Welcome to the Hellmouth
A/N: Disclaimer: I don't own Buffy. Big surprise, huh? I'm also not making money from this. Even bigger surprise, huh?
Chapter One: Welcome to the Hellmouth
"Not long till we reach Sunnydale now, Alex," said the altogether too perky social worker - Alice I thought her name was - without taking her eyes off the road.
"I can barely contain my excitement," I replied, having long since given up any hope I had of getting this infernal woman to use my chosen name.
"Now don't be like that. You know you couldn't have stayed in LA after what happened," said Alice.
"I could have just taken the GED exam and then there'd be no need for me to come here," I said, deeply bored by the whole conversation.
"You're not old enough to take the GED yet, Alex."
I almost laughed at that. Almost. "If you say so."
"Aren't you looking forward to meeting your new foster family?"
"I'm quite capable of looking after myself," I replied with a little venom. "And if that isn't acceptable then I had a perfectly good family in LA."
"And if that were true then you wouldn't have ended up in the situation you did."
"Hardly my fault that some lunatic attacked me with a sword, was it?"
"But did you really have to decapitate him?"
Stupid Immortals who go through with challenges in broad daylight and in front of witnesses.
"Didn't have much choice really," said Xander with a scowl.
"Hmm. If you say so."
Being an Immortal who died in his teenage years really wasn't much fun. And whose stupid idea had it been to take a break and spend a few years going through school again? Oh yeah. Stupid me. Damn good thing I had excellent lawyers on retainer or I'd still be in prison by the time the gathering started. Bloody California. I was seriously considering heading back to England for my next identity. Or maybe Italy - it had been a very long time since I'd been there and it would be nice to see the closest thing there was nowadays to the country of my birth again.
* * * * *
The social worker was long since gone and I was wondering just what the hell Id gotten myself into. I'd felt it as soon as he'd came into the town: the hellmouth. My magical abilities were somewhat atrophied from lack of use over the last century or so but I'd still picked up on that easily enough. Bloody wonderful. I'd tired of dealing with this sort of thing a long time ago and now here I was on top of the hellmouth without even my trusty old gladius. I was definitely going to have to get on to my people and have my weapons shipped through ASAP and to hell with what my foster family thought of it all.
As for my foster family . . . disgusting alcohol soaked creatures that they were, I was pretty damn surprised that they'd been allowed to foster. Really I was surprised that they even wanted to foster, though I supposed that the money they would make from it would account for that. I, an Immortal older than this accursed nation and its idiotic legal system, was now consigned into the care of a care of a pair of drunken old sots because of some idiot challenger who attacked me in broad daylight in front of the high school.
It was pathetic really. Consigned into the care of idiots who would have been far beneath my attention in any of my previous identities. These were the sort of people I would have rejected out of hand if the conscripters had dragged them in. No disciple, no drive to succeed, and absolutely no skills to speak of apparently. Absolutely useless like far too many people in this day and age. Perhaps I was being unfair - they probably wouldn't have been allowed to grow so soft in my time - but it was hard not to judge them harshly even so quickly.
Anyway, the house they lived in was at least acceptable. One of them had at least retained enough self-respect to keep their lodgings at least moderately sanitary and I was most thankful for that. I don't think I could abided living in a flea-pit of a house like so many of these people's ilk occupy. I was altogether too many years distant from my early lives to tolerate that. My time as an Englishman had eroded my ability to rough out unsanitary living conditions on anything other than a temporary basis unfortunately. Perhaps I was growing soft in my old age.
The room they had given me - grudgingly, as if it was some major boon in their opinion - was of a moderate size and sparsely furnished. A single bed, a writing table, and a small wardrobe made up the majority of the furnishings in the room. Adequate but minimal. That described pretty much everything I'd seen about the Harris family really. They did the bare minimum they could get away with and then went back to their bottle. Even that infernal social worker seemed taken aback by them.
It's a good thing I wasn't really a child because these people were by no stretch of the imagination good parenting material, I thought, as I stowed away what little gear I had left outside of my various stashes. It was mostly just clothing though I also had my journal, the latest in a long line of journals I'd kept since I was made aware of my immortality. It was a risk to have something like that round but writing it in Latin kept the vast majority of people from reading it even if they laid hands on it.
