Brother Melchoir was in an uproar. The demon before him had just implied that the Beast would be challenged and defeated by his unclean self! Such could never be the will of the Lord, could it? No, the key must be severed! THAT was the will of the Lord; his masters had driven that home over the long years. He must have been mumbling his thoughts aloud, because the evil creature before him had begun to growl and its face was shifting in a most terrifying manner.
"You open your yap about that again and I'll rip your tongue out and make you eat it," the vampire promised his completely believing captive. "So once more for the terminally stupid, or maybe just totally stubborn. Here's the deal: I am going to personally remove Glory and her meaty prison. YOU are gonna stay chained up ‘til then. Once Glory's just a footnote in history, you and your Round Table reject friends are gonna bugger the hell off to whatever place or time you came from and we'll all pretend none of this ever happened…got that, Mel?"
The captive knight trembled in fear. The vampire had spoken quietly but with enough force that Melchoir had not a doubt in his mind that all that had been said would come to pass. A century of purpose was coming to a close. The quest embraced by his brethren would be achieved by one not fit to be in their number. Could such be the will of God after all?
The vampire, once more in human face, was pacing rapidly in obvious readiness to take on the hell god. Soft words were exchanged between the unclean one and the hideous creature with the sagging skin. Soon, chains appeared as if from nowhere and Brother Melchoir found himself trussed up like a Saracen at the fall of Jerusalem. The human in league with his captors rejoined them and more whispers were exchanged. Finally satisfied that the Knight was not going to be going anywhere until released, the vampire and human left. Melchoir looked at his loose-skinned guard with the ragged, pointy teeth and shuddered.
"So," Clem asked cheerily, "do you like Baywatch? ‘Cause there's a marathon coming on in about fifteen minutes."
The chained Knight blinked in surprise but answered honestly, "Yes, I have watched this program. I quite enjoy the artistry of David Hasselhoff."
Clem grinned widely, not noticing the tremors the sight his jagged teeth caused his reluctant guest. "Me too! He's totally underrated. Did you know he had a top-selling album in Europe? The guy's a triple threat, a major talent! Tell you what, I'll go whip up some Country Time and see what snacks I might have stashed away. Didn't know Spike was going to use my cave to do the interrogation, so I'm not prepared for guests. Sorry."
Buffy gave Giles the Cliff Notes version of the dream his concoction had produced. "So Mud Girl tells me that I'm a Vampire Slayer as in like a Vampire, not as in she who dusts the undead. Gotta say that's kinda one of those swords with two sides, Giles. On one hand, it's nice that I'm not, you know, a pervert or something with my love life history. But on the other, bigger, hand, I'm kinda wigged to think I might be part demon. I mean will I start to mutate or something if I live long enough?"
Giles removed his glasses, setting them on the table rather than cleaning them as Buffy had anticipated. "I had heard something like this about the origins of the Slayer line. Naturally, it is all steeped in myth and mystery. I shall, of course, do as much research as the Council will permit on this issue. I wouldn't worry though, Buffy, it's not likely that you will be anything other than the lovely young woman you are right now. I think the essence of the demon and not the nature of it is the source of your power, just as the First Slayer said."
"So does that mean my "perfect normal guy" is really gonna turn out to be a vampire? Maybe I shouldn't have let Angel go," Buffy mused.
"I doubt seriously that the First Slayer was suggesting you renew your relationship with Angel," Giles tried to keep the panic out of his voice. "There is the matter of the curse--that hasn't changed."
Buffy was lost in thought but still aware of what Giles was saying. "We've both kinda moved on too. When Angel came to tell me how sorry he was about Mom, it felt nice to have him there. But it didn't rock my world like it used to. I used to imagine Angel coming back into my life and … well, it wasn't like I imagined. It was almost like I didn't know him. I guess in a way I don't … know him, you know? I went right from 'Ooh, creepy stalker guy, run!' to 'Oh, I love you
forever, my knight in shining armor' with him. He never has been an open book, so I never got to decide if I even liked him before I loved him." Buffy forgot for the moment that she was speaking aloud as she tried to sort through her emotions on the boyfriend front.
