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

This entry is part 6 of 10 in the series If it's Tuesday, this must be Sunnydale
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Yes, this is the sixth post, since there were two fours. I finally got a new password, so I was able to fix it.

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.

Selkie Stalkings
Sunday, Day Five of the Tour

Early Evening

Anya bustled off the tour bus, followed by the rest of the Scoobies. She frowned. The others sighed in resignation.

Instead of the neat line of tourists Anya had ordered, demons were wandering all over the cemetery grounds. Some of the smaller ones were playing soccer with what Tara very much hoped was a ball. Undeterred by the grave markers, they seemed to have made up a new set of rules and were weaving around and tackling the ball in a pattern discernable only to them. Most of the older ones were missing entirely, except for Professor Ish. He was sitting on a tombstone, his Tinker Toy legs twisted into strange angles. His upper elbows were resting on two of his knees, but the others stuck out, and his hands dragged to the ground.

“Where is everyone?” she demanded. “I told you to be ready to ride down to the caves that the scary government people used at 9 exactly. We have a schedule, and I’m already paying the bus driver overtime for these night excursions.”

Ish’s voice was a mournful as his stance. “We can’t find several of the pupils. The Principal and the Dean are searching for them, but I’m convinced that rude vampire of yours has gotten loose and killed them. Or perhaps the Slayer. I knew it was too dangerous to come to a town with a Slayer. Those young women have no discrimination. Vampires, swamp hobs, dwarfs, we’re probably all the same to her.”

“Don’t be silly,” said Willow. “Buffy wouldn’t do that.”

“Unless she came across them and didn’t know they weren’t the really evil kind of demon because we didn’t tell her,” said Anya. “But Spike promises he hasn’t let her do that, and I know he wouldn’t kill one of you. Ack!” She screamed as Felix jumped from a nearby tree and tried to land on her shoulder. She shoved him off.

“Except you maybe.” Anya glared at Felix, who was laughing up at her. “I might even ask Spike to kill you.”

Dawn scooped Felix up in her arms. “Don’t say that, Anya. He’s just playful.”

The soccer players abandoned their ball, drawn by Felix’s laughter and Dawn’s presence.

“Hey, Dawn, want to see the bones I found behind my bed last night? I think they buried somebody alive there.”

“Where are we going tonight, Dawn? Will you show us another demon like that Gora thing with all the heads and the eggs?”

“Do you think if I tried really hard, I could grow some extra heads?”

“Did you know that the Slayer ate the ninth and tenth grades, but we didn’t get to see it?”

They dragged her off toward a mausoleum, presumably for a viewing of the bones.

“Okay,” said Xander. “Forget getting any useful information from Mr. Neurosis over there . Let’s look at this logically. Who’s missing?”

Willow started a tally. “Well, besides the Principal and the Dean, I don’t see the selkies or Hedley, or that really tall girl, or— what’s the troll’s name again?”

“Duegar.” Tara was making her own calculations. “The teenagers. All the teenagers are missing.”

“So,” said Anya slowly, “either they’ve been abducted by something that only wants annoying adolescents—”

“Or they’ve gone off on their own,” said Willow.

Xander nodded. “First guess, the Bronze. They were asking me about it the other night.”

“What’s a Bronze?”

They jumped and turned to find the Dean staring at them. He was pulling twigs out of his beard.

Ish looked up. “Did you find any of the remains?”

“No remains to find, you worthless bundle of twigs! They never left through the wood. Probably just walked down the sidewalk, and how am I supposed to track that?”

“They probably went into town,” said Willow. “Come on, we’ll show you where we think they are.”

“Oh, you will, will you? And that’s just how I want to spend my evening, running along after a pack of humans, who will probably walk as fast as they can to make it hard for me to catch up. I know your kind. This is all just a plan to make me look silly, if you ask me. I’m going to take a nap.” He stomped off.

Xander watched him go. “There’s a guy who needs to take his job more seriously.”

“Never mind.” Anya climbed back into the bus. We’ll go get them from wherever they are, and make them stop trying to have a good time their way, and enjoy themselves the way we tell them to. That’s what childhood is about.”

***

“Do you think it was a good idea to leave Tara and Dawn back at the cemetery?” Willow was craning her neck, trying to see over the heads of several dancing couples.”

