House of The Setting Sun: House Party
Episode Eight of the House of the Setting Sun Series

Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters, nor do I make any profit from writing about them. No copyright infringement intended.
Rating: R
Summary: Episode Eight in the House of the Setting Sun series. It's All Hallow's Eve and the things that go bump in the night are meant to stay in and bump at home... but that doesn't mean they can't still have a scream.


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Episode Eight
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Act Three, Part B

Rona had passed a few more doors, always on the same side. She had checked them all, but mostly only by stepping just inside the bookcase or welsh dresser or false pantry wall that was acting as a door to give the room the once over.

Occasionally she heard the tap tap of fast paced foot steps again and would freeze in fright, but as nothing ever attacked her, she always kept walking and searching again. Now and then she thought she heard someone whispering her name, but knew it was just the muted sounds of the party causing her mind to play tricks on her. Still, it freaked her out and she could have done without it.

Her next discovery, only three feet from the tiny slit of a window in the far wall, made her grin despite her fear. Not the steep stone steps leading up one way or the equally narrow, dark continuation of the corridor leading the other, but bright light shining through two small holes in the wall. This place really was old school. They were level with her forehead, but Rona went up on tiptoes to peek out, wondering whose portrait her eyes were impostering.

It was hard to tell what kind of room she was looking into. Someone had found or brought in a boom box and Green Day were competing with the Beethoven playing in the Ballroom, because of that the room was extra crowded with kids oblivious to being spied on from inside the walls. It was a voyeur's paradise, but Rona was more interested in trying to get out. There was no door here, just the peep-holes and it was irritating being able to see people having a good time when she wasn't.

Just as she was about to move on, she spotted something that made her eyes light up. Friends! Or people she knew anyway, she conceded, as she watched Andrew and Craig talking directly across the room.

Her excitement was short-lived as from the darkness behind her came the sound of scurrying footsteps again and they were coming towards her fast. Panic overtaking her; she started to bang on the brick wall with both fists.

"Andrew! Andrew! Craig! Help!" She saw the people closest look around, but there was too much noise for her muffled cries to travel far. "Andrew! Andrew! In the wall!"

Someone heard her. The music was turned off. Protests were shushed. Awash with relief she started banging even hard, hurting her fists as the masonry crumbled slightly under her blows.

"Yes! Andrew! Andrew!" People were looking around again, Andrew and Craig included. "Andrew! I'm in the wall, dumbass! Andrew!"

She pounded the wall with both fists at once so hard the painting she was looking through crashed to the floor. En masse, everyone in the room screamed or yelled and ran for the door, Craig and Andrew included. Within seconds there was no one left to hear her.

"Damn." Rona swore.

The footsteps were still coming towards her, unhurried and inevitable and sounding bigger now they were so close. She swallowed hard. There was only one place left to go. With no time to think beyond that, she ran up the steep steps.


"Something feels different," Andrew said again. "Don't you think something feels different?"

"I do." Craig pushed another quail's egg into his mouth and licked his fingers. "I also know something is different. On account of there being all that posh food out there and the dead composers' greatest hits being played all over the house and that blinding flash of Magick that nearly rocked the house right off its foundations."

"Shouldn't we do something?"

"Why? As long as we stay where the portable stereo is this version of the party is better than the other one." Craig scooped up two fingers of caviar and stuck it in his mouth, gagging when he discovered he didn't like it.

"But we haven't seen the others for ages!" Andrew continued, getting the impression Craig wasn't taking this seriously at all. "What if the Magick did something to them?"

"Like what? Made them cleaner? I'm pretty sure it was just your standard uncover spell with a party-twist. It just got rid of all the grime, made the place pretty and... provided quality munchies. Whoever did it probably meant to do it before the party started but didn't get around to it."

"I don't know. I think I'd just feel better if I knew where they were. You can't be too careful in a haunted house."

"It's not a haunted house." Craig laughed.

"I'm telling you I saw a face at that window."

On the other side of the room a couple of guys turned to the wall behind them with puzzled expressions. Andrew watched them, but was in too much of a flap to take much notice.

"So there could be a perfectly logical normal reason for that," Craig shrugged. "Just because we know what we know, doesn't mean everything is related to the paranormal. Besides, it's Halloween and everyone knows spooks and that stay home on Halloween. And if they're at home, they're not gonna be here haunting the place, are..."

The music was abruptly turned off and as everyone looked over to see why, a muffled wailing noise came from the wall.

"What's that?" Andrew's wide eyes were fixed on the wall.

"Not sure," Craig never took his eyes from the wall either.

There was some muffled banging, some more wild wailing. Slowly everyone began to inch away from the wall. Andrew and Craig already had a wall at their back and couldn't go any further.

Now the room was pin dropping silent and the wailing became more distinct.

"There's something trapped in the walls," Andrew breathed.

"Looks like it," Craig swallowed hard.

"Ha!" Andrew turned to him with a triumphant expression. "I told you the place was haunted!"

"Andrew! Andrew!"

Andrew went pale and sweaty as the wall started calling his name. The banging started again, almost pounding really, and then on one particularly long wail of his name there was a boom and an elegantly framed oil painting of Chief Pontiac fell and crashed to the floor.

As one, the room of teenagers screamed and yelled and ran for the door. Andrew and Craig were caught in the middle, but once they'd made it to the foyer they stopped to catch their breath.

"Why is a ghost howling my name?" Andrew asked, still shaking.

"I don't know, but I think it was asking you for help. Maybe it knew you were the only who believed it was there. Maybe the uncover spell sort of... uncovered it and now it knows it's a ghost or... something." Craig shrugged. "I don't know anything about ghosts."

Andrew racked his brains for what he knew. Also nothing. The only ghosts he had made the acquaintance of had really been the First. But surely he must know something.

"I think they like to be exorcised. So they can move on to the afterlife, I think, maybe."

Craig nodded, "That's a start. Maybe this ghost wants you to exorcise it then. How do we do that?"

"I have no idea."

They looked at each other for a moment, both waiting for the other to have a brainwave.

"We have to find the others," Andrew said at last.


Reece heard scampering in front of him as soon as he started walking. His first thought was that this place was full of Piskies too, but then reason told him the scamperer was wearing shoes or boots of some kind and the little purple menaces always seemed to go barefoot. Also whatever was in front of him had sounded bigger than that.

"Hello?"

There was no answer and after a few seconds the footsteps were lost under the muffled sounds of the party.

The first exit sign he found made him laugh. Either this place wasn't as deserted as Dawn had been lead to believe or the kids throwing the party were really conscientious. He found the lever, swung the door open and stepped in holding his lighter above his head.

It was a small room, all wall and no window. Shelves lined the walls cluttered with arcane paraphernalia and in the center of the stone floor was a large chalk pentagram.

"Shit."

He left the room quickly, pushing the door shut with a slight slam. As far as he knew he had no magical ability, but he didn't need any to know walking into a pentagram was probably a bad idea.

The next door he came upon opened into a dining room and the one after that a cold store room. He checked every door he came to with equal interest. Now and then he heard footsteps again, sometime light and quick, sometime slow and heavy. Each time he stopped and softly called out to Rona, but no one ever answered him.

It was as his lighter finally got too hot to hold and he dropped it with a hiss that he heard the yelling. It sounded like Rona, although he couldn't be sure.

"Rona," he said to find out, groping the stone around his feet for the hot Zippo.

Banging drowned out his call. Scooping up his Zippo with another hiss as the baking metal touched his fingers; he dropped it into his pocket and listened again. He could hear someone running away from him and then the shouting started again. He was sure it was Rona, and the harder he listened the more sure he was that she was shouting for help.

"Rona!" He called one last time and then decided to keep it down in case she was in trouble. In the dark he could mount a surprise attack, but he'd give himself away if he charged in shouting her name.

There was more scurrying ahead of him and ragged panting now too and suddenly the smell of vodka hit him like he had walked into a cloud of it. Up ahead, Rona's shouts for help were getting more and more frantic.

Unable to see anything but the tiny slit of a window directly ahead of him, Reece walked as fast as he dared in the dark.

"Just hang on, Slayer," Reece muttered under his breath. "I'm nearly there."

