Author: Dark Star
Summary: Summer is here
again, and the Giles household has its hands - and kitchen - full. But are the
village preparations the only worry?
She listened to the sounds
in the street below. Somehow noises were always louder at night, and she
wondered if that was her imagination or some kind of scientific fact. She had
been lying in bed for hours, trying to sleep, but she was just growing more frustrated.
The call of a cup of tea sounded rather nice, and so she got out of bed and put
her slippers on. It had been a warm night, and she was tempted to go down
dressed as she was, but her nightie was a bit thin and she didn't want to give
her son a scare if he came home early.
Her dressing gown lay over
the back of the bedroom chair, and she was pulling it over her shoulders even
as she made her way along the landing. She decided against putting the light
on, a habit she obtained as a hard-up newlywed, and one she knew drove Derek
crazy. She had just stepped onto the top stair when a sharp crack! made
her pause. What was that? Had it come from outside? She hesitated, cursing the
pounding of her heart, because it was obliterating everything else. She knew
she was over-reacting; it was likely just Derek having come in from his night
out. Even so, she crept down the stairs as silently as possible; the ground
floor stood in darkness. Whatever the sound had been, it hadn't come from her
She reached the hallway
without mishap, and listened. Perhaps she had left a window open down here?
There was no further noise and she breathed a sigh of relief. She should turn
the light on. Derek would have kittens if he found her wandering about in the
dark again. But for some reason, she was reluctant to do that. Then, just as
her fear battled with her common sense, she heard another sound. It sounded
like the creak of a door, and it sounded like it was coming from her kitchen.
Goose bumps crawled up her arms; what should she do? There was a telephone in
the kitchen, so that was out of reach, and another upstairs. The last thing she
wanted to do was go back up there and possibly be trapped. Where was her phone?
In her handbag, which was... where? All these thoughts crossed her mind in a
nanosecond, and self-preservation kicked in at that point. She thought her bag
was on the hall table, and that was just beside the front door. Even better.
She couldn't see her bag in the darkness, but it was only a few feet away.
Surely she could make it there without being heard? Suddenly thankful that she
had put on more dignified covering, she moved along the hallway as stealthily
as she could, certain that her thundering heartbeat would give her away to
whoever was in her kitchen.
It took forever to reach
the front door, and she was disappointed to find that her bag was nowhere to be
found. At this point, she just wanted to get out. She had to get to a
phone. Her hand was just turning the latch on the door, and escape was just in
her grasp, when something... somebody very large, slammed into her back,
propelling her forward to bounce her head off the wood and force the door shut
again. Temporarily winded, she gasped, and then terror gave her strength. She
pulled back, pummelling her elbow against her assailant's chest, and was
gratified to hear him grunt. She twisted, trying to escape, when a splitting
pain in her head made her pause, and something powerful whacked her in the
midriff and more pain made her vision swim.
She screamed, or tried to,
when a strong arm wrapped round her neck and began squeezing hard...
Giles came through from
the utility room where he had been mixing up potions and found a hive of
activity in his kitchen. Bewildered for a moment, he scanned the trays of buns
and cakes, and drifted over to where Buffy was wrapping something that looked
like fudge in small bundles of cellophane and tying them up with bright ribbon.
"Ah," he said as
realisation dawned. "The village fete?"
"Yes," Martha replied,
her voice muffled as she was bending down to take something from the oven, and
when she stood up, her face was looking pinker than it usually did.
The fete would also
explain the profusion of edible treats piled onto every available surface, and
the paper plates, decorative ribbon and bright boxes on the table next to
Buffy. "Did you make all of this?"
no!" Martha exclaimed, "We seem to have been allocated as the
collection point this year." She indicated the empty cardboard boxes and
carrier bags on the floor, and Giles assumed it was meant as a gesture to
punctuate her statement.
"You seem to be doing
a fair bit of the preparations," Giles noted.
"I don't mind,"
she replied valiantly. "Buffy! If you keep eating the sweets there won't
be any left for the fete!"
mumbled, swallowing fast and doing her best to look apologetic. "These
were just little crumbs that fell off..."
Martha gave Buffy a look
that ought to have been a scowl, but it came out as an indulgent smile instead.
Giles waited until Martha turned back to the sink and he plucked a fruit bun
from the stack on the kitchen table. Buffy giggled as he smuggled the warm bun
out of the kitchen and headed down the hall toward his study.
Just as he reached the study
door, the telephone rang. He put the bun down on his desk and picked up the
"Hello? This is the
office of Project Paranormal."
"Can I speak to
Rupert Giles, please?" A man's voice said. It had a mild Scottish drawl to
"You're speaking to
him. How may I help you?"
"I'm not entirely
sure." The voice sounded uncertain. "I'm calling on behalf of my
mother - she's in hospital - and she asked that I send you a message."
"I see. And what
would that message be?"
"It's kind of a
visual message. Can I email you a picture? Fax it, perhaps?"
Intrigued, Giles said,
"I'll give you my email..."
"I have it." The
young man said. "It was on your advert. I'm... sending it now. She did the
drawing in hospital. She said you'd know what it is."
