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The Whisperer

 

Project Paranormal

Author: Smiling_n_Michigan

Season 2

Part 19

 

**

 

Summary: Another haunting stirs up more than just the newest ghost in Dorset

 

**

 

The Whisperer

 

 

 

“Help.”

 

“Where are you?” Buffy asked, uneasiness creeping into her pores and taking over. 

 

She was alone in a small, dark space and she couldn’t see very well.  Where was her claustrophobia coming from?  That was pretty easy to figure out.  Where the voice was coming from?  Not so much.  If it weren’t for her slayer senses, she probably wouldn’t have heard it at all.

 

She squeezed her eyes shut and opened them again, trying unsuccessfully to peer through the enveloping murk.  She hoped that her enhanced sight was in some strange dreamlike-slow-motion-delay-mode.  It didn’t help.  She was still greeted with nothing but darkness, and that wonderful feeling she loved so well of being closed in. 

 

She felt panic rising, starting in the pit of her stomach.  She tried to squash it, by taking deep breaths, but couldn’t.  It seized her, grabbing onto her like a boa, not the pretty, pink, furry type, and wouldn’t let go.

 

Feeling her way around and trying to find a way out hadn’t gotten her very far, but she didn’t care.  She needed to escape.  She needed to move around in the open, and if she didn’t do it soon, she would go crazy.

 

She was met with resistance--lots and lots of resistance, as she felt her way around the cold inner space.  Old memories kept resurfacing, much to her chagrin.  Chagrin?  Oh swell, now she was channeling Willow.  Still, she couldn't push those horrible thoughts back down where they belonged, so she did all she could do; she scratched at the walls that surrounded her, hoping against all hope that she would be able to dig herself out again if she couldn’t find a door.

 

“Help,” the voice whispered.                       

 

“I can’t help you if I can’t see you.  And I can barely hear you,” she snipped.  “Where are you?  Tell me where you are.”  Not like she could help herself at the moment, but focusing on the whispering seemed to ease her own anxiety a little bit.

 

“Help,” the voice repeated, before slowly drifting away.

 

Buffy’s eyes flew open as the voice faded like a song on the radio.  She was dreaming.  Thank God.  She had been there, done that, and she didn’t need to go there again.  Ever!  Two things you don’t ever forget: drowning and waking up in a cold grave.

 

She took a deep breath.  She was safe and sound at home, in the bed she shared with Angel.

 

The million-dollar question was if it had been a slayer dream or just a random-fleeting-bad-memory dream.  She didn’t know for sure.  Focus, Buffy!  What did she know?  The entire being-buried-alive-suffocation nightmare that she carried through to adulthood was getting really old. Enough was enough already.  Besides, she’d been there twice, in some form.  She didn’t care what people said, the third time definitely wasn’t the charm. 

 

She shook her head, trying to clear the thoughts that threatened to overtake her, destroying her ability to concentrate.  The reality of it?   The dream wasn’t about her or her fear of drowning or being buried alive.  It was someone else’s life that she had gotten a sneak peek at.  The feelings of suffocation and terror were what she and her mystery guest shared. 

 

Angel nuzzled up closer to her back.  His subtle movements pushed the remnants of her fear away.  Even in his sleep, he could sense when she was troubled.  If she moved just the right way… His arm slipped around her stomach and he pulled her even closer to him.  Yep, that’s what she figured he’d do.

 

“You okay?” he asked, his voice thick with sleep.

 

Buffy was at a place in her life that made her feel happy and safe.  Who wouldn’t want to spend as much time there as possible?  “I could be better,” she said.  As she turned to face him, taking in his messed up hair and sleepy smile, the pleading whisperer of her dreams quickly faded away.

 

+++

 

“Do you think it was prophetic?” Giles asked as he sipped his tea.

 

Buffy shrugged.  “I’m not sure.  I didn’t actually see anything.”

 

“That’s not much with which to work,” Giles said, toying with his teaspoon.

 

“You going to finish that??” she asked, reaching for the scone he hadn’t even touched.

 

He pushed the plate toward her.  “By all means.”

 

“Thanks,” she said.  She was starving and she had Angel to thank for that.

 

“If that’s all you have, Buffy, there’s nothing I can do.  Are you quite sure there was nothing else in your dream that could be of use?”

 

She glanced at the scone in her hand and then put it back on the plate, suddenly losing her appetite. She was pretty sure she had told him all she remembered.  Leaning back and closing her eyes, she tried to think.

 

Her immediate thoughts weren’t of the dream, they were of Angel, and those thoughts were enough to make her forget everything else.  She was experiencing intense feelings.  Feelings that never ceased to amaze her, and an intimacy that she had never felt before  One she wasn’t sure actually existed until now.  She just needed to be with Angel… always.

 

“Buffy?”

 

She opened her eyes.  Oh right.  Her dream.  “Focusing.  I’m focusing.”  The feelings of being buried alive: fear, loneliness, helplessness, and suffocation, always remained fresh in her memories.  She was afraid if she focused on the whispering too long, she’d go crazy.

 

She told Giles everything, faltering briefly when she explained how trapped she felt.  How hard it was for her to breathe. 

 

“The Master?” Giles said softly.

 

“Yes and no.  Drowning used to be number one on my nightmares to have list, but it was replaced by actually waking up, buried alive and not being in Heaven anymore, thanks to one’s friends, but not in that order,” she said, trying to make it sound light.

 

“I’m sorry, Buffy.”

 

So much for the light.  “It’s okay.  It’s dead and buried… in a matter of speaking.” 

 

“Buffy…”

 

“No.  It’s good.”

 

Giles paused briefly and then continued.  “Is there anything else that you can add?”

 

“There was no frantic, Giles.  Trust me.  Well, besides my freakage.  The frantic-buried-alive feeling and I are old buds, okay?  Been there, it wasn’t that.  I felt…” Her words trailed off, she wasn’t quite sure what she was trying to say.  “It was more of a defeated feeling, maybe?  I’m not sure.  Someone’s just not happy and they sounded way depressed.”

 

“You think we’re already too late?”

 

“And yet again, I don’t know.  Why can’t slayer dreams have a little more info in them?  Maybe something that’s actually helpful for a change?”

 

“It doesn’t work that way, Buffy.”

 

“You’re telling me.”

 

+++

 

Buffy was in the process of brushing her hair into a ponytail.  She and Angel were getting ready to go out and patrol, like in the old days.  She needed to shake the antsiness that had been nagging her all day and she figured a dose of what used to be normal would do her some good.   Who was she kidding?  She needed to be outside.  Besides, in her defense, Project Paranormal hadn’t gotten any calls and that meant they could do what they wanted to do.  She just needed to get out and think about something besides a haunting voice and being surrounded by suffocating darkness.

 

“I was just in the ground,” she said.  “Not much else besides that.”  She wasn’t in the mood for filling him in on all the details yet because she wasn’t sure what they meant.  “Being in a hole in the ground doesn’t lead one down many avenues to research.  If there was something to actually research,” she quickly added.  She turned away from the mirror to look at Angel. 

 

“True,” Angel said, turning his face away from her.

 

He didn’t do it fast enough.  Buffy saw the smirk that resided there, if only briefly.  “What?”

 

“Nothing.”

 

She punched him lightly on his muscular arm.  “Don’t ‘nothing’ me, mister.  There was definite smirkage.  What’s so funny?”

 

“‘Avenues to research’?”

 

She crinkled her brows together.  “That’s what I said.  What’s so…” her voice trailed off.  “I sound like Giles.”

 

“It was bound to happen,” he said, pulling her into his strong arms.  “He kind of rubs off sometimes.”

 

“Repeat it and I’ll stake you.”

