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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: AsherdulcineaFR1855165,32913100120,8052 May 043 Sep 06Yes

Sunday, Bloody Sunday - 3

~ Angel’s Mansion, Tuesday, 11:48 p.m.~

“Knock, knock.” Spike called before entering Asher’s room. “I’m disappointed in you, old man, all that time and no compromising position.”

“Boys of your generation never learned the proper way to woo a lady of class.”

“Oh, I learned alright. Damn lot of good it did me.” Spike pushed his old wheel chair into the room. “Angel says it’s time to force the issue.”

“What issue?”

“Well Red, I guess you’ll have to come outside to find out.”

“But Spike…”

“I’m not babysitting your friends a moment longer. If you don’t come out now, somebody’s going to die, and it won’t be me. I’m serious; we’re talking bodies strewn across this dead end street.”

“Oh alright,” Willow sighed and motioned for Asher to carry her over to the wheelchair. She hated to admit it, but a girl could get to liking this sort of attention.

“You do know he cannot live up to that threat?” Asher mused quietly, letting Spike lead the way down the hall.

“I know. But all the pizza smell is making me hungry.” Willow grinned as Asher pushed her towards the dining room.


~ Lowell House, Tuesday, 11:52 p.m.~

“Hey, did you catch the scores?” John asked, watching Mike flip off his computer and lay
down on his bunk.

“Yes. I can’t believe the news today. UCSunnyD actually won.”

“We’re talking about basketball right?”

“Yeah. I’ve lost all faith in USC.”

“They beat USC?”

“I know.” The two lowest ranking Alphas were grateful to have the relaxation order from Miller. They lay on their beds, ready to sleep through the last stages of the mutated Spanish flu.

“Do you ever think this place is haunted?” Mike asked, unable to fall asleep.

“Nah. I don’t believe in ghosts.” John replied with a yawn. He hoped this wasn’t going to be one of those nights when Mike wanted to talk until dawn. His roommate was a great guy, but didn’t really understand the value of silence, especially after lights out. “Do you mind not moving around so much? Some of us are trying to sleep.”

“I didn’t do anything.” Mike’s voice came from the opposite side of the room from where the noise was.

“You mean…?” They both stared at the ceiling as the room creaked again.

~Angel’s Mansion, Wednesday, 12:02 a.m.~

“Do you think the army left the disco ball intact? It was really neat. It would be a shame if they broke it. We could go by the high school and rescue it. Then we’d have a really cool disco ball that we could sell on e-bay.”

“We are not going to the high school.” Giles answered.

“You’ve discovered e-bay?” Xander identified the truly dangerous idea in Anya’s babble. “Please tell me you aren’t selling stuff already.”

“Just your dad’s golf clubs. What was he thinking buying those? The man doesn’t even belong to a golf course.”

“An…”

“Hi Willow!” Anya recognized that look and was thankful for the distraction of the redhead coming down the hall. In fact this was probably the first time she was happy to see the rival for Xander’s attention.

“Hi guys?” Willow waved nervously.

“Willow!” Buffy jumped up to hug her friend. “Oh my god, I’m so sorry about back there, but it was just too… I mean, I was so worried about you! Your crutches were hanging from the street light and I was so worried you were dead or turned, and I don’t know what I’d do if you were turned. And then the government came, and we couldn’t look for you, and then Xander said you were safe, but you were all locked away and I’m really really sorry about the spazz-out, and I completely understand if you never want to talk to me again, but I’m so glad to see you’re alive, and are we still best friends?”

“Oof?” Buffy let go and Willow took a deep breath. “Oh Buffy!” She squealed before hugging her friend back with close to slayer strength. “Of course you’re still my best friend and I’m so sorry to make you worry, and I was so worried when I heard the army guys got you. I’ve been reading and those are very bad, bad men! I knew going to the party was a bad idea, but Anya was all like recon yay, and I didn’t want to stay behind and they have this psycho punch…”

Spike’s loud clapping interrupted the mutual babble. “Touching ladies, really, my heart goes out to you, but you’re missing the point.”

“You mean, why haven’t we staked you yet?” Buffy smiled and batted her eyelashes at the obnoxious vampire.

“No.” Spike drawled, nervously watching the slayer’s trigger finger while trying to pull off nonchalant.

“Really? Because I think it would help.”

“No Buffy, you can’t.” Willow spoke up, much to everyone’s surprise. “Well, think about it. If they can do that to Spike, what’s stopping them from trying humans next?”

“Are you sure’s he’s really…?” Xander asked what everyone else was wondering.

“Oh yeah, I’ve tested. He’s definitely hotwired.” Willow answered. “We need him around if we’re going to find a cure. It’s not like we have access to a lot of other test subjects.”

“You’re using me as a guinea pig? I’m hurt, pet.”

“Well, at least I don’t eat my guinea pigs.”

“Your loss, pet; I’ll have you know I’m very edible.”

“Ew!” Willow, Buffy and Xander all shared gross-out faces.