Giles was wishing he could cross all his fingers and any other possible appendages in the hope that Buffy was finally seeing her 'great love' for the first blush of passion that it had been. His soaring mood came crashing to the ground with Buffy's next train of thought, however.
"Then again, maybe it's not Angel she meant," Buffy wrinkled her forehead in confusion. "Maybe she meant Spike?" Buffy clearly remembered the words of the First Slayer, "You must forgive to be blessed with real love. You must take the chance of pain to know bliss…Judge each being for his own actions and no other, and be merciful in your judgements,". That certainly sounded like Spike to her. Maybe it was time to stop going over her past with the pest and try to move on to the vamp he was trying to be now. His mom seemed to think he was still pretty much like the son she had known. Maybe she herself should take another, closer look.
So lost in that thought was Buffy she didn't even hear her Watcher's to-be-expected "Good Lord!"
Anne had watched the subdued girl slink around all morning. Willow was clearly chastened and embarrassed. Anne worried that her words had been too critical for the child to handle at this point. After all, it was Willow's insecurities that had placed her in this mess to begin with and further blows to her fragile sense of self were not likely to produce good results.
"Ah, Willow!" Anne said with a beaming smile of greeting. "Just the person I was hoping to find. I am quite at sea still in this wonderful new world of yours. I would be so very honored if you would take me in hand and help me to navigate. You have already done so much that I hesitate to impose, but it is because of the brilliance of your assistance thus far that I can think of no other to ask."
Willow looked a bit startled but felt the warmth of pride run through her humility-chilled veins. "Of course I'll be glad to help you any way I can and you could never impose! You seem to be doing so well on your own though, I can't imagine what you need me for." Willow said the last with the most whipped puppy voice ever uttered.
"But that's just it, don't you see?" Anne was a woman on a mission. "I CAN'T even begin to imagine much of anything! Everything is so beyond my ken that I scarce know where to begin! I should like it very much if you would call me friend and take me under your wing. You are such a remarkable person, Willow. I don't believe I've ever met a young lady with the mental skills I have seen that you possess. Even Mr. Giles clearly admires and relies upon your knowledge and common sense. Why, Tara is practically in awe of you!"
Willow felt her spirits lift at the praise. "What do you have in mind?"
"I believe I am in need of a tutor. Yes, you have shown to me this wonderful device, this computer, but I lack direction, don't you see? You can steer me, guide me to information I should know and forbid me from the distractions that will only slow my progress. After all, how many times can one watch a webcam update when there is a century of information I need to be processing?"
Willow thought about the project and brightened completely. "Oh, I have a great idea…a complete, multimedia, one-on-one teaching plan! This is going to be a blast!"
As Willow bustled into the kitchen with Anne in tow, she was already making a mental list of all the things Mrs. Pratt was going to find fascinating and essential. "Maybe we should start at the library. The Campus has a great one and it might be the perfect way to ease you into the twentieth century without overwhelming you. I don't think they are going to release Tara today, so we could start now if you want to. We could even drop by the hospital to visit Tara after…."
Anne smiled serenely and decided that she would be the slowest student in the world if that was what it took for this girl to finally see her worth beyond the magic. "I think that's a lovely idea, Willow. Lead on."
As the pair headed out the front door, they came face to face with a glowing Anya. "Good morning, Mrs. Pratt, Willow. Isn't it a beautiful day?! The sky is as blue as the bridesmaids’ gowns I saw in Bueller’s window this morning. I think I heard a pair of turtledoves cooing to each other this morning too. That has to be a good omen, right?"
Anne mentally sighed and thought to kill HER two birds with one stone. "Anya, we were just headed to University to begin my education. Won't you join us? I'm sure a lady such as yourself will wish to be fully knowledgeable about all you will need for the perfect wedding, and where better than a library?"
