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Summary: A response to Jinni's five song challenge- Asher is sent by the council to investigate reports of military activity near the Hellmouth

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Anita Blake > Willow-Centered > Pairing: AsherdulcineaFR1855165,32913100123,5142 May 043 Sep 06Yes

Court and Spark - 11

~ Anya’s Apartment, Tuesday, 7:52 p.m.~

“Honey, we’re back.” Xander called, opening the front door to Anya’s apartment using the key she’d given him. “Honey?” He took a few steps inside, followed by Buffy, Giles and Riley. The two vampires grumbled a bit but knew they weren’t likely to get invites any time soon.

The apartment was too quiet. Even if they had gone to sleep waiting, Xander would have noticed someone on the couch. He rapidly checked each of the rooms. “They’re gone.”

“That’s impossible!” Buffy frowned. “You said Willow was safe.”

“They were here when we left. Now they’re not.” Xander said, frantically checking the small apartment all over again.

“Damn blonde!” Spike cursed.

“Hey!” Buffy exclaimed.

“He meant Asher.” Angel tried to intercede even though he didn’t know why he should even bother.

“But if the shoe fits…” Spike glared at Buffy.

“Watch it, bleachboy. Don’t think I won’t stake you.”

“Hold up.” Giles called, going through the room at a much slower pace than Xander. “I believe I’ve found something.” Sitting on the kitchen table was a letter.

Dear Monsieurs,
I hope your attempts at rescuing your friends went well. Mademoiselle Anyanka is quite insistent that we attend a gathering tonight while you are on your errand. Perhaps, if you have been successful, you will consider these festivities as your next destination? Mademoiselle Rosenberg indicated that if you were to arrive, we would be able to provide you with the sort of reconnaissance you would need to successful disable this threat to your village. If you do not come to find us there, we will return here at a reasonable hour. Best of luck.

Giles read the flowery script out loud to the group then set the note down. “I assume you know where they are?” He turned to Xander.

“They’re at the high school.” Xander groaned. He should have known better than to leave Anya on her own like that.

“I told you we should have gone to the party.” Spike smugly remarked.

“Yes, well, the night is still young. I suppose we should leave now if we would like to crash it in high fashion.” Giles remarked dryly, still staring at the parchment. It sounded as though Willow was safe for the moment, but he was not sure he should take the word of some vampire on that point.

“Are you sure you should be coming with us?” Buffy eyed her watcher carefully. The past few days had worn on him considerably, and she couldn’t help but notice how he rubbed his back when he thought no one was looking. “I don’t want you to get hurt.”

“I shall be perfectly fine, and after spending two days trapped in a white padded room, I think a change of scenery is exactly what I need.” Giles offered bitterly. “But thank you for the consideration.”

“Okay, have it your way.” Buffy shrugged. “Xander do you have any weapons around here? The army took my toys.” She pouted.

“Sorry.” Riley blushed.

“I think we put some stakes in the front closet, maybe some other stuff as well?” Xander dug through the small space until he had come up with five stakes, two water pistols, an axe, and a shovel that was small enough to pass for a large spade.

“Oh, this is going to be fun to watch.” Spike said, enjoying a cigarette on the front stoop while the Xander and Buffy packed stakes into their pockets. “I think tonight will be my lucky night; I’ll finally see the slayer buy it.”

“You’ll be ash long before me.” Buffy scowled. “And I still don’t see why I can’t kill him.” She appealed to Giles, who shrugged.

“He has a point.” Angel said from the shadows in the front yard. Buffy offered him a look that said he clearly wasn’t helping. “Buffy, when Zoltan throws parties, he invites everyone. You can’t make it out of there with just a few stakes and a single blade. There’s just too many there.”

“There’s that, and then there’s the Switzerland effect.” Spike nodded, finally finding something he agreed with his grandsire on.

“Switzerland?” Giles asked with interest. He knew he should be staking the obnoxious blonde, but oddly enough the vampire had offered rather good advice all evening. He just didn’t have the heart to stake the bastard. However, at the first sign that the blonde had his bite back, Giles would gladly do the deed. That demon was way too perceptive to be allowed free reign again.

“There are a lot of demons there that will probably be neutral or even do-gooders like you lot. If you go off half-cocked and kill one of the pacifists… well, let’s just say you would have been better off pulling a hellhound’s tail.”

“So what do you think we should do, O Brilliant One?” Buffy asked sarcastically.

