Slouching Toward Bethlehem
A/N: I dedicate this chapter to darthnikki; without at least one rabid fan, this would have ended years ago...
Spike was not one to ponder destiny. At one time, he had believed firmly in it, as well as love, and peace, and blooming flowers, and all that was good. Since then, he became a monster, did a very lot of very bad things, and kept his nose clean of prophecies and most religious holidays.
He could not, however, tell anyone why, before the sun had officially set, he was driving in his almost-daylight-proof car down a forgotten dirt road toward the last place on earth he ever wanted to be.
Drusilla, he told himself. She wanted to go. Not exactly the truth, but it gave him a convenient explanation as to why he was where he was, and not one dealing with his lover’s knack of pulling him closer to destiny than he liked.
“Spike... Miss Edith hates the sun.” She held up her doll, as though it would confirm this. He glanced in her direction, not entirely ruling the possibility out.
“Me too, luv.”
Drusilla turned her doll back to face her. “She loves watermelon, though. Do we have any watermelon, Spike?”
He sighed. “No, luv.”
She frowned. “I planted some.”
“They died, pet. Like...” he stopped himself. Every time he reminded her of her knack for killing things, she cried. “How ‘bout I get you a new one? A whole one, a’ready made?”
She grinned. “I’d like that.” She looked up at him coyly. “Can Miss Edith pick the one we get?”
Spike chuckled. He couldn’t explain it, but he was almost having... fun. It was one of her better days... it had been so long. “Yeah, luv. Any one she likes.”
“Hear that Miss Edith? Now be good. Spikey might change his mind, and then you’d go hungry.” She held the doll to her ear, listening. “I know, dearie. But we must behave if we are to have... lemons.”
“Lemons?” Spike turned to her. Her head was tilted, and she sniffed the air lightly. “I smell... lemons.” She slowly turned her cat’s grin on Spike. It unnerved him. “Daddy’s home.”
Willow stood on the precipice, trying not to look down. While the sea below her unnerved her some, she was otherwise calm. She licked her lips, chapping against the cold wind.
“Light and Dark... the Forces... We can give you knowledge.”
She frowned. “Light and Dark? The Forces? I... I’ve never heard of these things... I mean, Light and Dark, sure, but... unless you mean Newton’s—”
“You will. If you will listen.”
She fidgeted. “But... My friends need me...”
“All the more reason to learn.”
She began gnawing lightly on her lower lip. “I... I’m not sure...”
“All we offer is knowledge.”
“I... I guess...” She took a breath and steeled herself against the butterflies rising in her stomach. “Yes. I want to learn.”
“Then let the lessons begin.”
The shadows swirled overhead, shrinking and widening again. Buffy sighed deeply as she stared into their mesmeric depths. She turned back to the Servitor.
“Why not just, oh, say, wave your hand and... make it better?”
“I am a greater servant of the Higher Powers.”
“Getting that. Somehow, that makes me think this is still nothing you can’t handle.”
“It is my duty to call the Champions, not to fight on their behalf.”
She raised an eyebrow. “So, in other words, you’ve got mondo power... you just can’t use it.”
She nodded. “Duh.”
“We must make haste for Sunnydale. Time is short.”
“How short - and why Sunnydale?”
“A day, maybe two.” His eyes flashed briefly. “Sunnydale is to be the battlegrounds.”
“Says who? Why not here, in L.A.?”
“There is no Hellmouth here.”
“So, somewhere where there is a Hellmouth that is still not Sunnydale.”
“The Tear started there. That is where Reality is weakest.”
A thought passed through her mind. Someone she knew might have had the power, if she had been practicing... playing with the Primal Forces. “Who started the Tear?”
He offered her a level look. “You.”
Lightning flashed inside the mansion, not a flash of light, but one of the absence of light. As it cast strange shadows across the walls, a thin black smoke seeped up from the stone floor, pooling into a tiny cloud of translucent black.
The smoke edged its way toward a window near by, struggling to push itself forward. It leaked over the edge, and pooled again on the ground below. Slithering, it made its way through the trees surrounding the old house, and out onto the street.
It could sense someone coming, and gathered itself in the shadows. Soon, it would have form.
Tracy Letterman was not in the best of spirits. She’d had a fight with her boyfriend, Nick, and decided to go on a jog. Jogging always calmed her, made her feel as though the world were flying past her; here and now were illusions, and she, Tracy, was a timeless constant.
