And What Alice Found There
By Maquis Leader
Author’s note: Post Not Fade Away. This is the seventh story written using the prompts from 600 Seconds. It follows Through The Looking Glass. Some of the prompts are pictures and those will be described. The prompts will be in bold.
“Down the rabbit hole, indeed.” Giles grunted as he slid down through the tight opening. He dropped the last few feet, landing with another pained grunt.
“At least you got through without losing skin.” Angel rubbed his shoulder. He’d stripped off both his duster and shirt in an effort to get through the opening that led into Sunnydale’s underground. Unfortunately, his broad shoulders had wedged him in partway down, and he’d needed Spike’s assistance to get the rest of the way through. Assistance being defined as Spike planting a boot on his head and shoving. Buffy had kissed his scraped shoulders, but Angel was still cranky.
Finding a way into what remained of Sunnydale had been harder than Buffy had thought it would be. The entrances that Angel and Spike knew about were filled with rubble and impassable. After a night of the group searching around the edges and walls of the canyon, Dawn had found a small shaft that opened into part of the old Sunnydale sewer system. She’d found it by walking over the shaft and having the hole collapse and drop her through. Luckily, only her pride was hurt.
“There’s a saltwater scent down that way.” Angel sniffed the air. “I think we’re near the docks.” He tilted his head to indicate the direction.
“You’re not sure?” Giles asked.
“I’m pretty sure. If we’re where I think we are, the other way should lead us to a Y intersection a quarter of a mile from here.”
“And if we’re not where you think we are?” Xander asked.
“Feel free to go back up and look for another way in.” Angel smirked. He wasn’t the only one who’d had trouble squeezing through the narrow shaft. Spike had “assisted” once again by grabbing a hold of Xander’s legs and hanging from them until his weight pulled Xander through.
Xander eyed the shaft. “Hey, I’m just asking.”
The smirk faded as Angel took Buffy’s hand and started down the passage. For Buffy there was an odd sense of déjà vu. How many times had she and Angel walked through the sewers under Sunnydale? Of course… Buffy looked over her shoulder. Back then they hadn’t had a pack of people with them.
Along with the usual Scooby crew, they’d brought Dawn and a handful of the older Slayers who’d demonstrated they could think on their feet. Giles was combining the need for extra fighters with the need for more training. There was only so much that could be learned in a controlled environment; this was a good chance to get their hands dirty. Dawn had been allowed to come along because she’d whined until Buffy had finally caved.
The Y intersection appeared at the quarter mile mark, and Angel led them confidently to the right. As they moved along, the tunnels gradually became more familiar to Buffy. To the untrained eye, the tunnels all looked the same, but Buffy could spot gouges in the brick caused by an earlier battle or stains made by some demon marking its territory. She was back on familiar ground.
Surprisingly, the tunnels were in good shape, with only a few places partially blocked by rock and debris. The biggest obstacle they had faced so far had been a Gor’nach demon who took umbrage at having its territory invaded. Its head took leave of its body shortly thereafter, and they’d moved on.
“It’s creepy down here.” Dawn complained for possibly the hundredth time.
“You should’ve stayed home.” Buffy didn’t think it was creepy, but then again, she was holding Angel’s hand.
“As soon as we find a way up to the surface, we’ll take it.” Angel said over his shoulder. “But I wouldn’t count on it.”
Every exit out of the sewers had been blocked off. The majority of trap doors and manholes they’d passed had given way under the weight of collapsed buildings and had allowed debris to pour into the sewer tunnels. The rest had been weighted down, and even the strength of two vampires plus a Slayer or two hadn’t budged them.
“You realize that even if there is a surface to get to, there’s no guarantee that it’s going to be easy going.” Buffy was more concerned that they’d find the bodies of those who wouldn’t or couldn’t leave before the Hellmouth ate Sunnydale.
“Anything’s better than this creepy, drippy place – “ Dawn shrieked as a king-sized rat ran past her. “Oh my God! Kill it!”
“It’s just a rat.” Buffy said dismissively. A well-fed rat, which did bother her. What was it feeding on?
Angel looked over Buffy’s head and caught Spike’s eye. He flared his nostrils as if scenting something. The other vampire nodded. He’d also caught the scent of decaying bodies from time to time. After a year there’d normally be very little left, but underground and in a cool place, some of the bodies would be decomposing at a slower rate.
