Bewitched, part I
A/N: Disclaimer, author’s notes, etc., are at the beginning of chapter 1; spoilers are through “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered”.
Things had been fairly quiet for about a month.
Still, that was quiet by Sunnydale standards. After Buffy had blown The Judge into fun-sized chunks, the Scoobies had gotten the thrill of clean-up, the excitement of packing hundreds of little pieces so they stayed separate, and the drama of watching Willow try for hours to destroy the one piece of The Judge that she had kept. Willow’s piece was about the size of an ice cube, and she’d figured out that if she could destroy that one piece, then it would be technically impossible to reassemble The Judge properly and he could never come back even if he wasn’t now dead as a doornail.
And why would people think doornails would be dead or alive? That made no sense to Xander.
At any rate, Willow had tried a bunch of stuff without any success, and had ended up freezing it solid with liquid nitrogen that Xander had made sure not to ask how she had gotten hold of any. Then she smashed it with a big hammer and turned it into splinters the size of a pencil point. Then Xander took the splinters over to a construction site, dumped them into a concrete truck, and let them get poured into the foundation of a new office building. Just let Drusilla try and get all those pieces back and properly assembled now.
Meanwhile, Buffy had torn through the vamp population like Drano through a clump of hair in a drain. Not even Willy had any idea where The Scourge of Europe had gone, but a couple vamps had volunteered – just before Buffy dusted them – that Angelus was really hurt, and he had fled toward L.A. in a stolen RV. Willow thought that was possible, because someone had killed a couple state policemen between Sunnydale and Los Angeles a few hours after the big Judge-boom, and the deaths were listed as wild animal attacks.
Buffy had checked Spike’s warehouse, Angel’s basement apartment, and a couple other places Willy suggested while being pummeled, and they were all deserted.
A couple excessively tweedy types had driven into Sunnydale, met with Giles and given him the secret handshake or whatever Watchers did to identify themselves, and loaded up all the boxes and packages of Judge chunks for transport off to every distant place on the planet. From what Giles said, this time they were doing it big-time, with little pieces being dropped into the deepest trenches in the ocean, the North and South poles, several active volcanoes, and even airdropped into places like the Amazon rainforest and the Himalayas. Xander had made a crack about taking a piece into Mordor and dropping it in Mount Doom, and it turned out Tolkien jokes were acceptable to tweedy guys like the G-man.
But only a week or so after that, there had been a werewolf attack, and they had needed to deal with a new werewolf and that butthead Cain. And who knew that Oz was now a werewolf? Or that Larry Blaisdell was secretly gay and taking his pain out on everyone who annoyed him – and everyone he found attractive?
Okay, Xander could really have gone a long time without finding out that Larry Blaisdell probably wanted to bone him.
They had needed to figure out what to do with Oz for three nights a month, but thank God that Willow was hanging out with Amy Madison and learning witchiness basics from her, because Amy volunteered her house for Oz. Xander’s first reaction was “What, Amy has a dungeon?” But then he remembered her mom, and his second reaction was “Of course there’s a dungeon in that house.”
Amy had taken him and Willow and Buffy and Oz over to her house one afternoon and showed them. The house still had that uber-creepy wrought iron fence with the creepy, evil, grinning faces on it, and the door knocker Xander didn’t want to touch, but inside it looked like a nice, normal home. As long as you didn’t go into the attic or the basement.
Amy had even explained what she knew about the house’s protections. It had anti-vampire and anti-demon spells on the whole yard. She said it was a really dark magic spell her mother’s mother’s mother did a long time ago. But it also meant they could put Oz in a special basement cell in her house on nights when he wolfed out: even if he somehow broke out of the cell, he couldn’t cross the plane of the ground and get out of the basement until he stopped being hairy the next morning.
Willow was so excited to learn about that spell that she was quivering with antici…pation. Even if the books that Amy had that might have the spell were so old and creepy that Giles made Willow wear gardening gloves with plastic-covered fingers and palms so the page never came in contact with any part of her or even her sweat. Willow complained about having to wear a shower cap just to read an old book, but she didn’t want a stray hair to fall onto any of the pages either, because most of those spells were deeply creepy, and even some of the pages were of the icky. Amy’s mom even had one super-ancient book that Giles said was probably written on human skin. Even Willow didn’t want to get near that one. Amy didn’t want to get near it either, but there was a spell on the book so it couldn’t be taken out of the room it and the other books and the spellworks were all in.
And there had been no sign of Angelus or Spike or Drusilla, either. Willow was pretty concerned that a sudden increase in nighttime deaths and disappearances in greater Los Angeles was probably a sign that The Scourge of Europe was on the loose there. And considering what Giles said about Los Angeles and the law offices of Wolfram and Hart, a noticeable increase in deaths and disappearances there was probably a really bad thing.
