Project Paranormal
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Project Paranormal

Author: D.M. Evans

Season 1

Part 5



Summary: While Giles and the new head of the Council try to find theories to explain the paranormal incidents, something from their past comes back to kill them.


Disclaimer - I own nothing. All rights belong to Mr. Whedon.


Time Line - Post NFA, November




Dead for the Future



Whoso neglects learning in his youth, loses the past and is dead for the future.

Euripides - Phrixus


"Anyhow she's going to email me pictures of her latest project. She's really proud of it," Buffy said, walking into Giles' study, the one place Giles was trying to keep as teenager-free as he could. "Dawn's doing so well at school."


"I'm glad to hear it," Angel said then paused, seeing Giles wasn't alone in the room. That alone wasn't abnormal, not any more, but this was a new face. "Oh, hello."


Buffy's eyes hardened slightly. When had she become so suspicious of strangers? "Hi."


Giles got up from the green leather chair, setting aside a glass of scotch. "Buffy, Angel, I'd like you to meet an old friend of mine, Benny D'Gioia."


The middle-aged woman smiled at them, her long fingers curled around a knobby wooden cane that looked like it had been stolen off the set of The Lord of the Rings. She tried to lever herself up out of her chair. That's when Buffy noticed that the woman's right ankle was encased in a plastic shell lined with padding. Wide strips of velcro held it together.


"No, don't get up," Buffy said, crossing over to the woman. "That looks painful."


"Very." Benny settled back and just held out her hand. Her eyes flicked upwards for just a moment as the noise of girls upstairs echoed like elephants loose on the ceiling.


Buffy shook her hand. "You're the new head of the Council." Buffy's eyes slotted, dropping the temperature in the room several degrees. "You're not what I was expecting. I thought being ancient and English and male were required. Of course, I thought you were male with that name."


Benny laughed softly. "In the bad old days, it was more or less true. These are very new times." Her hazel green eyes canted up to Angel, a ghost of a smile hiding in the corners of her mouth. "You must be Angel. It's a pleasure to meet you."


He smirked. "I don't often hear that." His dark gaze settled on Giles for just a moment then dropped uneasily. He faded back to the most shadowy corner of the study.


"I can imagine, and for the record, Buffy, Benny's just a nickname. My full name is Benedetta Donna-lisa D'Gioia."


"Traditionally said while making the sign of the cross." Angel smirked again.


Benny laughed. "Exactly. We can thank the good sisters of Our Lady of Lourdes for naming me Blessed Joy with a wink and a nudge."


"Where is everyone?" Buffy asked Giles.


"Several of the girls went with Martha to get groceries. I'm sure they'll be back soon," Giles replied.


"Would you care to join us?" Benny waved at the remaining chair. "I think Buffy would like to hear what Rupert and I were talking about."


"Benny, I'm not sure that's a good idea. This has nothing to do with Buffy," Giles protested, reaching for his glasses, indulging in his usual nervous polishing.


"The last time you said that, a demon was killing all your friends." Buffy sat down, an expression on her face that said she had zero intentions of going anywhere.


Obviously torn and uncertain of his place with them, Angel hovered in the shadows near the artfully arranged array of blades and axes on the wall. Below them in a trunk rested other weapons. Angel's interest in whatever the Watcher might have to say was enough to compel him to stay when it would have been easier to retreat to his sanctuary above the garage.


Giles' eyes hardened a fraction, the reminder of Eyghon exceedingly unwelcome. "This is nothing like that."


"No, it's not like that bit of trouble you had with Rayne and the others, but it does very much have to do with our pasts and like it or not, Rupert, someone is trying to murder us. Buffy has every right to know, if for no other reason than for her own safety," Benny argued, fingering the handle of her cane as if she might like to lay it upside Giles' head to knock sense into him.


Buffy's eyes widened, her muscles tightening. "Did she say murder?"


"Benny has a flare for theatrics," Giles said, favoring his friend with another sour look.


Buffy leaned forward on her knees, fixing Benny with her gaze. "Tell me about it."


"Could you pour me some scotch, Rupert. This story could use the lubrication," Benny said. "I'll start with the attack on me earlier this week. I was climbing Ben MacDhui to study the Fear Liath More, in spite of the fact it was colder than the devil's tit out there."


"The what?" Buffy interrupted, her brow wrinkling.


"The Gray Man of Scotland. He's akin to the American Bigfoot but with some very important differences. In appearance, he's pretty Sasquatch-like, around ten feet tall covered with short grey or brown hair but what makes the Fear Liath More interesting is his mystical aspects." Benny's eyes gleamed with excitement as she took the glass of scotch Giles offered her. "A host of unembodied phenomena are associated with him, dark blurs across a clear sky, echoing footsteps that follow you, sometimes in hot pursuit. I had just gotten some of those on digital recording the day before, so I was pretty hyped. Ghostly, icy cold brushings of the skin or even man-handling have been reported. Sometimes you can hear crunching sounds like teeth on bone and a strange humming known as the ‘Singing'."


Benny sipped her scotch. "But it goes beyond this. There is this negative energy that's blamed on the Fear Liath More. It's been reported by many hikers on Ben MacDhui. Sometimes it manifests as despondency or lethargy but more often it strikes the hikers like fear, deep apprehension and panic, sometimes so strong the hikers feel suicidal. Mostly they just run for their lives and, once they get out of the peaks of Ben MacDhui, they feel better. There's also been reports of this overwhelming but incomprehensible voice. People who've heard it swear it's Gaelic."


"And you look so happy about all of this," Buffy observed wryly. "I remember what a little fear demon did to me and my friends. I don't see why anyone would want to encounter something that would scare them."


"Happy, isn't the right word, Buffy." Benny pushed back a hank of her silver-flecked walnut hair. "I'm a researcher and there is a great deal of enjoyment for me in a job well done. I don't have to tell you why it's important. You and Rupert have benefited from centuries worth of research." She took another sip of scotch as Keith Urban's voice came muffled through the ceiling. All eyes floated up for a moment, drawn by the noise. "Though, I'll admit, the Watchers have been long broken into three distinct bodies, the researchers who are looked upon as a bit crazy, the special Ops, who do the things the administrative body doesn't want to dirty their hands with and, of course, the administrative body who gave us people like Travers and the other heads of Council, the ones who'd strut about like their shit does stink, if you'll forgive the turn of phrase."