“We can take the sewer all the way to the high school – there’s two different entrances into the school, if the school’s still standing.” Angel shifted his thoughts back to their current problem.
“Three.” Xander corrected Angel.
“Three? Since when?” There’d only been two back in the days when he’d been lurking around for Buffy.
“Since the new high school was built. I told them that there shouldn’t be any access from the sewers, and you know what they said?” Xander didn’t wait for Angel to answer. “They said, ‘you’re not the architect. Just shut up and build the place.’”
“Great.” It was bad enough that Angel was unfamiliar with the new high school, but now there was an extra entrance to worry about. With demons still living in what was left of Sunnydale, the last thing they needed was another attack point to cover.
“Let’s get closer to the building before we worry about how to get in.” Robin interrupted. “We still have a few miles to go before we’ll need to concern ourselves with that aspect.”
The group resumed their course through the sewer. Out of necessity, they were using low-power flashlights. Angel and Spike didn’t need light, and the Slayers could see nearly as well. Only the true humans of the group needed more light to see by, but they didn’t want to risk hampering the others if an attack came at them out of the darkness.
To minimize the danger if the group was attacked and to keep the most vulnerable members in the middle where they’d be better protected, they’d spread themselves out as much as possible.
At the point where even Angel was tired of wading through the muck, an exit out of the sewer presented itself in an unusual and gruesome way. A slab of the street above had given way, creating a steep ramp. At the bottom was a smashed car, along with piles of clothing that turned out to be decayed bodies.
The ramp wasn’t so steep that it couldn’t be climbed with a little effort. Apparently someone or something hadn’t wanted to expend any effort and they’d fashioned a ladder to use instead. Either they’d been short of supplies or creative; the ladder was made of human bones.
“I’m not using that.” Dawn wrapped her arms around herself in an effort to ward off the shivers of disgust. “It’s gross.”
“You’re the one who wants out of the sewer.” Buffy reminded her.
“Nobody’s using it.” Angel wasn’t concerned so much with the grossness factor as he was with the fact that the ladder appeared well used. Something was coming and going through this opening often enough to construct the ladder for convenience. “Buffy and I will check out what’s up there. Spike, you and Faith see if there’s a way past this in case we need to stay underground. Brigette, you and Caitlin keep an eye on our back. Rowena and Lijuan, you two guard the ramp. Anything comes down – kill it.”
“Yes, Your Highness.” Spike bowed deeply. Ignoring Angel’s glare, he moved around the crushed car and the chunks of pavement to see if they could slip past.
“Why didn’t I stake him when Dru brought him home?” Angel grumbled.
“Anything but you guys, right?” Rowena asked, glancing between Buffy and Angel.
With a final glare at the young Slayer, Angel turned his attention back to the ramp. He wasn’t sure if she was serious or not; part of the Slayer tradition seemed to be a little extra space between brain cells.
After listening and sniffing the dank air, Angel decided no one was lurking at the top and scrambled up the ramp’s rough surface. Once up on what remained of the street, he shifted into game face and scrutinized the darkness around them. Satisfied it was clear, he let his game face slide away before turning and motioning for Buffy to follow him.
“Wow…” She paused at the top to look around.
The majority of buildings had collapsed or been crushed by the slabs of rock that had fallen in on the city as it had sunk into the ground. A few one-story buildings still stood here and there, though most leaned to one side as if they needed to lie down and rest. Overhead, slabs of concrete and chunks of rock had fallen in such a way that they formed a bizarrely arched roof. Skeletons and human remains were scattered everywhere along the street.
“Angel – all this time there were people alive down here.” Buffy clutched at her stomach, suddenly queasy.
“We don’t know if they survived the collapse – “ He guided her away from the opening and down the street in the direction of the school. “I wouldn’t think anyone could survive this.”
Angel was lying, and they both knew it. He’d witnessed the earthquake in Budapest. There had been plenty of people who had survived when the building they were in had become nothing more than a pile of rubble. It had been the same during the great quake of San Francisco. People had survived in near impossible conditions only to fall prey to vampires and other demons who’d utilized the disaster as a means of easy hunting.