“I could call for back-up?” Riley offered. He wasn’t quite sure if the growling came from Spike, Buffy, or Giles, but he was quick to recant “Or, maybe not?”

“The last thing we need to add to the mix is a troop of humans who do not know which end of a stake is sharp.” Giles retorted. “They would only be casualties, and as much as I appreciated their hospitality this week, I would not wish that fate on anyone.”

“How about we sneak in? And then once we’re inside…”

“I really don’t see how you lot are still alive.” Spike interrupted Buffy’s thinking out loud. “The slayer can’t just sneak into a room full of demons.”

“Well do you have a better idea?”

“Asher’s a big boy. If he wants to take Red out, it’s his own damn business. Just let ‘em be.”

“Sure, brilliant idea.” Xander rolled his eyes. “Now who has a real plan?”

“Spike and you are going to go in together and get Asher, Willow, and Anya. Giles and I will go in and figure out who the major players are. We’ll come out in fifteen minutes if we need backup to take ‘em down. Buffy and ...” Angel gave a disgruntled glace towards Riley “… will be in the trees, waiting for us to let them know who needs to get staked and what weapons we may need to get.”

“Wait, you want me to just wait?” Buffy asked incredulously. “What happened to have stake will travel?”

“No, I think he has a point.” Giles admitted, much to his dismay. “You are too well recognized. The moment you enter, there will be pandemonium. If there are any hostages, we would want to be able to get them out before the alarm is raised.”

“Hostages?” Xander looked a bit queasy. He hoped that didn’t include his Anya; it would be just like her to walk into the trap. She still hadn’t quite bought into the idea that she was now prime hostage material.

“What? It’s tastier than those twinkie things you’re always chomping on.” Spike replied.

“Hey! I’m not the only one around here that eats twinkies, and what do you know about it anyway?” Xander bristled.

“Are you sure you want them on a team together?” Riley questioned the frowning vampire.

“It’s the best possible solution.” Angel replied, secretly agreeing with the commando’s assessment.

“So what? We just walk in together?” Xander asked. Everyone turned to stare at him. “Oh. Is this the part where I become bait?”

~Sunnydale High, Tuesday, 8:10 p.m.~

“I’m not going to.” Xander muttered as he and Spike approached the front of the high school.

“You have to.”


“Look, whelp.” Spike grabbed Xander’s arm and turned the boy to face him, wincing at the slight twinge in his brain. “First of all, the choice is have my fangs in your neck or you wear the collar to cover where the marks should be. Second, if you don’t start acting like a good pet, we won’t make it through the door and your bit will most likely find a real demon in there to meet her needs, if you catch my drift.”

“But I…”

“Don’t even try it. This dog collar has your name on it.” Spike held up the black leather ornament in question. “Don’t even bother denying what you and the demon are up to.”

“I swear I’ve never seen it before in my life.” Xander could feel the tips of his ears turning red in embarrassment. It was bad enough when Buffy had found it going through Anya’s closet, looking for something non-military for Riley to wear. If he made it out of this alive tonight, he didn’t know who to stake first: Anya for buying whatever that was or Buffy for handing it over to Spike.

“Yeah, well, I don’t give a flip. Put it on now, or I bite, headache be damned.” Spike stared at Xander hoping to get across the severity of what they were getting into.

Xander must have gotten the message. He grabbed the collar out of Spike’s hand, and fumbled as he buckled it around his neck. “This sucks.”

“Ah, it looks good on you, pet.” Spike snickered at the sight of the little silver heart hanging down engraved with “Xander”. Leave it to an ex-demon to get a real dog collar.

“I hate you.”

“I love you too, Xanpet.” Spike rolled his eyes and turned back to the high school. “We’ve got five minutes to get in there and find your bit before Angel and Giles follow. We should get moving.”

Xander let himself be dragged by Spike into what had been the old gym. The ichthyoidal bouncers eyed him suspiciously but nodded them past when Spike briefly slipped into game face while slipping the boys a twenty. Xander made a good picture of the submissive, being so caught up with staring at how the high school had been transformed that he didn’t fight Spike’s lead. “Was this really the swimming pool?” He caught himself muttering as the strobe lights bounced off the water surface where a rather erotic version of marco polo, or was that water polo, seemed to be taking place.

“Do you see the chits anywhere?” Spike had to yell at Xander in order to be heard.

“No. Do you?” Xander tried his best to look over the crowd.

“Damn. Not a hair. They better still be here.”

“Anya!” Xander finally shouted. He tried waving to his girlfriend, but she was engrossed in a conversation with the d.j.

