College Days - Part Two
“Xander!” came the squeak from behind him and he turned with a fond smile to see his oldest friend standing there. Willow was clutching a folder and looked impossibly excited. “Wow,” she burbled, “Here you are in the library. Doing librarian things! Isn’t it all too cool for words?”
“Whoa, chill, Wills. I know it’s your first day at college, but have a little perspective.” He looked around at the stacks of books around him. “I must admit it feels rather comforting to be back in a library after the old one went kablooie.” He paused. No one was around them, but it was worth being careful. “Where’s Buffy?”
“She’s getting some books out. We were discussing which courses to take. She’s going to be taking Psychology with Oz and I.” Willow grinned. Then she pouted slightly. “But it won’t be the same without you being there.”
“I know Wills, but you know what it’s like with my family. They might wonder how I was able to afford college. Besides-” he grinned. “What better disguise for someone with my skills?” Then he paused and looked to one side. After a moment Oz and Buffy appeared from behind a set of bookshelves. They were talking quietly to each other whilst each held a stack of books. As they approached Oz nodded respectfully to his teacher, while Buffy balanced everything on one hand and waved at the others.
“Hey guys, what’s up? Willow, you still in a bouncy mood over being here?”
Willow grinned at her and moved over to slip one arm inside Oz’s. “Just talking to Xander before he gets all tweedy.”
“Hey! I resemble that remark,” quipped Xander as he looked over them all. He paused slightly when it came to the Slayer. Buffy seemed to be a little less bouncy than was normal. Then he turned back to Willow and Oz. “Practice tonight?”
Oz nodded. “Sure. Usual place?”
“Yup.” Xander and his former Padawan nodded at each other, before the latter moved off with his girlfriend. Then the Jedi Knight looked at Buffy carefully. “Are you okay Buff? You seem a little uncertain, if a Slayer can ever look uncertain that is.”
Buffy looked around quickly. “Xander!”
“Relax, there’s two people about 25 feet away to the north, a guy almost asleep on a desk about 30 feet to the west and a couple necking against the Mycenaean section 35 feet away to the south. Yuck, I’d better warn Giles to dust that area a lot. Maybe even wipe it down a bit.”
The Slayer shot him a wry look. “Sometimes I wonder what exactly you can see with those Jedi senses of yours,” she muttered. Then she looked at the floor and sighed. “I don’t know, I feel like I’m out of my depth here.”
This earned her a wry glance from Xander. “Buffy, it’s your first day. Everyone around here feels odd on their first day.”
“Yes, but Willow doesn’t. She’s been taking everything in her stride, whatever that means, all day. She talked me into talking Psychology and I don’t really know what that’s going to mean when it comes to studying. My roommate is perky and has a poster of Celine Dion on the wall, oh the horror. My Psychology professor, Dr Walsh, is perky enough to label herself the ‘bitch queen from hell’, damn it everyone I’ve met so far today is just as perky, even you’re perky,” she said, waving her hand at Xander in a slightly wild way. “And the only cute guy I’ve met so far today spent more time talking to Willow than me. Guy called Riley. Weird name.” She winced. “I dropped a book on his head by mistake.”
Raising his eyebrows for a moment Xander considered this for a moment. Then he rubbed his nose and beckoned Buffy to one side. “Okay, culture shock, right?”
“Oh, big check on that,” she replied fervently.
“Buffy, that’s perfectly understandable. You’re away from home in a new and strange place, with new and strange people around you. You wouldn’t be human if you weren’t a bit freaked by the whole thing. I’ll tell you something, all the Freshmen I’ve met today have been just as freaked. They might not look it, but I felt it. And,” He put his hands on her shoulders and smiled at her, “You’re the Slayer. You’ll get used to it, don’t worry. It’s part of being you.”
She smiled back at him after a long moment. “Thanks, Xander.”
“Not a problem,” he said, but something crawled up and down his spine for a moment. She was talking the talk, but not quite walking the walk. He paused. “Where are you going to patrol tonight?”
This seemed to throw her slightly. “Um, I don’t know. Thought about checking the campus out tonight. Why?”
“I’m going to practice with Oz tonight. I’ll swing by after to join you, if that’s okay?”
She nodded thoughtfully. “Yeah, thanks, Xander. I could do with some new perspective here.” Buffy smiled more cheerfully at him. “Thanks!”
