- Keystone – Chapter 1/21
- Keystone – 2/21
- Keystone – 3/21
- Keystone – 4/21
- Keystone – 5/21
- Keystone – 6/21
- Keystone – 7/21
- Keystone – 8/21
- Keystone – 9/21
- Keystone – 10/21
- Keystone – 11/21
- Keystone – 12/21
- Keystone – 13/21
- Keystone – 14/21
- Keystone – 15/21
- Keystone – 16/21
- Keystone – 17/21
- Keystone – 18/21
- Keystone – 19/21
- Keystone – 20/21
- Keystone chapter 21/21 and epilogue
This is the last post and I’d like to thank everyone for being so patient with the spamming. Hope you enjoy the story. :-)
Word Count: 46,252 Complete-21 chapters and epilogue
Warning: explicit exsanguination scene
Summary: Sent to retrieve artifacts from another dimension the Slayer and her team become deeply embroiled in a twisted plot that places them in dangerous opposition to the Watcher’s Council.
A/N: AU Adventure. Set within the Grundyverse this story stands alone, a separate endeavor for this community, and although there is humor and romance, the plot is darker than what I usually write to suit our community theme of obstacles. Our poor beloved characters- they’ve certainly got ‘em in spades.
Disclosure: These characters belong to Joss, ME, Fox and anyone affiliated with same. Only Empress and the plot are mine.
Story begins here
“Well, I didn’t expect a brass band or anything, but I at least expected to see Giles. We didn’t even rate one of the Juniors.” Perplexed, Buffy looked around the empty room. “Where do you think everyone is? Are we late or something?”
“I don’t think portals work like that Sweetling.”
“Buffy? I’m sorry I was late, but I had to wait until the meeting was underway to slip down here.”
Buffy stared for a moment before her expression cleared. “I know you. You’re Adams. We met last week at the hospital.”
The young officer nodded. “That’s right, except it’s only been a couple of days ago here.
I know you were expecting Mr. Giles, but he was unable to be here due to some unforeseen circumstances. He asked me to give you this, and to request that you to read it immediately.”
Frowning, Buffy took the offered envelope. “Another letter? This can’t be good.” She ripped it open, reading quickly. “Come on, we need to be in the conference room right now.”
“What is it Slayer?”
“You know that little convo we wanted to have with Quentin? Well, it seems we’re about to have it. I’ll explain in the elevator.”
“I’d like to call this meeting of the Council Security and Ethics Committee to order.” Chairman Roger Wyndam-Pryce lightly rapped his gavel on the conference room table in an effort to gain everyone’s attention.
“This meeting has been called as a fact finding inquiry into allegations that two of our Council members, Rupert Giles and Lydia Chalmers, have been working in a clandestine manner against the Council. I’ll now turn this meeting over to Quentin Travers so he may explain the facts behind these accusations.”
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’m sure once I have laid bare all the facts, the committee will agree that the issues are problematic enough to merit at least the removal of Mr. Giles from his position as Watcher over our current Active Slayer, Ms. Buffy Summers and with possibly stronger repercussions for both Mr. Giles and Ms. Chalmers.”
“Where are the accused? I should think they would be allowed to bear witness in their own behalf,” asked Sir Cedric Dunn, Professor Emeritus of the Watcher’s Academy and prominent Council member.
Travers’ eyes narrowed as he waited out the elderly professor’s outburst. Not unexpected, it was well known that Rupert Giles was an old favorite.
“Unfortunately Sir Cedric” replied Travers smoothly, “they were not able to attend. Mr. Giles has a previous engagement in his current capacity as Ms. Summer’s Watcher and Ms. Chalmers is assisting in her capacity as Head of that particular project.”
A couple of words that sounded distinctly like “witch hunt” was muttered as the elderly professor turned to Wyndam-Pryce. “Than I suggest that we adjourn until such time as both Rupert and Ms. Chalmers are able to attend.”
“Thank you Sir Cedric, but that won’t be necessary.” Giles and Lydia stood in the doorway. Taking a step inside Giles surveyed the group. The conference room was full of not only the committee members themselves, but most of the senior staff as well. Bloody witch hunt alright.
