If it’s Tuesday, this must be Sunnydale: Eighth post

This entry is part 8 of 10 in the series If it's Tuesday, this must be Sunnydale
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If it’s Tuesday, this must be Sunnydale

The story begins here.

Disclaimer: All characters are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, etc. Only the lame plots and dialogue herein are mine.

Notes: Set in version of S6 that is so AU it’s nearly angst-free. Buffy either didn’t die at the end of S5 or was happy to come back. Everyone gets along, more or less, at least until someone gets a really nifty notion.

Rating: R, barely

Thanks: to keswindhover and revdorothyl for the beta, not to mention coming up with the plot bunny in the first place. I am wholly to blame for any errors. And thanks to itmustbetuesday for the comm, and because her name prompted me to think of a title at last.

I forgot to acknowledge Katharine Briggs’ Abbey Lubbers, Banshees & Boggarts in some earlier posts. (Wow, look at that price on a new copy! It looks like you can get used ones for a song, though.) I have several of her books of folktales, and after browsing through some of the stories in this one for the first time in many years, I’m tempted to reread the others. Several of the “demons” in my story are stolen borrowed from Briggs’ collection, although I’ve changed their habits, physical characteristics, and even their names to suit my purposes.

For a very different treatment of selkies, see also The Secret of Roan Inish.

And, at last, it is Tuesday.
Rage, Rage against the Lying in the Night
Tuesday,the Final Night of the Tour

Morning

Over the course of a week Buffy had experienced an unpleasant variety of emotions. There had been confusion, curiosity, suspicion, guilt over being suspicious, denial, fear of abandonment, and utter bewilderment.

But the current stage was full-fledged fury, most of it directed at the boyfriend who had given her the slip for what she was determined would be the last time.

He wasn’t in his crypt, but his TV and fridge were back. His tatty old bits of furniture had replaced the various monstrosities that had previously replaced them. The skulls had been tossed back in a corner. If she hadn’t seen his efforts at interior decoration, the only change she would have noticed was a purple plastic container. When she pried it open, she found herself staring at his damn soap opera magazines. She tried to find some significance in that and failed.

Spike certainly wasn’t at her house, and Dawn, when she finally woke up, swore she had no idea where he’d gone, but that she was sure he wasn’t doing anything wrong. Since making excuses for Spike was practically Dawn’s hobby, Buffy was not reassured.

Buffy looked into the Magic Box three times when she was supposed to be making deliveries, and not only was Spike not there, neither was Anya. The young woman Anya and Giles had hired as part-time help had denied any knowledge of the whereabouts of anyone at all.

There was no one at Xander and Anya’s apartment, at least no one who would answer the door. Since it was Spring Break, UC Sunnydale was almost deserted, and she couldn’t find Willow and Tara among the few students still on campus.

Buffy even tracked down Clem, but his first words to her were, “Hey, Buffy, do you have any idea where Spike is? I’ve got a couple of good movie rentals I’ll have to return soon and he hasn’t seen them yet.”

Around Noon

Buffy slung her messenger bag back over her shoulder and headed back to town. She should have just taken the bus back from the office park, but maybe a long walk would clear her head, and she could make up the time by skipping lunch. It wasn’t like she had an appetite anyway.

The new office buildings she left behind would eventually be surrounded by more office buildings, but much of this patch out on the edge of town was still rural. She tried to look around and enjoy the scenery.

Take a nice country walk, Buffy. Sunlight, grass, birds flying overhead. A chance to enjoy nature, to calm down and think things through.

Except when she looked closer, she realized the birds were turkey buzzards.

A detour across the fields revealed a very unpleasant rural scene.

Poor horsie.

Early Afternoon

Buffy took another detour on her way back to the office. She found the construction site where Xander was working, climbed up to a floor that barely existed yet, and cornered him.

Well, there were no corners yet either, so it was more accurate to say that they were each standing at one end of a big beam, and her end was the only one that led to something besides thin air.

Xander looked behind him, verifying there was no way to inch backwards. “Really can’t talk now, Buffy,” he said, even though she didn’t look very likely to apologize for the interruption and leave.

She didn’t. “Those are words I’m getting very tired of hearing. When can you talk?”

Xander reminded himself that all he had to do was stall. “You know what? I can take some time off tomorrow. Why don’t we all sit down and have a nice talk about this then. Someplace a little closer to the ground. With chairs. And a floor for the chairs to be on. Maybe late morning? Early afternoon would be better.”

