Buffy's scream of anguish rings round the store, and then she is on Eris like a tiger, shaking the woman like a rag-doll.
“What did you do, you bitch!”
Eris, still punch-drunk from the backlash of the magic, pushes with helpless hands, no defence against Slayer strength. Giles has his arms full of a dazed Jenny. It's Ethan who acts, strides to grasp a handful of blonde hair, a move which causes Buffy to let go in sheer surprise, before she knocks him flying across the room. Eris prudently ducks round behind the counter to join him. The other teens grab Buffy's arms before she can surge forward again, Willow babbling something about demons and dead bodies, Cordelia querulously demanding how a knife did that to a vamp, Xander trying to talk the raging Buffy down before she kills an actual person...
“SHUT UP!” It's Giles, a roar at the top of his voice.
It works, one startled instance of silence.
Giles is having difficulty processing it all. The woman from Halloween, the one who claimed to be opening a bookshop, has just vanquished a demon. (two demons?) He had felt
Eyghon depart. And now she's sheltering in Ethan's arms, face bloody and eyes wide with shock. It's only the fact that Buffy doesn't want to hurt her friends that is stopping her breaking free from Xander's surprisingly competent hold and attacking them.
How did it come to this, that his Slayer is threatening a human being over the unlife of a vampire?
Ethan is thinking much the same thing, only with more expletives.
“As much fun as this has not been, I think I'd like you all to leave now.”
“We're not just leaving!” Rage and despair war on her face. “You were gonna feed me to the demon, and that psycho witch killed Angel!”
“Blessed blade. Wouldn't have killed a human.” Eris croaks.
“And on your side, so far, we've got breaking and entering, trespass and assault.” Ethan says. “So we'll call it even, yes? I'll sweep him up and put him in a jar for you to weep over. Now, get the hell out of my shop.”
Buffy snarls at him, tenses to spring. Ethan and Eris brace themselves, clutching each other.
“Buffy, that is enough.” Giles' voice comes out harsh. He takes a breath. “There isn't anything left for us here.”
“I said, enough.”
All the fight goes out of her, and she sags against Xander with a wail, just a small, forlorn girl.
“C'mon, Buff. Let's get you home, 'kay?”
The boy awkwardly steers the now quietly crying Slayer towards the door. He seems considerably less bothered than the girls, turning his head quickly to look back, a rapid assessing glance. Gives a small sharp nod, and shepherds his little harem out. Giles exchanges one long look with Ethan.
He's just a middle-aged man with a tired face, worried and angry because his girlfriend is hurt. And that - makes two of them, Giles thinks, aware of Jenny shaking in his own arms. It's time to take care of the living. So he simply bows his head, and silently follows.
Eris is trying to staunch a bleeding nose. Ethan sighs, regards the wreckage of his clothing.
“I liked this shirt.”
“Sorry.” Her voice is a hoarse croak. “Incantation took it out of me a bit, or I could have tried to dodge.”
“I wish Rupert the joy of her, vicious little bitch.” Ethan says, savagely, lifting her chin to check her neck. “Blessed blade, indeed. That was the knife I use for opening boxes.”
“I did so bless it.” Wiggles her fingers. “Hoc cultro interficit daemones.”
“...” Ethan translates that in his head, snorts with laughter. “We failed to exorcise Eyghon before.”
“You needed the rite in Etruscan, not Latin. And the wielder of the blade has to be untainted by demonic influence.” She holds up her hands. “Even then, it's kind of painful.”
Palms and fingers are bright pink. Ethan squawks, cradling the damage in his own hands.
“Oh, bloody hell, woman.”
“Just surface burns.” She winces a bit. “It's going to make life awkward for a day or so, though.”
“So you'll expect to be waited on hand and foot.”
“You're my High Priest, it's your job.” Eris grins wearily up, not too proud to lean on him.
They stand in the wreckage of the room, a drift of ashes round their feet. Ethan settles his arms more securely. He has never found himself feeling protective before, it's a weird sensation. Under the bruises, he's also giddy with relief. He's free of one long shadow. On his arm, the ink has faded, a twenty-year old amateur tattoo, nothing more than a reminder of youthful folly.
“What happened, before?”