Suddenly there was an almighty crash which made him jump and drew screams from the other side of the wall and seconds later the sound of someone running away as fast as they could.

Running now, mindless of danger, Reece reached the end and looked around wildly into the darkness of the next corridor and up the stone steps, but there was no sign of Rona; no sign of anything.


Gently weaving from one side to the other, the mighty Chosen Two finally left the tavern behind them. It was still pretty early, but Boudenver's main street was quiet, as it usually was. The sound of kids running to and from houses in the side alleys reached the Slayers' ears and they giggled at the childish simplicity of it all.

"Want to hit a few houses? Score some candy?" Buffy asked, pulling her shiny red cape around her bare arms against the cold October evening.

Faith looked across at her. "Be easier just to steal it offa one of the kids."

"Where's the fun in that?"

"You mean aside from the whole stealing candy from the little kids part?" Faith smirked. "You don't think that's fun?"

"You're warped," Buffy shook her head, hiding her smile.

"And you're just realizing this now?"

Faith was taking off her tatty denim jacket, it was already ripped up from two weeks of demon fighting - a testament to her slaying style - and Faith had used her Bowie knife that afternoon to add a few more. The numerous holes meant it didn't offer all that much protection against the chill, but when Faith wrapped it around Buffy's shoulders, the blonde felt warmer from the gesture alone. And at least the dried blood splashes were fake; she hoped.

"Thanks," Buffy smiled.

Faith shrugged.

"Doesn't really go with the rest of my costume though," Buffy pointed out.

"You weren't fooling anyone into thinking you were Wonder Woman anyway, B, so don't sweat it," Faith grinned slyly at her.

"Oh really," Buffy's eyes scanned the street and seeing people around, she pulled Faith into an alley.

Once in the dark, she gripped Faith's hips and easily lifted her into the air until her feet dangled against Buffy's thighs. Faith's jacket slipped from Buffy's shoulders and her shiny red cape billowed in the fresh breeze.

"Still think I couldn't be Wonder Woman?"

Faith hung there from her hands quite happily. "Well you do look good in the outfit," she admitted with a little leer.

Buffy imagined the view from Faith's perspective. "You're looking down my boob-enhancing, spangly red and gold, stiff-as-a-board Wonder-bodice, aren't you?" she asked, with a resigned sigh.

"Uh huh," Faith nodded, "and from up here I can tell you that you don't need any enhancing; your tits are a wonder all on their own."

Buffy dropped Faith so that she landed lightly on her feet, and probably went as red as her bright, shiny cape. Despite her embarrassment at the attention, she was so glad she'd gone with this instead of the cheaper choice of re-making the Little Red Riding Hood costume.

Buffy stooped to pick up Faith's jacket from the ground, realizing too late she was giving Faith another eyeful. "At least I made the effort."

They left the alley and walked on again.

"I made a lot more of an effort than you did," Faith countered as she looked down at her own attire. "All you did was go to a store and pick out the sluttiest costume you could find!"

"I did not!" Buffy pushed Faith hard on the shoulder and the other Slayer stumbled tipsily into someone's front door. Rebounding back, she rubbed her left shoulder where it had struck the green wood and stared doubtfully at Buffy. "It wasn't the sluttiest." Buffy insisted.

The green door opened and both Slayers stepped back in surprise.

"Hello girls, how can I help you this evening?" The house-owner, or door-owner at least, was old, wrinkled and with red-hair that was definitely not natural.

Her wide, dentured smile faltered a little when she realized she had been disturbed by adults not children, but she made up for it by smiling even wider.

Buffy hoped she wasn't about to get hit by a pair of false teeth popping out because she knew she would scream.

"Uh..." Faith began but then didn't seem to know what to follow up with afterward. She made a 'what now' gesture at Buffy.

"Trick or treat," Buffy finished for her brightly.

"Yeah," Faith agreed with a tiny shrug.

The old lady grinned some more. "Well okay, let me see what I can find." She disappeared from the door for half a second, when she reappeared she was carrying a big bowl. "Here's a caramel apple for you, Wonder Woman."

Buffy accepted her apple on a stick from her, smiling brightly. "Thank you."

"And here's one for you, uh..." She took a good look at Faith's costume as she held the apple just out of Faith's reach, her smile wavered again. "Uh?"

Faith looked down at herself and then met the woman's eyes in disbelief. "I'm a zombie! Look," she tilted her head up to show the woman the line of eye-liner butterfly stitches across her neck.

"Of course you are." As the woman addressed the indignant Slayer as if she was nine years old, Buffy bit into her sticky apple to cover her imminent giggles.

"I can see that now. Very realistic claw marks - what got you?" the lady played along.

Faith looked down at the slashed material of her tank top. "Werewolf," she answered truthfully.

The old lady beamed at her, obviously appreciating Faith's little attempts at authenticity.

Faith rolled her eyes. "Can I have my apple now?"

"Of course, dear." The lady handed it over and Faith snatched it away, walking off down the road leaving Buffy to say thank you again.

When Buffy caught up to her, Faith had already finished her apple, was chewing on the last mouthful and regarding the stick it had been stuck on. She made a staking motion with it. "Nah, too flimsy."

The stick was thrown over someone's garden hedge and Faith licked her fingers clean.

"Did you even taste it?" Buffy asked, biting another chunk out of hers.

Faith ignored that. "No one appreciates the work I put into this," she gestured to herself. "It took me ages to get the stitches just right when I couldn't see what I was doing. I had to keep stopping to check they were level."

"It's not that it doesn't look real," Buffy promised her. "When I first opened the front door I thought you'd been in a traffic accident."

They were almost out of town now, just a few more houses and then the road would be bordered on both sides by fields. Buffy stopped under the last street light.

"It's just that when normal people go on a date they dress up not down." With the hand not holding her apple-stick she fingered the tears in Faith's tank top, touching her fingers to the smooth skin of her tummy beneath. "At least on first dates anyway."

"We're not normal people, B," Faith smiled. "If we were, Halloween probably wouldn't have been the first night we had the chance to go out on a date."

"Does this mean I have to wait a year for a second date?" Buffy asked, leaning back against the light pole as she grinned at Faith.

"No it just means we have to make Kennedy and the others work harder." Faith was inexorably drawn to lean closer to her. "Why, are you going to say yes to another date?"

Buffy looked into her eyes, her lips pursing repeatedly as she tried to stop herself from smiling. "Haven't decided yet," she finally replied impishly, slipping away just as Faith's lips were about to land on her own.

Faith sighed impatiently, resting her forehead against the wooden post for a beat before turning and following Buffy up the road into the darkness.

Buffy waited for her to catch up and, after only a seconds hesitation reached out and took Faith's warm hand, earning her a brief smile.

Hand in hand they walked along the middle of the asphalt. If a car came along they would both hear it and see it in plenty of time to get to the dirt edge of the road. The only light out here was the moon high in the sky above them, bathing the fields in silver frosting and making the woods up ahead look even more forbidding than they normally would at this time of night.

Lucky for them that it was the one night of the year when the things that went bump stayed out of the night. It was at least a thirty minute walk back to the camp, all of it along roads as dark, if not darker, as the one they were currently following, but cabs out here in the boondocks were non-existent unless you wanted to pay the fare to have it come all the way from Cleveland first.

The two of them being Slayers obviously meant they could more than take care of themselves if they had to, but this was supposed to be a date and for once Buffy really didn't want to interrupt it for impromptu slaying. There were enough things that could go wrong without adding 'having to work late' to them.

So far though nothing had gone wrong, not really anyway, nothing that would put Buffy off a second date, but that didn't mean it was a good idea to let Faith know that too soon.

"Aren't you cold?" Buffy broke the easy silence between them, realizing she still had Faith's jacket around her shoulders and Faith was only wearing her tiny torn up tank top.

Out here in the open, walking uphill, it was quite a bit colder than it had been in town.

"A little," Faith admitted, shrugging a little to show it was no big deal.

"You should put your coat back on," Buffy started to take it off her shoulders. "I have my cape."

"No, don't." Faith released her hand long enough to keep the torn denim jacket on Buffy's shoulders. "I'm fine, really."

Buffy smiled, Faith's hands were still on her shoulders. "Okay, if you're sure."

