When Xander heard what Harry had planned, and where he was calling from, he was struck dumb for a whole thirty seconds before telling Harry he had lost his mind.
"This really isn't the time to start insulting people," Harry had begun.
"Take it as a compliment," Xander countered. "Often the only way to beat these big bads is by thinking even crazier than they do. Witness the theft of a rocket launcher."
"So you think it'll work?"
"Didn't say that," Xander started. "But seeing as getting our own set of T-1000's on our side in the next half hour is rather unlikely, I think this is what we're going to have to do."
Taking this as acceptance, Harry then asked if he could trust Spike. "He's not going to screw me?"
"He's a vampire, of course he's going to screw you. But he has patience enough to wait until he gets what he wants before doing so. Try stalling as long as you can."
Xander then told them that he and Team Alpha (Harry still didn't get all the soldier talk, but he got the gist of it) would be there as soon as they could, and made sure they understood what he was going to have to do to make this work. So did Harry.
Which is why he was watching from a building a hundred meters away from town square watching Spike and Drusilla arrive at the meeting point. Simultaneously, he was watching another myth about vampires being disproved. Apparently, they were only mortal when it came to direct sunlight. Considering that the sun was nearly below the horizon when they got there a full five minutes before the deadline, they didn't seem at all bothered.
"Couldn't the Mayor misread this? You showing up before the cut-off time?" Harry had asked.
"He's either already there getting his people in position and out of sight, or he's going to be monitoring using some kind of magical cameras ."
"Then why set a deadline at all?"
"Like I said, the appearance of propriety," Spike reminded him. "Which is why you'd better be damn sure you are well out of sight."
Once again, Harry wished that his cloak wasn't in the hands of the enemy. He thought it unlikely the Mayor would have it destroyed, but he also felt the odds of it returning to him very remote. This caused a pang he hadn't felt since the loss of Hedwig, what seemed like a lifetime ago. All of his links to his time in Hogwarts seemed to be getting farther and farther away.
Hoping that the Mayor wasn't carrying as much technology as he had in the warehouse district, Harry concealed himself inside a dumpster. The smell of rancid food and burnt clothing was disgusting, but his focus on the outside world was so intent, he hardly noticed it.
At precisely 5:19, a limousine arrived on the opposite end of the square. A nervous looking valet got out of the car, and opened the door. Out stepped Wilkins and Trick, the looks of geniality on their face replaced with ones of disparagement.
"Well, unless I'm very much mistaken, you're William and you are Drusilla. You're the ones who caused so much hilarity around my town last year." Suddenly, that smile was back on Wilkins face. "You know, this is more fun than I thought it would be. Clandestine rendezvous, journeying with seconds, exchange of prisoners. Maybe we should have a secret password."
"I'm glad I was able to bring a little fun into your day," Spike replied. "And could we skip the pleasantries. Don't generally like spending time with people who've tried to have me killed."
"You committed a homicide in broad daylight in what I could only consider to be a very hectic time," Wilkins chastised the vampire. Were he not invulnerable, Harry imagined Spike would've bitten off the finger that was being pointed at him. "You had to expect a response."
"So much on his mind, that his hat will never cover it." Trick blinked upon hearing Drusilla speak, but not the Mayor. "All things bright and beautiful are equal in his eyes."
"Easy, luv." Spike reached out a hand to steady Dru
"One shouldn't speak out of turn in front of ones with high hats." Dru stilled.
"I have to admit, I'm a little surprised you called us at all, " Trick told them. "Making this kind of trade for these Slayers, little, how do I put this, straightforward for you."
"I'm not the one who has Byzantine plots to fulfill or deadlines to meet," Spike replied. "I'm a simple vamp with simple tastes. I want Slayers, you have them, it's that simple."
"So the rumors that you were Tom's friends were exaggerated?" Wilkins asked.