* * * * *
I was out of bed with the rise of the sun the next day and quickly ran through an exercise routine that would keep me in fighting trim. For someone like me, who lived and died through his martial prowess, it was of the utmost importance to keep in good condition or I would find myself easy prey for the next murderous head-hunter who passed through town. Not that I really expected to face many challenges from my fellow Immortals while I lived here. It was too small a town to attract much traffic from the hunters amongst my kind and the hellmouth's natural energies would obscure my quickening to those who did pass through unless they were especially skilled in detecting such things.
Unsurprisingly my new 'parents' were not out of bed in time to see me leave for my first at Sunnydale High School. Yet again I was thankful of my being rather older than I appeared and neither wanting nor needing parental attention because any child who came here desiring such would not be receiving it. It was helpful really as it allowed to phone home and make arrangements for the delivery of my usual weaponry and to check up on the people I was unable to spend time with under my new circumstances. I, along with some of the people from the families who worked for me, had been raising a girl I'd found being rather shabbily treated in Boston several years ago. She was like a daughter to me - as strange as that seemed at times with my youthful appearance - and I missed her dreadfully, but it would be several months before I would be sure enough of my position here to go see her.
Nothing happened of note on my way to school though I did see a blonde girl who appeared to be vaguely familiar talking to her mother in their car as I walked up the road leading to the school entrance but I shrugged it off. I'd known a lot of blondes over the years and I couldn't place this one so I doubted it was anyone particularly important, especially seeing as that she was still a schoolgirl.
* * * * *
"Alexander Lucius Smith, Sophomore, late of Hemery High in Los Angeles, held back due to being incarcerated in juvenile hall for manslaughter. Ah. Well, I do hope you're not going to kill anyone else while you're here, Alex," said Principle Flutie, a slightly overweight, weak-featured man.
"It was self defence," I said. "Only in California could I be imprisoned for killing someone who attacked me with a lethal weapon in broad daylight with numerous witnesses watching on."
"Hmm. Well, you wouldn't be here if you weren't safe, I suppose. Welcome to Sunnydale, Alex."
"I prefer to be called Xander, actually, Principle Flutie," I replied tersely.
"All the kids here are free to call me Bob."
"I'd rather not."
Flutie looked a little flustered by that but he quickly gathered himself. "Well, that's your choice. None of the other kids do either. Anyway, your transcripts seem to be in order other than that little hiccup so I'll wish you good luck with your stay here. A clean slate here, Xander, that's what we offer our students and I do hope you'll take advantage of that opportunity."
"I'm sure I will," I said blandly, already debating the pros and cons of faking my death in the quiet of my own mind.
"We want to service your needs, and help you to respect our needs. And if your needs and our needs don't mesh . . . "
"I'm sure they'll mesh well enough, Principal. I wish to complete my education and leave this place as quickly as possible and I'm sure you wish something similar," I said looking him in the eye all the while. He gave me a tremulous smile and a nervous laugh in response to that and told me to pick up a timetable from the receptionist as I left. I was quick to obey.
As I left Flutie's office I heard a sharp intake of breath and then a female voice spoke from just to my side, "Smith?" it said.
I turned to face the voice and saw a young, attractive blonde girl. After a moment I placed the face. "Summers?" I asked. "The cheerleader, right?"
"That's me. Aren't you supposed to be in prison?"
"I was. They've let me out. What are you doing here?" I asked in response.
She actually looked somewhat abashed at that. "I kinda got expelled from Hemery."
"Join the club. Seems they didn't want me back for some reason after what happened," I said. I looked at my watch before speaking again. "See you around, Summers. I've got class to get to."
* * * * *
My first class - history it turned out to be, strangely enough - passed quickly, though it did seem as if rumours had already started about me and my crimes. How did I guess this? Well the fact that those sitting in neighbouring seats to me flinched away when I sat down kind of gave it away. The topic of the lesson brought many unpleasant memories to the fore. The Black Death had been one of the most singularly unpleasant things I had ever experienced. Even if I couldn't contract the disease myself - something for which I am eternally grateful - it had been an awful time to live in Europe. So much death and so little anyone could do to prevent it.