"I'm sure."

"You know, Faith, there's not much point in getting top marks for effort if you freeze to death before the end of the date. A girl doesn't like that kind of thing." Buffy smirked, nudging her hip against Faith's as she took her hand again.

"Actually I think most girls would love the idea of their date freezing their ass off so they could be warm," Faith argued with a smirk of her own. "But I'm really not that cold, B, so don't worry about me being too frozen to appreciate the end of our date, alright?" She swung their clasped hands between them a little.

Buffy wondered just what Faith had in mind for the end of their date.

She may have agreed to let the other woman organize everything, after all it was Faith that was supposed to be making things up to her and Buffy was prepared to give her free reign to do that - because she wanted Faith to make things up to her. However that didn't mean that one night in Barnies, no matter how much fun it ultimately had been, earned Faith more than the kiss already promised.

"Are you gonna finish that?"

Faith suddenly speaking after minutes of silence startled Buffy enough that she nearly dropped the apple in question. The road was entering the woods now, trees crowding the fences on either side of the asphalt strip, making the night so dark that it was all but impossible to see one foot in front of the other.

She took another bite from the candy covered fruit before offering it to Faith.

As Faith reached up her free hand to accept it, Buffy pulled it away a little.

"Why won't anyone just hand over the damn apples tonight?" Faith chuckled.

"I'm offering you a bite, not the whole thing." Buffy explained, bringing the treat closer to Faith again. The stick was clearly visible, but the apple was a lot darker in color and couldn't be seen very well.

Faith frowned at it, and then turned the expression on Buffy, who grinned encouragingly and moved it even closer to Faith's mouth. Faith shook her head cynically, but moved in to take a bite at the half an apple left on the stick.

Buffy, unable to help herself, slowly edged the treat out of reach, moving it slowly enough that Faith just kept leaning in, not realizing the goal post was moving.

Of course she realized once her neck was stretched uncomfortably out in front of her and she still couldn't reach the apple.

"B!" Faith snapped, amid Buffy's sudden bout of giggles.

Buffy felt Faith's fingers close over her hand as she tried to pull the apple up to her mouth to take a bite. Knowing Faith would take the whole thing clean off the stick to pay her back, Buffy lowered her mouth to sink her own teeth into it and snatch it up first. Faith's forehead softly bumped against hers as she claimed a chunk of the sticky fruit and Buffy's giggles were exacerbated as she imagined the apple as a piece of spaghetti held between the two of them.

Trying to focus on Faith made her go cross-eyed, the other woman's face was so close, just the other side of the apple in fact. Faith shook her head playfully, like a puppy inviting a tug-of-war game and Buffy nearly lost her tooth-grip on her treat.

She tried to say, "It's mine," but it came out an unintelligible mumble.

Faith held her eyes for another few seconds before biting though the apple with a loud crunch. The quarter left on the stick started to fall away from the wood as Buffy opened her mouth to repeat herself. Faith caught it as it fell between them.

"I said that was mine!" Buffy repeated clearly now her mouth was empty.

"I saved you some." Faith held up the chunk she'd caught and offered it to her.

Buffy glared at her indignantly before leaning down and snatching the offered piece with her lips, she crunched it up and swallowed it down quickly. "You owe me half a candy apple."

"Yeah, yeah." Faith reached for her hand again but Buffy backed away.

"No, your fingers are all sticky!"

Even in the darkness of the woods, Buffy could see the dark shapes of eyebrows wiggling against the pale skin of Faith's face. She slapped Faith's arm lightly and started walking up the hill again. Faith walked beside her, noisily sucking her fingers clean and trying to catch Buffy's eye as she did it.

Buffy kept her eyes straight ahead.

When Faith seemed happy that her hand was no longer tacky, she held it out again.

"No, now they have your spit all over them."

"What's wrong with my spit?" Faith asked.

"Nothing." But she still didn't make it easy for Faith to hold her hand again, pulling it away at the last second every time Faith tried.

"If you have a problem with my spit, it's not just gonna affect the girly hand-holding stuff, ya know?" Faith got a hold of two of her fingers but Buffy wriggled them free.

"I don't have a problem with it."

Their hands wrestled with each other. "In fact my spit is gonna play a pretty big part in this relationship, so if you..."

"Faith," Buffy cut her off, chuckling, "the only problem I have with your spit is that you keep talking about your spit - which isn't as seductive as you might think it is."

"Prove it," Faith succeeded in pinning Buffy's hand in her own and held on tight.

"What?" laughed Buffy, allowing her hand to be held now without a fight.

"Prove you don't have a problem with it," Faith insisted as she swerved around to stand in front of Buffy, stopping her from walking.

"I proved that months ago." Buffy tried to walk around her. "And earlier."

Faith side-stepped to stay in front of her. "I just want to make sure you haven't developed an allergy or something."

"First spit and now allergies, are you trying to turn me off?"

"I think you're trying to turn yourself off," Faith told her in a conspiratorial whisper, leaning as close as she had been when they were fighting over the apple. "And I get why now, but you don't have to."

Buffy leaned away, smirking. "Oh yeah, I've had to make a conscious effort all night not to ravish you, Faith. I don't know how I stopped myself."

"A whole lot of self-control and plenty of fear," Faith answered her seriously. She glanced quickly down at herself. "And my choice of costumes probably helped; no need to thank me."

Buffy smirk was losing its strength and when slightly damp fingertips touched her cheek, she moved her head to the side. Faith's fingers stayed with her though, lightly resting on her suddenly burning skin. Buffy swallowed.

"You, on the other hand," Faith continued softly as she let her thumb trace over the curve of Buffy's cheek, "are indulging one of my favorite fantasies and looking wicked hot while you're at it and I'm being as good as gold over here."

"If you're trying to say I want you more than you want me..." Buffy began quietly.

"You know that's not it, Buffy. Jeez did you forget our conversation earlier already?" Faith took a second just to look into Buffy's eyes. "I'm saying you can relax a little. I know I screwed up, big-time, and I probably will again, but I won't make that screw-up again. I'm in it for the long-haul too, babe, I promise; and... kissing or fucking, that's up to you, but doing neither is just driving us both crazy. That's all I'm saying."

Faith stepped away, giving Buffy back her personal space and instantly it was too much space. Their hands remained clasped as they started walking again, and now their shoulders were lightly touching as well.

Buffy realized she still hadn't said anything and cleared her throat while she tried to think of a suitable response to Faith's honest disclosure, finally settling on, "So did you fantasize about me being Wonder Woman or just about Wonder Woman herself?"


Owen stood behind the banquet table resisting the urge to slap the children's hands away from the food. He sighed to himself as it disappeared all too quickly. There went his leftovers for the next week. He didn't really begrudge them, he always purchased far too much anyway and at least it was being enjoyed. He did wonder if he could get Victor and his friend to help him carry the stag back through to the kitchen; the children seemed to be a little scared of it anyway and if he froze portions it would feed him for a month.

In a way, although he was still disappointed that his small gathering that he looked forward to so much was ruined, and still angry that someone had played this trick on him, it was very nice to see the ballroom filled with people for the first time in over a century. He was even tempted to change the music to something a little more contemporary, because no one was dancing and that was a shame.

Ptah and Zeke wandered over to him, they were both obviously nervous in the crowd and had been staying close together since leaving the library.

"Iggy's in the study playing poker," Ptah informed him with resigned amusement in a voice muffled by his bandages.

"Is he winning?" Owen asked with a small smile.

"Only a little more than he's losing," said Zeke. "Not enough to get beaten up yet anyway."

"Well, that's a mercy at least."

"Yes the last thing we need is a repeat of the Vegas trip in '27." Ptah said as he piled a paper plate high with lettuce, tomato and cucumber.

"Speaking of that trip," Owen said wryly catching the eyes of his friends. "Has anyone seen Vlad since we left the library?"

Ptah paused with a lettuce leaf dangling out of his mouth and Zeke looked around the ballroom uneasily.

Ptah chewed up his leaf. "You told us all to go out different doors and the glow bugs didn't give off a lot of light."

"I think he was behind me walking through the passage," Zeke offered. "But then we came out behind the stage and Vlad kept going."

"He wouldn't, would he?" Ptah asked.

