Confirming Things You've Known Since Kindergarten
“And besides,” Xander said. “The sun already went down and the house is surrounded.”
Giles, Xander, Harmony and the Kendalls (who had been watching this display from the couch with dumb-stricken expressions since the trio's mystical arrival), glanced outside to realize that every window and doorway was filled with the visages of esurient eyes and fangs. The vampires, ravenous and apparently allowed to enter, grinned.
“Harmony?” her mother asked. “What is going on, Baby-Doll? Why are you wearing that costume?”
“And see, this is why a little trust is needed,” Xander rasped before coughing blood on his sleeve. He looked up at Harmony with a glare. “And thank you ever so much for only bringing us, and not our gear.”
“Yes, it seems you have a point,” Giles replied. He straightened his glasses. “And what a terrible time for a watcher to be missing his Slayer.”
“Slayer?” Xander asked, one silvery eyebrow cocked in interest. Any further discussion was cut off by the invasion. A quick census of their foes brought the number up to about forty. For regular humans, even one vampire was too much.
However, even lacking the Staff of Magius, Xander was not unarmed. He glanced at the Kendalls who were too busy screaming on the couch as the vampires smashed the windows in to pay much attention to him. He shrugged at them. “Sorry about the house.”
He flicked a hand, and lightning flew from his finger tips. The enchanted electricity hit one particularly burly vampire and burned a hole through its chest before bouncing off the wall, and striking three more. The afflicted vampires quickly turned to dust. Several others managed to mostly avoid the bright light that ricocheted off the walls, only getting slightly singed.
“Everyone to the couch,” Xander commanded. Even as the vampires closed in, Xander's will never wavered. He reached into his belt pouch and muttered something under his breath as he spun in a circle. Dust flew out to create a circle around the couch and took up most of the room. He wiggled his fingers and the dust seemed to glow for a moment.
Then Harmony was unceremoniously chucked out of the circle, as were some of the closer vampires.
“Well, that confirms one particular theory,” Xander muttered as Harmony impacted the door to the kitchen.
“What question?” Giles asked in confusion.
“What did you do to Harmony?” her mother demanded, as only being restrained by her husband prevented the woman from leaving the circle and rushing to her daughter.
“Well, I just cast Protection from Evil, 10 foot Radius,” Xander replied. “Used to either trap evil in or keep evil out. And, well...I chose the latter.”
“My Harmy's evil?” her mother asked with wide eyes.
“Yeah, but I've known that since kindergarten,” Xander replied absently.
“How long will the spell last?” Giles asked, suddenly more willing to trust the wizard now that he was the only thing keeping the vampires from killing them all.
“A few minutes at most,” Xander said with dark sarcasm.
“So when it fails, the vampires will eat us,” Harmony's father said with a grim realization.
“Yeah, we're pretty much boned,” Xander replied as he turned towards where Harmony was getting up off the floor. “Unless Harmony goes and gets our gear from the car
The succubus stood up off the floor and glared at him. “Why should I? You threw me into a wall.”
“Miss Kendall, for one, you threw yourself into a wall for being evil, and two, the entire reason you enlisted our assistance was to keep your parents from becoming vampire fodder, which is precisely what will happen to all four of us
if you do not retrieve our gear from my car
,” Giles replied, holding up a cross to add a bit more distance between the humans and the vampires. Harmony looked at him with confusion. He pinched the bridge of his nose and squinted his eyes shut. “If you don't bring our gear, the vampires are going to eat us.”
“Oh,” Harmony said. “Fine. But you owe me a unicorn poster for this!”
As she teleported away, Giles took a deep breath.
“Did she forget that she was the one to enlist our help in the first place?” the Watcher asked in frustration.
“Could, uh, someone please explain what is going on?” Harmony's father asked.
“Oh, these are vampires,” Xander said. “They want to eat you. They've only gotten this far because someone allowed them in the house.”
“I understand that,” Harmony's father said. Harmony's mother, on the other hand, went very, very pale.
“B-but Harmy said they were a cult! She didn't say anything
about vampires!” the succubus' mother protested.
“And your daughter is an evil demon-succubus-thing who eats people's souls,” Xander continued. “I'm guessing they-” he said as he gestured to the 36 remaining vampires that were attempting to break into the magic circle of protection “-wanted Harmony to join up because she's evil and a demoness. But Harmony said no, so they were going to turn you two into vampires to punish her.”