It was also the first time I'd experienced being burnt at the stake when a village decided that my surviving while my family died meant I was dabbling in some sort of witchcraft. Now that had been the single worst experience of my very long life. If there's a worse way to die than that, I really don't want to experience it. Suffice to say that, when I revived from the trauma that overcame even my Immortal constitution, there was a price in blood exacted from those who burned me. Even as scared out of their wits as they were I could not just accept such a thing being done to me.
As I left the lesson I saw the Summers girl - Buffy I think her name was, though I was sure my memory must have been failing me because surely no parent would have named their child such - walking away with an expensively dressed brunette girl in front of me. The girl was quite attractive really but her youth and the completely superficial topics of conversation she raised with Summers soon dissuaded me from that opinion.
When the brunette stopped to insult a shy-looking red-headed girl that I decided to step in.
"No wonder you're such a guy magnet. Are you done? " said the Brunette.
"I think you'll find that being a 'guy magnet' is helpful in only one line of employment in the future," I said in a acidic tone of voice. A low blow perhaps but I despise that sort of person and this redhead reminded me of my long-dead sister in her manner.
"And you are?" she responded coldly.
"Alexander Smith," I said softly. "I'm surprised you haven't heard of me. Mostly everyone seems to have."
To her credit she stood her ground, something that most of this school's students would likely have failed to do. "The killer? Wow, Willow, you do attract some guys after all," she said snidely before stalking off with Summers in tow.
Willow looked like she was about ready to run for her life after hearing what the brunette said but I was quick to assuage her fears. "It was self-defence," I said. "He attacked me with a sword for some reason and ended up dead."
"I'll see you around, Willow."
* * * * *
I was in the stacks in the library hunting down course texts when I accidentally on purpose eavesdropped on the conversation.
"Okay, what's the sitch?" said a familiar female voice a moment after the library doors banged open.
"Sorry?" asked the librarian, Giles, from the stacks on the others side of the library.
"You heard about the dead guy, right? The dead guy in the locker? " said the female. I poked my head out from around the corner at that point and saw that it was Summers. What did Summers care about some dead guy and why would she be talking about it to a librarian? A librarian who happens to be a stuffy old Brit wearing tweed. Ah. Slayer. Summers is the Slayer. Some sort of cosmic joke, obviously. I darted back around behind the stacks and listened in to see if I could get some useful information.
"'Cause, it's the weirdest thing. He's got two little, little holes in his neck, and all his blood's been drained. Isn't that bizarre? Aren't you just going, ooo? "
"I was afraid of this. "
"Well, *I* wasn't! It's my first day! I was afraid that I was gonna be behind in all my classes, that I wouldn't make any friends, that I would have last month's hair. I didn't think there'd be vampires on campus. And I don't care. "
Now that was strange. All the slayers I'd met before this one had been all slay, all the time, with no room for an actual personality. I have to admit that I was most entertained by hearing a Slayer tell her Watcher to bugger off though. It's something that a lot more of them should have done because maybe then they'd have survived more than five minutes trying to fight demons with a pointy stick.
The conversation along the same lines and continued to entertain me greatly. There's just something wonderful about seeing a non-brainwashed Slayer with an actual backbone. Destiny, my arse. Someone created the Slayer at some point and now the Watchers find her, shove a pointy stick in her hands, and tell her to go slay with approximately zero backup. Disgusting. A bunch of grown men hiding behind the skirts of a teenage girl who's had some powers dumped on her randomly. How deeply pathetic.
* * * * *
I did some quick research before I left the school that day, looking for likely feeding spots for vampires. There weren't many in a town this small and one place in particular stood out as an easy mark for vampires on the hunt: The Bronze. A club full of stupid, hormonal teenagers that also happens to be far enough away from anything else that a bit of screaming would go unnoticed. Perfect for the vermin to hunt.
So that was why I, someone older than this nation by an order of magnitude, found myself heading towards a teenage club. I just knew that this was going to be all kinds of fun. I mean what wouldn't be great about spending my night with a bunch of children who were too scared to come within ten yards of me? Oh yeah, I was really looking forward to it. Such a shame that I ran into Buffy before I actually entered the club. She looked a little frantic actually.
