Roomates And Darkness - Part One
Sorry for the delay in getting this out, but I am about to be the proud co-owner of a house. Yay! Gulp. If anyone mentions the word mortgage to me I might start twitching. Anyway, here is the latest chapter. The next one shouldn't take as long to write. I hope. Anyway, disclaimers: I don't own these characters, but damn I wish I did. Enjoy.
The problem with being a librarian, thought Xander as he looked at the massive pile of books on the trolley in front of him, is that it involves filing things in the correct place. Otherwise you ended up with people complaining about lost books that prevented them from writing papers with a lot of syllables in all the words. He paused. Okay, that was a bit harsh, especially as he found himself using said long words with many syllables in them, but hey, he had an image to protect. He paused again. It would be more accurate to say that he had a cover to protect. At least he didn’t have to hide the fact that he was a Jedi Knight from his friends any more. He remembered the bad old days when Angelus had been in town and shuddered mentally. That had been very bad and if he could go back in time and do things differently he would start there, with the beginning of the whole Judge SNAFU. Angel had been replaced with his vicious alter ego, Jenny had been killed and an awful lot of people had almost joined her.
He dismissed that line of thought as being counter-productive. A Jedi had to be mindful of the living Force and stop wishing away the past. You learnt from it and moved on, although the nagging temptation to go back in time and hit Anakin on the head with a large brick until some sense had fallen into his brain did come to mind. But that was a whimsical image from the Obi-Wan part of his memory.
Where was he? Ah yes, history. He picked up a copy of “The Myth of the First World War”, glanced at the post-it note that Giles had slapped on it and snorted with amusement. The senior Watcher had a very caustic sense of humour at times. Pausing to make sure with the Force that no one was around, he propelled himself in the air, slotted the book in at the top part of the book stack and then landed quietly. Right, next aisle.
“You say that your roommate is… freaky.” Giles took his glasses off, polished them carefully and then replaced them.
“Yes! Seriously freaky oddness. She, she labels her food, she likes Celine Dion, her clothes are arranged by colour! The girl is so organised that she makes Willow look like a bag lady from New York!”
Giles blinked. “What a fascinating metaphor. I didn’t think that anyone could be more organised than Willow. Well, Wesley aside I mean. And I heard of a man called Dundridge once, but he ended up in prison, accused of blowing up a gamekeeper’s house.” He looked at Buffy and refocused his attention. “Yes, well, is there anything else, any, um, more tangible evidence of this, this freakiness?”
Buffy opened her mouth but ended up just making ‘what else do you need?’ motions with her hands. Then she slumped. “No,” she said sulkily. “But Giles, there is something odd going on with Kathy, I mean it. And I had the weirdest feeling last night, when I met her walking back from the library, that something was following us.”
“Weird feelings?” asked a voice to one side and they both looked over to see Xander, who had appeared noiselessly at the door to the library office.
Giles let out a breath. “Xander, I appreciate your, um, other skills, but can you please not practice them on us? I almost had a heart attack just then.”
“Sorry, Giles, force of habit. I saw Mrs Jenkins out there and she looked like she’d sucked on a tub of lemons, so I crept along a bit.” He looked at Buffy. “What was that about weird feelings and followed home?”
“It’s my roommate, Kathy. She’s seriously freaky, Xand. There’s something waaay off with her.”
“Way off in which direction?” asked Xander thoughtfully.
Buffy listed her reasons eagerly, trailing off slightly when she realised that the evidence was less than conclusive. But on the other hand, Xander wasn’t looking as sceptical as Giles had. Instead he was looking thoughtful.
“Well, it doesn’t sound as if tentacles are going to sprout from her face whilst her head revolves, but it does sound odd to be that organised without being Willow.”
“Aha!” beamed Buffy.
“Although she might just be very organised.”
“Uhu,” said Buffy, pulling a face.
Xander mulled for a moment and then looked over at Giles. “I think that anything that sets off a Slayer’s instincts needs checking out. Just to be sure.”
This brought a thoughtful frown to Giles’s face. “Yes, well, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Would you do the honours of going back to Buffy’s place? I have a staff meeting and I need to relax before I undergo the full horror of confronting Mrs Jenkins.”
Leaping up from her chair, Buffy looked at Xander. “Lets check out the roommate!” She seemed very… chirpy. And quite like her old self. Giles relaxed ever so slightly. It seemed that Buffy was feeling far more at home, as it were, in college now.
As they left Giles heard Xander ask what would happen if Kathy turned out to be normal. He shook his head and sighed at his Slayer’s response: “I buy you two banana smoothies for the rest of the week?” He hated bananas.
