“So, guys, that’s the situation. We think we’ve found all the devices, but we can’t be sure. And now they’re summoning demons from who knows where and telling them to capture me. Which must mean they think they’ve got some kind of place that could hold a pissed off slayer.”
Spike’s growl was barely muffled as she patted him on the leg.
“The point is, the sooner we find these guys, the better off we’ll be. I don’t know how much longer I can keep fighting demons without risking... ” She shook herself and gave Spike another reassuring pat. “Well, let’s just say I don’t want to have to take on anything that big on a regular basis. Not until I’m back to normal. And Spike’s not super-vamp. He’s good, but even he has limits. We don’t know what else these creeps might try to throw at us, but... ”
“So, we all patrol together? You, while you can, Fangface, Willow the witch, Tara the other witch, and me and my axe. What can they possibly find that would be able to take on all of us?”
Anya spoke up. “Well, there are the hell beasts from the Hades dimension, warlocks from the—”
“Rhetorical question, Ahn. We don’t need to know.”
“I think you do,” she retorted. “If they’re able to summon things from other dimensions, you need to know what’s out there.”
“Can we just concentrate on finding them? Before they do anything else? If they’ve gone from trying to distract me to trying to capture me, they must be planning something pretty big that they want me out of the way for.”
“Or they want your baby,” Anya contributed. “What?” she asked when everyone gasped. “It’s a slayer’s baby, and its father is a vampire. There might be prophecies, rituals, groups willing to pay a lot of money for—”
Buffy had gone white as a sheet, her hands forming a protective shield over her belly. Spike’s muffled growls had turned into full-fledge snarls as he went into game face and put his arms around Buffy, glaring around the room.
Xander glanced at Willow. “See, chip or no chip, they’d be ripped apart.”
Deciding it probably wasn’t the right time to tell Xander that Spike no longer had his chip, Willow tried to calm everyone down.
“It’s not going to get to that point,” she said firmly. “If I can’t find them through hacking, then I’ll use magic. One way or the other, they’re toast.” She took Tara’s hand and looked at her with pleading eyes. “I know you don’t want that, baby, but this is an emergency.”
Tara nodded. “It is. I never said I didn’t want you to do any magic. Just to save it for emergencies.”
“I don’t think it gets much emergencier than this.”
Buffy stood up and stretched. “I think it’s time I brought Giles up to speed. He might have some ideas about this – and he’s going to want to be here when the baby’s born—” Spike’s scoff interrupted her, and she glared at him. “He will! As soon as he gets over being pissed at Willow for making the portal, and at me for—he’ll want to be here.”
“Yeah,” Spike said, rising to his feet. “Wanker will want to stake me in person.”
“What kind of lame demons were those?” Warren glared at Andrew who had just sent the remaining summoned demon back to his own hellish dimension.
“They were the best I could do. They looked pretty scary to me.”
Jonathan snickered. “Especially the one Buffy almost killed who wanted to take you with him back to his dimension.”
Andrew shuddered. “Not funny, Jonathan!”
“All right, maybe we’re going about this all wrong. Maybe in order to control the Slayer, we should just nab her boyfriend. She’s not going to want anything bad to happen to her baby-daddy, and he can’t hurt us with that chip in his head. All we have to do is catch him when she’s not around and he’s asleep.”
“Can I just go on record as saying this is another really bad idea?” Jonathan muttered just loud enough to be heard. He shook his head, but obediently followed Warren to the table to draw up plans for luring the vampire to them.
“I’m in!” Willow tilted the screen of her laptop toward Buffy and pointed to the icon flickering on screen. “They’re trying to use magic to hide their tracks, but I got it.” She turned the screen back to herself. “Now to find out where they’re hiding those computers.”
“Good job, Wills. I knew they wouldn’t be able to hide from you forever.”