 

He released her and put his hands up in surrender.  “Not a word.  Your secret is safe with me.”

 

She smiled, returning to the mirror.  “It’s probably not just Giles.  Hanging around all these English types for so long, comes with the territory I guess, being over here now.  I will admit it though, I do like the accent.  It sounds so sophisticated.  ‘High-ho, cheerio’ and all that.”  She tried to copy the English accent.

 

“I don’t think they actually say that.”

 

“Not that exactly, but you know what I mean.  Besides, I think that was a game.”

 

“What?”

 

“High-ho, Cherry-O.  I used to play it with Dawn when we were way younger.”  Back when life was simpler and not so scary and depressing.

 

“I assumed you weren't playing it with her now.”

 

She picked up a pillow that was sitting on the chair next to her and threw it at him.  She watched the pillow’s reflection in the mirror and then laughed when she saw it stop mid-air.  “That is still so cool.”

 

She caught the pillow when it came sailing back toward her and thanks to her boyfriend, she laughed for the first time that day.

 

+++

 

Martha was more than willing to make them something to eat before they left, but Buffy and Angel declined.  They had decided to go into town and eat at the Boar’s Head Inn and then patrol.  It was as close to quasi-normal she could get.  Well, except for the entire ‘boar’s head’ thing.  She didn’t want to think about it too much. If she did, she’d keep picturing a big ol’ boar head on a platter.

 

How did these places come up with such strange names anyway?  Meh.  Maybe she was better off not knowing.

 

“Are you two going out?” Giles asked.

 

Buffy’s hand was on the front door knob.  She and Angel were that close to making a clean getaway.

 

“Thought crossed our minds,” she said, turning to face Giles.  She leaned on Angel in the process.  He put his hand on her hip. 

 

“We were going to run into town and have dinner,” Angel said. 

 

“There are definite plans for patrolling after food,” she said.

 

“Is something up?” Angel asked, taking a step toward Giles.  “Whatever it is, I’m sure we can handle it.”

 

“We are a team after all,” Buffy said, joining them.

 

“Let’s talk in the study.”

 

As Giles led the way, Buffy and Angel exchanged looks.  There was no doubt in either of their minds that the night that they had planned was no more. 

 

“He’s making me nervous,” she whispered.

 

“He does look a little more tense than usual.  I’ll give you that.”

 

She took in a deep breath and expelled it slowly.  “You’d think I would get used to this.”

 

Angel pulled her closer to him.  “There are some things you shouldn’t have to get used to.”

 

They joined Giles in the study.  He was already sitting behind his desk, his face appearing even more serious than it had a minute before.  His jaw was tight, and his hand unconsciously fidgeted with the book that was sitting on the corner of his desk.

 

“Please sit,” he said. 

 

Buffy flopped down in the nearest chair and Angel leaned against the wall, arms crossed over his broad chest.

 

“I received a call today,” Giles began.  “It appears there could be some possible paranormal activity in Dorset.  St. Mary’s Church to be exact.”

 

“What kind of activity?” Buffy asked.

 

“There is a legend of a school boy having haunted the church.  It has been around since the 1700s.” He adjusted his glasses.  “As a matter of fact, the ghost has not been seen since then.”

 

Buffy frowned in confusion.  “Wait a minute.  The ghost hasn’t been seen in almost three hundred years and now it’s back?”

 

“That does seem odd,” Angel said.

 

“That would be where our expertise could be of help,” Giles said.

 

“So what is the story exactly?” Buffy asked, taking the rubber band out of her hair.  She shook her head and the blonde mane cascaded down around her shoulders.  Nervously, she began to play with the stretchy piece of rubber.

 

Giles glanced at the book on his desk, and took a deep breath before continuing.  “The boy was buried with no inquest into the cause of his death.  Approximately seven weeks after he was interred, he began appearing at St. Mary’s Church where he was also schooled.  There was an incident, exactly what, I cannot be sure, and they exhumed the body.  They found that the boy had been strangled.  The killer was never caught.”

 

“He was buried once and then buried again?” she asked weakly.

 

“It appears so,” Giles said.

 

“But not buried alive?”

 

“No, not alive, Buffy.  I’m sorry about this.  I know the feelings that can resurface because of the details of this particular job.”

 

“Grateful for the not alive part.”  She leaned back hard against the chair.  “Stupid, ambiguous slayer dreams.”

 

“What are you talking about?”  Angel asked, concern evident by the strained tone his voice had taken on.  “Feeling like I’m missing something here.”

 

“Buffy had a dream--” Giles began.

 

“A boy calling for help.”

 

“Buffy,” Giles said.  “You never said it was a boy.”

 

“I didn’t?”

 

“No.”

 

“I guess I didn’t realize… it was the voice of a young boy.”

 

“All this happened last night?  Your dream?” Angel sighed.  “And you think it’s him?”

 

Buffy looked up at Giles and he nodded his head toward her. 

 

“I think we’re both thinking it’s him.  Who else could it be?”

 

Buffy looked at Angel.  “I was going to tell you all of it over dinner.”

 

He met her eyes briefly before looking away.  Damn, he wasn’t too happy with her at the moment.  She had planned to tell him when she knew more.

 

Giles glanced at the clock on the mantel.  “Why don’t you continue with your dinner plans for this evening and then leave for Dorset.”

 

Buffy knew that this was Giles’ way of letting her explain everything to Angel and she loved him for it.  “Thanks, Giles.”

 

“You’re most welcome.”  Giles tilted his head in acknowledgment.  “After dinner, please head to Beaminster and go directly to the church.  Speak with Father Michael.  He’ll fill you in on any additional details.  I will reserve you a room at an inn for the night and call you with those details.”

 

Buffy stood up.  “We’ll figure it out.  We have to.”

 

“I have no doubts that you will,” Giles said with a small smile.

 

As Buffy turned to leave, he added one last comment--one that would haunt her all through dinner and in the car on the way to the church.

 

“His name was Daniel Lucas.  Buffy, he was only eight years old when he died.  You need to find out why he has come back.  Why he is no longer at rest.”

 

+++

 

Eating had never really been for him, but Buffy liked to do the whole going out on a date thing. He was glad that it was over and done with.  Now, they were in the car and he was driving.  Driving made him feel like he was doing something--something besides brooding.  He couldn’t help it.  Brooding was his thing.  It came naturally.

 

What he really wanted to do?  Break something large and demon-shaped. After all they’d been through together she hadn’t felt like she could tell him about her dream and how much it had upset her?

 

“You okay?” he asked.  He was finally talking to her with more than one word at a time.  It had taken halfway through dinner for him to calm down.  He had forgiven her.  Too bad that now he had something new to worry about.  Ever since she’d found out that it was a child’s ghost they were going to try and banish, she had appeared haunted herself.

 

He had learned not to dwell too long on any of the things they encountered, especially when it came to children.  He had done things in his time, things he’d never repeat to anyone.  Many of those things involved children much younger than Daniel.

 

“I’m fine,” she said.

 

“I know fine and that’s not fine,” he said, signaling and turning onto the A3066.  They were almost at the church.

 

When Buffy wasn’t fiddling with her seatbelt, she was staring blankly out the window. 

 

“He was eight.” 

 

“Buffy--”

 

She put up her hand to stop him.  “I know.” 

 

“We’ll figure it out.  He’ll be at peace again.”

 

What could be so traumatic that it would bring a ghost back after three hundred years to re-haunt a church?  That was the thought that worried Angel the most.  If that could happen… he pushed the thought from his mind.  The past was past.  He had to move on.

 

“We’re here,” he said as he pulled up in front of the church.