"Leaving already, Summers?" I asked.
"My name's Buffy," she said absently. "Have you seen Willow,?"
So much for my memory failing me then. What a truly atrocious name. "I'm afraid not. Is she in trouble?"
"I think so," she said. "I need to find her."
Ah. The tense set of her shoulders, the obvious readiness to fight. "It's a vampire, isn't it?"
The way her eyes widened at that was quite comedic really. "Uh . . . no. No vampire here. No, sir. No vampires in Sunnydale."
I raised an eyebrow at that. "No vampires on the hellmouth? Right. Come on, Buffy. Time's a wasting and it looks like you have slaying to do."
I just couldn't resist slipping that in just to see the look on her face. It did not disappoint.
"Was there a... a school bulletin? Was it i-in the newspaper? Is there anyone in this town who doesn't know I'm the Slayer?"
"No, I just overheard you talking in the library."
"Not very secret-identity of you to talk about it so openly really. And tell Giles to lose the tweed. It makes it so very obvious to anyone who's heard of the Slayer."
She looked completely lost. "Right." And then she shook her head and the Slayer was back. "I don't have time for this."
And I followed her.
* * * * *
"Leave us alone!" we heard Willow cry as we walked through the cometary. As fast as I was to react, Buffy was faster. She was off like a shot and I was left lagging behind. Damn superhumans.
"You're not going anywhere until we've *fed*!" said the female vampire as I caught up to Buffy and entered the crypt. Ah, I recognised that one. Darla. Willow was screaming and scrabbling away from her.
"Well, this is nice. I-it's a little bare, but a dash of paint, a few throw pillows... call it home!" said Buffy, moving behind the coffin. If I'd had to guess, I'd say she was trying to draw the vampires away from the rest of us.
"Hey, Darla," I said. "Long time, no see."
"You!" she exclaimed, so surprised that her demon-face slipped away. "I killed you!"
"You tried. Came pretty close, too. Certainly not my proudest moment."
"I drained you dry!"
"And it was highly uncomfortable. A truly harsh lesson on the consequences of inebriation," I said, enjoying myself altogether too much. "Then again, considering how much fun I had beforehand . . . it might have been worth it."
She growled at me then. She actually growled.
"You slept with a vampire?" asked a horrified sounding Buffy.
"I was drunk!"
Unfortunately, Darla didn't give me time to elaborate on what happened as she launched herself at me. It took all my years of combat-honed reflexes to dodge her and not get reduced to a smear on the crypt wall. Even with my considerable power that would have taken a long time to heal from.
"Now would be a good time to step in, Buffy," I said, as she dusted the male vampire. I dodged a powerful punch aimed at my head. "Lacking weapons here."
And then I was airborne and a moment later I slammed into the opposite wall of the crypt and all the air was knocked out of my lungs as I felt a rib break. "Ouch," I said from my crumpled up position on the floor.
"Xander, get Jesse and Willow and get out of here," yelled Buffy as she moved to engage the extremely large vampire who'd just thrown me across the crypt like a sack of potatoes.
"So not a problem," I muttered as I levered myself off the floor, wincing in pain as my rib fixed itself. That always hurts. "Come on," I yelled to them as I made for the door. "Time to leave."
They followed and we went as fast as we could but Jesse couldn't move quickly with as much blood lost as he had and we were soon cornered by a group of vampires.
"Ah. Willow, Jesse, run. I'll hold these creatures off," I said, my voice glacial.
"But they'll kill you!" said Willow.
"Killing me is easier said then done, now get the hell out of here," I said. They hesitated, looking fearful. "GO!" I yelled. And they went.
The vampires circled around surrounding me and for the first time in almost a century I opened myself fully to my magic. I'm not the strongest mage on the planet but I've had a very long time to learn how to make full use of what powers I have. These vampires were all relatively young, thankfully. If any of them had been as powerful as Darla or that big one who threw me across the crypt I might have been in trouble.
I drew myself up to my full height and my posture abruptly shifted from a care-free teenager to the battle-hardened warrior I was. "In the name of God, impure souls of the living dead shall be banished into eternal damnation. Amen," I said in a crisp, upper-class English tone of voice.
