The Crack Payback Counterattack
A/N: Disclaimer, crossover, spoilers, etc. are all given in chapter 1.
Penny was just sitting. In a nice office chair, in a nice office, looking out over the L.A. night skyline.
And she had never been so scared in her life. Being locked in a room with Harmony wasn’t this scary. Hanging on for dear life while Faith gunned a Harley through morning rush-hour Pasadena wasn’t this scary.
Tonight, if things didn’t go just right, a lot of people – people she liked and hung out with and in one particular case, sometimes drank too much tequila with – were going to die. They’d die in ways so horrible she didn’t want to think about it.
Even if things went right, some of them might still die. And some of the scariest things on Earth were in this building, on this floor, back behind her, right this second.
Like Faith. And Willow.
Meeting Willow was great. This pretty redhead came right up and hugged her and babbled about how nice it was to meet her finally. And meeting Kennedy was okay too. No hugs, but a smile, and a handshake that didn’t break any bones.
Seeing Willow in action? Not so great. Watching an all-powerful witch pull in energy until she glowed with power, and her eyes went solid black, and her hair went pure white and living green? Penny had never really
believed the bad stories about Willow. Not the cute, nerdy Willow who was in the pictures on Buffy’s wall. Not the funny, happy, babbling Willow from the emails. No, that Willow couldn’t be… this. This dangerous, terrifying, nightmarish being who maybe wasn’t really a hundred percent human anymore. Someone who could cast a spell that affected Potentials all over the planet. Someone who could magically empower herself to the point that she could fight Buffy in a fistfight. Someone who very nearly ended all life on Earth, and couldn’t be stopped by a Slayer. Someone who came really close to unleashing an apocalypse worse than what Wolfram and Hart had planned.
But after feeling the power rolling off the witch in the center of that pentagram, Penny believed. The baby Slayers wanted Xander to be happy with them, because he was a caring man who you naturally wanted to like you, and it was awful when he gave you that disappointed look. The baby Slayers wanted Faith to be happy with them, because she would make them spar with her if she was mad at them. The baby Slayers wanted Willow to be happy with them, because they were scared shitless of her
On the other hand, the two English witches were like British flower children compared to Willow. They were so polite and, well, English. And Andrew was exactly like she’d expected him to be. She even gave him a huge hug, just because she knew he wouldn’t be creepy about it.
He’d even made a joke about coming all the way out here and not going to meet Sheldon. She’d admitted, “Well, he did ask where I was off to, but I lied and said I was going with Bernadette. She’s taking Howard’s mother to this B’Nai B’rith thing in Carmel. There is no way I’d go. But right now, I’m thinking it would be a lot less nerve-wracking being up in Carmel for the night, even if it would be with a hundred little old Jewish ladies who would all call me a shiksa.”
But the real reason she was scared was because this building was Ground Zero for the Wolfram and Hart strike. She was looking out the window at the Wolfram and Hart building across the street, and the spell Willow had oh-so-casually tossed onto her window made the Wolfram and Hart building’s spells and protections and individual floors show up like some sort of hi-tech holographic projection. She could even see things walking around inside the building being security guards. And there was one floor in there that looked solid white, and just trying to focus on it made her head throb with pain. She so did not want to know what the deal was with that floor.
If the Slayers and their team failed to bring down the Wolfram and Hart building, then the backlash from the spells, or else the hordes of attacking W&H demons, would crush this whole building like it was made of cardboard. And being on the thirtieth story of a building that might collapse at any minute was not a reassuring feeling. Being on the same floor as several magical spells, half of which might explode like bombs, was not reassuring either. Hearing about how big the boom would be if Willow’s spell didn’t work right? Super-ultra-unreassuring.
Oh, and just to drive home that whole ‘no pressure, Penny’ thing, she was one of the communications centers. They couldn’t use Willow’s telepathy spell tonight, because they were using Willow as a siege weapon. If the Slayers were an army of Jedi knights, then Willow was the Deathstar and was about to blow up a planet… or explode while trying.
Oh God, she might die tonight, and she was making Star Wars analogies. She had to stop hanging out so much with Sheldon and Leonard and Raj. And Andrew.
The Slayer teams were using these Navy SEAL comm systems tonight. Penny and Lorraine were running the comm system and relaying messages when needed. And if she screwed up, people could get killed. She had never been so tense in her life.
She saw, reflected off the window, the image of someone coming up behind her. It was Xander.
He patted her on the shoulder and said, “Relax. It’ll be fine. We’re good. Way better than those wolves and rams and harts. Because seriously? Who ever thought a hart was scary? It’s a kyoot widdle deer! And rams? Not so much with the scares. I could’ve picked way better animals for them to use. Now hippos? They’re freaking terrifying. Oh sure, they look cute and cuddly and all blubbery from two hundred feet away, but when you’re trying to get down a river in the middle of Africa, you’re not worried about the crocs. You’re worried about the hippos, who will munch you like a marble in that Hungry Hungry Hippos game. Having a hippo open its mouth right in front of you and try to bite you and your boat into pieces? Scarier than vamps.”
Faith slinked into the room and leaned up against Xander. “Tryin’ ta give someone else a chunk of your hippo-phobia?”
Penny blurted out, “Actually, hippophobia is a fear of horses. So is equinophobia.”
Faith frowned, “How the hell would you know that?”
Penny admitted, “Sheldon.”
Faith glanced mischievously at Xander and asked, “What’s a fear of clowns?”
“Faith…” Xander said warningly.
Penny said, “It’s coulrophobia.” She knew the names of way too many phobias and other weird things, and all that was because of Sheldon and Leonard too.
