The group paused just inside the doorway when they heard the yelp. One glance around had Buffy groaning and turning back towards the outside. “Dawn!”
Her frantic rush for the door was abruptly aborted when her younger sister ran inside panting. “That... was creepy.”
Her heart still in her throat, Buffy swept her sister up into a hug. “What happened?”
“R-remember that Torrance guy? From the history of the place?” At Buffy's nod, she continued, “He was just outside with me.”
They froze. Buffy, her arms still around her sister, growled. She could hear Giles cleaning his glasses behind her, the scraping of his handkerchief across the glass clearly audible to her. “Did he say anything?”
Dawn nodded. “He said that they'd been waiting... for me.”
Buffy didn't hesitate. She picked up her sister's luggage and was heading for the door. Dawn, however, was having none of it. “No! I am not going to run, Buffy.”
The blonde Slayer turned to look at her. She knew she should tamp it down a bit, but the Slayer was in full control at the moment. It's only mandate was to protect, and her sister always sent it into over drive. “Why not?”
Dawn straightened her shoulders. “We can't let this continue. From the file... the house gets stronger every time someone dies here. If we don't clean it out, who knows what will happen? It could spread or... I don't know, summon Hastur or Zoth-Ommog or something!”
Buffy turned to carry the luggage out of the door, anyway. Xander stepped in front of her. “Buff... she's got a point.”
“Buffy.” Giles' voice caused her to turn around. “We need to stop this. I doubt that Dawn's... creative scenario is accurate. However, until we are certain of what the worst eventuality might be, we need to find a way to stop this entity. Leaving will not accomplish that goal.”
She sighed and, Slayer under control for the moment, nodded.*
Andrew was probably the only one who didn't outwardly complain about their disappointing sleeping arrangements. Sure, they had a whole hotel at their disposal. They could have had almost half a floor each. He was still much happier sharing a room with the other two males in their group.
The building had a vibe.
As in it was steeped in the Dark Side.
It didn't help that he heard phantom noises everywhere he went. The little ambient sounds of residents past drifted through his mental 'ears' no matter where he walked. One room was the worst about it, though. Like Bourbon Street, the party never ended in the Overlook Hotel Ballroom.
He didn't even want to get started on what he felt every time he approached the bar area.
For all that Xander was usually a big meanie, Andrew was glad that he didn't seem to mind being followed around. Some part of him argued that it might be due to his own feelings of unease, but Andrew thought that was unlikely. After all, Xander wouldn't be scared of something like this. Would he?*
Xander was having problems of his own. Caleb had called him the 'One Who Sees.' He'd liked that title – right up until the bastard had poked his eye out. Right now, he'd give anything for him to have taken them both so that he could be the 'One Who Saw Nothing.'
He'd write off the images of the dead – well dressed, desiccated corpses dancing in the ballroom in their 1940's best – as his imagination, but Andrew was practically climbing up the back of his shirt. The little weasel didn't seem to notice when one passed through him, so Xander was pretty sure he wasn't seeing them. Still, the way he kept rubbing his ears....
What was worse? Sight with no sound, or sound with no sight?*
Willow and Giles left Buffy and Dawn in the Foyer, busily digging through books in an attempt to find an appropriate dispelling ritual. A quick spell over his glasses and Giles was tracing psychic presences all through the building. Willow, her senses expanded out further than his, was tugging him down into the basement....
Honestly, what they found at the bottom of the rickety stairs was rather anti-climactic. The large stone area had been partitioned off neatly. There was a laundry area, some storage, and the boiler. He honestly didn't know why.... That's when he noticed Willow standing and staring at a wall. “This shouldn't be here.”
He moved forward to examine it and frowned. It looked like all the other walls around them. He touched it. It... didn't feel like them. It felt like energy. “I believe that it's a barrier of some sort.”
“It is.” Before he could stop her, Willow's hand lifted and her power flared. “Aperio.”
The 'wall' flared blue for a moment and the rest of the basement was revealed. A pentagram, burned and melted into the stone beneath it, surrounded a seal on the ground. A very familiar seal bearing the image of an animal skull. One that he had last seen beneath Sunnydale High School. A Seal of Danzalthar. “Oh dear.”*
“We're on a Hellmouth!” Buffy's voice rang unnaturally loud through the dining hall.
“Not quite.” Willow pulled out another book and continued her work on the runes she'd copied down from the melted circle surrounding the seal. Across from her, Dawn was working on the same thing. In a few minutes, they'd stop and compare. “I think... if I'm reading this right... It looks like someone tried to create a Hellmouth.”
Xander blinked. “Not to ask the stupid question, but why would you want to do that?”
Giles rubbed his eyes. “Hellmouths are centers of mystical convergence. I can only imagine that someone was hoping to tap into the power released by one.”