“I don't want to be a vampire,” Harmony's mother replied with a little pout. “I wouldn't be able to get a tan.”
“I am rather concerned that you are taking this so well,” Giles commented as he continued to wave his cross in front of him, making the undead hiss and back up.
“Well... I never really did believe all that 'gangs on PCP' crap that the papers talk about,” Mr. Kendall replied. “And with our high missing persons count, it was either 'we're living in a Stephen King novel' or 'Aliens really like our town.' The fangs and thirst for blood tends to rule out the latter. Also, Harmony ending up as a demon tends to suggest more Fantasy/Horror than SciFi.”
“Well, yes, we do appear to have a rather large vampire infestation,” Giles said, as Xander rifled through his belt pouch, pulling out a pad of post-it notes.
The golden skinned teen looked at Harmony's parents with an expression that could only be suppressed amusement.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you love this house?” Xander asked.
“I'd say an eight, eight-and-a-half,” Mr. Kendall answered quickly.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, how attached to this house are you?” Xander asked.
“The same, why?”
“How about when the lower the attachment the higher the chance to live?” Xander asked, clarifying his question.
“One, one and a half,” both Kendalls replied instantly.
“Nice to know,” Xander replied smugly as he pulled off a post-it from his pad.
Giles, meanwhile, was trying to think of a way to escape. He paced around the couch cleaning his glasses and wishing he could consult his books, only to spot Xander passing a note to a vampire just outside the circle. The vampire gave him a confused look, but pulled the note from between the outstretched fingers. The budding wizard pulled his hand back as soon as the paper left his fingers. “Xander, what are you doing?”
Xander, stepping as quickly as his frail body could back towards the center of the circle and then behind the couch, shrugged. “I was just taking care of some business.”
“You're not going to sell us out, are you?” Harmony's mother asked as she and the others also hid behind the couch, with that 'I-might-not-be-your-mother, but-I'm-quite-disappointed-in-you' look.
“I'm doing nothing of the sort, but sorry for the property damage,” Xander replied. The other three looked confused, but followed him in his duck and cover pose.
“What's the note say?” One vampire asked as another opened the carefully folded paper.
“Um... uh- 'I prepared explosive runes this morning.'”
There was a nearly house shattering KA-BOOM as everything within ten feet of the post-it's reader turned to dust and shrapnel. Xander cast a simple shield spell as he stood between the ensuing explosion and the other humans, letting the shards of the coffee table turn into a pile of kindling in front of him. Other vampires were not so lucky. Though the spell's shrapnel did not actually hit any vampire hearts, there were plenty of puncture wounds resulting from the explosion.
“I'd just like to clarify: I actually wrote those runes yesterday, but I can't change the message once I write it, and there's no point in wasting that spell if I can help it,” Xander explained. The teen took a deep breath that cut off into a series of coughs. The wizard half sat, half collapsed on the floor. The coughing subsided, but he breathed in and out in a series of rough, rasping breaths.
“That was...” Harmony's father began as he viewed the damage to that particular corner of his house.
“Impressive,” Giles said. “What spell was that?”
“Explosive Runes,” Xander replied, wishing he hadn't left his staff in the trunk of Giles' car. “The ultimate letter bomb.”
“Can you do anything else?” Harmony's father asked. Her mother was in the man's lap as she stared in horror at what was going on.
“Not at the moment,” Xander rasped, leaning back to rest his head on a couch cushion. “I don't have any other applicable spells memorized right now.”
He had memorized a few select spells that would help him with self defense, but they would do little to nothing for additional people.
Truth be told, he had not been sure if the “protection from evil” spell would actually work until he tried it. Now that he was proven correct, he needed to find a way to make it permanent. Most of his other spells were either enchantments or spells to allow for information gathering. Sleep wouldn't work on vampires, nor would Charm spells. Thank goodness for stupid vampires. That trick most likely wouldn't work again, or at least not on this group of vampires.
“Stupid wizard!” Harmony grumbled as she teleported back to the car. “Stupid librarian! Stupid vampires!”
The car was currently rolling backwards and picking up speed. She shot out her wings and flew down the hill, easily overtaking the car. She landed on the white Citroen with a thump, denting the roof. With another grumble of indignation, she teleported again, hauling the vehicle along as luggage. Angrily, the Succubus reached inside to grab Xander's staff, only to hiss in pain as her hand closed around it.