"Tommy boy doesn't have friends. He has people he kills, and he people he finds useful who he will kill later," Spike told them. "You'd think the wizarding community would've cottoned to that the second time around. But no, like everyone else in the supernatural community, they're the last to know."
Harry wasn't wild about the way this conversation was heading, or the slurs that Spike was casting on his calling.
"This is all very interesting, but I think we're straying rather far from the point," Trick reminded them. "Where is the Horcrux?"
Spike shrugged, opened his duster and showed him the false one, but closed his coat before the others could get a closer look. "I'd like to see my Slayers first."
Again, Trick's wariness was not reflected in Wilkins' eyes. He snapped his fingers, and out came Buffy and Faith, chained, gagged, and surprisingly docile considering the company they were keeping. Harry didn't believe for a second that this was voluntary.
"How'd you get them to hold still?" Spike asked.
"It's amazing what the right combination of dark magic and enchanted metal can do." Wilkins told them. "I'd give you the number of the shaman I used, but he's no longer in business."
"Your doing?" Spike asked.
"Skilosh demon. Ones with the eyes in the back of their heads. He literally didn't see it coming." Wilkins gave another hearty laugh that Sunnydale citizens probably found charming but which was beginning to sound as unpleasant as one of Draco Malfoy's chuckles.
"You can at least take the gags out," When Wilkins and Trick raised eyebrows, Spike gave that predator’s smile. "It wouldn't be the same if I couldn't hear them scream."
"All right, but watch out for her," Wilkins indicated Faith. "She could make a sailor blush."
With the care that a skilled engineer would use to defuse a bomb, Trick somehow managed to remove the gag from Buffy's mouth while keeping his hand intact. He was not, however, as lucky with Faith. Trick probably tried not to scream like a girl, but how would you react if you lost the tip of your finger?
Before he finished howling Faith spat out a bloody chunk of flesh. "How it's feel getting bit for a change?" she howled.
"Goddamn it, I will cut your throat----"
"Trick," Wilkins said delicately. It probably wasn't helping matters that Spike was even trying to hide a look of amusement. "Now before anyone else has to lose a body part, would you mind handing over the cup?"
Spike opened his duster. "Dru, how would you like to play with our new friends?" he said as he removed the cup.
"Bad girls talking out of turn. That's not done in polite circles."
Buffy hadn't even blinked after Faith had taken a chunk out of Trick, but she did seem to darken a little at seeing Dru. "You have no idea how much I've wanted to pay you back for what you did to Kendra."
"Not so nice having the shoe on the other foot is it?" Spike said as he simultaneously handed the cup over to the Mayor and maneuvered Faith until she was standing a little closer to Harry's line of sight.
This was going to be the most difficult part of the entire act. Very gently sticking his wand through the hole in the dumpster, he began to chant 'Liberio' over and over. A single chant of this spell would normally free those involve from any bond. In this case, all it did was loosen two knots of the chain. Harry hoped that, combined with Slayer strength, would be enough.
"I'm sure you're capable of handling yourself, but just so we're clear," Wilkins sounded authoritarian, and not in that fatherly way, "when you finish your business, leave town and never come back. Your annual trips to my town end tonight."
"Believe me, your Honor, this is one place I won't mind seeing disappear through my rear-view mirror," Spike told him, as he walked with Faith back over to Drusilla. "Come on, love, let's blow this Popsicle stand."
"Oooh," Dru held her head in her hands. "So much power around us. So much. Every Tom, Dick and Harry has come to our little party."
And like that, the Mayor's expression changed. "Would you ask your companion to repeat what she just said.?"
And suddenly Harry was very nervous. It was hard to tell because Spike managed to maintain his poker face, but he looked a little concerned, too. "You can't be taking her seriously. I've known her for over a century, and even I don't understand more than every other sentence out of her."
"Nevertheless, there's a Tom involved, " Wilkins began. "I know there is a Dick, so maybe our old friend is hanging around."