Owen simply shook his head, not knowing the answer. While he liked to think the best of all his friends, it couldn't be forgotten that his friends were all, in one way or another, devilish fiends. It wasn't their fault they were who they were and it wasn't his fault he had formed such close ties with them all. It didn't matter how large your social circle was in youth, the longer you lived the smaller it became; it was inevitable.

Most of the gang had grown accepting of humans over the years. The threat they posed was too great and superstition wasn't what it used to be. Vlad, however, feared no one and something of his status was not going to be weaned onto cow blood no matter how many mobs he faced.

"I'm sure he's behaving himself," Owen said, trying to reassure himself.

"I ain't seen Paddy for a while either," Zeke mentioned as he pulled a leg from the stag as if it was a chicken.

"Well you wouldn't, would you?" Ptah chuckled. "He wouldn't be seen in a crowd of four of these great oafs."

"Paddy will be in a quiet corner with a bottle of alcohol by now." Owen smiled, not worried.

"Yes, give him an hour or two and he'll be trying to sell these youths the deeds to his rainbow," Ptah said laughing, and Zeke and Owen joined in.


Rona had run up the steep steps - there had only been ten of them - and dashed along the passage way at the top, ultra aware of the footsteps following her all the way.

She slapped the walls at handle level as she passed, hoping like hell she'd find a doorway quick so she could hide until whoever was following her had passed by again.

She kept thinking she heard her name being called, but it was far away and distorted so she could have been imagining it.

There was another small slit of a window here and the passage divided but she didn't realize it. Carrying straight on past the grey light coming in, her legs went out from under her as she hit steps she couldn't see. Falling down them, she tried to keep her mouth shut, but couldn't stop a few pained grunts escaping.

She was winded by the surprise of it, but thankfully hadn't picked up more than a few bruises as far as she could tell. Still trying not to make any noise, she untwisted from the heap she had fallen in and started to stand back up facing the steps.

Her heart stopped when she saw the silhouette there, standing right at the top. She started to back away, hoping it hadn't seen her yet, but when moonlight glinted off of the raised for stabbing, foot long carving knife, she screamed...


"Did you hear that?" Zeke cocked his head to one side.

Owen looked around. He couldn't hear anything except Hard Day's Night and many half-drunk school children singing along. After talking to Zeke and Ptah he had changed the music and now The Beatles were playing out of the speakers. Everyone seemed to prefer it.

"No," Ptah said after listening for a moment.

"Thought I heard a scream," Zeke shrugged, his tongue hanging out as he grinned. "Probably just wishful thinking."

"Tonight should be all about screaming." A beautiful blonde girl said as she overheard. She was standing next to him, putting food on a paper plate. "For a Halloween party in a haunted house, it's not exactly scary is it? Someone's even taken all the fake cobwebs down."

She looked up frowning. "Someone's even taken all the real cobwebs down." Shrugging, she grinned at him.

He panted harder and then had to swallow to avoid drooling. "I'm Zeke." He held his paw out to shake.

"Fen," she introduced herself. After shaking his paw she looked down at it, noticing the hair and the long black claws.

He pulled it away self-consciously.

She smiled at him again. "So are you from Bou Academy? Gotta say I'm surprised you pulled this party off. What with you all being posh geeks, no offense, but you guys did well."

"Uh, thanks."

"And, dude, your costume is awesome," she continued. "I know everyone is giving you guys a hard time for dressing up, but, man, at least you went all out, you know? So did you rent it? It looks so real."

"Yeah," Zeke replied, noncommittally. Chatting up humans was hard enough without having to pretend he was in costume.

Then she did the worst thing possible.

"It feels real too." She ruffled the hair on his head, which actually felt really nice, and then ran her palm around to his cheek. "Did you glue a real dog skin on?" she chuckled.

"Don't..." he warned, but it was too late.

As she pulled his whiskers playfully, pain flared in his cheek and he instinctively twisted his head and snapped.

Fen pulled her hand back fast, staring at him in shock. "What the hell, dude?"

"I'm sorry," Zeke said quickly, but in his agitated state it came out as a growl.

Fen stepped back, her eyes going wide. "You're real?"

"This dork bothering you?"

Zeke's eyes snapped from Fen's shocked face to the athletic-looking boy that thought he was coming to her rescue.

"No." Again it came out as a growl. The wannabe Alpha-male waves coming off of this kid was making his lip curl and he took a step back.

"Get out of character and answer me. I said, are you bothering her, dickhead?"

"Charlie, don't!" Fen sounded scared.

Charlie didn't listen to her and pushed Zeke's chest. Zeke looked down, smelling the hormone-y oils left on his shirt by the action. When he looked back up, he was snarling.

"Oh you wanna start something, geek?" Charlie taunted him.

Zeke did, and so he started it...


The yowling, growling and howling was intense. Too much so for any sane human to endure up close. Clothes and flesh were ripped apart with superhuman strength and the blood flew in big, gushing spurts that nearly blinded all vision. The screams of the humans were passionate and painful to hear and only grew louder as it went on.

"Why are we watching this again?" Willow asked from behind her pillow.

"Because it's Fright Night." Xander wasn't hiding behind a pillow, but every time he started to raise his beer bottle to his lips, he pulled it away in a flinch at what was happening on screen.

"Don't we get enough of this, oh I don't know, every night?" Willow squeaked, peeking out and then hiding again immediately.

"Yeah, but neither of us have been much with the patrolling recently. I thought this might keep us in the game." A leg was ripped off and thrown across the screen. "Okay, too gamey!"

Xander pressed the mute button and the TV went blissfully silent.

Willow lowered her pillow and let out a noisy breath.

They shared an embarrassed smile at being so freaked by the film.

"If Buffy was here to see us now," Willow grinned.

"She'd be just as freaked as we are," Xander quipped.

They both watched the on-screen action again. Xander didn't put the sound back on, but that didn't stop it from being terrifying. They sat in silence, still cringing at the muted anguished screams of the villagers and recoiling from the bloodcurdling violence. When there was a loud knock at the front door Willow squealed and pulled the pillow to her face again and Xander spilled cold beer all over his thigh.

"Who is it?" Willow's voice came muffled from behind the peach colored cushion.

"Strangely enough, I can't tell from here." Xander wiped at his bare leg.

"Well, find out, but don't open the door!"

Xander rolled his eye. "It's probably just trick or treaters."

"All the way out here?"

Xander shrugged, squatting down to retrieve a big meat hook from beneath the couch.

"Is that a weapon?"

"No, it's my costume." Xander picked the bowl of candy off of the coffee table. It was only half full now. "I'm the naked pirate."

"Oh. That's different." Willow watched him go to the door over the top of her cushion.

Xander pulled open the front door, holding the hook above his head. "Ahoy, me matey, and who do you be?"

The person on the threshold blinked once at the hook and then again at Xander's boxers.

"Naked pirate. I get it."

"Oz!" Xander greeted him cheerfully and stepped aside to let him enter. "To what do we owe this late night pleasure?"

"Well, I'm all out of candy and I figured Giles would have some." Oz took the bowl as he came into the house. "Not too late for a drop by, is it?"

"No, come on in. Take off your clothes. Pull up some of the couch. Join in the scariest movie you have ever seen in your life."

Oz raised an eyebrow at him.

"Underwear is mandatory," Xander explained.

"Well I am wearing underwear."

"Oz, hey!" Willow greeted as he came into the living room. "What are you doing here?"

"Ralf had a date with a skunk while we were out this afternoon."

"Oh, poor Ralf." Willow looked concerned.

"Oh, don't worry, he's fine. I just needed to seek out some better smelling company for a while." Oz looked around the living room, noting that no one else was around, and then his gaze settled on Willow's semi-nakedness. "If you don't mind, that is?"

"Of course we don't." Willow dropped her pillow and got up from the couch. "I'll get you a beer. Do you want a beer?"

"A beer would be nice." Oz watched her walk to the kitchen.

"Get me one too!"

"Am I interrupting something?"

"What, me and Willow?" Xander laughed. "Just because two friends have an underwear party... By the way, I wasn't kidding."

"About what?"

"Underwear party!" Xander said exasperatedly. "Why does no one get the oh-so-simple concept?"

