“I can’t believe you got me excited over computer stuff.” Willow smiled slightly when Faith sighed roughly. The Slayer was carrying Worth’s original files in her hands and the copies they had made while at the library lay hidden in the redhead’s messenger bag.
Thinking back to the brief time they’d spent in the library, the redhead knew that Faith was more irritated with the brief spat that she’d had with the copier than with the fact that they had largely gone there to get the necessary hacking out of the way. Using the server at the high school ensured that Willow hadn’t had to devote as much time to fiddling with Worth’s records at the college as she would have at home. She had assigned the copying of the professor’s findings to Faith to keep her busy and to keep her from hovering over her shoulder, which was one of Willow’s pet peeves. However, in the middle of Faith’s assigned task, she had first run out of paper and then had a subsequent paper jam.
Willow had learned some new, very colorful phrases.
Now, they were back at the city hall, a place that Willow felt she had seen far too much of as late. She was relatively sure that the Mayor was still there, despite it being nearly eleven o’clock at night. As odd as it should seem, it was almost as if he was living here, as if he was averse to leaving the city hall. In retrospect, it was likely he was perfecting his preparations for the upcoming graduation ceremony, otherwise known as the day of his Ascension.
Frowning to herself, Willow had to refrain from making a particularly disgusted expression. Even if she felt inclined to make use of the new knowledge that she could go black-eyed Willow, she wasn’t sure that anything she did could hurt him. The term “invulnerable” was pretty clear. Until the day he ascended, Richard Wilkins could not be harmed in any way. That much her memories and Worth’s findings had made abundantly clear.
Besides which, she didn’t want to show her hand too early. Even if her power could make a dent, she didn’t want the Mayor to know that she wielded such power.
Shaking herself of difficult decisions better made in a time that was not now, Willow turned the doorknob as they reached the Mayor’s office, partly relieved and partly irritated that the light within was still on. As she and Faith walked into the room, the Mayor looked at them both with that over-bright smile, an expression that the redhead returned. Even as she felt her lips curl upward, though, Willow could feel the irritation brewing underneath her skin into something a little more powerful.
What was she so annoyed about?
Setting the feeling aside for the moment, Willow maneuvered in one of the chairs while Faith leaned over the desk to hand the file to their current lord and master. The Mayor arched an amused eyebrow at the manila folder and looked back up at the girls. “I suppose it went well, then?”
Faith grinned at the sorcerer, somehow managing to look ecstatic and dangerous at the same time. “Red’s got the touch,” she commented, saying all she needed to say.
Willow rolled her eyes. If the dark Slayer was the essence of brevity, she was and always would be the Babble Queen. “I just talked to him. I told him the campus no longer had the funding to pay for his stay and his lectures and shifted him to Los Angeles. While I was doing that, Faith did the heavy lifting.”
The Mayor lifted his other eyebrow, causing a slight crease in his forehead. Faith laughed softly in response. “I snuck around and stole things. Want, take, have, you know?”
“Good.” The Mayor’s fingers clutched at the file in his hands, revealing to Willow that it did contain information that he didn’t want the Scooby Gang to have. “That’s very good.”
For a moment, silence reigned. Willow and Faith darted a glance between themselves, no longer sure if that was a dismissal or if they were supposed to start another conversation. As such, Faith fell back on what was obviously her only course of action. “You know what? I’m gonna patrol. See you later?” she asked Willow.
Willow nodded shallowly, still at a bit of a loss. It would be too rude to just get up and leave but there wasn’t really anything she wanted to talk to the Mayor about. As the door opened and closed behind her, she blinked, seeing for a moment a dark stout creature with wings. Upon the memory from the night before, the bubbling agitation caught her attention again. Now, she knew why she was so irritated.
Exhaling a long breath to ease away the anger, Willow’s eyes turned hard as she looked at the Mayor. As if he noticed the change, the sorcerer looked back at her curiously. Her eyes darted around the corners of his face, looking for some sign of guilt or regret as she spoke. “Have I done something to offend you?” The words were clipped and cold, reminding her of Giles at his most deeply disapproving.
The Mayor’s brow furrowed, genuine confusion layering the lines of his face. Beneath that, though, Willow could sense something darker and more dangerous, something that didn’t belong to the man but the demon underneath. That… thing
was angry, likely at being questioned. “Pardon me?”
Willow tilted her head, burgeoning memories of destruction she would never rain bringing her true anger to the fore. “I found a winged satyr in front of my house last night. He was watching through the bay window. I can only assume you sent him.”
The Mayor narrowed his eyes slightly at her, searching her own and apparently finding something that amused him more than their ease of handling Professor Worth had. “I must say, Miss Rosenberg. I never expected to find a kindred spirit in you.”
The redhead stood slowly, her hands gripping the arms of the chair tightly enough that she could feel the edges grind into the palms of her hands. “I don’t wish to repeat myself.”
“His name is Grellum, the offspring of a satyr and a harpy. Denizen of two worlds but trusted by neither. He does a certain kind of job for me.” The Mayor grinned up at her, oddly enough find the situation funny in some odd way. “Faith was acting… unusual. I don’t suppose you know anything about that?”Grellum didn’t find anything,
Willow realized immediately. He thinks I’ll tell him.