Xander looked around at the room with some interest. It was as if someone had drawn a line down the middle and then inhabited it with two very different people. It wasn’t as if Buffy’s half was messy or anything, it was just that compared to Kathy’s half it looked, well, a shambles. He peered into Kathy’s half with an appalled fascination. She had folded the bedsheets to form a perfect long rectangle of sheet between the counterpane and the pillows. The books were carefully stacked on the desk, all in a descending order of size. The folders were sorted by colour and apparently been attacked a host of stickers, also sorted by colour. And if he didn’t know any better, he could have sworn that the poster of Celine Dion had been placed using a spirit level. It was all very…
“Freaky?” said Buffy to one side. Xander nodded.
“I feel hopelessly disorganised,” he said wryly. “I see what you mean. Perhaps she’s a clone of whatshername, the old British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher?”
This earned him a bemused look. “Xander have you started channelling Giles?”
“No, Buff, I’m just a little more well-advised about the world than I used to be.” He looked at his watch. “What time is she due back from classes?”
“About now,” said Buffy, looking at her own watch distractedly. She grimaced. “I feel a bit weird about this now. What if she’s normal and it’s just me being all… valley girl oddness?”
Turning to face her, Xander smiled. “Buffy, it’s time for me to unleash a quote at you: trust your feelings! What are your feelings saying to you?”
“That something’s off with Kathy.”
“Good enough for me. Plus,” he peered at Kathy’s CD collection, “Anyone who likes Celine Dion this much is either Canadian or just odd.”
Buffy nodded carefully. Then she walked back over to her side. “You still think that Parker’s not right?”
“Based on what I’ve observed, he’s a complete scuzzball, Buff. He gives off sincerity, but all I pick up from him with the Force is that he’s up for the sweaty moves but not for the commitment.”
“Ew, Xander!” She paused. “Are you sure?”
“Oh. So my feelings there are wrong, but my feelings here are right?”
“Slayer instincts yes, matters involving Mr Parker, wrong.”
Hearing a rattle of a key in the door they both turned around to see the door open, revealing a dark-haired girl in a jeans and a t-shirt, with a dark blue shirt over it. She started slightly at the sight of Xander and then smiled at Buffy. “Oh, hi there Roomie! And who’s your friend?”
“This is Xander. Xander, this is Kathy,” said Buffy, with bright eyes and a rather insincere smile. Xander reached out his hand to shake Kathy’s, but he knew just by looking at her that this was just basic politeness. She felt… wrong. In sooo many ways.
“So Kathy,” he said, once the shake was over. “Been in Sunnydale long?”
“Not really,” she said, walking over to her desk and putting her books down carefully.
“Right,” he said, pulling a face and shaking his head at Buffy, who looked astonished. Then: “Been in this dimension long then? Because I’m sensing a lot of demony vibes coming off you, instead of human vibes.”
There was a clatter from the desk as Kathy knocked her new books over. Then she span around, more wide-eyed than she should have been. “Demony?” she asked, her voice going up an octave or three. “What makes you say that?”
“Because you’re not human,” said Xander, unclipping his lightsabre from the back of his belt but not turning it on just yet. “I can tell.”
This brought a roll of the eyes from Kathy and a string of what sounded like gibberish.
“I’m sensing that you just said a few a bad words too.”
“Did my father send you?” snapped Kathy. All of a sudden her posture did not look human at all, but was more loose-limbed and just screamed imminent fight.
“Your father?” blinked Xander. “Who is…?”
Kathy spat something else in the gibberish that she had used earlier. Then she tilted her head and looked at them both. “Obviously not, as what I just said would have enraged you. Great, now I have to kill you both. Damn. Well, at least I get to eat your souls to disguise myself.”
She suddenly leapt into the air, straight at them like a cat suddenly jumping into the air, but Xander was ready for her. Summoning the Force he used it to catch her and slam her back onto her bed, where she sprawled briefly, looking at him with wide eyes. “What was that?” she gasped. Then she shot up to her feet again and flexed her fingers. “I’m going to tear you apart with my bare hands.”
The lightsabre snapped on with a hiss and swept up into a salute, the hilt close to Xander’s lips. “You’ll lose a lot of fingers that way,” he said.
Kathy froze, staring at the blue blade. “Is that…” she pointed weakly.
“Does it work?”
She reached out with a trembling hand and picked up a book from her desk. “Can I…?”
“Knock yourself out.”
“Knock… oh. No. I’ll just toss this.” She threw the book towards him with an underarm lob. There was a blink and the book fell to the floor in two neat halves, a few pages smoking slightly. Then there was a thunk noise and one of the halves was pinned to the floor with a quivering wooden stake. They both turned to look at Buffy, who was twirling Aquila in one hand and a stake in the other.
“Hey,” she drawled, “A Slayer’s got to make an impression somehow.”
“Slayer,” said Kathy in what looked like a great deal of shock. Then she looked at Xander. “Guy with a lightsabre. A Jedi Knight? Here?”