It burned like acid on her skin and she dropped it instantly, letting the magical artifact clatter to the ground.
“I HATE WIZARDS!” she bellowed at the top of her lungs, wings out, scales covering her body.
“How about barmaids?” a voice asked, a second before a cold iron skillet slammed into her face.
Harmony went sprawling on the ground as the improvised weapon bypassed her magical defenses. She glared up at her attacker only to see little Willow Rosenberg standing over her, the skillet prepared to strike. “Forgot our houses are right next to each other, didn't you?”
“Rosenberg! What the hell are you-” her statement was cut off by another blow of Willow's improvised armament. Harmony cried out as she felt the hollow bones in her wing snap under the force.
“That's Xander's staff. What did you do to him?”
“You hit me! I got hit by a nerd? How the hell did I get hit by a nerd?” Harmony exclaimed in shock and disbelief as she pushed herself up. Willow's eyes flashed in anger and Harmony suddenly felt the unpleasant tingle of cold iron as Willow tucked the rim of her skillet under the demoness' chin.
“Yeah, I did. So Ha!
and stuff,” Willow said in an attempt to sound intimidating. “Now where
“He's in there,” Harmony said, pointing to the house. Willow looked at the house just in time to see a quarter of it explode and a number of vampires turn to dust.
“He better not have been hurt in that blast,” Willow growled as she pressed the skillet into Harmony's jugular, the redhead's muscles straining under the force.
“He probably caused it,” Harmony replied.
“Why is your house surrounded by vampires?” Willow asked, struggling to keep from shaking with worry. Adrenalin was pumping through her veins, her pulse feeling like a rushing drumbeat as the blood circulated around. “Why is Xander in there?”
“Because I took him there so he could keep the vampires out!” Harmony snarled. She shifted back to her human form, the broken wings mending as her shape changed.
“God, Harmony, you always manage to screw up, don't you?” Willow grumbled. “You're not going to screw up this one. Cuz, if Xander dies in there, so do you. And there's nothing you can do that will stop me.”
“Understood,” Harmony said, standing up. She brushed off the dust from the street and glared at Willow. “Well? What are you waiting for? I can't pick up his shiny stick.”
Willow, never letting her glare waver, bent down and grasped the shaft of the Staff of Magius. It was cool, but willing. Maybe it knew she only wanted to return it to its master.
“I saw you teleport with the car,” Willow said. “You can teleport me in there.”
“Why would I help you?” Harmony demanded, looking down her nose at the redhead.
“You really are stupid, aren't you? Because if you don't, Xander will die and I'll kill you, just like I just said I would,” Willow replied.
It was almost like Tika was speaking through her. Willow was always timid, staying protected behind Xander and Jesse. Tika was a girl who beat up a draconian with a frying pan having had no prior training in any sort of combat. The girl had moxie. After Halloween, it was like Tika had passed Willow a glass of that Moxie. Willow stood up for herself and now found that she was perfectly willing to threaten to kill someone if it kept her friends safe. She stepped back and glanced at the car.
“You bring in that bag of stuff. Then you take us both in. Then you're going to go get Jesse and bring him here,” she gave her instructions slowly and clearly for the plainly intelligence-challenged demoness
Harmony glared at her for a moment before relenting. “Fine. But don't touch me with the stupid stick thingy.”
The Succubus reached in, hauling out the duffle bag of Giles' before grabbing Willow by the shoulder. A moment later, they were inside the house. Right in the midst of the vampires. Harmony vanished again without even taking in the situation.
“Willow?” Xander rasped in surprise.
“Xander!” she screamed as the vampires grabbed her.
“Thanks for the snack!” one taunted as it sunk its teeth into Willow's arm. She screamed as one wrapped a hand around her neck, forcing her head to one side. Only then did Xander notice the staff in Willow's hand.
“Willow! The Staff!” he said. He tried to summon it to him, but in her fear and pain, her hand was clenched around it, preventing him from doing more than giving it an ineffectual shrug. A moment before the next vampire could sink its teeth in, inspiration came to the curse boy's mind. “Willow, you've got the staff. Say it.”
She looked at him, tears streaming down her cheeks as the vampire brushed her hair away from her neck. She was starting to get dizzy from the one drinking from her arm.
