Chapter Six - the plot thickens...
When they returned several hours later, Joy’s gym bag contained, in addition to her workout clothes, the ingredients and directions for a simple locator spell. She hadn’t shared with Will that her friendship with Karin had developed in large part because they had discovered that Joy had a fairly strong gift for doing earth magic. Karin assured her that a locator spell was well within Joy’s newly-discovered abilities, and she had slipped the necessary materials into her friend’s bag while Joy was doing her end of class stretches.
With a polite “good-night” to Faith and Xander, she went up to her room, followed very quickly by her younger brother. Will bade his two sitters a polite “good-night”, but refused to speak to his mother as he took the steps three at a time.
Xander gave Buffy a sympathetic hug. “He’ll be all right, Buff,” he said loyally. “We talked a lot while you were gone. I told him...” He cleared his throat and tried to ignore his girlfriend’s snort of amusement. “I told him a lot about Spike before he got the chip. And about Angelus. I told him about Jenny. And how Angelus tortured Giles. And how Spike stuck a broken bottle in Willow’s face to make her to a spell to help him get his homicidal maniac of a girlfriend back... I think he has a better idea of why you might have been so afraid for them.”
She smiled ruefully. “I take it you left out the part where he put your unconscious body on a bed and didn’t really hurt Willow? And that he used to visit my mom and I never knew about it? ”
“Yeah, I kinda went heavy on the ‘evil, unsouled killer’ stuff. Seemed like the thing to do.”
Buffy nodded her gratitude. “Thanks for that. I guess I’m going to be doing a lot of fence mending for a while.” She sighed. “At least, if you tell Spike they know, I won’t have to worry about that. Just see if you can find out when to expect him so I can brace myself for it.”
“No problem. I’ll just tell him the kids are dying – bad choice of word, I guess – to see him and ask if he’s going to be here soon.”
“You really don’t know where he is?”
Xander shook his head. “He didn’t volunteer, and I didn’t ask. We mostly talk about the kids...and you. He’s too far away to know what’s going on with you. I know that. But not so far that he can’t get back quickly. He did tell me that. That if we needed him for something – apocalypse, world end-age, that kind of thing – that he could be here within twenty-four hours.”
“Well, that’s something to—” Buffy’s reply was interrupted by the phone’s shrill jangle. Spike had refused to go with one of the softer ring tones now available, in spite of Buffy’s teasing him about being a hide-bound old man; and she hadn’t had the heart to change it after he left. She walked quickly to the desk, her muttered “Who the hell is calling at this hour? This can’t be good,” ending as she grabbed the receiver.
Faith moved to her side, trying to hear the conversation as she watched the blood drain from her sister slayer’s face. Woodenly, Buffy asked questions – “Are you sure? Why didn’t anyone tell us? Well, I don’t know what we could have done – something! We are slayers, you know. And we know him best...Yes. Yes. I’ll tell her. She’s right here. Yes. I know he will. Thanks for calling.”
She dropped the phone back in its cradle, not even noticing when it missed and bounced out. Faith snatched it before it could hit the ground, placing it carefully back in the dock.
“Was that what it sounded like?” Her face was as pale as Buffy’s and her hands were fisted tightly at her sides.
“Buffy? Faith? Something you want to share with the class?” Xander’s attempt at humor didn’t reach his eyes. The last time he’d seen faces like the ones in front of him was the night Spike was turned. His stomach began to clench as he waited.
Without looking at him, Buffy walked back to the couch and sat down. Her voice came as if from a great distance. “Drusilla showed up in New York. Angel went out to talk with her and...”
“And the loony got to him? What was he thinking?”
“He was thinking that Dru wouldn’t hurt her ‘daddy’,” Buffy said quietly. “And to her way of thinking, she probably didn’t.”
“So,” Xander tried to maintain his calm demeanor in the face of the complete devastation he could read on the women in front of him. “Angel’s dead then? I guess we need to call Nina and offer out condo-”
“Nina’s dead,” Buffy said dully. “Her throat was ripped out last night – in her own home.”
Faith’s “Fuck, fuck, FUCK!” echoed in the empty-seeming house. Tears she would never admit to ran down her cheeks.
“I take it we’re going on the assumption that Angelus is undead and well again?”
“So it seems.” Buffy still spoke as though she was sedated. Incapable of even the display of anger and grief that Faith was still indulging in. Her mind shut down, refusing to accept what her ears had heard. That first Spike, and now Angel, had not been permitted to remain human long enough to earn a true, peaceful death from old age seemed like the most unfair of fates. That he had come back as the same vicious killer that he had been before added an additional burden.
