Down into the Valley of Fear
Author’s Note: Thanks very much to my Beta’s, Letomo, Ellandrahsylver and Cordyfan. Thanks to Carrington for recommending this story. Now 144, which makes me very happy. All of you recommenders, know that I appreciate every one of you, and for giving the rec and sticking with me. The next chapter, as promised. Let’s see what it will bring… Reviews, maybe? Chapter 94 Down into the Valley of Fear Hooghwater, Wednesday February 8th
Joyce had picked up Dawn and Kit from their respective schools. The shocked and pale states of both girls and mother was sufficient to convince the principals to allow the girls to leave and right now the three of them were in one of the smaller sitting room at Hooghwater, waiting for the rest of the family to arrive. The girls were leaning into Joyce and looking at the door. Suddenly the TV came to life and Rowan appeared, cheeks tear-stained.
Joyce made an instant grab for the keyboard and typed. ‘Mom hugs Rowan hard.’
Rowan relaxed marginally and a blue figure appeared, her arms wrapped tightly around the redhead. “It was Moloch. He was back. A-and then the First Slayer – as a Smilodon – showed up and chased him away... carved him to bits with her claws.”
Joyce smiled slightly in encouragement. “She showed up for Kit and Dawn as well, but as a kitten.”
Rowan frowned. “Why?”
“Because nine feet long sabre-toothed cats draw a lot of attention, lots more than cute little kittens,” Joyce replied.
“Not sure about that,” Kit smiled. “She's a really cute kitten.”
Joyce chuckled. “Well, yes, she is. But I get the feeling from her that it's difficult for her to manifest in the real world, so she needs to restrict her size. Rowan... Rowan's condition is unique, but wherever she exists does have connections to... Actually I have no idea. But she isn't physical and neither is Rowan,” she finished rather lamely.
Rowan smiled. “Well, it'll be a nice research project for Will and me.”
“Yes, it will,” Joyce agreed. “And hopefully we can all get to know her better that way too.”
“So you knew who she was when we told you about Alley?” Kit asked.
“I guessed it was likely it was her,” Joyce admitted.
“So do you know how she got from smelling like a really dirty towel from a men's room, to what she is now?” Dawn asked.
“I took her to a virtual vet,” Joyce grinned. “And gave her a virtual bath.”
“And she was virtually upset?” Rowan smiled.
“She was really quite pathetic, but we managed to warm her up and clean her and get rid of her ear mites and her fleas and all that. I think that afterward she was rather surprised,” Joyce waved at the screen. “And there she is.”
A kitten appeared on the couch next to Rowan and virtual Double Joyce. It mewed plaintively and jumped on the redhead's lap. It gave her an apologetic lick and Virtual Joyce as well.
“I'm thinking her being so frightened means things aren't going well?” Dawn asked in quavering voice.
“I'm sure your papa has things well in hand,” Joyce reassured her, trying to suppress her own fear.
Jenny was pressing a bag of crushed ice against the growing lump on Giles' head. Willow was shivering and carefully not looking at the stacks where Dave was desperately trying to transform back into his human form.
“So what happened?” Buffy asked. “What happened to Papa?”
Giles rubbed his face with his hands then winced. “I, ah, from what you tell me, I think that this is once again a monster that preys on our greatest fears, or nightmares.”
“And that has to do with why Dad is King of Psychos, how?” Xander asked sharply.
“I've heard him say often enough that he's nothing like his father that I can imagine that becoming him might be his worst nightmare,” Giles explained.
“Oh,” Willow said in a tiny voice. “W-will he be alright?”
“I think he'll be fine once we defeat this thing,” Giles said strongly.
None of the three replied.
Buffy and Xander looked at the huge number of books that were scattered about, opened in various places. There was even a phonebook. “What happened, a research tornado?” Buffy asked, her voice subdued.
“He can't read,” Jenny replied softly when Giles stayed morosely silent. “Not even his own name.”
Xander whistled. “Oh, yeah. That would be on a par with the clown and Frog Dave.”
“I'm not hearing this!” Willow called out shrilly and pounded on the keyboard extra hard.
Xander looked abashed and Buffy patted his hand comfortingly. “Don't worry. Everything will be fine.”
Xander's eyes widened and he grabbed her hand, taking her wrist in one of his larger ones and placing the other to her neck. “Oh, fuck.”
Willow looked up, scandalised. “Xander!”
“She's cold. She has no pulse...” Xander said, his face so pale he looked about ready to faint.
“Worst nightmare...” Buffy whispered.
“Okay. That's it! This has gone far enough!” Willow growled. “This thing is going down! We're gonna find it and kick its ass! Buffy, I need you to describe that kid for me, as much detail as you can remember.”
Buffy nodded. “Okay... He was wearing jeans and a jacket and I don't think he was from long ago. Ummm, he seemed familiar, somehow. Dark hair, dark eyes, looked to be in good physical condition...”
“Accent?” Willow probed.
“Cali boy,” Buffy said with certainty. “Local, I think.”
“Okay, let's see...” Willow tapped away for a bit and frowned. “Is this him?”
Buffy came over and looked at the screen. “Yeah. William ‘Billy’ Hadwell? Hey...”
“Yeah, the kid from Dawn's class,” Willow confirmed. “I narrowed it down to kids you might have met. He was found unconscious in an alley after a Little League baseball game.”
“Where is he?” Buffy asked. “I-is he dead?”
Willow tapped some more keys. “Sunnydale General. Free Clinic isn't set up for comatose patients yet.”
“Let's go there. Come on,” Buffy decided.
Rack was rather annoyed to be called. He despised phones anyway. But the number of people who had his number was small and of those, there were none whose call he dared to refuse. He picked the phone up as he watched a boy run screaming from a Chihuahua, then run the other way when a Great Dane came from another direction.
“Get to the Base as soon as possible,” a slurred voice spoke.
“Director?” Rack's brows rose. The man might be a bastard, but he was very proud of his speech and diction. “Is something wrong?”
“True Heart escaped. It took me some time to find succour from the spells,” the slurred voice said. “All possible haste.”
Rack rubbed a suddenly sweaty hand on his robes and looked fearfully around. “Understood. Shall I finish the current phase of the operation?”
“So far it seems successful. We need the energy, make sure that the resource can be reused,” the Director instructed.
“Very well, sir. I shall be there as soon as possible,” Rack ended the call.
He put his phone away with trembling hands.
Chess Club room, Sunnydale High
Cordelia was almost in tears as, for the third time in a row, she was beaten easily at chess and her opponent and his friends jeered. The door opened and a man stepped in. The room fell silent.