Buffy just smiled faintly, flicking her gaze over at the shadows and Angel to see if she could read what he thought about this.


"One of the reasons Rupert was backing me to become the new head of the Council was that I am a researcher. Personally I thought he'd be a better choice but I can see why he felt he'd be better off...retired." Benny gave him a strange look, part disappointment and part something Buffy couldn't identify. "But the idea of the agency is very interesting. I wish you three well with that."


Thanks." Buffy wasn't sure what to make of this woman. "You being a field agent instead of administrative is a bit unusual, isn't it?"


"I'd imagine they were looking to add a little more of the level headedness found in field agents compared to the bureaucrats," Angel said, leaning against the wall, hands buried in his pockets.


"Thank you, Angel, though researchers tend to be dreamers more than we're level headed. But Rupert had that in mind before he left us. He tried to come up with a core group that treated the Slayers as more than just a tool, and sadly not a well cared for tool at that. I'm thinking of both you and Faith, in that regard, Buffy." Benny's hazel eyes cut over to Buffy. "And most of the officious dipwads got blown up by the First so what was left but field agents?"


Buffy grinned. "I'm not sure I can imagine that word coming out of a Watcher's mouth."


"That was edited or Rupert might have exploded at the impropriety. Exactly when did you have that stick inserted in your ass, by the way?" Benny smirked at Giles.


"Right about the time they decided I was able to handle a teenaged girl," Giles replied, rolling his eyes at Buffy.


 "Scary creatures, one and all." Benny shuddered. "And to think you have how many under this roof. To get back on track, I was still in the field, as I mentioned. We felt that might be for the best, to keep the Council more diverse in locale. With cell phones and wireless internet, I don't see the need to be tied to one place. Of course, that also meant I was alone in Scotland."


"Studying the Fear Liath More," Buffy interjected. "In the dead of winter."


Benny's lips parted in a generous smile. "California girls. It's still fall, Buffy. I was back at my base camp, freezing my ass off while checking my text messaging and my forwarded paper mail when I came across something that took me back about thirty years and scared the hell out of me."


"You don't look easily rattled." Angel's eyes gave her a tough once over. He shifted his weight, a hand surfacing from a pocket to fuss with a dagger on the wall.


"I'm not, and if you would have told me something as hokey as a piece of paper reading, ‘Vengeance is mine,' signed Elinor, would give me cold chills, I would have laughed. I guess I was meant to sit around stewing in a cold sweat for a while but since it took forever for my mail to get to me, I didn't get the letter until the day of the attack," Benny said, twirling her cane in her hand.


"So Elinor means what to you?" Angel gave her a curious look.


"I'll get to that. Let's just say it's a name I hadn't thought about in a long time. Still, I just set the letter aside, pretty confident that if Elinor thought I was in London at my address, then I was safe enough half way up a mountainside in Scotland. I started doing the paperwork for all my field notes and I started feeling afraid, really afraid. I wasn't sure if it was me remembering Elinor or if it was the psychic effects of the Fear Liath More, which were said to be suddenly off the scale according to the seasoned hikers of Ben MacDhui. I was betting on the latter and I thought I could withstand it," Benny said grimly. "And document it."


"And you couldn't," Buffy guessed.


Benny seemed suddenly ashamed. "I'm just as glad it was cold and I still had on my boots. I started getting more frightened, too much to just sit still. If not for that, they would have gotten me."


"They what?" Buffy leaned forward in her chair, now that Benny had gotten to whatever might be after her and Giles.


"Don't know exactly," Benny admitted. "It was dark. I saw them coming and I paused for one brief look and just took off running."


"That's the best you can do?" Disappointment etched into Buffy's face, vying with a look that said, ‘It figures. What else could I expect from a Watcher?'


Benny's lips pulled into a frown, giving the first real hints of the slight wrinkles hiding in the corners of her mouth. "I know, terrible isn't it? A Watcher who can't see a damn thing." She shivered slightly. "The glimpse I got made me think that I was being followed by anthropophagi."


"What?" Buffy was annoyed with herself. One day someone would have to give her the Dungeon's Master's guide to demons.


"Something that has never been proven to actually exist, no matter what Shakespeare liked to write about," Giles said, not particularly helpfully.


"A demon that eats humans, which isn't so unusual. It's their appearance that is," Angel said, moving closer to Buffy as Giles got up to search through his books presumably for a reference.


"I didn't get a good look. I was too afraid to look back as I ran. I mean, isn't that how the bimbo in the horror flicks always gets it?" Benny smiled. "I kept running and ran right off a ledge. I ended up rolling down a good part of the mountainside. I'm lucky the worst I got was a busted up foot."


"And this eater demon didn't follow you?" Buffy's eyes hardened, studying Benny as if expecting lies.


"I think it did but I don't think it was what caused the panic in me. It had to the Fear Liath More. How ironic, it probably saved my life. Once I was out of its sphere of influence, I could think straight. I'm not much of a mage, unfortunately, a few cookbook kind of spells but nothing like your friend, Willow. But there's one spell I excel at, something that helps me in the field. I can become unseen."


"Invisible? Tried that once." Buffy wrinkled her nose. "Didn't care for it much."


"This isn't invisibility per se. It makes me part of the scenery, right down to the scent. Angel's not the only demon who can track like a bloodhound," Benny said. "Ever see Predator? It's more like that."


"That would be kinda cool," Buffy said begrudgingly thinking Xander would like Benny and her pop culture references. Giles handed her an opened book. Her eyes widened slightly as she saw the anthropophagi plate. "So they obviously didn't find you and looking at this, I'm sure you're glad they didn't."


Benny shook her head. "Nor even came close enough to be seen and so far there have been no more attacks."


"Is it because Elinor doesn't know where to find you or does she think you're dead?" Angel asked.


"While I've been laying low, I doubt she thinks I'm dead. Sadly there's a paper trail a mile wide from the hospital visits alone." Benny took a long swallow of scotch.


"Tell me about Elinor. Why does she want you dead?"


"Not just me, Giles, too," Benny reminded her and Buffy nodded grimly, her eyes knifing into Giles.



"I got a similar letter today," Giles said, trailing a finger over the cut crystal of his scotch glass. ‘Elinor was a Watcher in training, a powerful young mage. Her family had been mages and Watchers for generations. Her younger sister, Jackie was a Potential. She was killed, in 1978 I believe it was, and Elinor blamed Benny and I. She tried to kill us and several other Watchers..., and the Watchers put her in place."