"You want to take it that way?" Spike suddenly seemed to have regained his equilibrium. "'Cause if you're going to take Dru literally , maybe that means Tom is somewhere nearby. And that would be a violation of the little deal we had."
Now the Mayor seemed defensive. "All right, I'm sorry. Obviously, you know Drusilla better than I would. Let's just all go to our corners and walk away."
Trick looked like he wanted to pursue the issue, but followed his boss' command. And then, just as Harry was getting ready to make his move, disaster struck from an unexpected newcomer.
"Stop where you are! " blared a loud voice. "By the order of the Watcher's Council, we demand you cease your movements immediately!"
Everybody froze, probably not so much out of fear, but, at least in Harry's case, out of astonishment. When Giles had called for the Watchers to run interference for them, none of them had believed that they had a chance in hell of prevailing. Now, all of a sudden, one of those ridiculous SUV's that Americans drove had pulled on to the street, and someone was shouting orders through a megaphone.
"I thought our boys had handled the ones who tried to raze City Hall," Trick asked the Mayor.
"Council employs thousands of people. Would have been absolutely idiotic of them to spend all their efforts in one shot." Wilkins seemed completely unconcerned, a bear being annoyed by a flea. "Let's see if I can handle this peacefully before we have to resort to violence."
The Mayor's way of handling things was to walk right up to the SUV. "You do know that you're creating a public disturbance over what is obviously a minor misunderstanding."
"You abducted both of our Slayers; I would hardly consider that minor," the voice in the SUV replied.
"I know some of the little details that you had planned for these lovely ladies." The Mayor was still sounding magnanimous. "Believe me, what I'm doing, might almost be considered a kindness."
"You know what I'm starting to really hate about Watchers, B?" Faith said to Buffy in that same casual tone. "How they're always talking and talking like we're not in the room."
"I'm starting to get that feeling, too," Buffy seemed just as relaxed. "I don't think these bozos have ever seen a Slayer in action, much less two."
"You're thinking, what, a little synchronized slaying, on three?"
"Why bother counting? Let's just beat the crap out of everybody." Buffy whirled around. "Starting with you."
And the two Slayers instantly freed themselves from their chains, each simultaneously delivering an uppercut to the vampires that had been holding them. Harry needed no second bidding, and kicked the lid of the dumpster off, while Spike and Drusilla were still tumbling backwards.
"We've been double-crossed!" Trick reached for a walkie-talkie. "Send out the reserve force!"
The Mayor didn't seem angry, merely disappointed. "I guess there truly is no honor among thieves," He shook his head. "It's a good thing I planned the budget for the city carefully."
He pulled something out of his coat pocket, so small one couldn't tell what it was ---- a button of some kind. He pushed it.
There was a whirring noise. The limousine, which Harry had completely forgotten about, was the source of the noises. The windshield was darkened, the doors became armored, and what appeared to be sub-machine guns appeared outside every window. Somehow, the Mayor had just turned his car into a tank. And then, he turned it on those assembled.
Harry had enough time to realize the Mayor truly didn't seem to care about how many people died here. Even the vampires would take damage if they were hit; they'd seen as much happen to Trick the previous night. He also was certain that as good as magic shields were, he had no idea whether or not they would stop a bullet --- another example of the wizarding world being out-thought by Muggle technology.
Then he saw the automobile come charging at Faith and Buffy and, shouted: "Protego!" in their direction. A split second later, the bullets bounced off them.
Buffy and Faith didn't hesitate, and began to run towards the vampires. Harry felt sorry for them -- until he saw that bullets weren't hurting Spike or Drusilla either.
Crap. Like I needed anymore proof that Drusilla's not someone to mess with. Then they had another problem ---- a dozen vampires appeared, and even though the temperature was in the fifties, they all seemed to be wearing heavy coats. Harry didn't get their significance at all--- not even when two got right in the path of the bullet spray, and only momentary doubled over before heading straight for Faith and Buffy.
The Slayers registered what this meant before Harry did. "He fucking fitted them with Kevlar?" Faith exclaimed.