“I can’t wait that long.” Buffy stamped her foot and the beam shook. “Xander, what’s going on with all of you? At first I thought it was just Spike, but after seeing you and Willow at the Bronze, I’m starting to wonder if you guys are having problems with Anya and Tara too.”

“Uh, Buffy, please? We haven’t exactly got our feet on the ground.” Cautiously, Xander lowered himself to sit on the beam. It wasn’t much of an improvement, since now he was staring up at an angry Slayer. “Don’t worry about Anya and me or Willow and Tara. Really. That thing at the Bronze—no big.”

Buffy crossed her arms. “No big. Anya didn’t care some girl was trying to suck your brains out through your ear?”

“No. I mean, no, she wasn’t thrilled, but it’s dealt with. She’s not upset at all about that.” He added again, for emphasis, “Really.”

“What about Spike, then?”

He tried to look confused. “She’s not upset about him either.”

That shattered her scary calm into scary distress. “Why would Anya be upset about him? I’m the one who’s upset. He’s been acting crazy in love with me one minute, and disappearing the next, or being late, or not showing up when he says he will!”

“Well, he’s never been the most stable guy, after all.” Xander was more concerned about the stability of the beam he was sitting on. “And there is that whole evil thing he’s got going.”

“Evil? He’s doing something evil?” She didn’t look scary now; she looked like she might start to cry.

Xander backpedaled verbally. Physically, he clung to his position. “No, no, I’m sure it’s not evil. Not much.” His next words were chosen almost at random. “Maybe he’s just cheating on you.” He cringed away from the sound of his own voice. Okay, that may not have been the smartest thing I ever said. In fact, it might be the dumbest, and that’s saying something.

“Harris!” someone yelled. “Who’s the crazy blonde up there without a helmet? Get her out of here before we get an OSHA citation!”

Xander tried to think of a way to fix things. He came up empty. “You’ve really got to go Buffy. Really.”

“Really,” she said. She left and, shaking, he crawled back to safety.

Early Evening

This is not happening to me again. Buffy stalked down the sidewalk of a nearly deserted Sunnydale, her sword clutched in her hand. I’m not losing this boyfriend. He’s going to find out that leaving me is not an option. Unless he really has crossed the line, in which case he’s leaving as dust on the wind.

The problem was, she couldn’t figure out what the line was that Spike might have crossed, and why he seemed to have dragged most of her friends over it with him.

She’d created a new path to patrol, one that was geared not to finding the odd anonymous vampire, but to snaring the oddest one of all. She’d been to his crypt. She’d given all the demons at his usual poker game a scare. Now she left the store where he bought his cigarettes and contemplated her next stop. He has to get hungry sometime.

Someone was just leaving the butcher shop. Blond hair. Black leather coat. Even more distinctive annoying swagger. Got him.

He looked back, saw her, and sprinted down the nearest alley. She followed, he ran faster, she called his name, he dropped his container of blood and tried to climb over a fence.

She dropped her sword, hauled him down by the back of his jeans, turned him around, and slammed him against the nearest wall. “Spike, you idiot, why do you always try to escape by running down a dead end?”

“Damned if know.” He looked miserable. “Probably be damned no matter what, though.”

“Damned or not, this time you’re going to tell me what’s going on. And don’t you dare ask what I mean, or tell me you were just out for a stroll, or picking up groceries. I haven’t got the time. Do you know there really is a shapeshifting dragon out there? And yet, here I am, in an alley with you, because I can’t concentrate on anything but my demon boyfriend’s latest lunacy.”

He met her eyes for a second. “The shapeshifter’s real?”

“I found one of its kills this afternoon. So I need you to confess so that I can go kill something. And I’d prefer that to be something that is not you.”

He didn’t try to lie this time. He said nothing at all, hanging his head so that he didn’t have to meet her eyes.

She sighed and shoved him against the wall again. “Spike, this is not negotiable. You are going to tell me what you’re up to and who you’re up to it with. If you’re cheating on me—”

He looked up at that, not so much startled as appalled. “No! No, love, never that.”

“Xander thought you were.”

“Harris said that?” There was no guilt in his reaction, just annoyance. “That’s daft, even for him. Maybe one of his mates dropped a rebar on his head.”

She tightened her grip on his duster. “What then?”

This time he avoided looking at her by closing his eyes. “I can’t tell you.”

“Why not?” She thought of possibilities, and only came up with one. “Are you under some kind of spell?”

“Not exactly.”

“Spike, I’m resisting the urge to beat you senseless right now. But if you don’t start talking, our relationship is going to regress to an earlier and less pleasant stage.”

“All right then.” He sagged against the wall, and she loosened her hold a little. He looked so very desperate that she released one of the hands holding his coat and used it to stroke his cheek.