“Like I said, not a problem.” He looked up at the clock. “Oops, have to go and file stuff. See you tonight Buff.” As he walked off he frowned slightly. Buffy was a little off her game and he had a strong suspicion that she needed bolstering. Well, wasn’t that what a Watcher was for? And above all, wasn’t that what a Jedi did, help those who needed assistance? He nodded slightly and strode on. He had a feeling that a lot of patrolling would happen that coming night.
Riley Finn paused and turned at the intersection of two aisles of books. Forrest was walking up, his arms full of books. “What’s up?”
His friend paused, checked his six and then leant forwards, lowering his voice. “Have you seen that new librarian? Man, he is a stickler for the whole ‘grab your books and don’t question me’ thing.”
Riley paused to consider this. “Yeah, but he isn’t as bad as Jenkins. She really is freaky. The new guy is ok. Giles, right?” He turned and walked towards the exit to the library.
“Yeah,” said Forrest as he fell into step with him, “Rumour mill has it he was the librarian at Sunnydale High before that gas explosion.” He raised an eyebrow and lowered his voice even further. “Was that ever investigated?”
“No, it was fairly obvious according to the reports we saw. An average tragedy.” Riley shook his head. “As far as any tragedy can be average. Nah, I saw this Giles guy earlier on. He knew his stuff. Had a helper too, a kid with a weird name. Xander, I think.”
Forrest hefted his books onto the other arm and winced slightly. “Whatever. I’ll see you back at the Dorm, man.”
Riley nodded as Forrest moved off and then paused. He could see the Giles guy in the distance, talking to a short girl with blonde hair. She looked familiar and then he remembered that she was Willow Rosenberg’s friend. What was her name? Spuffy? No, Buffy. Weird. He shook his head and was about to pass on towards the exit when he paused. A third person had joined the two. It was that Xander guy. He looked… poised. He was looking around, not just at the other two, but at everyone else. And once he looked over at Riley, his eyes probing and assessing before moving on. As if he was weighing up everything. Riley frowned and then shrugged. Time to go to class. But he couldn’t shake off an odd feeling as he left the library, as if he had been put under a microscope for a split second.
The computer was so new that it still had bits of plastic wrapping attached to the back. Plus it smelt very… plastic. Lindsey McDonald looked around the office and smiled in a slightly bemused manner. It was very odd having an office in a building that he had last seen as an empty shell. Then it had been full of dust and dead spiders. Now it was full of lawyers and computers.
Pushing the button to start the computer, he stood up and walked over to the window. The Sunnydale branch of Wolfram & Hart was in a good location. He had chosen it after all. There was a park nearby – which was off limits after dark until the word of their presence went out and the local vampires realised that there was a new player in town – and access to the road network was excellent. The building was large and roomy and had a lot of room for development. Perfect for a law firm that liked to keep a lot under it’s metaphorical hat. Or perhaps cloak would be a better term.
Hearing a beep behind him, Lindsey walked back over to his desk. The computer was asking for a logon name and a password. He tapped in the relevant details. There was a pause as it accessed the mainframe, which was protected in more than electronic ways, and then it opened up a screen that revealed his schedule for the day.
He scrolled through his appointments and sipped from a large mug of coffee at the same time. The day would start with a general staff meeting, and then a one to one meeting with Bob Rove. That would be interesting. His new boss had reputation in the firm as being quite the high flyer. Of course so did Lindsey, but he had never worked with Rove before. Apparently the guy had asked for him personally. That gave him pause for thought. Why would he call for someone he’d never really met, except to say hi to in corridors?
Of course, establishing Wolfram & Hart on the Hellmouth was important. It would also be tricky, especially with two vampire slayers here. They had to make sure that they didn’t sign on too many vampires as clients. One good night out from the Slayers could wipe out half their client list if they weren’t careful. No, a careful mix of different clients would suffice. Putting his mug down he frowned at the screen. Of course there were more than Slayers here. There were also two Watchers, one of whom had made it clear that the Watcher’s Council did not like Wolfram & Hart at all, and… Xander Harris. The mysterious Mr Harris, as he had renamed him in the privacy of his head, who had some kind of odd powers. Something had happened to him almost two years ago, something significant enough for the former, and about as late as it was possible to get, Mayor of Sunnydale Richard Wilkins, to mention to him as a possible threat.