Giles moved farther into the room. “I assume from the current conversation that we’re not too terribly late.”
Lydia moved to stand next to him. “And I should like to apologize for our late arrival and subsequent interruption of these proceedings. We only recently received notice concerning the meeting and had to rearrange things in order to attend.”
Giles held out a chair for Lydia before seating himself. Glancing at Travers he noted the flash of surprise before the mask slipped smoothly back into place.
The Chairman acknowledged their presence with a quick nod. He waved toward Travers. “Please continue.”
Travers cleared his throat. “As I was about to say, there is undeniable evidence that Mr. Giles and Ms. Chalmers have acted in less than a professional manner with regard to a Council-specific project. They not only stole property belonging to the Council, they refused to follow specific orders laid out by the Council and instead acted in an insubordinate way that has threatened the safety of everyone within this dimension.”
Chairman Wyndam-Pryce quirked an eyebrow. “Those are serious charges, Mr. Travers. This committee should like to see the proof of your allegations at this time.”
“But of course. If everyone would please open the folders that I have provided, there is an overview of the project in question, and some documentation which will back up the charges. Together they will help explain the mission and its purpose, and expedite this meeting.”
Giles glanced at his watch. The faster Quentin could move the meeting along, the less chance Buffy would have of arriving before the vote. He looked over at Lydia. She caught his eye and grimaced.
The committee members dutifully opened their folders. Giles opened his as well, scanning the pages. It was essentially the same overview that Lydia had presented at their first meeting, along with a sworn statement from two lab assistants that pointed the finger of guilt at Giles and Lydia for the theft of the box.
There was nothing that suggested the icons could not be used as originally proposed or that the Slayer or anyone within the dimension was in any way at risk. Travers had neatly orchestrated what was known in the reports and Giles knew he could call upon anyone that had attended that meeting for corroboration.
Angrily, he slammed the folder shut. “I’d like to request that the committee allow some other pertinent facts regarding this mission to come to light.” He held up several pieces of paper that he and Lydia had put together late last night, including the memo from Professor Simms which luckily Lydia had kept. Not unexpectedly, all other copies had disappeared from the Council files.
Mentally crossing his fingers Giles continued his appeal. “Mr. Travers’ synopsis is correct so far as it goes. But there is more to this story than what is in those folders.”
Travers looked down his nose at Giles. “You and Ms. Chalmers blatantly took something extremely valuable which belonged to the Council to further your own personal goals. Goals which were not those of the Council. Those are the facts. ”
Sir Cedric interrupted. “I should think this august body would want to be in possession of all the facts before making any decisions.” He appealed to Wyndam-Pryce. “For God’s sake Roger, at the least, two people’s professional careers are at stake. They have a right to explain their actions.”
The Chairman nodded. “Very well. Mr. Giles, what evidence do you and Ms. Chalmers have in your possession which would explain your actions?”
Lydia handed out copies to the committee members. “The first is my personal copy of a memo to the Council accompanied by a sworn statement from Professor Simms regarding the instability of both the icons and the box retrieved during the first portal opening. As you can see by the supporting data included, it would have been impossible for the Council to retain permanent ownership over any of the three. For some reason still unknown, the box began to return immediately to its dimension particle by particle.”
Giles continued the narrative. “To study the box would require its removal from stasis and would only hurry a process already begun. Ms. Chalmers and I readily admit that we requested that the process be allowed to continue unimpeded, so that we might offer the Slayer pertinent information concerning specific dangers, in a note which we included within the box. I offer statements by Ms. Chalmers and myself regarding information–obtained anonymously– which led us to realize that Quentin Travers and some members of the Senior Council planned to allow the Slayer to use the icons. This action would in turn destroy not only herself and the rest of her party, but all the innocent denizens of that dimension in an effort to stem the flow of vampires arriving through the portal from that dimension.”
Travers’ mouth thinned. “I do not believe that the committee should allow information that was obtained anonymously to be entered into evidence. Why doesn’t your source for this information step forward?”