Even more intriguing. He'd
assumed he would be asked to identify some item, but if they already knew what
it was, why did they need him? The transfer done, Giles opened the file he'd
Martha dropped the used
trays and utensils in the washing up water, and turned back. Her gaze fell on
the fruit buns on the kitchen table. Buffy held her breath. Could Martha tell?
"Is there one
missing?" Martha asked, glancing at Buffy, only to have the girl start
giggling again. She folded her arms, more for Buffy's benefit than because she
was cross, and nodded her head in the direction of the hall. "Did
"I wouldn't know,
Martha," Buffy tried to say, but the amused expression on her face rather
gave the game away.
"I don't know why I bother,"
Martha grumbled, but Buffy could tell that she was smiling, too.
The drawing on his
computer was practically identical to the one Angel had made. It was a drawing
of the artefact taken from the Morris' house.
"Do you have
information on this?" Giles said carefully.
"No. My Mother wanted
to see you, urgently. She says it's not something that can be discussed over
the phone. And since she's in hospital..."
"Yes, quite so. Tell
me where I can find her, and I'll go to see her immediately. Is there anything
else you can tell me, Mr...?"
Appleton. I'm afraid that's all I know. My Mother wouldn't tell me what it was
about, or what that odd item was. But she said it was very important to speak to
you. My Mother's name is Judith Appleton, she is in the Edinburgh Hospital, and
you can find her in Ward..."
As soon as the call ended,
Giles called his contact to make sure the Morris' artefact was safe. Monty
assured him it was, and he was relieved when he put the phone down. But
something was nagging at his mind. The name Appleton sounded familiar somehow,
but he couldn't place where he had heard it. And who was this Judith Appleton?
What did she know about the artefact, and more to the point... how did she know
that Giles knew about it?
He considered driving to
the hospital, but Edinburgh was about 400 miles from Westbury, and would take a
good 7 hours to drive up there. He felt in his bones that it was important that
he got to see Judith Appleton as soon as possible. If she had information on
the artefact, and felt it imperative she should speak to him in person, that
couldn't be good. Derek had said that
his mother was in hospital after being attacked at home. Giles couldn't see how
that was relevant to the artefact, but he could afford to overlook nothing. He
decided against using the car; a flight would be much quicker. It would take
him an hour to get to Bristol airport, and around an hour and a half to get to
Edinburgh. He booked an immediate flight to Scotland - he could be there and
back in the time it would take him to drive all the way up there.
Judith Appleton turned out
to be a large lady of around sixty. Unfortunately, she reminded him very much
of his mother's sister, Aunt Bertha, and to his chagrin instantly felt the same
fear he had experienced as a small boy.
Ridiculous! He was a grown man; some old battle-axe of an aunt should
hold no fears for him now. He knew that, and yet... he could not help the
awkwardness he felt as he faced her. The lady in question was looking rather
the worse for wear. Her face was bruised and swollen, and her fair hair had
been shaved back so that dressings could be applied to a head wound.
Giles introduced himself,
and was disconcerted by Mrs Appleton's expression; Aunt Bertha all over again.
Worse, he could tell that Mrs Appleton didn't like him, but as far as he could
recall, he had never met her before.
"You have information
for me, Mrs Appleton?" he tried.
She hesitated, before
saying, "The thing in the drawing... you know that it's dangerous?"
"I rather assumed
that to be so. How dangerous are we talking?"
she said, and then waited while a nurse checked the temperature of the woman in
the next bed. "I didn't want to call you, but I had no one else."
Giles waited while she gathered her thoughts. "I was robbed, you see. The
intruder..." she looked around to make sure they weren't being overheard,
"was some kind of demon, I think. I could hardly tell the police that, could
I? You must help."
"I'll do what I can,
Mrs Appleton. Tell me what was stolen."
She looked at him as
though he were an imbecile. "Haven't you been listening? They took that."
And she indicated the drawing in
Was he dealing with
somebody deluded? "Er... no. The artefact is quite safe, I can assure
She made an impatient
gesture, and hissed in pain. Giles guessed that she had a couple of cracked
ribs as well. He'd had a few of those in his time.
"Oh god! The fate of
the world is in your hands? Are you deficient?"
Stung, Giles said as
politely as he could, "Well, perhaps if you stopped dithering around and
told me what's going on, and why you need me, I might be able to do something
Mrs Appleton glared at him,
but his sharp tone must have got through to her, because she said sulkily,
"Well, I hope you can hang onto yours better than I did mine."
Yours? Mine? At that
moment, the penny dropped and Giles exclaimed, "There's two of
"Very good, Mr Giles."
She said dryly, and then frowned. "You didn't know?"
She rolled her eyes.
"Wonderful." Giles winced, and she went on, "All right then,
I'll tell you what I know. My father-in-law was given the responsibility of
looking after the artefact. After he died, my husband took over. But he..."
she glared at Giles at that point, "...died two years ago helping to clear
up your mess. He was one of the council's magical advisers."
advisers? His mind racing, Giles began to piece the jigsaw together. Didn't
Gerald Appleton live in Scotland? And what was the father's name? Clancy?