“Where is she?” Spike asked, still not seeing any promising redheads or blondes. He knew Asher could hide in shadows, but this was ridiculous.

“By the d.j. table.” Xander answered.

“Bloody hell.” Xander found himself being dragged through a throng of demonic dancers. It was tricky work trying to keep up with Spike and avoiding any poisonous tentacles waving to the beat.

“Anya!” Xander tried shouting again, causing Spike to cover his ears.

“XANDER!” Anya squealed and threw herself into his arms. They kissed as though it had been months, not hours, since they had last seen each other. “You came! I’m so happy you came. Isn’t this wonderful? It’s so much better than the Bronze.” Anya leaned up to speak directly into Xander’s ear.

“It’s swell. Have you seen Willow?”

“Oh yeah.” She giggled and cast a glance at Spike. “Why is he staring at us?”

“Where’s Willow?”

“Um, can’t say. Xander, why is that vampire following you?”

“Anya, Spike. Spike, Anya.”

“Oh! You’re the evil vampire that caused the fluke.” Anya put the pieces together in her head slowly.

“I guess. Love your choice in accessories.” He winked, enjoying the look of horror on Xander’s face.

“Oh!” Anya finally noticed the dog collar. “You found your birthday gift early! Now, what am I supposed to get you?”

“A leash?” Spike suggested, smiling at Xander’s frown.

“Ooh.” Anya perked up at the idea, but her thoughts were soon off in different directions. “You were one of the vampires helping Xander find Buffy. Does this mean you’ve already rescued her?”

“She’s far smarter than you deserve, Whelp.” Spike observed. “Where’s Red and Blondie? We need to get this show on the road.”

“They’re doing things.” Anya looked at Xander nervously. She may not have been human long, but she’d been around long enough to know that suggesting anything about Willow and the Branwyn’s Tears in front of Xander would be like signing her own death sentence.

“Well, in about five minutes, the watcher will be coming through those doors, and in another ten, the slayer will be busting up this party, so unless you want them to get caught in the crossfire, we’d better get them.”

“Wait. You’re bringing Buffy here? What kind of no fun demon are you?” Anya pouted.

“The kind that needs Red for something else.” Spike answered, glancing around to make sure no one was paying them too much attention.

“Are you sure Buffy’s going to show up?”

“Well, the party is in her honor. It’s only right that she make an appearance.” Xander muttered, scratching at the dog collar.

Anya heaved a sigh. “Oh alright, but Willow’s not going to want us rescuing her.”

“She can yell at me later. We need to get her out of the building, especially with her in a cast and all.”

“Fine.” Anya rolled her eyes. “She’s in the girls’ locker room.” Spike raised his brows in amusement. Xander turned to the gym doors. “Wait!”

“What?” Xander turned back to Anya.

“You can’t rescue Willow.”


“Because… because… oh I know! Because we need to save the hostages!”


“Let Spike rescue Willow. We need to rescue the hostages.”


“Yeah, they’re by the snack table, come on.” Anya dragged Xander off in the opposite direction, while nodding frantically at Spike to get Willow out of the locker room.

“Why can’t Spike rescue the hostages?” Xander tried to protest.

“He needs Willow so he can’t hurt her. He doesn’t need the hostages, so he’d just let them get killed when Buffy got here. Come on!” Anya growled as she yanked Xander after her. Maybe Spike had a point; a leash would surely come in handy in situations like this.

~ Sunnydale High, Tuesday, 8:14 p.m.~

“You don’t have to act that convincingly.” Angel commented. Giles glanced at the vampire.

“I have no idea what you mean.”

“I can smell your fear already. That’s pretty impressive, but it’s a bit early to turn on the acting.” Angel frowned, watching Spike and Xander enter the school across the street.

“Ah.” Giles kept his eyes glued on the odd couple entering the high school. “I didn’t realize I was acting.”

“Oh.” Angel would have blushed if he could. “You know, you don’t have to be afraid of me. I won’t hurt you.”

“Funny thing that. You see, I really don’t trust you. I think it’s been well established that your acting skills far surpass mine.”

The pair fell into an uneasy silence. Giles checked his watch frequently, while Angel’s eyes were scanning anywhere but where the watcher stood. “Are you still okay with doing this?”

“I see no other plausible course. Xander and Spike are already inside, not to mention Anya, Willow, and that vampire.” Giles answered.

“If you’re recognized, things might get ugly.”

“It is no different than any other day in that regard.”

