and us being here.”
Cordelia placed her tray on the table and sat beside Xander. “I hope you guys aren't going to the Sadie Hawkins dance tonight.”
They all blinked at the rather sudden change in conversation and Xander gave her a look. “Why?”
“Because I'm organizing a boycott, I mean the girls have to ask the guys, and pay, and everything. It’s crazy!”
“Cor if you didn't want to go all you had to do was say something. You know I'll cook for you whenever you want to come over.”
She rolled her eyes at him and Kyle pointed his fork at her. “I will join your boycott.”
Larry nodded and snagged another bite from the fork when Kyle brought it back towards him. “We both will.”
Kyle ate another bite. “It’s discriminatory.”
Xander snorted and started to make a comment when he felt...something...he sat up and looked around. Willow he noticed was shivering.
Buffy caught on to the change in his mood. “Xander? Will?”
He shuddered. “We need to leave. Now.” He stood up and looked at them. “Move people.” He all but hauled Cordelia to her feet by her arm and gave a couple of high pitched warning yips to Rhonda, Tor and Heidi a few tables away. Then the pack was on the move.
They got to the doors of the cafeteria when the screaming started, Xander made sure they were through and to the sides when the mob of students and staff came rushing out. His pack all exchanged looks of confusion with one another, along with looks of wonder at him.
When the last screaming person came through the doors it was Kyle who peeked through the window of the door.
Buffy nudged him. “What happened?”
Kyle made a face. “Let’s just say I'm glad Xander has ghost-dar.”
“How bad is it?” Willow asked.
Cordelia huddled closer to him, his grip still on her arm. She grimaced. “Snakes?”
“Everywhere.” Kyle confirmed. “Floor, tables, food trays.”
Heidi made a gagging noise. “Thanks Xander.”
“Everyone is welcome.” He grinned and started tugging Cordelia away from the doors. “Come on. There's some cup ramen in Giles office...chocolate chip cookies too.”
They all grinned and trailed along behind him.
“Is your sister going to mind having us over?” Cordelia asked as they followed Tor to the front porch of his home.
“Nah, besides we need to talk to her about this.”
Xander nodded. “Who else would we talk to about ghosts but a Grim Reaper?”
“That part still creeps me out.” She muttered as she followed them inside.
Xander gave her an encouraging smile. “She only guides souls across Cor, she doesn't take lives.”
“Hey Sis!” Tor called out. “Oneechan! Xander and Cordelia are here!”
Botan's replay was practically instantaneous. “I'm in the kitchen.”
They made their way toward the room her voice came from; Botan was putting a plate of cookies on the table.
“Oh, cookies.” Xander grimaced. “You shouldn't have.”
“I bought them.”
He and Tor both relaxed, Cordelia gave them an odd look. “I'm guessing her cooking is sort of like mine?”
“Worse.” Xander gave her shoulder a pat, his eyes darting towards the Spirit Guide in apology. “No offense Botan.”
Botan shrugged and started pouring coffee into cups. “None taken. Tor get the sugar and cream out please.”
The four of them settled around the kitchen table, and began to tell Botan what was going on at school in length.
Tor picked up a cookie. “What I don't get is why the ghost didn't do all of this last year, or the year before.”
Xander hmmd. “I've been thinking about that...could be he finally has someone he can identify with and its drudging up all of his emotional baggage.”
Cordelia shuddered. “The great fallout of Buffy and Angel.”
“Exactly, now, Botan.” He eyed the spirit guide. “Can you maybe sorta just scoop James and Ms Newman up and send them on their way?”
She shook her head and sighed. “Not when they're trapped like this. They need to resolve their issues with one another and themselves before they can crossover.”
Tor let his head hit the table gently. “Great. Can we at least keep him from killing anyone else?”
“That won't be too difficult. A barrier would work.”
“Would Kagome know how to do that? Willow e-mailed her today, asking for suggestions.”
Botan nodded and sipped at her coffee. “It’s a fairly basic, if large scale procedure. She'll probably send in depth instructions.”
“Why large scale?” Cordelia asked.
“The barrier will have to go over the entire school.”
“Is this gonna become a habit?” Cordelia asked as they sat, spread out over Giles' living room. “Going over to people's houses and eating cookies?”
Several of them stared at her, but Xander was the one who spoke. “Wasn't planning on it. Why?”
“Just thinking we might stash a few low-fat snacks here instead of your usual junk food.”
“There are salt free crackers in the cabinet.” Willow grinned.
