Beta read by the eagle-eyed all4spike
It was several days before Wesley was able to get away to bring them more information about the preacher he’d discovered. Days in which the number of vampires and demons around each night continued to be more than would be expected, even so late in the summer. Buffy had stopped grumbling about it and was beginning to worry that it meant something more than just an early beginning to the normal Sunnydale fall.
“I don’t suppose you know if it was like this in your time?” she asked Winston, after voicing her concerns to him and Giles.
“I’m sorry, I don’t. In my time I was quite tied up with… there was something important I had to deal with at home, and I wasn’t really paying much attention to what might be going on over the hellmouth. Not until much, much later.”
“Oh well. It was just a thought. Maybe all the evil guys just decided to end summer vacation early.”
“Or maybe something is bringing them to Sunnydale…” Giles said, reminding them that the First Evil, while not yet manifesting itself, still existed and might still have to be dealt with.
“Or that,” Buffy sighed. “I guess we need to keep an eye on the new school’s basement and check out that seal closing the hellmouth. If we find somebody messing with it, we’ll know the First is trying to get up here.” She frowned and muttered, “He’s not going to have Spike to play with this time….”
“Does he need it to be open to manifest up here?” Giles frowned. “I thought he’d done that before.”
“Yeah, I guess he can. He was all into getting Angel to kill me or himself by pretending to be—” She froze, remembering who the First had appeared as when confronting Angel. Trying hard not to look at Giles and give it away if he hadn’t learned about it in this time, she said, “I mean, yes. He has been here. I’m not sure we knew to check the hellmouth back then but I don’t think it had a seal over it when we stopped the Varhals. It was just a big hole.”
“He needed blood dripping in it to bring out one of his pet monsters,” Spike growled. “My blood.”
“And he manipulated Andrew to try to use Jonathan’s blood to open the seal.”
“Hey, maybe we can get Harris to pour it full of concrete for us.” Spike looked pleased with his half-serious idea, while Buffy shook her head.
“Yeah, I’m sure that’ll go over big with the new principal,” Buffy snorted. “Tell him we want to fill the school basement with cement.”
Spike shrugged. “We know he doesn’t care much for vampires, so he’s already primed to dislike me. May as well give him a reason.” He paused and cast his gaze down at his feet. “Not that I haven’t already done that, I reckon,” he said softly.
Winston studied Spike’s rueful expression, then asked, “You’ve already given him a reason?”
Buffy and Spike exchanged glances. She smiled her support and nodded. He stood up straighter, saying firmly, “His mum was my second slayer. Man’s got a right… not that he knows that yet. In our time, the First got to him somehow and told him who I was. Probably appeared to him as his mum when he did it.”
“Dear Lord!” Giles stared at Spike, then back and forth between Spike and Buffy. “He didn’t try to stake you?”
“In a way, he did. Didn’t work out for him quite like he thought it would, though…”
The hard look Buffy shot toward Giles wasn’t lost on Winston, who cleared his throat.
“Perhaps we should concentrate on whatever we can do now to avoid that possibility? What do we know about opening the seal? Why Jonathan?”
Buffy shrugged. “I’m not sure. I mean, I’m sure Andrew was easy for him to manipulate using Warren, but before that one of Xander’s demon dates tried to use his blood to open it, so maybe it doesn’t matter as long as somebody’s bleeding over it. I think he might’ve tried it earlier too, with some stupid cult guys. I shut them down and rescued the girl. I didn’t really connect it to the hellmouth, though, because they were in the library not the basement, but I guess it could have been. They were raising a demon and thought that was the best place to do it.” She shrugged again. “Maybe connected, maybe not. Doesn’t matter now.” She glanced at Spike suddenly.
“I guess we need to try to find Cassie and warn her.”
Spike shook his head. “You plannin’ to tell her you know she’s gonna drop dead anyway?”
Buffy pouted. “There’s got to be a way to let her know she has a bad heart. I’ll think about how to do it. Maybe I’ll just ask her mom why she hasn’t had it fixed…. I dunno. I just hate for her to die so young if she doesn’t need to.”
She turned her attention back to Winston who had cleared his throat rather loudly.
“Have I understood correctly that it was Spike’s blood that brought out the Turok-han?” Winston pursued his first line of thought.
“Was,” Spike replied shortly. “The wanker told me I was going to meet ‘a real vampire’. Didn’t mention he was giving me to it as a plaything.”
“I wonder if it required a vampire’s blood to bring it forth, or if that was coincidental?” Giles seemed to be musing to himself, but Spike answered him anyway.
“Dunno, but he could have grabbed any vampire he wanted. Went to some trouble to get me out of Buffy’s basement, so I’d guess it had as much to do with tryin’ to throw her off her game as it did needing my blood specifically.”
“And did it?” Winston asked shrewdly, seeing the expression on Buffy’s face.