“As charming as that thought is, I still do not see that curing Spike will improve the situation on the Hellmouth. In fact, I find that Spike only makes this neighborhood more … colorful.”

“I knew you loved me.” Spike winked at Giles, who rolled his eyes in response.

“I promised him I would try.” Willow frowned at Spike when answering Giles.

“Willow, you should not feel obligated to promises made under duress.”

“Spike didn’t threaten me.”

“I never said Spike had.” Giles glared at Asher who had up until now done an admirable job of blending into the background.

“It has been a long night, might I recommend we all rest now and approach this with fresh minds tomorrow?” Asher smoothly transitioned, ignoring the unsaid accusation. Angel took the cue from his superior and led the group out into the living room to discuss logistics.

~Lowell House, Wednesday, 1:20 a.m.~

“Hey Green!” Patel motioned one of his soldiers over. “Stand right here, and touch the wall, then tell me what you feel.”

Green followed his commander’s orders even though they were a bit odd. “Um, sir, the wall’s cold.”

“That’s what I thought. I’ve cranked the thermostat as far as it will go, but it’s still freezing.”

“Um, okay.” Green watched Patel pace the commons room.

“It makes no sense. There are no air vents right there. The room next door is fine. I don’t know what to do.”

“Have you tried calling maintenance?”

“Oh. I suppose that might work.” Patel headed down the hall to his phone, when he was interrupted by a Green calling down the hall.

“Um, sir?”

“Yes Green?”

“How long do I have to keep my hand up? It’s cold.”

~Angel’s Mansion, Wednesday, 2:10 a.m.~

The chilly morning air final reached Riley’s bones forcing the soldier to return to indoors. He had read the report several times over, and was tempted to read it again, just to make sure he didn’t miss the “ha ha, this is just a joke!” line. It couldn’t be true. Dr. Walsh was a genius in her field, a well respected neurologist and psychologist; she was a mentor, a scholar, and a teacher. How could she authorize the experimentation on the same men she was training to defend the country against H.S.T. attack?

“Riley?” The surprised voice caused Riley to turn towards the dining room table. He should have known someone was in the kitchen. Two years of special ops training should have drilled into his head never to enter a hostile room with your head cluttered. What would Sergeant Rice say if he could see his young recruit so easily startled?

“Willow?” It was weird seeing the redhead at the table, chewing on cold pizza. She looked so relaxed. How could she be relaxed in a mansion full of vampires and on the run from the army? Didn’t she realize that his entire world had been turned upside down?

“Do you want some pizza? I think Xander left a slice or two.” Willow pushed the pizza box towards him.

“I guess.” Riley wasn’t hungry, but it gave his fingers something to do while his mind tried contemplate everything.

“So, um, no offense, but what are you doing here?”

“I’ve been asking myself that question for the last four hours.” Riley sunk into the chair across from Willow. “It’s just so surreal.” Willow glanced down as Riley set the report on the table in order to grab a paper towel.

“So you’ve been doing military reading, too. To think they’re doing all that stuff right underneath the school campus. It’s horrible.” Willow took awhile chewing her next bite. “Is that the Alpha unit protocol thingy or the chip thingy?”

“Alpha.” Riley was about to reach for a piece of pizza but suddenly felt as though it would be impossible to take a bite of anything.

“Oh. Isn’t that horrible what they’ve done to those subjects? I mean, I couldn’t find an informed consent for any of those. Of course those could be codenames? I mean who would name a kid Gates, Miller, Fi….oh. Finn.” Willow blamed the slow response on having been sleep-deprived, hungry, and emotionally worn out, but it still didn’t justify causing that awful look on Riley’s face. “You’re Finn. You’re a subject. Did Buffy and Giles rescue you when they escaped?”

“Um.” Riley stared at his empty paper towel, not quite sure he could say more. “Not exactly.”

“You weren’t exactly rescued or you weren’t exactly a subject?”

“I don’t know any more.” Riley mumbled. Willow slowly slid the report closer to her so she could reread the first page.

“Oh.” She really needed to get to sleep. If she was well rested she would have realized what Riley had meant. How could she be so stupid? “You’re one of them.”

“Maybe.” Riley muttered.

“Maybe?”

“Well, I don’t know what I am any more. I shouldn’t be here, but I can’t go back there.”

“Oh.”

“I signed up for ROTC so that I could go to college, be all I could be, help my country, all that stuff. Nobody told me about being injected with H.S.T. body fluids for some Frankenstein experiment. Nobody told me my own unit would arrest me for trying to follow orders.”

“Would it have been better if they had?” As a third voice entered the conversation, Riley’s head snapped up.

“Who’s there?” He glanced around the room, but didn’t see anyone but Willow.

“If they had told you what you were to be doing, what they were going to do to you, would it have been better, monsieur?” Asher stayed in the shadows, not trusting the soldier.

“I guess not.” Riley turned to face where the voice was coming from, but was looking nearly three feet away from where Asher really stood. “But it would have been nice to know.”

