That Good Night
By Maquis Leader
Author’s note: Post Not Fade Away. A continuation of the storyline started in Still Standing To Spite The Fall. Written using the prompts from 600 Seconds. The prompts will be in bold.
Lorne stopped and stared. There were some strange goings on in the old neighborhood. The buildings on either side of the Hyperion had been remodeled, and the hotel itself was lit up as if practically every room was occupied.
Walking up to the main door of the hotel, he took note of the discreet plaque. “Summers School for Young Ladies.” He smirked. “Call Paul Revere, the British have invaded.”
As he neared the entryway, Lorne began to feel an irritating sensation, as if Mr. Blackwell were looking him over and penciling him onto the worst dressed list. The closer he got, the worse the sensation got. Stopping, he stared at the door. “They knew what they were saying when they said you can never go home again. Whoever they are.”
Lorne took a deep breath and forced himself to walk the last few feet, his teeth gritted against the urge to turn and run. “The last cashmere sweater that’s seventy five percent off – the last cashmere sweater that’s seventy five percent off – “
He grabbed the door handle for support, pulling desperately only to find it locked. Pounding on it with more force and less style than he normally used, Lorne stayed in place only by sheer force of will.
The door opened after a few moments, and a dark skinned man stared at him.
“Okay, the horns are unusual, I’ll admit – “ Lorne forced a smile. “But the green skin is just the thing, don’t you agree?”
“Krevlorneswath of the Deathwok Clan, nice to meet you. Can you do something about the itching powder spell you’ve got going on out here? I don’t have the secret password, but I’m an old friend of Angel’s.”
Reaching out, Robin took Lorne’s arm and pulled him inside. There was a crackle as Lorne passed through the invisible barrier.
“Wow.” Turning, Lorne looked at the doorway. Now that he was on the inside, the wet wool itch on his skin had stopped. “That’s some spell. The Furies?”
“It’s a combination of spells, actually.” He held his hand out. “Robin Wood.”
Never one to go where a thousand one liners had gone before, Lorne ignored the obvious joke. “Normally I’d love to chat and exchange recipes, but I really need to talk to Angel.”
“Angel’s upstairs, I’ll call – “
“Lorne!” A voice called out from behind them.
Lorne looked up to see Angel coming down the stairs. “Angel, we need to talk.”
“It’s good to see you!” Angel grabbed him and pulled him into a hug. “I was afraid you meant it when you said you wouldn’t be back.”
“I did.” He patted Angel on the back before gently pushing him away. “And I wouldn’t be here, but there’s a ton of bad mojo going on.”
Wasn’t there always? “Whatever the reason, I’m glad to see you.”
A trio of girls came out of the elevator, where they stopped short and stared.
“This is Lorne.” Angel quickly stepped between them and Lorne. “Remember the pictures? We talked about him? Green guy, red horns – one of the good guys?”
“Um, yeah.” One of the girls nodded. They skirted around Angel and Lorne and went outside.
“Are these some of those new slayers?” He watched as another group of girls came down the stairs.
“Yeah… ah… let’s go into my office.”
“So you’re really running a slayer school?” Settling in a chair, Lorne sighed. It had been a long and frantic drive from Reno. “I heard that and thought ‘this is just too crazy to believe’, so of course I should have believed it.”
“I tell myself that everyday.” Angel sat on the edge of the desk.
“You look good, Angel cakes. How about the rest of the gang?”
“They’re gone. There’s just me and Spike now.”
“That was something else I heard, but I didn’t want to believe that one either.”
There was a moment of silence for their lost friends. Angel shifted uncomfortably. “What’s going on?”
“The word is, the soldier boys have a powerful new weapon and there’s no safety.”
His translation skills were a little rusty, but Angel understood enough to worry. “End the world powerful or just losing a general location powerful?”
“On a scale of one to ten? About a gazillion.” Lorne looked around the office. “How about a drink for a lonely traveler?”
“Sure, you want tea, soda, or water?”
“Water?” He held up his hands as if warding off danger. “What have these girls done to you? The only reason for water is to rinse out my glass when I’m done for the night.”
“We don’t keep any liquor in the hotel, you know, because of the girls.” Leaning closer, he whispered. “Spike’s got some whiskey hidden upstairs.”
“Let’s go.” Lorne got up. “I need a stiff drink or ten for this one.”
Out in the lobby, they found a large group of girls trying to act casual. Angel frowned at them and cocked his head toward the door. The girls detoured around the circular divan in the center of the lobby and went outside.