“If by ‘throwing me off my game’ you mean being worried and pissed off enough to kick super-vamp ass, I guess you could say that,” she growled, moving closer to Spike. “I wanted him back. And if I had to go through the First’s ugly guard dog to do it….”
Spike put his arm around her and kissed the top of her head. “Rescued me good and proper, she did. Thinkin’ my girl wouldn’t be able to handle his pet monster was his first mistake.”
Both Giles and Winston smiled indulgently at Spike’s praise. Winston had already known what kind of slayer Buffy was, and by now, this Giles had seen enough to really appreciate her abilities. Buffy basked in the warmth and admiration for a few moments, then shook herself back to the task at hand.
“Okay. So, we need to get into the school basement and figure out a way to check in there as often as we can. There should be some kind of Parent’s Night or welcome program coming up soon. We can work on it then.”
“There’ll be a way in through the tunnels and sewers,” Spike said. “It’ll be easier if we can find a way in and out that doesn’t depend on getting access through the school itself.”
“I believe our priority right now should be bringing Wesley up to speed on why we need to find this mysterious serial-killer of a priest,” Giles said. “He should be arriving shortly.”
Wesley did indeed arrive soon after that, and after tea was served and greetings made, he sat down at the table and laid a large envelope on it.
“This is all the information I’ve been able to find on the man—the members of his cult are very close-mouthed about him. He is, however, on the LAPD radar due to the girls who’ve gone missing after being seen with him.”
“Is there any way to know if any of them were potential slayers?”
Wesley looked uncomfortable. “Yes and no,” he said. He looked around the table at their skeptical expressions and sighed. “I received a missive from an old friend at the Council, who was inquiring, unofficially, about one of the missing girls. I managed to worm out of him that she is or was a potential who lived with her parents, but who had a watcher in her life in the event she ever became activated. Needless to say, her watcher is as concerned as her parents, and even more puzzled because her training should have given her an edge in a physical confrontation.”
“Being trained isn’t the same thing as expecting to take a knife in the gut from someone you trust,” Spike snarled.
“No. Alas, that’s quite true. There was one other, but she won’t talk to us after—”
“After?” Buffy prompted him when he seemed unlikely to continue.
“We… actually Angel… found her running down an alley followed by two cloaked men. I stopped her and tried to explain that we were there to help, but she was staring at Angel and her pursuers, and I don’t think she was listening to me. They—not men, it turned out—the creatures—”
“Bringers,” Buffy interrupted. “That’s what they are. They’ve been here before. They work for the First Evil or something. Anyway, they’re connected to him—it.”
Wes nodded his understanding and continued, “They put up quite a fight, and Angel brought his demon out in order to subdue them. The young lady saw Angel’s true face and….” He paused again, then said with visible embarrassment, “I’m ashamed to say that she was quite strong. She punched me until I released her. She was also quite fast and I had no chance of catching up to her. Our conclusion was that she may also have been a potential and was able to fight off the initial attack. However, we have no proof of that because we haven’t been able to locate her again. “
“With as many girls as there are in LA, what are the chances that this is a coincidence? That two of his victims are potentials?”
Wesley frowned. “But the circumstances are different. The first girl appears to have been a victim of a serial killer, most definitely. But the other one, as far as we know without being able to speak to her, was being attacked by… Bringers? Is that what you called them?”
“Yes. They’re what attacked the house and got Spike out of the basement so the First could use him. They work for the First Evil, just like the fake preacher does.”
“So, at this point, it may actually be a coincidence that one of his many victims happened to be a potential.”
“Maybe,” Buffy said doubtfully. “But either way, between that and the girl we have here, it’s pretty obvious that the First is targeting potentials.”
“I wonder why he would do that?” Wesley asked, almost to himself. He was thinking hard, but he didn’t miss the looks exchanged around the table. “All right. What don’t I know?”
When, after some cryptic conversation among the other four people, Wesley was finally told about the scythe and the spell Buffy and Willow used to activate all the potential slayers in the world, he sank back in his chair in shock.
“Dear Lord,” he muttered.
“Those were, I believe, my words exactly,” Giles said with a wry smile. “I’ve found myself repeating them over and over as these two explain the things they’ve survived and accomplished.”
“And you did this because… there were thousands of some sort of ancient vampire set to burst into our world?”
Buffy nodded. “There had to be a reason the First was targeting all the potentials. I mean, he could have just kept killing slayers every time one was called. It’s not like one girl—”
“Two girls,” Spike growled.
“Right, Okay two girls. Still, all he had to do was take out Faith and whoever was called after her. He could have had them picked off one at a time. He’d already sicced his first Turok-han on me.”
“But you used this new weapon to kill that one, yes?” Wesley frowned. “Surely it would have been in his best interest to simply destroy the weapon.”
“Buffy didn’t have the scythe yet when she sent that ugly bugger to hell,” Spike said, beaming proudly at Buffy. “She did for him the old-fashioned way.”