Clarence? Wasn't he expelled from the Council for some kind of wrong-doing? Or...
was that a cover up? So... Gerald was one of the casualties from the supernatural
near-apocalypse two years previous? No wonder the man's widow didn't like him.
"What makes you think
you were attacked by a demon?" He asked instead.
"I didn't see it
clearly, but it was much too big and much too strong. It was really fast, to
get to me so quickly without any sound."
"Makes sense. All
right... if the artefacts are so important, why was I never told about the one in
Judith shrugged. "The
Council knew about it. After you got fired, following the carryings on with
that fool slayer of yours, Gerry didn't trust you. Then the whole council was destroyed and he didn't know who to
turn to. He thought Wyndham-Price's boy might have been all right, but we heard
he was killed too. I would never have told you, but the... thing... has been stolen
and the world could be in serious danger. I have to trust you - there's nobody
Giles' indignation over
the slur to his slayer withered under her 'world could be in serious danger'
"What do the
But put them together and they open a gateway to a Hell dimension. Anything
- and everything - could come through. Leave them open long enough and our
world bleeds into theirs. That's why they have always been stored apart and
hidden in some way. Gerald masked ours with a cloaking spell. I have no idea
how the intruder breached it."
Hell on Earth.
"Why were they never
"The Council thought
that any attempt would just break the walls down immediately. They decided that
keeping them apart and under supervision would be the best policy. Nobody knew
that the Council wouldn't be around to do the job."
Dear Lord. How many Council projects and safety measures had
been interrupted? How much jeopardy was the world in because of that?
"How close do the
artefacts have to be in order to function?"
"I'm not sure. The
closer together they are, the stronger the gateway, but I don't know if they
need an open space to work or if proximity is the key."
"Then we have to stop
yours reaching the one we have. Is there anything else you can tell me about
"That's about all I
know, I'm afraid. Except that they aren't called artefacts, they're eyes."
"Yes. The eyes of...
something or other. I can't remember what. We've always just called it the
"Well, it doesn't
matter. Do you know of any way to find it?"
winced, and her voice sounded weaker when she answered. She seemed to have
visibly wilted since he had arrived. Giles realised she must be in a lot of pain,
but she hadn't been able to rest until her duty had been done. Two years trying
to maintain world security with nobody to talk to about it?
"That must have been
a terrible responsibility for you to bear," he said, before he could stop
himself. When she looked at him, her expression was softer.
"We all do the best
we can," she said. "If... you find this thing, and stop it, will you...
take charge of it? I'm getting too old for all of this."
Something about the
wistfulness in her voice made him smile gently. "You trust me to do
Her returning smile was
thin. "Well, if you don't stop it, then it probably won't matter
either way. And if you do, then you must have done something right."
"That would be a
"Good luck, Mr.
As he walked back along
the hospital corridors, Giles tried to assimilate Judith Appleton's
information. A pair of eyes. The council's involvement. Something big was in
there somewhere, and if the council had wanted to hide the eyes there must have
been a very good reason for it. Research ought to start immediately but he
hadn't brought his laptop, as it had needed charging and he hadn't expected to
be gone for long. He should call Summerdown and ask Buffy or Angel to start
looking for something called the eyes. He was also beginning to worry about the
safety of the eye in their possession. Giles realised it was imperative that
the eyes should stay apart; Monty had his own abilities, but to be sure, he
should assign one of his superheroes to look after it, at least until they
understood what they were dealing with.
His phone was turned off,
hospital regulations, and he would call as soon as he got outside. On reaching
the hospital car park, Giles walked over to the visitor pick-up area. He had
asked the taxi driver to come back for him. He pulled his phone out of his
pocket and turned it back on. Almost immediately, the shrill wail of his phone
greeted him. He recognised the number as being Montague's. With growing dread,
he said, "Hello?"
"Giles? Sorry mate...
we've got a doosy of a problem."
Giles listened while Monty
explained how the artefact had been snatched from under their protective
cloaking spell. He didn't know where it had gone, or who had taken it. With
sinking heart, Giles ended the call. The only bright spot had been that his
friend hadn't been badly hurt. What should he do now? It was too late now to
protect their artefact, and if the pair of artefacts - eyes - got close enough,
it would cause, at the very least, massive disruption. He couldn't allow that...
he had to find them, but he had no idea where to start. Perhaps his team would
find something before he got back. But first, he needed help to find the
missing eyes. He opened his phone and dialled.
"Oh... hello. Can I
speak to Chief Inspector Collins, please? Tell him it's Giles, and it's really
Angel got out of bed and
pulled their sleeping arrangements back into a daytime sofa; it was too cramped
in here to have it open any longer than necessary. He shook out the duvet and pillows before folding them up and
stashing them in the storage box under the sofa. He hadn't slept well, it was far too sunny, and he knew it was
pointless to stay there. He showered and dressed and went outside. He loved
having the ability to go over to the main house in daylight, in safety, and he
wandered into the kitchen. A stack of boxes with gay ribbons trailing out of
the tops stood in the corner of the kitchen.
he said, watching her stack metallic trays on the drainer. "Everything
ready for tomorrow?"
She was already moving toward the kettle to make him some tea. "Yes, it's
"Any word from
"Only that he had
arrived in Scotland safely and was on his way to the hospital. That was... about
half an hour ago."
