Surprise / Innocence, part V
A/N: Disclaimer, author’s notes, etc., are at the beginning of chapter 1; spoilers are through “Surprise” and “Innocence”.
“Oh crap.” Xander gulped hard and stepped back, only to bump into a solid brick wall.
She grinned evilly. “Most people who know about vampires are much too smart to be out here at this time of night. Too bad you weren’t smart enough to stay home.”
He held up the plastic soda bottle. “I don’t suppose I could persuade you to switch to the cool, crisp taste of limon?”
She laughed cruelly. “No. I don’t think so.”
He shrugged, “Didn’t really think so.” And he squeezed the bottle hard.
The vamp caught a blast of holy water right in the face. An ounce or two even went into her mouth. She screamed in agony as the holy water burned her face and mouth like it was battery acid.
Xander dodged to the side as the vamp made a blind slash through the air. Even blind and in agony, that vamp could kill him with one blow. He pulled out one not-a-chakram and one stake.
The vamp screamed, “I’m gonna rip your fucking face off for this, you asshole!” Well, that was Xander’s best guess at what she was screaming, because the mouthful of holy water had turned her tongue and cheeks into a disaster area.
She swung her arm outward in a vicious sweep that missed him by about two feet. He held his breath, and she swung her arm back the other way. He took the opening, and he hit her right above her elbow, using the not-a-chakram like really unwieldy brass knuckles. Then he jumped back.
It was a really good thing he moved back. She leapt his way and swept her other arm in a horizontal slice that would have taken a chunk out of his ribcage if he hadn’t moved back.
He stepped back and moved to the side so he could see two pipes on either side of the alley, and he could get them in exactly the right position. All he needed was for her to move a step toward him and thataway…
She moved his way, and then took another blind step… and he threw the chakram. This was the only arrangement he could see in the whole alley, and she actually stepped into it! Score! *clang* *clang*
She whirled around when she heard the noise, but she still couldn’t see. The chakram hit her right in the forehead, and she fell over onto her back, her head hitting the concrete of the alley with a loud thunk. Xander held the stake in two hands and dove onto her chest. His weight was more than enough to punch through her ribcage, and she dusted.
Xander dropped several inches onto the filthy concrete. His knees hit first, and the butt of the stake rammed right into his chest. “Oww!”
He clambered to his feet, groaning at the pain in his chest and knees. He recovered the not-a-chakram and put it with the stake in the side pocket of his backpack. Then he took the half-empty soda bottle and swapped it for his second bottle, which was still topped off with holy water.
One of these days, the nuns at St. Mary’s were going to catch him swiping the holy water out of that thing in the church, and then he was going to be toast. After all, it wasn’t like he was even Catholic. On the other hand, the penalty for swiping a couple cups of water wasn’t exactly going to be twenty to life. Still, if he got caught at St. Mary’s he’d have to start snitching holy water at a more distant church, and that couldn’t be a good thing.
He spun around when he heard the noise behind him.
It wasn’t a vampire. Unless vamps were now opting for the ‘hugely overweight homeless drunk guy’ look. The guy took a big swig out of a paper bag and said, “That ground’s awful dirty. Ya need a shower? I could help.”
Eww. Okay, right now, he’d rather get bitten by that hooker vampire than do what his mind was telling him Fatso was suggesting.
Xander ducked down the alleyway and ran around the buildings to get back to the bus depot from a different direction. Then he found a nice, dark shadow that wasn’t occupied by a not-nice predator, and he waited for the buses.
It only took three hours of tense waiting before the second bus finally showed up. No vamps. No box full of fun. Just half a dozen exhausted humans with ordinary luggage and a few things that used to be luggage maybe ten or fifteen years ago. He went home and got some sleep.
Xander made it to the library later than usual, but still a few minutes before first bell. Everyone else was already there, and things were obviously tense.
As soon as he stepped inside, Willow threw her arms around him and started babbling. Whoa, this was a really worried, upset Willow. But he was used to Willow-babble, and in thirty seconds he had all of it. Buffy and Angel had run into Spike, Dru, and a fully assembled, no batteries needed Judge. Buffy had finally showed up and told them that they’d escaped by the skin of their teeth, run through the sewers and got separated. Willow was mad that everyone hadn’t wanted to rush right off and rescue Buffy when Willow had popped into the library and found there was no sign of Buffy. Buffy had just walked in seconds ago, shortly before Willow was going to go look for the Spike-and-Dru hideout.
Buffy added, “I kicked him. It was like I got hit with a sudden fever. If he’d gotten his hands on me…”
Giles grimaced, “In time he won’t need to. As he grows stronger, he’ll be able to reduce us to charcoal with but a look.” He glanced over at a couple piles of books. “I had better continue researching. The rest of you should get to your classes.”
Xander groaned, but got moving. Although he really wondered why Willow needed to have a private chat with Buffy. Not that he expected a few Xena memories to let him understand women. No, he just had enough memories to know that he was never going to understand women, and that guys who thought they really understood women were delusional.
Almost twelve hours later, it was nighttime, and they were still in the library, and they were still ‘researching’. Which Xander suspected was moving from ‘examining useful texts’ to ‘grasping at straws in any book you can find’. Willow had gone home and come back, even though he thought she was their best researcher even including Giles. Not that he was prejudiced in Willow’s favor in any way. But she came back with dinner for him. So he’d eaten a private dinner with her in the student lounge. Just the two of them, with the lights down a bit. It would have been – dare he say it – romantic if there hadn’t been the whole terrifying ‘Scourge of Europe plus The Judge’ dealie looming over their heads.
After they ate and Willow packed everything away again in the picnic basket she’d brought, Willow came over and sat down next to him so close he could feel her heart pounding.