“It’s lighter up here.” Buffy looked around. “There’s lights on somewhere.”
“Fires or magical light maybe.“ Even demons preferred a little light from time to time.
“Look – “ She pointed at a flickering light down the street.
There was too much debris in the street to run or even jog. They were forced to walk, picking their way carefully, until they reached the end of the block. A warm, flickering light shone through the window of a small building.
“Should we knock?”
“Let me go first.” Angel told her. “If I can get in – there’s no one alive in there.”
“Be careful.” Her spidey sense was screaming.
Opening the door, Angel put his foot across the threshold. There was no resistance, and he entered, Buffy close behind him.
The front room was empty, the light coming from a doorway to their left. Silently, he stalked to the doorway and peered in.
Silhouetted by the light of several candles, a woman stood with one foot propped on a stool, adjusting her stocking.
For a moment, Buffy was embarrassed, as if she’d accidentally walked in on someone as they dressed. “I – uh – I’m sorry.”
“Are you?” The woman questioned softly. She looked up at them, smiling slightly. “You will be.”
Her face shifted and she charged toward them. Angel stepped forward, bringing his sword up so that she impaled herself on it. “Fledgling.” He said disgustedly.
Buffy lifted her scythe, prepared to take the vamp’s head off, but Angel stopped her.
“Tell me if someone new has come to Sunnydale.” The vampire reached out to claw at him. Angel twisted the sword, and she shrieked in pain. “Answer me and I’ll give you a quick death.”
“No – “ She gasped as Angel twisted the sword upward. Blood dribbled out of her mouth as her right lung was shredded. “Wait – I don’t know – “
Not convinced, Angel jerked the sword further, carving a path around her heart.
“I don’t know! Please!” Her face changed back to the face of the human it had once belonged to. “Please, don’t hurt me!”
“Last chance.” Angel let his game face surface as he inched the sword blade through her flesh. She’d get no pity from him.
Defiant, she spat blood at him. “Who are you to turn on your own kind?”
As the dust settled to the floor, he wiped her blood from his sword. “Who said you were my kind?”
“Now what?” Buffy asked. She shivered. God, he was hot when he was violent. Down, Buffy.
“Now we scout a little more and see if it’s better above ground or below.” A smirk curled his lips as his human face surfaced once more.
Outside once more, the two of them resumed walking in the direction of Sunnydale High. It almost felt like she was a normal girl, walking hand in hand with Angel in the dark. Normal except they were both carrying weapons and he was a vampire. Normal was overrated anyway.
They stopped after a few blocks. The way was getting easier; there was less rubble and debris, and more buildings were standing.
“We should probably go back.” Angel stopped and looked back the way they’d come. “It looks like the farther in we get, the easier the going is.”
“Yeah, which is scary when you think about it.” They walked back silently, still holding hands. As they passed the building where they’d met the fashion-conscious vampire, Buffy forced herself not to look. If the woman had been recently turned, then she’d been someone who survived the last battle of the Hellmouth, only to become some vamp’s dinner. “Won’t – whoever turned her, won’t they come looking for her?”
“Maybe. There were other vamps – two, maybe three others.” The strong smells of sex, blood, and liquor had made it difficult to sort through the tangle of scents without an effort, and Angel didn’t feel it was worth the effort. There were others – how many didn’t matter. “We’ll keep an eye out.”
“Business as usual.”
When they reached the opening down into the sewer, Angel stopped and called down. After getting the okay from Spike, he descended, helping Buffy down the steep ramp.
The strong scents of blood and sweat made Angel stop and lift his sword into a defensive position. “What happened?”
“The local welcome wagon dropped by for a bite.” A grin curled Spike’s mouth.
“Is anybody hurt?” Angel slid his gaze over the group, looking for Dawn. She was the weakest member of their group, and real or not, he loved her.
“A couple of scrapes and bruises, nothing serious.” Faith’s grin matched Spike’s. “It didn’t last long enough.”
Giles’ expression said otherwise. “How is it up there?”
“Weird.” Buffy was doing her best to make sure Dawn was okay without damaging her sister’s teenage ego, by eyeing Dawn from a distance and pretending she wasn’t looking for injuries.
“It’s rough going to start, but it clears up within a few blocks. We’d be better off up there.” Angel added.
