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[personal profile] lostboy
Clocks of the Long Now
Epilogue (or "Where We Went From There")

Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Warnings: Graphic violence, adult language, sexual situations, character death, rabbits.
Disclaimer:
The characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer are owned by Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Fox studios and maybe various other entities that I am unaware of but totally respect and admire.  This story is not meant to infringe upon anyone's rights, only to entertain.


(Part 1 of 2)

 

3,633 hours later

--- 

 

Mokdaar the Malevolent ran away.

It was a sweaty, sloppy, stomping, mindless run.  His meaty arms and legs had become pumping pistons, and his shaggy head snorted and tossed its horns like a cornered bull.  And although the demon’s mind was too hard and wintry to process an emotion like fear, somewhere down in the wet, wormy labyrinth of his guts a cold hand had begun to squeeze....

Now, this was a very surprising state for old Mokdaar to find himself in.  After all, the Temple of H’Ganth was supposed to be the seat of his greatest victory.   Situated in the rolling moors at the edge of Ipswich-proper, it was a delightfully diabolical setting; just the sort of dank, forlorn real estate that old rim-walkers like Mokdaar dreamt of retiring to when their bones are bent and rickety and their fangs are rotted down to nubs.   But over the course of the last five minutes, both the temple and the fortress that housed it had started to feel like a terrifying maze, and the sly, old devil Mokdaar like a hapless rat imprisoned there.  He held his breath as he turned yet another corner, wary of what fresh nightmares might be lurking.

It wasn’t what he expected.  A geek loomed directly into his path, seeming to appear out of nowhere.  He smelled a little like Lysol, and was wearing some kind of gay cape. 

“Foul defiler of the Outer Mists,” he squeaked.   “I command thee halt!  For, lo, thy wicked badness hath, uh, bespoiled–”

Not in any mood to debate, Mokdaar just hoisted the little guy over his head and sent him sailing the other way down the corridor, hoping to maybe bowl down the pair of psychotics who were chasing him.   But considering the way all of the evening’s other plans had all just turned to ripe, steaming dog crap, he wasn’t too hopeful about this one either.   So, the demon went back to his original plan of running his hairy ass off.  Hot on his trail, the half-breed started growling curses again.

“Slow down, you furry ponce!” it bellowed.  “Got fifty quid ridin’ on your head!”

Mokdaar snorted back a round of hot tears.  Who are all these assholes? he thought.  Where did they come from?

What did I ever do to them?

Of course, if Mokdaar the Murderous had taken a moment to examine this last question, the answer would’ve been obvious.  His plan had been as straightforward as it was diabolical.  He'd been carefully setting it into motion ever since the Ipswich Hellmouth supposedly became a Slayer-Free Zone.  At three hours to midnight – on the third day of the third month of the thirty-third year of the Third Age of the Dread Lord Trigoth – Mokdaar would peel open the Seal of Naberus and unleash the Souls of the Kept to wreak havoc and destruction across the face of the Earth.

So, there was that.

Anyhow, until about four minutes ago, everything seemed to be just ducky.  Even Mokdaar’s miserable Legion of the Damned had gotten it right for once, bringing him back a juicy human sacrifice.  The girl wasn’t simply cute, either; she was poetically beautiful – a full-lipped brunette with skin like fresh milk and eyes like radiant sapphires.  Nice rack, too.

Anyway, there they all were, gathered in a wide ring around the girl in question.  Mokdaar had just donned his finest, dry-clean-only crimson toga, which he’d reckoned would cut quite a dashing, retro figure for his ascension to nigh-godhood.  Meanwhile, down on the killing floor, the Damned Ones chanted their Oath of Perpetual Agony and flayed bloody chunks of skin from their backs with lengths of beaded rope.  It was the sort of Kodak Moment the demon had spent centuries quietly yearning for, and, as he strode to the pulpit to begin the ritual, he could hear his black old heart singing.

Then:  Holy Shitstorm, Batman!

Just like the geek, they had seemed to magically appear out of nowhere, leaping down from the shadows like a pack of ravenous wolves.  His henchmen were all stunned at first, exuding an air of serious duhhhrrr.   Blond Boy and Eye Patch took full advantage of it, carving through their ranks like a blowtorch through a block of marzipan. 