“Hmmm. And who might you be? One of Simon's little by blows?” he studied Cordelia with great attention.
“What? No! Who're you? Are you some sort of cousin? You look like him,” Cordelia wanted to get more insulting, but she didn’t dare as the very air around the man was cold.
“Well, you're an attractive little thing, I grant you that. I might as well add you to my... NO!” he shook his head violently. “No. No I am not
like this! What... What is happening to me?” His eyes flashed red. Red lightning played around him, earthing on the chess set and setting it on fire.
The chess club screamed and ran. Cordelia was paralysed with fear and remained in her seat.
“T-this isn't about that Blood Curse, is it?”
Meier looked up, his eyes intent. “Blood curse? What blood curse?”
Sensing a weakness, Cordelia reacted instinctively. “You don't even know that?”
Meier held out a hand and a spark flashed from his thumb to his forefinger, inches away from Cordelia's face.
“What blood curse?” he repeated in a dangerously soft voice.
Cordelia gulped. “I dunno! Just a blood curse, between me and Willow and Willow's grandmother and Dr Meier!”
“I see. Well, Great Uncle Gabriel did live here, so it wouldn't surprise me if he had a few bastards. A distant relationship,” he leered. “Which means that...”
He gritted his teeth. “No!”
Meier took a deep breath. “What's your name, girl?”
Cordelia licked her lips. “Cordelia.”
“Cordelia? Your parents are Shakespeare aficionados?”
Cordelia shook her head. “No. I think it was the alliteration,” she replied bitterly. “Cordelia C Chase.”
Meier blinked. “Chase? As in Constance Chase?”
“No, Cordelia C-Chase. The only Constance was my great-grandmother, but she-”
“Disappeared,” Meier whispered. “Oh yes, she disappeared.”
He grabbed Cordelia's arm and dragged her to her feet. “Come with me.”
Cordelia whimpered. “Please! I-I don't want to disappear too!”
Meier laughed. “Disappear? I'm going to take you to the Library. And ask you and your cousin some questions.”
*Do they involve whips and chains?* Cordelia
He turned to her. “They do not involve whips and chains. At least, not for you two.”
“Okay, so we need a way to shield Buffy from sunlight because even if she isn't a real vampire, I'm not sure she'll recover from being turned to dust,” Willow bustled about the library, organising.
Giles was laying out weapons and muttering to himself. Dave was still in the stacks, trying to change, which was one of the reasons Willow was doing everything she could to distract her from the fact her boyfriend was currently a huge frog.
Then the door opened and Cordelia stumbled in, still in her Pollyanna dress. Meier entered after her.
Everybody in the Library froze in their tracks. “Cordelia, sit. You,” he pointed at Willow. “Willow, isn't it? Come and sit by Cordelia.”
Willow whimpered and tried to duck behind Buffy, who was smaller than she was, which made it rather futile, even if Buffy balled her fists and glared at him ferociously. Meier rolled his eyes and held up a hand. Willow squeaked and was dragged out from behind her sister.
“Let go of her!” Dave croaked and jumped from the top of the Library stairs, easily bridging the distance, but hitting a wall of hard air instead of Meier.
Willow screamed and fainted. Meier sighed, picked her up and put her on the table in front of Cordelia. “She's dating a frog?”
“He’s a Cheila. He hadn't changed yet. She’s afraid of frogs,” Buffy said tensely, as she weighed her chances.
“Ah, I see,” Meier nodded. “You, Jenny. You can assist me.”
Jenny straightened. “I'm not going to help you hurt my sister!”
“I'm not going to hurt her, or her cousin. I want to know who the binder of the Blood Curse is,” Meier waved a hand. “And then you can take her with you and go do what you want to do.”
Buffy eyed him suspiciously. “Why should we trust you?”
“I didn't kill you, did I?” Meier said coolly. “You know I could have.”
“Then why didn't you?” Giles asked, balancing the ice bag on his head. “You hardly left us unscathed, after all. To return and toy with us later?”
“I don't know. But then again...” Meier's eyes flashed red. He balled his fist and growled and the red faded back into brown and green.
“NO! I will not be controlled!” He glared at Jenny. “This curse, this curse is making me do things. I do not take kindly to that. If you help me, I can remove it.”
Jenny hesitated, and then stepped forward. “If you harm them, I will find a way to-”
Meier waved a hand. “Spare me the theatrical speeches. I need thyme, myrrh, Cagliostro's ointment if you have any, butter, tomato sauce and basil if you don't, and oh,” he leaned in and scraped a fingernail hard over Dave's skin, “I think this should suffice as love's sacrifice and kin of frog.”
Jenny glared at him, but went to the door.
“Take your... fiancé?” Meier asked, suppressing a sneer. “There will be some safety in numbers.”
“Of course,” Giles rose stiffly, and left with Jenny.
“Ummm... What should the rest of us do?” Xander asked, unhappily eyeing the still moving doors.
Meier threw him a look then frowned. “You go stand over there as far away as you can and... NO!” he growled as his eyes flashed. “No, you do not smell!” He closed his eyes for a moment in apparent exasperation. “Willow, can you draw a containment circle? An inwards one?”
Willow blinked. “Ummm, yes?”
Meier nodded. “Good, draw one around... what's your name, bo-, lad?”
Xander looked at Buffy, who frowned, then shrugged.
“Alexander Gabriel Meier. I was adopted, too,” he added after Meier's incredulous look.
“What? Did he adopt half the town?”
The children sniggered in spite of the situation.
“Seems like it sometimes,” Buffy admitted. “He's gonna marry my mom, we've got three more sisters.”
Meier blinked and then grimaced. “I-I... I wanted more children... What... Why do I feel this anger? Why do I want to hurt you, when all you have ever done is exist?” His voice was a whisper, but Buffy heard him.
Meier shook his head. “We need a circle around Xander, his nature might disrupt the ritual and it will be difficult enough to manage near a Hellmouth. Are you getting training?”
“Yeah. Mom's father is a Heyoka,” Xander said.
“Interesting,” Meier muttered. “Do any of you have talents? Lineage? I think I saw some sort of Divination in Jenny's aura?”
“Seer of the People. She's my cousin. I got some of that, too. Mom's a Johnson, of the House of-”
“Warren...” Meier's eyes widened. Red lightning crackled again and he fell to the floor, flattening his hands against it and smoke rose around them.
He looked up again. “Something... Something is helping me... withstand...”
The teens looked at each other uncertainly. “Who?” Meier demanded. “Who is... no... not me. Simon... your mother?” he looked at each in turn and nodded in satisfaction at their looks. “I look forward to meeting her.”