But the frightening thing was that there was a possible connection to Lindsey. He had once been in the same room as Harris when he had done something to a vampire, spoken to it in a voice that resonated with... something. He could hear it in the air, something that had made his head feel fuzzy. And the Host, the demon owner of the Caritas bar in LA who could read your future by listening to you sing, had seen it as well. His words to Lindsey were burned into his brain: “Something’s changed within you. You know that. The only problem is, I’m not the person to tell you what it is. You’ve met him already, that’s all I can tell you. And you’re going to have to make a choice at some point. That being real soon. The kind of choice that changes your life and takes you down a new road, to a place that you didn’t see coming.” And then: “The force is with you”! What the hell did that mean? The force of what? He had to have been referring to Harris, but what had changed, why would Harris be the guy to tell him and what road had he been talking about?
Lindsey stirred in his chair uneasily. He knew what lay ahead here – working for Wolfram & Hart made that brutally clear after a while. He had seen the bodies being removed after some employees of the firm had made some particularly… poor… decisions. You worked for the firm until you died, and the chances were that the cause of death wouldn’t be old age. Oh they gave you a good salary, an excellent health plan and the ability to use deadly force to win court cases or buy off/deflect/kill messily the opposition, but once you were in they never let you go. That much was very obvious. And there were those odd rumours about dead people being seen in the corridors every now and then. He didn’t want to think about that. It brought up too many questions.
But what other road could there be for him? If he left where would he go? What would happen to him? He sank a little lower in his chair and brooded quietly. His life was… well, a mess just now. He could feel something dark and terrible following him, something that he just couldn’t shake off but that he knew he had to. What other road? He looked at the clock on the wall above the door. Time to meet the troops.
A room full of Wolfram & Hart lawyers was not a pleasant sight, thought Lindsey as he looked around the conference room. There were about 35 of them, as this was still a fairly small offshoot of Wolfram & Hart. The more important ones, himself included, had seats around the table whilst the others stood at the back. The arrogance level in the room was set at ‘perky’ as opposed to the normal level of ‘am I going to get shot today?’ at the main LA office. The chair next to him at the head of the table was empty.
He turned to look at the others. Interesting collection. He didn’t know most of them, but Robby Harrison he had met a few times. The guy was nervous but had an amazing memory for old law cases. Then there was Debbie Ormsdorf. She was a bit flaky, but he suspected that the flakes would peel off to reveal a very hard woman underneath. Oh and he could see Susan Ulyanov at the back. She had been Everard Donner’s blue-eyed girl until she’d been ambushed by the DA with that surprise witness in the Geffen case. That had given her a wrap on the knuckles.
There was a stir close to the door and then Bob Rove swept into the office. A tall man in his late forties he was, as always immaculately dressed in a dark blue suit and a red tie, with his brown hair swept back and a thin file in one hand. He smiled and nodded to people as he passed them, giving Lindsey a firm nod as well, as he made it to the empty chair and then swept into that as well. He gave off a crackling feeling of movement and energy. This, the body language said, is my room, full of my people and I’m in charge. Watch yourselves people.
“Well,” said Rove as he looked around the room, “I see that everyone’s here, so I’ll get right into it. Welcome to the newest branch of Wolfram & Hart, people. The firm’s never had a base here on the Hellmouth, so we need to get started in building a client base here.” He smiled again. “Good place for us, right?”
A sycophantic chuckle ran around the room and Lindsey quirked his lips in a well-simulated smile. Rove snapped his eyes around the room with the speed of a snake and then leant forwards as silence fell. “Word of our arrival has already gone around and we have a number of cases on the books already. I’m going to be assigning you all to different ones so that you all get some experience here and there on some of the various types of cases we’ll be handling here. Along with some of our varying types of clients. You’ll all be briefed on the cases you’ll be working on. So let me just say welcome to Sunnydale and I’m sure that we can make this one of the best bases for the firm anywhere in the world."
There was a pause for everyone to applaud him and then, as everyone else started to file out of the room Rove leant over. “Lindsey, we might as well have our meeting here. More room.”
Lindsey nodded and waited until the door had closed behind the last of the others before turning back to Rove. “I’d like to say that I’m flattered that you asked for me, sir,” he said.
Rove grinned. “Call me Bob. I chose you out of gut instinct. That and the report you sent in after the Wilkins incident. Holland Manners’ recommended you as well, which was the icing on the cake.” He leant back in the chair and clasped his hands behind his head.
“You’ve been here twice before, which is more than most people from Wolfram & Hart have ever managed, so you have an edge. Oh and you’ve met the Slayers and their Watchers. That’s important. We’re probably going to have a few problems with them as time goes by and I need someone on the team who’s met them.” He leant forwards, the smile fading. “Who knows their weaknesses. And they do have them – we have quite extensive files on the them. We just need to find a way of capitalizing on them.”