"Hellsing," hissed one of the vampires.
"Van Helsing actually," I said. "FIREBALL!" I yelled with a wave of my hand and one of the vampires burst into flames, letting out a brief scream before dissolving into dust.
The vampires rushed me then, obviously feeling a great deal less confident now than they had before I'd revealed one of my identities and torched one of them, but I was already moving. The first vampire to reach me went down hard, clutching at the knee I'd just smashed to pieces with a low kick that bent it in a direction it was never meant to go. A second vampire grabbed for my neck but I caught his arm and yanked it out of its socket before slamming my knuckles into its throat, dropping the young vampire to the ground as it instinctively tried to draw breath.
Two more vampires fell to my magic before my magic levels dropped and the remaining vampires again rushed me. I managed to disable the two of them that were able to attack but I really needed a weapon. A quick look around the area showed me a tree and i quickly tore a small branch off to use as a makeshift stake. The vampires, being the idiotic sewer rats that this breed is, charged me again, and this time I destroyed them. One ran straight into the branch when I sidestepped his rush and the other was smashed down to the ground with a blow to the head before I staked him in the back.
The last vampire, the one whose knee I destroyed, attempted to drag himself away to safety but I was not going to allow any of this filth to escape if I could help it.
"May God have absolutely no mercy on you whatsoever, demon trash," I said as I slammed the branch down into its chest and dusted the filthy creature. Old habits die hard and I was slipping back into my Van Helsing personality rather easily.
"Where are the others?" asked Buffy, jogging up behind me.
"Not sure. I told them to run when we ran into some vampires," I said absently, tossing the branch aside as I did. "Probably went back to the Bronze or home, I suppose."
I turned to face Buffy and saw her giving me an evaluating, suspicious look, stake held loosely at her side but obviously ready to bring to bare if I made a hostile move. "What are you?" she said. I knew that moment that unless I came up with a very good story then I was going to get one Buffy Summers sized slaying and hand to hand combat with someone who possessed superhuman speed, strength, and endurance was never fun.
"Have you ever heard the phrase: In the end, there can be only one?"
"Uh, no. Sounds like something from a cheesy movie or TV commercial."
"I'm not surprised really but I had to check. My kind are somewhat reclusive by nature and we have grown to be very, very good at concealing ourselves from human society."
"You're not answering my question."
I pondered the question for a moment. How much should I tell her? I had a lot of history going back a lot of years and I didn't really want to talk about it, not with someone I didn't really know. "Is it so hard to believe for you, a Slayer, that there are other humans out there who were born different? With special abilities that others would fear? Or desire? I'd really rather not talk about it. There are many unpleasant memories down that path."
She agreed to my request after a few moments of thought and then I accompanied her back to the Bronze where we found Willow and Jesse. After a very brief conversation we persuaded them to accompany us to the school library for an explanation of what had just happened to them.
* * * * *
"This world is older than any of you know. Contrary to popular mythology, it did not begin as a paradise. For untold aeons demons walked the Earth. They made it their home, their... their Hell. But in time they lost their purchase on this reality. The way was made for mortal animals, for, for man. All that remains of the old ones are vestiges, certain magicks, certain creatures . . . " said Giles.
"And vampires," weighed in Buffy.
"Okay, this is where I have a problem. See, because we're talking about vampires. We're having a *talk* with vampires in it," said a very sceptical sounding Jesse.
"You have a bite-mark on your neck from where Darla drank your blood. Got a better explanation for it?" I asked him. He looked stymied by that.
"No. No, th-those weren't vampires, those were just guys in thundering need of a facial. Or maybe they had rabies. It could have been rabies. A-and that guy turning to dust? Just a trick of light." Jesse gave her a look at that. "That's exactly what I said the first time I saw a vampire. Well, after I was done with the screaming part. "
"Oh, I, I need to sit down," said a very out-of-it sounding Willow.
"You are sitting down," said Buffy.
"Oh. Good for me."
"So vampires are demons? " asked Jesse.
"Most of them," I cut in before Giles could respond. "The non-demonic breed is both very rare and very unlikely to turn up in a place as infested with the demonic breed as this town apparently is."