Mokdaar immediately swam down into the fray, howling his most wrathful, bone-chilling battle cry.   "Slay the infidels!" he roared, and lashed a row of lazy minions with his scourge.  But by the time The Damned Ones had gotten their mustard up to stage a proper counterattack, the whole scene suddenly got ten times worse.

He could still conjure the image in his hideous brain: The Redhead, floating down into the center of the apse like Mary Friggin’ Poppins.   He could still picture her smile, too; that innocent little half-moon which almost seemed to gently chastise them all for being so naughty.  Then, a few small words dribbled out of that tiny, quirky grin, and Mokdaar’s Legion of Damned Ones had stopped fighting back.

They started doing something else.

They started…

Don’t think about it, he warned himself.  Don’t even think about it.

And so, Mokdaar the Merciless flung his bulk through an iron-banded door and out into the castle’s bailey, trying his very best not to think about it.

Oh, and what about that sacrifice? he mused.  What the sweet’n’sour fuck happened there?

As he raced out across the moonlit yard, Mokdaar the Malignant forced himself to chain together the full series of events.  Less than five seconds after his unholy army launched into its lovingly choreographed rendition of “Oklahoma!” (don’t THINK about it!), Mokdaar had rushed to collect the sacrifice chick from the altar, thinking he might take a stab at that old cliché Hostage Standoff the bad guys were always trying to pull off in the movies.

But when he turned to look, Boobsy McGee was somehow already free from her bonds.  Not only that, but she was standing at the foot of the retable, reading the Black Rite of Trigoth.

Backwards.

She was reading it fucking BACKWARDS.

And while he was still busy trying to process that latest, crap-tastic development, there came a celestial tone, like a choir of vengeful angels.  A column of golden flame roared down into the center of the temple.  The Seal of Naberus shuddered once under its glare.   

Then it disappeared.

Poof.  Finito.

For one horrible instant, the girl’s crazy blue eyes glittered back at him, as if to confirm a horrible thought that had just wriggled its way into Mokdaar’s cerebellum:

It was all a trick.  A trap.

A friggin’ setup!

So, Mokdaar the Malefic ran away.  There wasn’t really any planning involved.  He just calmly assessed the situation, scrolled through his paltry list of options, and decided to go with: "Get the fuck out of Dodge."  At the time, it had seemed like the most sensible course of action.   Live to fight another day, and all that crap.  But now, as he swung out across the courtyard towards the long castle gates, the old demon suddenly wasn’t so sure.  Who knew what these freaks would have in store for him next?

Then he saw her.

She was leaning against a section of crumbling crownwork between Mokdaar and the drawbridge, studying a fingernail.  The woman was twenty-something and tiny – not freakishly small, but if you looked up the word "petite" in Webster's, there she'd be.   She was a sharp dresser; a black satin jacket hung open over a white midriff and a pair of stylish cherry jodhpurs.  Strands of long blonde hair blew in lazy waves across her beatific face and her cartoonishly large, jade eyes.

She was the most terrifying thing he had ever seen in his life.

“Took you long enough,” the woman chirped, her voice slicing through the air like an apocalyptic flute.   “Anyone ever tell you ‘cardio is your friend?’

Mokdaar just stood there panting back at her, completely aghast.

“Wow, you are a mess, buddy!”  She was so eerily cool, like all of this was so pleasant, all picnics and applesauce and farting babies.  “It’s okay.  Take your time.”  She produced an object from behind her back.   It was some sort of long, red weapon, what a fireman’s axe might look like in Hell.  She twirled it once, the blade’s edge glowing like a slash of sunlight, and then cheerfully slung it across one shoulder.  “You know, it’s been a while since I used this bad-boy.  Might be out of practice.”

She started doing little stretches, then.  Knee bends and lunges and crap like that.  It gradually dawned on Mokdaar that the Slayer was having fun with him – really having a grand old time at his expense – and that his only response thus far was to stand there panting like a mangy old goat.

Something strange happened, then.  A thing like courage began to course though the demon’s veins.  He started to recall bright moments of violence from his youth.  Fangs knifing through supple skin, strong hands twisting bones.  Back then, life was a pungent bouquet of carnage, a banquet of blood and viscera, an orchestra of sweet screams.  The tide of these murderous memories kept rolling in, baptizing the demon in its wake.

