Willow smiled politely as Beryan, the Pixie leader, entered through her bedroom window. Her smile lessened as another three followed their chief through and it turned to an all out frown as another six suddenly jumped into the room from the other window.
Xander stayed in his seat looking about him at the little figures that were now using the curtains to abseil to the carpet. As they reached the floor another ten came through the bedroom windows.
Buffy had already moved further into the room when the tapping had started, but she'd stopped when she realized it wasn't Faith. Now she watched warily as the purple beings swarmed around her and began using their tiny hands and feet to haul themselves up onto the bed.
Another ten coming into the room had Willow stepping hurriedly closer to Buffy and Xander; in other words, further away from the Pixie-sprouting window.
Buffy looked from one friend to the other but finding no flicker of understanding, she turned to face the Pixies who by now were lining themselves up regimentally on Willow and Kennedy's orange tie-dyed quilt cover.
"First of all, you guys really should think about the coordinating a little better, 'cause you and the bed, kinda clashy," Buffy observed before asking, "And second of all: what's with the invasion of Willowsville?"
In the boy's dormitory Peter burst out laughing when Miley fell over his own feet trying to leave. Rajiv joined in and even Reece cracked a smile despite the bad mood he was in.
If he was to be honest, Reece would have to admit that he'd thought this Watcher selection camp would be a doddle. That he'd breeze through his time at Sunset Camp in the same way he breezed through everything else.
After all, he was living in a house made up predominantly of women and that had always been his area of expertise. Except not on this side of the pond apparently.
He felt he'd made an enemy of Ms. Summers without even trying, which hadn't been the smartest thing to do as the prissy bitch held a lot of sway with old man Rupert.
Not that the old boy could discount him on the say so of his one time Slayer. No, the Highbury name was too well invested in the history of the Council for that. If Reece was turned away because of something Buffy Summers said, there would be many questions asked that Rupert might find difficult to answer. Maybe the little band of vagabonds from Sunnydale thought that Mr. Giles was now the Council's top brass, but there were plenty of people back in Britain that didn't want their heritage going to the bloody yanks.
So this hadn't been the cake walk he was hoping for, but it hadn't been a total waste of time. He'd met the delightful Dawn Summers for one, and was pleased to find that she was nothing like her sister. He was confident enough to bet that before he returned to England he would know her even better. Yes, there were reasons to keep on smiling.
"Up you get, Miley," Reece called to the boy as he started for the door himself. "Or do we have to get you stabilizers for your feet?"
Rajiv broke into easy laughter at the jibe, which wasn't a surprise considering the concoction of herbs and mushrooms the young man had been consuming since they'd arrived. What was a surprise was the way Anthony's feet suddenly disappeared from view. Or maybe it was the way they lifted off the ground before they disappeared from view.
Either way it was enough to stop Reece in his tracks. He frowned at the doorway. Something was going on here.
Another surprise came in the form of Peter shouting. It was a shout of pain and annoyance and Reece immediately turned to his best friend.
"What is it?" He demanded.
Peter was staring at his hand which he was holding up to his face. "A...a...a cocktail stick, I think."
"What?" Reece didn't understand but he didn't like the pale complexion his friend now had. Another squeal from outside had him heading for the door again.
"He's got a cocktail stick sticking in his hand." Rajiv cleared up Peter's predicament as he leaned in for a closer look. "How d'you manage that?"
"I...I didn't," Peter stuttered. "Someone threw it at me."
Rajiv looked around at the sparsely furnished dormitory. "Like who, man?"
"I dunno. Just... pull it out of me or something." Peter held his hand out to Rajiv.
"Do it yourself." Rajiv backed up some. "It's only a cocktail stick."
"Yeah, but it's like all the way in. I can see it coming out..." Peter had to stop talking to swallow. "Just bloody do ...Ow!" He suddenly jerked forwards and grabbed at his bum which caused him to say "Ow!" again.
Reece looked out of the door, trying his best to make out the darker shape against the darkness of the lawn. He wanted to believe that Miley was just, for some unknown reason, crawling on hands and knees across the grass away from the dorms and the house, but his eyes wouldn't reconcile what his brain wanted to believe. The shape was all wrong. And there had been the scream. And, well, all of it really.
"You two pack it in. I think something's got Anthony. Let's..." Reece started to marshal his limited troops.
"Sod Miley, I got bigger problems," Peter complained.
Reece turned to him impatiently. Peter was standing almost on tiptoe and the paleness had been replaced by redness; he was breathing a little irregularly.
"His arse is full of cocktail sticks," Rajiv explained, barely keeping his giggle in check.
Reece took a second to register that, but failed. "What?"
Peter sheepishly turned around to show that indeed someone had used his arse as one would use a pineapple at a cocktail party.
"What the hell..?" Reece shook his head and watched in amazement as Peter flinched again. A stick was now embedded in the front of his right thigh. Looking around Reece couldn't see where they might be coming from.
Making a snap decision, he barked his orders. "Both of you get down and Rajiv, de-quill Pete. I'm going after whatever's got Miley. Hopefully it hasn't eaten him yet."
Squatting quickly, Reece pulled a rapier out from under his bed and sucked in a breath as a cocktail stick pierced the skin of his hand. He pulled it out irritably and was back on his feet again, heading for the door. He threw one last order over his shoulder before he reached the threshold. "Stay in here."
"Guud idaai, Biggaar!"
