Passion/Death, part IV
A/N: Disclaimer, author’s notes, etc., are at the beginning of chapter 1; spoilers are through “Passion” and also “Killed by Death”.
Xander instantly said ‘yes’ when Joyce invited him in for cookies. He stepped right in, and only after he was inside did he realize what a stupid thing he’d just done. He needed to get Queen C to drive him home. She wasn’t going to come in and eat cookies. Queen C probably only ate cookies specially baked by expensive chefs who worked with expensive dieticians to give Cordy the exact number of calories she could eat in a given day.
But Joyce gave Queen C a smile and asked, “Cordelia, won’t you come in and have one too? I made them myself.”
He couldn’t believe it when Cordelia Chase meekly said, “All right, but just one. And do you have any decent herbal teas?” Well, it was meek by Queen C standards.
Joyce smiled warmly, “Sure I do. I have half a dozen boxes. Chamomile, acai mango, cranberry apple zinger, and… Well, I don’t remember all the different herbal teas Willow’s brought over.”
Xander chipped in, “There’s a nice wooden box that’s a sampler set that Willow gave Buffy for Christmas. Well, Chanukah. It’s got like twelve different kinds in it, and I bet Buffy would be thrilled to share.” More like she’d be thrilled if someone would drink the flavors she didn’t like but couldn’t bring herself to tell Willow they tasted of the barfy.
Joyce settled them at the kitchen table and pulled out a big tin of cookies. She smiled at Xander, “Buffy said she owed you another favor, so I made some more of your favorite.”
Mmm! Chocolate chip, with extra chips! Willow’s were awfully good, but Joyce’s were even better.
Was it okay to think someone made cookies better than your girlfriend?
He grabbed three before he remembered he wasn’t at home. “Thank you, Joyce.”
Cordelia took one, broke it into pieces, and carefully ate a piece. “These are… really good!”
Xander knew that was real praise, because Cordelia Chase didn’t do the ‘little white lie’ thing. He smirked, “Pro Tip for Summers baking: try everything Joyce bakes. Pass on anything Buffy bakes.”
Joyce tried not to snicker. “Xander, just because Buffy doesn’t have the patience for baking…”
Willow was getting worried. It shouldn’t take that long just to decide between an overpriced bag of peanuts and an overpriced bag of cookies.
Her blood ran cold when she saw the outfit coming down the hall toward her. She instinctively touched the scabbard throat sitting on the belt at her waist.
Black shoes, black dress slacks, black shirt, black blazer… It was either Angelus behind that huge bouquet, or else Johnny Cash was paying a late visit to someone.
She stepped back into the doorway of Buffy’s room. She had taken the rolling table that slid over the hospital bed so the patient could sit up and eat hospital food – which was pretty much an oxymoron in her opinion, even if Xander thought they made great jello – and she had placed it within reach of the doorway, with one of the flower arrangements right where she could reach it if she needed to.
But first she was going to try to bluff him, because a master vamp like Angelus just wouldn’t be slowed down that much by a little holy water.
Angelus lowered the flowers so she could see his face. He wasn’t all vamped out, but there was blood running down at both corners of his mouth. She knew automatically what that meant.
Oh, poor Oz. And it was all her fault for bringing him along, and making him stay with her while Xander went with Cordelia. Not that she wanted Xander to be the one who got bitten. Okay, she didn’t really want Cordelia to be the one who got chomped on. Well, not much. Even if Willow used to be the president of the We Hate Cordelia Club.
Angelus leered, “Werewolf. It’s what’s for dinner. I’m sure he’ll have something to say to you tomorrow night when he wakes up and realizes it was all your fault for keeping him here after dark.”
The hair stood up on the back of her neck.
He grinned, “You think your mom will invite him in? I’ll bet you haven’t warned her about the dangers of Sunnydale nightlife.”
Like she could tell Dr. Sheila Rosenberg about vampires and demons and werewolves and not get a two-hour lecture on inappropriate behavior and lying to adults and watching inappropriate movies on television and hanging out with that Harris boy. Or worse, considering what happened to Buffy when she told her parents about what goes bump in the night and who got stuck having to bump right back. She figured Angelus knew exactly who her mother was, and exactly why she couldn’t talk to her mother about this stuff, and he was just being a big fat jerk. The kind of big fat evil jerk who kills your friend and leaves their blood on his mouth just to show off and scare you.