But Penny knew why Faith had said that. Buffy had told her the story of the day everyone’s fears came to life. Xander’s greatest fear had been clowns. Everyone else had been petrified by their fears. Xander had been scared, but had not only faced the clown, he had thrown down with it. And that had also been the day when Buffy found out Giles’ worst fear: a tombstone with the name ‘Buffy Summers’ on it. Buffy had told her one night over tequila that she should have realized way back then just how much Giles cared about her, and just how tough Xander could be when he had to.
Faith leered, “So maybe you don’t wanna see my Harley Quinn lingerie? Too… scary?”
Xander kissed her on the forehead and asked, “Does it come with the little domino mask?”
Faith tried to look confused, even though she wasn’t a very good actress. “Oh! Is that what it is? I thought it was the bra. Even if it made my nipples stick right out through the holes…”
He grinned, “You’re a bad, bad girl.”
“And don’t you forget it,” Faith leered. Then she kissed him. Hard. Right on the mouth. Like she meant it. Like she meant it and they were both naked.
He put his hand on Faith’s bottom and said, “Go get your team and get set. And don’t get killed, because I know this uber-powerful witch who would totally bring you back from the dead if I asked nice, and then I would definitely kick your ass for dying on me.”
Penny was pretty sure that any other guy who had the cojones
to put their hand on Faith’s rear like that would be about two seconds away from being renamed ‘Stumpy’. Penny couldn’t keep the smile off her face at the two of them getting together.
Faith sashayed out. Xander turned and faced Penny. He said, “Yeah, I know. But don’t be going Yenta on anybody anymore. Unless you can find Buffy someone nice, who’s actually, you know, alive
. And not a prick.”
Penny said, “Okay. And thanks for not doing anything awful to me to get even.”
He just gave her an evil smile. “I guess you haven’t seen the pictures up on the Council website.”
Penny squeaked, “Pictures?” Xander just strolled out without looking back. “Pictures? What pictures?!?”
Lorraine came in and calmly adjusted her headset.
Penny frantically asked, “Pictures?”
Lorraine looked at her and asked, “You haven’t seen them yet? I did warn you about the Scoobies, you know.”
Lorraine said, “Later, dear. It’s time.”
Kennedy’s voice came sharply over the comms. “Willow’s spell is launching in five… four…”
Lorraine coolly said, “Slayer teams one through four, be ready.”
Lorraine said, “Secondary spells now.”
A wave of… something
rushed past Penny, making the air waver like you were looking across a huge parking lot on a blazing-hot day. It shot across the street and hit the spells surrounding the W&H building, making them boil off in what looked like a volcanic eruption of magical forces.
Penny had no idea what it would look like without her magical image on her window, but it looked pretty damn impressive. And Slayers were sprinting into every ground-floor entrance the building had, including ones that were supposed to be magically-protected.
Lorraine calmly said, “Retrieval team, front lobby is cleared. Move toward the elevators. You have two minutes from… now to get down to the archive level and get the archives open before Stage Four commences. Remember, if you do not have the archives open in… one minute forty-eight seconds now, you must use the escape portal regardless.”
It was astonishing. Auxiliary spells were slashing into the building protections and making them useless. Magical protections were blasting out of the middle of the building, trying to find their way past Brian’s protections to turn them all into cinders. Or something way worse.
Slayers were sprinting through the W&H building hallways like they were jet-propelled. Demonic security guards were either being chopped to shreds or were fleeing for their un-lives. Penny was watching the map and directing teams toward clusters of demons that were trying to stand and fight.
Lorraine calmly said, “Retrieval team, you have fifty seconds.”
“We’re in! We’re gathering!”
“Jameson, stop assessing and GRAB!”
“And... I am as well.”
“Retrieval team porting out… now.”
Lorraine said, “Retrieval team out.”
Penny said, “Clear the building.” One Slayer team was obviously too busy to listen. “Clear the building now, team four. Or I’ll tell Faith.” They abruptly sprinted for a window, and began rappelling down the outside.
“Team two clear.”
“Team three clear.”
“Team one clear.”
Lorraine paused for a second before sternly asking, “Team four? Are you clear yet?”
“Okay, team four clear.”
Lorraine said, “Move it, the building drops soon. Can we have a countdown on that?”
Xander’s unmistakable voice said, “The building drops like Penny’s dress in five… four… three… two… one!”
Laughter was clearly coming over a dozen different comms. Penny looked at Lorraine and asked, “Like Penny’s dress?”
And with no noise at all, the building began dropping. The bottom two floors seemed to vanish, and the rest of the building fell straight down. Then two more floors went, and the building dropped more. The entire building swiftly sank, until the hardly-damaged roof was lying atop a fifty-foot pile of rubble.
Lorraine said, “You shouldn’t have taken off that party dress in your office.”
“But I had the door closed! And the window down! And the computer wasn’t even on yet!”
Lorraine said, “You mean you
hadn’t turned the computer on yet. Apparently, Faith called Willow, who was happy to help out on Xander’s behalf. She caught the entire event in living color via your webcam.”
Penny stared at her in shock. She had taken off that minidress and pulled on the emergency clothes she had in her desk in case of spills or demon goo… and so for a couple seconds, she had been standing there absolutely naked except for a pair of sexy high heels.
Miri chipped in over the comms, “I had no idea you had a mole on the lower half of your left breast.”
Andrew’s smiling voice came over the comms. “And, you know, some of the guys did have a pool going on whether the curtains matched the drapes.”
Kennedy added, “And you’re so much cuter than Andrew in a Shirley Temple dress.”
Penny wondered if it was not too late to go stand inside the Wolfram and Hart building while it fell down.