Angel sat down at the
early," Martha commented.
"Too much light,
"Yes, that is a
problem," she said, making his tea. She had put blackout linings inside
their curtains in an effort to cut down the light, but Angel was still
sensitive to it. "Did Buffy tell
you she offered to help out with the stall tomorrow?"
He'd heard that differently.
Buffy had told him that Martha had volunteered her and she wasn't sure how to
get out of it. Instead, he said, "I heard something about it, yes."
He waited a beat before asking his next question. "Do you know..."
"Yes, she's out the
back," Martha said, tilting her head in the direction of the dining room.
Angel stood up.
"Thank you," he
said, picking up his tea en route and added, "Buffy loves the table set
that you gave her."
"It was just an old
one," Martha said, but she looked pleased, and what Angel had said was
true. She and John had just bought a lovely new wooden table and chair set for
their garden, and had wondered what to do with their old plastic one. Around
the same time Buffy had said how much she missed the sunshine of home and
Martha knew it was no substitute, but had given her their old set so that she
could at least enjoy what little sunshine she did have.
Angel carried his tea
through the dining room to the open door that led out onto the lawn. He could
see the fringe on the bottom of the cheerful blue umbrella twitching in the light breeze, and standing
back in the coolness of the house, he watched her. She was beautiful. Light
glistened through her blonde hair, and made her skin look radiant. The sun
reflecting off of the white table in front of her made his eyes hurt, but his
gaze was drawn to the glass of water in her hand. It shone. Iridescent
prisms of light infused the water with an almost magical quality, and he forced
his gaze way from the painful dazzle and settled instead on something much more
She hadn't noticed him,
she had been watching the birds fighting over some crusts of bread on the lawn;
she only looked up when he stepped outside and stood under the covered back
porch. Suddenly feeling guilty for enjoying something that he could never
share, she started to get up to go inside.
She raised a questioning
eyebrow, but sat back down.
"I like... seeing you
like this," he said, his voice soft. "It's not something I get to do
She smiled at him.
"Did you sleep well?"
I missed you, he wanted to say. Instead, he replied, "I've
She gave him a little sad
smile to show she understood, and he watched, transfixed, as she lifted the
sparkling glass of water to her lips and took a sip. He could see her throat move
as the water made its journey downward, and in that moment, he wished he could
be in the garden with her. He made himself look away, to look out across the
lawn instead. Everything was too bright; it was simply too colourful. The light
seemed to bounce off of everything, creating a radiant glare everywhere, and it
made his head hurt.
Buffy noticed his frown,
and got up. This time he made no protest when she approached him. She had
mistaken his frown of pain for one of longing to be in the sunshine, and she
wished that they could be outside together.
"The sun is bad for
your eyes," she observed. "Giles said that the new house will have a
veranda so that you can share some of the day with me, but in the meantime... I'm
going to get you some sunglasses."
Angel chuckled. Surely
only Buffy would regard sunglasses as an appropriate gift for a vampire?
He wrapped her in his arms
when she reached him, and marvelled, "You're so warm."
She stood on tiptoe to
kiss him; his lips and skin cool against hers.
"Let me warm
you," she whispered.
Before Angel could
respond, the phone rang and they both groaned.
Following Giles' phone
call, Buffy and Angel located themselves in the study for some serious
research. They had a pen and paper beside them and were making a list of
everything that could possibly be of use. But they could find no pictures of
the artefact, and so many references to eyes it was ridiculous. Not just eyes
that saw things, but eyes that dripped poison, or glowed weird colours or did
other unnatural things. Not only that, but there were references to false eyes,
and eyes located in places Buffy would really rather not know about.
"God," she groaned, snapping her book shut and stretching
the cramped muscles in her neck. "How does Giles stand this?"
Because he has to, Angel
wanted to say, but he understood her frustration and said nothing. She had been
getting antsy for days; she said her slayer vibes were starting to tingle.
She'd felt something was going down even before the artefacts vanished.,. And
their disappearance only added to her sense of foreboding.
She stood up and went to
the window. "I need a break from this, Angel. Got any suggestions?"
"Well, I've been
thinking that maybe we could enrol Alice into the search? She can understand
languages that we can't - she could help?"
"Right! And that will cover for me, won't it?" She said, and ignoring
Angel's disapproving look, she dialled Alice's number, and Angel returned to
his book again.
He turned the page; Messira
was a mountain species and had nothing of importance about eyes. The next
article was very short, but there was an interesting bit about Milliaca
having a hypnotic stare, and Angel added that to his list. He turned the page,
and all the words on the page started to swim together. Mohra. Part of
his mind registered Buffy's phone conversation with Alice, and another part
swamped with memories of their perfect day. It didn't hurt as much as it had
once, now that they had finally found peace together, but... it still hurt.
His throat clamping shut,
he heard Buffy put the phone down, and he hurriedly turned the page before she
saw it. He didn't want to answer any awkward questions from her. Would he ever
have to tell her what he had done?
"Alice says that she
will start... are you okay?"