And now Willow felt really bad that she hadn’t tried harder to be friends with Oz, even if he was one of the cool guys who was in a band and stuff, and guys like that didn’t hang with the school nerds.
He continued, “Do you think your mom will invite you
in? I bet you’ll look gorgeous when you’re dead. That hair color and those big eyes will look fabulous with really pale skin.”
She swallowed really hard.
“After I turn you, I’m going to arrange you and Oz in bed with little Buffy, one on either side. The floral arrangement will make everything so… special. I’ll get pictures too. It’s just a shame I won’t be around when she wakes up in the morning and finds two of her best friends dead on either side of her. But I’ll be sure to drop by and let your boyfriend know your death is all his fault. What a stupid plan! And then when Buffy has to stake her very best friend and one of her Scoobies, she’ll just fall to pieces. Harris won’t thank her for staking his girlfriend, either. We both know Xander’s like that.”
He pretended he was thinking things over, and he tapped one finger on his chin. “Or maybe it’ll be more fun to trap him somewhere with the new, improved you, and watch him plead for you not to eat him. They always think they can make that ‘I know you’re still inside there’ speech work. It never does.”
Oh God. She couldn’t let him turn her. That would be the worst thing ever! A vampire Willow Rosenberg? A vampire that would torture her Xander and be horrible to Buffy? She couldn’t let that happen.
She put her left hand on the scabbard’s throat with her left thumb on the tiny button she’d glued on the back side.
Angelus smirked, “Cute. You do know you’re missing the scabbard for that? And the sword it goes around?”
She reached over with her right hand like she was grabbing the hilt of a sword, and she slid her hand upward like she was sliding a real sword out. And she pressed the tiny button.
All the time she’d spent recording sound files had been needed to get really, really high-fidelity sound files of a sword being drawn from a scabbard’s throat just like this one. She didn’t know how good a vampire’s ears were, so she’d made sure she had sounds in the subsonic and ultrasonic too. Then she’d burned the integrated sound file and a playback program on two programmable chips, which were on a tiny piece of perfboard with a watch battery for power and three really good transponders to produce all the sound frequencies just right, plus a couple transistors and a resistor to make her circuit diagram work right when she pressed the button and completed the circuit.
Angelus flinched at the sound, which was so faint even she could hardly hear it.
She held her hand like she was holding a sword, and she told him, “It’s a shortsword. Remember Marci Ross who turned invisible? Nearly killed Cordy and Buffy your first year here? Turns out the magic that made her invisible is partially reproducible if you study Giles’ books hard enough and you have enough magical help. Have you ever faced a weapon you couldn’t see?”
Angelus heard it. The unmistakable sound of a high-quality forged sword being drawn from a well-made scabbard. The little bitch had figured out how to make a sword and scabbard invisible.
He suddenly remembered Dru’s babbling just hours earlier. ‘The kitten will have to scratch daddy or die.’ He had figured it was one more bit of lunacy, but he was looking at a little sex kitten who was all set to scratch him to shreds with a shortsword. He had blocked sword attacks before. But how did you block the attack of a sword you couldn’t see coming? He decided to go hunt down easier prey, and deal with Rosenberg later.
He gave her a leer. “I think I’ll go track down your boyfriend and let him know you’re playing with sharp objects.” He threw the flowers in her face and moved at his top speed down the hall. He knew exactly where Harris the White Knight would be right now. He’d be guarding the Slayer’s mommy, like a good little lapdog.
Giles rushed into the hospital, past the staffers he knew only too well from the once-a-fortnight blood deliveries. He took the stairs up to Buffy’s floor, even though he was telling himself the entire time he was too old to be sprinting up flights of concrete stairs.
He ran onto the floor and found a shaky Willow talking to a security guard and a police officer.
Oh dear lord. “Please don’t let it be Buffy,” he whispered to a being who hadn’t answered any of his prayers since he had been six years old and had begged God not to take his grandmother.