 

+++

 

Sweet Be'mi'ster, that bist a-bound

By green an' woody hills all round,

Wi hedges, reachèn up between

A thousan' vields o' zummer green,

Where elems' lofty heads do drow

Their sheädes vor haÿ-meakers below,

An' wild hedge-flow'rs do charm the souls

O' maïdens in their evenèn strolls.

When I o' Zunday nights wi' Jeäne

Do saunter drough a vield or leäne,

Where elder-blossoms be a-spread

Above the eltrot's milk-white head,

An' flow'rs o' blackberries do blow

Upon the brembles, white as snow,

To be outdone avore my zight

By Jeäns gaÿ frock o' dazzlèn white;

Oh! then there's nothèn that's 'ithout

Thy hills that I do ho about, --

Noo bigger pleäce, noo gaÿer town,

Beyond thy sweet bells' dyèn soun',

As they do ring, or strike the hour,

At evenèn vrom thy wold red tow'r.

No: shelter still my head, an' keep

My bwones when I do vall asleep.[1]

 

‘The Pride of Beaminster’ sat on over 5,000 acres of land.  The Tudor style architecture and the Gothic golden-brown tower that loomed before them were hard to miss.  Pinnacles rose up from every elevation.  Saints, beasts, and angels looked down from every possible vantage point, drawing the eye ever upwards.

 

Before the car had come to a complete stop, Buffy opened the door and jumped out.  It was either jump out of the car or jump out of her skin.

 

Taking in the scenery around her, she noticed that the heart of the tower held sculptures depicting the life of Christ.  Two other figures flanked the top part of the building and in the middle was a Crucifixion that was flanked by the Virgin and somebody else Buffy wasn’t familiar with.  The entire scene was set within a fake window that was surrounded by angels.  How could anything bad ever happen in a place like this?

 

“This is amazing,” she said, looking up at Angel.  “We didn’t have churches like this in Sunnydale.”

 

Angel took her hand and squeezed it.  “I think it’s pretty safe to say that you didn’t.”

 

“The detail is incredible,” she said.  “Some things just never cease to amaze me here.”

 

“We did agree that you needed to get out more.”

 

“Don’t I know it,” she said, smiling, grateful that he could set her at ease like no one else.

 

“Let’s go.” He took her by the elbow and guided her to the main entrance.  The door was answered on the second knock.

 

“Yes?” the older man asked after he opened the door.  “May I help you?”

 

“Giles sent us,” Angel said.

 

The priest breathed out a sigh of relief.  The tight shoulders dropped in relaxation.

 

“Finally,” he said, motioning them inside.  “I’m Father Michael, please come in.”

 

+++

 

“What makes you so sure it’s the same ghost?  This Daniel Lucas?” Buffy asked the priest.

 

“In 1728,” the priest began, “some lads saw the ghost, one of them being the young man’s half brother.”  He handed her photocopies of an old magazine article.  “The following account of the Beaminster Ghost Story first appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine in 1774.”

 

Buffy skimmed the paper and then handed it to Angel.  “So they didn’t investigate his death?  Is that normal?  ‘Oh here’s a dead boy, let’s just bury him and not find out what killed him?’”

 

“I’m not entirely sure,” the Father said.  “That part was never documented.”

 

Angel handed the paper back to the priest.  “What else can you tell us?”

 

“That sums up what I know.”

 

“Okay, so the boys who saw the ghost threw a rock at him and he was never seen again?” Angel asked.

 

“Yes.  The report of the ghost prompted his remains be retrieved to verify if he indeed was still there.  That’s when they discovered he had been strangled with a black list.”

 

“He was found in a field not far from his house?”  The priest nodded.  “His killer was never caught and now the boy’s ghost is back?” Buffy asked and then glanced at Angel and frowned.  “So if he haunted the place before it was because he wanted someone to know he had been murdered?”

 

Angel shrugged his shoulders.  “That’s what it sounds like.”

 

“So why did he come back this time?”

 

“That would be the question.”

 

+++

 

Buffy didn’t want to be here at all.  The entire child ghost thing was freaking her out a little bit.  She was used to vampires and demons--killing vampires and demons.  A kid’s ghost?  That was something entirely different. 

 

“Why did Giles only book us one night?” she asked as Angel opened their door.

 

“Maybe he thinks we’re really good at what we do,” he said.

 

“We are really good at what we do.”  She pushed past him into the room.  “Pretty much everything we do.”

 

She looked around the room.  Not bad for a room, but that’s all it was, a room.  Nothing fancy about it.  Too bad it was smack-dab in the middle of a town that had a kid’s ghost haunting it.  She shivered.

 

“How about we find a better room tomorrow if we have to stay here?  A hot tub sounds kind of nice.  Nothing eases weary slayer muscles like a long, hot soak in a tub full of pulsating jets,” she said.

 

“Nothing?”

 

She arched a finely manicured brow at him.  “Well, there is that one thing…”  And at the moment, she needed that one thing more than anything else.

 

+++

 

“I did some research after you left and from what I’ve gathered, St. Mary's Church of England school has a wonderful reputation,” Giles said.

 

Buffy was sitting at the desk in their room, holding the phone with her head and shoulder and trying to take notes.  “Slow down, Giles.  I can’t write that fast.”

 

“Oh yes, I’m sorry,” he said.  “The school is very prominent in the community.  If word of a ghost got out… well, I suspect you don’t need me to finish that statement.”

 

“No, I can pretty much figure that one out on my own.”

 

“The sooner the better with this one, I’m afraid.

 

“So whatever we do, we need to do it quick.  That’s what you’re saying?”

 

“That’s exactly what I’m saying.”

 

“Figured as much, but no pressure, right?”

 

“Are you all right, Buffy?”

 

“So far, so good,” she said, dropping the notebook onto the desk.  “We’ve only been here one night, haven’t found out much.  I guess I’ll up our reservation to a week to be on the safe side.”

 

“I wasn’t sure if you’d like the room, that’s why I only booked it for the night.  Don’t forget to use the company credit card.”

 

“As always.”  She tapped the pad with her pen.  “Hey, can I ask you another question?”

 

“By all means.”

 

She picked the notebook up and flipped to the first few pages.  “I guess Daniel was strangled with a ‘black list’.  What is that?”

 

“Nothing fancy really.  It just means a black piece of cloth.  Typically cotton.”

 

“So he had a black cloth around his neck.  Could that mean anything?  Besides the fact that’s what killed him?”  She shivered as she spoke.

 

“Black being the opposite of white, it is the color of maximum darkness.  It has no hue and it absorbs all light around it.”

 

“Thank you, Giles.”  She sighed into the phone.  “So we have stuff that means something, but ties into nothing.”

 

“That we do.  It’ll make sense.  I have faith in you and Angel.  If anyone can figure this out, it is the two of you.”

 

“Now if I only knew where to start.”

 

+++

 

“Good place to start,” Buffy said, grabbing Angel’s hand as they made their way down the street that used to be the field where Daniel’s body had been recovered.

 

Angel stopped and looked around.  “I think it’s about another half mile that way.”  He pointed north.  “Probably won’t do us any good, most likely something has been built over the actual spot.”

 

“How do you do that?”

 

“What?  Know where to look?  Incredible sense of direction,” he said, smiling that quirky little smile of his that made her heart melt.

 

“Here,” he said a short time later.

 

Buffy stopped, put her hands on her hips and scanned the immediate area.  It was the middle of the night and except for the occasional call of a feisty cricket or the barking of a dog, the street was deathly quiet.

 

“I guess his house was somewhere over there.  I’m not sure where else to look.  Was there anything else in the papers Father Michael gave us?” 

 

When Angel didn’t answer her, she looked up at him. 