Anya abruptly turned and joined the two as they headed for Willow's sedan and a day of education. "Yes, I want to make sure I have the absolutely perfect day! A girl only gets married once--well, some more than once, some lots more than once, but not THIS girl! No, ma'am, I'm a one-man woman and Xander is my man."
Willow managed to hold her tongue. After her slip with the dark magic, she didn't have any rocks left to throw Anya's way, at least not today. Willow remembered the plan to delay the actual event and decided to plant a few seeds while the opportunity presented itself. "Oh, and don't forget all the showers you have to plan for even before the wedding. Lots of gifts, lots of details, and did I mention lots of gifts?"
"Are there money showers?" Anya wondered aloud. " Because Xander and I could use a bit of a boost in feathering our nest."
"That's kind of tack…umm…Why don't we check it out and see if that's doable," Willow tap-danced. No way was this ex-demon going to embarrass Willow's oldest friend by soliciting funds, but Willow might be able to channel that desire to acquire into a long string of showers that would keep Anya happily distracted during what could hopefully turn into a long engagement.
"So, am I back to my usual pale perfection, or is me mum gonna have the vapors with one look at her boy?" Spike asked Xander as they headed for Revello Drive.
Xander gave Spike a dirty look and took the bait. "Number one, you are not a perfect anything … except maybe a pest. Number two, I don't have a clue what the 'vapors' are." He caught the smirk on Spike's face and decided to let the insults slide. After all, he had promised Mrs. Pratt to give her son a chance. "If you mean do you look less like the loser in a bar brawl? Yeah. And you know, Spike, the game's pretty much up."
"What game's that?" Spike was more than a bit nervous about what had transpired between his mother and Harris.
"The whole 'Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins' shtik with the street urchin accent. Your mom spilled all the beans and they spelled out Cambridge." Xander had the satisfaction of seeing the vampire actually manage to pale further. "Wow, didn't know vamps could get any less color!"
"I love my mum with all my heart, but I wish she'd keep the family pride a bit to herself," Spike muttered. 'Took a lot of time to perfect my image and she goes and blows it to the whelp, of all
people!' "No way of savin’ my image, is there?"
"Not a chance, Giles, Jr.," Xander joked and grinned in glee at Spike's discomfort. This was far better than his previous bullying tactics!
"Could always eat the lot of you and get the image right back," Spike threatened half-heartedly.
"Not so long as you're all Chips Ahoy Boy, I'm happy to say," Xander reminded him. Fortunately, he wasn't looking at the alarm that crossed the vampire’s face as he remembered his present chipless state. If Buffy and her groupies found out he wasn't nearly as fangless as they thought, he'd be dust before he could offer a word of protest.
With that sobering thought, Spike began to try to think of how he could kill Ben without giving away his lack of government devices. 'Gonna have to stop with the pointless threats too, you git, or they'll never relax around you without the hardware. Gonna have to kill like a man, not a vamp, if I don't want any suspicion from the Scooby pointy wood glee club. Figure out later how to break the news I'm my own vamp again.'
The teasing session came to an end as the duo arrived at Buffy's house. Xander decided getting Spike's mom to take those walks down memory lane might just prove a gold mine in the Spike-baiting arena. Just because he was going to stop being a mean-spirited bully didn't mean he should have to give up all his fun!
Giles was excited and interested in the information they had gleaned from the knight. With any luck, they could discover the host and remove Glory from the scene without having to take her on in all her power.
Giles headed to a pile of research books to see if there was any help to be had within the dusty tomes littering Buffy's dining room table. Xander, seeing a long, boring afternoon on the horizon, scooted into the kitchen to start the coffee and avoid a research assignment. Spike decided to use the opportunity to do a bit of his own research.