“Are you sure? We’d be out in the open.” Giles was no fan of damp sewers, but it did limit the number of possible skirmishes.
“There’ll be more room to spread out.” Angel shook his head. “Down here, we could be sandwiched between two attacks and be in each other’s way.”
“It was a bit cramped, and I do like a little more room for a good scrap. Of course, not everyone needs room for a two-handed long sword.” Spike snickered.
Years of experience allowed him to ignore Spike’s comments. Pivoting, Angel climbed back up the ramp.
“I’m not saying he’s got inadequacy issues.” The other vampire shrugged as he followed Angel up the ramp.
Eyeing his own customized ball bat, Xander was torn between taking a free shot at Angel or defending carrying a large weapon. “Damn.”
Walking through the dim streets of Sunnydale, they stayed quiet and close together, aware that they were the only living beings – human beings at any rate – and vulnerable.
Occasionally, there were sounds as if they were being followed or paced by someone or something – but no attacks came. Both Angel and Spike were in game face, with Angel leading the group and Spike bringing up the rear. To the casual observer, it might appear that the two vampires were escorting a group of captives to their lair.
They’d briefly considered splitting up, but quickly discarded the idea. While they’d attract less attention, they’d also be cutting their fighting strength in half.
Angel focused on to the sounds coming from the right side of the street. Something was watching them, moving ahead and waiting for them, watching as they passed and then hurrying ahead again. There’d been other sounds as well, as if something was coming and going.
They’re relaying our position and strength. He glanced down at Buffy, and she nodded, letting him know she’d spotted their shadow as well.
Making a quick decision, Angel turned at the next cross street. They needed more room for the fight that was about to happen.
“Hey, aren’t we heading in the wrong direction?” Robin was familiar enough with Sunnydale – even in its current condition – that he knew they were no longer walking toward the high school.
“Depends on what we’re looking for.” Faith did a casual check to be sure her weapons were in place. Unlike Buffy, she still preferred to use stakes and if all else failed, the funny looking silver knife Robin had given her. An athame. It had been his mother’s, and Robin had told her that she’d probably appreciate it more than a ring. He was right; the curvy blade was kick-ass wicked and a hell of a lot more useful than a ring.
At the rear of the group, Spike nodded approvingly at the change of direction. Reaching out, he snagged the hand of Caitlin, the Slayer closest to him. “Come ‘ere, pet.”
She looked startled, but let him pull her against his side. Dipping his head down to rest his lips against her ear, Spike whispered softly. “Let’s hang back a bit, give ourselves more room.”
When she nodded, he took a half step away but kept a light grip on her hand. “Stick by me, sweetheart.”
To his left, Caitlin saw that Faith and Robin had drifted back and slightly to one side as well. They were also holding hands as if they were out for a casual stroll.
“When do you think they’re going to hit us?” Buffy asked. She kept her voice low, pitched only for Angel’s keen hearing.
“Soon.” Over the top of Buffy’s head, Angel caught Brigette’s eye. She was one of the more experienced Slayers, being one of those early Potentials who had found her way to Sunnydale after the Bringers had murdered her Watcher.
He tilted his head to one side. Catching Rowena’s sleeve, she indicated silently that they needed to move into position.
From where he was in the center of the group, Giles felt a surge of pride as the young Slayers moved easily into the formation they’d discussed on the drive to Sunnydale. Most of the girls had been in limited combat, encountering at the most three to four vampires during a patrol.
The battle for the Hellmouth and the night they’d rescued Angel and Spike had been the only actual full-scale battles most of the new Slayers had ever been involved in. A campaign of any real size called for coordination and planning so that they didn’t get in each other’s way or – in a worst case scenario – injure one another.
Giles felt that one reason they’d lost so many of the girls in the battle over the Hellmouth had been the lack of proper training and preparation. He’d resolved to never let it happen again.
“This is a good place to take ten.” Angel said as they walked between a pair of busted iron gates.
That was the prearranged signal to spread out and be ready for an assault. Moving in a casual, unhurried manner, the group broke apart and took up defensive positions, surveying the area for anything that could be used for or against them.
A large tree next to an overturned picnic table beckoned to Willow as a place of security. “Come on.” She took Xander’s hand and led him toward the makeshift refuge.