“You don’t sound that surprised,” said Xander, blinking slightly, but Kathy was off in another rant of gibberish. Then she paused. “Oh shit,” she said and then suddenly an opening sprang into life in one corner of the room, to emit a large figure with a hood and scarf covering his lower face.
The figure drew itself up, glared at Kathy, dismissed Buffy with a glance and then stared at the lightsabre. Then it turned back to Kathy and ranted at her in the same alien language that she had been speaking before. Kathy blinked slightly and then reluctantly reached up to pull her face off, revealing her rather more demony real face. She slumped slightly, tried to rally by shouting something at the figure, only to get another volley of the odd language. Then she walked, shoulders sagging, into the opening and vanished. The other figure paused and looked at Xander carefully. Then it bowed. “Master Jedi, much respect do I render,” it said in a careful and deep voice. “Not know you were here. Silly girl, my daughter. Rebellious. Reveal herself she did. Take her home I shall.”
Raising his eyebrows Xander paused and then bowed slightly in return. “Not a problem.”
The figure nodded and then leapt into the opening, which closed with a snap.
The two remaining inhabitants of the room looked at each other. “Okay,” said Xander, “That was different.” He paused. “How are we going to explain this to hall administration?”
The file looked unthreatening. This was however an illusion. Inside lay a deeply unpleasant person. Lindsey McDonald looked down at the file and shifted his position slightly. Then he opened the file again. Okay, Thomas Donovan. Not his real name, which was something with far too many consonants and not enough vowels. Married to Hettie Donovan. Who the hell named their kids Hettie these days? Oh wait, that was it, no one because that wasn’t her name either.
He looked at the dates of birth and dismissed them with a snort of derision. Then he looked at the charges. Once he’d skimmed through them, almost afraid to stop in case his eyeballs became infected, he closed both his eyes and the folder and then leant back in his chair. Yeuch. Both were complete scum, whose humanity was skin-deep, although that was debatable at times. Follicle deep might be a better term. Well, he would be seeing Mr Donovan tomorrow. Hopefully he would make it out of the meeting without throwing up.
He stood up and walked over to the window. Sunnydale looked almost peaceful in the light of the setting sun. That was an illusion as well. He sighed. His latest client was due soon. The worst part was that he was coming in his real form, as he didn’t have an illusion to hide behind. Yeuch 2.
Lindsey leant forwards slightly and rested his forehead against the glass as he closed his eyes. What was he doing?
It was a nice day, the sun was shining, the birds were singing and the season wasn’t quite full Fall yet, not that such a season really ever touched Sunnydale properly. Snow wasn’t something that ever really laid its cold and clammy hand on the place, with the exception of the previous winter, when it had snowed. According to Buffy there had been extenuating circumstances there, something to do with Angel. Oz looked at the trees with a slow smile and then looked back at Willow, who was rummaging in the picnic hamper and muttering something about chicken wings.
Then he stiffened slightly. There was a slight tremor in the Force… something that felt oddly similar, as if something bestial had walked downwind for the barest moment and then vanished off somewhere. He looked around sharply, his hand on his hidden lightsabre, before relaxing slightly. Whatever it was, it was gone.
He turned to look at Willow, who had located the missing chicken wings and was holding out a container of salad. “Yes, babe?”
“Are you okay? You just looked all…” She leant in towards him. “Jedi-ish.”
Grimacing slightly, Oz grabbed a chicken wing and then added some salad to the paper plate he had by his side. “I’m fine babe.” He looked out over the people hurrying by. “I just have a feeling that someone out there is not fine at all. I think I need to talk to Giles and Xander. There might be a werewolf on campus.” He paused for a moment and then smiled quizzically. “Another werewolf I mean.”
“I’m not quite sure I understand what you’re asking for,” said Lindsey, looking over the desk at the worried demon on the other side. The demon stared at him, shook its head, made a series of hissing noises and then changed to English.
“You not know? Need protection. Nestlings here. Need to get out of Sunnydale. Protect,” it said, slurring certain vowels.
“Protect from what?” asked Lindsey, looking up from his carefully camouflaged doodle.
This earned him an incredulous look. “Dangerous people here. Slayers here.” The demon leant forwards, looking over his shoulder nervously, “Others here. Others with swords of light. Very dangerous. My people call them Lightbringers. Have odd powers. Just two, but arrive from nowhere! No warning!” It leant back and narrowed its eyes at him. “Pay Wolfram & Hart much money in other places. Need return for money. You get nestlings and others out.”
“I’ll make it my top priority,” said Lindsey, nodding sharply and then brought his hands up and waggled them by his ears in the Fogal Demon Gesture of Sincerity. The demon paused and then mirrored the gesture, only far more fluently. Then it nodded sharply, stood up and left via the open window, leaping through with supple athleticism.