"Because it's odd."

"You're a guy! You know about watching TV in your boxers."

"When I'm alone."

"This was supposed to be my night alone," Xander explained. "And do you know how often that happens around here? This is the first night since we moved in I've had the big television more or less to myself. It was my night, you know?"

Oz nodded whether he did or not.

"And then Willow came down, but she understands, she's a good friend. So she got in her underwear-like jammies. Now you're here, which is great, don't get me wrong, always happy to hang with the Oz, but if you stay fully dressed, I'm just an idiot in my underwear... on my night! You get me?"

"I do, but... won't Willow mind?"

"Nah, she's seen you in your boxers before. She's seen you naked before..." Oz raised his eyebrow again. "One can only assume," Xander added, grinning.

Oz still looked dubious so Xander sat himself down in the middle of the couch. "There ya go, one on one side of me and one on the other. You won't even be able to see each other."

"Okay," Oz shrugged and pulled his sweater over his head. He was bare-chested beneath.

"Already feels better, right?" Xander encouraged him and then had a thought. "Actually, before you go any further, could you run upstairs and see if there's any pizza left?"

Oz just stared at him.

"One of the new slayers, Vi, used our underywearness against us earlier and took two large pizzas upstairs. She's in my room watching TV. Whatever you can claim back, half is yours," he promised.

"Okay, that sounds fair," Oz went up the front stairs.

Willow came back through from the kitchen carrying three bottles of beer in one hand and a plate of beef jerky and cheese wedges in the other.

"Did Oz go?" she sounded upset. "I got his favorite snacks."

"Nope," Xander said delightedly. "He's gone on a salvage mission."

"Huh?"

"I sent him to grab whatever pizza Vi hasn't managed to scarf yet."

"Oh, good idea." Willow, giggling, set the plate and bottles on the coffee table before plonking down next to Xander again.

Oz came back down the stairs carrying one large pizza box. "Well, she didn't give them up without a fight, but I managed to snatch the six slices that were left. So I get three of them?"

Willow stared at Xander, her mouth quirked in disapproval.

"I kinda promised," Xander admitted sheepishly.

Willow looked at Oz to argue that she had never agreed to that, but he was taking his pants off. Her eyes went wide and she averted them quickly, keeping her mouth firmly shut to quash the smile she could feel coming.

Down to his boxers, Oz dropped into the space on the other side of Xander, not seeming to notice Willow's reaction.

"So what are we watching?" he asked as he ripped a slice of pizza off and settled back.

"This." Xander un-muted the television and immediately the screams came back.

Xander and Willow both flinched back as the onscreen werewolf accidentally ripped apart a human male as she tried to mate with him.

"Okay, see, now that would never happen," Oz said casually, pointing his slice at the screen.

Xander and Willow shared another embarrassed look, still wincing from the screams.


Fen screamed when the shirt ripped clean off of Charlie as the boy turned to run; trying to get away from being boxed around the ears with the pads of Zeke's large paws. She was too traumatized to realize that even though the attack looked ferocious no blood had actually been drawn... yet.

Enjoying himself far too much, Zeke let Charlie take a few steps away before he dropped to all fours, opened his grinning jaws wide, pounced and clamped down hard on his ass. Now Charlie was screaming too. Zeke started to playfully shake him from side to side.

"No, Zeke, no!" Owen called out when he realized what was happening. "Oh, this will never do. Ptah, make him stop, please."

"The boy started it. And besides, Zeke is doing no more than teaching him some manners."

"Fow a liffle resvect fuh uffer bengs feevings!" Zeke said with his mouthful of ass.

"He's just advising the youth to show considerations for the feelings of others," Ptah translated.

"S...s...sorry!" Charlie could barely keep his feet under him as he was jarred from side to side.

"Hello Mr. Les-Sages. What are you doing here?" Distracted, Owen turned around to see the Woodman's youngest son staring at him in mild terror. "You're not going to tell on us are you? Only... only my mom knows I'm here, she said it was, like, okay, so even if you tell her..."

"I'm not going to tell on you, Bradley," Owen promised, turning back to the spectacle of Zeke and Charlie. If he did he would have to explain what he was doing here to catch them all.

"Thank you, sir." Bradley stayed beside him. "Uh, is that your dog?"

Owen grabbed the boy by the shoulder, his grip tight and his voice serious, "Whatever you do, don't call him a dog to his face."

"Why not?"

"Hey mutt, get offa him." Aaron Pritchard, having heard his friends' screams had dashed over to see what the hell was going on. He hadn't expected this.

"Hey," he yelled again, aiming a kick at Zeke that missed by a mile. "You hear me dog?"

"You are about to find out," Owen said to Bradley, wincing from what he knew was to come.

Fen screamed again as Zeke turned from Charlie in a flash and suddenly had the front of Aaron's pants in his strong jaws.

"What hid you hall me, 'itch?"

Aaron didn't answer, he didn't scream, he didn't even dare move. He stood on tiptoes with his arms out to the sides for balance and breathed funny. Zeke growled around his manhood and gave a minute shake of his head. Aaron's eyes rolled back in his head.

"No!"

Seeing Charlie about to grab hold of Zeke's wagging tail to pull him off, Ptah leapt forward. Any provocation now and Zeke would bite down. He landed on the youth and they both fell to the ground. Not realizing the Mummy had probably just saved his and his buddy's life - certainly his buddy's genitalia - Charlie started laying punches on Ptah's bandaged face.

"Fight. Fight. Fight." The chant was started up by those closest to the action, but it didn't take long to spread throughout the ballroom.


Victor looked up as he heard the commotion. He couldn't see what was happening, but a crowd had formed, and he instantly looked around for his friend in concern. Seeing him safe and unmolested where he had left him, Victor sighed with relief and went back to studying the contraption on the stage.

"So it was with this machinery that you were able to lift the cloak placed on this house?" he asked, twirling a few dials experimentally and looking at the digital displays with healthy skeptical ludditism and also a hint of envy.

"Yes sir, please don't touch that, sir."

When the short and stocky boy from Boudenver Academy tried to politely nudge him away from the highly expensive equipment, Victor gave him a sharp clip around the ear to get him away.

"Ow, hey!" The boy shot backwards to stand with his fellow prestigious men. "You can't hit me."

"Oh stop your whining, child. I barely touched you. Now tell me, if I attached electrodes into the bass ports here," he pointed to them. "Reconfigured the density of the energy flow and set the dial at, say, twenty-five, twenty six, do you think it would change a person's size, make them shorter?"

"In theory, I guess," said tall and lanky number one.

"Great, let us try it then." Victor took what looked like very long, thin jump-leads from his pocket before taking off his jacket and handing it to one of the boys.

The Boudenver students shrugged and smiled at each other, not as irritable now that actual experimentation was on the table.

Victor rolled up his sleeves, also smiling, which wasn't something that happened often when he was outside of his lab.

"Probably best to do a trial run first." He fit one end of the jump-leads into the bass ports and, looking around brightly, held the other end up. "Who would like to volunteer?"

The boys all tried to back away with strained, nervous smiles. Victor followed them, his smile getting bigger and more maniacal with every step.


Igor folded his winnings, pushed them into one of the pockets on the side of his scrubs and reached for his new lady-friend's hand. She'd been his lucky charm while playing cards and now he was going to see if she could sing too.

"What's going on?" she wondered as they entered the ballroom and saw the hubbub.

Catching glimpses through the crowd, he hurriedly tugged her onwards, not wanting her running and screaming before they'd gotten to spend more time together.

"Probably jutht a Halloween thkit. We'll be able to thee better from the thtage."

Completely ignoring whatever the hell Victor was doing, he gestured for his lady to take a seat at the grand piano and then slipped in next to her.

"Uh, can you play with your... uh, disability?" she asked timidly.

"You mean thith one?" Iggy held up his hands to show off his extra digits. For a split second he shot a dark look Victor's way, but then gave the girl a big, bright smile. "Oh, hell yeth."

Cracking all thirteen knuckles first, he brought his hands skilfully down onto the keys and began to play a fast, plinky-plink tune reminiscent of saloon brawls and damsels tied to train tracks.

The music floated across the ballroom.