Buffy stared at her rapidly cooling coffee. “Then why not just go use one of the already Hellmouth-y ones?”
Xander blinked as an idea hit him. “The mayor.”
“Huh?” Willow paused to look at him. She wasn't alone, the others were staring at him, too.
“No, work with me here.” Xander leaned forward. “You're a mage at the turn of the century, right? You want the power. But – here's the kicker – you aren't sure you can beat the competition.”
Andrew, against the wall, paused his ear rubbing. “So you make your own. That way you don't have to fight to get it, and you can still tap into the power in case someone else comes to claim it.”
Giles looked between the two of them. “That's an... insightful theory. You may be right.”
Dawn lifted her head from her work. “Then why would they want me?” She paused and groaned. “It's the Key, isn't it? They need me to finish ripping the hole.”
Willow nodded. “That's what I seem to be getting from this.”
“Dammit.” Dawn turned to Buffy. “I guess the two of us are leaving in the morning.”
All Buffy could think was that she wished she hadn't left the Scythe with Faith. That physical weapons were useless against ghosts was beside the point. She wanted her scythe-shaped security blanket!*
The bad thing, Dawn reflected, about leaving in the morning was that the weather sometimes had other ideas. Overnight, a foot-deep blanket of snow had taken up residence on the yard and it didn't seem to be letting up. It was high noon and it looked like midnight. She could barely see more than a few feet from the window she was peeking through.
She glanced behind her at where the others were sitting. “I don't suppose we could just magic this away?”
She smiled a bit at the resounding 'NO' she got in response. She knew that they couldn't, but it was always good to keep them on their toes. One of these days, they'd say yes to something and she'd have fun laughing at them about it for years after. Or, maybe, just blackmail them into a lifetime supply of shoes.
She glanced at the doorway and frowned. Jack was leaning against one side of it in an old flannel shirt and jeans. He flashed her a grin and then turned to watch her friends. She decided to call it to their attention. “We have company.”
The others followed her gaze, but only Xander jumped from his seat. “Holy....”
Buffy looked between the two, confused. Willow frowned. “Who are you seeing?”
Looking almost hurt, the red haired girl looked at Xander. “How come you can see him when I can't?”
“One Who Sees, remember?”
“Oh. Really?” Her eyes were wide and she looked back and forth between him and the door.
“Yep.” Xander glanced at her and then back at Jack. “Not really liking it so much.”
Jack shrugged. “Not really up to you to like it or not.”
Andrew fell out of his seat and Dawn jumped. Xander pulled him to his feet. “Andrew's been hearing them. I can see them. I guess Dawn can do both.”
“Well, what'dya expect? She is the Key. Of course she can see what's walking between. Especially here.”
Andrew blushed. Feeling a little impish in spite of her terror (or maybe because of it), Dawn leaned towards him and stage whispered. “Great voice, huh? I can kinda see why his wife put up with him.”
“Yeah....” The summoner realized he was being stared at. “I-I mean... I don't know what you're talking about.”
Dawn laughed. “Sure you don't.” She turned back to the doorway, deliberately casual. She'd seen her sister rile the bad guys with that demeanor so often that it was almost easy for her. “So, why'd you drop in?”
“Just wonderin' how you were comin' along.” The rest of the gang tracked his movements through Dawn and Xander. The two were following him with their eyes as he casually circled the table and looked over their shoulders. “You folks are good, aren't you?”
He continued his circuit and strode calmly from the room. Dawn released a breath she hadn't realized she was holding. “We have got to do something about this.”*
Jack drifted into the shadows that infested the Overlook. He could feel the Other looking for him. His brief contact with the living had been risky, but he'd been hoping that being seen would make them afraid enough to leave. It hadn't worked and he hadn't been able to bring himself to do anything truly harmful in order to get the point across. Still....
Apparently, they did this sort of thing for a living. At least, if their attitudes were to be believed. (Ghost hunting for a living? How he would have scoffed at that when he was alive!) He drifted carefully through the other ghosts, not causing a ripple or a shake. He'd had thirty years to learn how to avoid the Other, and got better at it all the time.
Gliding through the flow of ambient energy, he manipulated it to send a frantic eddy towards the kitchen. The Other followed it gleefully. It was easily fooled into thinking it could catch him. It's hunger for what remained of Jack Torrance knew no bounds, obscuring what rational thought it possessed.
But, if it caught him, he would quickly resemble the rest of the desiccated souls trapped in the hotel.
Jack had no intention of being caught.
He fought down the memory of rending, tearing pain as he'd escaped the first time. He'd lost a piece of himself then, he knew. It was a piece he was okay with losing, though. As thankful as he was to have the rage and pain that had always lingered in the back of his mind gone, he didn't want feed the rest of himself to the monster.
Thankfully, the living beings in the hotel distracted the shape-shifting shade most of the time.