Mokdaar the Monstrous slowed his heartbeat and steadied his gaze.  She was only a girl, after all – only a pair of legs and arms and a few pints of blood.  She could be killed.  She could be killed just like anything else that ever walked or crawled or swam or slithered across the face of this podunk, backwater world.

He drew in a long breath.  Expelled it through a grim and savage smile.

Okay, bitch, he thought.  Get ready.

Get ready for the fight of your life…

   

 

***

 

18 seconds later

---  

 

Spike and Xander barreled out into the cool spring evening, all three of their eyes whip-sharp along the angles.  It was Spike who saw her first; the Slayer’s familiar silhouette interrupting a square of green paddocks beyond the open mouth of the drawbridge.  She seemed a bit bored, just sort of shuffling back and forth in a daze.

“Where’d he go?” Xander asked, gasping like he might pop a lung.

Buffy’s eyes checked off a quartet of wet heaps scattered around the courtyard.

“Oh.”

Spike lit a smoke, cursing his mullered feet again.  He’d really wanted a go-round with this wanker.  All that big, ugly muscle… and those soddin’ horns!  Seemed like such a waste.  “Balls,” he grumbled.  “Least tell me he went down swingin’, luv.”

The Slayer shrugged and batted her gorgeous green eyes.  “I think he had a little performance anxiety.  Seemed like he was such a rush…”

A motley trio picked their way across the bailey: two women standing up a certain limp, deheveled git in a cape.   “Sorry about that, guys,” Andrew clucked.  “I really thought I had it that time.”

Red waived him right off.  “Nah, don’t worry about,” she said.  “Demon-banishings can be tricky business.  Took me awhile to get the hang of it, too.”

Xander had seemed a bit pissy all evening, and now it was finally starting to bubble over.  “Hey, that reminds me,” he said.  “Didn’t we have, like, the whole intervention thing with Andrew and the demon stuff?  Whatever happened with that?”

“Well, technically speaking, banishment isn’t demonology per-se.” Andew blatted back.  “I believe it's in the transubstantiation family.”

“What are you, a lawyer?”

“No.  I’m just saying…”

The Slayer shot a glance at Harriet the Spy.  “How’d it go?”

“Piece of cake,” Dawn chirped, grinning ear to ear.  “This ‘Mouth’s lips are sealed, permanently.”

And here came Harris, set to open his smart yap again.  He slung an arm around the platelet, smirking triumphantly in the vampire’s direction.  “See, what I tell ya?” he crooned.  “And she didn’t even have to blow up a whole entire town to do it.”

Spike toyed with a comeback, then shrugged it off and went back to inspecting poor old Mokdaar’s leavings with his boot.   “S’pose I owe you a bit of dosh, pet,” he muttered.  “Fuzzball was lighter on his feet than he looked.”

The Slayer gave him a comforting pat.  “Aw, cheer up, killer.  Maybe you can pay me back in trade.”

This one pulled an eyebrow.  The way she said it.  “Yeah?”

“I think we can work something out,” she hissed, curling in close for a …

Oh, for the sake of a million Petes,” Harris whinged.  “Could we please keep The Grossness to a bare minimum tonight?  Some of us haven’t eaten yet, you know.”

“Xander…”

He held his palms up.  “Hey, I’m just sayin’ what everybody’s thinking.”

“I wasn’t thinking that,” Andrew offered sheepishly. “I was actually thinking about those Damned Dudes.  I mean, what happens when they finish doing their... you know…”

Willow batted a hand.  “Oh, it’s cool.  I downloaded, like, the whole Rogers and Hammerstein songbook.   That oughta keep ‘em busy for a few years.  Heck, we could probably even charge tickets…”

They all shot her a synchronized, exasperated look.

“…if we were staying, that is,” she added hastily.  “Which, we’re totally not.”

Red wasn’t exactly thrilled at the prospect of picking up stakes just yet.  Ever since she shuttled Spike and Xander back from Never-Never-Again Land, the girl seemed to have rekindled her appetite for all things witchy.  And apparently, the fair hamlet of Ipswich sat upon a great, heaping glut of Cosmic So-and-So that magnified the “natural mana absorption rate” or some such rubbish.  Whether this latest obsession had anything to do with the girl’s rather convenient bout of amnesia was another topic entirely, and one that William the Bloody wasn’t about to broach.  He well knew the benefits of having a slightly dodgy memory, perhaps more than anyone else on the planet.