Angel looked up, and gave
her his most charming smile. "Information overload," he confided, and
"Tell me about
it," she exclaimed. "Alice says she'll see what she can find. I think
I'm going into Westbury and have a little chat with Travis and some of our
other contacts. You can do the night ones this evening. "Will you be
"I'm good," he
replied, making more notes about something called the 'Eyes of Natar.'
"You go and see what you can find."
"A plan," she
said, relieved to be off of research duty; quickly kissing him goodbye, she
left the room before he could change his mind.
It was early evening when
she returned to the flat. Her contacts had provided nothing of use to them, and
she was feeling anxious. Angel was still over at the main house, and Giles
should be back by now. They didn't need her. She made herself a ham sandwich
and a coffee, and settled down on the sofa. She put her drink down on the
coffee table and couldn't help noticing the marks on the table. Angel had left
the place neat when he'd gone over to the house, but with all the research and
preparations for tomorrow's fete, Buffy had fallen behind with her
housekeeping. She knew Martha would have been happy to give the place the
once-over, but she didn't want her to. This was her place - hers and Angel's,
and she wanted to do it herself.
While Angel was out and
she had the place to herself, she decided it would be a good time to give the
place the once over. If nothing else, it would stop her speculating on yet
another apocalypse; and to that end, she turned on the radio to have a welcome
background noise while she worked.
"Why go out?"
the chirpy voice on the radio said. "The best thing you can do, is stay
tuned for a great evening! Music old and new, for whatever mood you're in
"I'd rather be going
out," Buffy muttered, getting out the duster and polish and setting to
work. She had scrubbed and cleaned, she had hoovered, washed and ironed, and
the evening flew by in a whirlwind of activity. It was now dark out, and she
wanted to just mop the bathroom floor before Angel got back.
She was just running water
into the bucket and squirting some pine-scented cleaner into the hot water,
when some words of the song playing on the radio caught her attention.
is a darkness deep in you
A frightening magic I cling to
Buffy turned off the tap
and took a deep breath. That was a little too... close.
me a chance to hold on
Give me a chance to hold on
Give me a chance to hold on
Just give me something to hold onto
Somehow the rest of the
song faded away, and memories and thoughts came crashing in.
He was the one she held on to. It was so nice to have
somebody to share things with. How many times had she leant on him? How had she
ever managed without him? Her hand gripped the kitchen worktop as she
remembered all the times they had been apart, all the missions they had been on
together, all the arguments, all the loving moments. And yet... was it his darkness
that attracted her?
After Giles let Angel off
of research duty - he and Alice had found a staggering list of eye references
to follow up - he took off to check out his own contacts. Many of these were to
be found outside the village, and so he had chosen to leave his car behind. He
liked to do that sometimes, and rely on his own locomotion, and it felt good to
just be out and about. He was cooped up for far too much of the time lately.
His investigations had not
been any more productive than Buffy's had been, and it was with some
disheartenment that he started back for home. Coming up from the bottom of the
field, towards home, Angel passed round the back of the house and crossed over
the lawn. He couldn't resist a small smile when he saw Buffy's sunshine table
and chairs out on the grass. He supposed she would put them away in the winter.
Round the other side of
the house, John pulled his car onto the gravel courtyard, and waited outside
the kitchen door. He'd had a very busy day, and was looking forward to getting
home so that his wife could start getting dinner. As much as he loved his job
at Summerdown - it was never dull - the hours were rather... erratic, especially
for Martha. He sometimes grumbled that she spent more time at work than with him,
but in reality he was very proud of her for being such an indispensable asset
to Giles, and the extra money she brought in was certainly very useful.
Angel approached the
kitchen door, instinctively keeping in the deeper shadows cast by the house.
The side door opened, and Martha came out, a carrier bag in her hand, and she
closed the kitchen door behind her. Angel stepped into the light to greet her,
and startled, Martha dropped her bag.
"I'm sorry," he
said gently, trying not to notice the way her hand had started shaking, and
they way her heart was thumping wildly. "I didn't mean to startle
silly," she quickly said. "I just wasn't expecting..."
The car door opened, and
John got out. "Everything all right, love?"
Angel bent down to pick up
the bag of shopping while Martha breathlessly explained she was just being a
silly fool. He handed the bag back to her, aware that her heart rate was still
much too fast. Martha mumbled her thanks and gave him an embarrassed smile,
while she let John usher her into the car. Angel stood where he was, deep in
thought, watching the car pull away. He should be more careful; Buffy was used
to his speed and silent approach, and he really hadn't meant to scare the
As much as he tried to
blend in, events like that reminded him that he could never be completely one
of them, and to know that they all tried and he still felt like an outsider was
painful to think about. The sudden need to feel Buffy's warmth and love made
him hurry across to the steps and start on up. He could hear music playing in
the flat, and when he opened the door, he could see Buffy standing absolutely
still, and she looked... distracted. What was wrong? Had something happened? Then
he heard the music that she was listening to.
is a darkness deep in you
A frightening magic I cling to
watched her expression change, and he swallowed.
me a chance to hold on
Give me a chance to hold on
Give me a chance to hold on
Just give me something to hold onto
was gripping the worktop so hard, he feared for its safety.