“Gee, and I forgot to pack a lunch.” He kidded.
The plan was for Giles, Dawn, and Xander, as the weakest members of the Scooby gang, to stay out of the way, taking shelter in an easily defendable spot. Willow would stay with them as their first line of defense. They turned out the flashlights, to help the others’ eyes adjust and to help hide their own position.
Buffy made a show of stretching, searching through the dimness as she turned. She stopped, realizing where they were. “Oh my God, Angel, we’re – “
The rest was lost as demons rushed in from the darkness.
Buffy’s scythe whipped up just in time to meet the charge of a very large, very ugly demon. “Eww! Have you been hiding down here all this time?”
“I’ll eat your liver for breakfast!” He snarled.
“Thank you, but no – “ She let his momentum impale him on the blade. He looked startled before collapsing at her feet. “What is it with the liver eating anyway?”
“Blood.” Angel answered from behind her. “Lots of it.”
“Of course, how silly of me.” She heard Angel grunt as he fought with whatever demon had attacked him. “Need a hand?”
“He’s got enough for both of us – “ Angel wove his sword in a tight, twisting pattern. Two of the arms dropped off the demon, leaving four to go.
Satisfied that Angel could handle things, Buffy jumped up onto the metal rail of the ride next to them. It rocked, and she took a moment to regain her balance.
A moment was all she had. The ride dipped under her as a pair of vampires leaped onto the other side. They were older than the female she and Angel had encountered earlier, but not by much.
Buffy judged their ages to be around a year, possibly a little over. She brushed dust off her jacket. At least they weren’t getting any older.
From her position above the battle, she took a quick survey. Robin and Faith stood back to back, both engaged with vampires. Spike was hacking something green into tiny bits, and the other Slayers were handling demons one-on-one with no apparent problems.
Where’s Willow? She turned to search out Willow’s hiding place. A grin covered her face as she watched Dawn startle a vampire by turning on her Maglite and aiming it at his face, leaving him momentarily blind and helpless. Xander’s customized baseball bat put an end to him a second later.
“Good job!” Buffy shouted to them. Raising her scythe over her head, she gave it a victory shake.
Angel’s shout brought her attention back to the battle and to the large horned demon reaching for her. “You are seriously ugly.” Buffy brought her scythe around and down, aiming to slice its head off. Instead, the thing caught the scythe behind the blade, pulling her forward.
“Hey!” Pulling back, Buffy found herself sliding on the slick metal beneath her feet. The ride was not the best place for a game of tug of war. Oh well, too late now. “It’s mine! Gimme!”
The beast bared a mouth full of jagged teeth at her. Smoke curled up from between its scaled fingers; clearly, the scythe was doing its own protesting at being mishandled, but the demon hung on despite the pain.
“You want it? Fine.” Using the demon’s pull, Buffy executed a forward flip over its head, releasing the scythe as she did so.
If it was startled by the move, it didn’t show. Instead, the beast spun around and lifted the scythe up with one hand as it reached for her with the other.
Buffy fell back, her joking mood gone. Whatever this thing was, it was faster and stronger than the average demon. She barely avoided the strike, wincing as the scythe blade struck metal with a screech of sparks. The ride shifted below her feet, tipping forward and causing her to stumble to her knees.
What might be labeled as a smile bared the demon’s teeth again, opening its mouth wide enough to display thick, sharp fangs. Hefting the scythe over its head, it let loose a roar as it prepared to bring the weapon down for the killing blow.
The roar choked off to an agonized scream as two feet of steel emerged from its chest.
“Buffy!” Angel shoved the body aside. “Buffy!”
“I’m okay. Quit yelling.” Getting to her feet, Buffy brushed dirt off the knees of her jeans.
“Pay attention!” He snapped at her. His heart, if it’d been beating, would have stopped when he’d seen her lose her footing.
“I’m sorry, I – “ As she straightened, Buffy caught sight of something moving behind Angel.
Slipping past him, Buffy snatched Angel’s sword from his hands and sliced the demon’s head from its body. An angry gurgle came from the toothy mouth as the head rolled away. The body collapsed, ochre colored blood gushing over the metal.
“Ick!” Buffy rescued her scythe from the spreading gore. “A chest strike doesn’t always mean a heart’s there, remember?”