Personally, Spike couldn’t wait to get stateside again.  He’d had more than his fill of Jolly Old through the past six months, and it only served to remind him why he’d left in the first place.  One more batch of tea and crumpets was likely to send him off on a ghoulish murder spree.

Just as he was thinking this, the Wells boy gave a off a little yelp.  “Ooh!  That reminds me.”  He plucked a small bauble from the satchel under his cloak: a hunk of glowing scarlet stone hanging off a platinum chain.  “Check it out.  Apocalypse swag!”

The Slayer hardly seemed amused.  “Where did you get that?” she sighed.

“I totally boosted it from Big Bad,” he explained.  “You know… during our climactic battle sequence?”

“Andrew…”

“Aw, come on,” he pouted.  “I mean, how bad could it be?”  A sea of bleary, hooded eyes beamed the answer back at him.  “Yeah, okay.  But, like, maybe we could pawn it or something.   I hear New York’s kinda pricy…”

Spike snatched up the trinket, handed it to Big Red.  “Right.  Go on and wish it into the cornfield, Hermione.”

“Ooh, pretty,” the Witch noted, her eyes twinkling with glee.  “But, evil.”

A few seconds later, Andrew’s souvenir vanished in a hot flash of smoke and orange embers, and when it did an old wound tugged down in Spike’s gut.  As he cast a wary eye at Xander, the boy returned it, and offered him the slightest nod.  It was the only secret they'd ever shared, and the weight of it sometimes seemed more than their two backs alone could bear up.  After a tense moment, the wave of panic passed, and they resumed their usual dance of gruff malice and begrudging respect.

Dawn gave them all an exhausted look as she trundled past.  “Alright, people, what say we move on to the driving portion of the evening?  Followed directly by the eating and the sleeping portion.   Cause, this scene is totally played.”

And – as usual, lately – the girl had herself a bloody good point.

 

 

 

***

 

 

4 hours later

--- 

 

“It’s not a dress,” Andrew insisted, his hiccupy voice ticking up in pitch.  “It’s an Irish Walking Cape: a stylish yet highly functional garment, worn by native peoples of yore to protect them from the harsh and foreboding Celtic winter.”

“Yeah, okay,” said Xander.  “But it’s springtime.  And, this isn’t Ireland.  And, it’s still, you know… for girls.”

“The salesperson told me was totally gender neutral.”

“Spike?  Uh, you wanna take this one?”

The vampire shrugged, dumped back another shot of rye.  “If Henrietta likes her pretty gown then let’er wear the bloody thing,” he slurred.  “Seen worse.  Don’t give a toss.”

And with that, the vamp grabbed a handful of bills and staggered off in the direction of the jukebox.  A dozen sets of eyes seemed to move in unison, once again sizing up the motley trio of Martians who’d invaded their little world.  Xander tried to meet as many of their gazes as he could, giving them a practiced look that said: Hey, I’m a friendly space alien!  But I didn’t exactly lose this eye playing badminton…

The pub was old-fashioned, but not in the fake, London, touristy way.  Here, all the old-looking stuff actually seemed to be old, instead of just being manufactured to look like that.  Xander thought it lent the place a quaint, death-trappy sort of feel.  Thick oak beams glowed slightly amber under a network of brass pendant lamps.  In a corner of the lounge beside the soot-blackened fireplace, an ancient TV set seemed to be included as an afterthought.  A mute game of soccer was playing (of course), but nobody seemed to be paying attention to it.  Tonight’s real entertainment was live, with no cover charge.  And it was about to order more drinks.

“Barkeep,” Xander announced, forcing in a chipper note.   “Another round, if you please.”

At the far end of the old scratched up bar, the evening’s drink peddler was engaged in low conversation with one of the regulars.  When he gazed up from it, his eyes had that cold look that deep-sea fish have; like they weren’t so much seeing Xander Harris as they were smelling him with their pupils.  A moment later, he began a slow-motion orbit back to their stools, every inch and ounce of his huge, English countryside bulk seething with hatred.  When he got there, he leaned in way, way too close and handed the two strangers another savage, joyless leer.

“Now, les’see, le’see” he growled.  “Tha’ were one double-malt.  Neat.  An’ one…” He jabbed his meaty finger in front of Andrew’s nose.