“I don't think she'll like meeting you in Dad's body,” Willow muttered, her hands busy with the chalk.
The door swung open and Amy hurried in, trembling. “I can feel her! She's trying to get back into me! You've got to help me!”
Meier growled. “Who are you? Who is trying to get into you?”
“You're not Uncle Simon!” Amy scurried over to Buffy. “What's going on?”
“I am Dr Meier. Dr Meier Senior,” Meier got back to his feet.
Amy gaped at him and then Meier slid back several feet. Amy spun to attack, but before she was halfway into her gesture, there was a small, long-legged creature looking up at him, with a long, furry tail banded in black and white and with huge, startled eyes. It sat on it’s bum and looked around curiously for a second, then started to move off,
“What exactly is her problem with me?” Meier asked, gritting his teeth.
“Her problem? Her problem?” Willow yelled. “Gosh, I wonder what her problem with the evil raping, murdering scumbag is? Probably the same as the rest of us? You abused Dad, you raped Gran, Aunt Clarice grew up lonely and abused-”
Buffy had made a shushing motion when Willow started to yell, but now she stepped forward and put a very firm hand on Willow's mouth.
“Raped your grandmother. A Johnson... Philippa Johnson?” Meier said heavily, as if struggling with his words. “I-remember. She was young, precocious. Her parents were restrictive... I wanted to send her to school, find some distaff line to train her... Then... So sweet, young, succulent... NO! NO!” The red glow that had been rising faded from his eyes.
He gestured with one hand and Amy was back. “You're a witch too? Help Willow draw the containment circle. Internal and external protection. Get in it with Xander. You can't be possessed if you remain inside it.”
He took a deep breath and started to draw his own, far larger circle, with some of the chalk from Jenny's bag.
Cordelia had been looking at him the entire time. “What do you think is going on?”
“What?” Meier asked, looking up.
“What do you think is going on? Why am I here? What are you doing?”
Meier finished the circle before he answered. “Before I married, I loved a married woman. Her name was Constance. Constance Chase.”
“And?” Willow had finished her own circle and Amy and Xander were inside it. Amy looked a lot more relaxed without the feeling of being stalked, but kept looking at Meier suspiciously.
The door opened and Jenny and Giles came back in. “I've got everything. We had to go by the kitchen though.”
“Very good. Now, now we can be certain.”
Willow sat cross-legged, facing Cordelia and Meier sat with a hand on each girl's shoulder. Each was in a smaller circle within the larger one, and another, empty one was drawn opposite Meier's.
“What's he doing?” Buffy whispered to Jenny.
“Divination spell. To detect curses, but a very powerful one. Way, way more powerful than I'd feel comfortable casting,” Jenny answered.
“Reveal the source of blood, reveal the bonds of soul, reveal what was twisted, to then make it whole. Reveal who would harm and reveal who would seal, reveal what is hidden, reveal who would heal. In the name of the Blood, of the Duty of Death, I appeal!”
Jenny blanched. “Holy fucking shit!”
“Bigger than you thought?” Buffy added, eyeing the swirling lines of light within the circle with trepidation.
“Fucking huge,” Jenny whispered back.
A ghostly woman appeared opposite Meier. Though translucent, it was clear that she was incredibly beautiful, with huge dark eyes and a mane of what looked like auburn hair.
“Simon,” she said softly. “You have to send me back, before he finds out I'm gone.”
“Connie,” he whispered back. “Oh, no.”
“Simon! Let me go!” Constance begged. “He'll punish me worse than-”
“Who did this, Connie? If you tell me that, I can set you free.”
“Andrew. My son. Our son,” Connie whispered, fearfully looking over her shoulder. “He sold me for wealth, success and riches.”
“Who is your master, Connie?” Meier insisted, his face strained.
“I can't tell you,” Connie replied fretfully. “Please, Simon, let me go!”
“Machida?” Buffy guessed.
Connie's eyes widened, she tried to speak then move her head, and couldn’t. Buffy growled. “Another reason why that asshole is right at the top of the to-slay list!”
Meier closed his eyes. “I release you, Connie.”
Constance faded away. Cordelia coughed. “Are we done?”
A shadowy figure started to appear in Connie's place. It looked startled then gestured sharply and a blinding flash of magic seared the inside of the circle. Willow and Cordelia screamed. When the magic faded, the shadowy shape was gone, the carpet had been burned away, the concrete was seared black, slight smoke was rising from Meier, and Willow and Cordelia were completely unhurt.
“The Shadow,” Meier said coldly. “I should have guessed.”
“The Shadow? He’s some sort of vigilante superhero?” Xander asked from within his own circle.
“No, Xander, he's an old and powerful sorcerer. Very evil,” Giles explained. “According to the Council, he died a century ago. But I would say that was erroneous.”
Another shape was taking form opposite Meier, this one far more solid. Clarice blinked, and then tried to lunge across the circle to throttle Meier, but an interior shield stopped her.
“What the?” Meier frowned and cast a glance over his shoulder at Amy. “What is this?”
“Hidden. Gran hid her from you,” Willow blurted out.
Clarice was straining against the circle, reaching into her jacket, obviously trying to get her weapon.
“You can't harm me, only your spirit is here,” Meier told her, his gaze fixed on her face. “You're my daughter.”
“You're a filthy rapist pig!” Clarice spat.
“Yes, I suppose I am,” Meier admitted. “And I know why, now. You've met Simon?”
“Yes?” Clarice frowned. “And that is... that’s Simon's suit!”
“Yes, it is. I do not think that this is permanent however. Tell him... Lady Isobel. Yes, Lady Isobel,” Meier smiled sadly. “I am sorry, for what it's worth.”
Clarice was about to answer, when she faded away.
“Fucking shit,” Jenny repeated.
“Damn right,” Buffy agreed.
“I heard that, young ladies! We'll be having words about your language later!” Joyce's voice said. There were two startled ‘eeps’. Then there was a silence.
“And who might you be?” Meier asked slightly amused.
“Mom,” the teens and Jenny chorused.
“I see...” Meier leaned forward. “My son's future wife... and...” he started to laugh. “I knew he would get a girl pregnant and have to marry her!”
Joyce blushed, glaring at him. “Who are you? No! No, you can't be! What did you do to Simon?”
Meier leaned forward. “Yes, it can be. But it shouldn't. Once your children have dealt with the cause of this, I shall most likely be gone forever. Thank you.”
“For what?” Joyce asked suspiciously.
Meier tapped his head. “My son. He's in here. I can feel how much he loves you. Thank you for loving him.”
Joyce faded, a rather surprised look on her face.