Reece didn't see what uttered the foreign battle cry, but whatever it was swung through the door way and kicked him right between the eyes with both feet.
His brain registered the pain as his body toppled over backwards. As sleep started to claim him, he imagined it was like being hit with a sock full of pool balls and then he was out.
"Wee trasted yow, Buffee, aand yow brook yow prumis. Sow naw wee taake iit intow oor oown haans."
Beryan's anger was making her accent thicker than usual and Buffy was having a hard time deciphering every word, but she was getting the gist.
"You're still not happy about the Watcher trainees being here."
There was shouted agreement throughout the Pixie ranks.
Naomi finished brushing her hair and placed the brush back in her bag. No such thing as a dressing table here. Everything she owned was packed into the super sized rucksack her father had purchased especially for this trip.
'A Watcher,' he'd intoned, 'must always be prepared to decamp with only the clothes on their back.'
But William Ramstock knew his daughter well, which was why he gave her a rucksack large enough to carry her entire wardrobe around on her back, with room left for a kitchen sink if she cared for one.
It wasn't exactly the lap of luxury though and no one had brought a travel iron with them and the one belonging to the camp's permanent residents was already sorely overused.
Still, camp life was fun in its own way. Naomi smiled at Rona and Alison as they finished getting ready.
"Are we all set?"
"Set to jet," Alison agreed, pulling a black wool cap over her dark blonde hair. "If tonight is anything like the last full moon, you're in for quite the experience." She grinned good-naturedly at Naomi.
Rona packed an extra stake into the thigh pocket of her cargo pants. "Yeah well Werewolves are a new one for me too," she said. "So let's hope we don't have the fun you guys had last time."
They were about to leave the girl's dormitory, but were stalled by the tiny purple man sitting on the door handle. Actually at first it was the tiny purple man that stalled them, but then the three noticed the tugging on their pant legs and looked down.
"What on earth..." Naomi cried, jumping back. The little purple thing just clung on and when she was still again continued its climb up her clothes. "What is it?"
Rona was dancing around, she had two of the beings on her and neither one would be shaken loose. "It's those little critters from the woodshed. What the hell are they doing in here?"
Alison, the longest resident at the camp in the room, was the only one to remain calm. "It's okay, they're friendly. They don't want to hurt us. I don't know what they want, but I'm sure it's not to hurt us." For someone who didn't have a clue as to what was going on, she sounded pretty convincing.
Naomi tried to keep still and not think about spiders or rats crawling all over her, these things looked nothing like spiders or rats, plus they were purple, so why couldn't she stop thinking about them?
Rona quit her jumping around, more because it wasn't doing any good than because she believed Alison. The two pixies climbing her had reached the braids woven into her hair during her stay in Kenya, and went up them hand over hand. When they reached her ears Rona couldn't see them, but she felt the sudden prick to her ear lobe. "What the hell are they doing?" She asked again.
Naomi had her eyes closed now, so she had no way of knowing what was going on.
Alison looked down at the pixie climbing up the front of her sweatshirt and gulped. It held the tiniest crossbow the young Slayer had ever seen, not that she'd seen a lot, and it was pointing at her right nostril.
"Okay so far, this is nothing like the last full moon," she squeaked.
Faith was fighting for her life in the tiny corridor between the shop and the kitchenette.
Initially driven backwards under the combined weight of all three vampires jumping her at once, she was now backed up against the wall delivering blow after blow to her attackers. Only problem was, even using both hands at the same time, she was still only doing two-thirds of the damage to them that they were doing to her.
Normally three vampires wouldn't even cause her to sweat, but she was beyond tired and her body hadn't had the novelty of a square meal in a couple of days. Right now, she knew she was only at fifty percent fitness and that it wasn't good enough.
She weaved from side to side trying to dodge as many as their punches as she could. Catching one's arm, she yanked him towards her and dropped her shoulder so that his face slammed into the wall behind. Faith pushed him away again and he stumbled drunkenly as blood spilled from the large gash in his bumpy forehead.
That move cost her a world of pain as another took the opportunity to get in a good couple of shots to her face. She slumped back against the wall, just for a second as the pain flared and died, and then she was back out swinging with punches that became even more undisciplined the longer the fight went on.
At last she got lucky; a shot opened up and Faith plunged her stake deep into a vampire's chest, but just as the wood penetrated skin another of the evil undead rammed himself hard into her left side.
Going up on tiptoe, she cried out in pain as that shoulder, already weak from an accident years before, was wrenched upwards with some force. The stake still in her other hand penetrated at the wrong angle, and while it caused the demon to howl out his own pain, it wasn't the killing strike Faith had needed.
Before she fully recovered herself, the bastard that had rammed her in the first place grabbed two handfuls of her jacket and threw her to the other side of the narrow corridor and it was Faith's turn to smack face first into the painted brick wall.
She staggered back, reeling, threw a blind punch hoping it might connect with something and then took a kick to the stomach that doubled her over, coughing. Another blow to the side of the head had her falling sideways to the floor.
Dazed as hell, she struggled against the three vampires now on top of her, pinning her to the linoleum floor.
"Good lord, I never realized there were so many." Giles replaced his glasses for another long hard look at the pixies. Purple beings perched on bookshelves and furniture, curtain rails and door handles, and they clung to the ceiling fan and the banisters. All but the one atop the TV were brandishing weapons; tiny yet lethal looking weapons.