“Well, once I remembered why we knew who Warren was, it was pretty easy. A little magic, a little research, a little hacking...He’s got a website advertising his...” She coughed. “Um, his robot building skills. He never took it down, so I just used what I could get off it. It only gave me his old address, but I was able do a locator spell on the... Not really stuff you guys need to know,” she said, smiling as Buffy’s eyes began to glaze over. “Anyway, we’ve got a location. We know where their computers are, and if we know that...”
“If we know that, we’ve got them. Good job, Will. I knew we could count on you to out-magic and out-geek them.” She smile to show her remarks were meant to be admiring, not disrespectful. “Okay. So tonight, Spike and I will pay them a visit and—”
“Uh, Buffy?” Willow shuffled her feet. “Not that you and Spike aren’t very strong and scary, but these guys have been using a lot of magic to keep us from finding them. I think... I mean... Maybe if Tara and I came along...?”
“Sure, Wills. That’s not a bad idea. If they throw magic at us, you can throw it right back.”
“Throw what at who?” Xander wandered into the room, closely followed by Anya. Buffy quickly explained that they now had a location for the nerd trio and were planning to pay them a visit as soon as it was dark enough for Spike to go out.
“Can I come? I could provide manly support by chopping up their computers with my trusty axe.” He beamed hopefully at his two best friends. “Anya could stay here with Dawn.”
“Dawn can stay with herself, thank you,” she said, rolling her eyes. “No offense, Anya, but I’m too old for a babysitter.”
“None taken,” Anya said. “But I was kind of hoping for a girls’ night in. We could say unkind things about your friends and mock their clothing. Oh! And I could tell you all the different ways to make men sorry when they hurt you.”
Dawn’s “Sounds like fun!” was simultaneous with Buffy and Willow’s “No! That’s not what girls’ night in means.”
“Maybe not,” Dawn said, “but it can be. Come on, Anya. Let’s get started and leave the party poopers here.” She led the way, and after giving Xander a quick peck on his mouth, Anya followed her. Their voices drifted back to the dining room as they went upstairs to Dawn’s room. “And then, she had the nerve to say I looked skanky!”
Xander shrugged apologetically. “Sorry, guys, but in all fairness, I think Dawn can hold her own.” He looked around the room. “So, where’s fangface? Isn’t he going to be part of this event?”
Buffy sighed and stood up. “Yes. He’s still asleep. I came home early last night and he took out a nest all by himself. He had some healing to do. I’ll go get him up.”
They watched her walk to the basement door and go down the darkened stairs.
“He’s down there? I thought they were... you know....”
“They are. But Buffy hasn’t had the time to get heavier curtains for her room, so when he’s going to sleep all day, they decided he’d be safer down there.”
Xander looked thoughtful but said nothing as he mentally reviewed what he could remember of the basement’s layout.
Following Willow’s directions, Xander drove them to within a few blocks of the location of Warren’s hideout.
“Okay, here’s the plan...” Everyone looked at Buffy expectantly. “Uh... find them? Beat them up and smash all their equipment?” She shrugged apologetically. “Sorry, guys. That’s about all I’ve got.”
“You know if we don’t do something permanent about them, they’ll just come back at you again. Might take them a bit to get their act back together, but....” Spike shrugged.
“Well, what can we do? They’re human. I can’t kill them. I can’t let you kill them. And unless we can catch them doing something illegal, we can’t get them arrested...”
“Maybe,” Tara said, her voice uncertain as she took an unaccustomed place in the discussion, “we should just find out what we can about where they’re hiding, and just watch them for a while until we catch them doing something illegal. Then we can just turn them over to the police?” She looked at the more experienced fighters uneasily, relaxing when they began to nod.
“That’s not a bad idea, Glinda,” Spike said. “Now that we know where they are, we can step in whenever we need to. In the meantime, we can play at their game and just keep our eyes on them.”
Willow spoke up eagerly. “I’ll bet I can fix those cameras and transmitters we got from the Magic Box so that they feed back to my computer. We can put them where they can watch the house and...”