 

“What is it?” she asked quietly, their voices sounded booming in their quiet surroundings.  She caught the look of uncertainty on his face.

 

“We’re not alone.”

 

“How did I know you were going to say that?”

 

He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, but said nothing.

 

“Good or bad?” she asked, nothing replaced the nervousness she was feeling, not even her slayer senses.

 

She watched as he scanned the area, trying to pick up on whatever had joined them.  She was unconsciously fiddling with the stake in the waistband of her jeans.  Being in the middle of a town in the middle of the night didn’t make for the warm and cozy, no matter what the temperature.  She knew her sudden chill was coming from something else that had nothing to do with the weather.   

 

“I’m not sure.”

 

“I’m not getting anything, so now’s not the time to be hazy on the details.”

 

“It’s gone.”

 

“What do you mean it’s gone?” she asked.  “How can it be gone?” 

 

“It was there and now it’s not.  Pretty simple, actually,” he said with a mischievous glint in his eye.

 

She shook her head and smiled at him.  “Good thing I love you so much.”

 

Arching a brow at her he asked, “And why is that?”

 

“Because sometimes you can really be a smartass.” 

 

+++

 

Buffy was standing in the same spot she and Angel had been in the previous night, but this time she was alone.  The street they had walked was no more.  Trees, fields, paths and rugged terrain had replaced it.  She rubbed the goose bumps off her bare arms.  Out of habit she checked to see if the stake was still in her waistband.  It wasn’t, but she didn’t panic. 

 

The air around her was charged with energy.  The previously still night was no more.  The wind began to blow, making leaves, dirt, pine needles and small-rooted vegetation rise into the air, helpless in the gusts that caught them up in their currents.  She wondered briefly if she would be swept up in its swell.

 

She continued to watch the forest debris as it began to rise above the trees.  It spun in an inverted vortex, picking up speed with every rotation.  Without any warning, the upward spiral became a downward one, and it all began spinning back toward the ground.  The strange tornado kept up its twister-like motion, coming to rest directly in front of her, leaving a ghostly-looking, brown-eyed, young boy in its wake.

 

Her breath caught in her throat as she studied the apparition.  “Daniel?”

 

There was an ethereal quality about him.  If she looked at him too long, she could see through him.  If she turned away from him, she couldn’t see him at all.  If she squinted to try and bring him into focus, he looked blurrier, fuzzier.

 

The spirit didn’t answer her.  He didn’t need to.  On some unspoken level Buffy knew who he was and that she was now standing where his body had been found.

 

Daniel turned and as if floating on a cloud, and went back the way she and Angel had come the night before.

 

Knowing she didn’t have a choice, she followed him.

 

It took all of her slayer speed to keep up with the floating boy.  “Hey!  I’m not all floaty here.  Could you maybe slow down a little?”  Her apprehension had lessened, but her frustration was growing by the second.

 

The ghost either didn’t hear her or was ignoring her.  Buffy was going with door number two.

 

Breathless, she continued to follow him.  She didn’t know how long they had been walking.  It felt like hours, but time tended to be wonky in a dream state.  Eventually, the terrain evened out and she wasn’t having such a hard time keeping up with him.  She was a few feet behind him when they came to a road.  The past melded into the present.  The road they were on led to Dorset.

 

Just when she figured she couldn’t lose him at this speed, he stopped outside the church. 

 

She turned to him and asked, “Are we going in?”

 

Again the spirit didn’t answer, but moved forward.  Buffy heaved a sigh and followed.  She figured he’d stop outside the front door, that seemed to make the most sense, but he went beyond the front of the church altogether.

 

They reached the back of the building and he kept moving.  They were now beyond the church and heading into the woods that surrounded it.

 

“Not usually one to question… Who am I trying to kid?  I always question.  Is there a point to this?” she asked, trying hard to keep the exasperation out of her voice.

 

He stopped then.  They were standing before the doors of an underground cellar. 

 

Weird place for a cellar, but Buffy studied the entrance and figured it wouldn’t take much to break it.  Finally, she could find whatever it was he wanted her to find.  She looked back over her shoulder and her breath caught in her throat. 

 

Her ghostly guide was gone.

 

“Help him,” the eerie voice from her previous dream whispered.

 

Buffy woke with a start.

 

“Angel!  Wake up,” she said, pushing on the still form sleeping next to her.  The entire not-breathing thing could still freak her out once in a while.

 

After Dawn was born, Buffy got in the habit of checking on her little sister during her naps to make sure she was still breathing.  As Buffy got older, and before she was called, she thought it was morbid.  Now, she figured it was some sort of precursor to her current lifestyle. “Angel!”

 

“I’m awake!  I’m awake,” he said, sitting up and letting the sheet fall away from him.  “What’s wrong?  Are you okay?”

 

She couldn’t help herself.  She snuck a quick peek at what the lack-of-sheet had exposed, she was human after all, and then she was right back to business.  

 

“I’m fine.  We need to go.”

 

Running his hands through his disheveled hair, he asked, “Where?”

 

Yet another thing she loved about him.  He didn’t ask her why or what or if she was nuts, he just wanted to know where they were going.

 

“A cellar in the woods behind the church.”

 

Angel nodded his head and pushed himself out of the bed. 

 

Buffy let herself take in the view this time, in its naked glory.  Too much of a good thing?  No such thing.

 

+++

 

“This looks familiar,” Buffy said.  “See that tree here and over there?  I remember those. The cellar has got to be here still.” 

 

She closed her eyes, put herself back into her dream, and began walking.  Daniel wouldn’t have shown her all of this for nothing.  Something was here.  She wasn’t worried about falling or tripping over anything.  The slayer part inside her, and Angel behind her, would always keep her safe.

 

With each step she took, she visualized the path she and Daniel had taken.  When she sensed she was close, she stopped and opened her eyes.

 

“It’s around here someplace,” she said. 

 

“Over there,” Angel said.  “The grass has been trampled.  Someone or something has passed through here, and not too long ago.”

 

He was right; she could’ve about kicked herself for not seeing it first.  She began to follow the indentation in the grass and stopped when she came to a perfect square of undisturbed grass.  Bending down, she began to push the grass, leaves, and sticks away.  She was surprised when it came off in one fell swoop. 

 

“It’s fake,” she said, noting that someone had made a mat out of forest debris and had used it to cover up padlocked cellar doors.

 

She pulled at the lock, trying to break the strong grip it had on the door handles.  She heard a splintering sound, and then another.  A split second before she knew everything would come loose; she planted her feet so she wouldn’t go flying back.  Then she gave it one final yank.

 

“Someone ate her spinach,” Angel said.

 

“I hate spinach, unless it’s in one of those salads with the little oranges,” she said, tossing aside what remained of the door.

 

Her heart was pounding in her chest so hard it would’ve drowned out a marching band if one had been around.  Part of her wanted to sprint down the steps, not caring what she was running in to, but she knew that rushing into a situation wasn’t always the best plan, so each step she took into the shadows was deliberate and careful. 

 

She felt one step after another with her toes and only descended if she was greeted with another solid step. As she moved down into the darkness, Angel at her back, her eyes adjusted to the gloominess and she silently cursed herself for forgetting to bring a flashlight.  It wasn’t long before she spotted a small boy sitting on the dirty floor, tied to a wooden pole.  There was a black piece of cloth tied around his neck and his hands were bound above his head.

 

“Oh God,” she said, forgetting all about the slow and steady.  “Don’t be dead.  Don’t be dead,” she pleaded, as she ran to the still figure. 

 

“He’s alive,” Angel said from directly behind her. 

 

That she heard and she made a mental note to never knock vampire senses again.