Kennedy and Vi had both sprung to their feet the moment they'd noticed their campmates were armed, but they hadn't done anything else. What else was there to do against foes seven inches tall at most?
The Pixies weren't doing anything but watching them, and watching them quite timidly too for the most part. One or two looked to be glaring with fierce indigo eyes, but it was mostly the silence that was unnerving. They seemed to be waiting for something, a signal possibly or maybe to see what the humans were going to do.
Giles was caught between fascination and slight tickle of fear.
The weapons the little beings held were... knitting needles? Yes, he was pretty sure they were knitting needles. Where on earth they had gotten them from was a mystery to him. As far as he knew no one in the house knitted, but then the beings themselves were enough of a mystery to start with. Along with the sixteen inch needles some of them also carried round metal shields fashioned from what looked to be the tops of tin cans.
Primitive their arms and armor may have been, but one couldn't deny their ingenuity.
"This isn't all of them." Andrew, still sitting on the couch, was hugging the baby demon to his chest.
Goorzah herself appeared oblivious as she stuck her foot into the plastic bowl fallen from Vi's lap, kicking popcorn around as she tried to pick up kernels with her fat toes.
Dawn rose from her armchair, careful not to make any sudden or alarming movements and sidled over to the sofa where she lifted Goorzah's legs, much to the young demon's chagrin and settled herself under them, as close to Andrew as she could manage.
"Hey guys," she waved to their unexpected visitors once she was settled.
"What do you mean this isn't all of them?" Giles asked. "There must be fifteen at least."
"I'm counting seventeen." Kennedy glanced sidelong at Giles as she spoke to him while trying to keep as many of their visitors in sight as possible. "But Andrew's right - this isn't all of them."
"Good lord," Giles repeated under his breath.
Upstairs, Willow's bedroom resembled a pro-war rally.
"Yeah I get what you're saying..." Buffy tried to make herself heard over the Pixies shouting, but they just got louder.
"Git theem oot!"
"Naw Watchoors on oor laaan!"
"Naw moe Watchoors, naw moe Watchoors, naw moe Watchoors…"
"Keek theem intha conkernockels!"
"Why are you wincing?" Willow asked in a hushed voice.
The two were standing by Willow's wardrobe now at the back of the room away from the bed.
"Conkernockels, kicking in the... Let's just say I don't need a diagram."
Willow giggled, only shushing herself when Buffy turned a half angry, half helpless look her way.
"Yes, well, luckily you're not a Watchoor," she whispered to Xander when Buffy had gone back to being drowned out.
"Yeah just being a carpenter has its perks sometimes."
They fell silent as they listened to the protest again.
"Sen theem bak tow Englaaan!"
"Naw Watchoors on oor laaan!"
"Tuk eem tow a bricklstilk!"
Willow and Xander glanced at each other questioningly before shrugging and turning back to watch the show.
"Look, Pixies I know you're upset." Buffy was trying. "Everyone in Ohio knows you're upset," she added, "but this isn't doing anything but giving me a headache."
"Piskies oof tha Crow an Wragh, yow unream'd tootened pattick!"
"I think she made them mad." Xander pretended to scratch his chin to hide his grin.
Willow didn't seem to hear him. Turning his way she said seriously: "You're not just a carpenter."
"Well I'm certainly no plumber."
"I mean you're not just a carpenter. Being a carpenter, especially a good one like you, that's a big deal, Xander. How many times did you rebuild Casa Summers when the First was after us?" she asked as an example.
"Yeah but I'd had a lot of practice by the end there. I was like one of those rats in Science Class - sure it looked clever making its way through all the right tubes, but really it just remembered where the pellets had been before," he grinned, refusing to take her compliments seriously.
A shrill whistle cut off Willow's next words and the riotous Pixies. The Scoobies looked to Buffy, but she was looking as surprised as everyone else.
Eventually all eyes turned to the crescent of brass that served as the Willow and Kennedy's headboard.
Beryan, Mawther of the Piskies, was standing on it, balancing perfectly despite her ample frame. When all eyes were upon her she shouted:
"You aar all aas baad aas each utheer! Dundleheads! Naw wonder tha human races aar in sor much traable!
Willow and Xander shared another look, asking in unison, "What did we do?"
Craig sat with his back to the wall of the house underneath the Rhododendron bush. No one had left yet, or at least no one had left in the truck. It was possible the patrol, as Andrew had called it, would be going on foot, but Craig could hear lots of shouting coming from a window above and just around the corner from where he was sitting. He couldn't really make out what was being shouted, but he heard Buffy's voice and surely she'd be going on the patrol with the others.
Getting as comfortable as he could while being attacked by an army of gnats, he decided to wait until the place quietened down a bit before putting his plan into action.
They weren't biting her!
Through the haze of rage and pain this was the thought that kept repeating itself in Faith's brain. If they'd been really determined, the three of them could have drained her dry by now, but instead two of the fiends held her upper body tightly against the dirty linoleum while the third swiftly unbuckled her belt and unzipped her jeans.
Disgust joined the rage and pain as she realized what they had in mind.
"No! Get off me you friggin' perverts," Faith thrashed about uselessly as her jeans were tugged over her ass. "Get off me, get off me, GET OFF!" she screamed as loud as she could.
"Would one of you shut her the hell up!" The vampire pulling at her jeans demanded as he moved down her legs, pulling the pants with him.