Her stupefied response was inspired as much by guilt that she hadn’t kept in close touch with Nina after the move to New York City as it was by grief at her death. During their years in Cleveland, she and Buffy had become close and the news that the werewolf was dead at the hands of her husband hit Buffy almost harder than the news of Angel’s death. When they moved, so that Angel could use his years of experience in Los Angeles to assist the small cadre of slayers in New York City, Nina and Buffy had vowed to e mail each other every week, a vow that had lapsed gradually over time. Nina always accompanied Angel on his trips back to guest lecture at the Slayer School. They often stayed at Buffy’s home so that the two blonde women could catch up.
Accepting that neither slayer was in a mental state to be making decisions just then, Xander took it upon himself to go upstairs and knock on first one bedroom door and then the other. When the sleepy, bewildered faces of the closest thing he and Faith had to a niece and nephew opened their doors, he was firm but quick.
“Do not open your windows. Don’t invite anyone into the house – most especially a nut job with long black hair. And don’t make eye contact with anyone like that.” He paused, then took a deep breath. “And whatever you do, if you see Uncle Angel, do NOT go near him. Don’t ask him in, and don’t talk to him. Just run for your mother or Faith.”
The two children stared at him, bewilderment being gradually replaced by understanding.
“Uncle Angel got turned?” Joy breathed softly.
“But, Dad came back just like he used to be,” Will said with a frown. “Didn’t Uncle Angel?”
“He did,” Xander said tightly. “Hence the instructions not to go anywhere near him. The vampire you will see is not your Uncle Angel; he’s Angelus. And you two are probably numbers one and two on his list of targets.
“US?” Identical expressions of disbelief and shock told him that Buffy’s children were going to have to hear it from their mother before they accepted how much their lives had just changed.
“Come downstairs, kids,” he said soberly. “Your mother’s got some more stuff to share with you.”
He accompanied the still more curious than frightened children down to the living room and nodded to Buffy as she rushed to hug them both.
“I’ll be outside,” he said, casting an eye at Faith. “I have a phone call to make.”
“Tell him to hurry...” Buffy’s whispered plea spoke more loudly than anything else she could have done to indicate just how seriously she was taking the news of Angelus’ return.
While Xander stepped onto the porch, under the watchful eye of his wife, and pushed the button to dial the number stored in his phone, Buffy pulled her children down onto the couch with her. She looked them each in the eye, making sure that they were paying close attention before she began.
“I’m going to talk to you as if you were both grown-ups,” she started. “Joy, you’re only a little younger than I was when I was called, and, Will,” she turned to look into her son’s worried face, “you’re plenty old enough to understand the things I’m going to tell you.”
They nodded solemnly, struck silent by the obvious intensity of their mother’s mood, as well as by her telling them she was going to treat them as adults. Doing their best to appear mature and serious, they waited for her to explain what was going on.
“Did Uncle Xander tell you about Angel?”
They nodded in tandem. Buffy turned her gaze to her daughter.
“Did you read everything in those Watcher’s Diaries, or just the parts about your dad?”
“Um...I read a lot of it, but I was mainly looking for stuff about Daddy, so I...”
“You didn’t read about Angelus?”
“Not much,” Joy admitted. “I figured I could read all that later.”
Buffy sighed and smiled sadly. “I wish you were going to read about it later. But we don’t have time for later, so here goes...”
When Buffy had finished her story of Darla and Angelus, of Drusilla and the way Angelus had carefully driven her insane before he turned her, of how he had lost his soul when she was only seventeen and killed Giles’ girlfriend and tried to end the world, their eyes were open so wide she was afraid they would damage them.
“So,” Buffy continued, “you understand why I’m so worried? Angelus enjoys torturing his victims before he kills them – physically and mentally. He knows how much you two mean to me...and to Sp-your dad, and he’s going to come after you. I don’t doubt it for a second. If he’s not on his way here right now, it’s only because he wants me to have time to get really worried before he shows up. It’s only a question of time before he makes his move. And if Dru’s with him...” Her voice trailed off as she remembered the insane vampire’s predilection for torturing and killing children.
“And, you need to know what Dru looks like. She’s criminally insane and she likes children.”
“If she likes children, doesn’t that mean she wouldn’t hurt us?”
“She likes to EAT children,” Buffy clarified. “After she tortures them for hours. And god only knows what she would do with you two – knowing who your father is.”
“She was Daddy’s...sire thingy, wasn’t she? The first time he became a vampire, I mean.”
“Yes,” Buffy said tersely. “They were together for over a hundred years. She broke up with him after they left Sunnydale, because...Well, because she’s a slut and she was cheating on him,” she finished primly. “But she came back for him once, and I’m sure she’d like nothing better than to get her skanky hands on his children.”
“Don’t pull any punches, B, tell them how you really feel about her.” Faith’s amused voice drifted back to them from the doorway where she was scanning the area around the house for any sign of danger. Xander was holding the phone to his ear and nodding, although the frantic man on the other end couldn’t see him.