Rove stood suddenly and wandered over to the wide window that took up part of one wall and pushed at the button that raised the blinds, to reveal a view of the town. “I meant what I said just now,” he mused, looking out over Sunnydale, “I mean this place to get the reputation of being the best. Make it the best and the Senior Partners will notice us. Reward us. For the good of the company of course.”
He turned to Lindsey and flashed him another smile. It was like being in the same room as a cheerful crocodile who’d just had his teeth polished. Lindsey smiled back and nodded, carefully keeping his real feelings at bay. He had quite neutral feelings towards the Slayers. They hadn’t killed him for a start, although he could still remember the sensation of cold metal brushing against his neck when Faith Morgan had got the drop on him in the Library in Sunnydale High.
The other lawyer returned his gaze to the window again. “I’ve been doing some digging. The fact that our Arrangement with Wilkins expired at the same moment that he did has opened this place up to us. And boy, Wilkins had quite the racket going here. He had fingers in so many pies that almost the whole town had links to him. He sighed. “He even had the top judge here on his payroll, not that we can take any advantage of that now.”
“We can’t?” asked Lindsey, wondering what else Wilkins had subverted.
“Nope. He – and quite a few other top people – had a private deal with Wilkins. Once he went, they went, in various ways. Very nasty. You should check the local papers.”
A cold sensation went up and down Lindsey’s spine, as if someone had poured freezing water down his back Again, he gave no sign that anything was wrong.
“So,” said Rove, turning to walk back to his chair, “We need to get as much information on this place as possible. Demon clans, Vampire gangs, the usual assorted bribable muscle and how much they charge. You know, the normal stuff we look at. And,” he leant forwards and opened the file to reveal a few blank pages, “I’d like you to give me a few thoughts on the Slayers and their vulnerabilities. Just a few… concepts.” Rove looked at him expectantly, with his head tilted to one side and one hand twirling a slim gold self-propelled pencil.
Lindsey started to talk whilst also starting to loathe the man. Life on the Hellmouth was not going to be fun. Well, at least he was away from that bitch Lilah. He wondered for a split second what she was doing.
“Hey Xander,” came a call from one side, and Xander looked over to see Jonathan to one side. He had a bag slung over one shoulder and was dressed in slightly more fashionable clothes than the last time that Xander had seen him. “How’s it going?”
“Good,” said the Jedi, walking up to his school friend. “Working in the library at the college. You?”
“I just started. I’m taking Tech as a major, with history as a minor.” He rolled his eyes. “Lotta books to read!” he laughed nervously.
The short man grinned and blushed at the same time. He looked as if he was about to gush. “Great! Uh, we’re doing great. She wasn’t able to get into college, for obvious reasons, like lacking money and a proper record and stuff. But she’s applying for jobs and stuff, we’re ok.” He looked over Xander’s shoulder. “Hey, there she is!” he said excitedly and waved.
Turning Xander watched the former demon approach. She was wearing a leather jacket and a skirt and cut her hair so that it framed her face. She was also beaming fondly at Jonathan, before registering the existence of Xander, whereupon she nodded at him firmly. Then she started slightly and plastered a massive smile on her face, looking briefly at Jonathan for confirmation. The smile looked a bit forced. “Xander Harris,” she acknowledged. “How have you been since we last met? I’ve – we’ve – been good. How are you doing in college? Isn’t the weather pleasant? According to the forecast there’s a 41 per cent chance of precipitation this afternoon. How are your family? Is the Slay- I mean is Buffy well?” The grin had now come to resemble the onset of rigor mortis.
Blinking, Xander considered this small barrage. Then he replied: “Good, I’m glad, I’m a librarian here, weather’s spiffy, I can’t feel any rain coming in and she’s great.” Then he turned back to look at them both. “What’s with the barrage of questions and the smile?”
Anya’s smile flickered for a moment. “I’ve been practising my tact,” she said, with just a suggestion of gritted teeth. “Jonathan said that I would blend in better if I was less abrupt and more tactful.” She looked him, the smile becoming more genuine. “He’s been teaching me.”
“Okay, good. Happy for you,” replied Xander. “Which jobs have you applied for?”
The smile slipped slightly. “I start work at ‘World of Leatherwork’ tomorrow. The second place I applied.”
“What happened to the first place?”
“Oh that was yesterday. My tact slipped slightly,” she said, rather tight-lipped. “I was at La Petit Soeur, when a customer came in and asked for a flattering dress. I pointed out that she had to grow some breasts first as she had a chest like a toast rack. The manager told me to take a hike.”