"Now what the heck are they playing?" Craig asked as they came running into the big room.

"I don't think it's them," Andrew panted. "It's probably the ghost. He wants us, me, to do something."

"Like what? Do you see anyone?"

Andrew could see lots of people, but none were his friends. "I don't know what it is yet. We have to figure that out."

"Someone's having a scrap," Craig noticed the throng of kids was more concentrated in one area. He grabbed Andrew's upper arm. "Bet it's Kennedy. Come on. So what does the music have to do with us figuring out what he wants?"

"Well, it's like movie music, it has moods." Andrew nodded earnestly when Craig looked back at him dubiously. "Like in the Return of the Jedi when Luke does that thing and the ship is under attack and the music gets faster, and you know they're getting close."

"So you think the faster the music is going, the closer we are to the danger, or figuring out what the ghost wants, or probably both?"

They were pushing through the outskirts of the throng now, a few people pushed back, but they took no notice as they tried to get a front row seat.

"Yes."

"Only, mate, I can't help noticing the music is getting faster..."

"...And faster!" Andrew agreed, nervously looking over his shoulder.

"Which, if your theory is right, can only mean one thing..." Craig said as he broke through the final line of spectators and saw what was creating the fuss.

"...MONSTERS!"

The kids had been in a state of disbelieving shock. Their brains unable to fully comprehend what they were seeing, they had rationalized it in a way that allowed them to think this was all part of the spooky entertainment.

As Craig instinctively shouted the truth at the top of his lungs and Zeke's head twisted around revealing snarling lips and dripping fangs, leaving Aaron free to topple to the green tiled floor in a dead faint, the spell broke around them, and now everyone was screaming.

"No, no, no!" Owen yelled, flapping his arms around as if that would calm everyone down.

"Fen!" Spotting Dawn's blonde friend, Andrew darted forward and grabbed her, pulling her to the side out of the way of the suddenly stampeding teenagers.

Craig seemed oblivious to the eruption of chaos he had caused, dazed into immobility by a mixture of fear and fascination.

Suddenly there was a ripping sound, barely heard over the screaming and Zeke's growling as he chased after anything that moved, and Ptah landed one last sloppy punch at Charlie's face to make him let go and then scrambled up and away.

"What did you do?" he squealed, turning this way and that in a panic. "What did you do? I'll give you a thousand lashes of the stick, I'll cut off your nose, I'll have you embalmed while you still breathe..."

The threats went on as Charlie, his nose bloody and his lips swollen, lay on the floor next to a still motionless Aaron and tried to stifle his sobs. Craig's lips twitched in a smile, which disappeared immediately when the bandaged head turned his way.

"What...?" Ptah gave a battle cry and came straight for him. "...the heck?"

Spinning around, Craig ran for his life. Ptah ran after him, arms outstretched, desperate to get away from the hostile youths.

"Craig!" Andrew yelled, but his boyfriend was too freaked to hear anything but the rush of blood in his ears. "Are you okay?" he asked Fen.

She shook her head. "What the hell was that?"

"A Halloween prank?" Andrew offered, shrugging like he didn't know the truth.

Fen gave him a withering look - which dutifully withered his expression of cluelessness -and hurried over to tend to Charlie and to check on Aaron, to make sure he was just in a faint and hadn't actually died from shock.

"It's... I can't tell you." Andrew started backing away, now he really had to find one of the others.

"There's... monsters," Fen said the word like it was hard to spit out, "running around the house; I think you could at least give me a clue."

"There's this ghost and the monsters are all signs, so if the music gets faster again I suggest you get under the table," he said quickly.

"Okay, thanks," Fen nodded, but then... "Wait, what?" She looked up, but Andrew had gone.


Craig ran across the ballroom and out into the foyer. He wanted to scream, and it wasn't any desire to be macho that stopped him; he just didn't want to waste breath that would be better conserved for running.

Other people ran with them, but most peeled away to find hiding places. Craig stayed single-minded, one thought: Run like hell. He didn't even hear Kennedy and Dawn calling to him, asking what was wrong, as he shot through the foyer at a breakneck speed, jumped down the front steps and kept running into the night.

Ptah, only a stride or two behind all the way, suddenly tripped over his own flapping bandages and dived unintentionally to the shiny floor.

"What is that?" Kennedy forgot they were searching for Rona - she wasn't entirely sobered up yet - and walked closer to prod the tattered being with her toe.

"Did someone actually come in costume?" Dawn gave a little laugh as she walked to the very back of the entrance hall, the only place they hadn't looked yet.

"Are you helping me or not?"

"Ow, ow, what did he do to me," The shrouded figure muttered to itself. "I'm blind. They've made me blind!"

Kennedy squatted down with drunken inquisitiveness and pushed the bandages covering the kid's eyes up to his forehead. Okay, the dry, shriveled, slightly yellowed face revealed definitely belonged to no kid, she fell back on her ass.

"Thank you, thank you!" The thing got to his knees in front of her and the bandages fell forward once more. "Ah, I am blind. I am blind again! What is this curse?"

Kennedy jumped to her feet and obliged him by pulling his bandages away from his eyes again. This time she kept hold of them though, and used them to twist his head to one side.

"Okay, let's start with: What are you? And then we'll move onto: What are you doing running around this house?"

"I was invited, which is more than you can say."

Dawn looked back irritably over her shoulder to see Kennedy still messing about with the boy in the mummy costume. There was only one door back here, in shadows because the staircase arced above it; she sighed unhappily when she realized she was going to have to check this room alone.

She was just inching the door open...

"Dawn?"

Jumping slightly at the unexpected sound of her name, she slammed the door shut again, turning to lean on it indifferently. Then, when she saw who it was, she tensed even more. "Sethos."

"I didn't know you were here," the Egyptian boy said softly.

"Well, I am," Dawn brightly stated the obvious.

"I was just about to leave, but..."

"Okay, well, don't let me keep you." She gave him a big, fake smile.

Her rudeness worked and he lost the soft tone as he said, "Right." And walked off.

Dawn's smile slowly dropped away and she sighed again as she watched him walk across the foyer. Every time he was nice to her, she was a bitch to him. It wasn't deliberate, he just kept catching her at times when his niceness was inconvenient, like when she was on a first date with the hottest guy in the world, or, like now, when she was snooping into dark corners for her missing friend.

Shaking her head, she turned back to the closed door and tried to get up the nerve to open it for a second time. She totally missed Sethos dropping reverently to his knees as he passed Kennedy and bandage-boy.

"Sire!" Sethos breathed, overcome with sudden emotion. "Lord of the Sun and the Sand." He bowed his head low to the ground, and kept it there. "Why do you appear to me? Can I be of service to you?"

"Actually, yes." Ptah winced at the tight hold on his bandages.

"What can I do for you, my Lord?" Sethos asked, wondering when he had fallen asleep. Dreams were the usual conduit for these kinds of visitations.

Ptah rolled his eyes and pointed at Kennedy over his shoulder.

"Oh, of course." He bobbed up and down a few times, not really sure if he was supposed to stop bowing or not, but he decided to take a chance. "Let go of him, please."

"No," said Kennedy and her other arm snaked out and grabbed hold of the back of his t-shirt. "Now, why don't you tell me why a nice boy like you is calling a demon-thing like this 'sire'?"

"He's not a demon-thing!" Sethos was shocked to the bone, even more so that the girl - the surprisingly strong girl - was still a human and not a pillar of salt.

"I tried telling her that," Ptah said.

"He's a God of the Nile!"

"I tried telling her that too," Ptah tried to nod, it didn't work so well.

"And what would a crusty old Nile God be doing at a high school party?" Kennedy asked reasonably.

Sethos opened his mouth to speak, but realized he didn't have an answer. He looked at Ptah with polite inquiry.

"Exactly, you stink of foul play," Kennedy gave Ptah a little shake.

"Actually no, that's just embalming fluid," he mumbled, embarrassed. "The drier I get, the more noticeable it becomes. If someone could just get me a glass of water..."

Kennedy ignored him. "And you stink of hapless lackey." She gave Sethos a similar shake.

"I am no one's lackey," he said sullenly, fruitlessly trying to pull away from her grip.

"Oh really? You were bowing a few minutes ago."