 

Buffy rushed to the unconscious boy, who was no more than seven or eight.  “Hey.  You okay?” she asked, removing the black cloth from around his neck first.  She could’ve cried out when she saw the mark it left.  Then she untied his hands.  His eyes fluttered open and then closed again.  “Come on, pal.  Stay with me.”

 

Angel moved in once Buffy had undone the knots restraining the boy’s hands.  “Buffy, let me.”  He lifted the young boy up.  “Let’s get him outside.”

 

“Yes, let’s,” she said, her voice breaking.  As she followed Angel up the stairs, she brushed the unshed tears away from her eyes. 

 

Once they carried the boy up the stairs and into the fresh, night air, Buffy took several deep breaths to steady her nerves.  Knowing she was a little more in control now, she knelt down and faced the boy, who was looking a little more alert.

 

“Are you thirsty?  Do you want some water?” she asked as Angel handed her a bottle they’d had the foresight to bring.  “It’s not too cold, but it’s wet.”  She twisted the cap off of the lukewarm bottle.

 

The young boy looked at her, eyes wide, and then reached out slowly for the bottle of water she offered him.  She hated whoever had done this to him; the innocence and trust the boy had once possessed were forever gone.

 

After he drank down half the bottle, he tried handing it back to Buffy. 

 

“No, it’s yours.  Keep it.”  She handed him the cap.

 

He smiled at her and held onto the half-empty bottle like it was a sacred toy.  It took all of Buffy’s control not to lick her finger, reach out and try to clean his dirt and tear stained cheeks.

 

“I’m Buffy and that’s Angel.”

 

“Hey,” Angel said, not coming any closer. 

 

They both knew what an intimidating figure he could be at times and they didn’t want to take any chances at further terrifying the boy.

 

“Hi,” the boy squeaked out.  He cleared his throat and tried again.  “Hi.”  He smiled when it came out better the second time.

 

“Can you tell us your name?”

 

The boy glanced from her to Angel and then back again.  “I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.”

 

Buffy smiled.  “I know.  That’s a good rule to follow.  How about, just this one time, you talk to us and after today you never have to talk to any strangers again?”  Her voice cracked a little bit, but she held on.  “Sound like a deal?”

 

“No more strangers after today?”

 

“Yes.  After today, no more strangers.”

 

“Good.”

 

His innocence broke her heart.  “Can you tell us your name now?”

 

“Sure.  I’m Lawrence Daniel Lucas.  Can you take me home to my mum?”

 

+++

 

“Lawrence Daniel Lucas was reported missing the same day Daniel Lucas’s ghost appeared at the church,” Giles said.

 

“That explains a lot,” Buffy said, playing with the phone cord.  “Wonder why we didn’t figure that one out?”

 

“Checking out missing persons never crossed my mind.”

 

“Ours neither,” Buffy said.  It would have been such an easy connection to make and they hadn’t done it.  It was sloppy and it wasn’t sitting very well with her.

 

“What are your thoughts?”

 

What were her thoughts?  She was happy that they had found the boy and had returned him to his overjoyed family, but they still didn’t know what or who had taken him.  He had no memory of the abduction.

 

They knew it had to be related to Daniel’s death almost 300 years earlier, but they didn’t know how.

 

“I think I have too many thoughts to focus on only one of them at the moment.” 

 

“Would you like me to come there?”

 

Buffy’s brain screamed, ‘Yes’, but apparently her mouth didn’t get the message.  “No.  We’ll be fine.  Angel and I just need to sit down and work this.  Did you find anything else out for us?”

 

“As a matter of fact, I did.”

 

+++

 

“Don’t you ever get sick of eating that?” Buffy asked as Angel took another bite of his black pudding.  Vampire or not, that was the grossest thing she had ever seen.  Okay, maybe not the grossest thing.

 

“Not like there are many menu choices that cater to my tastes,” he said, scooping another bite into his mouth. 

 

“Aren’t you breaking some rule or something?  I read that black pudding is a breakfast dish and you’re eating it for dinner.”  She had surfed the Internet looking for food translations.  Hasty pudding was steamed milk, flour, butter and eggs.  Black pudding was something much worse.

 

He pointed at her plate.  “And your ham and cheese omelet?  Sounds like breakfast to me.”

 

She rolled her eyes.  “Eggs are good anytime.”

 

“So is black pudding.” He smiled at her.

 

“No way am I kissing you,” she said.  They both knew she was lying.

 

After their plates were cleared and coffees replenished, they began to talk quietly about what Giles had told Buffy.

 

“Giles did some checking.  Lawrence wasn’t the only kid that disappeared around this time of year,” Buffy said, waiting to see if the realization would hit Angel before she had to explain further.  “He was the only one found before it was too late.”

 

“Let me guess.  One kid a year, all around the same age and they all attended St. Mary’s.”

 

“They’re calling Lawrence a miracle.”

 

“You would think one kid missing the same time of year would be a big deal.”

 

“Nothing surprises me anymore.  Giles didn’t get much out of anyone he tried talking to.”

 

“Lawrence is lucky, that’s for sure.”  His brow creased in thought.  “Giles took care of the explanation on how we found him?”

 

“Uh-huh.  We are out-of-towners curious about the Daniel Lucas legend.  When we were exploring, we heard whimpering…”

 

“Guess they didn’t question it too much.  The kid was safe.”

 

“That’s what Giles was hoping for.  Thankfully it worked out.”

 

“Human or demon?” Angel asked.

 

“Gotta be demon or a demon worshipper of some kind, it’s been going on too many years now.  A sacrifice?”

 

“That’s what I was thinking, but I’m trying to figure out what it accomplishes,” he said. 

 

“When we figure that out, case solved.”

 

“I think we need to talk to Father Michael again,” he suggested.

 

“I think you’re right.”

 

+++

 

They waited until sunset before setting off for the church.  A good meal and a little quality time together had re-energized them both.

 

“What happened?” Buffy asked as they pulled up in front of the church.  A section of ground at the east end of the building had been cordoned off; a tape-barrier had been erected to keep everyone away from the pile of stone-type debris that was now scattered around.

 

“Did a chunk fall off or something?”  Buffy asked, her eyes traveling up the side of the building.

 

“It looks like it,” Angel said, standing beside her.  “One of those pinnacles.”  He pointed to the uppermost part of the church.  Sure enough, the parapet was missing one.

 

“It quite nearly killed me.”  The priest had appeared out of nowhere.  “It sounded like someone had launched a missile.”

 

“You’re okay, though?” Buffy asked.

 

“Yes, I’m quite well, thank you.  It didn’t succeed, as you can see,” he said, his voice shaking.

 

Buffy found that statement a little odd, but didn’t question it.

 

“I heard you saved the Lucas boy.  I hadn’t even known he went missing.”

 

“No Amber Alerts on this side of the ocean, I guess,” Buffy said.  Lawrence was a student at the school and he was found on church grounds, how could the priest not know he was missing?

 

“I’m sorry, what?” Father Michael asked, looking back at her.

 

“Nothing, it’s not important.”  She was starting to get some nasty vibes about this guy.

 

“Has Daniel’s ghost been back?” Angel asked.

 

“Um, no.  No, he hasn’t.  I guess your services are no longer required.  I will make sure I send payment in care of your company straight away.”  The priest turned and his gaze settled on the destroyed stonework.  He then quickly turned back toward Buffy and Angel.  “Now, if you don’t mind, I need to get this cleaned up.  Is there any other reason why you’re here?  Is there something more can do for you?”

 

Buffy and Angel glanced at each other, a silent understanding passed between them.

 

“We’re good,” Buffy said.  “And good luck with that.”  She nodded her head in the direction of the rubble.