"You seem to know a lot about this sort of thing," said a suspicious sounding Giles.
"Yeah. That Darla chick seemed to know you," said Jesse.
"Could we not talk about the time I got drunk and allowed a vampire to seduce me?" I asked. "It's not exactly my proudest moment, you know?"
"You were seduced by a vampire and survived?" asked a gob-smacked Giles.
I smiled. "I'm hard to kill," I replied. "Anyway, shouldn't you be explaining why little old Buffy was tossing around vampires like rag dolls?"
The glare I got from Buffy at that was truly epic.
"She's the Slayer," said Giles simply.
"What's that?" asked Jesse.
"She's the one that people like him, the Watchers, hide behind and expect to do all the fighting," I added helpfully.
"For as long as there have been vampires, there's been the Slayer. One girl in all the world, a Chosen One," said Giles, glaring at me all the while.
"He loves doing this part," said Buffy.
"Alright. The Slayer hunts vampires, Buffy is a Slayer, don't tell anyone. Well, I think that's all the vampire information you need," finished Giles.
I snorted. "How about telling them how to protect themselves if they're attacked again? What precautions to take to make attacks less likely?"
"That would just encourage them to try and fight the vampires!"
"And the problem with that would be . . . ?"
"It's the Slayer's destiny to fight the vampires not theirs. They're just children."
"They're old enough that they'd have been married with children in some cultures. They're old enough that they could join the British military. They're no younger than Buffy. Age is not an issue," I said stiffly. "And as for destiny? The hell with destiny. Prophecy is just a bunch of words written in dusty old books by old men who died long ago. At best, it's a guideline. At worst, it's actively destructive."
Giles just gaped at me. There really is no part of tormenting Watchers that isn't fun. I'd almost forgotten how much fun it could be but it's all coming back.
"Quite frankly I don't think you can afford to turn away any helpers. The idiotic rules about Slayers working alone are why they die so quickly and to so little effect normally."
Buffy, Willow, and Jesse were swivelling back and forth staring at the person speaking as if it was a tennis match by this point.
"I see your point," replied Giles. "In fact, I agree. But untrained school children are not my idea of appropriate comrades in arms for a Slayer."
"That's true but you're not going to get any better coming along. Make the best of what you have."
"I can help with research," chipped in Willow.
"And I can, uh," said Jesse trailing off. "Well, I can hold your coat and cheer you on."
I grinned. "Don't worry, Jesse. I'll teach you how to fight."
"And what do you know about combat?" asked Giles giving me a piercing gaze.
"Quite a bit."
"He was holding his own against that Darla chick before the big guy threw him into a wall," said Buffy.
"And he held off those vampires when he told me and Willow to run," said Jesse. "How did you get out of that anyway?"
"They were pretty new so they weren't the strongest of vampires and I know a few good tricks."
"Be that as it may, I'm still leery of trusting anyone who has been convicted of manslaughter, especially at such a young age," said Giles.
"Hey, it's hardly my fault that some lunatic with a sword attacked me, is it? So he ended up dead - big loss. You attack someone with a lethal weapon then you have to be prepared for the consequences."
"And you just so happened to be carrying a sword around with you to defend yourself?" asked Giles dryly.
"What can I say? I like to be prepared. Regular boy scout here," I said and then topped it off with a picture-perfect boy-scout style salute. "Dib-dib."
Jesse let slip a snort of laughter before he restrained himself at Giles's glare. Buffy just laughed and ignored the glare.
"Look, it was self-defence - read the trial transcripts for yourself if you don't believe me - and I've already proven tonight that I'm no friend of vampires. Isn't that enough?"
"For now it will have to. But if you betray our trust . . . "
I was being threatened by a librarian. True fear. Ha!
"Message received loud and clear, librarian-guy. No chopping people's heads off if I like mine attached."
* * * * *
I felt immeasurably more comfortable the next day at school with my normal weapons ready at hand. My gladius in a hidden pocket sewn in the lining of my long coat, a silver dagger tucked into each of my ankle sheaths, and a cross hanging from my neck - all blessed by the Archbishop of Canterbury - made me feel considerably safer than I had the previous day with nothing more than my fists and my wits between me and a grisly, if temporary, end. I'm just strange that way.