A rough hand slapped hard over her mouth, shutting her up. Biting down hard, she bit a chunk out of the hand and there was a squeal of pain followed by the taste of gross cold blood in her mouth. The hand went away and Faith desperately tried to spit the blood back out. If she swallowed any of that shit and they bit her, she was well and truly screwed.
Unwittingly she was given help by the one of her attackers. A hand gripped her throat, squeezing hard enough to make sure she couldn't swallow a thing, possibly forever. Strangulation was a lot more fun to give than receive.
"Careful Dave, I want Faith nice and alive for this." The voice came from down by her feet. She couldn't see that vampire anymore, but she could feel him unhooking her jeans from her ankles and pulling them completely off.
The hand on her throat gave a particularly sharp squeeze then - Dave obviously didn't like taking orders - and Faith kicked out with both legs as she tried pushing herself away from the choking pressure on her throat.
Both of her feet connected with something that could only be her pant-stealing pervert. "Hey, hold her!" he cried, as he was kicked a few feet backwards to land on his ass.
The pressure on her throat was lifted as Dave laughed. The other vampire growled in response and grabbed her under the chin, wrenching her head backwards, but Faith could breathe again and she had her legs free. Before the vampire by her feet could recover, she rolled her body backwards, bringing her legs up over her head and kicking both Dave and the other goon in the head. As they fell back she scrambled to her feet, gingerly feeling the skin of her throat and finding it swollen.
She'd have to lay off the karaoke for a while then, and damn she was such a fan.
The pervert was already on his feet in front of her, slowly balling her pants up before chucking them behind him.
"How do you know my name?" she asked, every word scratching her throat. She took an intimidating step forward and he didn't so much as flinch.
"Who said I knew your name?" he asked with a shrug.
"You just said it, dumbass."
His reply was a punch so quick and so hard that she didn't see it coming until his fist knocked her backwards off her feet, into Dave and the other vampire waiting behind her. It had hurt so much that it was a moment before she could even think to struggle and by then Dave and his pal had a tight hold on her once more.
"Do not ever call me that again!" the pervert shouted at her, tiny nauseating specks of spittle hitting her face.
"What, dumbass?" she asked. Her face screwing up in revulsion she tried to turn her face to her left shoulder to wipe the moisture off. A knee rammed into her lower back and a twisting of her left arm, sharp enough to make her forget her aching face, kept her still. "I think the name suits you," she ground out defiantly.
A second blow to her face delivered at the same time as another knee met her spine from behind drew a shout from her, half from pain and half from anger. An arm went around Faith's neck, dragging her upper body down from behind and almost choking the life from her. Clawing at the arm did as much good as kicking a giant in the shin and Faith had no choice but to go where it wanted her to go.
"What the hell is your problem?" It wasn't easy for Faith to talk, but she gurgled the words out. If Dave or the other guy, she didn't know which was holding her now, loosened up a little they'd be dust before she turned around. Or they would be if wishing made it so. One thing was for sure: the sooner they killed her, the less time she had to get out of this place alive.
The vampire who seemed to be in charge smiled at her again around a full set of sharp fangs. "You mean aside from the obvious."
"Yeah, if you just wanted to taste slayer blood I'd be dead by now," she gurgled. "You have some personal beef with me and I want to know what before I kill you."
Faith's big talk was met with more smiling from her aggressor. "You see the position you're in, right? Slayer all alone and captured by three of her mortal enemies? Do you really think you're the one calling the shots here?"
Faith sneered, "You low-life's ain't my mortal enemies, you're just the scum that floats on the top."
That one hit home, Faith realized as the vampire in charge leaned in and grabbed her by the side of the face.
"Yeah, I'm glad you think like that," he growled, "because very, very soon Faithy, you are going to be kissing this scum's feet." He released her face and patted her cheek hard, causing threads of pain to resonate out from the bruising. "Let's see how you like that."
There he went using her name again. She had no problem with vampires trying to kill her - well she had a problem with it obviously - but it was just part of the job. But when they started getting personal, that made it creepy.
"Keep talking while you can, Scumboy."
Faith fought the urge to struggle against the vampires holding her back. The chokehold had loosened enough to allow her to talk easily, although every word still hurt her throat, but she didn't have enough room to wriggle away yet. To struggle too soon would just make them tighten their grips on her again. Knowing this didn't make it any easier to keep herself in check while the evil bloodsucker grinned inches away from her and she could feel the other two behind, pressing against her, making her skin crawl and her stomach hurt with the staticky warning cramps that came with the Slayer package.
"Just out of interest, how much blood do you guys have to lose before the body shrivels up and you go back to being whiny voices blowing in the wind?" Faith continued to goad them, images of torture filling her mind as she wondered how many holes you could put in a vampire before the only place left un-staked was the heart. "'Cause in a minute, I'm gonna make you wish you'd never been killed."
The vampire in front of her growled, "You did that already!" he shouted in her face. "You spent two months doing that; and now it's my turn to make your death a living hell."
"Now what are you talking about?" she shouted back. "When did I ever do anything to you?"
"Sunnydale!" He was almost screaming in fury now, and his punch to her stomach wasn't exactly friendly either.
"Okay," the word whooshed out along with her breath and Faith, coughing, would have doubled over if the arm around her neck had allowed it. "That explains things a little," she spluttered.
The ex-Sunnydale vampire laughed. "Every time you put me down. Every time you hit me to relieve a little tension! Every time you got what I deserved! You're gonna get it back tenfold." He punched her in the stomach again.