Meier looked at the place she disappeared from for about half a minute, then removed his hands from Willow and Cordelia’s shoulders and rose. His fingers trailed over Cordelia’s face and the girl gave him a frightened, wide-eyed look.
“You need not fear me, Cordelia,” Meier said with a sad smile. “Not unless this curse takes hold more strongly.”
“How are you going to remove it?” Jenny asked.
Meier frowned. “I doubt I’ll have time to track down the Shadow. He earned his name by being elusive and very hard to get rid of. So I shall have to take steps to mitigate the effects it has on you and find a way to get clues to you. I doubt I’ll be passing peacefully on anytime soon.”
He started walking to the door. “Hey, wait!” Cordelia called out.
Meier stopped in his tracks.
“Constance was my great-grandmother? And you're my great grandfather?” Cordelia asked.
“Yes,” Meier admitted.
“And now you're gonna go and make this curse go away and you wouldn't have been as nasty, if it hadn't been there?” Cordelia was looking up into his eyes.
Meier's eyes met hers coldly. “Possibly. I still might have ended up as bad as I was. Am”
Cordelia frowned then shrugged. She stepped closer and gave him a hug. “Be careful.”
Meier looked down at her head for second, then brought up his arms and hugged her back. “I'll be careful with Simon's body. Tell him not to blame you for what you did not do.”
Cordelia nodded and moved away.
“D’you know who held you prisoner?” Buffy asked before he could leave.
Meier shook his head. “I don't. I remember a car, and then darkness and a voice... ‘Looks like Harvest Darkness is a success,’ and that is all.”
“Marigold?” Jenny gasped. “Oh my God, what sort of thing have they done with your soul to be able to use it?”
Meier shrugged. “I wasn't in a position to either find out, or remember. Nothing good, though.”
He looked up and frowned. “What time is it?”
Buffy looked up as well. “Too early to be getting this dark.”
“Fear of darkness, of the night, is universal. It has always been that way and for very good reasons. And this might not be an ordinary night.” His eyes swept around the room, taking in each of them. “Be careful. Stay together, it will lessen the impact of the fears you have to face.”
They watched the doors swing shut behind him. After half a minute or so, Willow coughed. “Okay. We no longer need to find a way to keep Buffy from going ‘poof’ in the sun. So, we go?”
“We go,” Buffy decided.
A graveyard had appeared opposite the school, and they entered it through a row of tall cypresses. It was derelict and tumbledown, with far too many familiar names on the worn gravestones.
Buffy shivered as Giles stopped by a grave marked with her own name. Jenny's was right beside her, and a handsome monument proclaimed that it marked the final resting place of Thomas, Lillian Miranda and Esther Giles.
“Morbid much?” Buffy asked in a subdued voice.
“I don’t fear death for myself, but I do fear being left alone,” Giles answered, reaching for Jenny's hand. “Let's continue. The Hospital ought to be this way.”
“Ought to be, yeah,” Willow tried not to look at Dave, who was still attempting to regain his human form, or to change into his Cheila one.
There was a rustle in the bushes and Buffy whirled, her face twisting into its vampire form as she instinctively reacted.
A tattered white creature staggered through the foliage. Its once pristine white wings were almost bare of feathers, the fine scales of its hide were covered with high and ugly cicatrices of hideous scars. One half of its face looked as if it had melted, or had been clawed off.
“Get away from there!” it yelled, waving what looked like a bottle. “Let her rest in peace!”
Dave gasped. “Mike?”
“Mike?” Buffy echoed, sounding blasé.
“B-Buffy? You're alive?” Mike slurred through broken teeth and drunkenness. “No... No, you're a vampire! A damn bloodsucker! You killed her, you bitch!”
Mike roared and charged. Buffy sidestepped neatly, jumped up and kicked him in the chin. Several more teeth flew out as Mike's lower jaw hit his upper, hard.
His remaining eye rolled up into his head and he fell sideways.
“Mike!” Dave croaked and ran to his brother's side. Willow cringed and hid behind Jenny.
“Mike, wake up!” Dave begged, gently shaking the ragged form of his older brother. “Wake up!”
Mike's eye opened. “She's dead, Dave! I couldn't help her. I couldn't even give her peace! She's dead! Everybody's dead, Dave!”
Buffy sidled over to Willow. “Poor guy, it must be horrible to think everybody you know is dead.”
Jenny's eyes met Giles’ who shrugged slightly, Willow rolled her eyes, and Xander covered his eyes with a hand in despair.
“What?” Buffy asked, confused.
Jenny patted her shoulder. “We'll tell you one day.”
Buffy gave them a suspicious look. “What?”
Giles shook his head. “Never mind. Dave? Can Mike walk? Or do we need to leave a guard with him?”
“I can walk! I can kill! Kill them all!” Mike surged to his feet, his wingtips dragging over the ground as he staggered left and right in a drunken stupor.
“You lead him, Dave,” Giles instructed. He threw one last, horror-filled look at the graves, and then tore his gaze away. “Come on. I want to get out of this place.”
“Giles? Do you think it’ll work?” Buffy asked hesitantly. “If Billy wakes up from his coma, will everything return to the way it was?”
“I think it will, yes. This sort of change to reality takes a great deal of power. I doubt that he can consciously maintain his link with the Hellmouth, and affect all of us,” Giles affirmed.
Jenny nodded. “I think it will too, and I’m pretty sure Meier did, as well.”
Buffy took a deep breath and forced her vampiric face back. “Okay. Let’s get out of here then and… and do this thing fast, because I’m getting hungry.”
“That was a joke, right?” Xander asked anxiously.
Buffy licked her lips.
Rack was in his home, studying the results of the fear on the protection spell. As the Director had said, it seemed to be quite effective in keeping the wards of Marigold charged.
“Well, time to attenuate the link between Billy and the Hellmouth and then head to Base.”
“Leaving?” A menacingly soft voice spoke from behind him.
Rack whirled. “What? How did you get in here?”
Meier chuckled. “Oh, that wasn't difficult. Your wards are quite second-rate you know. What is more interesting, is what you're doing here. Now if I had done something like this, I would have set up these receptacles in a place closer to either of the sources of the energy created. That you haven't simply shows your considerable general incompetence.”
“Oh? And the Squib-bitch thinks he’s better?” Rack sneered.
“Squib-bitch?” Meier took a step forward, his hand raised. “I think you're mistaking me for my son, Mr Rackham.”
Rack screamed as a bolt of energy slammed from Meier's hand into his chest. When the energy let up, he reached for a crystal around his neck and grasped it. He instantly disappeared.
Meier sighed and shook his head, almost pityingly. There was a flash of dark green light and a shocked Rack fell back onto the floor, his robes smoking, grey leeching into his hair.