"Are you okay?"
She turned and saw him
standing in the doorway. He watched the struggle in her expression, and she
mumbled something about hormones, or a bad day, or some other nonsense. He saw only
the expression her eyes. Hold me.
He didn't need to hear the
words, and his own need for her was already driving him forward, to do what
he'd wanted to do anyway. He wrapped her tightly in his arms. "What is
He felt her shaking in his
embrace, and he waited while she composed herself. When she looked up, her eyes
were shining with unshed tears.
"Angel... what we have
is... wonderful. More than I ever thought that we could have. Ever. But... I
can't help feeling that..."
coaxed when she faltered.
limited." She straightened. "Something is coming, and I'm afraid that
what we share... will be gone."
"We can't know what
the future holds," he said. "We just have to make the best of what we
have." He leant down and kissed her, pulling her close to comfort her.
Holding her hand, he guided her over to the sofa, searching her eyes for
permission. She smiled at him, and it was all that he needed. He kissed her,
long and deep, and when they ended up on the sofa in a tangle of limbs, their union
was fire to his soul.
Afterwards, and possibly a
little late, they opened the sofa up and made it into a proper bed, where they
lay quietly together. Later, while she slept, cocooned in his arms, Angel
watched her. He understood her concerns, because he felt them too. Sometimes he
didn't believe how his life had turned out. He had a home, he had friends and
people who trusted him - even if he found it hard to feel accepted - and
he had a beautiful woman who loved him. It was more than he had ever hoped for,
more than many people had, and it bothered him. Those things didn't happen to
him. He wasn't worthy, and he'd had the feeling for some time that something
was coming to sweep it all away.
Martha's cake and
confectionary stall looked glorious in the Saturday morning sunshine. She had a
crisp white cloth laid over the table, and had decorated the wooden side
supports of the stall with bright red ribbon to match the candy-striped cover
over the top. A mouth watering display of cakes, biscuits, buns and scones
covered two-thirds of the stall, and home made fudge, coconut ice, toffee
apples, boiled sweets and various other colourful treasures festooned the final
piece. Giles had designed and printed out some price tags as the finishing
touch for the goods. The girls had worked hard to get the stall looking so
pretty, and both of them were pleased with it. Buffy had considered
backing out of the fete altogether, but Martha had been so excited about the
annual event that she hadn't had the heart not to help out.
"Why don't you take a
little break and have a look round the fete?" Martha asked.
"Don't you need me
here?" Buffy said in surprise.
"I will later."
Martha said. "But it's a bit early for a lot of folk yet. I'd take
advantage of the quiet and stretch your legs if I were you."
That sounded good to
Buffy; she had hoped to have a bit of time to look around. She had never seen
the village green look so busy, but she was glad that she hadn't let Martha
down. After her emotional evening with Angel, she had felt the need for
sunshine and people today. So she took Martha's advice and wandered off to see
what was on offer. There were lots of homemade products to buy. George Croscombe,
still ensconced in his grey cap despite the hot weather, was selling his
impressive selection of homemade wine, and Minnie Heywood's jam and preserves
seemed to be very popular. She was disappointed to find that the white elephant
stall didn't actually have any elephants, but seemed to be just second-hand
odds and ends.
There was plenty going on
as well, what with the variety of fun stalls containing coconuts, prizes,
raffles, games and a huge Bouncy castle supplied by Hugh Jones. She itched to have
a go at the Tug o' War but figured it wouldn't have been fair. She saw kids -
and a few adults - playing Beat The Goalie in what turned out to be a mini game
of soccer where they tried to score a goal. The beer tent was packed, the Cream
Tea tent seemed to be full of old ladies, and she saw an intriguing sign
advertising the 'Duck race.' How did they get the ducks to take part?
There were plenty of goods
for sale, too. Bags and clothes, soft toys, and to her delight, she found one
that had some great sunglasses on it where she bought a pair for Angel.
Many of the villagers said
hello to her as they passed by, which was a nice surprise, and she was away
from the stall much longer than she had meant to be. On her way back she
stopped to buy an unusual plant with reddish green leaves that had a peachy
feel to them, from one of the stalls as an impromptu present for Martha, and
later saw some members of the Westbury Brass band carting their instruments
through the crowds to put on a musical display for the fete.
Martha had quite a crowd
gathering when Buffy arrived back, and she carefully stored her presents down
next to the stall refills and set to work helping her.
By three that afternoon
they had sold everything, and they began to take the stall down. Buffy
remembered her plant. She picked it up and handed it to Martha. Feeling a bit
awkward, she said, "This is for you."
Martha looked surprised,
but very pleased. "That's so kind of you, dear. Thank you very much."
"I... I don't know what
it is," Buffy rushed to explain, "But I know you like houseplants and
it was unusual. The stallholder said it should be kept somewhere light."
"I shall keep it in
my conservatory," Martha said, touched by the American girl's
thoughtfulness. "It's warm and light and I have a lot of plants
That was true. Buffy had
only been to Martha's house a few times, but on one occasion she had been in
the large glass extension to the back of their house. Martha found it relaxing
to sit in there amongst all the lush vegetation and read quietly.