"I think the Mayor's done playing nice," Buffy replied.
Harry didn't have the heart to tell them what was now clear---- the Mayor had taken the opportunity of this massive chaos to disappear into the shadows. No doubt he was using this whole Horcrux fiasco to create an opportunity for all the unseemly elements who had arrived in his town to wipe each other out. And it was starting to look as if he was going to get his wish. Despite the fact that there were two Slayers on the scene, the numbers against them were too big.
He was therefore surprised to see that Spike and Drusilla had not similarly taken advantage of the chaos and apparated out. Even watching Spike fight the other vampires, he didn't think that Spike was helping beat the opposition despite the deal he had struck with them just hours before.
As it was, his fighting had distracted Buffy and Faith, both of whom were dumbstruck by what was happening.
Momentarily. "You know, for someone who does so much double-crossing, he doesn't seem to like it when it happens to him," Buffy said sarcastically.
"Maybe he really, really doesn't want us to stake him," Faith replied. "Shame I'm going to do it, anyway."
Spike finished throwing a vampire throw the air, and staking him. "You selfish bints have no idea what I went through to get you out of there," he whispered.
"Somehow, I doubt that you did this out of the goodness of your non-beating heart," Buffy replied.
Harry really didn't want this conversation to happen, certainly not now. Fortunately, a vampire had the good sense to run right into his path. "Incendio!" he shouted, and the foolish vampire erupted in flames. "Could we hold off on discussing this until after the undead assault is over?"
Unfortunately, though the Mayor was now nowhere to be found, his tank seemed fully capable of running them down, and apparently, had decided that Harry was a much better target.
Faith and Buffy were limber enough to leap out of the way. Harry didn't have that kind of energy to spare.
Voldemort's going to be real disappointed when he finds out I died here.
And just like that, Harry found that he was levitating above the ground. Only instead of the usual five feet, he was up nearly as high as he could get during a Quidditch match. "What the hell...?"
He then continued to rise until he was nearly level with the top of a building, where he spotted one of the most welcome sights possible.
"You know, Harry, I think this qualifies as a deus ex machina," Hermione told him.
Hermione was a skilled practitioner, but even Harry didn't think that she was powerful enough to cast a spell this effective. Which is why it came as an even greater surprise to see who was standing just a few feet away.
"Willow? When the hell did you learn this?" he demanded.
"You're kidding, right? First spell I managed to master was making a pencil float," Willow told him. "Getting this spell under my belt was the easiest magic you had to teach me."
Harry climbed over to the roof of the building, and the pair of witches released the spell. "Where's Ron?" he asked.
"He ran off to rendezvous with Xander and Giles. Said something about calling in the cavalry," Willow told him with an odd smile. "Apparently, he didn't think that Hermione and I were sufficient."
"Maybe you're not," Harry looked over the building's side. "I'm pretty sure that we never got taught in DADA how to deal with that."
Hermione and Willow were a little befuddled. "Doesn't seem like Faith and Buffy are having much trouble dealing with it," Willow pointed out.
Never was there a greater testament to the abilities of the Slayer then the fact that somehow both of them were having no trouble outmaneuvering an armored vehicle. Unfortunately, the vampires didn't seem to be having much trouble either, and Harry was afraid that the combination of the two was going to prove too much for them. "I think we have to get back into the fight," he told his fellow witches.
"Figured you'd say that," Hermione considered the problems for a moment. "You think you can get a bead on that monstrosity?"
Harry nodded. "On three. One, two..."
Hermione and Harry's fire spell managed to hit the car dead on. Unfortunately, there was nothing on the hood of the car that was flammable. It sputtered out a few moments after the initial strike.
"You think we need to get closer?" Hermione asked Willow.
Willow shrugged. "Don't look at me. Taking down Knight Rider is not something out of the Scooby handbook." She looked down. "But we can probably reduce the numbers of vampires ."