“I do wish you lot would stop leaving your groceries here.”
Kyle snorted. “Then we should just make a list and you can buy them.”
“Right, never-mind. Moving on.” Giles gave a sigh of defeat. “We are in agreement then. Until we have a permanent solution we're going to put up a barrier to keep everyone out of the school. That way James won't be able to lead anyone to their death.”
Willow nodded. “Yep. Kagome said she needed to do some research on her end; she's not sure how one of her exorcism spells will interact with the Hellmouth. But this is our best chance to keep everyone alive.”
“Right. So what do we do?” Buffy asked.
Xander pointed at the map of the school Willow had printed out. “There needs to be one of us on each corner of the property.”
“It'll have to be the strongest of us.” Willow added. “So Buffy you and Xander each get a corner.”
“You too then Wills.” Xander frowned in thought. “And maybe Giles will get the last.”
Buffy nodded in satisfaction. “We have a plan then.”
Willow passed them each a piece of paper. “This is the English translation of the incantation.”
Giles accepted one of the copies. “Thank you. Good work Willow. Now, let’s finish up and be on our way.”
Xander settled himself on the ground at the northern most corner of the school grounds, Cordelia stood just out of bounds so as not to get caught in the magic.
“So how exactly are you gonna know when to start the spell?”
He grinned. “The magic has already started rising; Willow started the spell when she walked around the school chanting a blessing to help clear out any unrelated energy.”
“That's what she was doing?”
He nodded. “I should be able to sense when to start the spell.”
“Tor has magic now right, couldn't he take a corner instead of Giles?”
“Yeah, but Giles has more experience with casting...hang on Cor.” He picked up one of the tools for the spell, a thin wooden rod with a strip of crinkled paper attached to one end. Gently he pushed the other end into the ground, then he placed a flat rocked beside it, then he grasped the paper talisman in his hand. “Restless spirits of times past. No more will you harm the innocents of today. With this barrier we seal you in place. No more will you bring harm to others.” With the last words he placed the talisman onto the rock and scooted back. A second later the barrier shimmered into existence, a pretty translucent blue.
“That's it?” Cordelia gave him an incredulous look. “Where's the lighting? Where's the mayhem?”
“That's it.” He confirmed as he got to his feet...and promptly started to fall; luckily Cordelia was there for him to lean on. “That took more out of me than I thought it would.”
“Yeah, nothing a hot shower and a few more cookies won't cure.”
They slowly made their way toward the front of the school where the cars were, Buffy and Kyle joined them in much the same state, Buffy using Kyle as a crutch. She gave him a look with a tired smile. “You feel dizzy too?”
“Just a little.”
Kyle looked back at the school, the barrier still shimmering around it. “So we can go home now?”
Xander nodded. “Yeah. We've bought ourselves a few days to find a more permanent solution.”
Cordelia made a face. “Let me guess, that means hitting the books. Again.”
They all shared a sigh. Research never seemed to end on the Hellmouth.
They had just pulled into Xander's driveway when Cordelia's cell phone started ringing. She managed to get it out even as she parked the car; the near miss of his mom's sedan almost gave him a heart-attack.
“Hello? Willow? We just saw you at school for the spell, this couldn't have waited...what? You're kidding! Ugh. We'll see you there then.” She hung up and glared at him. “What's wrong with you?”
“Oh nothing...just saw my life flash before my eyes.”
She rolled her eyes and started her car back up and began backing out of the drive. “Willow's in panic mode. Seems ghost boy possessed Buffy and made her go back to the school, she's inside the barrier. How is that even possible?”
“Kagome has slipped through barriers before; it could be that James was able to manipulate it to let Buffy through.”
As it turned out they missed all the excitement, by the time they got back to the school the barrier was down and Buffy was huddled on the steps with Giles and Willow. Kyle and Tor were asleep in the back seat of Giles' car.
“So, what did we miss?” Xander asked as he knelt beside Buffy.
She raised her head and gazed at him in confusion. “She forgave him.”
“Buff, you got to stop beating yourself up. You didn't know what was gonna happen.” He ruffled her hair and kissed her forehead. “You loved him. Still do, even after everything that's happened, right?”
She nodded. “I never stopped.”
“The soul that made him Angel still loves you too, and he'd forgive you anything. You were the sun in his life, don't ever forget that.”
She nodded and let Giles help her to her feet. “Willow, you wanna stay over tonight?”
