I Only Have Eyes, part III
A/N: Disclaimer, author’s notes, etc., are at the beginning of chapter 1; spoilers are through “I Only Have Eyes For You”. Events have now veered off from canon, so you may need to read earlier chapters first.
Xander began to panic. This wasn’t the way things were supposed to run!
He yelled, but his mouth wasn’t opening. He just hoped the message was getting out to everyone else in his head. ‘Grace? Grace! Pay attention to me! If you can hear me, I know what’s going to happen! I can help!’
Nada. This was so not of the good. His mouth just kept going without him. “I know. But… It’s over. It has to be.”
He cringed inside his head. ‘Grace, you’re gonna get us shot! How did you pick me to jump into instead of Willow?’
He’d just spent the day doing the Miss Newman thing, telling Willow she’d be better off with a smarter guy who had something going for him besides an embarrassing tendency to get turned into Xena.
Willow – the smart one, like James – had spent the time being hurt and angry and kinda irrational.
And maybe – just maybe – there was the Xena thing going on, so Miss Newman’s ghost didn’t look at his astral whatever and say ‘eww that’s a guy!’ or however these two nutbars were picking their next couple to be shot to pieces.
He tried again. He yelled, but the words didn’t come out of his mouth. ‘Hey! Grace! Ghost lady! Pay attention!’
Oh no, his body was turning around and walking toward the door. This was just going to make everything way worse.
Principal Romulus Q. Snyder answered his office phone. “Sunnyda-”
“Shut up, Snyder!”
He instantly shut up. He hated getting calls from the chief of the Sunnydale police department. There were worse people you could receive calls from, but that was always bad.
“I just got off the phone with the Mayor, and he’s not happy. And you know what it means when he’s not happy.”
Principal Snyder began to sweat. He could feel a big, hot bead of sweat running down from where his hair used to be, heading for one of his eyebrows. And he could feel a hundred beads of cold sweat running down his back. “Y-yes, yes I do.”
“Well, so do I, and I don’t enjoy it either! The Vampire Slayer’s interfered with the Sadie Hawkins murder-suicide twice in a row, and the Mayor wants that to stop! So get up there and make sure she doesn’t interfere!”
“I can do that.”
The chief snapped, “Well, you’d better! When we brought you in, we were told you could handle problems like this!”
“I can, sir. I really can.”
“You’d better, because you know what happens to people who disappoint the mayor.” The chief slammed down his phone.
Principal Snyder gulped hard. Then he forced himself to his feet. Whatever the Slayer was up to, he needed to get over there and get rid of witnesses and then get her out of the vicinity, so those two ghosts could do what they were supposed to do, for whatever reason the Mayor had.
He checked to make sure no one was looking, and he ran.
Jenny Calendar waited impatiently for the signal. She didn’t like this. The Magnus Triangle wasn’t designed to work this close to a true Hellmouth, and the consequences of failing in the ritual could be ugly. Especially when dealing with ghosts powerful enough to possess people and manifest complex objects. She’d never before heard of a ghost or poltergeist that could manifest a working handgun loaded with working bullets. That was a frightening amount of control over ectoplasm.
She had a carefully prepared scapula, even if it was off a turkey. Rupert was using one off a chicken, and he had treated it with sulphur instead of the more traditional ingredients, so he smelled like an old man who had been treating his lumbago with the old, traditional remedies. She intended to tease him mercilessly about that, assuming they all got out of this in one piece.
She had an appropriate candle set on the floor already, and lit. So she only needed Rupert’s signal to begin the incantation.
She heard the cranky footsteps behind her, and she closed her eyes in a quick prayer to the goddesses to help her keep her temper.
“Miss Calendar! What do you think you’re doing? And what is this mess on the floor?”
She looked over at the lit candle and the scapula on the floor. What was she going to tell the little troll? She lied, “That was my very question, Principal Snyder. What is this mess?”