Hermione looked around. "There's a fire escape on the other side of the building," she told them. "Let's get back to ground level."
They had just started to move toward when they heard the worst possible sound ---- six succinct pops. The Death Eaters had just entered stage right. And they were led by the most ominous one --- Bellatrix.
By now, Harry was beyond being frightened by the woman who'd killed his godfather. "I'm a little surprised you're not on the ground helping your long-lost great-aunt," he mentioned in as casual a tone as he could manage.
"She's taken care of herself for over a century," Bellatrix replied. "Frankly, I'm amazed she's bothering with your friends at all."
"Why not?" Hermione spoke up. "She's as crazy as a loon. And, from what I can tell, the apple didn't fall far from that particular tree."
Some of the Death Eaters appeared a little shocked that this fledgling was daring to insult the right hand of Voldemort. Bellatrix seemed less concerned. "You're just trying to make me kill you quickly, mudblood," she mentioned casually. "Believe me, there will be no mercy for you or any of those friends. No, the only one who's going to get off easy is this Muggle scum."
The last person in the world Harry wanted to have her looking at was now under the glare of the Death Eaters. To her enormous credit, Willow didn't flinch. Then again, once you've stared down the Scourge of Europe and William the Bloody, looking at powerful witches might seem quaint.
"You're going to regret that, " Willow told them slowly. "I possess great power."
The reaction of the Death Eaters was unanimous. They all started laughing.
"I do," Willow said a little more urgently. "I command the power of four elements. Five on a good day."
Hermione and Harry didn't dare say anything, but the same thought was crossing both their minds: What the hell was Willow thinking?
"Satan, prince of the night. Fill me with your dark, naughty---"
"Gusto!" Bellatrix barely blinked as she directed a powerful wind right at Willow that blew her off the building.
"And now that the puling wannabe is gone, we can get down to what needs to be done," Bellatrix smiled.
"Um, excuse me…"
Harry didn't dare turn around. Just a flick of the eyes was enough to reveal what he had seen. Willow was somehow levitating much like Harry had moments ago.
Bellatrix was the only Death Eater who could manage to keep a straight face; all the others were clearly in some degree of shock.
"I guess they let anybody have access to magic in America," Bellatrix responded. "That doesn't change the fact that you and your friends can't win this fight."
"You haven't a clue as to what we’re capable of," Willow replied.
And at that exact moment, the auto-tank that had been the bane of the Slayers for the last few minutes exploded. None of them would find out until later that Xander had used his knowledge as a soldier to design a Molotov cocktail, which, guided by Ron, had been directed at the vehicle's gas tank. All they needed to know that the timing had been impeccable.
"Really want to tussle, hon?" Willow replied.
Two of the Death Eaters clearly didn't --- they took the opportunity to cut and run. The other three plus Bellatrix, however, were made of sterner stuff. "Take out the wizards; the redhead is mine." Bellatrix replied.
This, however, was not an ideal outcome; even Willow knew that. "You're going to have to catch me first," she said, and managed to make her way down as if she were climbing an invisible staircase.
Bellatrix made the same mistake that so many of the vampires and demons in Sunnydale did ---- she started chasing the bait. Harry knew that Willow was going to have problems, but right now he and Hermione had their hands full
Three Crucios rang off in succession. Harry managed to dodge the first one, but the second one hit him dead center. The pain racked his body, but he'd developed something of a tolerance, and he managed to recover quickly. Hermione, still recovering from whatever injuries she'd incurred at City Hall, wasn't as fortunate, and dropped her wand.
One of the Death Eaters moved in for the kill. But before he could cast the Killing Curse, Harry decided to do something that he didn't think he normally would've done even having been in Sunnydale for a week. He took a page out of the villains playbook, and cast 'Gusto!" at the top of his lungs.
The only thing that could've explained that working was that this Death Eater was still in shock. He didn't react to try and stop the spell until he was over the ledge. There was just this look of dumb shock on his face as he plunged to his death.