"Would this safe place be the same prison Wesley tried to incarcerate Faith in?" Angel asked sharply and Buffy shot him her usual irritated look for bringing up the dark-haired Slayer.


"Yes and Willow, too, if Xander hadn't brought her back from her madness." Benny made a face. "Provided there was still a world left. Think of this place as a type of Azkaban without Dementors."


"There's a cheery thought," Buffy said, noting a baffled look on Angel's face. She figured the pop reference lost him so she mouthed the word, ‘later' at him.


"It's not a cheery place but consider the alternatives," Benny conceded. "If Willow couldn't have been helped, would you want her running free?"


Buffy looked away. "Point made."


"Somehow Elinor escaped. Her caretakers tried to get in touch with me...or so they say." Benny's face went sad. "There are so few of us now, stretched so thin I can't swear to it that anyone did try to contact me. At any rate, there is something more disturbing than just Elinor's escape."


"That can't bode well," Buffy said nervously.


"No," Giles said. "We believe that Elinor's escape is somehow linked to the escalating paranormal phenomena that we've been experiencing."


"Then the phenomena is spreading," Angel said, going back to this favorite shadow near the weapons. "And its affects are more profound. I'll assume that it's no easy feat circumventing or disrupting the magics around that prison."


"Not in the least. And in talking to Rupert, we've come up with a couple of alternative hypotheses," Benny said. "We need a lot more data, unfortunately to prove our nulls though."


"One is that theory we've discussed before," Giles said. "That perhaps it might be the new Slayers somehow linked to this."


"How can that be?" A defensive edge crept into Buffy's tone.


"We don't know. Maybe the power was never meant to be widespread." Benny made a face. "Though why that should be, I couldn't say. An army of Slayers would be a far more effective tool. Perhaps it's too much of a strain on our reality. There has to be some reason that there is only one Slayer. Although, you'll have to admit, one Slayer is pretty easy to avoid."


"Darla and I made a rule of that," Angel said sheepishly. "Life's good as a vampire so long as you know where the Slayer is and don't share territory with her. Of course, you always get an idiot like Spike who has to prove himself against her."


"You said there was another theory," Buffy prompted, obviously uneasy with the idea it might be hooked into the Slayers somehow.


Benny nodded. "One of the alternative theories that Rupert and I were discussing deals with the telluric energy, the earth mysteries."


Buffy pursed her lips and she looked to her Watcher.


"There's a belief that there is a pattern of energy flow that covers the world and keeps it alive," Giles said, interpreting that look at ‘please explain'. "Remember the ley lines at the chalk figures, Buffy? That's telluric energy."


"That might explain some things, like what happened at the chalk figure," Angel said, a somber expression on his face as he remembered his battle with the faerie king.


"And explain a lot of other things that Giles and I have seen reported," Benny put in.


"The Chalice Well for one," Giles said. "Many of the areas we already investigated are along these lines."


Benny gave her dark curls another tug as she bobbed her head in agreement. "The Glastonbury grid is an astonishing center of power that radiates great distances and has been important since ancient times. For people who know how to work the energies, they can get a morphic resonance in Glastonbury that's been known to warp reality."


"Okay, that sounds really bad," Buffy said, not sure what morphic resonance was but figured all she needed to know was ‘warped reality.'


"Morphic resonance can be used for good or evil, like most any power," Giles replied. "Benny has some of the Watchers looking into the archaeoastronomy in regards to the ley lines and the stone monuments that were often built along them."


"For all we know the stars are aligning...badly," Benny said. "The ley lines might explain why suddenly there was a surge in the Fear Liath More's activity. There is a lot of telluric energy that flows through Scotland. We just need to do a ton more research."


"And to that end, I think Buffy and Angel can handle starting the research into the problem and cataloging the escalating paranormal events, especially if the three of us are going to make the agency work. You and I can deal with Elinor ourselves, Benny." Giles said, still very reluctant to let Buffy into the dark recesses of his past. He felt like a father trying to shield his daughter.


Buffy's eyes dimmed. "We can help you, too, Giles. You know the research isn't my thing."


"I'm not sure it's necessary. The research is more important," Giles insisted as Angel turned toward the window, his body tense.


"Angel, what is it?" Buffy read his body language.


Before Angel could answer, the sounds of shattering glass filled the room. A half dozen creatures shoved through the shards of the window. Monstrous in size, their heads would have brushed the ceiling, if they had heads. Naked, eyes blinking from their massive shoulders, they lumbered single-mindedly toward Giles.


Buffy flicked a spin kick at one of the monster's chest and pulled her foot back as the thing's chest split open into a maw filled with teeth. She made a face. "Okay, these are just gross."


"I guess we know for sure that anthropophagi are real, Giles," Angel said, grabbing weapons from the display on the wall. He tossed a sword to Buffy, keeping the axe for himself. Yanking open the trunk, he passed a crossbow to Giles.


"I'll be fascinated by it later," Giles quipped, getting between the mostly immobile Benny and the anthropophagi.


Buffy ducked under one of the things grasping hands, trying to figure out where to stab it. It seemed to be all mouth.


"Its brains are just above its genitals," Benny shouted as she whacked her stout cane against the arms of another one who had a grip on Giles, a crossbow bolt embedded in one of its eyes. Giles crushed his foot hard in that region, sending the thing to the ground twitching.


As Angel bisected one of them with his axe, Hoshi and Sadie ran in, lured downstairs by the noise. Sadie hesitated in the doorway unsure of her abilities, especially against something as ugly as the anthropophagi. As Hoshi charged one of the creatures, the anthropophagi Angel killed exploded into smelly bits like a roadkill skunk a few days old,.


Caught in the carnage, Buffy wiped chunks of demon off her face in disgust. "Aim between the legs, girls!"


Between three Slayers and the vampire, with some suppression fire by Giles, the room was quickly covered in decaying, reeking demon parts, like a chum bucket explosion. Buffy was shaking, not out of fear but out of rage that someone would want her Watcher...her father in all the ways that matter, to meet an end chewed up by something like these creatures.


"Who's going to clean this mess up?" Sadie wiped her face, leaving a black smear across her forehead.


Buffy just gave her a look.


Hoshi sighed and patted Sadie's shoulder. "I'll get the mop."