He made himself stand still. He made himself walk slowly. He peered past Willow into Buffy’s room.
Buffy was fine. She was asleep and looking better than the last time he had visited. The relief that swept over him made his knees feel weak.
But something had happened. Willow was pale and shaky. And there were supposed to be two of the children guarding the room, while the other two took Joyce home.
There was a small crowd of policemen down at the far end of the hall. He made himself walk down and check.
It was Oz. Giles knew this was all his fault. The Slayer must work alone. And this was why. Oz was dead because Giles had chosen to give in to his Slayer. Because he had been unable to chase away her friends who were no longer blind to the realities of the world that most people refused to believe. Because he had not done the job that a better Watcher would have.
He had to keep reminding himself that it was only the intervention of these children that had kept his Slayer alive this long. She might not have survived The Harvest without their help, and she most certainly would have died at the hands of the Master if Xander and Angel hadn’t gone where no sane person would venture and saved her.
And how would Angel have managed to perform CPR? Vampires could fake breathing, but they didn’t breathe like a living being. Had Xander been the one who had done it? Xander had certainly been the one who had saved the day when The Judge was reawakened. And they would have been in dire straits without Willow’s skills.
Giles stepped through the door to the snackroom. Angelus must have loved the irony of the name of the room, given this. And there was a largely-empty bottle of Sprite on the floor.
Wait a moment, there was no Sprite in the drink dispensing machine. And if Oz had brought the bottle with him, it was most likely one of Xander’s bottles of holy water. Had Oz had a chance to defend himself? Giles hastily glanced around.
There was no water on the floor. If Oz had squirted water at Angelus, there should have been water all over the floor, along with wet tracks from Angelus’ shoes.
Giles stepped out of the line of sight of the police officer, so he wouldn’t be asked to leave. What had happened?
Oz had water spilled all over the upper portion of his own shirt. And there was water on his face.
The medical examiner looked in the boy’s mouth with a tiny flashlight and a tongue depressor. “Blood in the mouth, but it looks oddly diluted. Maybe he bit his tongue, came in here for a drink, got surprised while he was drinking it, dropped the bottle and it rolled over there.”
The policeman just let that farcical analysis slide by. “Okay. Barbeque fork. Time of death?”
The medical examiner said, “Less than half an hour. He’s still nearly normal temperature. You think the girl got a decent look?”
The policeman shrugged. “Maybe. She sure had enough details on the guy.”
Giles slipped out and went back to Willow. He spoke to the police officers, “Has anyone notified Mister Osbourne’s family yet?”
“Do you know the deceased?”
He went for the timid librarian tone. “O-of course I do. I know all these children. I’m the school librarian.”
“So how come you’re here now?”
He used one of his favorite excuses. “I c-come here regularly in my off hours. I help with the bookmobile and the book cart. Not enough people read anymore. It’s a shame. Americans turn to the boob tube instead of-”
He let Willow cut him off. “Mister Giles? It’s good to see you. I’m not feeling very good. Mrs. Summers wasn’t feeling well, and Xander drove her home, and I told her I’d sit with Buffy because she’s my very best friend, and Oz said he didn’t mind coming over and giving me a ride home, and how can this happen in a hospital?”
“I have n-no idea, Miss Rosenberg. It’s a tragedy.” He turned to the police. “You should call Miss Rosenberg’s parents. I believe their names are Sheila and Ira. I think I met her mother on Parent-Teacher Night one year. Very intelligent woman. Have one of them come pick her up. I’ll take over her responsibilities, since I’ll be wheeling the book cart about for several hours.”
Willow said, “Thank you very much, Mr. Giles.”
He nodded, “You are my best student in Latin class. It’s the least I could do.” He turned back to the police and said, “I must go get the book cart set up. I’ll be back before too long.”
Willow smiled at him. “As they say in Latin…” She switched to Latin and told him, “He said he would go after my boyfriend.”
She smiled at the policemen and lied, “That’s Latin for ‘thank you and good evening’. He’s a really good teacher.”
Giles made himself stroll down the hall and take the astonishingly slow elevator to the ground floor. Then he rushed toward where he believed the closest usable phone would be. Maybe Xander was still inside the Summers house, stuffing his face with food. If so, he would never again complain about the boy’s appetite.