He blew out the candle and picked it up, along with the scapula. “Obviously, some students were having some sleazy teenaged version of a ‘romantic’ dinner for two, and they ran when they heard you were coming, leaving this evidence behind.” He stepped over to one of the trashcans and dumped her candle and scapula in. “Now then. I need at least one more chaperone. So this way. And move it!”
Jenny clenched her jaws and walked with the little homunculus. She hoped the Scoobies could manage without her, and without anything resembling a Magnus Triangle.
Rupert Giles had his candle and scapula. He was lurking in a classroom just off the hall where Xander’s trap was going to be sprung. He just hoped Jenny would be ready when he signaled her. She had come up with a very clever means of ‘reflecting’ the third point of the mystic triangle, so this would only require two practitioners and Buffy could play to her own strengths.
He listened as Willow and Xander squabbled. He sighed inwardly. He knew just how hard it could be on one’s relationships to keep a secret of this magnitude. At least his father was a part of the Council, and understood what Rupert really did. The Giles family had trained perhaps a dozen or so Potentials over the centuries, but he was the first Giles to be the Watcher to a Slayer.
Willow insisted, “I don't give a damn about a normal life. I'm going crazy not seeing you. I think about you every minute.”
That didn’t make any sense. Willow and Xander shared a number of classes. They usually ate lunch together. They…
Oh good Lord. That wasn’t Willow. They had already been possessed. And Willow was speaking James’ lines, which meant that all the protections Xander had insisted on were moot. The wrong person was wearing the armor breastplate. He needed to stop this immediately, before the gun was manifested!
He shoved the unlit candle into a pocket and tucked the scapula into a plastic bag inside his blazer. Then he moved toward the classroom door.
The doorknob writhed and twisted, until it had formed into a massive snake. A black mamba, if he was not mistaken. The snake bared its fangs and hissed at him.
Obviously, the ghost of James Stanley was not going to let anyone interrupt him this time.
Buffy listened to Willow and Xander. It was totally not fair that Willow’s mom was dumping on her about Xander, when Sheila was hardly even a mom most of the time. It was just as unfair as Xander’s dad being prejudiced against Jews, or Xander not having the money to go to college, or any of the other things that were going wrong in all of their lives.
Willow insisted, “I don't give a damn about a normal life. I'm going crazy not seeing you. I think about you every minute.”
Wait a minute. Willow didn’t talk like that. And Willow didn’t sound like that!
“I know. But… It’s over. It has to be.”
And that totally wasn’t Xander. They were already possessed! Did Giles know?
Uh-oh. She suddenly realized they were saying the wrong lines. Xander had the teacher’s lines. That meant Willow was the one who would get the magic disappearing gun, and Xander would get shot! Stupid Hellmouth, that wasn’t how it was supposed to work! Xander spent all that time and got in so much trouble to get Willow that steel breastplate, and Xander had all the protection of a flannel shirt. She was going to have to interrupt this thing before handguns and bullet holes made with the appearing.
She was already out on the outside balcony in a nice hiding place, so she hopped down onto the balcony floor and made for the door into the building.
Something like a huge wind yanked her off her feet and tossed her backward through the air. She thrashed furiously and tried to find something to grab onto, but all that was around her was just air. She was tossed over the balcony to crash to the ground below.
But she was a Slayer, not some easily broken bimbo. She landed on her feet and regained her balance before she had to put a hand down. “Okay, we don’t play nice with other children. So we’re the ghost version of Cordelia. I can deal with that.”
She started to run for the stairs, but her feet were stuck. She looked down and saw that she was sinking into a whirling mystical vortex that looked like…
“Oh jeez, not a mud whirlpool! I paid a lot of money for these shoes!”
Willow snapped, “Come back here. We're not finished!” She grabbed Xander by the arm and stopped him in his tracks.
Uh-oh. There was no way little Willow Rosenberg could stop Xander like that. Especially not the new, improved, extra-muscle-y, yummier Xander with those swordsmanship biceps and those running-to-school abs that she’d been having dreams about that were totally of the hotness.
She’d been so mad at Xander, and so hurt, and so sad, and everything else, that she hadn’t realized she was saying crazy stuff that she wouldn’t normally say. Which was so of the bad.
