Spike stood on the corner in the midst of thinning crowds. If only his heart had a beat, it would be slamming against his rib cage. He wasn’t unaware of the weirdness. Once upon a time he would have bagged a Slayer-friend in order to throw Buffy off her game. It would have made her vulnerable… it would have made her ripe for the kill. His third Slayer; the stories he would have told.
Now, she was dead, as was her mother and something inside him hurt every day knowing this fact. And, Xander? Well, the thought of what he’d have to go through if his Hyena spirit did something… unfortunate… to the Geek Squad… it hurt, too. Obviously, he was a defective vampire… the Judge had been right, he was still too human by half, Damn-It.
Taking a deep breath, he could pick out several scents. He ignored those he didn’t recognize easily enough. They were prey. Any time in the past, he’d have been all over those… looking to do what vampires did… enjoying something not animal. Humans tasted best, they always had. That’s why Fangs always went for the human meat.
These were different times though. His mind immediately honed in on that which he sought. He could smell Xander far too clearly, and for just a moment he hoped that the human was back in control. But, opening his eyes, he found himself looking at the sidewalk. And there, nearly glowing to his vampiric night vision, were drops of Xan’s blood. Hyena was still bleeding from Xander’s injuries, leaving a trail to be followed.
Thank you all the forces of Light and Dark that it’s minor bleeding, he thought momentarily. And then, the smells of the other two were mingling with his lover’s in the air. Fuck. He’s found them… SHE’s found them. Don’t do it…!
“Sorry, it’s been a really chaotic night,” Tara shrugged at the stranger in their midst. He was obviously not human, and this worried her.
“Okay, so Giles,” Willow added, now that Dawnie had gone and the detective they’d been forced into taking into their confidence was at his car.
“I fear for Sunnydale,” Alican stated. “I have been searching for a very long time for a tome. A… family heirloom, you could say. I have sensed it here in your town, and I fear it can only bring bad news to you, and uh, the Slayer,” he added, with a look at the dysfunctional robot. “Only Giles can help me retrieve this item. And I fear it may be too late,” he stated with a note of worry. He was staring out of the broken doorway to the outside, where the weather was rapidly turning worse.
“W-well, we’ll help… uh, I guess,” Tara stated, still unsure of what they were doing. She looked to Willow to see if this was something they should get involved in.
“We can take you to Giles,” Willow added with authority. “We’ll take Joyce’s Jeep. Grab the keys, Sweetheart,” she said to Tara, sending her to the kitchen. “In the meantime, I have to try to locate a friend,” she told the wizard.
Closing her eyes, she focused her will on Alexander Harris. Unfortunately, she couldn’t reach him before Tara came back. She didn’t know if this was due to Hyena being in charge, her own lack of ability, or the interference of the storm that was whipping up. She feared it was the storm. She was annoyed that she couldn’t just cast a proper locator spell, but things were moving quickly. She just hoped that Spike could take care of Xander, while they helped to squelch whatever this new, sudden crisis was. In the back of her mind, she realized that the brewing storm outdoors was very familiar to Giles’ tempest when he went after Glory. Since this thought scared her so, she refused to recognize it.
“Here’s the keys! But what about Rick and the robots… and geez, this mess,” Tara exclaimed on returning.
“Later,” Willow yelled emphatically. The trio ran for the Jeep Cherokee, which hadn’t been driven since Joyce’s death. Rick was running back toward the entrance to the Summers’ house, but they didn’t stop to fill him in.
Across town, Julie Marcom lay in bed, tossing and turning. She was upset about what she’d witnessed that night, and yet, she seemed to not be able to get her mind off that old bat, Mrs. Mills. The old lady was a pain in the ass to the whole neighborhood.
Somebody should do something about her, she thought distractingly. A-and the slime-bags she has living over there.
With an annoyed sigh, she rolled onto her back and took a few deep breaths. But it didn’t stop the voice in her mind enflaming the… hatred… she felt toward the old bitch.
In Giles’ apartment, a scowl played across his face. His eyes were closed, but under the lids, they were completely black. He was puzzled… and disturbed.