Buffy tossed her sword on the ruined chair and crossed her arms. She gave Giles a different kind of look. "So, you don't need my help with Elinor?"


His lips thinned. "When we get this all cleared away, Benny and I will tell you the whole story."


*                                     *                                                             *


LONDON - 1978


Giles wanted to do anything but go home and commit the Wynne-Jones Grimoire to memory like a good little Watcher in training. He ducked into the Stillwaters Pub for a pint, unprepared for what he found; two Potentials, one of whom was underaged. The younger one looked ready to take flight at the sight of him. The older, barely legal, girl watched him with hard eyes. She didn't seem particularly concerned and that disappointed him. Giles thought he had been getting through to her.


She cocked her head at him, which was like looking a porcupine in the face with the way her hair was slicked up into punky spikes. She smirked, the silver chain going from earring to nose ring rolling along her cheek as it moved. "Come to spy or to play, Rupert?" she asked in her rough, New York accent.


"Neither. Coincidence," he said, heading to the bar. Seeing neither girl had left, Giles sat with them. He took a swing from his pint of ale.


"You going to tell on me?" Jackie Birdsall, the younger Potential, asked in a sullen tone.


Giles shook his head. "Not this time but you know if Mrs. Ainsworth finds out you were here, there'll be hell to pay."


Jackie's nose wrinkled as she shoved back her blond hair. "It's not fair. Mr. and Mrs. Dillingham don't hound Benny."


"That's because I'm too old to be Chosen now...or so they tell me," Benny replied, a bitter tone in her voice.


Giles understood it. His parents had told him about this frame of mind in unChosen Potentials. Benny, like other Potentials, had been found by a locator spell soon after birth. She had been adopted by the Dillinghams as an infant and raised by the Watchers with one goal in mind; she might be a Slayer one day. Instead of dolls and toys, Benny spent her childhood learning martial arts. Adolescence didn't give way to worries about hair and clothing. Instead, it was dominated by weaponry and memorizing demonology. As was typical of Watcher training, she was allowed no friends. Nor was she allowed to date and she was rarely in public by herself.


And now it was for nothing. Slayer powers seemed to have a preference for younger girls. Giles wasn't aware of any being Chosen once they were older than eighteen as if the bloom of adulthood interfered. Benny had come to his attention at a different club where he had seen the fire in her, the recklessness and worse, the near sociopathic isolation imposed by Watcher training. Here was a girl trained to kill who now had no targets, a weapon set aside and forgotten.


It was one of his own father's pet causes, the rehabilitation of these passed over Potentials. More often than not that meant tossing them into Special Ops where their life long training made them excellent soldiers and procurers when rare books and objects surfaced and needed ‘liberated' into the Watchers' vaults. Giles had decided to take Benny on as a project. Her Watcher parents had given up on controlling her and she was rebelling against everything, right down to tossing out her adoptive parents name and resuming her birth one. Giles understood that all too well. Maybe in redeeming himself for his own misdeeds, he could save her, too. There was one slight problem; he thought maybe she liked him a little too much and that it might be a two-way street. In spite of being punked out, she was cute and only a few years younger than him.

"Be that as it may, you both know better than to be here but it'll remain our secret," he promised the girls.


"Good because we're actually talking business," Jackie said innocently and Benny kicked her under the table.


Giles caught the furious look on Benny's face and interpreted it to mean the girls were considering doing something dangerous. "What business would that be?"


"Nothing," Benny snapped.


"Oh just tell him." Jackie lifted her pint glass to her lips, pursing them against it for a moment. "We think that some baobhan siths are killing dancers at various clubs in town."


Giles' eyes narrowed. "And what makes you think you can take on a baobhan sith? They're not like regular vampires."


"They're wraith-like until it's time to feed," Benny said, fingering the metal studs that riveted up the curve of her ear. "When they feed, they're vulnerable to attack."


Giles refused to corroborate that. The baobhan sith were very dangerous fey, incorporeal until they selected a man to dance with and kill, and then Benny was quite right.


"Besides, we'll have my sister, Elinor with us. Her magic will help," Jackie said, with far too much innocence for a Potential. "We'll save lives."


Giles knew what she meant was ‘we'll be heroes.' He glanced over at Benny who looked away. He had no doubt the sisters had talked her into this. She knew it was a bad idea. "It's too risky."


Jackie made a lemony face. "You're just old."


Giles stared, taken aback. He had used that accusation many times in his life and hadn't expected to hear it applied to him. It was jarring but it didn't change his opinion of the situation. In his mid-twenties, he was several years older than Jackie, old enough to know Potentials and young mages had no business taking on such dangerous creatures and in a public place no less. Of course, it was difficult to corner baobhan siths in non-public place. "You will not do this and that's final."


Jackie gave him a baleful look. Benny maintained her blank, bored expression. Giles knew nothing short of locking them up was likely to stop them. He quickly finished his ale and left the now silent girls, intending to report their plans to Ainsworth, the Birdsalls and the Dillinghams immediately. He heard the heavy footfalls behind him and he turned to see Benny following him, her Doc Martens clunking along the sidewalk. He couldn't help looking through the holes in her jeans to the laddered hose underneath.


"This is a very bad idea, Benny," he said.


She nodded, her spiked hair wavering like quills. "I know. Elinor and Jackie are determined to prove themselves. I figured they might just survive if they had someone with more experience."


Giles cocked an eyebrow at her, amazed at the teenaged arrogance in that statement. "Did you ever think to just tell Jackie's Watcher or her parents?" Benny's stare told him all he needed to know. He was reminded again that the gulf between teenagers and twenty year olds might as well be as big as the Atlantic. Benny was too young to know better, too young to trust adults and like most teens, completely self-assured that she knew everything.


"You'll tell them, won't you?" she stated matter-of-factly, fingering a rip in her shirt.


"It needs to be done."


"Siouxsie and the Banshees will be at the Vortex Club," she said, indicating that she didn't think that a grounding by Watchers or parents would stop the sisters, who were too determined to prove themselves.


Giles knew she wanted his help should it come to it. "What makes you think I'll come and help you?"


Benny grabbed him roughly, crushing her darkly painted lips to his. It was mere promise of something more to come. "Because I think you care what happens to me." She whipped around with all the grace years of training how to move and fight bestowed. She was inside the pub before he could formulate a response.