At this rate it was the coughing that was gonna kill Faith first as she struggled to catch her breath yet again.
"Dude, I'm still drawing a blank - you got a name I might remember?" she asked sarcastically once she'd recovered enough.
"Jake." He patted himself on the chest with both hands. "And you're Faith. You think I wouldn't remember you? Coming into my home, slaying my pals - You really think I wouldn't remember you?" he repeated in a shout, punching her in the face again.
She fell back against one of the vampires behind, her head lolling to the side. He growled, twisting her hair painfully so she had no choice but to look up at Jake again.
"Guess I'm just more memorable than you," she spluttered against the blood welling up inside her mouth.
"Still a smart-mouth bitch, ain't you. I always knew that was gonna be your downfall. The boss might have had a soft spot for you, but sooner or later he'd have gotten as sick of your crap as the rest of us were - I am so sorry I never got to see him eat you. We all knew it was coming."
The Boss? Ah crap, now she knew who this chump was. He'd been her lackey on most of her work-related missions; normally the messy ones. "You worked for the Mayor."
"Yeah and I was with him long before you came along too. I was his top guy until that rat-bastard Trick came to town, he was another one whose mouth was smarter than his brain."
"Yeah well I did you a favor then, stakin' him. You should be thanking me," Faith coughed. She had to keep him arguing while she recovered a little.
"Maybe," Jake nodded, "Maybe you could look at it like that. If you hadn't decided to fill his shoes before his dust even settled." Reaching out suddenly he grabbed the side of her face again, obviously his signature move, squeezing painfully tight. "Do you know how embarrassing it was for me to be demoted for a human?" His fingers increased the pressure on her cheek and jaw, any second now he was going to cave in the bone. "Do you?"
Faith clenched her teeth against the urge to scream until she was able to push past the pain, eventually she ground out: "Pretty damn embarrassing?"
She lost her breath again as she was punched in the stomach and the arm around her throat stopped her from sucking any more air in. This time when the coughing started it didn't seem to want to stop and Faith's lungs soon started burning to match the blaze spreading through her stomach and the heat coming from her cut and bruised face.
"Having a smart mouth got Trick killed." She could hear Jake telling her although she was too busy struggling again to focus on him. "And now it's gonna get you killed too."
"Like hell it is," Faith rasped as she fought to get free. It was a weak effort; most of her energy was used up now and try as she might she couldn't seem to gather any more.
"Don't worry, I'm gonna bring you back, and then we'll see who's the boss," Jake promised, before demanding, "Hold her!"
The arm around her neck increased its pressure and her arms were forced behind her back, the hands holding them so tight she was gonna get third degree friction burns on her wrists if she struggled much more.
"You're gonna turn me?" Faith asked with difficulty and dread.
"I'm gonna make you my minion," Jake laughed.
Despite Faith's increasingly woozy state, or maybe because of it, Jake's fangs seemed to flash into focus, bright sharp white in the gloom of the corridor.
"Like hell you are!" Faith wheezed defiantly.
"Like hell I am!" Jake agreed happily. "You ready for the ride of your life, Minion?" He dropped to his knees and gripped her bare thighs hard enough to bruise as he pulled them apart.
Faith coughed up a little blood and spat it down on his head while she found the strength to talk. "Uh, retard, I think you're a little bit confused... that ain't gonna..." A scream took over her sentence as Jake sank his teeth deep into the upper inside of her thigh.
As the full moon rose slowly over Boudenver, a long, frightened scream came from an upstairs room of the Thomas' house on Old Town Road.
Snarling followed, almost drowning out the sound of a man shouting in panic.
A black and white cat, until then happily sauntering down the road, shot a foot into the air before taking off at break-neck speed, not caring which direction it went in, just that it got as far away as possible from the source of the disturbance.
Bangs and crashes erupted, one sounding very much like a bunk bed being pushed to the ground, which was in fact the case. Neighbors close enough to hear the commotion, frowned at their walls, wondering whether they should go and see if all was well.
Glass and wood smashed, shards from the window flying out to land twenty feet on the road below. A shaggy grey streak of terror followed them, hitting the road on all four paws. Metal shackles hung from one of its paws and bits of plaster fell from the loose end as the monster-wolf shook himself and disappeared into the night.
The remains of the window were shoved upwards with some force and a woman, Mrs. Thomas, leaned over the sill, trying to see where the beast that had destroyed her son's bedroom had gone.
Seeing nothing but the twitching of neighboring curtains, she screamed out: "Eric Thomas, you get back here right now!" When there was no answer she slammed her hands on the window sill in frustration.
Beryan, still standing on the brass bed frame, began to tell the story of the Watcher Wars:
"For a score and ten years we lived in harmony here with the Council of the Setting Sun, aiding in their fight against the evil-beings drawn to the Hellmouth, facing our own battles against the Feeders from time to time and doing what we could to find what was needed for this dwelling to course smooth. We naturally knew more of the land-fruits than Biggars did and our knowledge was not only welcomed but celebrated."
The Pixie leader spoke clearly, her accent easy to understand when she was calm.
"Until the day that skallcock of a man commandeered the camps in Eenglan. He claim us Bal! Us Bal? How can we be accused of being vermin when it is the Biggars that behave worse than rats?" She looked about to spit in disgust.
"Please don't," Willow piped up, fearing for her quilt.