There was something… something that was warning him of danger. He didn’t know what had happened at his former Slayers’, but whatever had caused the disruption he’d felt, it was sending off warning bells in his mind.
“Let the folds of time create a barrier,” he intoned, in Turkish. The dark power welled up within him and he felt the universe around him screech in torment. He smiled. In his hands, the ‘Book of ’ seemed to nearly hum, feeding his feeling of being able to do anything. He thought of what he could do once he’d taken care of whatever was causing his current unease. The power he could wield would make him a king among men… a god.
In the Jeep, the rain battered the windshield as Tara, driving barely ten miles an hour, struggled to see through the rain. The wipers were on high, but they were nearly useless. In addition to the sudden onslaught of water, the wind threatened to grab the steering wheel from her hands at any moment.
“God, this weather is awful,” she said worriedly.
Next to her, Willow was turned toward the back seat. “I think you’d better tell us what’s going on,” she directed at the non-human in their back seat.
He sighed briefly. “I am seeking a tome, I told you,” he said. “It is a… rather embarrassing mistake from my great, great grandfather. I seek to… remove it… from existence. It started as pain and will remain so until it is destroyed,” he stated with no further explanation.
“And what makes you think Giles can help,” Willow asked.
“He is a Watcher. They have resources. If someone is using the damnable writ, he will help me find and secure it.”
Above the vehicle inching through the horrible night, lightning began to flash.
Spike stood several dozen yards away from a hulking, dark form. In the brilliant flashes of lightning, he could make out an abandoned factory of some sort. He’d lost the scents he sought only moments before, but instinct told him that he’d found what he was hunting, anyway.
A flash of lightning had him duck down an instant as he felt the electricity in the air. He was soaked down to the skin by the pounding rain and the wind was throwing loose leaves into his face.
Still, he remained focused on his target. Perhaps he would have recognized the magic in the air, but with his mind on his mortal lover’s welfare, the raging storm around him simply didn’t occur to him.
With a prayer to no one in particular that he wouldn’t be too late, he ran for the shadow of a doorway.
Only minutes before, Hyena-Xander had tracked down her prey… Warren first, and the other skinny one, Andrew… Andy… whatever.
Now she stood glaring coldly at the two humans.
“Xander! H-how did you find us,” Andrew screeched. He was bleeding from the side of his face where his skin had split open and was leaning against a work bench.
When he’d landed after using Jonathon’s inventive ‘bionic/jet boots’, he managed to hit a car rather hard. He had tears running from his eyes as he tried not to act wimpy from the pain. It was so important that Warren know he could count on him, after Jon had abandoned them earlier.
“Bad move,” Warren yelled at Xander, having no clue what he was actually facing. With no weapons to hand, he was on adrenaline and machismo. “You should have brought a witch or two, Dickweed,” he laughed nervously.
In truth, something about Harris was making him uneasy. It may have been the look on his face, or the stance of his body… something seemed ‘off’’ with him to Warren; something dangerous in a way he’d never worried about Xander, before.
“Willow and Tara would have gotten in the way,” Xander said with a creepy growl. “And we wouldn’t want them interfering, now would we?”
“Interfering with what,” Andy asked, almost desperately afraid.
“Warren…,” Andrew whined, glancing between Xander acting so oddly and his fearless leader.
Warren for his part was backing slowly from Harris… the guy was acting really weird. He took a few desperate glances around, looking for something weapon-y, but there was nothing to hand.
“It’s two against one,” he tried boldly. “We’ll kick your ass, right Andy?”
“Uh… y-yeah… you better get out of here,” Andrew assumed as tough a pose as he could manage.
Xander just laughed lowly. “Or, not.”
With a leap of at least three feet, he was on Andy before the kid could react with more than a squeal of alarm. Body slamming the skinny runt sent him stumbling backward.
Behind him was one of the workbenches that had held Adam during the Trio Gang’s research into the cyber-demonoid’s functions. Now, his head hit it sharply and Andrew slumped to the ground, unmoving.