“What they would do to you, you don’t deserve that.”

“Of all the guilty people! Will you please just get over it?” Giles huffed, wanting anything but to be trapped in an emotional conversation with the melodramatic vampire. “Now, I believe it is time that we approach. Be gentle with the left shoulder; it’s still a bit tender.”

While Xander was unknown enough to play willing pet, Giles would surely be recognized. They had decided the best way around it was to have Angel treat Giles like a trophy. What better way to celebrate the end of a slayer then by capturing and torturing her watcher? Giles already looked hideous from his days spent in the military cell so it would be a believable act. Sure enough, the bouncers let them in easily with a few words of congratulations for Angel.

As they entered, Angel sighted a few of the mostly harmless demons and approached them, pushing Giles ahead of him. “Hey!” He called out in a demon language Giles had only before seen written.

“Is that the watcher?” One of called back, approaching the pair.

“Take a look boys, this is the man behind the slayer.” Angel grabbed Giles chin, tilting it quickly towards the demons. They laughed at Giles’ wince.

“He’s not so strong when he’s not hiding behind the slayer’s skirt.” One of them called out. It took all of Giles’ patience not to lash out at the insult that they assumed he couldn’t understand.

“Yeah, but you’ll have to get in line, which brings me to the point.” Angel released Giles’ chin, but slapped the man’s hand away as he tried to rub it. “You see, I’m looking for a woman. Have any of you seen the former demon known as Anyanka?”

“Oooh, I wouldn’t mess with her.” An Uglaug demon snickered.

“I promised her first crack at the watcher. He owes her.” Angel’s guttural laughter blended in with the demons around him as they pitied the watcher.

“She is here. Zoltan wanted her to be here, so I know she came.” One of the lesser vengeance demons offered. “Last time I saw her she was by the d.j.”

“Thanks.” Angel called out, already pushing Giles towards the dance floor. “Sounds like Zoltan is the biggest name around here.” Angel whispered to Giles.

“That is enough of a problem in and of itself. As it is, I’ve already spotted several demons that could cause problems.” Giles said, frowning at the sight of a chaos demon trying to get ‘jiggy with it’, dripping antlers and all.

“Yeah, it looks like we’re going to have to do something to trim the odds a bit first.” Angel frowned. There were just too many people here. Buffy would never be able to sort out the truly evil from the simply demonic.

“If Zoltan is taken out, do you think that would be enough of a show of force before we retreat?” Giles’ eyes were roaming around the room, trying to ignore the fact that Angel was holding him a bit too close for comfort.

“That’s a really bad idea.” Angel muttered into Giles’ ear. “Not only is Zoltan incredibly popular with the crowd, he’s nearly impossible to kill. He’s more the kind you need to vanquish.”

“Damn.” Giles muttered. “Where are we going?”

“The d.j. table.”

“Why? Anyanka doesn’t really need to practice vengeance.”

“It makes a good story, and the d.j. table is the highest ground. We’ll check things out from there, then regroup outside… unless you’d rather stay here and dance the Macarena.” Angel answered.


~ Sunnydale High, Tuesday, 8:20 p.m.~

“I wish we had night vision goggles.” Riley muttered from his perch at the top of the football stadium bleachers.

Buffy snorted. “What good would that do? We’ve got to wait for Giles to come back and tell us what we’re dealing with anyway.”

“Yeah, why is that?” Riley mused.

“He’s the watcher.” Buffy shrugged. “Brr, it’s cold out here.”

“You’re kidding right?” Riley took his eye off the school in front of him and looked at the blonde sitting next to him.

“Hey! California girl here. This is downright nippy.” She said with a teasing smile.

Riley took the cue to drape his arm over her shoulder and pull her closer. “Well, hopefully, Giles will be out soon.” The conversation died as Riley tried to come up with a tactful way to ask who Angel was. Ever since the brooding man showed up, Buffy had acted differently; suddenly the ice princess of the past two days was clingy. Not that he minded, but he couldn’t help but wonder if he was just rebound boy or if Buffy really liked him.

Just as he was about to open his mouth, Buffy jumped him. Riley found his back pressed against the bleacher, Buffy on his lap, and her mouth pressed to his. “Okay, that was interesting.” He panted when she finally let up for an instant.

“Shh, someone’s coming.” Buffy whispered in his ear. She leaned over him, letting a curtain of hair cover their faces.