I made a mental note to pay Peter a bonus for his prompt delivery. It would have been highly inconvenient to have to face vampires with the pointy sticks that watchers generally consider to be adequate weaponry. Combine my usual walking-around weaponry with what I had stashed at my new 'home' and I was well equipped to deal with pretty much anything this town has to offer. You'd think I was paranoid but they really are out to get me and have been for a very long time.
The school day was uneventful. Lots of research into what exactly 'The Harvest' was till we found out that it was some crazy ritual to release a particularly old and powerful master vampire that was trapped in the hellmouth. Typical vampire fare really, though how this particular maggot had gotten himself trapped in the hellmouth was beyond me. Obviously an amateur when it came to magic.
The details of the ritual were rather simple. Vampire gets dubbed the vessel, vampire drains lots of people, master vampire gets the power boost from the draining, and the master breaks free. Kill the vessel, kill the ritual. Easy.
* * * * *
"It's locked," said Buffy.
"We're too late," said Giles as I adjusted my grip on the broadsword I was carrying.
"I didn't know I was gonna get grounded!" whined Buffy.
"Can you break it down?" asked Jesse.
"No, not that thing. Um... You guys try the back entrance, and I'll find my own way," said Buffy.
"Uh, see you inside, then," said Giles.
I quickly ran around to the back of the club with the others - or as quick as you can run when you're carrying a broadsword and have enough other weaponry on you to fight a small war - and watched as Willow tried the door.
"No joy," she cried.
"Wonderful," I muttered. "Let me have a go at it," I said. Willow moved aside and I kneeled in font of the door and eyed the lock for a couple of seconds before pulling out a set of lockpicks. "Shouldn't take more than a minute or two," I said as I went to work on the lock.
"You know how to pick locks?" asked Jesse. I nodded, not turning away from the lock that was getting my full concentration. "Cool!"
"I don't think I want to know," said Giles dryly.
"Probably not," I replied absently as I worked. In actuality I'd been taught this by an Immortal thief in exchange for not handing her over to the local authorities when I caught her burgling my house a couple of centuries back. She'd been damn hard to catch even with the Immortal sensing thing we all have and had been a fine teacher once I got past the whole 'you bloody thief, I'll chop your hands off' thing.
A moment later the lock clicked and the door swung open. "Bingo," I said as I put the picks pack in the pocket I'd had them stashed in. "Let's go."
I grabbed my broadsword off the floor and hefted it into a ready position before charging in with the others. When I entered I took a moment to evaluate the situation. There was a fairly large number of vampires scattered around the club but they didn't look all that prepared for a battle and Buffy was keeping the big guy occupied well enough on the stage. She really was quite good but it looked like she hadn't yet realised that trying to punch a vampire out isn't really the most efficient way to go about things.
And with that thought I indulged in the more efficient method of vampire destruction by cleaving the head of the idiot demon who tried to rush me clean off. Really it's Darwinism at work when they rush at someone wielding a broadsword like that. With that idiot dealt with I turned my attention to the crowd and began to usher them out of the now open door with the others.
I turned and saw Buffy deck the vampire she was fighting with a backhand punch before I was abruptly grabbed from behind and had my sword wrenched out of my grip. I immediately slammed my head back into the vampire's face and rolled away when he dropped me. The vampire roared and charged at me but was stopped in his tracks when a cymbal of all things sheared his head off. "Heads up," I said as I looked over to see who had thrown it. Buffy of course. She gave me a quick grin before going back to her fight.
The club was really beginning to empty out now. Buffy was still fighting with the vampire on the stage but it didn't seem that there was that many other vampires left in the club. I saw one of them wrestling with Cordelia, trying to hold her still so he could bite her. Three long strides later and I was grabbing the vampire by the scruff of his neck and throwing him off her. As strong and fast as vampires are, they still weigh no more than a normal human so it wasn't all that difficult.
The vampire hissed in anger and lunged at me. My dodge was slightly too slow and I was slammed to the ground and found myself forced into wrestling with a creature several times stronger than a normal human being. I didn't really stand a chance no matter how well versed I was in the art of battle and I was soon overpowered. The vampire had somehow acquired a stake and the look in his eye as he held me down was pure malice. "See how you like it, bloodbag," he said before slamming the stake down into my heart.