 

“Luck has nothing to do with it.”  He looked at her like he had never seen her before.

 

“Buffy.  My name’s Buffy.”

 

+++

 

“Father Michael suffering from sudden amnesia or what?” Buffy asked, slamming the car door shut. She wasn’t sure if it was her gut or slayer instinct.  At this point she really didn’t care.  Besides they were both the same thing nowadays.  “Something’s not right with him.  I should’ve sensed it before.”

 

“What makes you so sure?” Angel asked.  “I’m not saying I don’t agree.  I’m just curious what you’re thinking.”

 

“Just the way he was acting.  He definitely wasn’t as happy to see us this time as he was the first time we showed up.  And he was way too edgy. And he forgot my name!  How can someone forget anyone named Buffy?”

 

“If part of a building almost landed on me, I’d be edgy too.”

 

“It’s not just that.”

 

“You're right.  There’s a lot more he’s not telling us.”

 

“He was lying?”

 

“Not lying, exactly.  But something wasn’t right.  Just can’t put my finger on what it was.”

 

“Maybe the entire building falling thing freaked him out more than we thought.”

 

“It’s possible.”

 

“I’m going to call Giles,” Buffy said.  Maybe he can do some more research for us, have it done by the time we get back to our room.”

 

“Do it.”

 

+++

 

“Do you know where the word pinnacle comes from?” Giles asked.  “How about parapet?  They’re derived from Latin.  They both symbolize guarding in one way or another.  They, in theory, guard the church.”

 

“They guard the church by dropping a big chunk of rock on the priest?” Buffy countered.

 

“Evil priests, maybe,” Angel said. 

 

“Possibly,” Giles said.

 

“You heard him, Giles? You heard Angel?” Buffy asked. 

 

“It’s not that difficult.”

 

“I can hear Giles, too,” Angel said with a smile.  “Vampire hearing is really good for eavesdropping.”

 

“Now you tell me!  What about all those times I repeated to you both what the other said?”

 

“We figured you enjoyed playing middleman… er, woman,” Giles confessed.

 

“Oh, so now you two are ganging up on me?  Exactly when did this happen?”

 

Angel shrugged his shoulders.  “Not sure.  It kind of evolved on its own.”

 

“And it’s not as though we catch every word,” Giles said.

 

“Some conversations are worth repeating just to hear your voice,” Angel added with a wink.

 

Buffy might be feigning annoyance on the outside, but on the inside she was beaming.  Giles and Angel had sided up against her in fun.  Things were definitely looking up. 

 

“To get back on task,” Giles said, interrupting the celebratory party of one she was having in her head.  “Do we know how or why it fell?”

 

“No,” Buffy said.  “He said it barely missed him and that was it.”

 

“I could go back and hurt him a little bit,” Angel said.  “That might get him to talk.” 

 

“Angel!”

 

“Just a thought.  If he’s evil, I figure it is allowed.”

 

“We don’t know he’s evil, we just suspect it.”

 

“I’m afraid another child might disappear in the meantime,” Giles said, “if Lawrence were truly meant to be a sacrifice…”

 

“I didn’t think of that,” Buffy confessed.  “We need to do something, and quick.”

 

“I’m telling you, I could hurt him,” Angel repeated.

 

+++

 

“You might be onto something with this entire hurting thing,” Buffy said, falling onto the bed.  “Why do people lie?  It would make it a lot easier on us if they would just fess up.  You know?  Maybe like, ‘Yes, I’m the bad guy and I’m turning myself in now because it’s the right thing to do.’”

 

“I don’t think that even happens in the movies,” Angel said, lying down next to her.  “Not that I’d be an expert on that.”

 

“A girl’s gotta hope.”  She snuggled up next to him, putting her chin on his shoulder.  “Maybe you should hurt him.”

 

“I’m all for it, but what if he’s not evil?”

 

“You really believe that?”

 

“Not totally.”

 

“Yeah, me neither.”

 

He placed a soft kiss on her forehead and then asked, “What do you want to do?”

 

“I hate to say it, but I think we need to pay our priest another visit.”

 

“Any other kids reported missing yet?”

 

“Nope.  Giles checked it out.  So far we’re safe.”

 

“For how much longer?”

 

“I don’t know.  That’s what scares me.”

 

+++

 

Angel had the priest by the collar, applying just the right amount of pressure to his throat so that it would be painful, but not enough to make him pass out or inhibit his ability to talk.

 

“Stop!  You’re hurting me!” he cried out.

 

Angel had told Buffy he had some errands to run and he didn’t offer to tell her what they were.  Now, he was doing what he did best, and he’d never admit to anyone how much he enjoyed it at times.

 

“I’ve told you everything I know!”

 

“See,” Angel said, feeling his face shift into his demon visage.  “Here’s the thing.  Vampires have the uncanny sense of being able to tell when someone’s lying.”  He sniffed the priest’s head.  “You smell different.  Your heartbeat’s a little faster.  It’s tied to the blood.  And I would be an expert in the matter.  Did you know that the way one’s heart beats and the way they breathe during terror and lying are entirely different?”

 

He shoved the priest back onto the old wooden desk.  Father Michael landed splayed out, knocking papers to the floor.  Angel ignored the small crack he heard when an antique crucifix landed on the floor.  Not like he was going to pick it up.

 

“I’m not lying.  I…I don’t remember,” Father Michael finally confessed.

 

“You don’t remember?  How can you not remember?” Angel asked, grabbing him off the desk and shoving him into a chair. 

 

“I remember seeing the ghost and calling you for help.  I don’t remember anything after that.”

 

“A boy that attends this church on the weekends and school during the week disappeared and is found on church property tied up in a hole in the ground.  Part of the building almost falls on you and you don’t remember?”

 

“No!”

 

Angel ignored the smell of blood that had permeated the air.  Nothing equaled that particular fragrance and he knew nothing ever would.

 

“I don’t remember.  It’s the blackouts.”

 

The thing Angel hated the most was that the man wasn’t lying.  The priest’s heartbeat and respiration had returned to normal, and with that, so did Angel’s face.

 

“That the first time it’s happened?” Angel asked.

 

“No.”  He wouldn’t meet Angel’s eyes.  “It happens once a year, around the time the children disappeared, every year since I took over the place.”

 

“And you didn’t think that was odd?”

 

The priest looked up at him, the fire of anger in his eyes.  “Did I think it was odd?  I am a man of God, sir.  There is no way I could do… I couldn’t hurt a child or anyone for that matter.”

 

“You’re telling the truth.”  A statement, not a question.

 

“Yes, I am.  Now, please help me so I can help the children.”

 

+++

 

“You’re sure he was telling the truth?” Buffy asked.

 

“There’s not much I’m sure of, but him telling the truth? Yeah, I’m sure,” Angel said.  Too bad he wasn’t telling her the truth.  As far as she was concerned, Father Michael and he had just talked.

 

“And now we need to help him do what?  Remember?”  She leaned back in her chair, her head rolled side-to-side.  “What now?”

 

“We seem to be asking ourselves that a lot lately,” he said.  He went behind her and began to rub her shoulders.  The knots that had formed there melted like butter.

 

“Or we could just stay here and do this,” she added weakly.

 

“There’s been a lot of this lately.”

 

“You complaining?” she asked.

 

“What do you think?”

 

She turned her head and looked up at him.  “I think we’re stalling because we’re not sure what to do.  That’s what I think.”

 

He nodded his head in agreement.  “My guess is some sort of possession.”

 

“Oh great.  Go all Exorcist on me.”

 

“The priest didn’t get possessed in the Exorcist, the kid did.  I always liked The Omen better than The Exorcist,” he continued.  “The Antichrist reigning--it’s a big bad’s wet dream.”