“Okay,” mulled Xander. “Enough said. Well, good luck.”
You’re going to need it, he thought as he walked away from the couple who had passed on their merry chattering way. What an odd couple. They seemed happy though. That was important. He looked at his watch. He had to be elsewhere. He had some duelling to do. So to speak, of course.
Xander was waiting on a projecting branch of a tree when Oz arrived in the park. The Jedi was sitting there, his legs crossed in what looked like a very uncomfortable position. However, his eyes were closed and he seemed to be peacefully meditating. As Oz approached he opened his eyes and fell backwards off the branch, flipping in mid air to land on his feet with cat-like stealth. “No Willow tonight?”
“College has her rather excited,” said his former Padawan as he slowed to a halt. He mused: “It’s cute actually.” He paused. He couldn’t sense anyone around them. Perfect.
“Good,” said Xander and then: “Defend yourself.” The moment the last word had left his lips he used the Force to snap his lightsabre into his hand, where it ignited with a hiss and slashed down with the speed of a striking snake – only to meet Oz’s own green blade in a classic defensive pose.
“Excellent,” said Xander. “Your responses are getting better.” His lightsabre came up and then jabbed down again from a different angle, only to meet Oz’s blade again. Xander disengaged and then stepped back a step. “Now that you’ve shown me your reflexes shall we begin?”
Oz nodded, gripping his lightsabre in both hands and twisting them slightly to get a better grip. “Let’s go,” the lapsed werewolf said, with a slight smile.
The blades swept up, clashed again, with the whirring noise of power plants trying to outmatch each other, broke apart and then flashed back and forwards as the two duelled. Back and forth they went over the grass, with first Xander pressing Oz back and then Oz recovering and sending his former master retreating. The two seemed perfectly balanced as they ducked, parried, thrust and span to counter each others blades in a deadly dance of lightsabres, both using the Force to sense the others next moves.
Xander tried an overhead cut, which Oz matched, sliding off to one side, before jabbing back at him, a short circular cut that Xander easily blocked. But Oz followed this with a quick hard jab from the other side followed by another, before dropping down to one side and slashing at knee height.
Xander exploded into the air before the blade came anywhere near him, using the force to flip up and back, hitting the ground and leaping back, his lightsabre probing through the air. Once it hit, forcing Oz back a step, twice it hit, sending him back at a stumble and then for a third time it hit, knocking the green blade out of his former Padawan’s hand.
The green blade winked out as it hit the ground. The blue blade was motionless by the side of Oz’s head. Then it winked out as well. “You’re getting better,” said Xander approvingly.
“What did I do wrong?” asked Oz, reaching out to pick up his lightsabre and return it to a hook on his belt.
“Nothing,” smiled Xander, hanging up his own lightsabre and sitting down on the grass, crossing his legs as he did. “In fact you’ve become very good at Form One of lightsabre technique, also known as Shii-Cho. The problem is that there are other forms.”
“Ah,” mused Oz, joining Xander on the grass and assuming the same position. “I take it you were using a different one?”
“Very good. Yes I was. Form Three. Soresu. Obi-Wan was a master at it. Defensive at first until your opponent makes a mistake. Yours was to overbalance slightly when you tried that low attack. I read that and counter-attacked. As you get used to the various forms possible you can change your attack or defence based on what you’re up against.” He paused. “And remember: there may come a time when you’re without your lightsabre, when you’re fighting with anything you can get your hands on. You need to know what else is available in terms of techniques and forms to protect yourself with and end a battle. I’m going to teach you all of them – you’ll need to choose one to adopt as your best technique. So far I’ve taught you Form One. The level you’ve reached is beyond that which a Padawan needs to progress to a Jedi Knight, in the old Order. At some point you’ll need to hone in on your own personal fighting style.”
Oz nodded sombrely. “What about you?”
“I’m practising Soresu. I might have Obi-Wan’s memories, but I don’t have his level of skill in it yet.”
“So what are they like?”
“Okay. Form Two – Makashi. Elegant, precise, powerful. Minimal effort. My – I mean Obi-Wan’s master was a great guy called Qui Gon, and his master, Dooku, was an expert in this. Bastard also turned to the Dark Side, but that’s a long story and damn I hope that George Lucas gets the casting on those two parts right.
“Form Three is Soresu. Defensive, looking for an opening and the chance to go on the attack. Form Four is Ataru. Acrobatic, uses the Force to use some wild manoeuvres. It can be aggressive, so you need to be careful in letting yourself go too much. It also lacks defensive depth unless you’re careful.” He paused again, thinking of Qui-Gon’s death. “Obi-Wan’s master was killed by a Sith because his defence lacked a little something.”