Beryan recovered her composure and continued, her voice unhappy. "When they drove us out of this dwelling," she looked sadly about her at the bedroom as if they'd been driven from that very room. "Poisoned our food and took away all that we had - we let them. We thought it was some mistake, that the ancient pacts had been muddied by some foul deed and that the world would right itself as it always eventually does. But Travers, the skurry Skagdan, he had made no mistake, he knew in exact what he was achieving by tearing the pacts between our races..."
"Whoa there," Buffy stepped closer to the end of the bed, suddenly a lot more interested. "You said Travers, but you also said this happened years ago - how does that add up?"
"How many years ago was it exactly that your pact was, uh, torn?" Willow asked.
Beryan was silent while she worked it out. "Three score and ten," she said eventually. "More or less."
"Seventy years," Willow said.
Buffy had already worked that out for herself. She was starting to get a weird feeling in her chest, like a building pressure that was oddly familiar in an un-reassuring way.
"So Travers was like five, if that, when he kicked you out of the cubby-house?" She asked as she tried to ignore the feeling. Maybe she'd eaten a bad brussel sprout at dinner.
"I do not know, but I imagine he was not a child-Biggar when he pledged the Oath of the Watchers and then destroyed it." Beryan was watching Buffy closely, notably the way her fists kept clenching and unclenching.
"Maybe it wasn't our Travers," said Xander, still leaning against the wardrobe. "Maybe it was his Dad or his Uncle or something."
"Maybe, we can ask Giles. Go on," Buffy told the Pixie leader.
"When the word of Travers reached our fellow dwellers they were slow to act in accord; they no longer came to us for help and we were excluded from meetings where once our presence would have been blessed, but there was no malice in their actions. Until they came and took over our land. Biggars we did not know, and at first foolishly trusted, but it was not long before our shelters were trashed and our bearns were captured and imprisoned."
"Imprisoned?" Willow glanced Buffy's way. "The Watchers kidnapped your children? That's awful."
"Sauld inta sleevary!" Shouted one of the Pixies.
Buffy turned to his hostile shout as it scraped like nails down a chalkboard across her senses. What was wrong with her?
"Apparently we fetch a guud price on the black-market," Beryan said wryly, looking at Willow.
Buffy, those indigo eyes off of her for the moment, tried to relax but her muscles refused.
"Like for magick?" Willow couldn't help recalling class-less afternoons spent pricing and cataloging ingredients at the Magic Box, not to mention the times spent actually doing spells. She'd always assumed Pixie Balls was just a cute name for a flower or something; now she wasn't so sure.
"Yeah well you guys are pretty cute, I'm sure lots of people would want one of you as a pet," said Xander, not getting it. Twenty-nine angry looking Pixies turned to him. "Not that I'm condoning keeping you as pets," he quickly backtracked. "But people weren't as enlightened back in the thirties as they are today."
Beryan was looking at Buffy again, as everyone else in the room glared at Xander. Buffy looked back. Was the little purple person somehow causing this cold pressure building up inside of her? She bounced on the balls of her feet a little.
If she didn't get out of this soon she was going to be dead. Possibly in minutes, but how long didn't matter because if he kept drinking then it was only a matter of seconds before she fainted due to low blood pressure. So she had seconds then, not minutes.
The pain was worse than when Angelus had bitten her neck. Maybe it was because she was already feeling so feeble from her week's adventures or maybe the inside of her thigh was just more sensitive. Whatever the reason, it really hurt, and having her throat almost crushed and her hands almost squeezed off at the wrists wasn't making this evening any better neither.
'Okay I got less than seconds now, I gotta move.'
The alternative just didn't bear thinking about. Death, well she'd resigned herself to that years ago. But being turned? No thank you!
Sure being a Vampiress - was that what chick-vamps were called? - would have its perks; Buffy would never be able to resist her for one, but then she'd have to go through the whole shit of fighting for her soul, or being cursed with a soul or some shit like that and the Scoobs would probably chain her up until she got her soul however she decided to get it. And what if she decided she didn't want a soul once she was evil? She could just see that going over well with B. Plus no more sunbathing, no more enjoying a cheeseburger and fries at MacD's, no more hot blood racing through her veins after a good slay, no more pulse, no more life...
Faith pulled both of her legs up and wrapped them around Jake's neck, grunting in pain as his fangs sank deeper into her skin. Throwing her head back, she caught the vampire holding her neck in the face. The shock loosened his arm and she used that space to slam her head back again. His growl turned to more of a yelp and despite the throbbing in the back of her skull she repeated the move until he released her completely.
Her wrists were pulled sideways as the third vampire stepped to the side, shouting, "She knocked Dave right out!"
Faith registered that but didn't have time yet to appreciate it because she was falling backwards to the ground. The only hope she had to avoid getting her arms ripped off at the shoulders was to land on vampire number three, the one holding them behind her, but without being able to see anything that was going to be next to impossible.
As she fell, Jake's fangs came free of her thigh, leaving her with the burning sensation of torn skin and making him roar in anger. Faith kept her pain inside, using it to add to the strength of her next move. Unwrapping her legs from Jake's neck she used both feet to kick him in the chest, sending him flying across the room.
She couldn't keep her feet afterward and went down to her knees; the vampire holding her wrists was dragged down with her. Landing across her back, he clearly thought Jake's grand plan was finished for he quickly released her wrists with one hand so he could roughly drag her head to one side and expose her neck.
'Okay,' Faith thought, 'just swapped one shitty situation for another one.'