“So what do you call that many slayers?” Lorne moved a little closer to Angel as they went up the stairs. “A gaggle?”
“Hormones and strength can’t be a good combo.”
“Don’t say that too loud, we’re outnumbered.” Angel waved away another group of girls hanging around at the top of the stairs. They scattered obediently. News traveled fast in a hotel full of females.
“You always had a way with the ladies.”
“Don’t say that too loud, either.” He smiled slightly. “Buffy’s the jealous type.”
“So her Slayerness really is here?” Lorne tsked. “That’s three for three, I really should give the rumor mill its due. Angel and Buffy running a slayer school was just too out there. My world is all askew.”
“We don’t run the school. She shops and I teach art.”
“Everyone has their talents.”
Angel opened the door to Spike’s suite. The blonde looked up from his book and frowned. “Knocking. You have heard of it?”
“Do you still have a bottle up here?”
“Why, Angel, you know that we’re not supposed to have alcohol with all these impressionable young birds around.” Spike said drolly.
“Not even a sip for a weary traveler?” Lorne followed Angel into the room.
“Well look who’s found his way home!” Getting to his feet, Spike limped to a cabinet and opened it to reveal several bottles of liquor. “I’ve got whiskey, whiskey, and whiskey – what’ll you have?”
“Such a variety. I’ll have whiskey.”
Grabbing three glasses, Spike handed one to Lorne and another to Angel. He opened the bottle and poured a finger of whiskey in each glass.
“The war hasn’t started yet, honey.” Lorne eyed his glass. “We’re not on rations.”
“A man after my own heart.” Spike topped off Lorne’s glass. “Here’s to old friends.”
“And older booze.”
Angel sipped at his whiskey, watching as Lorne knocked back his own drink and held his glass out for a refill. Whiskey wasn’t Lorne’s style; he normally liked a little sweetness to cover the bite. As the second glass followed the first and Lorne’s glass was held out again, Angel began to worry. Guzzling wasn’t Lorne’s style either.
Limping back to his seat, Spike waved a hand at them. “Sit down, tell me why we’re getting drunk.”
He hadn’t driven all night and wrinkled his favorite suit just to get shit faced, at least not until he’d passed on his message of impending doom. Sighing, Lorne set the empty glass on the cabinet and took a seat. “The government soldier boys, they’re messing with something they don’t understand, and it’s dangerous in a big way.”
“The Army?” Angel frowned. “Aren’t they happy with nuclear bombs and Star Wars?”
“Don’t forget those smart bombs, those – “ Spike stopped. “Soldier boys? The Initiative?”
“The Demon Research Initiative. A fancy name for the Final Solution for demons.” Lorne said bitterly. “Never mind if a demon is a good guy with great fashion sense, I might add. They want us all dead.”
“I’ve dealt with them all I care to, thank you very much.” Spike poured himself another drink. “You can count me out.”
“I’ve had my own run in with them.” During World War two, Angel had been forced to rescue a submarine full of men. A sub that had also been full of vampires the Germans were preparing to do research on. “Once was enough.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you were the guys to talk to about saving the world.” A sneer curled Lorne’s lip. “Can you point me to where the heroes are around here?”
“Lorne, it can’t be that serious – “
“Some of those little girls, maybe? They’re young, but I bet they have the fighting spirit.”
“What can they have done?” Spike snorted. “Are they putting chips in Gachnar demons now?”
“Just sit here and sip your toddies.” Lorne stood up. “Do what tired old men do – leave the battle to the ones who still have the guts for it.”
That stung. Angel got up from his chair. “I’m not ready to sit in front of the fire just yet. It’s just hard to believe that the Initiative is any real threat. They’re amateurs.”
“Normally, I’d be right there with you in mocking them. But not after what I saw.” The cinnamon eyes were haunted.
Lorne looked tired, more so than Angel had ever seen before. Even his captivity in Las Vegas hadn’t left him looking this worn down. “Let me get Giles and the others together so you only have to tell everything once. Your room is just like you left it, go get some sleep.”
“A hot shower and a nap sounds good.” He sighed wearily once more. “Let me have a couple hours to recharge my batteries.”
“We’ll rally the troops.” Spike grinned. “Be like old times, it will.”
“Too bad they weren’t fun times.” He opened the door. “Why don’t we ever get attacked by demons who want to challenge us to a cook off?”