“You need to remember we don’t need cheerleaders!” Angel leaned down, growling at her.
“Sorry.” She wasn’t, but Angel was baring his fangs at her and his eyes were an ominous amber shade. He was angry and when he was angry, he cut back on her quota of smoochies. “I used to be a cheerleader and I was good at it, too.”
The pout and the downcast eyes were pure feminine wiles, but Angel couldn’t remain angry with her. “No more cheerleading until after all the demons are dead.”
“I promise.” Buffy pressed a kiss to his lips.
“If you two are finished with the fluffy snoggin’, I think we’re all done here.”
Rising up on her toes, Buffy stuck her tongue out at Spike over Angel’s shoulder.
With the fighting over, they fell into their natural roles. Robin began checking to make sure that everyone was all right, Angel was examining the bodies of the dead demons, Spike was lighting up a cigarette, and Giles was looking thoughtful.
“Hey.” Buffy called as Willow walked up to her. “Any problems?”
“Nope.” She’d purposely kept the magic to a minimum, just a little minor levitation and movement, nothing to attract attention.
Angel nudged a dead demon of some kind. It was hard to tell what it was, riddled as it was with sticks and tree branches. He reminded himself never to piss Willow off.
“Oh my dear Lord… It never fails to amaze me how these things come to pass.”
Buffy turned to find Giles staring at the dead thing she’d killed. “English, please?”
“Dru’s dream.” Spike pointed at the ride she and the demon had fought on. “He’s a bit freaked out.”
Once the battle started Buffy had forgotten where they were. Angel had led them to the closest open area – Weatherly Park. The merry-go-round horses were splattered with blood.
“Blood or rain…” Giles sighed. “At least now we know that it’s not our blood.”
“For now.” Spike tossed his cigarette down and ground it out with his boot. “The night’s young.”
The house on Revello Drive was still standing, more or less. It was leaning on the tree Angel used to climb to get to Buffy’s bedroom window, and most of the windows were gone.
“So are we just killing time here?” Spike snarked. “A little sightseeing, perhaps?”
“We need to rest.” Angel caught Spike’s eye and then glanced toward Dawn.
The other vampire nodded imperceptibly. “I could do with a spot of rest myself, now that you mention it.”
Buffy looked the house over critically. It didn’t appear safe, and she voiced the concern aloud.
“Spike and I will check it out first.” Angel assured her. One of the skills a vampire picked up over years of holing up in old buildings was the ability to judge how stable they were. Having one’s lair collapse around one was embarrassing, to say the least.
Angel started in the front, Spike in the back, and they met at the foot of the stairs.
“Foundation’s good,” Spike told him. “Basement’s got water in it, but hasn’t affected the foundation yet.”
“First floor’s good, but upstairs – “ Angel looked back over his shoulder at the staircase. “It’s shaky. Wouldn’t take much to bring it down.”
“We’ll stick to the first floor then. It’s not like we’re here on vacation.”
“As vacation spots go, it’s not the best.” He agreed. “Especially with the stench coming from the refrigerator.”
“It’s got to go – “ Spike sighed and gazed heavenward. “I suppose I just elected myself.”
“That’s a good boy – show some initiative from time to time.” Slapping him on the back, Angel strode to the front door and waved the others inside. “Stay down here, the upstairs isn’t safe.”
“How much isn’t safe?” Buffy asked.
“How much?” Angel wasn’t sure exactly what she meant.
“Yeah, we need blankets and pillows and those are upstairs.” She peered up at the cracks in the ceiling. “So exactly how much isn’t safe?”
“How unsafe?” Angel weighed the risk and the benefits. The upstairs floors had creaked and shifted under his feet when he’d been up there. Then again, he outweighed Buffy by at least a hundred pounds. “You and Faith – moving slowly and very carefully – can you get what you need in one trip?”
Buffy looked at Faith, who nodded in agreement. “We can always toss stuff down.”
“Just be careful.” He gave her hand a quick squeeze before she started upstairs.
While they’d been talking, Xander had taken a quick tour of the ground floor. Many of the windows had already been boarded over after the last battle they’d fought here, but others were now broken that hadn’t been before.
“The basement’s safe, right?” He asked Angel. “I’ve got plywood down there we can use to cover the windows.”