 

How had they gone from talking about helping a possessed priest and ended up comparing which 1970’s horror movie was better: the pea soup-spitting girl or the boy whose nanny hung herself at his birthday party?  There was no mistaking the shock on Buffy’s face.  Yeah, so he knew a little bit about some horror movies thanks to his momentary obsession with them back in the 90’s. 

 

He didn’t have a chance to tell her about it before a knock sounded on their door.

 

“I've got it,” he said, crossing to it.

 

“This was too complex to talk about on the phone,” Giles said, barging into the room, his hands full of various bags and folders of who knew what.  “Time is of the utmost importance.”

 

“Giles!” Buffy exclaimed.  She stood up so fast she knocked the chair over.  She bent over and picked it up.

 

Giles was flushed with either excitement or exhaustion.  Angel couldn’t tell which.  All he knew was that he didn’t say anything, but began pushing everything on the table into a pile to make room for all the stuff he had brought.

 

“Angel, if you’d be so kind,” he said, motioning for Angel to remove the stack of papers, cups and odds and ends of items that Buffy and Angel had tossed on to the table haphazardly during their stay at the inn.

 

Angel looked around the room, and with a shrug of his shoulders deposited everything into the garbage can in the corner.

 

“It is a case of possession,” Giles said, sitting down in the chair Buffy had just vacated.  “An annual possession of people of the church, typically the priest.  I had to go back quite a few years for documentation of the fact, but I found it.”

 

“Okay, wait,” Buffy said, sitting down next to him.  “Back up a minute.  What?”

 

“What she said,” Angel added.  “We kind of got to the possession part, with the father having blackouts--”

 

“Father Michael is having blackouts?  He admitted to them?”  Giles asked.  The excitement in his voice not hard to miss.  “He actually admitted to them?”

 

Angel arched a brow.  “Yes.  We had a… chat.  He’s been having them every year around the same time the kids have disappeared.”

 

“Splendid!” Giles exclaimed, and then amended his answer quickly.  “Not about the disappearances, about the confirmation of the memory loss.”

 

Giles pulled a folder out of one of the stacks piled on the table and then yanked some papers out of it.  “There wasn’t much time to prepare, so please bear with me.  I found cases going back hundreds of years.  It involves a Gnikcusluos spirit.  This ghost feeds on the latent energy released at a person’s death, a youth’s energy being the greatest.”

 

Buffy said.  “I am so going to kill this thing.  How do I kill this thing?”

 

“The Gnikcusluos was actually an evil priest who was turned into a spirit as his punishment."

 

“What did he do to get banished to I’m-not-really-here-anymore-land?” Buffy asked.  She must’ve changed her mind when she saw Giles’ face go a shade whiter.  “Never mind.  I don’t want to know.”

 

Giles continued.  “He was destined to walk church property to repent for eternity as a spirit.  He could see and hear, but he wasn’t able to interact with anyone or anything.  What went wrong with the spell, I do not know. Somehow he has found a way to possess the incumbent priest of St. Mary’s.  He feeds on the souls of children.  The black list, or black cloth used to strangle the children, is the opposite of the white collar of the priest’s uniform.  The black list is symbolic of good gone bad, part of his attempt to corrupt the innocence of youth.”

 

“So we need to fix the spell to stop his ability to possess anyone,” Angel said.

 

“We’re not going to fix it exactly.”

 

+++

 

“I’m not sure about this,” Father Michael said.  “I suspect the church wouldn't agree with using spells and magic within their walls.”

 

Giles had enclosed him in a magical circle that consisted of herbs, powders and ancient artifacts he had gathered before coming to Dorset.  “Good heavens, man, the church created this mess in the first place.”

 

The priest had nothing to say to that. 

 

“This is a protective circle,” Giles said.  “The spirit will not be able to possess you while you are in it.  It will keep you safe while we alter the original incantation.”

 

“Then his child-soul-eating days are over,” Buffy said.  She was starting to feel anxious.  The magic thing was never truly for her, she’d rather hit something and she had nothing to hit.

 

“Why does he need me?  Why can’t he just feed on his own?”

 

“We’ve been through this,” Giles said.

 

“How do you know it’ll be tonight?” Angel asked.

 

“It’s in the stars,” Giles said.

 

“Why don’t I think you’re kidding?”

 

“Because I’m not.  More or less.  It is the same date every year.  There are a few extra days thrown in to prepare.”

 

“When?” Angel asked.

 

“Midnight.”

 

“Figures.”

 

“That’s why you came here,” Buffy asked Giles.  “No time to waste.”  Giles nodded his head.  “So Mr. Incorporeal-I-Have-No-Patience possesses the priest beforehand so his meal is ready and waiting, but we ruined that.  So I’m guessing when he shows, he won’t exactly be in a good mood.”

 

Angel began lighting the candles that Giles had set up around the room.  Buffy still hadn’t found a way to expel the pressure that was slowly building, and it was starting to get to her.  She bounced on the balls of her feet and kept straightening the candles Angel had just lit.

 

Just as he lit the last one, a strong wind came up, blowing them all out.

 

“Damn,” Angel muttered.

 

“This can’t be good,” Buffy said.

 

A beam of light came from Giles’ direction.  “One must always come prepared.”  Leave it to him to bring a flashlight.

 

“We’re not alone,” Angel said.

 

“The spirit’s early?” Buffy asked.

 

Daniel’s ghost materialized outside the sacred circle Giles had erected around the priest.  His ghostly face pulled tight, anger glaring out of his sparkling eyes when he tried to cross the magical line.

 

“Nope,” she said answering her own question.  “It’s a really, really ticked off Daniel.”  She now had a pretty good idea how part of the church had fallen off and why.

 

“Oh dear,” Giles said.

 

“It’s the ghost!”  Father Michael cried out.

 

“You think?” Buffy asked. 

 

The ghostly spirit kept trying to enter the circle, but the magic kept him out time and time again.  He began circling it.  Not walking, he was definitely floating this time.  The faster he went around it, the more wind he created and the louder the roar became.  The gusts he created began to blow away the circle that Giles had carefully constructed.

 

“We must stop him,” Giles shouted.  “The Gnikcusluos will be here at any moment.  If he comes and the circle is broken, he will take possession of Father Michael and it will be almost impossible to fight him without it killing the priest.  If there is no child here when he's possessed the priest, he will settle for killing the youngest human in this vicinity to obtain the most power.”

 

It took a moment for it to register.  “No way!”  Buffy said.  “I am not going to become a spirit snack.  I like my soul right where it’s at.”

 

There was only one thing left for her to do.  “Daniel!” she shouted.  “Stop!”  She didn’t think he’d listen.  He hadn’t listened to her before, why start now?

 

The spirit stopped and hovered in the air in front of her.  

 

Okay, not like it wasn’t the first time she had been wrong.

 

The room was deathly quiet and that’s when she finally understood.  If this were a cartoon, a light bulb would’ve lit up above her head.

 

“Father Michael did not hurt you or try to hurt Lawrence,” she said quietly, moving closer to the apparition.

 

Daniel’s spirit hung suspended, his head tipped in her direction.

 

“He is an innocent.  Just like you and the other boys.  Something used him.  It isn’t his fault.  He’s trying to help us stop it forever.  To make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else ever again.”

 

The anger slowly faded from Daniel’s eyes, an upturned chin told Buffy all she needed to know.

 

“You came back to save Lawrence, to save your family, and you did.  We can take it from here.  You can rest now.  You don’t need to worry about this anymore.”

 

The ghost didn’t move.