“The last thing we need is to find these runaways and then go back to find the rest are missing.” Xander was towing a troll behind him. “Damn, this thing is heavy.”

“Let me go!” said the troll. “I almost had the bartender convinced I was old enough to drink.”

“Sorry, Duegar.” Xander tightened his grip on the troll’s collar. “I’ve seen how much a troll can drink, and I’m not picking up that bar bill.”

“There you are!” Anya arrived, one hand tightly gripping a selkie’s arm. “I found this one upstairs, with two humans. I pried him loose, pulled up his pants, and left them to finish on their own.”

There was a piercing shriek from the dance floor. It took a moment for them to recognize it as laughter.

“That must be the tall girl,” said Willow. “Why does she always have to be so loud?”

“What do you expect?” muttered Duegar. “She’s a banshee.”

“I’ll get her.” Willow went to corral the banshee, and Xander left the other captives in Anya’s competent control. He didn’t see anyone or anything he was searching for on the dance floor, so he decided to check out back.

Jackpot. The female selkie had found a willing body and was in the process of—

Xander gulped. The human screamed and leaned back against the wall, looking dazed.

“Oh, damn,” said the selkie. “You found us. Can’t you let us stay for a while? I’ve already found two playmates, and it’s still early.”

She was naked. Xander was speechless. The boy she’d found in the Bronze pulled up his pants, murmured something indistinguishable, and staggered back inside.

The selkie winked at Xander. “I don’t see Anya anywhere.”

“Anya.” Mention of his fiancée didn’t restore Xander to calm, but it did remind him of reality. “Okay, I have gotten over the opening and closing of the mouth and staring stage. Now, I need you to put your clothes on so we can take you back to your teachers. They’re very worr— I’m sure there’s some actual worrying going on at some level. And now I’m going to put my hands over my eyes, so I’m not tempted to deviate from that plan.”

She made a face, but did as she was told. Xander could tell, because he peeked through his fingers.

**

“This sucks.” The banshee whined noisily as Willow led her by the hand in the direction of the bar.

Willow rubbed her ear with her free hand. “Will you at least try to be quiet?”

The Banshee was staring over Willow’s shoulder. She waved. “Hi, Spike! Is that your girlfriend?”

Oh, no. Oh, please, no. But when Willow turned, she found herself facing both Spike and Buffy.

“Hi, Willow.” Buffy stared at the banshee. “I see you and Spike have a new friend.”

Willow managed to unfreeze her mouth somehow. Be calm. At least this one looks human, even if she doesn’t sound like one. “Oh, hi, Buffy. This is, uh—”

“Maeve,” bellowed the banshee.

“Hi, Maeve!” Buffy was using her perkiest voice. “And how long have you known Spike and Willow?”

“Just a few days. Mostly Willow though. I hardly had a chance to talk to Spike.” Maeve beamed at him anyway.

“How interesting. And how did you meet? Are you in one of Willow’s classes?”

“Oh, no!” Maeve’s laugh reached a horrifying decibel level. “I’m still in high school.”

Buffy backed away a step. “That’s some voice you’ve got there.”

“Thank you! When I grow up, I’m going to wail every time someone dies. So I need to keep up my lung power.”

“That’s nice,” said Buffy. She turned away from Maeve. “Willow, what’s going on?”

Willow looked to Spike for help, but he’d just caught sight of something by the bar and was looking extremely deer-caught-in-the-headlights.

Think fast. Must. Get. Buffy. Out. Of. Here. “Oooh!” Inspiration struck. “You see, I thought Maeve could help me find out something about that demon you said might have moved into town. You know, the one Giles told you about, that’s looking for a power center? ”

Maeve opened her mouth, but Willow clamped a hand over it before she could say anything. She hoped that in Maeve’s case, this would be interpreted as a reflex action intended to prevent hearing loss rather than an attempt to keep her from contradicting the latest lie.

“Hey, Willow!” Xander was standing next to her, a selkie hanging on his arm. He looked relieved for the half-second before he saw Buffy. Then he looked terrified.

“Hello, Xander.” Buffy was still being amazingly calm. “And who’s your little friend?”

The selkie ignored Buffy and Spike in favor of licking Xander’s neck. He giggled involuntarily.

“This is another informant!” cried Willow. “And Xander and I just found out some information from her.”

“Yeah,” said Xander, when he had pried the selkie’s mouth away from his lips.

