Act Two


"And you have no idea what went wrong?"

Willow shook her head at the older woman whose voice, while measured and calm, also betrayed her concern for Giles in no uncertain terms.

"I've checked it a hundred times. Everything is exactly right... better than right. I-I don't understand. I'm better now... stuff just doesn't go kablooey on me anymore. It just doesn't," she repeated, crestfallen.

"I believe you," Jo told her gently. "In the last few weeks there have been several... incidents... all out of the ordinary. They seem like coincidences, but there are too many now for me to accept as possible without some explanation."


The other woman nodded. "A simple incantation to invoke healthy growth in Lessa's tomatoes produced fruit the size of softballs overnight. We checked and, like your spell, there appeared to be nothing amiss, except, obviously, that the power of the spell seems to have been amplified. Then, not long after, a ward to deter some persistent ants in the pantry resulted in not only an explosion of ant activity but a cockroach invasion as well... and, well, we'd never had a cockroach in the house until then.

"... And now your spell. Something is definitely amiss and I'm not at all sure it has anything to do with your magick. It may even be related to Rupert's disappearance, for all we know. In the meantime we've got to find a way to find him."

"Do you want to try the location spell again?"

"No," Jo said slowly, thoughtfully. "The magicks are trying to tell us something. Until we know what it is, I don't think we should provoke them again."

Willow wilted a little. "Maybe, but I think we definitely have to research all that weirdness when this is all over." Her eyes grew bleak. "Giles loves that kind of stuff."

Buffy stopped at the drinking fountain as she walked through Harker Park, and took a long drink, trying to calm her thoughts and think rationally about where she might search next. When she finally straightened, she spied a couple lit by the halo of a nearby streetlight and apparently enjoying the view of the rising moon. The woman was only a little older than she, herself, was, and the man perhaps the same age as Wesley. He said something that made the woman laugh, her whole face lighting as she looked at him. A moment later his head bent. Buffy looked away, shutting out the still too-raw memories of her own love life, including the most recent ones, before the sadness could overwhelm her.

She was about to head for the warehouse district, simply because it was the warehouse district, despite having done a full sweep of it twice already, when a huge, greenish-grey demon broke into the open from a thicket near the couple.

The creature knocked the man flying and seized the woman by the arm, dragging her, screaming, to her feet. By then Buffy was there, in its face, hitting it hard in the mouth. It roared in pain and let go of the girl.

Buffy was aware that the man hadn't moved since hitting the ground hard, and that the woman was running to him as she grappled with the creature. She managed to land a sickening, crunching blow to the point of one of its shoulders just as the woman began to sob and cry out: 'No!'

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Damn!" The demon reeled and then regrouped. As it lunged again, she kicked it where it would hurt the most, then tore back to the couple.

"What is it?" she demanded, sucking in great breaths of air and resigned to the fact that the creature was already slipping away.

"He's not breathing."

Buffy wet the tips of her fingers and held them under the man's nostrils. He definitely wasn't breathing. It took the two of them several minutes of concerted CPR to get him going again. Reluctantly, she told the woman to wait with him while she went to get an ambulance. She could carry the guy easily, if slowly, but she figured the couple had already seen too much... and a display of superhero strength from her at this point wasn't going to help anything.

Besides, she had to get clear before she had to answer any difficult questions, or be delayed any further in her search for Giles. As soon as she was out of sight of the others, she pulled out her cell phone with a shaking hand and called an ambulance.

The warehouse district wasn't giving up any secrets. Trying not to think about the couple in the park, Buffy wandered between the huge buildings, some new, some broken down, some clean and many with half-full dumpsters next to them and trash here and there against the walls. Only the sparse security lighting and a little moonlight lit the area.

Her spidey sense was picking up precious little in the way of vampire activity, but she was getting used to that now. Whispering Pines wasn't exactly the vampire capital of North America. It had its fair share of things that went bump in the night, not least of which being their own Hedwig, but when it came down to it, a good percentage of the demons in or around the town were either benign forest creatures or equally benign refugees from the cities, trying to lead quiet lives away from persecution by their own or any other kind.

In a way she was kind of sorry that the latest demon had hi-tailed it so fast. It would have been good to have a real workout... not to mention how edgy it was making her not to have completed the kill.

A familiar prickling made her stop. She backtracked about ten feet and tried a small door. When it didn't open right off she helped it along with a well-aimed boot. It was darkish inside, but she was able to make out most of it. There were rows of shelves with boxes on them, all set far enough apart for someone to be able to walk between them, but not much more.

There was definitely a vampire somewhere inside. Directed by the sensation now growing in the pit of her stomach, she moved toward the centre of the building, peering between the rows. When the sensation was at its strongest, she stopped again. The row in question was darker, being farthest away from the few sources of light in the building, but as far as she could see it was clear.