“Malibu Bay Breeze,” the Caped Wonder squeaked, prompting Xander to bury his forehead in his palm again.

“Right, right,” Barzilla snarled.  “Mawl-uh-bew Bay Breeze!”  He thumped the bar once and then ambled off again, a chorus of low snickers cheering him on from the shadows.

Well, Xander thought.  It could be worse.

And then, of course, it was. 

The noise came slamming out of the speakers with the red certainty of a heart-attack, a cheerful blend of machine guns and tortured chimpanzees.  Xander hesitated to call it music until the lyrics kicked in:

I get a calling time of day,
Beat a lot a lot of crime away,
There's nothing baby i can't take,
With that crime i'm gonna make your body ache,

Spike came bobbing over, grinning like an idiot.  The song was an ear-splitting assault on everything good and decent, and, as usual, the vamp was responsible.  He grabbed an unattended bottle of something brown propped on the bumper and took a long, hard slug from it.  Xander felt the mood in the room swing violently as the song kept roaring out.

It's no kind of big deal - no Carnegie steal,
I don't feel like no heel,
When i'm born… Said i'm born… Yeah i'm born… And i'm born to KILL!

“Come along, lads, come along,” Spike barked, in a shouting contest with the speakers now.  “Les’ have us a proper toast.”  He raised the bottle in mock solemnity.  “To the Queen Mum’s spotty diapers.  Long may they wave.”

Another long pull drew the barman’s gaze again, this time blaring one-hundred percent volcanic menace at them.  Spike gleefully ignored him, and continued to pour the remainder of the liquor down his throat.  When he finished he wiped his mouth with his sleeve, then blew a sharp, poisonous breath directly in Andrew’s face that nearly bowled him backwards off his stool.   Then, to the bartender, “Jot this one on our tab, yeah?”

“Spike.  For the love of Christmas…”

But Spike kept at it, of course.  “Oy!  Bar wench!” he crooned at the homicidal-looking giant.  “Talkin’ to you, luv!”

As the very large, very angry man made his way down the line again, the vamp shoved the bottle into Xander’s hand and clapped his arm around the nearest patron – a haggard old guy wearing a tartan suit and a vivid My Dog Just Died expression.

“An’ while you’re at it, fill up old Sunshine, here.  Poor bugger looks like he could use a good embalmin’ tonight.”

The old guy shot Spike a doleful eye and then glared at the bartender.  A game of ominous eye hockey ensued, as though the locals we’re coming to some quiet agreement.

And, here we go again…

 

 

 

***

 

 

Buffy kept staring out the window at the little alehouse across the street.  She thought about the plan again, and cursed herself for going along with it.  It was a stupid plan.

Somewhere nearby, Willow’s voice hummed a tune Buffy didn’t recognize over the sound of vigorous stirring.  In a loveseat that was so dowdy it should’ve been draped with a lace doily, Dawn impatiently dug her spoon into one of the little pints of ice cream they’d picked up at the petrol-mart.  With a furtive, catlike movement, the girl sent a shot of green liqueur splashing into the dessert bucket.

“I saw that,” Buffy murmured.

“Saw what?”

Buffy blew out an exhausted sigh, and then decided to resume her round of window-pouting.  This was all Willow’s idea, of course.  Thanks in part to that gender-fender-bender spell a few weeks back, the witch felt massively over-boyed lately and desperately needed a Girls' Night Out.  Or, In, as it so happened.

And thus, the brilliant plan was conceived.  While the lads enjoyed a night of “Bond…Male Bond” at the crappy little pub across the street, the lasses would…

What? she wondered.

Swill girly drinks and paint each other’s toenails?  Lame!

Even as she thought this, she happened to steal a glance down at her toes, and admitted that they did look a little on the dull side, after all.  It had been hard keeping up maintenance lately – what with all the stabbing and the maiming and the dire prophecy-averting.  She figured her hair could probably use a tune-up, too.   She’d been rocking the Swoop Bangs for about six weeks, and they were starting to look a little Kirk Cobain-ish…

She frowned.  “Is it Kirk or Kurt?”

Dawn licked the spoon, her tongue already turning a shade of shamrock green.  “As in Trek-y or Grunge-y?”

“As in, my hair looks like I Woke Up in Jail-y.”