“The problem with mediocre practitioners of the Art is that they always think that they're better than they really are,” Meier said dispassionately, as he looked down at the sobbing man.
He reached down and put a hand on Rack's chest. “Did anyone ever tell you what I did to Cyvus Vail, when he thought he could defeat me?”
Dark energy pulsed from Meier’s fingers. Rack screamed in agony, but the pain continued.
Meier lifted his hand slightly. “Now, you’ve been here a while. I’m sure there are lots of things you can tell me, like for instance, where the Shadow is hiding?”
Rack sobbed. “He-he’ll kill me!”
Meier leaned in, his face as cold as death. “Then you’ll just have to decide which of us will kill you in a worse fashion, won’t you?”
Rack screamed again, louder this time. In his hand, his fist clasped as tight as he could, he held the crystal.
Sunnydale General Hospital
Sunnydale General was less affected by the storm of fear than the area surrounding the High School and the Hellmouth. Yet it was still dark and the streets were empty, except for a few frightened citizens and a considerable number of rampaging vampires. Some of the latter also seemed to have other things on their minds. Clearly, the spell wasn’t limited to mortal humans and Cheila.
“Doesn’t it inspire great faith in you?” Xander glanced up at the façade of the hospital with a bland expression and haunted eyes. “Their dedication to their calling is remarkable.”
“First, do no harm to your career?” Jenny asked.
“Something like that,” Xander smiled slightly, but it didn’t reach his eyes.
“Let’s go in,” Buffy pushed the doors open. “We need to find Billy and end this,” she turned to Mike. “Yo, big guy? Try not to scrape the ceiling!”
Mike ducked his head and shambled inside.
Willow looked at Jenny. “Ummm… She’s not usually this clueless or this rude…”
Jenny nodded, a very slight smile playing around her lips. “Must be something to do with Mike’s nightmare.”
“Oh!” Willow bit her lip. “I should’ve guessed that.”
Jenny cast a look over at Dave, who was looking almost as depressed as his brother. “You’re understandably distracted. And let’s go help Buffy get the right room number, before she tears the head off some poor nurse.”
Inside was a shambles. Nurses, doctors, patients, were all being tormented by their own personal nightmares. Some were visible to everybody, like the huge shambling mass of fur that looked like a dust-bunny that had cornered a woman with her arm in a cast, to the young intern who was rocking on one of the waiting room seats, tears leaking down his face.
Buffy looked over her shoulder. “Will? That hack you did of the hospital, did it have a room number?”
“437,” Willow answered automatically. “Fourth floor.”
“Let’s go there first,” Buffy decided, hurrying to the stairs. On the second storey, a woman was screaming by the elevators, her arm stuck between the doors. The elevator doors had grown teeth and it was contentedly munching.
Buffy shuddered. “Okay, add a new nightmare! Come on!”
They ignored the horrors and general craziness along the way, hoping that waking Billy would end them all, hopefully restoring both sanity and health to Sunnydale.
On the fourth floor, a doctor stood outside room 437, cradling his deformed hands and crying. The door was open and they could see a boy lying in the bed, pale and small in the bed that was clearly meant for an adult. There were colourful pictures on the wall, drawn by his classmates and friends.
“Okay…” Buffy drew a deep breath. “I’ve got an idea how to do this.”
She closed her eyes, reached out and touched Billy.
“What is she doing?” Xander asked.
“Dreamwalking!” Giles exclaimed. “Marvellous!”
Billy was standing on a Little League field, wearing his uniform. It was blue and white and he was wearing a cap. There was a red scrunchy wound around the cap’s button.
“Hello, Billy,” Buffy began.
“Hey,” the boy looked at her in confusion. “You’re Dawn’s sister, right? I’ve been seeing you.”
“Yes. And I’ve been seeing you. I now you’re sorry, Billy, about everything that’s been happening. But you need to wake up to put an end to it,” Buffy smiled encouragingly.
“I can’t. The Ugly Man will just come back and do it again. And the Dark Man won’t let me wake up…” Billy looked around anxiously, as if expecting them to appear.
“The Ugly man? Is he the one with the club?” Buffy asked.
Billy nodded. “Yeah.”
“And he put you here?” Buffy continued gently.
Billy nodded again, looking around fearfully. “Yeah.”
“He won’t hurt you, I’m here,” Buffy assured him.
“He wasn’t supposed to hurt me! I’m his Lucky Nineteen! It wasn’t my fault we lost!” Billy whispered.
If Buffy hadn’t had her Slayer hearing or her vampire hearing, which she really hoped would go away again, she wouldn’t have known what he said. The words sent a chill down her spine. “I’m sure it wasn’t, you’re a team and no one person makes a team lose.”
“Really?” Billy asked.
“Really,” Buffy smiled. Billy gave her a watery smile back.
“But what about the Dark Man? What did he do?” Buffy put a hand on Billy’s shoulder.
“He… he hurt me. He let the darkness in,” Billy whispered.
“Okay… that probably means he’s some sort of ass-hat bad guy. We’ll deal with him, too,” Buffy assured him. “Now, I met the Club Guy, and he was pretty tough. But I chased him away.”
“You did?” Billy asked incredulously. “But you’re just a girl!”
Buffy crossed her arms and glared down at him. “Want me to tell Dawn you said that and see how well you do against her-”
“No! Don’t tell Dawn!” Billy held up his hands. “But I can’t wake up! He’ll find me if I wake up!”
“Billy, if he wants to hurt you, he can do that to your body, too. If you never wake up, that might be just what he wants,” Buffy patiently explained.
“Oh. I didn’t think of that,” Billy admitted.
“So… gonna wake up?” Buffy tried again.
“He’s here!” Billy wailed and ran.
Buffy looked around. “I don’t see him… Oh. Right.” She closed her eyes and faded from the field. She woke up, standing by the bed, just as Giles flew across the room, thrown by the club-handed man who was making his way towards her.
“Lucky Nineteen!” he rumbled.
Mike jumped in his way, but even big as he was, he was so worn down by the nightmare that a single blow to his ribs made him collapse, wheezing. Frothy blood flowed from his mouth. Willow screamed and ducked out off the way, Xander followed her and huddled protectively over her in the corner and Dave, realising that helping there would only make things worse for Willow, hurried over to Mike, waddling on his crooked legs.
Buffy growled, her demonic face pushing away her normal one and then she charged.
She grabbed the bar that surrounded the bed, somersaulted and landed right in the middle of the Ugly man’s chest. He stumbled back, into the wall. Buffy landed on the floor on her hands and one foot, immediately kicking out and up, her pointy shoe ramming deep into the Ugly Man’s groin.