She crept slowly between the shelves, prepared, ready, hating the dust she was disturbing, especially when it got up her nose and into her lungs. The boxes weren't really labelled, only numbered and colour-coded, so there was no way to know what was in them without opening one.

Eventually, she reached the end of the row, then swung around and swore when she realised, at the same moment that something came crashing down on her, that the vamp must have been hiding on the top shelves. It was strong, and the fight was bruising and desperate. It went on for some time before Buffy finally managed to get the creature into a headlock, the point of the stake jabbing into the skin over its breastbone.

"What are you doing in here?"

"Who wants to know?"

"You're serious? You don't know who I am?"

"Aren't we little Miss 'Aren't I Special,'" it observed sarcastically.

"Does the word 'Slayer' help at all?" she demanded, irritated.

The vampire tensed. "Slayer? In Whispering Pines? You're kidding me? I came here to get as far away from Slayers and apocalypses, among other things, as possible and now you're here?"

"I'm here," Buffy confirmed, resisting the temptation to tell him his worst nightmare had come true, that they were everywhere now. "And I'm staying. The question is what are you doing here... in this building... and what do you know about my Watcher disappearing today?"


"Depends?" she snarled.

"Yeah. If I'm gonna be dust anyway, why should I tell you anything?"

'Damn. He actually had a point.'

"Fine." She ground the point of the stake in a little harder. "You talk and maybe I don't dust you this time. You don't talk and I make this place just a le-e-etle little dirtier than it was before. Got it?"

He nodded nervously. "I was hiding in here. I came to Whispering Pines to disappear. I get my blood from the Night Owl, and I don't want any trouble."

"Some wimpy kinda vamp," Buffy muttered, ignoring the fact that she'd known at least two others like him... intimately.

"Hey... whadaya want? I don't kill people anymore, and you're still not satisfied?"

"Vampires are evil," she growled. "And you haven't said anything I want to hear yet."

"You wanted to know why I was in here. I told you."

"I want to know where my Watcher is. And I want to know what you were hiding from exactly, since you already said you didn't know I was in town."

The vampire fell silent.

Buffy turned him around and pushed him back against the shelves, stake still pressed against his chest. "Okay what aren't you telling me?" A possibility made her blood run cold. "Is he already dead?"

The vampire shrugged and gave in. "If you're talking about a big guy with glasses... depends how hungry she was, I guess."

Something made her freeze on the spot. "She? Which 'she'? Harmony isn't smart enough to... and Darla's supposed to be... " She frowned. "Glory?" The name failed to elicit a response. "Oh God, Drusilla?" He cringed. "Drusilla? Drusilla is here, in Whispering Pines?"

"Can I go now?"

"Not until you tell me where she is."

The vampire looked stricken. "Cross her? Are you nuts? I've seen what she does to people she doesn't like. Why do you think I was hiding?"

The next thing Buffy knew she had an armful of dust.

Olgen banged on the motel door. Nok peered out through the small window then went to open it.

When the Belgar demon staggered in, it quickly became obvious that Drusilla was going to be going hungry for a while longer.

"Where's my dinner?" she pouted.

The demon shrugged, wincing as his quite-obviously dislocated shoulder moved. He was leaking green blood from between his teeth and under his right eye, and he was shuffling with a distinct limp.

"Slayer," he grunted, not one for conversation. "Took it away from me. Nice little morsel... stupid Slayer."

Drusilla's mood shifted from petulant to enraged. It wasn't enough that she took everything else...

In one movement she swung around, swept up a pen lying on the counter and slammed it into Olgen's eye socket.

The Belgar shrieked, then collapsed, his twitching ceasing moments after he went down.

"Bad Olgen!" Drusilla scolded, like a six year old at a doll's tea party, and grinned as his remains melted into a green puddle, then faded away. Then she swung around to face the remaining demon.

"I want something to eat and I want it now!" she shrieked, causing the big Hakkoth to cringe in fear.

In a split second she went from red-faced temper to smirking at Giles, her expression a combination of flirtatious girlishness and smug satisfaction.

It was more than unnerving, but Giles prudently decided not to say anything that might remind her of her earlier intentions toward him. She'd already distracted herself once with a sudden spate of eerie, but rambling and disjointed, memories of her childhood, half of them probably little more than fantasy. All of which had been set off by yet another reference to something or someone called 'Miss Edith.' He was hoping she'd stay distracted.

"I wonder what Watcher tastes like," she speculated in a coquettish voice. "Just a little snack. It's not you're going to need it for much longer, is it?"

Giles swallowed.


Act One   Act Three

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