"Think I'll take a page outta Red's book and see what I can find online," Spike announced and headed to the end of the table with the laptop. Giles was already lost to the world of the printed page and merely grunted in agreement. Fortunately, Spike was not yet pigeonholed in the role of prime researcher material and the Watcher was doing his best to tune out distractions.
'Let's see,' Spike mused, 'gotta kill quick but not be too obvious. Best find out a bit about the ‘good’ doctor then.'
Ben headed toward the inquest he was fully expecting from the two doctors waiting for him at the end of the hall. Once again Glory had taken over their shared body and made him miss rounds. He
had already run through all the accepted excuses for such behavior and was desperately trying to think of something that might be believed. "I'm so sorry I'm late!"
"You're not late," the elder doctor said in monotone. It was such a shame, really; the young man would have made a fine doctor had he but applied himself. "You can't be late for a job that you no longer have. Much to no one's surprise, I have decided to give your position to someone who will actually show up to do the job."
Ben's face fell at the news. "There's an explanation…which I can't exactly give right now…Can I just say it's not my fault?"
"I think you've already used about all the explanations there might be, don't you, Mr. Wilkinson?" The doctor sighed in sadness. He really took no joy in watching talented young doctors implode under the pressure of internship. This case was one of the most extreme in his experience. "Take responsibility for your choices at least, Ben. Get your act together and you may have a career one day."
Ben turned away, his face flushed with anger and frustration. He headed for his locker to pack up his dreams. "This is so unfair! She's taking everything that matters away from me." The other interns looked on in puzzled embarrassment as their former colleague banged on his locker and ranted in fury at the injustices of his life. "I'm Ben, I'm Ben, I'm Ben," he chanted.
'Maybe he's schizophrenic,’ thought more than one. At least two witnesses decided an incident report was in order and scurried off to file one.
Giles was getting restless. Nothing in the many books was proving promising and he was beginning to suffer a bit of eyestrain.
Xander was reaching for the last of the jelly donuts and asked for the millionth time when Buffy was due home from her job interviews. The bot wasn't up to freestyle question and answer sessions yet, so Buffy was doing that phase of the search for gainful employment. It was hoped that the actual employment part could be done by the Buffybot when the time came to actually punch a clock.
Spike was engrossed in whatever was flashing on the computer screen. 'Probably porn,' thought both Giles and Xander at the same time.
Spike had taken careful notes on his selected method of murder, making sure to use Fyarl to keep the others from understanding his chicken scratch. Now all he needed was a bit of information on the not-so-completely good doctor himself and he'd know if his plan was likely to work. He brought up the Google search engine and began to type in the name of his nemesis. There might be several Dr. Wilkinsons in the greater Sunnydale area, but Spike doubted it.
He had managed to get far enough to type 'Dr. W' when Xander sidled up behind him. "Whatcha doin’, Spike? On the scent for a way to find Glory's host?"
Spike jumped in his seat startled from his concentration. Thinking quickly, he finished typing 'ho' onto the ‘Dr. W..’ query and hit enter. "Just takin’ a break, checkin’ to see if the idiots in charge of decent programmin’ are gonna bring back Dr Who." The screen began to fill with the many sites dedicated to the long running sci-fi series.
Much to Spike's alarm, his smoke screen aroused interest in both the Watcher and the boy. "God, I used to get so scared at times!" Xander admitted. "Then I'd get embarrassed when the monster of the week was some guy covered in carpet or looked like a giant, rolling saltshaker."
"Ah, the days when story content mattered more than special effects," Giles added sagely. "The program is a classic, really; still entertaining all these many years past its prime."
Xander was animated on the subject. "So, G-man, I heard a rumor that they are going to maybe start with new episodes. The movie flopped here but did okay in Britain, or at least that's what they said at the web site. Who do you see as the next Doctor?"
Giles decided to ignore the hated nickname and gave the question some thought. "I rather like the idea of that handsome chap in the Gold Blend advertisements, actually. I think he could add a
bit of dash to the role."