She and Xander had already been possessed and she hadn’t even realized it until just now. She just had to depend on Giles and Miss Calendar spotting it and setting up the Magnus Triangle properly and trapping the ghosts.
She couldn’t make her hand release Xander’s arm. And he looked so frightened! And so timid…
Her mouth said, “You don't care anymore? Is that it?”
Double uh-oh. She recognized that line. That was what the boy said. She had the boy ghost in her, which meant Xander had the girl ghost in him.
And that meant she was going to get the gun and shoot Xander. ‘No! You can’t shoot Xander! Please, you’ve got to listen to me!’
It didn’t do any good. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t get through to James.
She was only seconds away from pulling out a gun and killing her Xander. If James made her do that, she didn’t think she’d be able to live with herself.
Xander struggled frantically, but he couldn’t move a muscle. His body was totally under the ghost’s control. He tried yelling stuff at her. He tried thinking stuff really hard at her. Nothing was working!
“It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter what I feel.”
Oh great, you nimrod, don’t you know that’s not what you need to say? What kind of teacher are you? Other than the kind of hot female teacher who wants to boink the hot male student, which I totally went for just a year ago, so who am I to cast asparagus?
Willow shook his arm with unnatural strength. “Then tell me you don’t love me! Say it!”
Xander couldn’t stop himself. He started crying. It would have been a lot more humiliating if he didn’t have some memories of Xena crying. His mouth sobbed, “Will that help? Is that what you have to hear? I don't. I don't. Now let me go!”
Stupid lying teacher type. You’re just making things so much worse!
No, wait, that wasn’t working. He thought really hard. ‘I understand what you’re feeling. Why you’re doing this. You have to save him. You have to protect him.’
Willow looked utterly devastated. She growled, “No... A person doesn't just wake up one day and stop loving somebody!” She raised her other hand – the one not hanging onto his arm – and Xander watched in horror as a gun appeared out of thin air. She insisted, “Love is forever.”
Giles slipped out of his blazer and wrapped it around his left forearm.
The snake was coiled menacingly around the handle of the door. At least that lessened the range it had for striking at threats. And it couldn’t move across the floor toward him without uncoiling itself from that handle. That gave him an advantage over the situation he’d be in if it were loose on the floor.
He stepped backward, looking for something helpful. Carefully-coiled extension cord? Probably not. Chalk and erasers? No.
Then he heard something that made his heart freeze in his chest. His Slayer was yelling for help.
He stepped back to the window, and he could see she was sinking into some manner of mystical vortex. That would leave her with nothing to exert her considerable strength against. Unless…
Unless he used the very systemata he had at that moment. He smashed the window with his blazer-covered forearm, snatched up the coiled extension cord in his right hand, and threw it.
Buffy glanced up when she heard the glass shatter. She was pretty sure that was where Giles was supposed to be, and she was hoping he wasn’t about to come flying out through a second story window.
Nope, it was an arm wrapped in a Giles-ish blazer that was too tweedy for anyone else in Sunnydale to be wearing. Or not wearing, in this case. He threw…
An extension cord? Was she now in the A/V Club?
At least it was a good throw. She only had to stretch a little to snag it as it came flying her way.
She undid the cord and looked around. The tree behind her had a big, overhanging limb. She gave it her best Indiana Jones bit.
The cord wrapped around the limb a couple times, and the plug at the end caught in the crotch of a branch.
She grinned as she pulled herself out of the mystical mud, which didn’t even bother to have cleansing and skin-reaffirming properties. “Dun de dun-dun, dun de dah, dun de dun-dun, dun de dah dah dah!”
Now she just had to make another amazing Slayer-powered last-second rescue. And she knew just what to use.
Xander stared helplessly, as Willow insisted, “I'm not afraid to use it. I swear! If I can't be with you-”
The ghost possessing his body whimpered, “Oh my God…” and shoved Willow hard enough to break free. His body bolted out onto the outside balcony.