He screamed in agony and every male in the room flinched. Buffy jumped to her feet as the Ugly Man whimpered. She punched him in the face, slamming him back up against the wall again.
He shook his head and still bent over slightly, striking clumsily at her with his club-arm. Buffy ducked the blow, grabbed the arm, guided it over her back into the gaps between the rails on Billy’s bed and rose beside it, bringing her joined fists down hard on where the club met the arm.
There was a loud snap and the arm broke at the join. The Ugly Man wailed again and pulled weakly at the broken limb with his whole one.
Buffy kicked the broken arm from below, forcing the bones out and up through his flesh and he collapsed, falling to his knees.
Buffy spun and launched an enormously powerful kick at his face. There was another crack, and the Ugly man’s head fell sideways. He sank to the ground, his arms still caught in the bars.
Billy’s spectral form looked out from under the bed where he had apparently hidden. “Oh. That was awesome!”
Buffy smirked slightly. “I am Dawn’s eldest sister, remember? Ready to wake up now?”
Billy nodded, cautiously.
Buffy held out her hand. “Come here, then. You have to do the rest.”
Billy tentatively reached out and touched the Ugly Man’s face and then there was a huge bright light.
Dave let out a squeak and scrabbled for the sheet that was falling down his hips, casting a quick glance in Willow’s direction.
Mike shook his head, his huge, winged form suddenly taking up a lot more room. Then he, too, shifted into human form, his toga covering most of him.
Giles groaned as Jenny helped him sit up. Sunlight filtered into the room and hit Buffy, who winced, expecting to burst into flames. After a second or two when nothing happened, she looked at her hands and lifted them to her face.
“I’m warm. I’m not dead. I’m not a vampire!” she briefly closed her eyes and exhaled.
Billy stirred, moaned and opened his eyes. He looked around in confusion. “That was a really weird dream… Who are you people?” He frowned at Buffy. “You were in my dream? And you too?”
“I’ll get a doctor,” Buffy hedged. Just then the door opened and a man came in, wearing a cap similar to the one Billy had been wearing in his dream.
“Oh, hello! I see Billy’s got company. Usually it’s just me and the pastor and his family,” he smiled.
“Who’re you?” Buffy asked, eyeing the cap.
“I’m his kiddie league coach. I come by here every day, just hoping against hope that he’s gonna wake up soon. He’s uh, my Lucky nineteen.”
“I see,” Giles said neutrally.
“So, how is he?” the coach asked.
Buffy stepped aside. “Well, as you can see for yourself, he’s awake.”
The man blanched. “What? How?”
Buffy took a menacing step forward. “You blamed him for losing the game, and after it, you caught up with him. Taught him a lesson, maybe?”
“What? No!” the coach protested.
“You did! You said it was my fault we lost!” Billy whispered, eyes wide, hands wound in the blankets.
The coach tried to run, but Xander grabbed him, twisted his arm on his back and slammed him hard against the wall, with just a bit more force than was really needed. The man tried to struggle and Xander applied a little more pressure to the arm and drew a whimper.
“And it wasn’t my fault. There’s eight other players on the team,” Billy added weakly. “You know that. Everybody knows that.”
Buffy nodded approvingly. “Nice going!”
Billy smiled, then his eyes closed as he faded into real sleep.
Simon stood in front of City Hall, blinking in the sunlight. The building seemed to have suffered some fire damage, but there had been a fire there, he knew. “What am I doing here? I’m supposed to get the kids…What happened?” Grabbing his mobile, he dialled home with trembling fingers. “Joyce?”
“Simon? Oh thank god, he said you’d return to normal and he wasn’t lying!” Joyce breathed a sight of relief.
“Who said? Return to normal?” Simon asked, confused.
“Your father. Come home, love. We’ll explain everything.”
Inside the building, Richard Wilkins watched Simon walk away and dabbed at the raw burn on his chest. “That was too close. I think I need to have a few words with Mr Rackham, and perhaps keep a much closer eye and tighter rein on the free operators in town.”
He sat down, wincing. “Far too close.”
Rack convulsed, his body aged and his black hair almost all fallen out and what was left all white. He coughed and tried to find something, anything, in the wreckage that was all that was left of his home and lab that could help him heal. Meier had been very thorough in destroying it, and all he could find were some minor potions and burn salves.
“Need to get to the Base,” he muttered, clasping the glowing white stone in his hand, as the broken fingers of his other hand scrabbled in the debris. “Need to get revenge.”
Harmony stood watching as Owen walked up to her, the rose still in his hand.
“There you are! I got you something,” he held the rose out to her. “I hope you like it.”
Harmony took the rose and sniffed. She smiled hesitantly. “It’s lovely, thank you. I thought you were looking for Buffy?”
Owen frowned. “Why would I be looking for Buffy?”
“She split up with her boyfriend,” Harmony said.
“All the school knows that,” Owen shrugged. “That’s no reason to go looking for her. Come on, I’ll walk you to class.”
Joyce was pacing the living room while watching four of her daughters play on the enormous TV.
Willow, Rowan and Dave had been building on the strange blue avatars that appeared in Rowan's world whenever they typed, or used a microphone to interact expressly with Rowan. Kit and Dawn had also been enthusiastic and frequent partners, which meant that there were now two quite realistic images of them running around the Revello Drive living room, chasing after Alley while Rowan lay in wait to pounce on the Slayer-kitten.
The water-quick speed of a kitten, mixed with the age-old experience of the Slayer should, according to Joyce, have prevented the three from ever getting close to the little black and white animal, but Alley was either distracted by the fact she wasn't being chased by enemies, or enchanted by being touched.
*Like Evy, but even more so,*
Joyce thought angrily.
Kit and Dawn were on the couch, muttering commands into microphones and Joyce was sure that after today, there would be a request for some very interesting things from Rowan to 'enhance the experience'.
There was the sound of a car coming to a stop and she hurried to the huge windows. Jenny and Rupert's cars drew up on the carriage circle and her children stumbled out, with a few additions. Amy, Dave, Mike and Cordelia. They were looking pale and shocked, yet strangely victorious. They looked around as if trying to get to know the house, the garden, the smell of conifers that always lingered in the area around the house again.
She did notice that Willow was keeping her distance from Dave, which was odd and made her worry, and as soon as they got out of the cars Rupert grabbed Jenny's hand. She also noted that Mike threw Buffy a longing and admiring look, but that was nothing new and everybody knew that, except possibly Buffy, though some of the glances she threw at him were now rather thoughtful.
She heard another car approaching and saw Simon's elderly Volvo, with Simon behind the wheel. Her heart started to beat faster.