“We do. Except they always want to cook us.”
As they left Spike’s suite, Lorne noticed that Spike was limping. “What happened?”
“Someone tried to use my head for batting practice.” Spike said matter-of-factly.
Buffy was moving restlessly in her sleep, the sheets twisted around her body. A frown pulled her lips down.
Careful not to startle her, Angel sat on the edge of the bed. There was enough golden skin exposed to make him forget for a moment why he was there. He ran his fingertips along her cheekbone and down to her lips. They were pink and moist, and Angel gave in to the urge to kiss them.
When she sobbed softly against his lips, Angel gathered her up in his arms and cradled her to his chest. “Shh…”
She trembled against him, still caught in the throes of her dream.
“Buffy, wake up.” He rubbed a hand up and down her back. “Buffy, it’s only a dream, wake up.”
Her body stiffened suddenly, her spine arching under his fingers and her head snapping back. Her eyes opened, wide and frightened, staring into his. “Doors – they’re opening – doors – “
“It was a dream, just a dream.” The gray eyes focused on his, and Angel smiled. “You’re safe.”
“Angel?” Buffy blinked, the last of the dream fading away. “Angel, I keep dreaming about doors. Make it stop. I don’t want to dream anymore.”
He brushed a kiss across her lips once more before pulling her back against his chest. “Tell me the dream, that’ll make it go away. Set it free from your mind.”
As much as she wished that were true, Buffy knew it was one of those dreams. A warning of things to come. Closing her eyes, she let her head fall back on Angel’s shoulder. Someday maybe she could dream of good things to come. Like a naked Angel in her bed.
“There’s doors and I know they shouldn’t open. I keep trying to close them, but another one always opens.”
“Is there anything special about the doors?”
“The doors…” Buffy tried to focus on the images in her memory. “They’re big… black... red along the edges… and the locks are broken.”
Giles frowned. Red and black were classic symbols of danger. “Why do you think the doors shouldn’t open?”
“I don’t know.” She frowned. “It just feels bad. Like… I dunno, just bad, really bad.”
He’d trust her instincts to know when something was wrong. “Any other impressions?”
“There’s a lot of stone. It’s weird, like old, very old, but new. Like…”
“Like the Matrix.” Faith added. “There was a techno weird feeling,”
Giles jotted that down. As strange as their descriptions were, any little detail could be important. “You’ve both been having these dreams? Why haven’t you mentioned them before?”
“It’s just been the last night or two.” Faith shrugged. “I have freaky dreams all the time. Sometimes I dream I’m back home and my mom’s bitching at me ‘cos I drank the last Pepsi.”
“Be that as it may, dreams of this nature are to be reported in the future.” He said sternly. “Prophetic dreams are a part of your abilities and are not to be disregarded.”
When Faith looked down at the table and her shoulders slumped, Giles softened his reprimand. “Be good from now on and I’ll give you a cookie.”
There was laughter at that, and even Angel smiled. Wes had never lived down Buffy’s flippant comment.
“Everything was blue!” Buffy said suddenly. “A weird color, though.”
“Yeah! Yeah! Like… a funky blue, like LED lights almost.” Snapping her fingers, Faith tried to find the words to describe it. “Icy, but hot at the same time.”
“Silver blue.” Buffy added. “Like a robot – but alive.”
“What about you, Robin? Any dreams?”
Robin turned a startled look on Angel. “No. Why?”
“I was just wondering.” Angel didn’t know why he was so fascinated with Robin’s inherited abilities. Perhaps because his own dreams of having a child with Buffy and watching that special child grow were gone. Signed away with his own blood.
He turned back to Buffy. “Tell me more about how things are stone.”
“There’s a long curving stairway.” She closed her eyes and focused on the images once again. “I have to switch my scythe to my left hand because the stairs are curving along the right wall. The steps are narrow on my end but wider at the other.”
“Was it a castle?” Forcing attackers to fight left-handed as they climbed up was an ancient defense tactic. It was generally a successful tactic unless your attackers were ambidextrous or non-human. Or in his case, both.
“I – I think so.” Her brow furrowed as she tried to see more of the picture. “Outside there’s a tower. There’s windows I can see it through – no, not windows – “
“Big openings, like I’m outside, but not.” Faith had closed her eyes as well. “It’s cold, there’s a cold wind.” She shivered.
Angel picked up the pencil and notepad that were on the table in front of him. “Focus on the tower. Can you make out any details?”