Sir Cedric slammed a hand down. “Are you discounting the veracity of Mr. Giles’ information Quentin? Or were you perhaps a tad too zealous in your work?”
“I merely believe the author of any testimony should be known.” Travers turned a steely look on the committee beginning with Sir Cedric. “Believe me when I say that the vampires within that dimension are a very credible threat, a fact with which Ms. Chalmers, Mr. Giles and the Slayer all agreed, as did everyone within the Senior Council, myself included.
You have all read the information. There was absolutely no choice. We could not allow those vampires to gain access in any permanent way to this dimension. The Slayer is the Council’s strongest instrument in the fight against evil. Mr. Giles and Ms. Chalmers far overstepped their boundaries while attempting to subvert and thereby corrupt that instrument’s power and ability to complete a necessary job.” He slammed his own hand down on the table. “There is no room for sentiment here.”
The door to the conference room slammed open. Buffy breezed through the door followed by Spike, Ian, Willow and Empress. All eyes were riveted on the Slayer striding through the room. Fists clenched and eyes narrowed to pinpoints, she quivered with indignation and rage.
Giles thought she’d never looked so powerful, nor so welcome.
She stopped in front of Travers and scowled. “So I was an expendable instrument huh? You wrote me and every innocent person in that entire dimension off as expendable before I even got there. That’s not sentiment, that’s mass murder.” She reached over and poked him hard in the chest, adding sarcastically, “And I hated disappointing you Travers, but this time the blunt instrument survived the actual blunting.”
Before he could formulate a reply, she tossed her hair and turned away. Surveying the committee members, her eyes fell on Giles. She flashed a brief smile. “Hi Giles. By the way, your penmanship is terrible.”
“But you’re timing is impeccable,” he murmured. “Welcome back.”
“Mr. Chairman, this might be a good time to hear evidence from our Slayer who returned only a few moments ago from the dimension in question,” Lydia said in a brisk voice.
The murmuring rose in volume.
“Please everyone, let us have order. Ms. Summers would you and your team sit down. And someone remove that Grundy.”
Eyes narrowed and serrated teeth bared, Empress planted all four paws stubbornly and growled.
“Oh very well, she can stay. But keep her quiet. Ms. Summers, are you aware of the reason for this meeting?”
Buffy glared at Travers. The iceman mask securely in place, he was watching her with bland indifference.
“Oh, I’m aware of the reason alright.”
“Good. Then please explain to this committee everything that occurred after you were sent through the dimensional portal two days ago.”
“Everything? That might take awhile. Time was a little wonky, so we were there for over a week.” Pointedly ignoring Travers now, she turned her attention back to Wyndam-Price and the other members of the committee. “Mr. Chairman, we Slayers aren’t big with the understanding on tricky science- magicks combo stuff, especially when it comes to using portal keys as a way to completely destroy vampires. But since we did accomplish that– no thanks to Travers and his cronies–you probably should ask Ms. Rosenberg and Mr. Harker to explain the fine print. They’re the experts.” Her lips thinned. “As we’re all aware, I’m just the blunt instrument.”
The room erupted again.
“Order please.” Chairman Wyndam-Pryce was surprised. “Ms. Summers, are you saying that you and your team managed to destroy all the vampires without harming yourselves or the inhabitants of that dimension? Is there a threat to us any longer?”
“There’s no threat anymore. Everyone undead is dead and everyone not dead is still alive.” She fixed a beady stare on the Council Head. “Unlike Mr. Travers I value life. I guess that counts as being too sentimental to the Council, but I couldn’t justify killing everyone there to save everyone here if there was any other possible way. So we got creative and found another solution that wouldn’t blow everybody into tiny little pieces, or big chunky ones. And fyi, we wouldn’t have known to try in the first place without Giles’ info.”
Returning her stare Travers said coolly, “I resent your implications Ms. Summers. The Council does whatever we must to rid the world of evil and sometimes difficult decisions must be made. Although I’m sure you don’t believe me, I do applaud you for discovering a suitable compromise.”
“You’re right. I don’t believe you,” she snapped.