Was it going to be like this all night, just fighting for her life until one of the bastards got a little luckier than her?
Preparing to flip herself forwards before the vampire's fangs could pierce her skin - because really, how much more blood could she lose? -she was saved the bother by Jake coming back into the fight.
Seeing what his pal was about to do, Jake reared back his right foot and kicked the vampire in the face hard enough to make him release Faith altogether. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" he raged, kicking his friend again. "She's not a snack!"
Faith rolled out of the way, trying to get to her feet, but it wasn't happening. Her leg was killing her and putting any weight on it was out of the question. She made do with half crawling and half dragging herself up the corridor towards the small kitchenette. If she was lucky, they would fight amongst themselves until she had time to get out of there.
Faith was almost at the door when her hair was grabbed and she was yanked gracelessly onto her back.
Jake seemed to swoop down into her line of vision, "Going somewhere, Minion?"
Faith spat in his face and he slapped hers hard in return, making her whole head spin.
This was it, she realized; she had no more fight in her - not physically anyway. She could spit in his face a whole lot more and she was probably good for another half hour or so of insults, but as Jake moved between her legs again and pulled them roughly apart, the torn skin of his failed attempt causing her agony, she knew she was done for.
'I'm sorry B, wasn't supposed to end this way,' she thought, gritting her teeth as fangs grazed the thigh just below the previous bite. 'Oh shit!'
The fangs slid into her skin and Faith struggled as hard as she could to wriggle away. Unfortunately it wasn't anywhere near hard enough. As her eyes opened wide in fear she could see vampire number three glaring down at her, his face bloody from the kicking Jake had given him. He wasn't helping anymore, probably because it was clear there was no need to restrain her anymore, or maybe because he was feeling a bit bitter with is friend.
One of Faith's hands gripped Jake's short hair, trying without success to pull him away from her, her other hand slapped the cold linoleum under over and over again as he took more of her blood. She could feel herself slipping, losing herself to the sensation of Jake's sucking. Her thinking was getting fluffy, softening the pain and dulling her perceptions so when her hand slapped a length of sharpened wood instead of the flooring it took a second before her fingers recognized it.
The vampire glaring down at her didn't say anything, but Faith was pretty sure he winked before backing quietly out of the door.
Her fingers felt trembly, but they curled around the stake she had dropped earlier like a lifeline, which come to think of it was what it was. She pulled her arm into her chest, and let go of his hair with her other hand so she had two hands to hold the stake in. She'd need all the limited strength she had to drive the shaft of wood through his skull.
Suddenly his fangs withdrew and Jake lifted his head. "Okay bitch, now your turn." He sat up a little and bit into his own wrist. When he was bleeding he moved it towards Faith's mouth.
"I just wanted to thank you Jake, for making this occasion so special," Faith sneered, her grip tightening on the stake he hadn't seemed to notice yet. Too full of himself.
"Don't thank me bitch, it was all you," Jake chuckled as he pushed his wrist against Faith's now tightly closed mouth.
Faith kept her lips in a tightly pressed line - she'd rather die of suffocation than be turned - and focused her eyes on one particular spot as Jake leaned over her. Counting to three in her mind, Faith's eyes snapped closed and she thrust upwards from her chest as hard as she could.
The wrist pressed to her mouth went away accompanied by a garbled scream, and then Jake's weight left her completely.
Faith opened her eyes to see him sat back on his heels, both of his hands clutching at the stake sticking through his throat just above his Adam's apple. He was making a lot of noise, but none of it actually made any sense
"This... is why...I ranked... higher 'an you," she grunted, trying to fight the dizziness overtaking her. "I'm just... so much... better."
More garbled squealing followed as Jake tried to pull the stake out himself, He was having trouble because the point was stuck in the top of his spine, wedging it in there.
"Keep it down, dude, I got a headache," Faith grumbled.
He let go of the stake and all of a sudden lunged for her, both hands ready to wrap around her neck. Faith had no choice but to sit up and grab the stake to keep him at bay. He let out another distorted scream his hands going immediately back to his throat.
"Jeez, what a sore loser," Faith slurred. "Want me to make it better?"
Jake didn't dare nod his head, but his eyes answered yes.
"Okay, but when I take this thing out of you, your first words have to be 'Faith is the best and I am nothing but a scum-licker', okay?" she drawled, her spirits rising a little at the consent in his whipped human looking eyes.
With a grunt of effort, Faith pulled the blood-soaked stake from his throat.
"I'm gonna tear you limb from..." Jake gurgled as he lunged for her again.
"Fine, in that case, I'm terminating your contract - effective... now." Faith staked him through the heart this time and managed an actual smile as he screamed. Now it was all coming back - How could she have forgotten old Jakey? Then he was dust.
Faith tried to take a look at the double teeth marks in her thigh but it was too dark in the corridor and it was way too tender to touch. She could feel the blood, still wet, oozing down her leg, but it didn't seem to be pouring out.
Wincing with every movement, she started to rise to her feet. Time to find out if the electricity was still on.
She couldn't put her bitten leg down properly and just being upright made her head swim like she'd been doing the worse kinda drugs. Actually it was kinda like the night at the motel with the fancy chick, except that vampire hadn't bitten her as far as she could remember. Trying to shake her head to clear it just made it spin more so she gave up and made for the door to the back room. It was just a few steps but seemed to take such a long time.
Leaning on the doorframe, she reached into the darkness and felt around for a light switch. She didn't care anymore if someone outside saw; in fact having someone call the cops might not be the worse idea in the world. Cops would call an ambulance.