“It’s safe.” Angel assured him.
A few moments later, cursing floated up the stairs that led to the basement.
“Did I forget to tell him about the water?” A smirk curled the corner of Angel’s lips.
Outside, Spike returned from dropping off the refrigerator in a neighbor’s yard. Lighting a cigarette to clear his senses, he watched as Willow paced around a corner of the house, sprinkling something powdery behind her.
“You need to get on the inside.” She told him.
“Planning some major mojo?” He took a few steps toward the house.
She shook her head. “I don’t want to do anything to attract attention.”
“You don’t think this Knave, whoever he is, doesn’t already know we’re here?”
“I hope not. I don’t know. Just in case, I’m going to do a low-key aversion spell. Can I borrow your cigarette?”
Spike’s jaw dropped and his cigarette nearly tumbled to the ground. “Since when do you smoke?”
“I don’t.” Willow held out her hand, her nose wrinkling with disgust as Spike gave her his cigarette. “I need to light the trail.”
As he watched, Willow used his cigarette to light the powder she’d laid down around the house. Spike edged away, uncertain what type of fireworks show she was setting off, but not wanting to be a part of it.
A small sparkle of light raced along the trail and out of sight around the corner of the house.
“That’s it?” The whole thing reminded him of a cut-rate Tinkerbell.
“I said it was low-key.” She put out the cigarette, covering it over with dirt.
“Hey, I wasn’t done with that!”
“Smoking’s bad for you.” She walked past him.
“I’m already dead, remember?”
Waving away the details, Willow went inside.
“Cheeky. If I didn’t have my soul, I’d take you down a peg.” Spike leaned against the side of the house and lit a fresh cigarette.
Inside, Willow found that the living room had been lit with a few candles scattered around the room. She nodded approvingly. Even with the windows boarded over, they needed to keep the light to a minimum.
“How are we doing this? Boys on one side – girls on the other?” Xander asked.
“This isn’t camp, Xander.” Buffy surveyed the room. The sofa bed had been opened up and a couple of people could sleep there. Her mattress and Dawn’s had both been brought downstairs, and there were plenty of sleeping bags and pillows left over from when the house was full of potential Slayers. Laid two deep, the sleeping bags would be reasonably comfortable.
“Giles and Xander, you guys take the sofa bed.” She ordered. “Dawn and Willow get a mattress and Robin, you take the other one. Everybody else find a spot on the sleeping bags.”
“Buffy, I will not sleep on a bed while young ladies sleep on the floor.” Giles protested.
“They’re Slayers, you’re not.” Buffy laid a hand on his arm and smiled in an attempt to soothe his ego. “I appreciate the chivalry, Giles.”
“Yes, well…” There was no arguing the fact that he was exhausted and half-asleep on his feet while Buffy looked as if she could continue on for hours. “I agree with the logic, but I must protest on general principle.”
“Duly noted.” She rose up on tiptoe and kissed his cheek.
“I’m not pleading my cause – I’m too tired.” Robin collapsed on one of the mattresses. Even with his birthright from his mother, he’d nearly reached his limit.
“You won’t have to.” Faith grinned as she sat down next to him. “You’re sharing.”
“No hanky panky. We’re supposed to get some sleep.” Buffy warned. Besides, if she couldn’t get any, neither could anyone else.
“I’m hungry.” Dawn opened her backpack and pulled out a bottle of water. “Who’s got the jerky?”
“Here.” Rowena unzipped her backpack and tossed Dawn a package.
As the others passed around jerky, granola bars, and water, Buffy wandered into the kitchen and watched Angel checking the plywood that had been nailed over the windows.
“Xander knows his way around a hammer, I’ll give him that.” Angel said as he turned.
“No doubt all the times he fixed my busted house were good training.” She agreed.
“Did you come in here to talk about Xander?”
“Nope.” Smiling, she slid her arms around his waist. “I was remembering the first time we were here together.”
“After The Three.” Wrapping his arms around her, Angel pulled her against his body. “You were so sweet taking care of me, bandaging me up.”
“I was stupid, you mean.” Buffy ran a fingertip over his cool lips. “How could I not realize you were a vampire?”
“Well…” He grinned. “You were probably entranced by my manly physique.”