Wesley stared at Buffy, his obvious disbelief fighting with the admiration he could tell everyone else in room obviously felt for her. “How did you do it, then? Did you stake him?”
Buffy shook her head. “I’d already tried that. It didn’t work—not with a regular stake anyway—the stake on the scythe works, but I didn’t have it yet. So I had to cut his head off with a piece of wire.” She spoke casually, as if she destroyed super vampires every day. Spike was still beaming with pride, and she poked him. “Stop it,” she hissed.
Why? You were amazing and I’m proud of you. And bloody glad you won that fight!
Buffy sent him a mental kiss, but turned her attention back to Wesley.
“It got pretty rough around here in our time. If we hadn’t been able to stop those monsters from getting out, I’m not sure how long it would have taken, but the world would have been in trouble eventually. Not just Sunnydale or California. Having all the potentials powered up was a big help, and so was the scythe when it came to killing them, but it was Spike who pulled the hellmouth closed with them in it. That’s what really shut it down. The girls and I were just trying to slow them down as much as we could.”
Wesley shot Spike an incredulous look, but shook his head rather than ask about it just then. “I have to admit, this is all a bit overwhelming. A magical slayer weapon the Council has never heard of—” He stopped and gave Giles a hard look. “I’m assuming so, anyway.”
“To the best of my knowledge,” Giles agreed. He glanced at Buffy. “Did he—I—have any information in your time?”
Buffy shook her head. “Nope. All I had to go on was how hard the First tried to keep me from finding it. Which is what he used Caleb for, by the way. In addition to killing as many girls as he could get his slimy hands on, he was trying to keep me away from my weapon.” She frowned. “That and what little the Guardian had a chance to tell me before he murdered her. I should’ve killed him twice for that!”
“You did ultimately slay him, then? Even though he was human?”
“Wasn’t all that human by the time Buffy finally got her shiny new super-vamp slaying tool,” Spike growled. “The first was powering him up by that time and with him having the ugly buggers for back up, was a bit touch and go for a while.”
“I see.” Wesley’s demeanor made it clear that not only did he not see, he was dying to know more. Buffy looked at him sympathetically.
“I know you’re missing a lot of information, Wes, but we’re really hoping to keep things a little less exciting this time around. Even though we know it’s going make some major changes in the future we’re almost back to. The important thing now, is to find Caleb. He’s the First’s human helper and I’d like to take him out of the picture before he can do more damage, and before he can get a chance to get all scary-strong.”
“Yes, I can see why that has to be your priority.”
“Well, that and finding my scythe. If I have that when the first Turok-han climbs out….”
“So, what do you need me to do?” Wesley gazed around the table, but centered his gaze on Buffy and Spike.
“If you can find this guy for us, we can try to catch him before he gets here.”
“And do what? Assuming he is still fully human at this point?”
“He’s still a bloody wanker that kills little girls for fun,” Spike growled. “He’ll get what’s comin’ to him.”
When Wesley frowned at Spike as if not sure he’d heard him correctly, Winston surprised everyone by answering the unspoken question on Wesley’s face.
“The man in question is already a serial killer, is he not? While it may seem to you that we’re unfairly targeting him because of things he did in our timelines, it seems he has already earned his place in hell in this one. Buffy may have some reservations about putting him down like the mad dog he is, but neither Spike nor I have those same issues.”
Winston’s expression sent Wesley flinching back from man he’d only known as someone who “dabbled in magic.”
“I see,” he said, looking around and seeing nothing but agreement on the faces staring at him. “Well, let me take this information back with me and look into the matter further. We do have a few contacts in the police department who may be willing to share what they know about the man. They may even know how to find him.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Buffy said. “If it stays quiet here, maybe Spike and I will decide to take our honeymoon in LA. Kill two birds with one stone…. Um, maybe that wasn’t a very good way to put it….” Buffy bit her lip, then shrugged. “But, you know what? We are what we are.”
“Honeymoon?” Wesley’s expression went from serious to astonished.
After filling him in on their planned wedding, and assuring Wes that he was more than welcome to attend it, they just hadn’t sent formal invitations out, Buffy thanked him for the information and got his promise in return that he would email Giles frequently to keep them apprised of how the search was going. And that he would be delighted to come to the wedding. Somewhat reluctantly, Spike agreed that putting Angel to work looking for Bringers and removing them when he could might be a good way to keep him out of their hair and busy.
“If he feels like he’s being useful to Buffy, it might make him less worried about how often you talk to us.” Spike grumbled as he spoke, but nodded at Buffy’s smile of approval.
“I’ll be in touch.” Wes stood up, shook hands with everyone, then let himself out the door.
“What do think?” Buffy asked of no one in particular.
“I think it’s the best we can do right now. I find it a bit concerning that the Bringers are already targeting potentials,” Giles said with a sigh. “If it’s happening in our own backyard, so to speak, what might be going on in the rest of the world?”
“A good question. I guess we’ll find out.”
“Not till after my wedding!” Buffy said firmly.