Shaking his head he went on. “Form Five is Djem-So. It’s similar to Soresu but more aggressive. In fact it’s like a combination of Makashi and Soresu. Channels defence into offence. Anakin was good at that. Of course, so was Vader.
“Form Six is Niman. It’s the diplomat’s version of fighting. A bit of jack of all trades version. Not a good idea if you’re up against it. Form Seven is Juyo, or as Master Windu refined it, Vaapad. Aggressive. Very aggressive if you’re not ready to deal with it. And it takes a massive amount of training to do that. One day, if she’s ready for it and Giles agrees, I might teach a terrestrial version of it to Buffy, for the sword. Only when she’s ready for it though. It has been known to lead to the Dark Side.”
Oz nodded slowly as he took it all in. “Interesting. Many choices.” He looked up. “How will I know?”
This earned him a smile. “You will know. You’re a Jedi. Trust your instincts.” He looked down at his watch. “Oops, time to go. I have to meet Buffy.”
“Need help patrolling?”
“Not tonight,” said Xander as he rose up and brushed a few specks of loose grass off his trousers. “She’s a bit down and I want to have a quiet word with her.”
“Down?” frowned Oz as he got up as well.
Xander grimaced. “I think it’s ‘I’m in college and everything’s different’ rather than anything else.” He shook his head. “I think that Willow’s reaction was the opposite of Buffy’s. Will has seen the opportunities and Buffy is freaking slightly about being in a new place away from home. It’s understandable. I mean, for Buffy her home life was an anchor for her – a way of centring herself, being able to push the Slayer part of her life to one side. Now she’s having to make a new non-slayer area to her life and I think she’s a bit shaken by it.” He paused and smirked slightly. “Giles didn’t help. Someone called Olivia is coming over tonight apparently. He mentioned her in passing and then got all blustery when I asked him about who Olivia was.”
Oz’s eyebrows both moved up, indicating how impressed he was. “Giles has a personal life?”
“I know, you’d think that he spent his off hours looking at tweed catalogues and writing articles about bell ringing, but yes he does do other things. And apparently he has a sex life, something that we will draw a veil over before we start to freak. Anyway, I’ve got to go meet Buffy. I think I know the best way to restore her mojo.”
Eddie seemed a nice guy and had the same problems as she did, so Buffy was almost sorry when he smiled and broke away to head for his dorm. She walked on down the path. Eddie had mentioned that he had a security blanket that he took everywhere. Something called “Of Human Bondage”. Apparently it was a book and wasn’t about things that went swish in the dark. She shuddered for a second. Imagination was getting a little frisky again. What fun.
Something like a twig cracked to one side and she swung around, grasping for the stake in her sleeve, only to pause. Two figures were walking towards her. One was Eddie. The other was Xander. “The admin block is over there,” Eddie was saying, pointing at the building off to one side. “But I think it’s about to close for the night. It is a bit late.”
“That’s ok,” said Xander breezily, “I just wanted to check out where it was. Thanks for helping me.”
“Not a problem man. Oh hey Buffy.”
Smiling slightly Buffy waved with one hand. “Hi again Eddie. Hi Xander.”
“Oh, you two know each other?”
“Buffy and I go way back,” said Xander affably. Then he looked at the other man. “Go home to your dorm,” he said, “Carefully. Use the road. Avoid this place tonight.”
“Okay,” said Eddie, his eyes glazing over slightly. “Home.” He turned to one side and ambled off.
When he was far enough away Buffy turned to Xander. “Okay, why did you just do the Jedi mind trick on Eddie? He’s a nice guy!”
“He was almost a dead nice guy, Buff, he was walking towards a bunch of vampires and could have been a light snack. I distracted him by acting lost and dumb.” He shook his head thoughtfully. “I think we have a nest on campus, which is a bad thing of course. Campus life is rough enough without having vampires snacking on the students.”
Buffy perked up at this. “How many?”
“I sensed about five or six of them, all stinky with evil. I think we should track them back to their nest and make the place very dusty.”
The Slayer nodded. “Okay. Dibs on the leader?”
“Try and be serious Buffy.”
He sighed and then grinned. “Paper, Scissors, Rock?”
The room was seriously in need of some new posters, she thought as she sat down in her chair and looked around. Come to think of it, the whole place was in need of posters to replace the old tattered ones. Not to mention the occasional hole in the wall. But they could hardly call in a plasterer. And her flunkies weren’t worth a lot.