A cold weight seemed to sink into his belly. Maybe he was still raw with the knowledge of the wrongs he had done with Ethan and the others but he knew too well how arrogance coupled with power could go oh so very wrong. Benny was right; he did




Even though he knew that the Birdsalls and Mrs. Ainsworth had gotten together to ground the girls, Giles still swung by Sex, McLaren's shop on King's Road, to buy an appropriate outfit. Once there he decided to save money and only bought a T-shirt with a stunningly vulgar saying on it. To complete the look, he forewent the shop's overpriced trousers and jackets and went home, ripped up some old jeans, dug out his leather jacket and put in his earring. He headed for the Vortex club. He wasn't at all surprised to see Benny there. Jackie and Elinor weren't as easy to spot but he knew they had to be around somewhere.


Benny's blood red lips parted in a smile but Giles couldn't keep his gaze off her eyes and the dark lines of kohl arching toward her temples. It gave her a predatory feline appearance. A length of chain like a dog collar circled her neck, padlocked into place. "I knew you'd come."


"And I knew that you wouldn't listen to reason," he countered, his eyes straying to her tartan mini-skirt and torn fishnets that clung to her athletic legs. When she moved and the leather jacket she wore gaped open, he could see her tight little halter top and the nipple rings pressing against it.


"I would have. Jackie and Elinor wouldn't," she countered, fingering the new safety pin she sported through her eyebrow.


He tore his eyes away. "Where are they?"


She shrugged. "Around. Elinor is convinced she has a spell that will stop the baobhan sith."


"You don't sound as convinced," he said as someone crashed off his side and careened back out onto the dance floor. He had to admit there was something about Siouxsie's lyrics, a certain bleakness that fired up her audience.


Benny shook her head, the spikes of her hair slashing dangerously. "I don't think she knows as much as she thinks she does."


Giles was sure Benny was right. "Is this the music you were listening to in the library?" He vividly recalled the ruckus when she had come in with a tape deck, got out the book she was assigned to study and let fly with some cacophony that infuriated every Watcher in earshot.


"Nah, that was the Slits." Benny pointed. "There they are."


Giles followed the line of her arm to where Jackie and Elinor were across the room. He and Benny started pushing their way through the crowd. Giles stopped, seeing something that stood out even among the human pond of wild hair and horrid fashion sense, seven women in white dresses were winding their way through a group of angry youths. They looked like they should be at a wedding, not a club. Instead of drawing sneers from the crowd around them, several mohawked heads turned to watch them with appreciation. "They're beautiful," Giles said softly, almost worshipfully.


"The baobhan sith," Benny whispered, her voice tight with fear. Reading about them was one thing, facing them was another. "Rupert...Rupert!" Her voice sharpened, breaking him out of the demonesses' spell. Benny dug in the pockets of her leather coat and pressed a knife into his hand. "Stakes don't work with them, right?"


He shook his head. "Cold iron." He looked at the knife in his hand. It was old. He knew the blade. Benny had borrowed it from the Watchers' collection.


Jackie didn't wait for them to reach her. She went after one of the baobhan sith but the creature turned incorporeal as her knife flashed towards it. It became solid enough to slap her away hard. Benny shoved her knife in the back of one as it fed of a trihawked young man, grunting with the force needed. The baobhan sith died in a flash of light and Giles saw Benny rubbing her arm. She wasn't a Slayer, just a normal girl finding out how much strength was required to shove metal through tissues.


His own knife thrust met wispy air and he nearly stabbed the young man the creature had been feeding on. He heard Elinor chanting and realized what she was trying to do. She was attempting a spell to keep the baobhan sith in their corporeal forms to make the fight more equal but she mispronounced some of the words. It wasn't going to work.


"Benny, get to Jackie. We have to get out of here. Elinor can't cast the spell," he shouted over the noise.


Benny nodded and tried to push her way through to Jackie who was quickly being backed into a corner of the room. Giles grabbed Elinor's arm, trying to drag the young woman away. She yanked free.


"I can do this!" she shouted at him.


"No, you can't. You have the words wrong," he replied.


She grabbed his arm, shaking it. "Then help me."


Giles glanced over at Benny and Jackie and saw there was no choice. The two Potentials were surrounded. Even as he started casting the spell, he knew it was too late. He heard Jackie scream until her throat was torn out. Benny's knife couldn't kill the baobhan sith fast enough, not with them becoming wraiths at all the right times, and she, herself, was being lifted off her feet, pinned to the wall. Elinor was screaming Jackie's name as he completed the spell. Giles shoved through the crowds and finished off the demoness before she could kill Benny. Together, they managed to slay the rest of them. They were left bloodied and exhausted. Jackie lay dead on the floor.


Elinor collapsed at her sister's side. Cradling the fallen girl, she looked up at Giles and Benny with pure hate in her eyes. "This is all your fault. You let her die."




"Your fault? It sounds like it was more Elinor's fault than anyone's that her sister died," Buffy said after listening to Giles and Benny's story.


"It's not an easy thing to blame yourself," Giles said, pouring more scotch.


"You were a punk." Buffy grinned as if seeing Benny for the first time as something other than a potential enemy.


Benny laughed. "I still like the music."


"Should have met Spike," Buffy snorted. "But if you were a Potential, why aren't you a Slayer now?"


Benny ran a hand through her curly hair. "Possibly because I'm just too damned old. Or maybe I never really had the potential after all. The locator spell is not infallible, just look at you and Faith. You were both missed by the spell. So, if there are false negatives, it stands to reason there are false positives. I could have been one of those."


"So you went through all that stuff, lived like Kendra." Buffy shuddered a bit. "For nothing."


"You could look at it that way but I was slated to grow up in a Catholic orphanage otherwise," Benny said. "Don't know where Mom came from or where she went but she went to New York City to have and leave me."


"Sorry," Buffy mumbled looking like she thought she had to say something. Benny just shrugged it off.


"How soon afterward did Elinor try to kill you two and end up in this prison?" Angel asked, sitting on the couch.


"Unfortunately not right away," Benny said. "If she had, I wouldn't worry much about her. She let it stew for a few years until she got better at the dark magics and then tried to kill us. She did manage to kill Ainsworth for not training Jackie well enough. Quite obviously she's gone off her rails a long time ago and has just enough power and knowledge to be very dangerous."


"So now what do we do about her?" Buffy asked, leaning back on the couch then sat up as if realizing she was perilously close to Angel.


"Lure her out," Giles and Benny said almost in one voice.