“You know the word, Willow! SAY IT!” Xander pleaded, mentally promising to inflict equal pain on Harmony for doing this to Willow. His eyes remained locked with Willow's. He could see the instant she made the connection.
!” she screamed, trusting Xander fully despite the fear she held of her impending doom.
Magic is always part belief, and Willow had always believed in Xander, had faith in his abilities, even when the other students, teachers, or their parents hadn't. At her command, belief and faith overcoming her fear if only for an instant, the staff lit up with cool blue light.
Screams not her own filled the air. Claws and teeth released her as they went to cover the eyes and faces of the bloodsucking demons. She fell to her knees, her hand sliding down the staff, but never letting it go. The crystal stood tall. Those vampires unable to escape the light started to catch on fire, the exposed flesh igniting first, with the flames crawling up, their clothes adding fuel. Those farther out ran.
There are few things vampires, as a general rule, fear. The sun is one. It represents everything they lost when the demon took them over. A sudden open door that lets in the light could send even a master fleeing. Flames were the same. Vampires had no need of heat; their bodies were filled with magic blood that did nothing to quench the flames. Those that were lit on fire were paralyzed by the primal fear that they could do nothing to save themselves.
The last of their primal fears was Faith.
The belief, not the potential Slayer, though most feared her, too.
Everyone knows of how crosses repel vampires. But it's not the symbol that has the effect, it's the person behind it. The wielder of the cross believes it will repel the vampires, so he or she has faith that it will drive off the evil, sear the flesh should it touch. The same is true of other symbols of faith, of true honest belief when wielded by those who hold that faith.
A Star of David, a holy cloth, even a pancake could work just as well, if one believed
it would work enough.
The Staff of Magius, at that very moment, held all three of Vampires' primal fears. Willow, at that moment, had Faith that Xander knew how to save her. Her Belief allowed her to access the power that would save her. She used the Word and the Staff lit up, showering the room with the light. The light brought the final flames that saved all in the room.
None of the fangy dead within range survived the Staff. They lurked on the outskirts, or around corners that protected them, clinging to the shadows like rats to deck chairs on a sinking ship. Xander stood up and slowly walked forward. He leaned down, holding out a hand to Willow even as he took up the staff on his own.
“You're okay, Willow,” he said, struggling to keep his hoarse voice reassuring. She took his hand, her muscles trembling as she haltingly stood up. She clung to him with one arm, never letting go of the Staff. Her hand slid up so it touched Xander's. Her arm was still bleeding. He could feel her blood seep through his shirt. Xander held her close even as he looked beyond her, into the growing shadows of twilight, promising pain to any of the yellow eyes he saw out there beyond the edge.
“Let me check your wrist,” Giles said, gently taking the girl's arm. She clung harder to Xander's weak frame.
“Willow, let him check you over,” Xander said. Willow looked into his hourglass eyes and shivered. She reluctantly let go with her arm, turning it over so all could see. Harmony's parents winced as they saw the wound bleed freely. Giles ripped a piece of his shirt and tied it around Willow's wrist. He held the pressure even as the improvised bandage stained red.
“You, sir,” he said, nodding to Harmony's father. Giles pointed to the wad of cloth over the puncture wounds in Willow's arm. “Hold down on that. Keep the pressure steady. Vampires have a dangerous factor in their saliva that can prevent healing for a time.”
The man pressed the wad to Willow's arm, as Xander stroked his friend's hair and whispered soothing things into her ear. The three men managed to walk Willow over to the couch and set her down. Harmony's mother was shocked at what had happened
“How much did they take?” Xander asked.
“Too much, I think,” Giles replied. “We need to take her to the hospital.”
“I'll call 911,” Harmony's mother said, reaching for the phone. She dialed and explained the emergency, before looking up in horror. “They said they will be 25 minutes at the minimum.”
“What? It takes less time to walk there!” Giles protested.
“Tell them there's no danger,” Xander said with a growl as he started to stand up.
“Xander?” Willow asked tiredly, one hand tugging on the front of his hoody.
“Sit down and wait,” Xander told her. “You did well. You saved everyone here. Now let me save you.”
“What do you mean there's no danger?” Harmony's mother asked. “They're right out side the house.”
“Not for long,” Xander promised. “Tell them.”