"Yeah, it's called Taster’s Choice here, but isn't he a little old?" Giles gave the boy a dirty look as the actor in question was about Giles' own age. "I mean the Doctor has been a lot of different ages, but they want to play to the younger audience and manly youth is the way to go there."
"Well then, who would you suggest, given your expertise as a casting agent?" Giles snarked.
"Maybe Timothy Dalton. He was much better as 007 than he gets credit for and he's got that whole suave thing happenin’," Xander suggested.
"Are you daft?" Spike joined in, temporarily sidetracked. "The Doctor isn't suave. He's edgy, quirky. He's a soddin’ time lord!"
"So Mr. Vamp Expert, who was your favorite Doctor?" Xander challenged.
"Tom Baker, of course. Had a real handle on the role. Bit of dash, bit of humor and a natty dresser, man made his own style others copied. Coulda used a bit of hair gel on those curls but had his own style, didn't he?" Spike looked to Giles for agreement.
"I think Jon Pertwee was far superior, actually," Giles said, with a negative shake of his head towards Spike. "The man had dignity and class, just as one would expect in a character so well travelled and advanced."
Xander laughed at both of them. "Yeah, well, Peter Davidson had Peri--beat that! Do you even remember those costumes they put her in?"
"Well, if you're talking about companions, the real chemistry was between Tom Baker and Lalla Ward. You could feel the electricity between The Doctor and Romana," the romantic William in Spike piped up. After all, the couple had begun a real-life romance while playing their roles.
"Tosh, the best companion has always been Sarah Jane Smith. That's why she's returned more than once. Same actress too, so that says something. No Sarah Jane #2 needed there," Giles offered.
"Man, I could sure use one of those sonic screwdrivers," Xander the Construction Worker lusted.
"I'd be happy with the Tardis," Giles and Spike said at the same time.
The three men looked sheepishly at one another and Xander had to continue by bringing up the Master and how he was like Magneto of the X-Men. Another argument ensued as each expressed their take on the villain.
"He had that whole hypnosis thing, kinda like a thrall. That's cheatin’, like that poof Dracula," Spike insisted.
"But it worked, didn't it?" Xander pointed out. "Face it, he could've done the whole universal conquest thing if he'd wanted to. There was no one who had a better chance than the Master."
Buffy had come in at the tail end of this conversation and paled at the sound of that dreaded name. "Oh, God! Not him again! Don't I have enough to worry about with Glory without having 'fruit punch mouth' to deal with!"
Xander looked confused for only a moment before realizing that Buffy had her Masters confused. "No, not The Master, the Master. You know, the Doctor's Master."
Buffy scrunched her forehead adorably and asked, "The Doctor?"
Spike understood how Buffy felt at the reminder of his long-gone and unlamented ancestor. "Yeah, not old bat face, the Time Lord Master from Gallifrey."
Buffy just looked even more confused. "Doctor…who?" meaning she was clueless.
"Precisely!" Giles exclaimed in triumph. "Dr. Who indeed."
Much to Spike's relief, the trio left the dining room with Giles and Xander intent on educating Miss Buffy on the finer points of old British science fiction programs.
"Back to the important stuff now," he muttered as he Googled his way into Dr. Wilkinson's information. "Now to hack my way into the good stuff. Hospitals are so much easier than that stupid college dorm assignment program," he decided as he typed furiously at the keyboard.
"Best get the dope on the dope before the Three Stooges come back in here," he mumbled.
Giles and Xander were busy putting together the evening meal, thus saving them all from yet another pizza or, worse yet, Buffy's cooking.
Spike was satisfied that he had all the information he needed to not only kill Dr Ben Wilkinson, but to do it with no suspicion cast on the death. Spike not only had plans, he had backup plans to his plans.
As the kitchen crew joked and continued teasing Buffy about the first pop culture trivia she was clueless about, a vamp on a mission slinked out into the twilight for a rendezvous with destiny.
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