“I’d laugh, but you’re right. I figured that weird feeling in my gut was because you were such a hottie and I wanted you to kiss me.”
“I wanted to.” Angel grinned again. “It was hard not to, you were so close and you kept looking up at me like you wanted a kiss.”
“So why didn’t you kiss me?” She pouted.
“Your mom came home.”
“What if she hadn’t?”
Angel tipped her face up and lowered his lips to hers. The kiss was sweet and gentle, exactly as he’d imagined kissing her if her mother hadn’t interrupted them that night.
Outside, Spike rolled his eyes. Did those two never get tired of fluffy scenes?
“All right, that’s enough, break it up.” He walked up the back steps and toward the pair. As he reached the open doorway, Spike collided with an invisible barrier. He tumbled back down the stairs, landing painfully on his backside. “Bloody hell!”
Breaking apart, Buffy and Angel turned to look at Spike. Buffy had a hard time keeping a straight face. Angel didn’t bother, and a rare smile covered his face.
“Tell Willow her damn spell won’t let me in!” Spike growled as he got to his feet.
“I don’t think it’s her spell that’s keeping you out.” Angel glanced into the other room where the others were settling in for the night.
“What the hell is it then?”
“You haven’t been invited.” Angel informed him.
“What the hell are you talking about? I was inside earlier.” Spike glared at his grandsire as he tested the barrier with his hands.
“Right, but the house was empty then.”
“Okay, now you’ve lost me. ‘Cos vamps can’t just enter an empty house when nobody’s home.” Buffy told him.
“When Spike and I came in, the house was abandoned. Now, you’ve moved in and it’s no longer abandoned.” Angel explained. “The house is a human domicile again.”
“So how’d you get back in?” Spike gave him a dirty look.
“I didn’t leave.” A smirk curled the corner of Angel’s lips.
The rules about vamps being able to come in without an invitation confused Buffy to no end. Houses required an invitation, apartments and mobile homes, too – but not hotels, even if someone lived in one.
“Your nose wrinkles up when you’re confused.” Angel ran his finger down her nose. “It’s cute.”
“Only you think so.” She slid her arms around Angel’s waist once again.
“Oh for the love of – “ Spike turned his back, leaning on the barrier as the pair began kissing again.
Buffy pulled away from Angel’s lips. “Come on in, Spike.” She giggled at the yelp of surprise and the crash behind her.
Angel snapped out of the light doze he’d been in. He hadn’t been sleeping, but then he really didn’t need to; he could go without sleep for several days. A light, meditative doze was all he needed to recharge for now.
The house was quiet – quiet except for the heartbeats and steady breathing that he’d long ago learned to filter out. Even Xander’s light snoring and Faith’s muttering wouldn’t have broken his concentration. Something else had disturbed him, some sound that didn’t fit in.
He glanced across the sleeping bodies to where Spike sat facing the television. The other vampire appeared to be dozing, but Angel could tell that Spike was also fully awake and tense as if he’d heard something as well.
Angelus informed Angel in his usual snarky manner that there was someone outside. The only advantage to having a demon inside of him was that Angelus never slept. More than once the demon had saved him from being staked in his sleep.
Getting up, Angel moved silently to the front door and peered outside through the small glass windows set into the door. Spike drifted over to look as well.
Outside a vampire was walking back and forth in front of the house. He would stop and cock his head to one side, clearly hearing the heartbeats, and then start toward the sound, only to end up turning and walking past the house. After several minutes of repeating the pattern, the vampire snarled in frustration and walked away.
“For a small spell, that’s pretty impressive.” Spike observed softly.
“Sometimes smaller’s better.” Only after he’d settled back down in front of the chair where Buffy was curled up asleep did he look back up at Spike, a smirk curling his lip. “But only sometimes.”
Spike recognized the insult buried in the comment, but he let it go for now.
Threading his way back around the sleeping bodies, he settled back into the chair in front of the television. It was blank as there was no power, and he wasn’t certain it would get any reception as far down as they were, but Spike found that staring at it helped him focus and rest.
He could imagine further adventures for his favorite soap characters until he fell into a light, restful doze. TV writers could take lessons from him.
Angel singled out Buffy’s heartbeat and breathing from the others and let it lull him to his former restful state. There were no mocking comments from Angelus as the demon waited and watched.