She looked at the strange young man. His face was set, no jokes at all on his face. She held the phone up to her lips again, her voice stern and uncompromising. “There's no danger, so you'd damn well better be here in five minutes or less.” She listened for a minute. “Yes, I mean it.” She listened for a moment more and hung up. “Five minutes.”
,” Giles muttered. “They know what goes on in this town at night.”
“I've got to make sure Mrs. Kendall isn't a liar,” Xander said. “Giles, you and Mr. Kendall start the Unwelcoming.”
“Yes, quite right,” Giles said. Harmony's mother moved back to the couch and took over for her husband, keeping the pressure on Willow's wound.
“Stay safe,” Willow commanded.
“You know it,” Xander reassured. He turned and started walking to the shattered corner of the house.
The moment he stepped onto the remains of the lawn, two vampires who had been hiding around the shadows of the wreckage screamed as they erupted into flames. Xander spotted another running away and muttered an arcane phrase. Two arrows of flame launched from his palm, the first striking the fleeing demon in the back, the second just barely missing and hitting a wooden bench. Xander didn't really care about the destruction of public property. He turned the corner of the house and heard the scurry of vampire feet as they ran to escape the light. He saw one flee inside the Kendall home. He flicked his hand and two wooden shards of the house flew at his command. The impromptu stake flew at his command, diving deep into the intruding vampire's heart, the whole body falling to ash a moment later. He walked back inside, keeping the Staff lit.
Only then did Harmony arrive with Jesse in tow. She dumped the boy on the floor next to where she'd tossed Willow to the vampires.
“Brother, grab her,” Xander said, memories of a few years as a merc springing to mind.
Jesse reacted just as Caramon would have. He jumped up, hooked his arm around Harmony's neck and slammed her onto the ground. The succubus gasped as the impact forced the air from her lungs. Jesse flipped Harmony over and grabbed her wrists behind her, easily holding both tight with one hand. With a heave, he hauled her back up so she was facing Xander. He looked at Xander and froze for a split second as he realized where they were. It had been so easy for them to fall into the same old roles.
“Here she is, Xander,” Jesse said, making sure to call the other boy by the right name. Calling him Raistlin or “Brother” would not go over well in the long run.
“Boys?” the three looked up to see Mrs. Kendall still sitting on the couch with a very pale Willow. “She's my daughter. I'll talk to her.”
Mrs. Kendall might not have been an especially smart woman, but she'd been raised to know right from wrong. She'd thought she'd taught Harmony the same, but her daughter clearly needed a refresher.
“Go stand in the corner, young lady!” her mother ordered, pointing to a well lit and un-destroyed corner of the room. Harmony froze for a moment, then hung her head and dutifully stood in the corner.
Eyes went wide in surprise. Willow, even when suffering from blood loss, gaped at the sight. She shared a confused and shocked look with Xander.
“Honestly! Consorting with vampires and then lying to your mother! I didn't raise you to act like that, young lady!” Mrs. Kendall reproved her daughter loudly and indignantly. “And put your clothes back on! We don't need to see you like that. And there are boys present! You should know better!”
“She's accepting this whole 'your daughter is a soul sucking demoness' a bit too easily, don't you think?” Jesse asked as he took over with Willow's wound.
“She's always been like that,” Mr. Kendall replied as he and Giles walked down the stairs. “Nothing shocks her for long. My wife might not be the smartest person around, but no one can adapt to changes like her. She's pretty amazing.”
“...I'll take your word for it,” Xander said, incredulously. He glanced at the room as he noticed his Protection from Evil 10ft radius spell flutter and blink out before the temporary ward collapsed like a curtain of sparkling dust that vanished once it hit the floor.
Tika was confused. Very confused. And it wasn't from having the memories of another redhead stuck in her brain that was the confusion, at least not totally. The confusion was focused on the Majere Twins.
Caramon was tall, handsome and had impressive muscles.
Raistlin was funny, with a sharp tongue and had a number of traits the barmaid remembered from Willow's Xander-shaped Friend.
Willow had been in love with Xander, who was at least partly in Raistlin. Tika was at least in lust with Caramon, who had a great deal of Jesse in him, but who Willow considered a brother.
She was too confused by everything going on.
Finally, by the light of three moons (though she could only see two of them) she came to a decision.
“I must have them both!”