“Yeah. No, I was going to call you anyway to tell you about the kids – they want to see you – but now... Yeah, she’s fine with it...she even asked me to tell you to hurry. No, I’m not making that up!” He sighed. “Look, Spike, you and Buffy? That’s none of my business. I learned a long time ago not to get between you two when one of you is feeling testy. But these are your kids, and she knows that your whack job of an ex and your even wackier whatever-he-is-now are going want them. I think...” he hesitated, “I think she’d be happy to have some backup on this one. Yeah, okay, I’ll tell them. See you.”
He snapped the phone shut and looked up at Faith. “He’s on his way.”
She nodded and held the door while he went back into the house, never ceasing her scanning of as much of the area around the house as she could see in the dark. Even though there was nothing setting off her slayer radar, she shivered as she closed the door behind her. Logic told her that there was no way for Angel and Dru to have reached Cleveland already, but that did nothing to alleviate her fear.
“So what’s the plan?” Xander’s quiet question brought her attention back to other people in the room, and she looked at Buffy quickly.
“I think we’re probably okay in the daylight. Angelus might try to get around, but Dru hates the sun – she won’t go out in it. And Angel-lus doesn’t know the sewers or tunnels here, so I doubt he’ll try it. Just in case, I’ll take the kids to and from school, but I think they’ll be safe there.”
“We could send one of the younger slayers with them,” Faith suggested. “Could say she was a cousin visiting from out of town or something.”
Buffy nodded. “That’s not a bad idea – I hate to send an inexperienced slayer up against Dru or Angelus, though. Remember what happened to Kendra?”
“Only in that whatever it was, I turned out to be next in line,” Faith said wryly. “I take it I have one of them to thank for that?”
Buffy nodded. “Yeah, you can thank Dru for pulling you out of whatever it was you were doing before you got called.”
Faith made a face. “Gonna be hard to stay mad at her for that one,” she said quietly, remembering her life before her first watcher found her.
“Yeah, well, don’t let your gratitude slow down your stake,” Xander put in. “You can thank her dust if you feel the need.” His smile was affectionate, but it didn’t reach his eyes.
“Don’t worry. I was just sayin’... Got no plans to give her a pass just because she put me where I am now.”
“YOU put you where you are now, Faith,” Buffy said firmly. “You made yourself what you are.”
Blushing lightly at the unaccustomed praise from the only slayer older than her, Faith nodded her head in thanks. Xander put his arms around her and added his murmured agreement to Buffy’s words, causing Faith to briefly close her eyes in happiness. An emotion that still caught her by surprise from time to time.
Will broke the spell, asking pointedly, “Does this mean somebody’s going to go with us everywhere we go? Like to my soccer games, and Joy’s meets?”
His lip came out in the familiar pout, but before he could complain again, Buffy snapped at him.
“Did you listen to a word I said? Which part of torture, bloodshed and death didn’t you hear? You’re dammed right you’re going to have somebody with you all the time. Every single second, if necessary. If it can’t be me or your Aunt Faith, then it’ll be some other slayer. Get used to it. Until Angelus and his homicidal maniac of a childe/sire are dust on the wind, you and Joy will have protection everywhere you go. I don’t care if it’s a soccer field at high noon.”
Will’s rebelliousness faded somewhat as he saw the matching expressions of fear and determination on the faces of the other two adults in the room. When Joy added her pleading look to the firm glares from the others, he subsided and began to rethink his situation. Even with the young person’s confidence in his own immortality – of which he had more than his share – he could feel the first frisson of fear creeping up his spine. The idea that two of the strongest and most dangerous (to demons) adults he knew were clearly frightened for him, was unsettling enough to put a small hole in his sense of his own invulnerability.
Trying to save face, he muttered, “Well, okay. But only if you pick one of the pretty slayers to go to school with us. I’ve got a reputation to protect, you know.”
Joy rolled her eyes while the adults tried to hide their snickers behind stern expressions.
“I’ll see what I can do,” Buffy managed to say with a straight face. “Now, you guys can go back to bed. Just remember not to go near the windows; in fact, pull the curtains. I don’t know if Dru’s thrall can work from a distance or through glass, but I’d just as soon not find out the hard way. We’ll get some protective amulets from Aunt Willow tomorrow.”
She walked her suddenly more precious children to the stairs and hugged them both so tightly that they had to remind her, somewhat breathlessly, that she had super strength.
“Sorry,” she mumbled, settling for a kiss on each cheek. “Your father should be here soon,” she added. “I’m assuming you won’t mind if he goes everywhere with you,” she added with a small smile at her son.
“We’ll be fine, Mom,” Joy whispered, wanting to both comfort her mother and curl up in her strong arms until the danger was gone.
“You will if I have anything to say about it.” The sudden appearance of Buffy’s slayer persona was enough to send both adolescents scampering to their rooms.