She knew the risks, to be certain, of leaving the safety of her tiny apartment after sunset, but tonight, she didn’t care. And right now, nothing could touch her, nothing could take this feeling away.
But she was wrong.
touch her - black, moving smoke - and it did
take the feeling away from her, as it filled her with a dread and anguish she had never known. She became a prisoner, then, watching her body move through someone else’s will.
So, she curled into her mind, and tried to closer her eyes - a fruitless endeavor - and wished that she might get the chance to see Nick one more time. To say goodbye.
And wring his neck.
And, it seemed, her host seemed most amenable to this idea.
There are few forms of public transit that disgust her as much as busses. They’re largely uncomfortable, and there’s always some screaming toddler, and some pack of old ladies watching your every move. She had ignored most of the distractions on her way to L.A., lost in her own private misery, her drama brought to living stage, and hoped then that going home would never have to be an option.
But here she was, on a bus back to the nearest Hellmouth, where her mother, and friends, and Watcher were.
To save the world.
Buffy looked over at her companion, his eyes focused dead ahead, no doubt looking at their destination. She knew nothing of Beings of Cosmic Power, or their limits, but somehow, she didn’t doubt that he could see it from here; if nothing else, there was Hellmouth, and the gaping hole in reality that started there.
“You look really creepy doing that.”
He turned to her with eyes that were only whites. “I appear ‘creepy’ to all your kind.” He paused. “Humans, at least.”
“I am human.”
He turned his gaze back toward Sunnydale. “So you say.”
“I am. I eat, I sleep, I shit and breathe and bleed
. I’m human.”
He offered her another glance. “By that definition, you could be a dog, too.”
“I know a few dogs who talk.”
“So do I, but Scooby Doo doesn’t count.”
“Nevermind. The point is, I’m human.”
“You are the Slayer. You are stronger, faster, and more resistant to harm than a human. You are also a Champion.”
“One hell of a chariot.”
“I cannot simply will us there.”
“Why not? You’re the one who said time was short.”
“It is. But we must ready you for battle.” He stood. “Stop the bus.” The bus driver hit the breaks hard.
“Hey, what is this, pal?” A man stood up, grabbing at the Servitor. “You can’t just—”
“I can.” The man opened his mouth, then stopped. Everything stopped.
“Nice trick.” Buffy stood. “But why are we here?”
“There is something we must do.” He strode out of the bus, into the desert; Buffy followed.
It was a nice dream. Peaceful. Girls were in it. He was seventeen, so every dream had girls in them, but that didn’t make this one any less nice. This time, they were pillow fighting, and feathers covered the room - and yet, the pillows remained perfectly shaped. Like the girls.
And he was woken, because someone was watching him.
“If that were true, you’d be dead.”
“Is that any way to greet an old friend.”
“Old, maybe. Friend, no.”
“Now, Xander, aren’t we a little too close for these kinds of remarks?”
“Not really in the mood. How’s the ribs?”
Angelus leaned into the light. “Well, if you keep offering, I might have to do something about that.”
“Funny. I could scream—”
“Who would hear you? The nurses’ station is down the hall.”
“Push a button—” Angelus held up a severed wire. “Oh. Shit.”
“I just wanted to say ‘hi’. Maybe see Wills.”
“Don’t you touch her!”
“Should I... touch you, instead?” Angelus ran a finger from the teens’ ankle to mid-thigh, almost stroking. Almost... lovingly.
Xander shuddered. “Leave us alone.”
“I can’t do that, Xander. But I’ll tell you what. I’ll make a deal.”
“You haven’t hear my offer... and with Willow unconscious, no one to protect her...”
“Fine! What is it?”
“I won’t touch her—”
“—if you later do something for me. A... favor. I can call it in any time.”
Xander fumed. He would have leapt on the monster, pounded him down, and wrung his neck, but that he was injured... and frail. Human. Angelus had the power, here, and he knew it.
“I hate you.”
“Deal or no? Going once.”
“Fine. Just... leave her alone.”
“Agreed.” Angelus leaned close, running his finger up the other thigh, and Xander shuddered against his will. “Funny thing about hormones, Xand...” He leaned in close. “Makes you do all sorts of crazy things.” He pushed the finger further up the thigh, and Xander gasped.
“You said... she was... safe...”
“She is. But you, Xander...” He flashed a grin. “You’re mine, now.”