“Well?”

He slumped down further. “You see, Slayer, I just—”

He twisted away from her, and she was left holding his duster as he made another dash down the alley—this time toward the street.

***

“What now?” asked Tara wearily.

Xander, who had joined her at the back of the group, was looking for something he could use to wipe his hands. “Ish fell into some rotting mayor meat and started to cry.” He reached into the remains of a display case and pulled out a shredded banner that read, “—PIONS Show Chi.”

“Show Chi?” asked Tara.

“Show Choir. Our football team sucked, but we could win at singing and dancing.” He looked down the hallway. Willow was taking about the importance of the library, but there wasn’t much chance the tour group would see anything of it. It had been Kaboom Central on Graduation Day. “How goes the Buffy watch?”

“So far, so good.” She picked up her magic map. “I think she’s looking for Spike. She’s been hitting places like his crypt and the demon bars. Last time I looked she was—”

“Tara, standing there looking horrified is not the way to reassure Xander.” He dropped the remains of the banner.

She looked up, both apologetic and frightened. “I’m sorry, but this isn’t reassuring.” She pointed at a spot on her map. “This is Buffy. She’s headed straight here.”

***

Most of the Scoobies huddled together, staring at the map. At the other end of the corridor, the Warthogs were ignoring Anya’s latest lecture in favor of poking into the remains of classrooms and reading posters about the need for school spirit and the dangers of drug abuse.

“What do we do?” asked Dawn.

Xander gave her a hug, but his answer wasn’t reassuring. “Panicking seems called for.”

Willow jumped. “There’s something lurking over there!” She reached in her bag and pulled out a bag of powder.

“If that’s a spell to turn me into a toad, go ahead.” A very harried-looking Spike slunk around the corner. “Anything that keeps the Slayer from tracking me down.”

Dawn grabbed his arm. “You didn’t let her follow you, did you?”

“I hope not. I did my best to shake her, but she’s determined.”

“If you knew she was chasing you, why did you come here, of all places?” asked Willow.

“Because something she told me made me think you might need me. Speaking of telling people things–” He glared at Xander. “It seems some bright thing told her I was cheating on her.”

“I said maybe!” Xander protested.

“Did it occur to you that wasn’t the best way to stop her trying to find out where I’ve been these past few nights? On the other hand, if your intention was to get her royally pissed off, it was genius.” Spike turned his back on Xander and confronted Willow. “If she does show up in the same mood she was in a half-hour ago, do me a favor, witch, and cast the toad spell.”

“I don’t like toad spells,” Willow said. “I prefer turning people into fluffy kittens. Another witch I knew used to do rats, but—”

Tara squeaked a warning. “Buffy’s on her way! The map says she’s just outside.”

“Cut her off at the pass!” yelled Willow, dragging Tara back toward the tour group. “I’ll get Anya to try to move them along faster.”

Xander turned to Spike. “I’m going to help Anya. Tell you what man—good luck.”

“Cut her off at the pass?” Spike stared after them. “Who do they think I am? The U.S. Cavalry?”

Dawn dove through a doorway. “I don’t know, but you better think of something. I’m hiding.”

“Oh, that’s helpful, that is. Right, leave it all to Spike. General Custer, that’s who I am to you lot. At least I’ve got my boots on.”

“Yeah, and you’re already dead,” came Dawn’s muffled voice.

Buffy was stalking down the blackened corridor toward Spike. She was carrying her sword, but much to his relief, she dropped it when she reached him. “There you are.” She grabbed him by the shirt. “I’ve had enough, Spike. What are you doing?”

Spike’s voice was slightly higher pitched than usual. “Just standing here, contemplating a future life as a fluffy kitten.”

“All alone, huh?”

He smiled as ingratiatingly as he could while being held several inches off the ground. “Who would I be with?”

“Spike, I know there’s someone with you. And when I find just who you’ve been seeing behind my back—” With lightening speed, Buffy let him go, turned, reached into the blackened shell of a classroom, and pulled out a female figure. “Ah ha! There you are, you skanky—Dawn?”

She looked back and forth between the two of them several times, her expression incredulous. “Spike, please don’t tell me you’ve been cheating on me with my sister. Because as bad as my life has been at times, at least it’s never been an episode of Jerry Springer.”

Dawn and Spike both started babbling simultaneously, Spike backing away as Buffy stalked toward him. Dawn grabbed her sister’s arm and tried to pull in the other direction, with the dual purpose of protecting Spike and not letting Buffy get far enough down the hallway to peer around the corner.