“That would be Kurt,” the girl confirmed.  “Want me to cut it?”

“Like, with scissors?”         

“No with a butter knife, dummy.”

 “In that case, I better have that drink first,” Buffy groaned.  “Hey, Brewmeister!  How’s it comin’ in there?”

The witch emerged from the room’s tiny kitchenette with a pitcher full of gooey, pink glop and three mugs, beaming triumphantly.  “Ladies, allow me to introduce you to my finest potion yet.”

“What’s in it?”

“What isn’t,” Willow replied cryptically.

A few pours and one half of one unintentionally hilarious zombie movie later, Buffy forgot all about the little pub across the street.  After some moments of tense debate, Dawn Summers had abandoned her drunk-girl-with-scissors scheme and became engrossed in Toenail Duty instead.  Willow kept up the chatter for the most part, gamely weaving across a dozen uncontroversial topics from her lotus-legged yogi pose on the Inn’s blue shag carpet. 

Unsurprisingly, New York City came up, and Buffy felt her brain flinch at the prospect of yet another argument.   But, whether it was the afterglow of this latest Hellmouth's Going Out of Business Sale or the third mug-load of melty pink goo, the witch seemed to have come to peace with the idea at last.  “I hear the covens there are, like, total party animals," she snorted.  "Plus it’s hacker heaven, being conveniently located next to the biggest honking NAC-node on the eastern seaboard and all.”

The mere mention of New York was enough to rouse Dawn from her toe-frenzy.  “NAC, schmack,” she said.  “I’m thinking Park Avenue shopping, afternoons at the Met, and romantic, moonlit carriage rides oughta do it for me.”

Romantic moonlit carriage rides?  Dawn, you’re a member of an elite anti-monster squad, not Carrie Bradshaw.”

“Hey, if you can date dead guys then I can get Sexy in the City.”

The girl was down with the plan from the beginning.  Ever since the afternoon that windy email had arrived in their inboxes, she’d rarely gone a day without mentioning it.  That part was both strange and not-so-strange.  Sure, the young woman had “a history” with the Watcher – at this point, who didn’t?  Crossing swords with the illustrious Rupert Giles was almost a rite of passage in their strange little club.

On the TV, one of the fake zombies started talking again, shattering Buffy’s concentration.  The entire movie was ridiculous, but this was by far the lamest part.  Real zombies were basically mute, of course, but these guys all seemed to taaaaalk liiiiike thiiiiiiiiiis.

At the foot of the bed, Dawn ignored this heresy, and kept patiently brushing on the coat of ‘Vermillionaire.’  “Faith says our new place is huge,” she mused.  “But she said ‘by New York standards.’  What do you think that means?”

“I think it means ‘that pillock David Schwimmer was lyin‘is bloody bollocks off.’”  The pair reacted to Buffy’s butchered impression like she’d just grown an extra head.  “What?  No good?”

“No, that was very cool,” Dawn deadpanned.  “Buffy, can you teach me to be cool like you?”

“Shut up.”

“Ooh!  Teach me to be cool too,” Willow begged.

Teeeeach uhhhhhs,” said Dawn in Zombie Voice.

“Right.  Okay.”  Buffy hopped off the bed, Dawn still chasing after her feet with the little paintbrush.

“Um, whatcha doing there, o’ fearless leader?” Willow asked.

Buffy grabbed an eggshell camisole from the back of a chair and slipped it over her head, voice muffling through it.  “Just stepping out for some fresh air.”

“Uh huh,” Dawn muttered.  “Fresh air.”

Buffy shrugged.  “Maybe a game of darts.  You know how much I like throwing pointy things.”

“Sure,” said Willow.  “Darts.”

Buffy frowned at them.  “It’s our last night here,” she groaned.  “I mean, do you guys really want to spend it cooped up in Madam Pennyfeather’s B&B of Ultimate Quaintness?”

Surprisingly, it was Dawn who relented first.  “Blaaahhh, go ahead.  Got plenty of toes need paintin’ around here.”

Seeend us baaaack the Boyyyyyy,” Willow intoned.

“Oh, hey, good idea,” Dawn agreed.  “Seeeend uhhhs the Boyyyyy.”

And a bottle of Peeeeeach Schnaaaaapps.”