From below them, they could hear two men conversing. “…Yeah, well how do you think I feel? I’m stuck watching Sneezy here while everyone else gets to be in the frontal assault. Walsh is seriously slipping, sticking us out in the football stadium… even if you are dying.” ‘Forrest’, both Riley and Buffy mouthed.

“I’m not…” Achoo! “… that sick.” Graham protested.

“Buddy, you’re lucky to still be alive.” Forrest replied. Riley nearly lost the next part of the
conversation as Buffy’s hand drifted down his back to rest on his back end. He couldn’t help but choke out a small groan. Did the girl have no idea of the effect she was having on him? “Oh, for crying out loud! There’s a couple making out up there.”

“You just now noticed them?” Graham chuckled, which turned into a phlegmy cough. “Lucky guy.”

“Stupid guy is more like it. Don’t the people here realize that making out after dark outside is a very bad idea? They’re easy picking for any H.S.T. that passes by.”

“Maybe the girl is an H.S.T.?”

“Either way, we should break it up.”

“Why Gates, I believe Iowa has rubbed off on you! If you want to be the morality police, be my guest.”

“We go together.” Forrest insisted. As they began the noisy climb up the metal bleachers, Riley and Buffy were having their own conversation.

“We need to get them out of the way before Giles comes out.” Buffy whispered.

“It’s just the two of them here; you heard Gates. The problem is where their main attack force is.”

“They’re getting closer.”

“You take out Forrest while I subdue Graham.” Riley frowned, his mind automatically going into tactical mode. He knew it was a risk to put Buffy against one of the top hand to hand combat soldiers, but she seemed to be able to hold her own, and Forrest would be the one they really needed to surprise with the attack.

“Okay, we wait until they try to talk to us.”

“Right.” Riley winced as he became very aware of how close Buffy was. She turned up the acting job, letting out a convincing moan. Riley didn’t know whether to thank the Alphas for setting them up like this, or yell at them for interrupting the moment. He settled for another kiss. He had nearly forgotten where he was when the sound of Forrest clearing his throat above him brought him back to reality.

Like a flash, Buffy was up, sweeping the legs out from under Forrest. He hit the bleachers with an “oomph!” She reached down and pinched his neck, knocking him out for the count.

Riley was a bit slower to react, but he had no trouble knocking Graham down and pinning his arms behind his back. “Riley?”

“Are you okay?” Riley couldn’t help but ask. The Graham he knew should have taken him in a fair fight.

“I’ve been better.” Graham admitted with a sniffle. “Can you get off me?”

“You should be in quarantine.”

“So should you.”

“I’m not sick.”

“I’m… getting better.” Graham’s argument was punctuated with a cough. Riley slowly released the hold on his friend, letting them both sit up.

“You look like hell.”

“Whereas, that Hawaiian shirt is doing wonders for your complexion.”

“Hey it’s not like I could grab civvies on my way out.”

“Could we move it along to the interrogation part?” Buffy felt like the third wheel sitting down next to Riley.

“What did you do to Forrest?” Graham looked at his partner, collapsed at Buffy’s feet.

“He’ll be fine in twenty minutes or so.” Buffy shrugged. “So what are you doing here?”

“Patrolling.” Graham offered, his body language screaming “not that it’s any of your business, little girl.”

“Miller, can we just skip the posturing bit?” Riley asked. “It’s pretty obvious something big is going down. Otherwise the Alphas would still be on leave and you’d be on sick leave. How big is this and what’s going down? Were you following us?”

“Actually, Walsh still thinks you’re hiding in the building. All active units were called to the high school. There’s something big going on there.” Graham knew Forrest wouldn’t have caved so easily, but this was Riley, and he owed Riley so many favors that it seemed pointless to try to play aloof.

“Well, duh.” Buffy interjected. Graham glanced past Riley to stare at the plucky blonde. “What, the blaring music and disco lights coming from a condemned building didn’t give it away?”

“So do you know when the strike is going to come? Buffy has some friends in there we would want out before you go in.” Riley tried to smooth over the scowls between Graham and Buffy.

“Gates and I weren’t in on the strike. The Alphas are supposed to watch the emergency exits to see who comes out the back.”

“So they’re going to try a frontal attack on this building? How stupid can they get?” Riley couldn’t help but blurt out. High schools were notorious for having dozens of doors in and out, and this one was more difficult than usual to guard. They’d been practicing raiding the high school in simulations, and they always got nailed from the flanks.

“Brown took point.” Graham answered.

“That explains it.” Riley mumbled as Graham’s radio crackled on. The three stared at the radio tensely. “Damn.”
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