"A live action Warner Brothers cartoon?" a familiar voice said. "I literally have seen everything now."
The Death Eaters apparently hadn't been briefed on the entire Slayer bit because after Faith appeared they started to cast spells on her just like they had on Willow. If the dark-haired Slayer was at all exhausted from the last two days or from having been tied up for the last few hours, there was absolutely no sign of it in any of her movements. She leaped right in front of the nearest Death Eater and cold-cocked him.
Clearly seeing that the odds were stacked against her, the remaining Death Eater opted to disapparate.
"How did you get up here?" Harry said, as he ran towards Hermione.
"Unlike you, I took the stairs," Faith picked up the wizard. "I guess that makes us even now."
"Right...now... it's looking like we both owe Harry," Hermione tried to shake off the curse. "How goes the battle below?"
"Now that Christine's big sister has gone up in flames, we shouldn't have much of a problem as far as the undead portion of the enemy," Faith looked down. "B and I took out most of the vamps, which means the only thing we have to worry about are whatever wizards you and your friends have left to handle."
"Pretty big if," Hermione replied. "Did you see which way Willow was heading?"
Faith shook her head. "Either of you teach her that walking on air spell?"
Neither of them had, which was just one of the reasons that Harry was worried.
"We better get down to the ground," Hermione told them. They started running, Faith leading the way.
They were just about to touch down when suddenly someone grabbed Hermione. Harry and Faith whirled around to see that the Death Eater he thought he had killed was alive, albeit very bruised.
"Should've known better," Faith said wistfully. "Coyote always bounced back no matter how times he fell off the cliff."
Harry, however, noticed that this Death Eater no longer had his wand. He raised his. "Give it up," he ordered.
"I'll snap her neck!" The threat would have sounded more perilous if he didn't look like a stiff wind would blow him over.
"Yeah, well, I'm betting without your wand, you couldn't kill an ant."
Faith suddenly whirled around, shouted, 'Duck," and managed to kick him in the crotch. As Hermione let go, Faith knocked him down.
"Never gets old watching you do that," Hermione replied.
"Is he going to be a problem later?" Faith asked.
Harry shook his head. "Voldemort hates it when his flunkies fail him," he reminded them. "That guy’s going to wish he'd died on impact."
"Bellatrix isn't going to go that quietly," Hermione countered. "We have to find Willow now."
An idea hit Harry. A truly horrible idea. But not an implausible idea. "Where's Drusilla?"
Hermione and Faith seemed to get it, and they seemed even less happy about it than he did. "She'll slit our throats before she lets us hurt her long-lost whatever," Faith reminded them.
"Then we don't give her a choice," Trying really hard not to think about what he was doing, he ran right up to Drusilla, and brought his wand an inch away from her temple. "Take us to Bellatrix. NOW!"
Spike was about to move towards her, when Dru held up her hand. "Don't want to disturb her. She's with Daddy."
The implication hit all of them, and paradoxically, it make Spike more pliable. "Well, don't just stand there, luv. Let's have a little family reunion."
Everyone heard that, including the last person that Harry wanted. "He's still alive?" Buffy asked.
Pointing out that Angel hadn't been alive for nearly a quarter of a millennium did not seem to Harry to be a productive use of his time. "Take us there.
Where are they?"
Drusilla made a come hither motion, and floated --- that was the only word for it---- a few blocks. Harry was having trouble believing that Willow could have made it that far of her own free will.
His concern got even more intense when he heard several voices coming from an alley up ahead. Some of those voices were familiar, and they all sounded like they were in pain.
"You can not defeat me," Bellatrix said with the patience of psychologically disturbed, "so you might as well tell me where you learn that little conjuring trick."
"You live in this town, you pick some stuff up," It was Amy who was talking. "Or don't they teach about Hellmouths in wizarding school?"
"You're in no position to lecture me on magic," Bellatrix replied.
