Chp 2 A Dark Force Rises
A Nice Little Business by Lilachigh
Chapter Two: A Dark Force Rises
The light from the setting sun edged its way past the chink in the blinds of Rupert Giles’ penthouse apartment overlooking the Thames. It splintered into a myriad of rainbow colours and Buffy instinctively put up a hand to shield her eyes, to blot out a picture of scarlet and orange flames, shot with gold and green and purple, burning, consuming, fusing two hands together forever except that forever had only been a matter of seconds. Not a long time, just an eternity.
“Buffy! Pay attention.” Giles rapped on the table in exasperation. The Slayer just wasn’t on her game at the moment; drifting away into day-dreams at the least excuse. He knew why, of course. They all did. And it wasn’t even the fact that Spike had been alive after the First had destroyed Sunnydale - although goodness knows why the Powers that Be had deemed that a fit and proper thing to do - that caused her thoughts to be elsewhere most of the time. No, it was that he’d been alive but had made no effort to find her, to claim the woman he’d said he loved before he died again, this time for good.
“Sorry, Giles. I was just....”
“Buffy, I know it’s a complicated situation and we all understand...”
“What I don’t understand,” Willow broke in, “is why you wouldn’t let me go across to the States and tell Spike exactly what we thought of him. I could have told Angel at the same time!”
Buffy found the fake smile that came in so useful these days: the one she wore when she visited Dawn who’d been accepted into an English college; the same one she fixed on her face when counselling all the Potentials who’d just become Slayers across Europe. She bit back a sigh: sighing was bad; sighing led to questions and pity and condemnation and made her head feel it was about to explode.
“It was a great idea, Will, but let’s face it, they were obviously far happier living together rather than getting in touch so why try and break up the happy home.”
“But Buffy - ”
“Will, there was always a weird connection between them - a sort of love, icky as that might seem. Now they’ve died together, so - the end!”
Willow ruffled her short red hair and frowned. She was about to retort about Buffy’s use of the word to describe love between two guys, then glanced down and saw that although she was smiling brightly, Buffy’s hands were clenched so tightly that she could see the blood pulsing in the veins under the skin.
“Right, let’s get back to business.” Giles tapped the file of papers in front of him.
Buffy cast her mind back desperately and pulled the words out of her memory. “You were saying about some mega demon force working here in England. Not another First, surely? I mean we defeated him, what with the earthquake and death and......(burning flames)....and all.”
Giles nodded. “You’re quite right. Not another First. But someone very strong, very powerful and very evil.”
“Sounds like a real prince.”
“Buffy, you must take this seriously.”
“Giles, I am being serious - just tell me where and when and I’ll go kill him!”
Giles stood up abruptly and walked to the window, pulling back the blinds to let the dying sunlight flood into the room, bathing everything in a deep red light. Since Buffy had come to England from Italy to be closer to Dawn, he’d tried to get her involved in all the extra work the new Slayers created but with little success. He’d hoped that having Faith visit would awaken some sort of Slayer jealousy, that Buffy would be keen to patrol, to train, to be the old Slayer again. But now Faith had gone back to the States and he was left with a growing demon problem, a multitude of half-trained girls and one bored Slayer whose mind was constantly elsewhere.
He pulled off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. “I think we all know and agree that vampires and demons are usually the most disorganised creatures on earth. They rise, we hunt them, we stake them. But recently that has all changed. Vampires seem to be swiftly vanishing from all their usual haunts and reappearing in an area where the Slayer situation is still in its infancy. And the more they group together, the more powerful and dangerous they become.”
Against her will, Buffy found herself interested. “So they’re forming what - little armies?”
Giles sat back opposite her and nodded. “Exactly. And we don’t have the sort of organisation yet to deal with that. We’ve lost three new Slayers in the past week! Three, Buffy. Three little girls who’d only just been trained. They could have dealt with one or two vampires quite easily, but not ten or twenty working together.”
“So what do you want me to do?”
“Someone, something is organising them. Some very Big Bad is sitting in the middle of the web, pulling the strings and it’s our job to stop it.”
Buffy tilted back her chair at a dangerous angle. “No problem, Giles. Don’t worry. We’ll find the head of the gang and just cut it off!” And she smiled again, picturing in her mind a terrifying, skull like creature, fangs dripping blood from its lipless mouth and she knew she’d found an opponent worthy of her skills......
.......a few hundred miles away, a vampire who wasn’t quite a Big Bad was though, quite rightly, in the middle of a spider’s web, standing perilously on a chair, dusting away the silvery threads with a long feather tipped brush, and worrying about what she could give the guests for dinner that night. The biggest difficulty was feeding a vegetarian vampire, whom, poor dear, suffered dreadful hunger pangs all the time because she was determined to stick to her principles, newly Turned or not. Luckily Agnes Pringle had remembered that Guiness beer was full of iron and although she did not approve of strong drink, she hoped she’d be forgiven for buying several bottles every day for this particular young lady vamp.
Agnes pushed a particularly hairy spider to one side and watched as it ran across the ceiling and vanished behind a picture. She had no desire to kill the poor creature, just to tidy up the dining-room. She could remember her dear old Granny chanting, “If you want to live and thrive, let a spider run alive.”
“Which is all very well, but not if they fall into the soup bowls,” Agnes sighed to herself and carefully descended from the chair.