Xander concentrated as hard as he could. ‘No, don’t go that way, go back! He needs reassurance! This isn’t going to work. You need to go back and hug him and tell him you really do love him. Please!’
Willow yelled, “Don't walk away from me, bitch!” She ran onto the balcony and pointed the gun right at Xander. Her hands shook madly. “Stop! I mean it! Don't make me!”“We have no choice. I have no choice. I can’t make things right. It’s all my fault! I deserve this…”
He thought as hard as he could, ‘You don’t deserve this. No one deserves this. You were trying to do the right thing.”“He didn’t mean to. I hurt him so much.”
But he still didn’t have any control over his body. His body turned to face Willow, and it was quivering in terror. “All right. Just... You know you don't want to do this. Let's both… just calm down. Give me the gun…”
Willow yelled, “Don't! Don't do that, damn it!” She was so upset that the gun was shaking wildly in her hands.
But Xander could see her finger slip inside the trigger guard, and he knew – he just knew
– what would happen.
She hollered furiously, “Don't talk to me like I'm some dumb-”
The gun went off while it was pointed right at Xander’s heart. But at exactly the same moment, something metal and disk-shaped whirred past in front of Xander at a terrifying speed, to embed itself in the wall.
Grace was so shocked she stopped controlling the body for a moment. Xander took advantage of the opportunity. He knew she wouldn’t give him time to fix things, but he had maybe two seconds before she reacted. He clapped his hands over his heart and collapsed face-first onto the balcony.
Willow was terrified. She still didn’t know if she’d really shot Xander in the heart. She was pretty sure that was one of his totally-a-chakram-no-matter-what-he-calls-it annuli, and at the speed it was moving, it must have been Buffy throwing it. But still, she might have killed Xander, or it might have deflected the bullet enough that she only wounded him. And she’d never find out, because James was taking her body to the music room to commit suicide.
She tried to convince him it was an accident, but he wasn’t listening. And maybe she wasn’t trying as hard as she could, because if she’d killed Xander, when the last thing she’d really said using her own words had been so mean… She knew Xander was trying to do the right thing for her. To take care of her. Just like he’d done ever since she’d known how sweet he really was. And all the Xena-ness in the world hadn’t changed that.
She walked into the music room and saw the stack of records and the old-timey music player form out of ectoplasm right in front of her. Her hands put a record on the player, and the sounds of “I Only Have Eyes For You” began to play. Her hand lifted the gun until the barrel was nearly at her temple.
And Xander’s hand covered hers, moving the gun away. Xander was all right! For a moment, that was all she cared about, even though a crazy ghost was making her wield a firearm.
Xander said softly, “Don’t do this.”
“Grace? But I-I killed you.”
Xander smiled gently, “It's not your fault. It was an accident.”
“It is my fault! How could I let this-”
Xander murmured, “I'm the one who should be sorry, James. You thought I stopped loving you. But I never did. I loved you with my last breath.”
Willow didn’t try to stop the tears streaming down her face.
Xander comforted her, “Shh. No more tears.” And he kissed her.
She knew it was Grace kissing James, but she wanted that kiss more than anything. She kissed Xander at the same time.
Buffy and Giles burst into the room, just as eerie white lights moved out of Willow and Xander, merged in a powerful brilliance, and rose up through the ceiling to vanish.
She hung onto Xander and kissed him warmly, not letting go when he would have. She smiled into his worried eyes, “I’m sorry I got so mad at you. I should’ve known you were just trying to protect me.”
He kissed her again. “I’m sorry I said such stupid stuff. But that’s what happens when you’re me and you’re stuck working with my brain.”
She kissed him again. “I came to the dance with Buffy, but I bet she’d let me dance with a nice boy who cares about me before she escorts me home.”
He kissed her again and whispered in her ear, “I’d rather do some… dancing
Giles cleared his throat. “Perhaps this is why that troll Snyder is so insistent on chaperones all over the building.”
Buffy added, “I’d say ‘go get a room’ but you already got one here.”to be continued in ‘Becoming’