Once they'd gotten back to Xander's house they'd headed up to his room, his mom was already asleep, and set about getting ready for bed. It was already late so once again Cordelia opted to stay the night. He showered first, quickly washing away the grime that clung to his skin and emerging in a fresh pair of boxers.
As he stepped into the bedroom she'd moved around him and his room with familiarity, opening the top dresser drawer to retrieve her sleepwear before heading into the bathroom for her own shower.
Marshal was dozing on the open window ledge, enjoying the breeze of fresh air; Xander smiled and let him sleep as he tossed his dirty clothes into the hamper. He took his time turning down the covers, and settling on the bed. Tired as he was it took only a moment for him to start dozing.
He only opened his eyes when he felt Cordelia's familiar weight settle beside him on the bed. “Night Cor.”
She'd already reached for the lamp beside the bed to turn it off when he grasped her wrist lightly. “Wait.” He whispered, looking over his shoulder towards the window.
Marshal had woken, and hopped down from the ledge as the window was opened even wider from the outside. Spike peered in at them from the roof.
“Whoa.” Cordelia whispered. “It worked.”
Xander gave Spike a small smile and sat up on the bed. “All better?”
“Little shaky on my feet, but I'm capable of violence.” Spike's tone was flat...as if he were waiting for something.
Xander knew what it was. Acceptance. “Come in Spike.”
Spike schooled his expression, fighting to keep the surprise off his face, even as he crawled through the window and placed his feet on the floor. “Sometimes I think you forget what I am.”
“Never, but I need to know Spike, where do we stand? How does this change things?”
The vampire was across the room and on top of him in seconds, his cool mouth all but torturing him with kisses and licks. A low growl filled the room and Xander responded with a growl of his own and struggled for control. He didn't get it, what he did get was acknowledgment when he nipped at Spike's lips, Spike yielded to him, even as he plundered Xander's mouth.
When Spike pulled away suddenly Xander growled again and followed up towards the vampire's throat, grazing his teeth against pale flesh. His eyes however focused on Cordelia who had her hand on Spike's cheek.
“Well?” She asked, eying them both, a shadow of insecurity flickering over her face. “What happens now? And not just us, but with Angel and everything.”
Xander knew he was pouting when he pulled away from Spike's throat, their eyes met in a look of understanding. Then Spike reached for Cordelia and pulled her into a very slow, very gentle kiss. And Xander had never seen anything so...yummy. The purr that escaped him was low and surprised all three of them.
Spike's laugh was rich and warm. “Liked that did you?”
Xander pulled him down for a shorter kiss, licking the taste of Cordelia from Spike's mouth. Intoxicating. Even with Cordelia snickering at him.
He harrumphed and tugged Spike down between them so the three of them could snuggle. They lay like that for a few minutes, Xander already starting to doze again.
Spike sighed. “Can't stay long. Don't want to get caught out of my chair.”
“Spike?” Cordelia whispered.
“I reckon I'll be playing spy. Keeping tabs on Daddy Dearest.”
Xander clutched at Spike's coat and buried his face in the vampire's neck. “Okay.”
Cordelia laid her head on Spike's chest and murmured into it. “Be careful.”
Spike lay there, content for the first time in a very long time, a beautiful brunette on either side of him.
The lunch crowd had come and gone, and Yusuke was enjoying the near emptiness of the shop. He enjoyed the lull between lunch and dinner when he could catch up on the dishes and preparations for the next meal.
Keiko was at class and her parents were doing inventory in the back, which left him alone as the last customer from the lunch crowd paid for his meal and left...then Kagome entered the shop, with Kurama.
It was an odd combination and he wondered if maybe his friend was finally showing an interest in someone besides his little brother. “Hey guys.”
Kurama nodded in greeting. “Hello Yusuke. Kagome was just telling me of Xander's latest adventures in Sunnydale.”
Yusuke felt his left eye twitch. “Oh really?”
Kagome grinned. “Seems they had an unruly ghost that needed to be put to rest...didn't he tell you about it?”
He pinched the bridge of his nose to ward off the headache he could already feel developing. “That brat doesn't tell me anything.”
The priestess actually had the nerve to laugh. “I was the same way with my family when I was traveling to the past. I edited the stories of my journey as much as I could so they wouldn't worry.”
Kurama chuckled. “Unfortunately, I don't think Xander even does that.”
Yusuke lightly banged his head on the nearest wall. “That kid is gonna drive me to an early grave with all this worrying.”