Lindsey watched the demon disappear and then shook his head himself. Lightbringers? What the hell was that? Swords of light? Odd powers? And what would make a Fogal Demon afraid of them? Fogals were touchy and bad-tempered at the best of times, but that one had been subdued and, if he didn’t know better, frightened. He sighed. Something else to find out about. And tell the boss first though. Rove liked to be kept up to date on client meetings.
He stood up, gathered his notes, closed the window carefully and stepped into the corridor, where people were flitting past, clutching files and briefcases and looking… well, like lawyers.
Rove’s office was on the sixth floor and was a hell of a lot more opulent than his, with the corridor to it containing thick carpets and some modern art on the walls. Ok, it was the kind of modern art that made you squint and wonder what the hell it was, but it was art. He paused in front of Rove’s secretary, a thin blonde woman who was a merciless filer and who looked as if she kept a knife down her rather unnaturally voluminous cleavage. That or a pistol in her purse. She looked up him, narrowed her eyes slightly, gave him a thin sliver of a smile and then nodded at the door to Rove’s office. “He’s expecting you,” she said.
He’s doing a Holland, thought Lindsey bitterly as he walked up to the door, tapped lightly on it and then opened the door. They always know where you are in the building. It’s like they had x-ray eyes. He reviewed that last thought and shuddered mentally.
“Lindsey!” said Rove, looking up from his computer and waving at a chair, “And what brings you up my way today?”
“I’ve just had my meeting with the Fogal Demon T’Kar. He’s looking for a fast passage for him and his nestlings out of Sunnydale, due to the dangers of the place,” said Lindsey as he sat down and crossed his legs.
This brought him a snort from Rove. “That’s rich, a Fogal complaining about danger. I suppose he mentioned the Slayers here?”
“Yes. But he said something else. He mentioned ‘Lightbringers’ and said that there were two of them. He also said that they had swords of light.” He paused, hesitating. Rove frowned and nodded at him to continue. “He seemed afraid of them.”
Narrowing his eyes Rove leant back in his chair. “Interesting…” he breathed. “Did he say anything else?”
“No, but he seemed real keen to leave town.” He looked over at his boss, who seemed lost in thought. After a moment Rove leant forwards again.
“Interesting,” he said again, “Because one of our clients vanished two days ago. Vampire called Irwin, quite wealthy, was divorcing his wife, also a vampire obviously. Walked into a park and never walked out again. We thought it was one of the Slayers, but there was a witness, a Vorgon demon. Slimy, stupid and terrified out of his wits. All he kept saying was ‘Sword! Light! Sword!’” He looked up. “Nose around, Lindsey. Ask some questions.” He grinned. “We need to find out just who else is in town. After all, where Wolfram & Hart goes, others often follow.”
“Yes, sir,” said Lindsey and strode out. Right, he thought as he stepped into the elevator, where the hell can I nose around to find out that information?
“Hey, Giles,” said Buffy as she entered the office. “If you were a betting man, you’d owe me five bucks.”
“I would?” asked Giles, looking up from a fascinating new treatise on the archaeological discoveries at the site of the Battle of Naesby. His Slayer was sitting on one arm of the chair by the door, whilst Xander was standing at the doorway itself. “And, and why would I owe you five dollars?”
“Kathy. You told me not to be, um, I think ‘a little paranoid’ was your phrase. About her demonyness I mean.”
Giles straightened up abruptly. “What? What happened?”
“Well, I took Xander with me, and the minute he met her he pulled a face, so I suspected I was right, and then he asked her which dimension she was from, and she was totally ‘what?’ and then she said that she was going to steal our souls now and freaked and came for us like a… like a… well, like a shrieking roommate thing, and Xander went all Jedi on her and threw her on the bed and she was all ‘what?’ again and then he did the thing with the lightsabre-”
“He killed her?” said Giles in a strangled voice.
“No, he just turned his sabre on, and she was all ‘what?’ and then this swirly thing appeared in the floor and this demon guy in BIG robes got out of it and shouted at her, and she shouted back, and then she took her face off, and it was totally gross at first until I realised that her face was a false face and that she was all ‘grr’ demon underneath and she sulked a bit and went into the hole and the big demon guy looked at Xander and apologised because it turned out that Kathy was his daughter and then he vanished and now you almost owe me five bucks,” she finished, seemingly without drawing breath.
Taking a deep mental breath himself, Giles ran through what she had said, edited out the odd bits and drew the correct conclusion. “Good god,” he said softly. “Well, um, well done the both of you. Yes, indeed. Could, could you identify them again?”
“Oh yes,” said Xander in a firm voice. “I’d like to find out what the hell they were doing here, and why she was talking about needing our souls.”