“Okay. Good plan. I like it. In the meantime, though, let’s get a look at this place so we can all find our way back when we need to.” Buffy set off in the direction of the lair, Spike right behind her. With a shrug, Xander shouldered his axe and started after them, leaving Willow and Tara to follow. When they reached the place where the locator spell had told them they would find the computers into which the cameras had been feeding, they stopped, staring at the spot in bewilderment. Instead of the nondescript little frame ramblers in the rest of the neighborhood, there was nothing but a vacant lot where they were expecting to find their annoying nemeses.
Buffy was about to approach the seemingly empty plot when Spike’s ears picked up a sound and he pulled her back behind the car around which the others were peering. Crouching down so that only their eyes could be seen through the car windows, they watched as the familiar black van emerged from the empty air over the piece of land.
“Cloaking spell,” Willow whispered. “I should have realized that. No wonder Buffy never found them when she was walking around Sunnydale looking for that van.”
“Now what? We know where they are – or were, I couldn’t see who was in the van – but if we can’t see the house, we won’t know where to put the camera.”
“Give me a few minutes,” Willow said. “I think I can break that spell... or at least temporarily disable it.” She stood up and stepped out from behind the car, staring at the empty space and concentrating hard. There was a gasp from Tara as Willow’s hair stood out from her head and her face drained of color. Her arms in front of her, pointing toward where the house should be, she seemed to float toward it, a barely audible chant coming from her mouth. Within a minute, she dropped to the ground in a faint, the now visible house looking just like its neighbors.
“Willow!” Recovering from her horror, Tara ran to her girlfriend, raising her to a sitting position and stroking her face. “Are you all right? Willow? Speak to me!”
“Wow... “ Willow said, a bedazzled smile on her face. “That was awesome. You should try it sometime, Tara.”
Spike and Tara had identical frowns on their faces, while Buffy and Xander just gaped at their friend in admiration. Recovering quickly, Buffy said, “Maybe we should try to see inside while they’re gone?”
“We don’t know if they all left, or just one of them,” Xander objected. He hefted the axe. “Not that I guess it matters with all of us here.”
“Right. Willow, you and Tara stay here. You looked like you’re a little wiped out from that awesomeness. Spike and Xander and I will take a look around and maybe try to find a good place for a camera...”
Tara helped Willow to her feet and they retreated behind the parked car again while Buffy led the two men across the street and onto the property. Buffy shivered as they passed through the cloaking spell’s border, and Spike growled softly. “I still smell magic in the air,” he said. “And it’s not all Red’s.”
Buffy crept up to a window and stood on her toes to peer in, dropping to the ground almost immediately. “There’s a girl in there!” she hissed. “I think she saw me.”
Before they could decide what to do about the unexpected girl, she opened the window and peered out at them.
“Can I help you?” She had a serene expression, and was wearing what appeared to be a maid’s uniform.
“Uh... we’re looking for Warren,” Buffy said brightly. “Is he home?”
“No. My master will be back shortly though. Would you like to come in and wait for him?” Without waiting for a reply, she disappeared from the window and opened the front door.
Buffy exchanged shrugs with Xander and Spike, then smiled and walked in. “Thanks. That would be great.” They all entered the house, staring around with great curiosity at the banks of computers sharing space with some mechanical and electrical objects in various states of construction. Spike began to stroll around the room, picking things up and putting them down as he lost interest. The girl stared at him with a worried expression on her face, then shrugged and went to stand in a corner.
Xander’s eyes followed her progress. Now that they were in the house, they could see that the uniform she was wearing was actually a French maid’s costume, designed to show off her long legs and tiny waist. He and Spike exchanged looks and then looked at Buffy who was gaping at the girl.
Buffy glanced at Spike. “Is she—” He shook his head.
“Not a robot, love. Got a beating heart, a scent, the whole human package. But I’d say there’s nobody home.”
Buffy studied the girl. “I recognize her. She used to be Warren’s girlfriend, but she broke up with him over April – the robot. Her name’s... he called her ‘Trina’.”