I was showing respect. Let me go!"

"Showing respect to a demon? That spells out lackey," Kennedy gave him a sarcastic toothy smile. She was actually having fun for the first time in ages.

"He is not a demon!" Sethos started struggling furiously, not understanding why he couldn't easily break her hold on him. She had him tight by the scruff of his t-shirt, but he was taller than her! "And by manhandling us in this way, you are disrespecting both me and my religion."

Kennedy rolled her eyes, "I'm sure we'll both live."

"This getting absurd," Ptah threw his arms in the air. "Olwyn! Olwyn, can you come out here?"

It was unlikely Owen could hear him over the racket in the other room. Zeke was still growling up a storm, the screaming could raise the roof, and through it all Iggy still played a rousing piano accompaniment in d-minor.

"There are more of you?" Kennedy dug her fingers into his hairless scalp as she shook him again.

"If someone doesn't get me a glass of water, bits are going to start dropping off." Ptah said, wincing at her roughness. "Olwyn!"

"Ew."

"Exactly," he agreed.

Across the room a familiar scream cut through all the rest and Kennedy spun around to see Dawn dragged through an open door into the dark.

"Damn!"

Did she leave her demons to go rescue Dawn or would the younger girl take care of herself? Half her problem was solved when the boy she was holding suddenly started acting like a pissed off cat: twisting in her grip, hissing, swiping his hands around in an effort to make her let go. It only took a moment of this before his t-shirt tore and Kennedy was left holding it as the kid raced towards the door Dawn had disappeared through.

"What the hell?" she demanded of Ptah, but he merely shrugged in confusion.

On the other side of the doorway Dawn was dragged deeper into the dark space and pushed against a wall. She tripped on several pairs of empty shoes, only staying on her feet because of the super-strong pale hand holding the front of her shirt.

"Thank you, my dear," the man said in a soft, Slavic accent. She whimpered. "I have been trapped in this broom closet all evening. No handle on the inside," he sighed. "And I am almost dying from hunger. You, it would seem, are my savior."

"A...and that's a good thing, right? 'C...'cause now you can go get some food." Dawn pushed back against the wall in fear. "So you're not going to hurt me?"

He'd been in this small, smelly cupboard ever since leaving the passages between the walls, and by the time he had realized the door to the foyer didn't open from the inside, the door back into the walls had closed and the lever - not used in so many years - refused to be pulled. It had not been an interesting or enjoyable two hours, and when the screaming had started outside, he had been jealous as well as bored to dust.

By the time this skinny girl had opened the door and poked her head in, he was past pissed off and in no way inclined to play by Olwyn's rules. He'd missed out on a feast of stag and otter blood tonight, and while he was indeed grateful to be released, he was also hungry. Human blood would just have to do.

"That is not quite what I meant." The Count smiled and morphed.

Suddenly Dawn could see his eyes a whole let better, mostly because they'd gone all yellow and glowy, and she decided screaming again would be a good idea about now.

Then there was a third person in the little closet, one whose features it was hard to make out because of the dark, and because they were blurry - and that wasn't her eyes playing tricks, they really were blurry, changing. Dawn hit her third screaming wind, reaching new pitches that nearly deafened all in the closet as the new figure, hissing and spitting, went for the Count.

Dawn tried to get out of the closet while the two tussled with each other, but the loose shoes scattering the floor made her stumble with every step. She fell to her knees, one arm becoming trapped in old leather riding boot and suddenly there was a noise higher than the hissing; a squeaking noise. Thinking 'rat!' she launched herself back up, the boot coming with her, and something flew at her, leathery wings brushing her face over and over.

Screaming again - had she even stopped? - she lurched out of the door back into the light and through her tangled hair could see the flying rat, make that BAT! and tried to run away from it, one hand and one boot waving in the air above her. The bat stayed with her, seemingly trying to bite her as it flapped around her head like a giant mammalian mosquito. She heard Kennedy call to her, but she wasn't about to stop when a bat was trying to suck her blood and it chased her all the way out the front door and beyond.

"Da...?" Kennedy began again, but gave it up when she realized Dawn was already too far away to hear her. "Did your lackey just turn into a bat?"

Ptah looked just as puzzled. "I do not know why or how he could."

Before she could question him further, before she could blink again in fact, the chaos in the house abruptly centralized in the foyer. A fresh score of teenagers came racing out of the ballroom; Alison, Miranda and Cici at the back.

"Kennedy!" Miranda yelled as they spotted her, and it was possibly the first time they had ever been truly pleased to see her.

"What's going on? What are you running from?" she demanded, letting go of Ptah in her urgency.

"That!" Cici yelled as a brown wolf, inexplicably wearing slacks and a pin stripe shirt, appeared at high, over-excited, speed.

"You're Slayers!" Kennedy yelled, not giving a crap about secret identities right now. "Why are you running away?"

"Because I left my tranq gun in my other pants!" Alison squealed as all three ran through the front door and disappeared.

Zeke had skidded to a halt when he saw Ptah, who was holding his bandages up so he could see. His flanks were heaving from running about and his tongue lolled between his sharp teeth, drool dripping on the floor.

Kennedy watched him and the Mummy man warily, not sure whether making sudden movements would be a good thing - she didn't have any weapons either - but as it happened, the sudden movement came from the dark closet.

Kennedy's eyes went wide and she took an unintentional step back as the black panther bounded into the light. Zeke howled, the cat roared, fur puffed up, hackles rose and then all out bedlam took over as both creatures gave into their age-old instincts.

The large foyer rapidly felt way too small as the two tore about, yelping, screeching, baying, hissing, pouncing, diving, scrabbling, and at one point ricocheting off the wall and generally scaring the crap out of Kennedy and Ptah who were caught in the middle of the demonic maelstrom --literally -- when the two creatures stopped haring about to catch their breath, both growling ferociously as they stared each other down.

Realizing a pounce from either one of them was going to see her in the crossfire, and not even wanting to imagine how much would be left of her if they both pounced together, Kennedy decided to obey the first rule of Slaying and ran like hell out the open door.

Ptah, having had the exact same thought, ran only a second later, and not a second too soon. He didn't turn to look as the two came crashing together, he didn't need to, he could hear exactly how it was going. In his hurry, his bandages slipped back over his eyes and he ran with his arms outstretched so he wouldn't bump into anything. Excellent idea in theory, but he had forgotten about the front steps. As he made a painful dive onto the gravel drive, the black panther leapt over his fallen body, his friend followed.

"Zeke! Help me up!"

Ptah raised the bandages from his eyes to see them racing away towards the woods, emitting a cacophony of animalistic yips and yowls, and sighed heavily.

Zeke wouldn't be back for a while.


As soon as she saw the glinting knife, Rona turned and ran. She tripped up some more steps, bouncing off the walls in the darkness, her hands out more to keep her balance than to find any door levers. She needed to get ahead and find a suitable nook to wedge herself in to lie in wait for her dagger-wielding attacker. That was the only way she was gonna be able to get the better of him in the narrow space. Even just being able to stick a leg out and trip him would at least give her time to swoop down with her wooden spoon!

Unbeknownst to Rona, her 'attacker' had shrieked when she had and run down the narrower corridor that lay at a right angle to the one along the exterior wall. In seconds nothing but his scampering footsteps suggested there had ever been a second person there.


Reece stopped at the top of the steps, listening intently to the two sets of footsteps running in different directions; and the almost as loud running footsteps that seemed to be coming from the other side of the wall with accompanying screams and growling and... some kind of piano sonata?

Hoping rather futilely that he had already forged some kind of symbiotic link with his Slayer, he picked a direction to follow at random and steadily set off again.


The ballroom was mostly empty, with just a few stragglers uneasily wandering back in through the patio doors now that Zeke's noise had faded.

Iggy was still playing the piano like a very musically-gifted madman, cheerfully providing a soundtrack for the fun and games. He'd been a little disappointed when his lady-friend had run off screaming - Victor's fault for trying to grab her straight off the piano stool - but she'd been too young for him anyway, really.

Owen had followed the worst of the ruckus out into the foyer, probably, Iggy surmised, to give Zeke a good talking to if he could get him to calm down for half a second.