Warren swallowed back his own cry of alarm. He watched Andy hit the floor as if everything was happening in slow motion with wide eyes. When he lifted his gaze to meet Xander Harris’, he swallowed again in reflexive fear. He was suddenly very worried that Xander hadn’t been full of hyperbole… he might actually be considering murder.
“Y-you don’t wanna do this,” he pleaded with a desperate tinge to his voice that he hated. He couldn’t help it. He was scared to the point of shaking. “You’ll go to prison. You’re not a killer!”
“Xander isn’t a killer. But you fucked up, you’ve gotta deal with me now, thanks to the Faithbot turning on him,” Hyena gave a high-pitched laugh.
Warren had no clue, of course, what he was talking about. But, it wasn’t hard to believe that Harris had gone nuts and this only made him more scared. He backed away even more, but felt a desk behind him stop his progress. In the meanwhile, Xander was inching closer to him with bloodlust in his eyes and slobber dripping down his chin.
Warren reached behind him without looking, desperately searching for anything to grab. Even as he yanked a desktop lamp and swung it around, Xander was rushing forward.
He brought the lamp in a wide arc, but at the last second, Xan seemed to see the threat and react in a flash of sudden movement. He ducked under Warren’s wild swing, jabbing a fist of his own that caught the Pack’s assailant in the gut.
Warren fell to the floor, gasping for air. But Xander didn’t give him an inch. Before he realized what was happening, he was lying on his back. Xander was straddling his chest and pinning his arms down with his legs, now. His large hands were wrapped tightly around his throat and Warren found his air completely cut off.
Shaking hard now, his heels hit uselessly against the hard concrete floor as he desperately kicked and struggled to move. Xan’s spittle splashed down onto his face and pure malice burned from his eyes. Xander was squeezing his throat so hard that he was beginning to see stars in his peripheral vision.
Jesus, he’s really killing me, he thought with a touch of amazement and wonder. It was as if he couldn’t quite grasp the reality of what was happening to him.
He made a desperate attempt to lunge and displace the crushing weight on his chest, trying to force Xan’s hands from his throat. It was all for naught. Instead of releasing him so he could catch a desperately needed breath, Xan only put more pressure on his windpipe.
Warren was just on the verge of giving up, waiting to feel his windpipe collapse, when he heard an accented voice from somewhere nearby. He had no time to hope for a rescue for in another moment, the pressure was suddenly off of his throat. Immediately, he rolled into a ball on his side and began to cough, as he struggled to fill his aching lungs with oxygen. He puked up onto the floor, but didn’t have the strength to lift his head from the mess. He just kept taking huge mouthfuls of air in and coughing it out.
In another section of town, Tara, Willow and Alican al Rashid pulled up to the curb of Giles’ apartment building. Outside, the wind was buffeting against the car causing the whole thing to rock on its springs. The rain was falling so hard that the apartment building itself was only a vague outline through the sheets of water. Already, the sidewalk and street were beginning to flood as the sewer grates couldn’t drain it away fast enough to keep up with the deluge. And the lightning had only intensified during their drive over. Now it came in dazzling bursts of bright white light. Thunder had started rumbling across the skies of Sunnydale in a constant cacophony that seemed to reverberate throughout their bodies.
“We’d better hurry,” Willow shouted above the pounding rain against the roof of the Jeep. She was out into the weather in a dash, and missed Alican’s alarmed warning.
“Wait,” he shouted, but too late to stop the young witch. He grabbed Tara’s shoulder as she made to get out of the car. “T-this is the central nexus of the sudden storm! I feel it… the Book of !”
“Book? Goddess! It’s Giles! Giles has that book… he’s tapped its powers before,” she shook of his hand and nearly dived out of the vehicle.
As Tara was running around the front of the Jeep and trying to shield her face from the driving rain, Alican also struggled to get out. He wasn’t used to interacting with modern technology and fumbled with the door, while shouting for the young women to stop.