Crossing to the window, she peeped out from behind the heavy red velvet curtains, gazing along the quiet street where the lamps made golden pools of light on the wet pavements. She was still finding it odd to live in a country where it rained so frequently. She obviously didn’t miss the hot Californian sunshine, but those long warm nights when you could roam about without a cardigan - although to be fair she never did because, being English, you never really trusted warm weather to stay warm - were now only a distant dream.
Sometimes she wondered if all those years spent in Sunnydale had been real - her friendship with Spike, her lovely Willow Tree Tea Shoppe, her demon and vampire friends. Now they had all gone - in some dreadful earthquake. Sadly the Slayer had survived and Agnes still shuddered to remember how close she’d come to being discovered here in England by Buffy Summers earlier in the year.
It had been a very upsetting time since then. Learning, to her joy, that Spike was still alive and then hearing that he’d died again in Los Angeles had left her weary and sad. And then she’d had her accident. Even now she didn’t like to remember the blaring car horn, the screech of tyres on a wet road and the odd feeling of flying as she was hurtled through the air.
By some miracle, the driver of the car had proved to be a very charming gentleman who, although not a demon as such, seemed quite at ease in her world. He’d picked her up from the ditch where she landed and taken her home with him. Agnes shuddered to think what would have happened if an ordinary ambulance had driven her to hospital: she would probably have been dead as soon as the morning sunlight came cascading through the ward windows, if the doctors hadn’t discovered her secret before then.
No, she’d been allowed to recover in a nice, dark room and fed the very best blood available. She worried that when she’d been unconscious it might not have been pig, but then that truly was not her fault. Once she was awake enough to made her preference clear, then pure pig had been delivered to her three times a day, in a very pretty china tea-cup with matching saucer.
So she was grateful to all the Powers that Be to still be alive, or dead but not defeated as she preferred to think of the vampire state. But - and it was a big but - things had changed completely in her world whilst she was lying unconscious. The nice people at Wolfram & Hart (English branch) had stepped in and taken over - although she wasn’t at all certain how they’d known about her accident. She didn’t like to think they were actually spying on her, but it was very odd how they turned up at all the most traumatic moments of her existence, almost as if Dear Richard, who had been dead for so many years now, was still keeping watch over her.
A young lady demon had visited her and explained that the children whom Agnes had rescued from Sunnydale and had been fretting about from the second she regained her wits, had been taken into care and distributed around various vampire couples who were, of course, unable to have families of their own and so only too happy to take in orphans.
Agnes had been bereft for a few days: she’d thought that that was what she’d been spared for when she escaped from Sunnydale just before the town had been swallowed up. To be a parent to the motley little crew who had somehow grown attached to her. But obviously not.
She’d lain awake all one long day, feeling sorry for herself - no Spike, no children, no reason to go on. No one in the whole wide world wanted or needed her. It was enough to make even a usually optimistic vampire feel very sad. She didn’t want to go back to the cottage in the New Forest that Dear Richard had provided for her. It held too many memories, and if she was strictly honest, she thought it might also be damp.
Then, just when she’d decided to throw open the curtains and end it all in a blaze of sunlight, the nice gentleman who’d rescued her, had knocked on her door, sat by the side of her bed and made an interesting proposition.
He told her he owned the small hotel in which she was now living. It was used as a staging post by vampires and demons as they moved across country, escaping from Slayers and demon killers and other undesirables. He badly needed a manageress who could cook simple, healthy blood based meals and would not be worried by some of the more bizarre requests from demons whose dietary requirements needed to wriggle and crawl.
Agnes had sat up in bed, wincing as pain shot through her head. “How interesting. And what a clever idea. Like being in the French Resistance in the last war, helping British airmen to escape back to England!”
Her saviour smiled warmly. “Yes, Agnes, just like that. But be warned, it’ll be dangerous work but think of the rewards!”
Agnes had felt the chilly glow of unlife returning. She was needed after all. This was the path that the Powers that Be had marked out for her! If she could help in this essential work in some little way, then she would be happy and contented. And surely even Dear Richard would have been pleased about that.
Now, several weeks later, Agnes was as busy as ever, running the hotel. She’d met such a nice collection of vampires and demons, although she couldn’t quite work out where they were all heading in such a hurry. She was in the kitchen, slicing the raw beef, mixing blood gravy and trying to keep the live puddings from escaping their pastry cases when the door opened.
“Ah Agnes, busy as usual, I see. What would I do without you.”
She turned and smiled. “We have a full guest list tonight, so yes. Always lots to do.”
“Listen, Agnes, no one’s been hanging around the hotel who shouldn’t be here, have they? Asking for work, perhaps? Wanting a room for the night and not believing you when you tell them we’re fully booked?”
Agnes frowned. “No - no one. Why?”
A slim hand slid over her shoulder, popped the top off a pastry case and flicked its wriggling occupant into his mouth. “Rumours, dear Agnes. Dark rumours. I’ve heard on the grapevine that Buffy Summers herself, the oldest Slayer still around, has heard of our little venture. But you would recognise her, wouldn’t you, if you saw her?”
Agnes gulped and sat down suddenly at the kitchen table. Buffy Summers! Oh yes, she’d recognise her, all right.
“So, be on your guard, night and day. She’s very dangerous and could cause us immense harm. Now, I must go and call our guests down for dinner. It all smells wonderful.”
And with another enchanting smile, Mr Ethan Rayne, master wizard and licensed hotel owner, patted her on the shoulder and walked away.
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