She arched an eyebrow, that calculating part of her brain trying to figure out the angles. “I do, actually.” Closing her eyes for a few seconds longer than necessary, she lowered herself back into the chair. “The charm bracelet broke. It caused something of a backlash.”
“Why would it?”
Willow shrugged, affecting regretful nonchalance. “I’m just starting out with this magic stuff. I thought… well, I thought the extra memories would help but I’m forever botching spells. Faith has a problem fidgeting with it, too. That may have added to it.” She looked back up at the near-demon in front of her, allowing the anger to leak from her eyes. “The spell wasn’t ready to be broken. It happens sometimes when you break the circle too soon.”
Though seemingly surprised by her sudden shift from reticent to accepting, the Mayor adjusted quickly. “Your memories?” he asked, the question far more comprehensive than mere words could convey. He was asking if it was her memories that told her this, the dangers of breaking the circle before the spell is complete, or if it was her own personal experience.
Willow nodded. “And Amy,” she added after a moment. At his blank expression, she clarified, “The girl that turned herself into a rat when the parents were trying to burn us.”
“Right.” The Mayor nodded. “I’d wondered what happened to her.”
Even without being suspicious of him to begin with, Willow could tell he was lying. He couldn’t care less about a witch-turned-rat, not with his Ascension rapidly approaching. “Well, she’s in a cage in my room.” Almost rolling her eyes at herself, she forced herself to stand in preparation to leave. “I gotta go. Need what beauty sleep I can get.”
The Mayor nodded congenially. “Right, the prom is tomorrow. Give Daniel my best.”
As she exited the office, Willow nearly choked in the attempt to refrain from laughing. That was the first time she had ever heard someone call Oz Daniel.
“So… fire?” Gibbs asked into his cell phone. He and Ducky were still in Mother Mallard’s secret library when he decided to call his daughter for some sort of coordination of tactics. It would amuse him at how easily he was treating this as if it was another case if it wasn’t something that was synonymous to the end of the world. After all, Ascensions were things that other demons avoided if they could.
“Looks like.” He could hear a slight whoosh and what sounded to be the fluttering of pages. “Oh no, you don’t. Get back here,” Willow muttered in a low tone.
“Where are you, Willow?” Gibbs asked, his concern causing him to raise his voice slightly. Ducky raised his head sharply and glared at his friend. Placing a hand over the mouthpiece of the phone, he mouthed, “Sorry.”
“I’m on my porch. Outside,” she added after a moment.
Gibbs frowned, his protective instincts surging forward. “Is that safe? Shouldn’t you be inside? What about…” He stopped, sighing at the fact that he was actually about to say these words. “What about vampires?”
“No, it’s fine. Faith is out being… Slayer-Faith. Besides, I’ve got two Watchers, a werewolf, and the meanest girl Sunnydale High has ever seen. I think I’ll be fine.” Though he was a little surprised, he could feel himself smile fondly when she let out a low bark of laughter. “I just wanted to go through this file before Giles has a chance to snatch it from me.”
“File? What file?” Immediately, Gibbs could hear the unabated interest in his own voice but he couldn’t help it. Files meant information and more information at this point would be all for the better.
“Oh, there was this professor, a volcanologist. At a recent dig, he found what he thought was a dinosaur but it was actually a demon. The Mayor wanted him dead. Deductive reasoning says this is the kind of demon he’ll turn into.” He could hear the pride thrumming through her voice and he could feel an echo of it in his chest.
Choosing to gloss over what she’d said about the Mayor for the moment, Gibbs decided to get down to brass tacks. After all, the Ascension was due in about a week. “What did it look like? Maybe me and Ducky can find it in his mother’s books.”
“Well, it was an archeological dig… so, you know, no musculature. Um…” Willow paused for a moment and Gibbs could almost see her reading over the file that was likely in her lap. “From end to end, the snakelike skeleton measured at just under seventy feet.” Scrambling for a moment, he found the small notebook and pen he kept in the inner pocket of his jacket. He jotted down quick notes as she continued. “Its jaws show evidence of multiple mandibles with razor-sharp teeth. Extensions around the spinal area indicate it might have had an exoskeletal armor of some type. Also, the end of the skeleton forms a spiked club.” Sighing, Willow paused. “Well, he certainly picked a tough one.”
Suddenly, he heard the slight creak of a swinging door and the muffled voice of someone he couldn’t identify. “Willow, how long have you been out here?”
“I gotta go. Giles has arrived.” He could hear the smile in her voice. Despite how worried she had seemed lately, Gibbs could tell something inside was starting to ease. “Talk to you later?”
“Sure.” Without a farewell, which was his way, he shut his phone and ended the call. Looking at the notes he had gotten from his daughter, he turned the page and began a rough sketch of what the dinosaur/demon might have looked like. His artistic skills weren’t superb but they had been known to get the job done.
After a few minutes of silence, barring the scratch of his pen and the dry sound of turning pages on Ducky’s end, a hand landed on Gibbs’ shoulder. Stilling immediately, he looked up to see Ducky’s concerned face. “Have you got something, Jethro?” His voice was still low, something in him terminally afraid of his mother’s wrath.
“Maybe.” He passed the notebook to his friend. “This might be what he’s ascending into.” I thought…” He paused as Ducky moved away, watching as the medical examiner pulled a series of books from the shelves. “I thought it might help us narrow down the search.”
Ducky granted his friend with a tireless smile. “Well, it’s a start.”