Ahead of her, Tara called out to Willow who was dashing toward Giles’ apartment. Even as she was trying to cry a warning that Giles may be the very danger they were investigating, Willow’s figure suddenly distorted in her view. Her body seemed to bend and twist, elongating and shifting horribly as if she were standing in front of a funhouse mirror.
Tara screamed for her again, running to her girlfriend, when she felt a strong grip around her chest. She was lifted off of the ground from behind and she heard Al’s deep voice in her ear.
“No! It’s too late; you’ll get trapped as well!”
“Willow,” Tara yelled. On the walkway leading to Giles’, she saw the red head standing frozen in mid-stride. She no longer looked distorted, but there was still a slight rippling effect in the air surrounding her.
“What’s happened to her,” Tara yelled at her mysterious companion, as he finally let her go.
“She’s caught in a temporal distortion field!” Before Alican could give her any more details of what he thought was happening, however, another series of lightning bolts filled the skies directly above them.
The air was so charged with electricity, that Tara actually felt her skin tingle and her hair trying to stand on end.
“We have to go,” Al yelled in her ear. “He has sensed me!”
Again, more lightning sheeted directly above them. The mage grabbed the witch by the hand and yanked her to the ground, just before a bolt of lightning hit the Cherokee squarely. There was a burst of light and sound and then steam or smoke began rising from the front of the car.
“We have to help Willow,” Tara tried to insist, but Alican was dragging her toward a corner, where the walls gating off the apartment’s yard met.
“She’ll be alright,” he insisted to her. Before there could be anymore argument, he pushed Tara down into a dark corner. And then they seemed to melt into the darkness.
At the Summers’ home, a uniformed officer conferred with the Lieutenant. Rick gave him orders to secure the house until they could board up the front and back doors and the large shattered picture window.
Before Officer Bobby Watson arrived, Rick was able to drag the ‘corpse’ of Buffybot to the basement door. He’d tried to get the thing downstairs, but it ended up being too heavy for him. It tumbled down the stairs, which was good enough for him. He figured now that he was ‘in the know’ he had to protect the knowledge that the real Buffy wasn’t still alive.
He hadn’t even attempted to do anything about Adam-stein. The hulking brute with the ruined face was still in the entryway where it had … stopped functioning….
Officer Watson only gave it a cursory look when he’d arrived. As if to deny the obviously other-worldliness of what was clearly in front of his face, he simply didn’t bring it up to Lieutenant Stein. It was, literally, the cyborg in the room no one acknowledged.
Outside, the growing storm from earlier in the evening had arrived with an unholy vengeance. Bobby was just as happy to hang out at this house, than to be out driving in the mess.
“This is a personal favor,” Rick was saying. “I’d appreciate it if you could just keep an eye on the place for a bit. And, uh, the… thing… there,” he gave a nod in the general direction of Adam. “Just uh… don’t touch it, okay?”
“No problem,” Watson returned, in a well practiced bored tone. He’d been on the Sunnydale P.D. for eight long years and he’d seen things that should have driven him insane. He’d gotten very used to conveniently ignoring the situations that didn’t make sense, no matter how large and obvious they tried to make themselves. After the bizarreness that was the now missing Mayor Wilkins, a non-verbal, non-mobile freak of nature was a blessing, in his estimation.
“I got another call,” Rick continued. “But I’ll be back as soon as possible.”
“No problem, Lieutenant.”
When Rick returned to his car and started up the bubble light, he realized the address he’d just been dispatched to. It was the same block as his earlier call when he’d discovered the sad fates of the Crests.
When Spike made his way into the abandoned iron works, he’d heard the voice of one of the geeks and of Hyena, dashing the last hope he’d held out that maybe Xander would be back before things got out of hand. As he’d rushed deeper into the plant, he’d clearly picked up the sounds of a struggle.
Coming into the area where Hyena was, he saw Xander’s body strangling the robot’s creator on the floor. Nearby, another of the nerds was lying unconscious, but alive.