Martha put the pretty
plant in one of the empty boxes for safekeeping while she and Buffy cleared up
their successful stall.
By the time Buffy returned
to Summerdown, she was tired but happy. She'd had a nice time at the fete, seen
lots of local residents and sold all of their goods. Well, except for some
little buns that Martha had left behind in the kitchen for her. Martha had gone
home for the weekend. She said she was going to put her feet up and do nothing
for the rest of the weekend.
Buffy wandered through the
kitchen and down the hall toward the study. She could hear Giles talking, so
maybe Angel was with him. But when she arrived at the study door she realised
that he was talking to somebody over the telephone. Not wanting to intrude, she
turned to leave but Giles indicated that she enter, so she stepped inside and
Giles was saying, "I'll see what we can do."
After he hung up, he
looked at her, and she tried not to notice his sombre expression. She waited.
"That was Inspector
Collins. There has been an explosion over at Honiton. The police have cordoned
off the area, but there are reports of... strange things in the vicinity."
"Ian doesn't know what.
He's off duty right now, and by rights shouldn't even be aware of anything
unusual. But he has contacts in the force, and he's getting this fed to him
second-hand. There is concern that there might be terrorists involved, and
they're worried that the area might even be radioactive. Ian has a hunch that
it's got a more supernatural explanation, and he thinks if we can get there
fast, we might be able to get in there before the experts arrive."
Buffy nodded. "Right.
What are we waiting for, then?"
The local police had
cordoned off the suspect area. Crowds had already started to gather and marvel
at the place where a whole house had stood. Giles dropped Buffy off at the back
of the building, where she was able to scale the high back wall and get into
the property without being observed. He drove round the front and joined the
on?" he asked a young man that had a little boy perched on his shoulders.
gang," the onlooker confided. "I heard that they'd been making bombs
and done themselves in."
countered. "I heard it was a gas explosion."
"See?" The man's
wife glared at her husband. "Told you nothin' interesting ever happens
Buffy climbed through the
back window, her slayer instincts screaming something not normal had happened
here. The front of the house was gone, but the back part was still mostly
She crossed the kitchen
and froze when something that looked like a fat turtle ran across the carpet in
front of her, only to vanish almost immediately. She froze. What was that? Was
she about to vanish as well? Knowing she didn't have much time, she hurried
down the hall. A bird flew past her, from goodness knows where, and vanished
into the wall.
Relying on her instinct, she
ended up at a room that looked like a large closet. Inside the room, a box that
looked rather like an incubator stood on top of the table. She hurried over and
The box was filled with
miniature replicas of the artefact that Angel had drawn. They were laid out in
three rows of five, and the fourth row only had two in it. Presumably they had
enough replicas now. Something about the way they looked tugged at a memory,
but she couldn't bring it into focus. At the top of the box, stood a piece of
She didn't know how she
knew, but she could tell that this room was the source of the vanishing things.
What should she do? Acting solely on instinct, she leant down and pulled out
the plug. Instantly, a scream filled the air, and it was a moment before she
realised her own mouth was making the noise. A high-pitched sound was filling
her head, and she had a vague recollection of Angel saying the sound he'd heard
had been hard to bear. She yanked up the plastic top, snatched up the piece of
rock and smashed each little object into smithereens. She expected to be
obliterated with the first strike; but with each one destroyed, the sound
lessened, until there was no sound at all. Then, with her eardrums still
tingling with the assault on them, she watched the fragments of the artefacts
fade away to nothing. But there was still something about this room. Searching
around, she found their missing box underneath a thick woollen blanket. She
hurried back down the hallway and back outside, carrying both the box and the
rock in her hands. She saw no further strange visions in front of her, and she
was content that there would be nothing peculiar for the local lawmen to ponder
When Angel got up that afternoon,
he found that Buffy had left him a brief note on the fridge over at the main
house that said, On a case. - Buffy.
He had no idea what time
she would be back, and he wouldn't be able to get out for a while yet, so he
decided to get himself something to eat and do so more research.
A couple of hours later, a
car pulled into the drive, and he knew it wasn't Giles. He heard the driver get
out and hurry over to the kitchen door. Angel reached the kitchen before the
driver had time to knock, and he whisked the door open, making the visitor
Angel!" he spluttered.
Angel smiled and stepped
back to let Stewart come in. "Sorry."
He would have been amused
by the lack of greeting from the visitor, if he hadn't realised Stewart was so
obviously stressed. If he had driven all the way up from his magic shop in
Canterbury, then whatever he was concerned about was very important.
"I'm afraid not. Can
For a moment Stewart
looked undecided, and then he pulled out a small parcel from his pocket. Angel
waited while he unwrapped it.
stone." Angel supplied. "I haven't seen one of those for a while. I
thought they were all lost."
"This one was
Maria's." Stewart said. "After she died, I gave most of her mystic
stuff to Rupert, as I thought he'd be better able to use it. But this is so
small, I forgot about it." He put the stone on the table. "Until
today, that is. It's been glowing, and it's giving me the willies."
"It's not glowing
now," Angel observed.
"No. But it has been.
I didn't know what to do with it. It's... not supposed to work unless a
supernatural being uses it. Angel... I don't have any powers."