"She has to be dealt with," Giles added uneasily.


"Preferably before she decides going after my three remaining children would hurt me more than actually killing me would," Benny put in, her hazel eyes dim.


"Remaining? You've lost one?" Buffy's tone was more sympathetic towards the Watcher than it ever had been.


Benny's fingers twisted on the knobby end of her cane. "My eldest daughter was killed by the Harbingers along with the Potential she was training."


"I'm sorry," Angel said softly, his whole body seeming to sag. "We aren't meant to bury our children."


Even Giles wasn't immune to Angel's pain and the vampire's words generated what little sympathy Giles could ever imagine himself feeling for him. While Angel might be silent on the matter, he knew the vampire worried greatly over his son's nebulous fate. Buffy ran a comforting hand over Angel's arm.


Benny smiled gratefully. "No, we are not. My two sons are in college and have magic enough to protect themselves and my youngest is living with her father right now where she'll hopefully learn I'm not the world's biggest bitch and discipline isn't her enemy." She sighed. "Caprice is the most vulnerable of my three kids."


"It's a shame that the coven is scattered at the moment trying to keep a lid on all the paranormal outcroppings," Giles said. "We could use them."


"Well, you aren't so bad at the magic stuff," Buffy assured him. "Do we have a plan?"


"That's what we need to work on and I think the place to start is to let it be known I'm hiding out and I've hired a body guard," Benny said, looking at Angel. "Who's big on strength and magic. She'll try to take you out first then move on me. That should give us time to handle her."


"Um, will this magic hurt Angel?" Buffy cast a worried glance at him.


"Well, it'll be killing magic knowing Elinor but Angel should be immune...I guess," Benny said without conviction. "I don't honestly know."


Angel gave Buffy a determined look. "I guess we'll find out."




"I hate this waiting," Buffy moaned as she came into the cramped living room of the isolated country cottage Benny had rented for the purpose of ‘hiding out.'


"It's only been forty-eight hours, Buffy. It'll take a little time for Elinor to locate us and formulate a plan of attack," Giles said soothingly.


"Leaving me alone with a house full of cranky, PMSing Slayers...I think they're all starting to cycle together."  Buffy favored him with an exaggerated pout then flushed when she remembered who she was talking to.


"Better you than me." He flashed her an annoyed, pinched look, while being very grateful to miss that particular event. "Did you bring along those reports?"


Buffy turned over the sheaf of papers and Giles' eyes widened.


 "That many cases so fast?" He was staggered by the sheer volume of paranormal reports.


Buffy nodded. "It looks like whatever it is that's going on is picking up speed. The good news is if they're all paying customers, we'll be in good shape...if we're not dead." Buffy flopped down on the lumpy sofa. "Have I said how much I hate you playing target?"


"Many times and I'm not playing, Buffy. Benny and I are targets." Giles lips pulled into a grim line. "The only one playing is Angel."


She sighed. "I know and I don't like that either." She waved a hand around at the time-worn living room. "This place is a dump."


"Exactly why Benny rented it. Slayers aren't impervious to magic. I doubt at this point Elinor would hesitate at killing them. The potential collateral damage is the other reason we couldn't use my flat in Bath." Giles started sorting the papers into the various regions of occurrence, looking for a pattern.


"I know, it makes perfect sense." She ran a hand through her hair, a tired expression on her pale face. "I just hate you being in danger."


He glanced up at that and smiled softly at her. "Thank you. I know the feeling."


Her lips tried to find a smile then she sobered again. "Did you tell Ella you're here?"


"I've spoken to her and filled her in on as to why. I can't say she's thrilled with the idea," Giles replied. Anything that might have been romantic between him and Benny ended three decades earlier but he caught that hint of jealousy in Ella, as unwarranted as it was. "It shouldn't be much longer."


"Where is Benny?" Buffy didn't have to ask where Angel was. He was probably still in the basement of the ramshackled place. The sun wasn't fully down yet.


"On the phone doing Watcher business," Giles replied distractedly as he looked over the papers again.


 Buffy caught his eye. "Do you trust her, honestly?"


There was such worry on her face, Giles paused in his task to put a hand on her arm. "I trust her. Benny is bright and has the will to do the job no matter how unpleasant it might get. Why do you ask? Do you think I shouldn't trust her?"


Buffy shrugged. "I guess I got shafted by Travers too many times. I mean, the Watchers can't be all bad. They gave me you."


Giles blushed happily at the praise.


"It's just...from the story you told, it sounded like Benny could have turned out... I don't know, like Faith. I know Faith proved herself back in California, that she's changed but...well, you know what I mean," Buffy said, looking somehow angry with herself at having issues still.


Giles took off his glasses, cleaning them. "Benny's nothing like what Faith became in Sunnydale, but you're right, she could have been. Think of her more like Riley, a very well-trained solider who will do what's needed, including killing, for the cause. Sadly, sometimes, we can't avoid the loss of life."


Buffy sighed. "I'm not sure that makes me any more comfortable."


"What doesn't?" Benny asked, hobbling into the room.


"Angel being a magical lightening rod," Buffy said, changing the subject and Giles saw instantly that she wished she hadn't mentioned Angel, as if she might have revealed the deep dark secret that she still had some feelings for him. Giles was already privy to that secret, like it or not.


"And I'm sorry to put him in the position but he's here voluntarily," Benny reminded her, sitting next to Buffy on the couch. "Are those all new incidents?" She pointed to the pile of paper with the tip of her cane.


"Unfortunately," Giles said.


"Damn, this makes hiding out like bait even more a pain in my ass," Benny groused, her eyes glinting angrily. "Investigating that is so much more important." She nodded at the paperwork.


"Giles said you were doing Watcher stuff."




Benny nodded. "They're starting to look into the earth mysteries and archaeoastronomy like we discussed to see if they can find correlations between the ley line power and surges in paranormal activity. I was okay through the discussion of masculine versus feminine ley lines, and the fact that it seems to be the latter on the upswing. Then Palmer started talking about Bayesian statistics, multiple regression versus logistics regression, one-way independent ANOVA's, post hoc tests, bootstrapping, cluster analysis and ordination and it was like I was back in grad school with my eyes glazing over." Benny wrinkled her nose. "I like to collect the data and let the number monkeys play with the stats. The upshot is, it's still way too early to tell a damn thing about these incidents other that they're spreading like wildfire."