There was a stampede of children towards him as soon as he got out, with Jenny in front of the horde. Or herd. He was almost bowled over by the force of their embraces. Joyce was gripping the window jamb so hard that her fingers turned white and she thought it might be the only thing keeping her upright right now.
Simon laughed and disengaged himself from the huddle, leading them all inside. The sitting room door opened.
The stopped stock-still when they saw Joyce. She looked up, face white and fearful. “Where's Kendra?”
***************************************** A road outside Sunnydale, February 8th 1996
Kendra had started running minutes after the Duty passed to her. She had gathered a few things from her locker that might be useful. A stake she’d carved that just seemed to fit her hand just right. A Ka-Bar knife, a few necessities stored in the sheath. A small backpack with her gym clothes, thankfully clean. Extra underwear that Mum... *Start thinking of her as Ms Summers again, it will make it easier*
That Ms Summers had said were always useful. Toiletries and what Xander, lone teen male in a house full of sisters, had once called 'the female unmentionables.'
She smiled slightly as she remembered the multiple tons of sister shaped bricks that had hit him after that particular remark. She sobered.
*That is a memory. All that remains is the Duty.*
She looked at the meagre contents of the backpack, closed it, slung it on her back, settled it comfortably, and ignoring the strange occurrences around her, headed off. LA was the nearest city. If she travelled at what Mr Zabuto had called ‘Slayer marching speed’ she could be there in two days, unless she hitchhiked a ride.
*Mum would tan my butt if she caught me hitchhiking,*
she closed her eyes in pain at the thought and hurried on.
Simon hung up the phone. “They're not sure where half their pupils are, but Kendra isn't there, Harry lost sight of her when she got locked into a classroom when the door handle broke off-”
Buffy's mug of hot chocolate creaked in her grip. “Oh shit.”
Joyce ignored the language, seeing the scared, frightened look on Buffy's face. “What, honey?”
“T-that happened to me, a lot. When I first got Called,” Buffy whispered.
“You got locked in classrooms?” Xander asked confused.
“No, I broke door handles,” Buffy rolled her eyes. “Until I got used to my strength.”
“But there can be only one Slayer and you didn't die... Oh,” Giles took off his glasses. “Dear Lord.”
“What happened?” Joyce asked sharply.
“Buffy was a vampire,” Willow answered with shudder. “She was all cold and stuff.”
Joyce rose, moved to sit by Buffy and hugged her. “Okay, I think Marcel may need to call in some help on this one.”
“But why is Kendra running?” Mike frowned. “I mean, all of us changed back. And she was all gung-ho about being the Slayer, the Calling, the Duty and everything.”
“That was when all she knew was that. Now she knows there's more to life than Slaying. And...” Buffy looked at the floor. “Her name was Yasmin Datara. She was the Slayer before me. She died, and I became the Slayer, and I know it isn't my fault, but it feels that way, and I didn't know her, and yet I almost feel I do... Kendra is my little sister, we've braided each other's hair, I've trained with her... I can't even imagine how bad this has to be for Kendra.”
“For Kendra to become the Slayer, Buffy would have to be dead,” Simon added, as the family looked at Buffy in horror. “And she'd probably think that we'd blame her. She'd want to run.”
“But you all changed back, so she most likely did as well,” Joyce let out a breath. “And if she doesn't know it... She might try and fight a vampire or a demon, or think she can deal with whatever problems she encounters...”
“Hurst set the bodyguards looking as soon as she didn't show up. Call Arlene and Phoebe and ask them if they saw anything. I'm calling Clarice and ask if she can do something with the FBI or the police,” Simon walked to the phone.
“The police are useless,” Xander reminded him. “Unless its an attack on a donut shop.”
“Not with a possible kidnap case of one of my children,” Simon smiled frostily. “Rowan, she may use her emergency credit card, keep an eye on it, you have my permission. Amy, Willow, Buffy, I want you to prepare a Circle of Divination by Trickster's Rock. Jenny, could you supervise?”
“You're not doing magic!” Joyce glared.
“I'm not. They are,” Simon smiled at the girls. “Actually, Cordelia, I want you to watch closely as they do it.”
The Monolith, Hooghwater Park
Jenny looked at the newly drawn circle on the forest floor. Clarice had arrived, with Patrick close behind her, and Amy had barely gotten her breath back from being hugged so hard. The Kirbys and Kendalls had also been called to tell them where their children were, that they were safe, and that they were welcome to come over.
Despite everything, the girls were very excited that they’d be allowed to do magic, even if someone would be looking over their shoulder all the time and Jenny would be leading the mini-merge.
Then again, all the girls were more powerful than Jenny, who was a good deal more powerful than the average witch, which meant that the mini-merge was probably more powerful than any but the most powerful coven merges in the East.
“Ready?” Jenny asked.
The others nodded. Jenny took a few hairs taken from Kendra's hairbrush and wound them around the twine of the divining crystal. The maps of Sunnydale, Sunnydale County, the whole of Southern California lay ready, with more at hand to be used if needed.
“Let's do this,” Jenny spread her hands and started the incantation.
Kendra had been training for this since she was three years old. She thought she was in better physical condition, better mentally prepared for the Duty than Buffy. And yet she was shaking and frightened and uncertain as she walked along the Highway to LA. And she kept getting distracted by what felt like nudges and touches that weren't there.
*I should have gone to the bus station, decided where to go from there,*
she ducked slightly as another car headed her way.
She hadn't yet had the courage to raise her thumb. She wasn't quite sure if she wanted to do that. It would mean more witnesses to her direction of travel. It would mean she'd travel faster, and her foster parents would want to find her, even if only to punish her for the fact that Buffy was dead.
She felt another soft tap in her head, as if a small creature was trying to get her attention. She ignored it. Then it patted again, more insistently.
Kendra stopped and looked around. A car was coming her way from Sunnydale and she decided to risk it. She was the Slayer now, and no mere mortal could harm her. She stepped slightly out onto the road and stuck out her thumb. The car drew up. There were two men inside, who looked at her appreciatively.
Kendra pulled at her sensible pleated skirt, suddenly wishing that she'd changed into jeans, that she didn't look like an innocent schoolgirl. She didn’t like the look the men were giving her. The tapping became insistent and she was also getting a headache, right above her nose, between her eyes.
There was a chuckle from the scruffiest of the two men. “Looks like we struck gold.”
“A sweet little schoolgirl,” the other agreed. “Shall we see what she tastes like?”
Kendra froze. A headache was one of the ways that Mr Zabuto had described as how the Slayer's gift of sensing vampires could emerge. And even if these men weren't vampires, she really didn't like their tone of voice.