 

“You trust me, right?”  Buffy saw the slightest nod of his head.  “Lawrence is safe and will always be safe from this.”  She motioned to the room and to the priest.  “Your work is done.  Go back to where you came from.  We have work to do and you can’t help us.  You need to go back, okay?” 

 

There was a more definite nod and then the ghost was gone.

 

“I can’t believe it actually worked,” she said looking from Angel to Giles.

 

“You spoke the truth,” Giles said as he began fixing the circle.  “He knew you wouldn’t lie to him.  He trusts you, Buffy.”

 

“You deserve it,” Angel confirmed.  “And since I know you won’t join Father Michael in that circle, you need to come and help me get these candles lit.  There’s no way anything’s sucking anything out of you.” 

 

Buffy arched a brow at him. 

 

“You know what I mean.”

 

+++

 

Between Father Michael’s screaming and the demon’s deafening screeches, Buffy was having a hard time forming a coherent thought.

 

Good thing she didn’t need to think in order to kick some ass.

 

The spirit was in its incorporeal form, trying to get at Father Michael.  At each unsuccessful attempt to get to the priest, the Gnikcusluos’s got more enraged and that made it sloppier.  It apparently hadn’t realized that Buffy was available and close, but she knew it would cross its tiny mind eventually. Still, it gave Angel and her time to circle around behind the annoyed, hairy beast, and that’s all they needed.

 

It was incorporeal just as Giles had said it would be.  The original spell was fine and dandy on its own, but it didn’t make much sense to any of them.  Using what he could, Giles decided to change the spell just a little bit.

 

Instead of making the Gnikcusluos all-spirity for eternity, he was going to make it corporeal so they could get rid of it once and for all.

 

As Giles chanted in a language Buffy didn’t recognize and probably never would, she and Angel began to circle around behind the demon as it tried to crash into the protective field yet again.

 

“Hurry!” Father Michael screamed.  His arms shielded his head.  “I can’t stand this anymore.”  His hands slid down over his ears.

 

Buffy didn’t answer, she didn’t want to draw any attention to herself and Angel, but if she could’ve reassured the priest, she would’ve reminded him that there was no way the demon could get to him as long as he stayed inside the circle.  And Giles being as smart as he was, had created his own protective circle around himself.  Buffy just loved that man.

 

With a simple nod from Giles, and a subtle shimmering emanating from the spirit, Buffy and Angel leapt toward the now corporeal child-killing demon with a vengeance.

 

The demon sensed them quicker than she thought it would, turning and going on the defensive, it came at them in all its hairy, browny goodness.

 

Buffy dropped to the ground as one of its large, spiny arms came flying in her direction.  She came up swinging then, and hit absolutely nothing.  For a being that spent hundreds of years as nothing but fog, the Gnikcusluos was quick.  It ducked away from the assault like it was nothing.  One minute she was ready for a fight and then next she was landing flat on her butt.

 

From behind Angel shouted, “Stay down!”

 

She rolled out of the way just as Angel planted his sword in the demon’s leg where its knee would have been, if it actually had a knee.  It was kind of hard to tell from her angle.

 

Taking advantage of the demon’s momentary confusion at actually being touched, let alone skewered, she grabbed her own sword, squeezed the hilt as tight as she could and then flipped back onto her feet.  Knowing it was now or never, she swung the shiny metal toward the beast’s head.  It penetrated the thick neck almost too easily.  It cut as smooth as a knife going through butter.

 

It took a minute for the demon to realize it was now headless.  Buffy figured the dead give away was when she caught the head staring at the now headless body, which chose that very moment to topple over. 

 

“Could this be any grosser?” she asked, stepping over some goo.

 

“I think not,” Father Michael said, right before he fainted.

 

+++

 

After they helped Father Michael clean up the demon parts, Buffy and Angel headed back to their room.  They were exhausted and dirty.  Buffy had mumbled something about ‘another outfit being ruined’ and threw away the clothes she had on.  When she thought he wasn’t looking, she threw away his, too. 

 

Angel was always looking.

 

“My bag feels lighter,” he said, arching a brow at her.

 

“You’re probably just stronger or something.”

 

“Or something.”  He smiled.

 

After a good night’s sleep and a day lounging around, they were finally packing to go home.  Giles had left at first light.  They were waiting for sunset for all the obvious reasons.

 

“I’m sorry about not telling you about dreaming about Daniel in the first place,” Buffy said suddenly.

 

Angel knew she was having a hard time with the whole thing.  Even after they had discussed it in the pub, he felt there was still something left unsaid.

 

“I guess I was kind of embarrassed about the leftover Master stuff.  Not so much with the coming back from the dead because let’s face it, that’s pretty huge, but with the entire not being able to breathe thing and the huge claustrophobia issues that run a close second.  It all still has a tendency to freak me out once in a while.”

 

He tilted her chin up so their eyes met.  “I can relate more than you’ll probably ever know.”  The memories of time spent on the bottom of the ocean weren’t the only thoughts to surface.  “With everything you’ve been through, Buffy, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about.”

 

“See, I know that, but still…”

 

“Easier said than done?”

 

“Pretty much.”

 

There was a knock on the door.

 

“That had so better not be Giles,” Buffy said, walking to the door and opening. 

 

Lawrence and a woman he had never seen before were standing in the hallway.

 

Angel hung back and let Buffy handle it.  She was a lot better at this kind of stuff than he was.

 

“Hi,” Lawrence said, blushing.  He handed Buffy a single yellow rose.  “This is for you.”  He leaned toward Buffy and said, “My mum bought it.” 

 

The woman standing next to the young boy smiled and extended her hand.  “We heard you were leaving and I wanted to thank you in person for what you did. Everything you did.  We spoke to Father Michael and well, the Daniels are very grateful for what you have done and we wanted you to know that before you left.”

 

Angel knew that the entire ‘thank you’ thing made Buffy uncomfortable and the fact that she was blushing gave it away.  Still, she shook Mrs. Daniel’s hand. 

 

“You’re welcome.  I’m glad we could be of help.”  She ruffled the boy’s hair.  “And thank you for the flower.  It’s beautiful and I’ll make sure to give it fresh water every day.”

 

He met her blush and then hid behind his mother.

 

“We won’t keep you,” she said as she took her son’s hand.  “Thank you again.  May God bless you.”

 

“You have an admirer,” Angel said, coming up behind her.

 

Buffy closed the door and looked at him.  “You know the hardest thing about this job?”  He shook his head.  “That.  I can fight, kill things, even die and come back, but a simple thank you freaks me out.”

 

“So I noticed.”

 

She pushed his shoulder lightly.  “I didn’t see you rushing toward the door.”

 

Smiling, he said, “Freaks me out a little bit too.”

 

She placed a gentle kiss on his lips.  “I am so ready to go home now.”

 

“Me too.”

 

“Let’s go?”

 

“After you.”

 

 

The End

 

 

Special thanks to Jo, DS and Ares who helped me when I got stuck on a major plot point.  If it wasn’t for you, this story never would’ve gotten finished!

 

 

The legend of John Daniel is true - his name was changed to Daniel Lucas for this story.  He was murdered and his ghost did appear.  It was found that he was murdered, but in reality his murderer was never caught.

 

You can read more about it here:

 

 

http://www.darkdorset.co.uk/Library/read.php?item=64

 

 

http://mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/hauntedplaces/stmaryschurch.htm

 

 

The more detailed description of the church can be found here:

 

http://fp.dsaf9.f9.co.uk/beam/fulldescription.htm

 

 

 

 



[1] Poetry is SO not my specialty, so I borrowed one.  The original can be found here:

 

http://www.bath.ac.uk/~lismd/dorset/churches/beaminster.htm

 



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