Let me just say, ouch.
The vampire had a very satisfied look on his face as he let go and stood up. That look only grew when I coughed up a mouthful of blood and spat it on the floor next to my head. "Bastard," I muttered as I grabbed the stake and yanked it out of the wound, causing a not-inconsiderable amount of blood to leak out and stain the white shirt I was wearing. Bollocks, another shirt ruined. The vampire looked rather amused as I forced myself onto my feet, thinking it was a futile gesture.
I guess his opinion changed when the wound abruptly stopped bleeding and healed over with a few sparks of lightning.
"What the hell are you?" it yelled, stumbling backwards away from me.
I didn't bother to reply as I pulled my gladius out and stalked towards him, backing him into the club wall. He must have realised how stupid it was to allow himself to be pushed into that position as he lunged at me to attack but my blade was already moving and cut through his neck like a hot knife through butter.
Taking a quick look around the club, I realised it was over. Buffy was standing over a large pile of dust and the other three looked to be in varying states of dishevelment after dealing with whatever they'd ran into. I rubbed my chest to try and do something for the lingering soreness and sheathed my gladius before heading over to where I'd lost my broadsword and trying to find the damn thing. Thankfully it turned up hidden underneath the pool table after a couple of minutes searching.
"Bloody vampires," I muttered as I scooped it up. "Only I could get sent to vampire-town, USA, when social services got their claws into me."
"You're hurt," gasped Willow as I joined the group.
"A mere flesh wound," I said, waving her off. "It bled a lot but it's already healed."
"Really?" asked Giles. "It looks somewhat more serious than that to me."
"I heal fast," I said dismissively. "It's not a problem. Check for yourself if you want."
And he did and he found no wound at all. Just a red mark over my heart where the skin was still slightly irritated.
* * * * *
My foster parents didn't even notice that I was covered in my own blood when I went back home that night. In fact, they didn't even notice I'd came home. Real parents of the year material. Helpful though. Explaining why I was covered in my own blood would have been difficult and messing around with someone's memory using magic has never been something I liked doing. It's both rude and dangerous.
Anyway the next day dawned bright and early and there were no swarms of demons rushing out of an open hellmouth, so it was all good. I met up with the rest of the group outside the school just before lessons started that morning just in time to hear Jesse say, "I don't know, something. I mean, the dead rose. We should at least have an assembly."
Giles responded to that with, "people have a tendency to rationalize what they can and forget what they can't. "
"It's best this way," I said. "If people found out about this stuff then we'd have the witch hunts starting up all over again."
"You might be right," admitted Giles. "I've never quite thought of it that way."
Understandable considering that he hadn't lived through the witch hunts and been burnt at the stake. Let me just say: Ouch. That's on my list of 'top ten things to never do again' for sure.
"Well, I'll never forget it, none of it," said Willow.
"Good! Next time you'll be prepared," said Giles.
Jesse and Willow looked gob-smacked. "Next time?" he said. "Next time is why?" she said.
"We've prevented the Master from freeing himself and opening the Mouth of Hell," said Giles. "That's not to say he's going to stop trying. I'd say the fun is just beginning."
"More vampires?" squeaked Willow.
"Not just vampires. The next threat we face may be something quite different," said Giles looking altogether too cheerful about the whole thing.
"I can hardly wait!" said Buffy.
"We're at the center of a mystical convergence here. We may, in fact, stand between the Earth and its total destruction," said Giles, still looking too cheerful.
"A group of teenagers responsible for keeping the world safe?" I said. "I am filled with confidence."
"Well, I gotta look on the bright side. Maybe I can still get kicked out of school!" said Buffy.
The students moved on to go to class while Giles stayed outside the school.
"Oh, yeah, that's a plan. 'Cause lots of schools aren't on hellmouths," said Jesse.
"Maybe you could blow something up. They're really strict about that," said Willow.
"Decapitation works too," I said.
"I was thinking of a more subtle approach, y'know, like excessive not studying," responded Buffy.
"The Earth is doomed!" I heard Giles say, just at the edge of my hearing. I snickered. Too right.