"No, but we are," Buffy was not going to be subtle. Not when her friends were in danger. "And you're on my turf, bitch."
By now, Harry could see the situation. Bellatrix was completely alone, but she had clearly managed to subdue Angel, Willow and Xander, all of whom were writhing in agony. Amy and Ron were still standing, and looking incredibly determined not to give ground.
Bellatrix was now surrounded by three wizards, two Slayers, and one well-above average witch. It said something for her state of mind that the only one she seemed cognizant of was Drusilla.
"You've made such a mess of Daddy," Drusilla said quietly.
Angel indeed looked like he had seen better days ---- his clothing was torn, there were scars and bruises all over his body, and there was the indentation of a cross burned into his palm.
"He had it coming, and you know it," Bellatrix replied. "Besides, what do we care for this waste of a demon?"
"Stop talking smack about my boyfriend," It looked like it was taking all of Buffy's energy not to leap forward and twist Bellatrix's neck. "Crawl back into whatever little hole you call a home, and never come back."
"So emotional, these Slayers," Bellatrix replied. "No wonder they die so quickly."
"Give up, Bellatrix, there's nowhere left for you to run," Faith sounded even more confident than usual.
"You fools, " Bellatrix began that maniacal cackling that Harry had come to truly loathe about her. "I am not the one who has to run."
And suddenly Harry realized they'd all been so focused on their immediate concerns that none of them had noticed that the atmosphere had gotten heavier, and that a dark cloud was now covering the sky. There was a sound of an explosive Apparation.
Voldemort had arrived on the Hellmouth, and Harry couldn't help feel part of his bowels turning to ice as he arrived with all his fury.
But neither Buffy nor Faith had gotten the memo on how dangerous the Dark Lord was. Buffy's reaction was: "Why has every great evil never heard of personal grooming?"
Faith's response was: "Mr. Clean called. He wants his haircut back."
If the connection with Voldemort had taught Harry anything, it was that Voldemort was capable of being humble when he needed to. But this utter insolence from two girls who looked like a stiff breeze could blow them over, he had no intention of taking. He tossed off a Killing Curse right at Buffy.
Who jumped out of the way.
"Have I mentioned how tired I am of big, bald baddies trying to kill me?" Buffy wasn't waiting for Voldemort to try and recover from this particular shot; she whirled around to try to bash his face in. Either Voldemort was shocked by what had just happened or he couldn't believe the audacity of a Slayer, because she managed to land a punch. Even more astonishingly, the punch seemed to stagger him momentarily.
Suddenly Harry realized something else odd. With the exception of Bellatrix, Voldemort was completely alone. No Pettigrew, no Snape, none of the other Death Eaters that formed his little entourage. For the first time since coming to Sunnydale, he suddenly wished the wizarding world was capable of absorbing a tenth of what was in Xander's head about firearms. A well placed sniper could have quietly ended almost all of their problems.
Voldemort seemed to recover from his momentary stupor and fired another Killing Curse, this one at Hermione. But apparently she had been taking lessons in magic from the Sunnydale playbook. Harry didn't recognize the incantation at all, but he sure as hell appreciated the effects. The energy from the spell hit the curse and, just like Harry had been seeing for years, it looked like fireworks in the sky. Only this time the colors were brighter, almost cheerful.
Voldemort must have realized for the first time that he was at a huge disadvantage. He knew that none of them could kill him, but they could make him look bad. It was one thing to show weakness in front from evil lawyers, sorcerer vampires, and someone who was just as invulnerable as he was; it was quite another to show it in front of his own kind. There had to be a way for him to get out of this and still look like he just wasn't trying to save face.
And being the Dark Lord, he found it. "Bring me the girl," he ordered Bellatrix. clearly indicating Willow.
For the tiniest of moments Bellatrix hesitated. Harry had no idea how he knew, but he was pretty sure in that twisted corkscrew that passed for her brain, she had real doubts about her Lord. She didn't show it, though, as she hoisted Willow to her feet. "Be careful," was all she said. "She's more trouble than she's worth."