Travers turned to Wyndam-Pryce. “Mr. Chairman, with regard to the recent information supplied by the Slayer, I withdraw my allegations concerning Mr. Giles and Ms. Chalmers. Obviously there was a solution that I and the Council had not considered.”
Wyndam-Pryce nodded. “This committee will expect a report detailing the actual steps taken to rid us of this insidious threat; however I believe we are all in agreement that, as of now, this meeting stands adjourned.” He rapped his gavel briskly.
Buffy spun on her heels and flounced from the room.
Spike and the others, including Lydia and Giles, followed her out into the hall. They’d reached the elevator doors when there was a crash followed by loud voices.
Lydia jumped. “That sounded like something heavy fell in the conference room.”
Empress trotted up to the group. She gave Buffy a smug look and dropped something at her feet. Two tiny objects rolled across the floor and stopped in front of Spike.
Nudging one of them with his foot, he chuckled. “Déjà vu, Slayer.”
He reached down to pet the Grundy. Her bushy tail was wagging briskly. She caught his eye and winked.
Grinning, he winked back.
Lydia studied the objects. They were two small L-shaped pieces of burnished metal. “Does anyone know what these are?”
Buffy grinned at her. “Those are the cotter pins that held the back on Travers’ chair. Empress removed them while we were arguing with him.”
“So when Quentin leaned back in his chair…”Lydia’s voice faded as she turned to look at Giles.
“He fell right on his pompous arse,” he supplied, eyes twinkling.
There was a moment of silence and then Lydia burst out laughing merrily. She had a wonderfully infectious laugh and everyone joined in.
The elevator doors slid open and they all stepped inside, still laughing.
“So, down to the lobby and out the front door,” Giles forced out, digging for his handkerchief.
“Can’t be quick enough,” Buffy replied, leaning weakly against Spike and clutching her aching sides.
Lydia bent down to stroke the Grundy’s silky head, murmuring “What a good, good girl.”
The Horse and Hound
Three hours later
“So this is a real English pub, huh?” Finished with supper, Buffy ran her eyes appreciatively around the noisy, wood paneled room. “It’s seriously cool in that whole ‘throwback-to-the-ancient-ways’ way. So, Lydia, I was wondering if you might be able to take me and Willow shopping tomorrow. We’ve got a few hours until our plane leaves for Sunnydale.”
“I’m sorry, Buffy, but I need to pack my office. I’m changing positions. ”
Giles touched her hand. “Sir Cedric offered– and Lydia accepted –a teaching position at the Watcher’s Academy.”
“I’ve lost my taste for the front lines and this new position will allow plenty of time for my research. I’m very excited. Anytime you’re visiting England, please stop and see me.” She stood up and smiled at the group. “It’s getting late and I should be going.” She touched Giles’ arm briefly. “Good bye Rupert. I shall miss working so closely with you.”
He smiled at her. “Take care of yourself Lydia. Do write or call sometimes.”
She flashed him a quick smile in return. “Although difficult to tell in here it is the twenty-first century, Rupert. I shall email you soon.”
Everyone watched the blonde thread her way through the crowd to the entrance.
Spike immediately scooted his chair closer to Buffy and draped his arm around her shoulders.
Giles shot him a look.
“What? Didn’t see any reason to upset her, what with everythin’ she did for us, but after all she’s still bloody Council.”
“May I remind you that I’m still bloody Council, too?”
Buffy smiled affectionately at him. “You don’t count and neither does Lydia. You’ve both still got your hearts.” Leaning across the table she stage whispered, “And speaking of hearts, you do realize that she’s seriously into you.”
Eyes widening, he sputtered, “What? No. I mean, I don’t believe that’s true.”
Spike smirked at the Watcher’s confusion. “Watcher bird was droppin’ hints all over the place tonight, Rupes. You were just too thick to pick up on ‘em. I could give you some pointers if you want.”
Buffy elbowed him.
Rubbing his ribs he muttered, “Or not.”
“Right then.” Smiling slightly, Giles turned toward Willow. “Could you teach me how to use email?”
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/305766.html