Buffy smiled and turned to leave, snagging the keys from the coffee table as she went.   She thumped down the stairs into the mini-hotel’s lobby, which looked more like some grandmother's living room than an actual place of business.  A few seconds later she was bursting out into the clammy old English night, already bracing herself for all the clever bon mots that were sure to greet her.

As she reached the pub’s entrance, she decided that she would send them back The Boy, after all.  Truth be told, Andrew Wells seemed even less enthusiastic about the evening’s festivities than she was.  It would be like an old-fashioned hostage swap…

Hey.

Why the heck are these doors locked?

Buffy jiggled the handles a couple of times, then pressed her ear against the wood.  She heard a big, crashing, yelling noise coming from behind it, and suddenly realized that this might as well have been the soundtrack to her life.

And, here we go again…

 

 

 

***

 

 

4 minutes earlier

---

 

As Xander calculated their dwindling odds of survival, Mister Personality was ordering another round with his usual charm.  “Got thirsty blokes here!” the vamp crooned, eyes full of sparks and cheerful venom.  “Things may get ugly, luv!”

“Could you possibly be any more annoying?”  Xander wondered aloud.  “And what’s with this music?”

Spike just shrugged.  “It was in the bloody box.”

“And yet, they don’t seem to like it.”

The vampire scowled back.  “Oh, dry your britches, Susan.  S’posed to be celebrating, remember?”

“Yeah, well pardon me for wanting to spend our last night in England behaving like normal human beings.”

“Is that a shot?”

“Yes.  That is a shot.”

This exchange seemed to stir Andrew from his tropical breeze coma.  “I want a shot,” he warbled.  “We should do a shot.”

Spike clapped the geek’s neck, bursting with pride.  “There’s a lad, Andrew!” he boomed.  “See, Xander?  And he’s wearing a bleedin’ nightgown.”

“It’s not a nightgown,” Andrew protested.  “It’s a vital cultural emblem of a proud warrior people.”  He cast another bleary eye at the latrine next to the ancient pay phone.  “Does anyone else have to go yet?”

““For the last time, Andrew, nobody is going to the bathroom with you.”  Xander measured the look of malice on the bartender’s face as he took another sip of scotch, thinking how easy the glass of poison would be to – well, poison.   Probably wouldn’t even taste it, he surmised.

“Oh, that’s okay.  I think I can hold it,” said Andrew.   His eyes roved over the fruity drink again, no doubt gauging the pee-to-liquor ratio.  “Hey, do you think they’ll have pubs like this in New York?”

“They have everythin’ in New York,” Spike answered, “only it all costs twice as much.”

Andrew seemed to hear this without comprehending it.  “I wonder how Giles is doing over there,” he said wistfully.  “He seems pretty excited about his new job.”

“Excited?  That blighter?”  Spike snorted scornfully.  “They'd have to check his pulse with a bloody sundial.”

“Yeah.  But you know how he likes old books.  And museums and old buildings and stuff.”

“Rot,” the vampire scoffed through a fresh jet of cigarette smoke.  “Listen, ain’t nothing old about New York, mate.  You want old, just look around you.  This shed was likely slingin’ watery piss to the gits who built Stonehenge.”

As he said it, the next song on Spike’s Greatest Hits Mix began to play.   A certain dead punk rocker's deflated-balloon voice billowed out of the speakers over the soft, smarmy tinkle of a guitar.

And now the end is neeeeeaaaaar,
And so I faaaace the final curtaaaaaaain…

 “Well at least we’ll be out of Jolly Old Angryland,” Xander noted.  “No offense, Spike, but your hometown?   Kinda sucks.  And this is coming from someone who grew up on a Lip Blister of Hell.”

Surprisingly, Spike shot him a warm grin and lifted his latest bottle.  “Yeah, I’ll drink to that one, mate.”  Suddenly inspired, the old bloodsucker propped himself high on the stool and exclaimed “To England!  A fine place to live, if it weren’t for all the soddin’ English!” 

The pub’s mood fell instantly to a frozen, livid silence, all the sound drained out of the world except for a sawing electric riff and the singer's druggy bleat:

Regrets! I’ve had a feeeeeeeewwww! 
But then again! To few to mention!

Xander noticed mounds of hammy beer muscle defrosting in the deep shadows of the lounge.  The bartender returned, looming over the trio like a pale wave.