Sunday sighed and looked at the flunkies around her. They were, well, just lame. Definitely not the nucleus of a band. More like a barbershop quartet. On the one hand they were all vampires. On the other they were all lame vampires.
And tonight they had lost a possible prey. One minute he had been ambling towards them, the next minute he had been intercepted by another guy who had walked up, asked dumb and obvious questions and then diverted him off to one side. From the look that the shadowy figure had shot into the darkness where they had been waiting, whoever he was he knew about them. Which was odd. She shrugged. She’d heard rumours that the Slayer was on campus. And where there was a Slayer there was also a Watcher. That meant that things might get interesting very soon. She smiled dreamily as she imagined a pair of heads over her chair, perhaps on pikes. Of course that meant getting hold of pikes, not to mention a taxidermist to pickle said heads, but that was a small detail.
“I just love what you’ve done to the place,” said a voice off to one side and she snapped her head around to stare at the short figure of a blonde girl at the entrance. She was looking around with immense fake interest. “It just shrieks ‘urban ghetto’ with a hint of ‘desperate pathetic vampire chic.’ Not bad. Did you spend much on decorating?”
“Nothing at all,” drawled Sunday and she stood up. Her Flunkies were all on their feet staring at the girl. Some were smirking. All were thinking the same thing: Food. “We just took it from people. Some were like you.”
The girl smiled easily. “I don’t think they were like me. I’m different.”
“Very different. Oh, I’m sorry, I haven’t introduced myself. I’m Buffy. The Vampire Slayer.” She produced a stake from her sleeve and waggled it cheerily.
“Slayer!” purred Sunday and her flunkies echoed her. “Well, well. What an honour. Not. Do you really think that you can just walk in here and, well, slay us all? On your own? Please!”
“Oh I brought a friend,” Said the Slayer and she moved to one side to reveal a dark-haired man who looked a bit familiar.
“Yeah right, please again. You brought your Watcher. Well done, you just made our job easier.”
“I’m not a Watcher yet,” said the man as he stepped forwards and Sunday realized that he was the same age as the Slayer. He also seemed to be very confident. For one thing he wasn’t wetting himself with fear.
Glancing at the most intelligent of her flunkies, which wasn’t saying much, Sunday gestured. “Do it.”
Growling with anticipation the vampires spread out, walking towards the Slayer, who was cleaning her nails with the point of the stake as she ambled off to one side. Sunday herself was busy gliding down to one side. To the entrance and the young guy. Block the way out, use him as leverage by threatening to kill him, then actually killing him and jumping her… this was going to be far too easy.
Only it seemed that it wasn’t. The moment that the Slayer came into range of the others she exploded into life, punching, kicking and gouging, whilst that stake whizzed around like the weapon that it was. The moment that Monica got it in the chest and was dusted, the others fell back and reconsidered their strategy, the dopes.
By now she was almost at the entrance, where the dark-haired guy was watching the fight with some interest. She suddenly realised that that he was also displaying no fear at all, but, if anything, a certain amusement. He was also watching her, she realised with a shock.
“Hi, I’m the guy who’s guarding the way out and no you can’t go through,” he drawled, pulling out a shortish silver rod from behind his coat.
By now all kinds of alarm bells were ringing in Sunday’s head. The guy was too confident, nowhere near fearful enough and why was he guarding the exit? It was as if he knew that all the vampires were going to die and that meant that he knew that the Slayer was going to win.
Brad, being a moron, had not thought anything at all through and retreating from the Slayer turned on the guy instead. Who flicked a switch on the rod that allowed a glowing blue blade to extend in front of him.
“Whoa,” said Brad, looking very impressed, “Is that a lightsabre, man?”
“Yup,” said the guy and suddenly moved so fast that Sunday blinked in astonishment.
“Whoa” said Brad again, rather weakly, before his head fell off and he crumbled into dust. The guy looked at her for a moment and then looked back at the Slayer, who was busy staking one of her flunkies. Wait a minute, there was only her and whatisname left now, who was busy running for the hole in one of the walls to one side.
“Come back here and fight!” screamed Sunday and then she looked back at the guy with the lightsabre, who grinned at her before making a strange gesture with one hand… and then suddenly she was sailing backwards through the air, as if something invisible had kicked her. When she hit the ground she smashed through her chair and then back again through the stuff that they’d collected over the years, finally coming to rest against the wall. Pain stabbed through her shoulder and she looked down to see a long sliver of wood impaled through her flesh. Grabbing it and gritting her teeth she pulled it free and threw it to one side, before looking up – to see the Slayer’s fist coming straight at her. The impact sent her back against the wall and her head rang from both the punch and the landing. She struggled up again and then the Slayer’s hand flashed forwards and… Sunday looked down at the stake protruding from her chest.