All her wall-patting was turning up nothing though. Swaying, so not wanting to give up her claim on the doorframe, Faith leaned further in and...
...Swung herself around just in time to bring her stake up to heart height.
Dave, the vampire she had knocked out earlier looked surprised to find himself impaled on the stake. He started to voice his surprise, but dusted too soon to finish.
"Frickin' vamps think I'm stupid," Faith muttered to herself, her fingers tightening on the doorframe as her swaying became more pronounced. "Di' he thin' I fo'go' he was th..." Her fingers slipped. "...Oh shi'!"
'Timber!' she thought giddily as she slowly fell over backwards into the dark room and then 'ouch' as her whole body hit the floor at once.
"My Grandmother was a great leader," Beryan was saying. "But she was a leader used to many, many years of peace. When the war began she knew not how to fight back and so the Crow-an-wragh suffered mightily. It was..."
The sudden feeling of a lightening bolt to the chest hit Buffy as the pressure she was feeling increased a thousand times. She finally realized it for what it was, or more accurately when she'd last felt it, because she had no idea what it was and if she was honest it freaked her out more than a little.
As fast as the realization hit her she began to run for the door only to be knocked backwards off her feet before she'd moved a foot across the room. She thrashed about as she fell onto her back, trying to break free of the two dozen Pixies that had jumped her the second she'd moved, but they held her fast, pinning her to the soft carpet by her clothes. She screamed out in fear and frustration:
Faith didn't know how long she lay there in the darkness as her ragged breathing slowly calmed back to normal. She didn't think she'd passed out in the end because she couldn't recall a break from the pain or the hunger she was feeling. Plus she was still holding her stake.
It was still dark outside. If Faith turned her head she could see a big window along the far wall. There was a faint orangey glow coming in, probably from an electric light in one of the many apartments above and around the shop, but it was mostly blocked by stacks of boxes. The room smelled rank; the vampires had probably been nesting here for a while and there was a possibility that if Faith was able to roll over she'd come face to face with last nights lunch. Even the thought of lying next to a dead body wasn't enough to get her up.
As time went by Faith came to the conclusion she wasn't about to bleed to death. However much of her blood Jake had gotten, it obviously hadn't been too much, so while she felt like shit the immediate danger had passed. Unless of course last night's lunch decided to wake up. That thought was enough to get her moving, or trying to.
Keeping her bitten leg as still as possible, 'cause it still hurt like a bitch even if it wasn't gonna be the death of her, Faith half rolled towards the wall she'd been patting down just before she fell. Grabbing the doorframe, she slowly pulled herself into a sitting position.
"Okay." Running a hand through her hair, she looked about her. The darkness was hiding anything worth seeing. "Well that was worth it."
Her throat was scratchy and raw and even the small act of sitting up had made her dizzy again. She stayed where she was for a few minutes, sitting in the doorway just breathing in and out. When she felt up to moving some more she shuffled backwards on her butt, turning enough so that she could slump against the wall and rest her head back. She held her stake tightly in her hand, point out. Hopefully she could rely on instincts and reflexes to save her if she was bothered.
"Perfect," she muttered. Her eyes closed and she knew the best thing - and probably the only thing - she could do now to heal was rest.
A tall dark figure in a long black coat crept up to the back window of the shop. He had to work to see between the stacks of boxes, but when he could what he saw made him smile. He was tired and he was hungry, but this was gonna make it all worth it.
He hadn't been this close to a Slayer in a while and he'd been able to smell her from down the street. You had to love those Vampire senses sometimes, though the scent of several of his deceased kin floating around was less appealing. Stupid kids thought taking on a Slayer was a rite of passage when really it was just a one-way ticket back to hell.
As he watched from the window he saw a newly born fledgling rise from the clutter of the room, his yellow eyes glowing with an innocence a human could never understand.
'Well', thought the dark figure, 'maybe not innocence.' But this kid had no idea just what kind of a nightmare he'd awoken to.
For a moment it looked to the observer as if the newborn was going to head straight out the door without even noticing the easy meal slumped against the wall, but the Slayer's heartbeat was strong enough to be heard from outside the window and it held a draw that even the newest of vampires couldn't ignore. It stopped, sniffing the air and looking warily around. As it spotted the motionless Slayer it smiled, showing lots of sharp virgin fang, and moved confidently in for the kill.
The figure outside growled and there was the crunch of shifting bone. This one was his! He'd found her, he'd tracked her scent all the way across town; there was no way a baby still wet behind the ears was touching his Slayer! It might be a long time before he got another opportunity like this.
He had no idea if the girl was aware she had company. She looked to be exhausted, which would make it harder for her to run or fight and he could smell fresh blood in the air. With any luck, his only obstacle was the fledgling.
He pushed the door open and entered a tiny kitchen cubicle. He didn't waste time closing the door behind him again as he rushed stealthily along the corridor. He guessed correctly that the door halfway up was the one he was looking for and leaped through just as the fledgling was leaning into the Slayer's neck.
With a growl loud enough to be mistaken for a roar he swooped down low ready to rip the other vampire away . . . just as it exploded into dust. Then he was on the defensive as a foot-long pointy branch came stabbing for his chest. But he wasn't an innocent babe and he grabbed the hand holding the stake as it penetrated his skin, stopping it just shy of killing him.
He grinned around his fangs.
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