They both should have known better. "Don't touch a hair on her head," Buffy said in the coldest tone he had heard yet from her.
"You may be strong and quick, but you are still just a Muggle."
This was probably the worst possible thing he could've said. "Who specializes in roundly kicking the asses of tools like you. Just ask Spike."
Even knowing the maze that he was trapped in, the blond vamp couldn't help but somehow give a wise-ass shrug. "Incorrigible, aren't they?"
Under normal circumstances both Spike and Buffy would have been dead before they'd finished their sentences. Voldemort merely reached for Willow. "I'm not going to listen to a rodent like you," he told her.
"Big talk, Baldy,." Faith wasn't going to let this go either. "Damage Red, and I'll kill you, and it'll stick this time."
"And how will you do that exactly?"
"I'll have you know I know seven different ways to kill an evil wizard." Faith walked over to him. "Want to see one?"
Now Voldemort looked genuinely concerned. He knew Faith hadn't picked that number out of thin air. He also clearly couldn't acknowledge it.
"Bring me Potter and the cup, and you and your friends will live to fight another day," he tried again.
"Now we all know that's a lie," Buffy told him. "Just like we know that we're not the only one who's on probation in my town."
Voldemort was clearly unsettled. If he had been alone, he would have probably made a strategic retreat. But Spike's comment about the appearance of propriety applied as much to him as it did to the Mayor. The difference was, the Mayor clearly had a code of honor, and the Dark Lord prided himself on not having one.
So he did the only thing that he could do --- he called Buffy's bluff, and made a play for Willow. Or he tried to. Several things happened in quick succession. A blast of magic came within an inch of hitting Voldemort in the nose. He dodged it, but while doing so, both Faith and Buffy leaped forward and struck the Dark Lord hard enough to knock him to the ground. Before Voldemort could regain his feet, he was staring into the demon visage of Angel, which even if it was bruised and battered, still rivaled the Dark Lord for fright.
"You may not be able to die," Buffy told him, "but I think we can open up a can of real bad whoop-ass on you. You really want to look like that--- in front of your people?"
Indeed, Bellatrix was now looking at her master as if he were some new form of vegetation rather than the man she had killed for not minutes ago.
So Voldemort looked straight at them. "You may carry the day in this wretched town, but when the time comes, I will wipe you and your Slayer brethren off the face of this earth. Its only a matter of time."
Several pops came in rapid succession, and when they were finished Voldemort and all of his minions ---- including Drusilla and Spike --- were gone.
The first thing that Harry did was look around for whoever had thrown the last bolt of magic that had broken the stalemate. He was surprised to find that Ron was still standing in a different section of the alley, his wand drawn. A moment later, it sunk in for him, and the redhead fell to the ground.
"I can't have seen that," Hermione told him. "Did we win?"
"More like forced a draw," Buffy replied. "And don't kid yourself. We got lucky. Everybody who was trying to kill us yesterday is still around and kicking, and my guess is they're going to be coming back more pissed off than ever, and with a lot more help."
"Jeez, way to kill a buzz," Xander by now had recovered enough of his strength so that he could lift himself and Willow off the ground. "Can't we do one Snoopy dance of victory?"
"I would," Ron replied, "but I'm not sure I can move."
Then Willow realized that the Death Eaters weren't the only ones who had vanished. "Where's Angel?"
Buffy went stock still. "Did they kill him?"
"No pile of ash," Hermione pointed out. "They must have taken him with them when they Apparated."
"Why?" Buffy demanded of everyone and no one. "They don't do anything without a reason."
"Maybe Voldemort doesn't," Willow replied. "Drusilla's nuts, remember?"
Buffy ran over to Hermione. "Where would they take him?" she demanded, not knowing or caring that Hermione wouldn't have the answer. "Where is he?"
But all the answers had left with Voldemort and Drusilla.