“You have no control over what has already happened, but you do have some control over what will happen.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“That is what you must answer.” Asher watched the boy frown like a child trying to puzzle out a card trick.

“Huh?” Riley finally surrendered.

“I think he’s asking what you’re planning to do now.” Willow watched Asher, knowing exactly where to look. He gave her a wink which Riley never saw.

“I don’t know. I used to know exactly where my life was going. Ever since I came here, everything has just gone crazy.”

“Welcome to the Hellmouth.” Willow rolled her eyes.

“Is it always like this?”

“What? You mean that sense that Murphy’s Law is taking on a whole new meaning? Or do you mean the feeling that things can’t get worse, right before they do? Or do you mean the eating cold pizza with vampires before sunrise?”

“All of it.” Riley frowned.

“Well no.” Riley perked up a bit, hoping for the reassurance that this was weird and would someday revert to normal. “The first and second part yeah, but Angel wasn’t really big on the pizza scene so haven’t tried that before, and usually things are more apocalyptic. I mean, yeah, this army unit is pretty bad and we’ll have to stop them before they make their super-demon, but it’s hardly fire and brimstone and sucking the world into hell.” Willow took a bite then frowned and knocked the table. “Sorry.” She swallowed. “Don’t tell Buffy I jinxed us please?”

Riley couldn’t help but smile at Willow’s feeble attempt at humor. “Don’t worry, you’re secret is safe with me. I doubt Buffy will be talking to me anytime soon.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I don’t get her.”

“Who? Buffy? What’s not to get? She likes new fashions and cute things and has been stuck with the destiny of saving the world since she was fifteen.” Willow shrugged.

“Okay.” Riley didn’t sound convinced. “But I still can’t tell if she likes me, and every time that one guy shows up things just get even weirder.”

“That one guy?” Riley’s head bobbed towards the living room. “Oh, you mean Angel. Yeah, I could see how that could make things awkward.”

“And?”

“Well, Angel and Buffy dated when she was in high school, but there were… irreconcilable differences?” Willow didn’t feel comfortable going into details of her friend’s love life with her psychology TA, especially if Buffy still had a thing for said TA.

“You mean the he’s a vampire thing?”

“Well, I don’t think that would completely rule out a relationship with someone.” Willow glanced nervously at Asher, wondering how much that mattered with Asher as well. “Things happened. It’s hard to explain. I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you. It doesn’t mean Buffy doesn’t like you.”

“So she doesn’t like me?”

“No. I mean, she doesn’t not like you.”

“So she likes me?” Riley tried to untangle Willow’s words.

“Huh?” Willow yawned. “Look, Riley, Buffy’s had her heart ripped out and stomped on a lot recently; she’s going to be a bit skittish. Just be a nice guy and try not to let the weirdoes get you down. Meanwhile, the question remains, what are you going to do next?”

“I don’t know. What are you going to do?”

“Well, first I’m going to get Asher to carry me to my bed and then I’m going to sleep until somebody else has volunteered to get lunch, and then I might take a nap.” Willow smiled. “But that doesn’t answer your question, does it? Well, Riley, I think you know that we’re not going to let this Initiative group hunt us down and hurt things and do bad stuff. They’re playing God with some pretty nasty demons; it’s going to turn on them sooner or later. The question is, are you going to be on our side, or theirs?”

~Initiative Command Center, Wednesday, 9:10~

“Sir!” The Zeta at the video console called out as his commander passed.

“Yes agent?”

“I think there’s something wrong with the feed on camera two.”

“Oh?” The commander walked around to the back of the desk.

“Do you think it’s been tampered with? The edges are all blurry.”

“It’s probably just some dirt or grime on the lens. I’ll send one of our guys to clean it off. Good eye, though; you never know when something could happen. Keep up the good work.”

~UC Sunnydale Library, Wednesday, 9:45 a.m.~

Graham thought he had found the quietest corner of the library. It was out of the direct line of sight from any of the librarian desks or security cameras, yet still had a catalog terminal with internet access. Walsh had ordered him to go to the library to pick up some texts she needed for her class and he fully intended to take advantage of the brief freedom.

He logged onto his campus account, avoiding the more commonly used and monitored army account. In fact, the college accounts were more for appearances sake than actual use, so most guys hardly used theirs. Only Riley used his frequently, since all the kids in the psych class used it for T.A. advice. Graham was counting on Riley checking it off campus since the government address was definitely being watched.

To: rjfinn@ucsunnyd.edu
From: grmiller@ucsunnyd.edu

Hey Iowa,
If you get this please let me know. We need to talk. Something freaky is going down.
-G
P.S.- At least let me know where your psych notes are. Walsh wants me to take over T.A.-ing.

Graham glanced around once more, studying the landscape, before signing off. He quickly checked out the books he needed and returned to Lowell House, debating if he should use his free time to sleep or catch up on freshman psychology. Who was he kidding? Sleep won out, as usual.
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