As they recalled bits and pieces of their dreams, Angel sketched until a picture began to emerge. A stone stairway that curved up and out of sight, and to the left, through a large opening, another tower could be seen.
“Yeah, that’s it.” Faith looked over his shoulder at the sketch. “The tower, it has a railing around the top.”
“And there’s some windows up here.” Buffy tapped the top of the other tower.
“Wow.” Willow said admiringly. Until now, she’d never appreciated Angel’s artistic talent. Granted, the only examples she’d seen were the pictures he’d done when Angelus was loose in Sunnydale years earlier. “Hey, I bet if I scan this in and run a search, the computer might be able to find a match.”
“There’s not a lot of detail.” Angel shook his head. “I hate to burst your bubble, but I’ve seen a thousand castles that look like this.”
“That was back then.” The redhead grinned. “Most of those castles are gone now. Just ancient crumbly ruins.”
“I’m not that old.” He frowned.
“It may be a long shot, but it’s worth a try. Google away, Will.” Handing the sketch to Willow, Buffy patted Angel’s hand to soothe his ego. He was sexy when he pouted but it wasn’t his best look.
Murdoch came into the room, dropping into a chair next to Giles. “I spoke with Natalia and she said that several of the older girls have been having restless nights and odd dreams.”
“Perhaps we should ask the girls to start recording any odd or recurring dreams in a journal from now on.” Giles made a note on his notepad. “Did Natalia know if the seers have had any visions?”
“Apparently they haven’t.” The other man snorted. “You know they never see anything until it’s damn near too late. Bloody unreliable, they are.”
Angel hadn’t found that to be true with Doyle or Cordy. Maybe they had cut it close a few times, but they’d always been on the mark. “I’ve found seers to be pretty reliable.”
“You’ve never had one send you on a wild goose chase then, have you?” He waggled his fingers in the air. “Vague impressions is all they give a man to go on.”
He remembered all too well the sudden impact of a message from The Powers That Be and how Doyle and Cordy had both suffered from their gift. And eventually died because of it. “You should have a little more respect for people who have an ability beyond your comprehension.”
Murdoch had seen the signs before; Angel was displaying the classic behavior of a hostile vampire. Eyes flickering to amber and back, lips curling back to expose the tips of his canines, the muscles along the jaw and cheek tightening in anticipation of the change.
“My apologies.” Turning his hands palm up to show they were empty, Murdoch tipped his head down and averted his gaze slightly in a submissive gesture. He’d seen the behavior but had never before attempted to mimic it.
“My goodness, but are the vibes intense in here!” A voice broke the tense silence.
Shifting his gaze from Murdoch, Angel saw Lorne in the doorway. “You were expecting things to be different?”
“Call it a flight of insanity, but yes.” Lorne sat down at the table. “So what’s the story, kiddies?”
“Bad dreams, castles, and blue.” Angel said matter-of-factly.
Murdoch was eyeing Lorne with undisguised curiosity, and Lorne shifted nervously. “Do you mind? I feel like the ninety nine cent value meal.”
“I’m glad we’re finally meeting, Lorne. I only wish it were under better circumstances.” Giles turned to a clean page in his notepad. “Can you tell us what you saw?”
“Sugar pie, I’d take it out and hand it to you on DVD if I could.” The images would probably never leave him, short of surgical removal. “I don’t suppose someone could rustle up some breakfast? I’d like to have something in the bottom of my stomach to catch the booze I’ll be guzzling later.”
“I’ll get you something.” Xander told him. “That’s my job.”
“Hey, you’ve got lots of jobs!” Willow protested. “Important ones, like killing the bugs.”
“You are the bug killer supreme.” Buffy agreed. “Vamps I can deal with, bugs I need a strong he-man type for.”
“Sure, sure, be sexist when it suits your needs.” Xander patted Buffy on the shoulder as he left the room. “But when I ask for mud wrestling, are you with me then?”
“I settled in Reno, it’s nice and quiet.” Lorne started his tale. “I kept a low profile, no readings, no singing for my supper. Just relaxing and soaking up the peace and quiet.”
“Reno’s an odd place for peace and quiet.”
“I can only get so far from the glitter without withdrawals.” He smirked. “So I’m at a quiet little club with a…ah… friend. Enjoying a drink. No karaoke, no jukebox, nothing anyone can sing to, with, or about in other words.”