“Sorry lads,” he sneered.  “Closin’ time.”  As he said it, a lanky guy in a faded Cricket sweatshirt stalked over to the front doors and secured them with a heavy iron chain.

“Uh, I know we’re not from around here,” Xander remarked.  “But isn’t it customary to lock up after everybody goes home?”

The barman’s eyes turned as white as lamps, and the upper lip of his smile curled so sharply that it turned inside out.  The mouth there was different now; a jagged, gleaming hell full of silverware and bad intentions.  Ropy black arteries pushed their way so the surface as the skin around them tinted to a sickly shade of yellow.

Hey, a demon!  Big surprise.   Xander took a moment to savor the non-irony of it all even as a bundle of gooey computers at the base of his skull shouted at him to “duck.”  He obeyed, just in time to see a clawed hand sweep overhead.

Running on autopilot, he slid sideways towards his blind spot and dug for the blade in his jacket.  But before he could find a nice, scaly home for it, Spike made his move, airmailing the pub-crawlie into the distant bowels of the Games Room.  From the yelping speakers, Sid Vicious seemed to shout his approval.

I plaaaaaaaanned!  Each charted course!
Each careful step!  Along the highwaaaaaaayyyyyyy…

The trio formed a hasty wedge in the center of the room, the spot where a dance floor might’ve been if this had been a hipper demon hangout.  They spared a moment to size up the competition.

“Knew somethin’ was off about these wankers,” Spike murmured.

Baloney,” Xander seethed, more exasperated then ever.  “You didn’t know crap about any wankers .”

“Wells?  You recognize this lot?”

The dweeb studied the gathering crowd of demons, either squinting at them thoughtfully or trying to penetrate a fog of rum.  “Uh, hard to say.  T’zula, maybe?”

“Weaknesses?” Xander asked hopefully.

One of the monsters suddenly lashed out at them, snarling hungrily.  Spike grabbed it by the shoulders and mashed its face with his forehead.  The beast reeled backwards onto a table, sending up a cloud of shattered glass and warm beer.  “Well, that seems to work,” he noted cheerfully.

The brawl kicked into high gear, then.  Luckily, the T’zulas (or whatever they were) had either seen way too many Kung Fu movies or none at all.  Instead of swarming them all at once like they should’ve, they seemed content to just wander in one at a time for their predictable beat-downs.

Andrew climbed onto a table behind them and started chanting what sounded like random passages from his grimoire, his cape scooped up in one hand.  Trying to ignore the damsel-in-distress-y undertones of this image, Xander grabbed a pool cue and started introducing the locals to the business end of it.  With three practiced swings, he sent a trifecta of uglies crunching down to Demon Dreamland, the third of which snapped the stick into two sharp spears.

If only they were vampires, he mused, and then immediately scanned the battlefield for signs of their team’s very own Dead-ward Cullen. 

Apparently not content to play defense, Spike had blitzed his way into the thick of the mob in the lounge.  As the crowd hissed and gnashed their teeth, the vamp yanked the little television out of the wall, putting a merciful end to “injury time,” or whatever they called it when the soccer game was over but the little people kept kicking the ball and chasing it...

There were times!  I’m sure you KNEW!
When there was FUCK – fuck, fuck all else to DO!

As Xander looked on, a hobgoblin in a cardamom sweater came waddling up to Spike for some hot one-on-one action.  The vampire brought the TV crashing down over the top of the freak’s skull, spontaneously inventing the world’s stupidest-looking helmet.

But through it all!  When there was doubt! 
I shot it UP!  I kicked it OUT!

Blind and groggy, TV Head staggered sideways and smashed into a banquette loaded down with oil-burning lamps.  Big flames roared out immediately, as though every inch of the place had been scrubbed with kerosene.  Yellow mutants scattered in every which direction, whooping and roaring as bright tendrils of fire shot across old oak panels and down the legs of chairs and back up cheesy checkered tablecloths.

I faced the WALL!  And!  The WORLD!
And did it
MYYYYYYYYYY  WAY!

Suddenly, the front doors blasted off their hinges, revealing a very familiar sight on the other side.  As the Slayer took a moment to chop up the scenery, a sea of glowing eyes blinked back at her in amazement.

“Hey there!" she chirped.  "You guys got darts?"


 

~*~*~

 

(continued in Part 2...)

 

 

 

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August 2012

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