"Well, great." Buffy slapped her thighs then got up. "I should get back to the house before the girls set it on fire or something."


"Especially since you're still not comfortable driving and it's dark," Angel said, surfacing from the basement.


Buffy pursed her lips at him. "Hey me and cars used to be unmixy things so just be happy I can even drive. Is it wrong of me to want to hang here a little longer? It's less noisy and crowded."


"I was about to whip up some pasta for dinner for me and Rupert. You're welcome to stay. Angel, want me to slip some blood in the microwave for you?" Benny asked, heaving herself back up.


"No, that's alright, I'll take care of it," he said, looking somewhat embarrassed.


"I can help you cook," Buffy offered.


"You can fix up the garlic toast when we're ready, how's that?" Benny asked. "Doesn't take much to stir up the sauce or boil the water. I can handle it. Cooking gives me time to long as it's not about running SPSS."


Buffy glanced over at Giles for clarification.


"Statistical computer program," he replied, "You'll need to ask Willow if you need more than that."


Buffy made a face.  "Thanks, no."


No one noticed the shadow in the window nor saw a hand taking aim at Angel as he stepped aside so Benny could get by him. Buffy didn't get two steps towards the kitchen before all the little hairs on the back of her neck and arm stood up. It felt like lightning tearing through the cottage. A wall died in a cry of cracking wood and plaster. The window went the way of the wall in the thunder of shattering glass. A lurid ball of blue light slammed into Angel so hard his head and shoulders left an imprint in the plaster of the far wall. He slid down it, leaving a streak of red, as he folded up on the floor.


"Angel!" Buffy cried and her only answer was a pain-filled murmur


Giles thought he wouldn't regret using Angel to draw Elinor's fire and for the most part he didn't. The other small part of him hated to see the fear on Buffy's face for the vampire she couldn't quite pare out of her soul. He didn't have time to worry about it. Elinor came through the ribs of the wall, looking so much older than he could have imagined her being. Her grayed hair hung in tangles around her wan face. Her body was so thin her clothing looked like it was draped over a hanger. Wrinkles crazed her face like old china but her eyes burned with intensity and malice that decades sequestered from the world had only made stronger.


Her lips pulled away from yellowed teeth in a sickly smile, her eyes flickering from Angel who was trying to get up to Benny and Giles. "Waiting for me, weren't you? Should have expected you'd have a bodyguard immune to a death spell. Well, I won't aim for him this time."


"Why do all the bad guys talk too much?" Buffy stalked toward Elinor hoping to catch her before she could do another spell. The older woman fell back and whistled. A good dozen anthropophagi swarmed through the rent in the cottage. This time Buffy backpedaled, realizing she was unarmed which was fine for a human but not for these things. "Oh ewww, these things again."


"They're quite effective," Elinor assured her, raising her arms, ready to cast a spell.


"Buffy." Giles kicked a box toward her and Buffy yanked it open grabbing a sword out of it. She went to toss a crossbow to Benny but the Watcher was nowhere in sight so Buffy threw it to Angel who barely pulled himself together enough to catch it. Giles shouted something in a language Buffy didn't know but whatever it was, the spell slapped Elinor down.


"Angel, you have to move," Buffy yelled, seeing the vampire was close to getting penned in by the anthropophagi, one of them nearly biting off Angel's arm. The death spell might not be able to dust him but it had obviously damaged Angel badly.


Giles saw the conflict in Buffy's eyes. She wanted to shield Angel but she wasn't about to leave Giles unguarded. She kicked one anthropophagi between the legs while shoving her sword backwards into another. Elinor staggered upright. Giles chanted the spell Buffy remembered from his fight with Willow, the one that imprisoned her but this time he wouldn't have the coven's backing.


Elinor's eyes flashed black as she countered the spell.


"I hate that look," Buffy muttered then jumped when the sound of a shotgun echoed inside the house. One of the anthropophagi trying to shove Angel into its maw was nearly cut in two when the shotgun blast ripped into its flesh. Buffy turned and saw Benny pumping the gun to take another shot. Angel managed to shoot one in its little brain.


"A gun?" Elinor sounded disgusted, then pointed at Benny. "Incendi."


Angel reacted fast enough, pulling the Watcher off her feet but out of the path of the fireball which grew until it hit the far wall, splashing everywhere. For a moment, everyone froze staring at the enormity of the fireball.


"Shouldn't be that big," Giles said. "The's surging here."


"Worry about the weirdness later, Giles. Worry about burning now," Buffy said, trying to chop her way through the anthropophagi that stood between the humans and freedom.


"Buffy, down," Giles ordered and she flattened. She felt the magic scraping along her back like a metal brush followed by a vinegar wash. She shielded her eyes as the anthropophagi started exploding into goo, reminding her of the heads of the Gentleman the time she screamed. The stench was amazing. She looked back at Giles who had the defiant, scary-powerful look he had on his face the time he had beaten up Ethan and again when he fought Willow. This was the Giles she barely knew.


Hearing Elinor readying another spell, Buffy popped up, anthropophagi guts sliding off of her, and she punched Elinor once hard in the face. The woman crumbled and Buffy was sure she had broken bone. She was too used to hitting demons.

She glanced over at Giles, "Should it have been that easy?"


"You are the Slayer," he said, turning to Angel and Benny who were using each other as supports. Grabbing Benny's forgotten cane off the couch, Giles slid an arm under Benny's shoulder and helped her and her shotgun outside.


Buffy pulled Angel along. The vampire paused to drag Elinor out of the quickly burning house. He dropped her near a linden tree then sat down heavily.


"Angel?" Buffy asked tentatively, touching his cheek.


He looked up at her. "That really hurt."


"Sorry, Angel, and thanks," Benny said, who flopped to the grass to massage her ankle.


"Yes, is there anything we can do for you?" Giles asked.


Angel just shook his head, still in too much pain to do much.


"I hope I didn't accidentally pepper you with any shotgun pellets, Angel," Benny said. "I took the time to change out the cartridges when you agreed to do this so you'd be safe."


"Bullets can't kill a vampire," Buffy reminded her.


Benny smirked. "I load my own, wood pellets. This is my vampire shooting gun...which probably is as illegal as hell here. I'm not you, Buffy. I don't have the strength or the moves and I'm getting older. I prefer to shoot any vampire I might be in danger of coming across, from a nice safe distance."


Buffy shrugged. "Makes sense to me."