Giles wasn’t speaking to Miss Calendar, and Buffy still glared at Miss Calendar like she wanted to rip her lungs out. Through her nostrils. But Miss Calendar came through for them anyway, and found a disinvitation spell that Willow did on her home and Buffy’s home. And Cordelia made Willow do one on her car, even though everyone insisted it wouldn’t make any difference.
But the fun didn’t stop there, because Buffy still had go to her mom and tell her a whole story about Angel turning out to be a dangerous stalker who threatened her with an icepick and came after her best friend with a barbeque fork, so Buffy needed Joyce to watch out for him and not let him get close and not let him in the house. Needless to say, Willow came up with the story and made Buffy rehearse it half a dozen times first.
And that was where things stood just before Valentine’s Day.
Xander asked, “So… whaddaya think?”
Granted, Buffy had more important stuff to deal with, since they were in a cemetery in the dead of night. And they had a vamp who was about to rise, based on Willow’s expert study of the medical examiner’s files through a computer hack that Xander didn’t understand no matter how many times she explained about ‘buffers’ and ‘overflows’. Or maybe it was bluffers and overruns. Or woofers and overturns.
Two-fers and overtoads? Nah.
At any rate, it was something his brain didn’t get, and any Xena memories flat-out rejected.
Or maybe his Xena memories were keeping his Xander brain from understanding, because his Xena memories really didn’t like modern computers.
He held up the locket he’d bought and let Buffy get a look-see. Not that he was worried about the darkness. The Buffmeister could see a gnat in the middle of the night, and snatch it out of the air too.
Buffy shrugged, “It’s nice.”
Xander asked, “But do you think Willow will like it?”
Buffy smirked, “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather give it to Larry? Or maybe Oz?”
Xander complained, “Okay, laugh it up. When are you guys gonna stop giving me grief about this stuff?”
It was bad enough that Larry came out of the closet, and then thanked Xander for helping right in front of Buffy and Willow and Queen C, so the whole school was gossiping about Xander being gay too. But then Willow finally told the rest of the Scoobies what Oz said to her at the career fair that so weirded her out: Oz had a major crush on the hottie who was running around at Halloween while dressed as Xena.
Xander figured he must have been the biggest fuckwad on earth in a former life to deserve this much grief. He got grief at home. He got grief at school. He got grief from his friends. And he had enemies out there somewhere who made high school football-star bullies look like Jonathan Levinson with a limp, because Angelus and Spike and Drusilla were still out there somewhere.
Angelus was even keeping the pressure on, even though he was off somewhere else. Willow was estimating San Diego, based on Los Angeles going back to normal and San Diego having a spike in lethal ‘barbeque fork accidents’. But Buffy had gotten a package a week ago. It was just left on her front porch in the middle of the night. It was four expertly-drawn pencil-and-paper works of art, all done by Angelus. One of Buffy asleep in her bed from about two feet away, one of Willow asleep in her bed from the perspective of her window, one of Giles brewing tea in his kitchen from the perspective of the hall, and one of Xander lying dead on the library table with a chakram lodged deep in his skull.
Wow, really feeling the love with that one. Giles thought it was possibly a message that Angelus intended to kill Xander first, before turning his attentions to Giles, then Willow, and finally Buffy herself. Xander knew Buffy had cried over those drawings, but he hadn’t told G-man.
Some sort of Xena memory was telling Xander that Angelus was making a feint in his direction with those drawings, and it was Giles or Willow who was in more danger. Maybe he was just having a Xander-thought because Angelus liked to think he was Major Devious. Maybe even Brigadier General Devious.
But the fun hadn’t stopped with those drawings. No, last night there had been a note left on Giles’ door. And someone pinned it there with a crossbow bolt. Now that was totally subtle. The message said, “Tell lovergirl she’ll be last. When everyone she cares about is dead or horrifically maimed, that is when I’ll be coming for her.”
The reason Xander knew about that message was simple. There was a note under that one. In a loopy, outdated, feminine script, it said, “Don’t tell daddy, but Miss Edith cannot wait to play dollies with the kitten again, and the kitten will have to wear a pink satin bow around its neck.” And Giles showed it to him to ask him if he had any thoughts on it.
Giles was really sweating about that note, because it had to be from Drusilla the Mad. And that meant it could be a prophecy. Xander hated prophecies. Okay, he was now 2-for-3 on effing them up, what with the Master and The Judge. But he couldn’t see any way of hosing that massive ‘when the stars align’ thing except by beating every single apocalypse for the next eight and a half years. And now there was this little headache that was written by a loony vampire who wasn’t playing with a full deck.