He wrapped his arms around her and asked, “Are you okay?” Because he had the feeling this wasn’t ‘romantic Willow’ or ‘sexy Willow’. He was pretty sure this was ‘terrified Willow’ and he wasn’t going to take advantage of her.
Willow leaned into him and admitted, “I’m really scared. Could you just hold me for a bit?”
“Sure,” he said. He let her nestle against him, and he kissed her on top of her head.
She murmured, “You’re so nice to me, and I’ve been so mean about the bezoar thing, and I was just so mad, but the Xena thing just freaks me out and I don’t know why, I mean, you don’t even wanna be Xena, and now we’ve got… this.”
He tilted his head so he was resting his cheek against her hair. “Our giant Smurf Of Death.”
Willow groaned, “And I’ve been researching for hours, and where do we stand?”
Xander tried for the silly. “On top of a pile of really boring books that all say the same thing?”
Willow muttered, “No weapon forged.”
Xander chimed in, “It took an army.”
Willow added, “Yeah, where’s an army when you need it?” She felt Xander react, and she asked, “What is it?”
Xander said, “Don’t go back to the Anti-Xena League right now, but I think I’m having a Xena kind of thought. Yeah, yeah… that’s an idea. Now I’m having a plan.”
All the lights abruptly went out.
“And now I’m having a wiggins.”
Willow clenched him tighter and worried, “What’s going on?”
He let go of her and admitted, “No idea, but it’s probably not of the good. Let’s get to the library.” The sooner they got to Buffy and Giles and weapons, the better. All he had was his backpack, and that wasn’t feeling like enough, considering who was on the loose in Sunnydale.
They stepped out into the dark hallway, and suddenly Angel’s voice was right behind them. “Willow. Xander.”
Xander didn’t like Deadboy, but it was a relief to have a fighter in his corner here in the darkness.
Willow, on the other hand, thought Captain Forehead was great, and should marry Buffy and do the ‘brick house with white picket fence and two-car garage’ thing. She hung onto Xander but burst out, “Angel! Thank God you’re okay! Did you see Buffy?”
Angel calmly said, “Yeah. What’s with the lights?”
Xander said, “We were wondering the same thing. But I think I have an idea about-”
Angel interrupted him. “Forget about that. I… I’ve got something really important to show you.”
“Umm, show us?” Willow wondered.
Angel nodded. “Yeah. Xander, go get everyone else. Willow, wait here with me.”
Xander said, “Okay” and took off toward the library.
He was all the way down the hall and nearly at the library doors before he realized something was wrong. His… well, it wasn’t a Spidey-sense. And calling it his Xena-sense just seemed totally wrong. But he just knew the situation was all wrong. It was some kind of set-up. Angel showing up just as the lights went out? How convenient. But was it Angel, or was it one of the threats they were already facing? Or could it be something else, just because The Powers That Be Shits seemed to be really with the hating right now?
He stuck his head in the library, which had an emergency light going. Buffy was already glaring his way, in case a threat was about to jump in through the doors instead of, say, dopey old Xander. He hissed, “Problem!” And he took off running back toward Willow and Deadboy as quietly as he could manage without kicking off his shoes.
Shoes. He needed to save up enough money to buy himself a pair of serious combat boots. Not anything the least bit girly like Xena’s boots, but something even sturdier than his steel-toed workboots he was wearing. Only, if you were wearing a pair of shoes like that, you couldn’t kick them off to run down a hallway in your socks so you could make less noise.
He got back to the spot with Willow and Angel, only it was a scene out of his worst nightmares.
Angel was in gameface and had Willow by the throat. Jenny was facing him from across the hall, holding up a big-ass cross. Xander’s hand automatically went into his backpack for the not-a-chakram. Right then, he was wishing it really was a chakram. A vicious, razor-sharp weapon he could kill somebody with. Preferably, somebody who was already dead and was hurting Willow.
Right then, he was wishing he really had Xena’s abilities. But he didn’t.
He snapped, “Don’t do that!”
Angel glanced his way and sneered, “Oh, I think I do that.”
Willow whimpered, “Angel…”
Jenny fiercely said, “He’s not Angel anymore. Are you?”
Angel just grinned demonically. “Oh, but I am.” He squeezed Willow harder, making her squeak in pain. “Finally!”
Xander felt – or maybe heard – someone coming up behind him. He hastily glanced back there, only to see Giles with a crossbow. Xander turned back, holding his not-a-chakram behind his back but in throwing position.
Angel – or rather, Angelus – smirked at Jenny and said, “I’ve got a message for Buffy.”
And suddenly, the shadows moved, and Buffy was there, right behind Angelus. She was trying to sound casual and failing. “Why don’t you give it to me yourself?”
Angelus spun about, swinging Willow like a ragdoll so she was between him and Buffy. Willow squeaked in pain. Angelus gave Buffy a cruel grin. “You see Buffy, it’s not really the kind of message you tell someone. It’s more the kind of message where you find the bits and pieces of all your friends and loved ones.” He tightened his grip on Willow even more, and she yelped in pain.
Buffy sounded like she was nearly in tears. “This can’t be you.”
He laughed cruelly. “We already covered that one, schoolgirl.”
Xander took two steps to the right, crossing in front of Giles, who tipped up the crossbow to let Xander pass safely.
Angelus started, “Now I-”
Xander took the shot. He knew Willow’s life was on the line, but he had to do something
Angelus spun at an unbelievable speed, flinging Willow right at Buffy and snatching the disk out of the air like it was a frisbee thrown by a child. He leered, “Thanks, Xena-boy.”
And Xander realized that Angelus had set up the entire scene. He had threatened Willow while giving Xander time to get a weapon. He had known what Xander would use. He had planned all of it, and Xander had just screwed up beyond belief.
Angelus threw the disk right at Giles’ face.