"You didn't hit me," Angel said. "Giles, your spells...hers, should they have been that strong?"


Giles looked back at the consumed cottage. "No, I think we were the next incident on the list. Something supercharged us."


"This can't be good." Buffy looked down at the still-unconscious woman. "She doesn't look like much."


"Just a shell over pure festering hate," Giles replied, wondering if there could have been more the Watchers could have done for her thirty years ago. He'd have to content himself with the idea that there wasn't. His head jerked up at the sound of sirens. "The fire engines are coming. Angel, Buffy, you need to go, take Elinor with you. I trust you can keep her unconscious until Benny and I can get there."


"Take her where?" Buffy asked.


"A holding place," Benny said. "Angel knows where."


Buffy looked very unhappy at the idea. "And what about you?"


"What was the favorite excuse in Sunnydale? Gas line explosion?" Giles replied.


Buffy grumbled but she and Angel took their captive and the shotgun, making it out before the police and firemen arrived.


Giles sat down next to Benny, far enough away from the house to be safe. "The power's growing. I felt it move through me. I could barely contain the energy."


She sighed. "I know you're already working with the coven to do what's necessary to stop it. Any help the Watchers can be, we shall be. I don't like this at all. Ever think you're getting too old for this, Rupert?"


"Sometimes, and others I think if not me, then who," he replied.


"Yeah, I know. Sucks to be us sometimes," she said.


"That's a word for it."




"And what happened next?" Sadie asked, big eyed. She was leaning over her knees next to Vi who was shoveling in crisps and soda.


"I think you've heard enough stories," Buffy said, wading into the Slayer packed living room. "You've had Benny talking for hours."


"And don't think I didn't enjoy it girls," the Watcher said with a smile. "But Buffy's right, I need to be hitting the road. The sun's already down...good thing I like driving under the stars." She got up to the groans and protests of the young girls who were enjoying tales of past glory. "Rupert, Buffy, Angel, would you care to join me outside for a moment?"


They followed her outside to her car and away from prying ears. "Thanks for all of your help with this...matter with Elinor, I appreciate it. I'll be quite glad to go hug my kids when I catch up to them," Benny said "And I know I owe much of that to you."


"Just glad you and Giles didn't end up those things' dinner." Buffy made a vinegary face. "What are those men in black going to do with Elinor? I mean, what happens now to make sure she doesn't come after you and Giles again?"


"I had the Special Ops take her to Ireland," Benny replied.


"What's in Ireland?" Buffy asked.


"Plenty of bogs," Benny said grimly.


It took a second for the meaning of that to sink in for Buffy. "Oh," she said, softly


"Where will you go now?" Angel asked, looking less surprised over the idea of an execution.


"I've talked it over with Giles. I'll leave it to you three to work on the theory that they might have something to do with this," Benny said, her eyes flicking to the house full of Slayers, "Which would be a shame since an army of Slayers...well, we already know the good one Slayer can do. As for me, first I'll head to the sidh of Ardtalnaig, the fairy hill near Loch Tay."


"What's that?" Buffy asked.


"A cup-marked stone near a powerful energy ley. There are long-standing theories that the ancient peoples here used these cup-marked stones to alter the telluric energy from the earth. I'll be working on the theory that there is a shift in these energies along the ley lines. I'll go from there to the cup-marked circular ley at Druid Cave then on to Calanais, one of the stone circles. But before I head back to Scotland, I might walk a little of the Michael ley line starting at the Glastonbury Tor with Caprice and the crazy Irishman. He's going to do the ley line investigation along the Michael."


Buffy wore an expression of someone who had given up ever figuring out what any Watcher was talking about. "Crazy Irishman, dare I ask?"


"Patrick Creegan, her significant other," Giles supplied.


"Caprice's father. He's a bit crazed and wild but I'm not sure I've ever met an Irishman who wasn't a bit nuts, no offense, Angel." Benny smirked at him.


Angel smiled, still looking a little weary from getting the brunt of a spell designed to snuff out life. "I think I'd be hard pressed to argue."


"I'll let you know if we find out anything about the ley lines and the telluric energy, Rupert," Benny said, leaning into her car's window.


"And I, you if we learn anything," Giles replied.


Benny nodded coming up with a small box that had been resting on the car seat. "Well, good luck with the agency, Rupert. You'll need it and here, as promised." She handed him the box.


"You promised not to," he replied, a hint of blush creeping up his face.

"I did no such thing. I couldn't help it. I saw them and thought of you. Just tell Ella you bought it yourself. She'll never know."


"You're impossible," he told her.


"What is it?" Buffy asked, grinning.


"Do not tell her," Giles warned Benny.


Her eyes danced. "Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album art...on silk boxers."


"Now there's a picture," Buffy said with an exaggerated shudder.


"And on that note, I'd better get moving." Benny's face went somber. "Rupert, anything you need, ask. Anything you find you need to do, anything." Her eyes floated back to the house again. "Do it. We'll back you. I trust your judgement."


"Thanks, Benny. Take care of yourself out there," Giles said, putting a hand on her shoulder.


"Always do." Benny opened the driver's door. "Nice meeting you, Buffy, Angel. Take care of him for me."


Buffy smiled. "Will do."


Angel just raised his hand in a small parting gesture. Benny headed out with speed that suggested not taking risks was foreign to her.


"Think she really will do what she just said?" Buffy asked.


Giles nodded. "She'll do it and she'll make sure no one gets in our way. Benny is good at getting things done."


Buffy crossed her arms. "Like dropping people in bogs?"


Giles looked at her. "Remember that talk we had, Buffy?"


"Yeah, like Riley, a soldier," she said, ignoring the slight bristling Angel couldn't quite hide at the name. "Still...not sure I like it."


"I wouldn't say she did either," Angel said softly.


"Guess not." Buffy shook her head then pasted a smile on her face. "You are not wearing those boxers, Giles."


Giles took them out of the box. "And why not?"

She shot him a ‘well duh' look. "Because it's wrong."


"Well, I think I'll wear them for Ella," Giles beamed at Buffy's horrified expression. "And nothing else, except maybe a guitar strap." He waved the boxers at Buffy then headed into the house.


"Oh, how am I supposed to sleep with that image in my head," Buffy demanded, stalking into the house after him.


Swallowing a laugh at the Watcher-Slayer antics, Angel looked back at the house, thought about all the Slayers within, and opted for a good brood under the stars.


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