“No accidental readings.” Angel knew Lorne needed someone to sing before he could read them in most cases, but he wasn’t sure if Giles and the others were aware of that fact.
“My… friend and I were… enjoying each other’s company when this racket starts up. Happy birthday in the key of atrocious.” He winced at the memory. “I couldn’t help it, I turned around to beg for mercy and there it was.”
“What?” Caught up in the story, Willow prompted him to continue.
“The end of the world.”
A sigh escaped Buffy. “Why can’t we ever get a vision of a big sale somewhere? Two for one on shoes?”
“I get those, sweetheart, but not nearly often enough. And I could use some new shoes if the world doesn’t end.”
“Lorne.” Angel said impatiently.
He’d driven like a crazy man to tell what he’d seen, but now he found it hard to put it all into words.
“Take your time.” Buffy said gently. As hard as it was to share her dreams of what might happen, she couldn’t imagine sharing a glimpse of a near certain future. A near certain disastrous future at that.
Lorne gave her a grateful smile. “I saw him, in uniform and surrounded by people in uniforms. Some were in lab coats like they were doctors or something. A portal opened up and some of the uniforms went in. It closed and then it opened again and big ugly types came out and started killing.”
Xander brought in a tray and set it down in front of Lorne. “Lucky for you, the kitchen is open 24/7 around here. Lots of growing girls to feed.”
Picking up the fork, Lorne lifted a bite of scrambled eggs and chewed carefully. They were good, and he wondered if they were the last he’d ever have. He dabbed at his mouth with a napkin before continuing. “They managed to kill the demons and close the portal. But it opened again. This time a different type of demon came out – bigger and uglier. And lots of them. They’re killing everyone. Another portal opens next to the first one, and then another one. And another. Until there’s nobody left. Anywhere.”
“The Initiative has found a way to open portals?” Giles rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Do they not understand the danger?”
“From what I saw, obviously not.” Taking another bite of his eggs, Lorne savored the taste.
“Up to now, the Initiative has been fairly harmless.”
“Says you!” Spike protested. “They put a damn chip in my head!”
“That hardly compares with destroying the world.” Murdoch said dryly.
“Pretty much destroyed mine.” The vampire grumbled. “Lost my dignity, my girl, my minions.”
“What dignity?” Angel snickered.
“What minions?” Xander added a snicker of his own.
“If we can get back to the crisis at hand?” Giles read back through his notes, marking common passages in the three accounts. “Doorways, those of course would be the portals. Buffy had her scythe, so that is the fighting, and Faith mentioned the ‘techno’ feeling, which is the Initiative and their scientific approach to things. Was there anything else? Anything at all?”
Buffy looked at Faith. “There was this really powerful feeling, did you get that?”
“Yeah, big and evil, like it was smothering me.”
“There was some shouting ‘we shouldn’t have done it here’ and ‘this place’ – something about ‘this place’.” Shivering, Lorne took a drink of his coffee. It didn’t help without a whiskey chaser.
The others turned to look at Willow.
“A Hellmouth, I mean. There’s more than one. And they attract demons because of the power.” She modified the search her laptop was running. “I’ll check for castles that are on or near a Hellmouth.”
“Willow, do you really think that will be on the internet?” Giles watched her type in the new requirements.
“Trust me, everything is on the net.”
“Should I call Riley?” Buffy asked. Beside her, she felt Angel stiffen.
“Can he help?”
“I don’t know.” She shrugged. “Maybe he can warn them or get them to stop.”
“Except those military buggers don’t believe in magic and hocus pocus.” Spike reminded her. “They’re sure there’s a scientific explanation for everything.”
“Well there is. Magic has rules just like science. Magic is just a new set of laws of physics that they don’t understand.” As far as Willow was concerned, magic and science fit nicely together.
Buffy turned to Angel. At some point she’d unconsciously ceded her authority to him. Planning wasn’t her strong point. In the long run, she was a weapon to be turned loose on the enemy.
Taking her hand, he squeezed gently. “Call Riley and explain the situation. Willow will keep searching for likely places the Initiative could have something this big set up. Spike and I will go talk to some people and see if anybody’s heard anything.”
“Good plan.” Giles nodded. “I’ll prepare a spell to close the portals just in case.”
“I’ll help with that.” Murdoch followed Giles as he left the room. “Bookwork isn’t my favorite thing, but neither is the end of the world.”
As the room emptied, Lorne settled back to finish what might be his final breakfast in peace.