But Buffy towed her out into the intersection of the two corridors before shaking her off to grab Spike by his shirt again and slam him against the wall.

He swallowed hard. “This feels like old times.”

“Not good times,” she said. “Spike, I have a question, and if I don’t get an honest answer—”

“Slayer, I am not cheating on you!”

“I knew that as soon as I saw Dawn. If it involves my little sister, this is obviously a whole different set of stupid shenanigans. My question, Spike, is what the hell are those things down the hall, and what are you and most of the rest of my friends doing with them?”

“Uh, oh,” said Dawn.

“Spike?” Buffy shoved harder.

“No!” Dawn grabbed Buffy’s arm again. “Don’t hurt him. He can’t. I made him promise not to tell, and you know what he’s like when he promises one of us something.”

Buffy looked at Spike’s anguished expression. She gave an exasperated little sigh and let him go so fast he almost fell to the floor. “Okay, Dawn, then you tell. Right now.”

***

Buffy stared at the Scoobies, who had come forward to help Dawn offer an explanation. Then she stared down the corridor at the Warthogs, who were watching anxiously. Then she stared back at the Scoobies.

After several repetitions of this, she said, “You did what, now?”

“Well, it’s like we just told you,” said Anya. “I found out that this school group had to cancel their European tour, and—”

Xander pulled her back. “Uh, less with the literalism, Anya. I think she got it the first time.”

Buffy folded her arms across her chest. Her voice trembled with quiet rage. “I have been looking all over town for some kind of new nasty that’s after some kind of power center. And it occurred to none of you to mention that you were showing— how many of them are there? A couple of dozen? You were wining and dining at least two dozen demons and making sure they had a chance to visit all the places in town where this power center is likely to be hidden?”

“But, Buffy, they’re all harmless!” Willow recalled items shoplifted, citizens seduced, and an attempt to set a mausoleum on fire. “Well, mostly harmless.”

“Are they?” Buffy walked over to the sword she’d dropped earlier and picked it up. “I’m going to have a look for myself.”

***

Buffy looked over the Warthogs. They tried hard not to meet her eyes. Ish was crying, either again or still.

“I’m looking for something,” she said evenly. “Normal state is dragon or great big snake, but it can shapeshift. Know anyone here who can do that?”

Maindepeste looked around, and when no one else seemed inclined to speak, he reluctantly asserted his position as the group’s leader. “Just the selkies. But they only turn into seals. Everyone knows selkies aren’t dangerous.”

Buffy stared at him and took a step forward. “You know, there’s something about your face. It’s not that I remember it. In fact, I don’t think I could remember it if I tried. Almost as if it’s not really a face.”

For the first time, the Scoobies saw a real emotion on Maindepeste’s face. It looked a lot like fear. “No! This is my form, in as much as I have a form. But my normal condition is not a dragon.”

“Yeah!” Felix darted out from behind Maeve. “He turns into a big orange blob when he goes to sleep. I snuck into his room once and—Hey!”

Buffy held Felix by the scruff of his neck as he twisted back and forth. “You! I’ve seen you before.”

He unsheathed claws from his front paws, but noticed the sword in her other hand before he dared to scratch. “You won’t hurt me!”

“Won’t I? It’s what I’m known for. And you were in my house, spying on Spike and me.”

“I didn’t want to go see some stupid factory where vampires used to be. I figured wherever a vampire was now would be more interesting. So I followed him, and I got to see a Slayer.” He squirmed again. “But you weren’t killing anything. You were just—”

Buffy gave him a shake. “You little brat, you stole Mr. Gordo!”

Felix quailed. “That pig thing? It’s fine! I didn’t hurt it. I have it safe in my suitcase, and you can have it back. I just wanted a real souvenir, not that crap in the magic store.”

“Hey!” yelled Anya indignantly.

Dawn stepped forward, her hands out to rescue Felix, but Spike pulled her back. She looked up at him and he shook his head. Then she saw him reach down and slip his dagger out of its ankle sheath.

The Dean got up the courage to speak. “Even a Slayer has to see that he’s just a harmless chi—well, he’s just a child. Servalines are mischievous and incredibly curious, but not evil.”

“True,” said Anya. “He’s just a nasty, insulting little creep who steals things.”

Tara added timid support. “He’s even kind of cute sometimes.”

“Yeah, Buffy,” said Willow. “There’s no way he’s your dragon.”

“I didn’t think he was.” Buffy looked up. “All of you things trying to sneak away right now? Get back where you were.”