“Hyena, no,” Spike yelled. Before she had any more time to react, he was on her. Grabbing her around the waist, he tossed her off to the side. The chip gave him a warning sting, but it seemed muted… as if it wasn’t quite sure if this was a ‘no-no circumstance’ or not. On the floor, Warren began to puke and gasp for air, bringing a small bit of relief to Spike.
Not for Warren, of course. As far as Spike was concerned, he’d put Dawn in danger, not to mention hurting Xander. The little shit should have his throat torn out for him. But, at least when Xan was back (and he would be back, Spike wouldn’t allow any doubt about that) he wouldn’t have to deal with Hyena having murdered anybody.
Turning his back on Warren, he slipped into his game face reflexively on seeing Hyena. She was crouched on the cement floor, one hand raised in a clawed stance. On her face was a look of undiluted violence and anger.
“Hello, Lover,” she growled out sarcastically.
“I can’t let you do it,” Spike warned her. “Even, if they deserve it.”
“They attacked the Pack. They deserve death!”
“You’re right. And if it wasn’t for the fact of Xan having to live with your choices, I’d say ‘Attack, Fido!’ In fact, I’d love to sink my fangs into all three of the weenies – it’s been too long since I’ve had some fresh, hot human blood. But that ain’t what Xan would want. And, you know that.”
“You know, since you became a good little lapdog to Xander, you’ve really lost any semblance of being interesting, anymore.”
“Was that supposed to hurt my little feelings,” Spike smirked. “You’ll have to do better than that!”
“No problem. I’m not good with the banter, anyway. Let’s just dance Vampire,” she said; and then she leaped at Spike, knocking them both to the floor.
Tara’s world was spinning and seesawing as she suddenly realized that the rain and wind had suddenly stopped. With a swoon and a gasp, she felt herself falling, but then strong arms were holding her up. She had no clue where she was or what had happened to her.
“Easy,” a deep baritone said nearby. “I’m sorry I couldn’t do more to warn you, but we had to get out of there.”
“O-oh, right… we were at Giles’… where are we?!” Tara spun around, to see a very familiar looking washing machine and dryer. Above her head, a single weak light bulb was casting a yellow glow. “The basement?”
“Again, I apologize for the rough ride,” Al gave her a courtly bow.
“I-I don’t understand… or maybe I’m still feeling … displaced and confused.”
He nodded. “I have an ability to slip between dimensions. Teleporting. It requires me to slip into darkness in one point in space and slide out into a shadow in another. I used it to move us from Rupert’s apartment to the Slayer’s basement. I would have warned you of the wrenching sensation, but I’m afraid that Rupert wasn’t playing nicely.”
“Oh, Goddess… Giles! He’s fallen under the influence of Dark Magic, hasn’t he? He’s the one causing the storm… and Willow! What’s happened to Will!?”
“She won’t be harmed. I believe that he has set up a temporal distortion around himself. Your… friend… ran into the field before I could react. I doubt she even knows what has happened. From our point of view, she’s frozen in time, but from hers? Well, it’s likely that she thinks she’s still running toward Mr. Giles’ apartment. She’ll never actually reach it, unfortunately, but she’s unlikely to perceive the passage of time in the normal way.”
“W-what about the others in his building? There are a lot of innocent people there who he could hurt. I-I’ve seen the results of Mr. Giles’ dark magic use.”
“Probably the same thing as with Ms. Rosenberg. Their sense of time has been distorted. They should return only a little worse for wear, once we’ve breached what Rupert has done,” he said thoughtfully.
“Can you do that? Can you bring down this field?”
“Perhaps. It will not be easy, and I’ll need some help. I must go, but I will return soon.”
“Wait! What can I do? I can’t just stand here in the basement! Giles needs me.”
“For now, I would strongly suggest you ready yourself for magical battle. Breaching the shield around our friend is only the beginning. I’m afraid he’s far too gone at this point for him to simply surrender.”
“C-can we save him,” Tara shivered. “I mean, we can save him from the darkness he’s using, can’t we?”
Alican al Rashid only looked at her blankly. And then, he backed away into a shadowed corner and simply vanished.