"Yes, it's true that only
somebody supernatural can operate it. But, the glowing is a warning. Something really
big is going down."
"Wait here while I
get a map," Angel said, disappearing toward the study. Before Stewart
could formulate a reply, Angel was back, clutching a map, and that bothered him
more than the scare he'd got on arrival. If Angel waived his usual care to act
normally in front of mortals, then clearly, he was worried too.
Angel spread the map down
on the table, and held the stone in his hands. It had been a while since he'd
used one of these, but Dru had had one in her possession for years until she
lost it. He pressed his hands together, and concentrated; then he put the stone
down on the map. Immediately, the stone shot across the map and came to a stop.
Angel!" Stu exclaimed. "I've never seen the stone move so fast."
Angel's expression was
grave. "Are you going to call Giles, or am I?"
Giles went back to his car
to wait for Buffy. To his relief, she arrived soon after, and filled him in as
to what had happened while they stashed the box in the boot of the car. When
they got back in the car, Buffy plopped the stone on the dashboard, and said,
"That was in there too. What is it?"
said. "It's very common in this area."
"But why was it in
"I've no idea,"
Giles' started to say, but his reply was interrupted by the ringing of the
phone on the dashboard, and he turned it on.
"Here," he said,
and Buffy marvelled at hearing her lovers' voice coming out of the speaker.
Stewart's just driven up here with an active locator stone."
Giles' smile dropped away.
All he said was, "Where?"
Angel replied. "I'll see if I can narrow it down further for you." There
was a pause. "Tell Buffy to be careful."
"You know me,"
she said, and there was a grunt from over the line, before the phone went dead.
Giles started the car, and began to reverse back down the lane to the main
"Are you going to
tell me what a locator stone is?" Buffy asked, her voice tinged with
"They're used to
pinpoint dimensional hotspots and portals. I had no idea that Stewart had
"And we're going to
the Mendips because...?"
"A dimensional breach
has been detected. Something big has, or will, come through. We might be too
late, but we must check it out."
By the time Giles reached
the Mendip Hills, Angel, by using larger scale maps, had managed to narrow the
search right down to an isolated house in the area.
Buffy was out of the car
and dashing for the house practically before the car had stopped. The same
energy that she had felt earlier from seeing the strange creatures coming and
going was infused in this house, and she began searching room by room. The
house was near derelict, and it was empty of furniture or furnishings. The
ground floor had uncovered nothing, when she heard a noise coming from
upstairs. Taking the stairs two at a time, she flew up the stairs. Somebody was
moving about in the rooms ahead of her, and he was certainly fast; he was
keeping ahead of her all the time.
They were heading toward
the back of the house; the rooms were darker there, not only because the light
was fading but also because leaves from nearby trees and ivy vines were
covering up many of the windows.
The door ahead slammed,
and she raced forward. She could hear
the intruder scrabbling with the window latch as she reached the door and she
wondered briefly why he hadn't tried to get out of any of the other windows.
Just as she was pushing the door open the window smashed, dropping little
shards of glass down over the wooden floor. Years of painted frames and rusted
decay must have taken their toll. She saw him yanking at the overgrown ivy to
let him get outside. She saw his broad shoulders stiffen when he heard her come
in. Her stomach clenched; he looked... familiar.
Slowly, the intruder
turned round, and she gasped. His eyes
slid slowly up along the curves of her body, and she squirmed, feeling almost
naked standing in front of him. The slow curl of his lip made her tense up, and
she struggled not to shake. This was not possible. She must be hallucinating.
The hallucination stepped
Buffy scanned him rapidly.
She had left Angel back at the house; heck, she had just spoken to him!
Had he been transported here? Was it some side effect of the locator stone? But
she knew that wasn't the case. His clothes were all wrong; She knew what was in
Angel's wardrobe, and he had nothing like that. And certainly not... oh god...
leather pants. The arrogant stance was all wrong too; and when she finally
allowed herself to meet his gaze, his eyes were definitely not Angel's either. No
- she couldn't go through that again.
She felt cold slither down
her spine, and wondered if she was dreaming. This creature was her worst
nightmare; she had regretted, years ago, allowing Other Willow go back
to her own dimension; she should have been brave enough to destroy her. She
could not afford to make the same mistake here. She started forward. This ended
He stepped away from the
window, hands held up in supplication.
"Is that any way to
treat an old friend?"
"You're no friend of
mine," she snapped, surging forward, ready to dust the apparition from her
life once and for all.
"You wound me, "
he murmured, hand held over his cold heart.
"That's the general
idea," she snarled, retreating a couple of steps and smashing her foot
backwards through the door so that she didn't have to take her eyes off of him,
and snatched up a piece of broken wood. She rushed forwards, slamming the stake
down to find she had missed him. Lithe as a cat, he had sidestepped, and was
continuing to back up towards the door.
"And after I came
looking for you, too," he said, the lopsided curl of his mouth making her
skin crawl. She knew she shouldn't rise to his bait, but she couldn't help
"Why would you do
obvious?" he asked, catching the stake-filled hand that had lunged at him
again, and pushing it gently away.
"I need your