“You most certainly will not,” she replied evenly, trying to keep her voice under control.
The men got out of the car, leering. “I think we will, girly. I think we're gonna have a lot of fun together,” the bigger one said, then vamped out.
Kendra was rather relieved. At least with vampires, she could let loose with the full power of her Slayer abilities, without fear that she might injure or kill a mortal.
*Though if they’d been planning to force me, the world would not be missing much,*
she thought grimly as she took up position, waiting for the vamps to attack.
They were impatient and almost immediately did so. She caught one's attack on her arm, slamming her forearm into its face, enjoying the crack his nose made as it broke. Then she ducked under the inexpert swing of the other and lashed out with her leg, unbalancing the first vampire.
They were not fledglings, however, and had enough experience to learn to use their strength, speed and agility.
The bigger vampire quickly recovered and lunged at her. Kendra dodged back, but her opponent was faster and his knuckles grazed her cheek, knocking her head sideways.
Kendra was sure that glancing blow would have been enough to seriously injure an ordinary person, putting them out of the fight almost immediately. But now that she was a Slayer, she could handle it, even if it did hurt.
The vamp tried to close with her, but Kendra moved back onto the verge, placing some bushes at her back. The smaller vamp charged, fists flying, but Kendra caught him by his wrist and flung him over her head into the bushes.
The vamp screamed as the thorny briar tore into him, even if it couldn't do real damage.
“Filthy little bitch!” it swore, as it tried to disentangle itself from the thicket.
The bigger vamp had grown cautious now, obviously surprised at her competence.
“I can smell your fear, little girl,” it leered. “I like it when they're feisty. Works up a bit of appetite before I eat.”
“You will remain unsated, demon filth,” Kendra replied.
*Somehow Buffy makes it sound funnier when she does this.*
The Vamp snarled and attacked, obviously not as impressed by her abilities as she'd hoped. Then again, overconfident enemies made mistakes, and mistakes could be exploited.
She slipped her stake from her pocket and ducked under the vamp's blow, slammed her fist into his armpit hard, hitting a nerve bundle there, and then as his arm hung limply, struck with the stake, straight into his heart.
“Fucking shit!” the smaller vamp swore behind her.
Kendra had a split second to dodge the blow that came, but she was too slow, still too stunned that she had actually, alone and unaided, killed a vampire.
The blow dazed her, but she shook it off and turned to face her opponent, still shaking slightly.
“You're gonna go down, girl! You gonna die, slow and painful,” the vampire snarled.
Kendra eyed it warily. It had been moving with supreme confidence, but now it was wary, careful. It was also more used to its strength than she was to hers.
It snarled and jumped. She kicked out, hoping to catch it in the chest and throw it back, but it seemed to twist mid-air. It landed in a half crouch and launched itself at her, catching her around her middle as she recovered from her missed kick. She was borne down, forced to her knees, and she could feel that it was stronger than she was, or maybe that was just her fear.
She cried in pain as the vamp’s claws raked her and its jaws bit down hard on her side, but he had left himself open and her hand, still with the stake in it, came down and it collapsed into dust.
Kendra tried to suppress a sob, but even as a Slayer the wounds hurt. She wasn't certain if the bite hadn't pierced an artery, though she didn't think so. She probably would have been dead already if it had. She rose tremblingly to her feet and in the distance heard the sound of engines.
She picked up her bag and ducked into the undergrowth, hoping to avoid any more encounters.
She hunkered down, hoping the cars wouldn't stop to see why there was a car parked by the side of the road and closed her eyes when they did. She had recognised the heavy black BMW's with their tinted windows.
“She's close, the crystal is almost still,” an anxious voice said.
“There was a fight here,” Lewis spoke up. “Something was thrown into those bushes.”
“There's blood and ashes,” Kendra recognised Giles.
“I can smell it. It's still fresh, so she can't have gone far.”
Kendra's eyes flew wide and she started as she heard a voice she’d never expected to hear again. “Buffy?” she whispered inaudibly.
“The blood trail goes here,” Lewis noted. “Into the rough.”
“She has to be near, the crystal says we're practically on top of her,” Willow fretted and babbled. “What if she's dreadfully injured and can't move or call out and we won't find her and she'll die and-”
“Easy Will,” Xander soothed. “We'll find her.”
“Kendra!” Buffy called out. “Come out! You did nothing wrong and I wasn't hurt and I'm not dead! It was all a nightmare!”
Kendra bit her lip, wondering what she should do.
“I know what to do,” Buffy muttered and dialled something on her phone.
Kendra couldn’t hear what she said. Seconds later, she could guess.
“Kendra Marisha Meier, unless you're too hurt to reply or move you will come forward this instant, young lady!” Joyce's voice rang out.
Without even realising what she was doing, Kendra rose. Then she stood looking reluctantly at the group by the cars she could now see fully.
Willow gasped, a hand going to her mouth. Jenny was holding a glowing crystal and a map and suddenly the light winked out.
Buffy moved forward instantly, her eyes moving over Kendra with all the experience of a year as a Slayer. “C'mon Ken, Mom is about ready to climb the curtains and Papa is ready to start calling Presidents and stuff and he needs to go to bed, not worry. And so do you, you look awful. Blood and ashes are sooo not your colours.”
Kendra whimpered and took a faltering step towards her sister. “You're alive... You're not dead, you're alive.”
And then she fainted.
Hooghwater, night of February 8th-9th 1996
Kendra woke up in what she knew was her own bedroom in Hooghwater and realised that she wasn’t alone in her bed. There were two, small, warm forms sharing it, one to either side of her.
And she could feel someone nearby, hear their breathing and heartbeats, even.
It was a warm, secure feeling to have those two small, sleeping forms so trusting beside her and that person near. She stirred slightly, and there was a mutter from the girl on the right.
An arm clamped around her and the girl snuggled in closer.
Kendra smiled into the darkness.
“You should go back to sleep,” a soft voice said, as another shape loomed over Kendra and tucked the duvet around her and the tow others in the bed. “And tomorrow we’ll talk about why what you did was a silly thing to do, young lady.”
Kendra’s cringed. “Sorry, Ms-”
There was a cough that sounded decidedly annoyed, exasperated, amused. It was a very ‘Mum-like’ cough.
Kendra relaxed, a tension she’d not realised was there leaving her body. “Sorry, Mum.”
The shape leaned forward and kissed her forehead. “Go to sleep, sweetheart.”
Kendra nodded and settled deeper into her pillow. She heard a creak that had to be another bed, possible a camp bed, and then yawned so hard she couldn’t hear anything.