“Shit,” she said and then it all went dark.
As Buffy and Xander walked out of the former Frat house she was whistling. Xander grinned quietly. “You feeling better, Buff?”
“Oh yeah,” she said with an answering grin. “Fully reaffirmed and ready for the fight against things that go ‘Grrr’ in the night. Good call Xander.”
“Naah,” he replied, “Easy call. I thought that you might just need a stab in the right direction. You do good. Doesn’t matter where you do it, just as long as you know it. Campus, school, no difference. As long as you can help people, that’s the whole point.”
Buffy nodded. “Well thanks O Jedi.”
“Not a problem O Slayer.” They ambled on. “Pizza?”
“Definitely not a problem.”
“Bad guys dusted, good guys intact, yes that calls for pizza.” He looked around. “After all, nothing else to threaten us around.”
The house was registered in the name of someone that she’d never heard of. She strongly suspected that he was either dead or had no idea himself. Whatever. It sufficed. It was large, well furnished and had a very large hall at one end. At the moment it was bare of furniture, with the exception of a black chair in the middle of the room. Pieces of wood were scattered around the hall.
Lilah Morgan looked around and scowled. Her Master was late. She leant against one of the walls and looked over the hall idly. She didn’t dare do anything. Not until he was there. The last time that she’d shown some initiative, she had been punished for it. The bruises had taken a week to heal. Her Master had a point – she was still learning. The power that she could summon was deeply scary at times. But she still hated his teaching methods at times.
The door at the far side creaked open and Judge Michael Dansey walked through. “Your fellow stooge at Wolfram & Hart, Hooper, needs to learn how to finish up a presentation fast,” he said dryly. “Who knows who’ll win that court case?” He paused and then smiled ironically. “Well, maybe me.” He looked at her as he sat into the chair. “Begin.”
Lilah walked forwards and stared down at the nearest piece of wood. It was about six inches long and tapered slightly towards the end. It weighed several pounds. She reached out a hand and concentrated, closing her eyes slightly as she opened herself to the Power. After more than a month of training she could do this more easily now, but it was still a struggle at times. But tonight… she could feel the wood, feel the weight. She grasped it with the Power and slowly lifted it into the air. Once it was level with her face she concentrated in a slightly different manner and twisted her hand to make the wood spin, slowly at first and then faster and faster.
“Good,” said Dansey in a dry tone. “Now try two.”
This was where it got hard. As she made the first piece spin in the air she reached out with the Power again and felt the shape and weight of the next piece on the ground. It was slightly more dense. But… she felt it rise into the air to join the first piece. A slight patina of sweat had broken out on her forehead and she ruthlessly suppressed the slight tremor in her hand. Another gesture and the second piece started to revolve as well.
Dansey leant back in his chair, his face receding into shadow. “Very good,” he grated.
When it came she was ready. Suddenly Dansey’s hand flicked forwards, sending a small metal pellet at her head. She didn’t flinch at all, but used the Power to manipulate its momentum to curve its way around her face whilst keeping the two wooden shards revolving in mid-air. The strain of it all almost buckled her knees and a line of sweat ran down her face, but she didn’t say a word.
“Excellent!” purred Dansey, standing quickly. “Release them.”
She almost panted with relief as everything fell to the ground. She dimly heard a faint ping behind her as the pellet hit something on the floor to one side.
“Very good my dear Lilah,” said Dansey, standing in front of her. “Very good indeed. You’re coming along nicely and you aren’t distracted as easily as before.” He smiled grimly. “Keep practicing. Soon it will be time to up the training. I hope, for your sake that you’ll be ready for it.”
Lilah looked at him and then bowed her head. The Power was intoxicating at times. It filled her head and her heart with a raging fire that fed off her anger and shone out. She suspected that was why Dansey had chosen her. And she loved the feeling that the Power gave her. The power that could be opened to her… That made it worth the training, worth the pain.
When she was ready, when she had learnt everything that could, she knew that she would have a lot of plans. An awful lot. And Wolfram & Hart would know what real power was about. She did not think about what would happen to Dansey. He had a nasty habit of sensing what she felt. And she did want to learn after all, right? Everything that he knew. Every scrap.