“And now she calls him ‘master’?”
“Something’s fishy here. Maybe this is what we need. If she’s being kept against her will, or is drugged or something...”
Xander, who had been wandering around after Spike trying to figure out what the strange-looking devices were, picked up a silvery thing the size of a golf ball. “What do you suppose this is?” He tossed it up and down in his hands a few times until the girl noticed what he was doing and shrieked.
“Put that down! No one may touch that but my master. It’s very fragile and should never be broken.”
“Oh yeah?” Buffy snatched the orb from Xander’s hand and dropped it onto the floor, planting a booted foot on it. “I wonder what will happen?” She pushed her foot down until the ball popped with a satisfying crunch. Trina fell to the floor, holding her head.
After a few seconds, she raised her head and stared at the three intruders. “Who are you? Where am I?” She glanced down at herself and tried to pull the short skirt down over her legs. “What the hell am I wearing?”
“I’m Buffy. Remember me? I saved you from Warren’s robot girlfriend who wanted to kill you.” Buffy stared at the embarrassed woman. “I thought you were done with him. What are you doing here, in his hide-out?”
Katrina shook her head. “I don’t know. The last thing I remember is... I was in a bar and Warren wanted to get back together. I told him to get lost, and he...” Her expression went from bewildered to furious. “He did something to me and I’ve been here... doing...” She looked down at her outfit again. “I’m going to kill that son of a bitch!”
“Line forms over here,” Buffy said sympathetically. “Although, I guess you’ve got more reason than I do. Will you be willing to testify against him and send him to jail for kidnapping and... whatever?” She flushed, pretty sure she knew what Warren had been having Katrina do for him, but unwilling to say it out loud in front of Spike or Xander.
“How are the police going to find and hold these losers if they’ve got magic on their side?” Xander looked around the room. “I mean, look at this stuff. They’ve got it all – modern technology, cloaking spells, and God only knows what all those things are supposed to do.” He pointed at the workbench and its collection of unfamiliar devices, some of which looked like weapons.
“We’ll just have to make it easier to catch them,” Spike said, taking Xander’s axe and swinging it at one of the computer screens. He’d smashed two of them before Xander grabbed the axe back.
“Hey, you can’t have all the fun!” he complained, taking his own whacks at all the electronics arrayed around the room.
“Fine, I don’t need that anyway,” Spike said, using his heavily booted feet to begin smashing things underfoot. He located a table holding bottles of herbs, ashes and other spell ingredients and began dropping them to the floor to join the other broken objects he had stepped on.
Buffy steered Trina away from the growing piles of debris. “While they have fun pretending they’re twelve, let’s see if we can find you some real clothes to wear out of here.” They went toward the rear of the house, searching bedrooms until they found one that had a dress thrown in the corner.
“That’s mine! That’s what I was wearing when I ran into Warren.” She snatched it up and quickly changed, holding the maid costume with two fingers. “I’m going to burn this,” she said.
“Um, maybe you should keep it... you know, for evidence?”
“Evidence... Oh my God. I’m going to have to tell people what they... what I.... Can’t I just kill him? Them. All of them?”
Buffy sighed. “I’m right there with you, but I can’t really let you—” Shouts and screams from the other room sent her running out to find Jonathan and Andrew shrieking in horror as they took in the damage that Spike and Xander had been gleefully causing. Warren stood behind them, fury on his face as he surveyed what had been his workroom. His face paled when he saw Buffy and Katrina.
“What have you done?” he whispered. “Trina? What have you done?” He changed his gaze to Spike and Xander. “Do you have any idea what you’ve done here?”
“A bloody good job, if I say so myself,” Spiked smirked, exchanging grins with Xander.
Warren gazed around the room, then darted forward grabbing an object off an as yet undamaged table. He threw it on the floor, creating a blinding light and a roar as the air seemed to leave the room. When they could all see and hear again, Warren was gone and only Jonathan and Andrew were left to face Katrina’s wrath.
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