Xander thanked Joyce again and walked out of the house with Cordelia. He was pretty astonished. He didn’t know Queen C could be polite to the common folk for more than a minute at a time.
He waited on the porch until Joyce had closed and locked the front door. “Okay, let’s make like a tree and vamoose-”
“Honest to God, Xander! Do you have to be the biggest pig ever, or has all that bacon you swilled gone to your brain? You ate like a dozen cookies and two mugs of hot chocolate!”
Xander defended himself. “Hey, I only had eight cookies. And they were really good! You had one, you know.”
Queen C stomped onward. “I had one to be polite. Eight is not polite, it’s…” Cordy stopped talking and went white.
Xander glanced over to see what Cordy was looking at.
Angelus was sitting on the hood of Cordy’s car, just making himself at home. He gracefully slid off and smirked, “Hey Xander, I’ve got an art project for your girlfriend to see. It’s going to look like little pieces of you and Cordelia all rearranged on Buffy’s driveway until no one will be able to tell which piece belongs to which victim.”
Xander carefully reached into his backpack. Angelus had just accidentally told him that Willow was still okay. That was good enough for him.
He grabbed the not-a-chakram that was wrapped in the bicycle tire, and he made sure he had a grip on the inner circle before he pulled it out. “Take off before I have to use this on you, Count Dreck-ula.”
“Xander!” Cordy hissed frantically. “He knows about the chakram thing!”
Angelus laughed coldly. “Harris, you’re such a predictable little moron. You know tha-”
Xander threw the chakram right for Angelus’ throat.
Angelus easily snatched it out of the air with his left hand. “-at… AAARRGGHH!” He grabbed his hand and cursed, “You bastard! Let’s see how you like playing catch with one of these, you pillock!” He scooped up the disk with his right hand…
“AAAGGHH!” He dropped the disk and cradled both his hands.
Xander pulled out another not-a-chakram. Angelus turned and sprinted into the darkness at vamp speeds.
“Xander, what did you do?” asked Cordelia suspiciously.
He shrugged as he tucked the second disk away and walked over to retrieve the first one. “Well, I might have taken this one totally-not-a-chakram over to an auto body shop with metal grinders, and maybe I sharpened the outside to a razor-sharp edge, and then just in case someone wanted to throw it at someone I wanted to stay un-thrown-at, I used an engraving tool.”
He carefully picked up the disk by its inner edge and showed it to her.
Cordelia looked at the not-a-chakram, which now had crosses engraved all around the inner edge. She said, “You know, every once in a while you do something like this that makes me wonder if you’re adopted.”
Xander figured that was a backhanded compliment with extra backhand in it.
She thought about touching the edge and quickly changed her mind. “But this was probably a Xena idea.”
He admitted, “No idea. It’s not like there’s this separate piece of my brain that has Xena stamped on it so I can tell when stuff is coming from her or not. Well, sometimes I can tell.”
But the idea he was just having was definitely Xena-related. Now he just had to ask someone like Devon or Loudon to get him a bottle of Everclear.
Spike leaned back in his seat and wrapped an arm around his girl. She kissed him on the cheek and said, “See? I told you. The stars said the kitten would have to scratch daddy or die, and daddy didn’t listen to me. And now daddy’s all scratched up.”
“Dru! Havin’ your bloody fingers cut all the way to the bone is not a cat scratch!” Angelus bellowed from the front of the RV.
Spike laughed and kissed his girl thoroughly. It sounded like she had had a very successful evening, and got to bite a very tasty treat, while Angelus was chased off by the Slayer’s pet computer nerd and then sliced and diced by Xander Harris. A non-girled Xander Harris at that.
Two minions were working away on Angelus. One was sewing his left-hand fingers back together, and the other was dealing with the burns all over his right hand. Lots of nicely-drawn crosses. It looked like Angelus was going to be drinking his blood with a straw for a few weeks. And how was Captain Hairgel going to do his hair every morning without hands?
Spike was really looking forward to tormenting the ponce for the next few weeks.to be continued in “I Only Have Eyes”