Crap. Drusilla was probably spewing prophecies right and left. How else did they find all the pieces of The Judge? How else did Spike know to go out last Halloween? And she’d definitely seen what would happen when he threw his not-a-chakram in the church, and what would happen in the mall. He needed to talk to Willow about how to outsmart someone who could see your future.
Buffy finally said to him, “Yeah, she’ll love it.”
Xander gave her a grin. “Well, this is pretty much new territory for me. My valentines are usually met with heartfelt restraining orders.”
He stepped forward, not paying attention, and a hand came up out of the grave to grab him about the ankle. He yelped as he fell over, and the vamp used his leg to haul itself out of the ground.
Buffy made a graceful glide-step forward and kicked the vamp in the face. The force of the blow knocked the vamp off Xander. The vamp went flying backward, pulling the rest of the way out of the grave and landing flat on his back with an impact that have knocked the wind out of a human.
Xander rolled over and scrambled to his feet. He should have gone for the bottle of holy water in his backpack, but instead he dropped to the ground to find the locket he’d just dropped. All he could think about was not losing that locket.
He scrambled around on the pitch-black ground for maybe twenty seconds before a petite boot stepped in front of his face and a manicured finger pointed at a spot on the ground. “There.”
He grabbed it and checked that it was okay, and he tucked it back in its box that went into a safe pocket. Then he noticed that Buffy’s pants were torn and there was dirt on her butt. He winced and said, “Sorry.”
She looked down at him, which didn’t happen all that often, and she said, “I’d be a lot madder at you if this wasn’t for Willow.”
He said, “Why can’t dating and slaying be simple? Easy?”
Buffy helped him to his feet and said, “I don’t think either is ever easy. But look at it this way: dating’s easier than slaying.”
As they walked out of the cemetery, Xander added, “Unless you date Queen C.”
Buffy gave him a smirk and said, “Or if you were dating Larry.”
Weren’t they ever going to let up on that? He said, “I think it’s a lot more likely that I could date Larry than someone like me could ever date Cordelia.”
The next day, Xander had the locket all wrapped and everything. He had it hidden in his backpack, and he was going to give it to Willow at the Valentine’s Day dance at the Bronze that evening. It had taken him three weekends of work with Mike’s Home Construction and Home Repair to make enough money to buy what he wanted to get for Willow, but he’d done it. And Mike had been really pleased with the detail work he’d done on the woodwork, and wanted Xander to work more hours for him. So it was all good.
He just had to get through the day and the evening with nothing major going wrong. Like that ever happened around Sunnydale.
Okay, he got through his first day back in P.E. now that the docs said he could hand them back their splint and start doing stuff with his right hand again. But that was probably because the P.E. class was just running laps around the track oval and then taking turns trying a couple hurdles. Running away from stuff was one of his best skills, and he had stayed in shape on the running while he had his hand splinted. And he could run away while jumping over stuff or ducking under stuff, so he managed to get over all the hurdles without taking a header, just by going slow enough that he could pace himself. Half the P.E. bullies couldn’t figure that one out and did the big ‘crash and burn’ on the track oval.
He knew there was a problem as soon as he got up to turn his American Lit paper in. Mrs. Beakman sternly announced that anyone not turning in their paper would get a big, fat ‘F’. So he announced for the benefit of the back rows, “No ‘F’ for Xander today! Ha-ha-hah, this time I’m ready for you.” He waved his paper. “No way, this baby’s my ticket to a sweet, sweet D minus.”
Willow gave him a frustrated look, even though she knew he liked playing ‘class clown’ and she knew he felt weird about getting much better grades because of Halloween. He hadn’t had an English paper below a B minus for months. And this was on a Mark Twain book, so he’d even enjoyed reading the thing, which was probably a first.
Willow chatted with Amy while they all stood in line, or ‘queued up’ if you were hanging with Giles too much. Willow was just so happy to have a date to the Valentine’s Dance, even if Buffy was going to be sitting at home with her mom and watching Lifetime Original ‘All Men Suck Except Maybe Mister Right’ Movies.
But after Buffy and Willow turned in their papers, Amy just stood there and gave Mrs. Beakman the magic mind whammy. She just stared at Mrs. Beakman so hard Xander was expecting laser beams to come out of her eyes. And it worked. Mrs. Beakman thought Amy turned in a paper! Xander was so freaked he almost forgot to turn his paper in. Fortunately, one of the guys behind him gave him a shove.
Did no one else in the entire room notice what Amy did? How did they not?