The Dean, both selkies, and several other Warthogs slunk in reverse, back to their original positions. Professor Ish was still sniveling by the wall. Hedley and Duegar dropped the cheerleading trophies they’d picked up with some faint hope using them as weapons. Most of the others looked frightened, and some were holding hands.

Maeve was the only one to say anything. “You know, this is pretty wicked.”

“Shut up!” Buffy snapped at her. She turned her attention back to Felix. Green-eyes stared into green eyes. “So, you’re really, really curious. Do you know what they say happens to curious little servalines?”

His voice squeaked. “They grow into nice big servalines?”

She smiled. “No. They find things out. Like who’s just a big blob, and what the Slayer’s bedroom looks like, and which creature can change his scales—”

Felix’s head twisted sideways. Buffy dropped him and turned in time to see lanky limbs disjoint from one another and rejoin as a matchstick figure of a not-quite-a-man unfolded into something larger and scalier, with much bigger teeth.

“Too late,” roared Professor Ish. “I’ve found the heartstone and will be more than a match for—”

Buffy looked down at the huge snake lying at her feet. Her sword had entered the body at one eye and exited at the back of the skull. Spike’s dagger was buried in its ribs. The body wasn’t even twitching. “Gee. I wonder what he thought would protect him?”

There was a sound halfway between a cough and a growl. Felix pulled a small green stone from his pocket. “I saw him pick it up when he fell in that nasty stuff, so I just borrowed it for a couple of minutes to try to figure out why he wanted it.” His eyes were wide pools of innocence. “I was going to give it back. Honest.”

***

The Warthogs were still bottlenecked at the end of a corridor that had been blocked off by a falling ceiling, with the Slayer and the Scoobies between them and the only exit. But they seemed less frightened. A buzz of gossip had begun, with the main thread being, “I always knew there was something he was hiding— ”

At the other end of the corridor, Buffy tossed the green stone up in the air and caught it as it fell.

Anya took a step forward. “You know, if that’s really the heartstone of a true demon, I could put it up on eBay and—” She saw Buffy’s expression and stepped back next to Xander. “And I guess that isn’t really a good idea.”

“No.” Buffy’s voice was very level. “And I’m guessing it’s not the only bad one you’ve had lately. What made you, any of you, even think of this stupid stunt?”

Anya was indignant. “Money, of course. Why else would we go to so much trouble?”

“Yeah,” said Willow. “And we didn’t want you to worry or anything, so we just, sort of didn’t mention it.”

Dawn spoke up. “And Spike and I figured with both our shares we could pay off most of the bills and still buy some groceries. We just wanted to help, and I thought this would pay better than babysitting.”

“Money? How much money?”

Anya looked wary.

Buffy’s eyes narrowed.

A minute later, Buffy had Anya backed against the wall, and a vigorous argument was in progress.

At first, the others stood close together for protection, but as they listened, their stances relaxed and they began a murmured conversation of their own.

“I’ve never seen Buffy like this,” whispered Tara.

“I think Anya’s in real trouble,” said Willow.

“No way,” said Xander. “I mean, Buffy’s the best at her thing, but this is Anya’s thing.”

“My money’s on my Slayer,” said Spike. “No offense to your lady, Harris, but no one can beat Buffy at persistence.”

Dawn opened her mouth, but before she could say anything, Buffy whirled away from Anya and marched down the hall.

Maindepeste stepped forward, ready to launch into a complaint, but when he saw who was coming toward him, the whine turned into a series of “‘Ums’, ‘uhs’, and ‘ahs.'”

When Buffy stepped over Ish’s body, bending down to pick up the bloody sword without breaking stride, all the demons fell silent. She came to a halt before the unprepossessing group. “You know who I am?”

They nodded, a few eyes glued to her face, but most focused on the sword.

“You saw what I just did.” She gestured toward the corpse. “And you’ve heard stories of the other demons I’ve slain?”

There were more nervous nods and a few steps backward.

“Good. Your tour of Sunnydale is officially over. However—”

Her eyes gleamed and the Warthogs cringed.

“I’m pleased to announce that Anya has arranged for a little bonus. If any of you would like to pay a small additional fee, you can round out your trip with a tour of Sunnydale’s most active cemeteries. Conducted by the Slayer herself. Of course, I can’t promise you that you’ll see any actual slayage. But you can visit the grave where the Master’s bones rested until I ground them into dust, the warehouse where I slew Balthazar, the house where I staked Dracula, and —”

Rebel with Furry Paws

 

Almost done now. Just a couple of more posts to wrap things up. Dinner preparations and requests for homework assistance willing, they should be up soon.

 

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/168140.html

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