“And what would that be, Xander?” asked Buffy sweetly.

“Uh—” said Xander. “Hey! Stop that! That tickles!”

“The library!” Willow was shouting almost as loudly as Maeve. “I did a spell, yeah, I found this really neat spell that—that told me the power center might be at the public library. I think you need to go there and see if your demon is doing a lot of nighttime reading.”

That did it. Buffy’s expression changed to anger. “Oh, I should, should I—”

“Come on, love.” Spike intervened at last, tugging gently on Buffy’s hand. “We’d better check it out just in case.”

She was about to object, but he gave her a meaningful look, and she followed him out the door, casting suspicious glances over her shoulder as she went.

“Xander! Willow!” Anya herded the students she was guarding in front of her. “Why did you let Buffy see our tourists? That was one of the things we weren’t supposed to do.”

“Wow, was that really the Slayer?” Maeve’s voice cut over the music. “I’ll have to tell my Aunt Bridget. I think she wailed for her once.”

***

Buffy shook off Spike’s hand as soon as they were outside. “Spike, there is no way there is a demon lurking in the library. Willow and Tara cleansed it last month after those books rioted.”

“I know, pet, but didn’t you see something’s going on there? I mean, Willow out without Tara, and Xander with that, uh, girl?” He shook his head sorrowfully. “I think there are breakups afoot in Scoobyland.”

“No!” Buffy stopped. “No, I don’t want that to happen, Spike. Breakups are sad, and mean, and they leave you feeling all shredded, and—” She turned to go back. “I need to talk to them. To see if there’s something I can do to help.”

He didn’t move. “Well, you could do that—” He let the sentence hang.

She stopped, taking the bait. “But—?”

“But if they were ready to tell you, they would, wouldn’t they? No, my guess is that if you confront them, you’ll get nothing but a pack of lies.”

Her eyes narrowed. “And you wouldn’t know anything about packs of lies, would you, Spike?”

***

“It was all Hedley’s fault. He tempted us.” Duegar had somehow wound up as spokesman for the truants. He was facing Anya and Maindepeste. It was hard to tell on his rocky features, but he appeared unabashed.

“Hedley?” The Scoobies turned to stare at the nondescript imp.

Hedley shrugged. “They’re always telling us to practice our special skills.”

Xander moved to Anya’s side to avoid yet another selkie attack and said, “And those skills would be?”

“I’m an Abbey Lubber.” Hedley beamed with pride. “My ancestors used to tempt monks to vice, but the present-day clergy don’t seem to need any assistance. Now my family works for lobbyists. It was my grandfather’s idea to branch out to tempting politicians. A very forward-thinking imp, my grandfather.”

“So tonight you got most of your classmates into trouble.” Maindepeste thought think this over. “I’m not sure if I should put this on your permanent record as misbehavior or an extra-curricular activity.”

“I hope you will consider the former, sir.” Hedley looked grave. “You know how serious I am about my future. I want to go for my MAA eventually.”

“What’s an MAA?” asked Willow.

“Master of the Arcane Arts.” Hedley spoke the words with awe. “You can’t work for the best K Street firms without an advanced degree these days.”

Xander batted away a selkie who had snuck up from the other direction. “I thought Spike made that up.”

“No it’s real.” Anya sighed and glared at the selkie, who promptly disappeared. “Look, Principal Maindepeste. You’re going to have to take a pass on the Initiative tour. It’s too late, and the bus driver’s gone home.”

“Very well.” Maindepeste folded his hands across his chest. “I expect a refund, of course.”

“A refund—” Anya caught herself up. “Very well, you can have a refund for tonight’s tour. However, I will also be adding student wrangling charges to your bill. Itemized, of course. There’s the bus charge, and the hunting and gathering charge, and the damages to our ears from being in a confined space with a banshee. Oh, and a pawing of the fiancé charge—several of those, and …”

“The tour may be quashed, but it looks like we’re not getting home for a while yet.” Tara sat down on a tombstone and watched the adolescent demons huddle together, recapping their adventures in a real human bar, while Dawn kicked the soccer ball around with Felix and some of the others. Ish and the Dean were nowhere in sight.

Willow sat next to her and held her hand. “Don’t worry, baby. Just two more nights, and then they’ll be on their way home. We can survive two more nights, can’t we?”

Mutually Assured Distraction

 

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/167455.html

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