“You got the tattoo on Buffy before Eyghon showed. And you tried to remove your own with acid. Because you're an idiot.”
“The same sort of idiot that sets their damn hands on fire to banish a demon?”
“Hey, one possession demon, one vampiric spirit and one Romany curse. It was kind of crowded in that guy's head.”
“Did he win, last time?”
“Yes, but the chance to alter things was right there.” Shrugs. “Vampires are dead things that kill people. I don't care whether they draw like da Vinci, or play a mean game of kitten poker, underneath, they are predators. Curses can be broken, and he and that blonde dimwit were a trainwreck in waiting.”
Ruthless, devious and opportunistic. Ethan gives a happy shiver. He likes
“I've done business with vampires before.” He confesses.
“Yes, but you have a flexible moral code, and an atrophied conscience.”
“I'm not going to be doing with business with vampires again, am I?” Sad foreboding.
“Nothing that eats people.” Pause. “Or kittens.” Another pause. “Those nasty yappy little purse dogs are negotiable, though.”
Jenny sits on her bed, stares blankly at her phone.
Rupert. She hadn't meant to get close to him. Not because he was gadje, but because – nobody could be that typically English. She had known there was something more to him, even beyond his duty as a Watcher. Known there was more to his hesitancy than an age gap, a cultural divide. And so it seems that he, too, has another face and a secret past.
His stumbled explanations and apologies...she couldn't deal with them right now. She simply feels - violated. She'd stood under her shower until the water ran cold, scrubbing her skin almost raw. That awful almost-blank space in her memory, cuts on her hands, bruises... She hadn't killed anybody, that is her only consolation. But coming up out of the darkness, to find herself being choked by Him
What will she do, now that He is gone? If the curse bound Him, then it bound the Clan just as surely, a century of dedicated purpose.
Tonight, there are less monsters in the world than when the day dawned. That is enough. It will have to be.
She picks up the phone, and dials. A mental shift of languages.
“Uncle Enyos? It's Janna. The vampire is...dust. No, not the Slayer. Someone new...”
It had taken a long time to calm Dru down. She had been making even less sense than usual, raving about blue flames, frantically hiding her dolls under the bed. Spike eventually catches her by the wrists, and she goes limp.
“Everyone is very angry. Had their little game all set out to play, and now she's stealing the pieces.” A sudden sideways smile. “Made the Slayer angry, too.”
That catches Spike's attention.
“Someone's upset the Slayer? Tell me more, pet.”
Drusilla shakes her head, puts her hand over her mouth, whispers.
“Sssh. Mustn't make a sound, or she'll take us, too. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust...but there will be no resurrection for Daddy.”
There's only one person Dru calls Daddy. Spike blinks.
“The poof's gone?”
“Slayer wanted to keep him, pet monster on a leash. But the daughter of Night took her knife and cut his thread, slash, and such pretty flames. There was going to be a dance, but all the partners have changed.” Holds up her arms, and sways. “Dance with me, Spike. Like we did in Paris.”
He twirls her round, thinking hard, bewildered. Someone took out Angel?
He hasn't heard about any new players in town. There's supposed to be some minor mage rolled into town, but aside from that deeply weird Halloween, he's not made a move. And then, there was that annoying little creep with the all-you-can-eat buffet of wannabe's...all he'd got out of that was a book of indecipherable ramblings, and it had taken Spike two days and a bottle of Jack to get the taint out of his mouth. Sick people tasted bad...
“Because everybody loves the girl who walks in the sun, they forgive and forget the ones he broke in the moonlight. Mother said I never should/Play with the gypsies in the wood... Daddy played with the gypsy girl, and so they gave him a nasty shiny soul for it. She weighed it in the balance, and found him wanting. Did it for all the lost little girls. She
doesn't forgive, won't forget any of us.” Cuddles up to him. “You won't forget me, will you, Spike?”
“Not until the stars go out, my love.”
Someone who could take out Peaches and
piss off the Slayer sounds like someone to keep an eye on.
Drusilla isn't comforted. Her Spike will want to play with the shiny apples, and that will call down the lightning. The stars used to sing to her, silver needles in her mind, show her such pretty pictures. They sing a different tune, now, and the pictures have all changed. She closes her eyes and dreams of flying.