"There! That one." Victor pointed surreptitiously to a tall blonde walking across the ballroom looking even more lost than the rest of the shocked kids.

"A girl?" asked his friend, uncertainly.

"It's the twenty-first century, so they tell me," Victor said. "Equal opportunities abound; and gender will make no difference to the experiment."

The four boys from Boudenver Academy had long since run away, deciding to abandon their equipment in favor of saving their heights. Of his other two choices, Iggy's lady friend had screamed so loud, he'd been worried about losing focus at a crucial moment, and the second, well the boy had been so short already that even his pure scientist's soul didn't think that was fair.

"Please, go and fetch her," Victor urged his friend.

"But..."

Victor gave him a look.

"I do this under duress," his friend intoned to no one in particular and then went to do as he was told, because that was what he did; what he had been built to do.

Iggy's tune turned darker, his many fingers thumping the keys in a dramatic style.

Naomi was so surprised to find herself unexpectedly picked up gently by the tallest man she had ever seen in her life, that she didn't even scream. She stared at him with wide eyes, her breathing shallow as he carried her back towards the stage.

"What... what do you want? Put me down!"

He didn't look at her, but stared straight ahead as he walked purposely forward. His forehead was huge and had a tattoo of stitches across it. God she hoped it was a tattoo! His mouth was a grim, unhappy line and his eyes looked sad.

"What are you doing?" she asked as he laid her down on the stage.

She tried struggling, but he held down her shoulders with one hand and her ankles with his other and it was like struggling against steel.

"Please don't!" she insisted, figuring this was a good one size fits all response to whatever he had planned.

Naomi didn't know what the hell had happened in the last hour, but it had been way more of a Halloween party that she had expected. When the wolf man had started chasing people around, she had run one way and the three Slayers had run the other - which in hindsight hadn't been the best plan, but then they hadn't actually had time for planning - She had only just made it through the patio doors without losing the rear out of her outfit.

She had come back in to the find everyone once the confusion seemed to have simmered down, but no one was about, no one she recognized anyway. No Slayers, no Reece, no one she could shout to for help.

"Okay these won't hurt." A short man, maybe in his fifties with dark hair brill-creamed to his head, leaned over her.

"What won't hurt?" She was still struggling valiantly, but it was having no discernible effect.

"These?" He held them up so she could see thin black and red wires with a cross between a clamp and a needle at the end of each one.

"How can they not hurt!" she demanded. It was hurting just to imagine what they might be for.

"They will hurt, but only for a minute," said the big man holding her, and she had a feeling, by the way he said it, that he was speaking from experience.

"Really, my friend, we must work on you bedside manner when we return home."

"If the child must endure this, she should know the truth at least."

"Why are you suddenly so squeamish?"

"I do not think this is necessary."

"Would you prefer me skip the experimental stage and simply try it on you?"

"It could kill."

"That's a highly improbably outcome. Look, I only intend to take an inch from her, but if it works, I could shorten you by a foot, more if you wish."

Naomi watched the exchange above her with terrified eyes.

The big man looked down at her, his eyes sadder than before, but somehow hopeful too. "I am sorry. Close your eyes, it will be over very soon."

"Oh dear Lord." She was trembling now more than struggling. She closed her eyes, not because of the instruction, but because she couldn't bear to look at them anymore. "Please? Please don't do this."

"Hey Guys, what's going on?"

The chirpy, cheerful voice made her open her eyes again. She breathed a sigh of relief, but Andrew didn't even spare her a glance as he grinned at the two men.

"Nothing, go away," Victor said curtly.

"It doesn't look like nothing to me. Hey, is that a robot woman?" he asked excitedly, finally looking down at Naomi's body, but not meeting her eyes. "My friend used to program his robo-chicks with something like this. It was way cool."

"No, she is not a robot." Victor was peering at him suspiciously, not sure what to make of this enthusiastic lanky boy. "Your friend is a scientist?"

"In a way," Andrew nodded. He went around to the other side of what they had all thought to be turntables earlier and looked at all the mystical slash technical buttons and dials in genuine delight. "And I was sort of his assistant."

"Was?"

"He died. So what are you doing? Is that a real girl?" He looked over the top of the equipment at Naomi again.

"Yes, it is a real girl," Said the big man irritably. "Why don't we experiment on him instead? He is just as tall."

"No, no, I've prepared her now," Victor said as he finished rubbing some licorice smelling oil on both of Naomi's temples. "Besides..." he let that hang in the air as he studied Andrew intently for several moments.

"So what are you doing?" Andrew asked again.

"We are going to make her shorter," Victor said grandly, rubbing his hands together.

"Cool!" Andrew's face split into an excited grin. "Can you really do that?"

"We're going to try."

"Ooh can I help?"

"You're going to help him?" Naomi shouted, struggling harder. "You wanker!"

"Hey, there's no need for name calling!" Andrew shouted back, gaining a look of respect from Victor. "I used to be an evil mastermind, you know? Just because I've decided to try out a redemptive path to see how it feels, doesn't mean I don't still have urges!"

Naomi managed to kick her legs around a little. "You arse! Shorter or not, I'm still gonna beat seven shades of poo out you when I get out of this."

"I promise you this won't hurt for long, please just lay still." Victor held the wires up to her head, ready to stick them in and clamp them down.

"See, he said they wouldn't hurt much," Andrew tried to sooth her. "Stop acting like a baby."

Victor turned the blonde man again thoughtfully. "You know, I have not met anyone as refreshing as you in a long time."

"Thanks!" Andrew beamed. "Uh, that was a compliment, right?"

"Yes." Victor gave him a small smile. "I wonder, are you currently employed?"

Andrew sighed deeply, "Well, if you can call it that. Washing dishes and cooking and cleaning the house for minimum wage and no verbal thanks whatsoever. Everyone else thinks they have it so hard, but no one even notices all the hard work I do all day every day."

"Cooking, and cleaning houses?" Victor asked surprised. "But that's woman's work."

"So much for equal opportunities," muttered his friend.

Victor ignored him. "No, a strapping lad like you should be in proper employment; doing work that befits your bright mind and enthusiasm. Have you ever considered full time Igor-ing?"

"Huh?"

"Sorry, I should not use slang terms, but they are just so easy to fall into. It means to be a full time..." he mumbled something that sounded like 'dad'

"...scientist's assistant."

"A what scientist?" Naomi asked.

"It's not important, just more slang. So are you interested?"

"In working for you?" Andrew smiled as he contemplated it. "Like I'd get to help with experiments and stuff?"

"Yes, I had a chap, but he turned out to be a buffoon," he shot Igor - still at the piano and listening in - a dirty look. "So I have an opening."

"Yeah, okay," Andrew clapped his hands together. "It has to be better than what I'm doing now. So did you want me to start right this minute? I could push the buttons, or I could stick the wires in her, or... or, you know, whatever you need? How much will I get paid?"

There was a harsh, "Hah!" from Igor, but when they all looked over he was playing with his eyes closed, his lumpy head swaying dreamily from side to side.

"We'll discuss money later," Victor said hurriedly. "And I think it best for your first time if you come around here and push the electrodes in while I handle the dials. Too much power and she will end up the same height as Paddy."

Andrew hastily came around to Naomi's side and took the electrodes from his new boss.

"Oh God, no, what are you thinking? Get off of me, now!" Naomi started yelling as Victor pointed to two ink dots he'd marked, one on either temple.

"Now, red in this side, black in the other. I appreciate you are bound to make a mistake at some point in your training, but please, don't let it be now."

"Red in the left, black in the right. Got it," Andrew promised. "When do I stick them in her?"

"With the way she is thrashing about it would best to wait until I am ready."

Victor moved around to the other side of the equipment and started pressing buttons at speed with one hand and spinning the dial carefully to where he wanted it with his other. He'd never used this gear before, but you wouldn't know it to watch him; either he was really good at what he did, or really bad.

"Okay..." Victor held his hand up as he looked at the energy reading on the digital screen rise. "Okay now!"

Andrew dropped the wires and threw all his weight into the not-turntables. It toppled easily on its stand and crashed into a surprised Victor. As the 'friend' was rising to tackle Andrew, the ex-evil mastermind turned back the other way and brought his foot up hard between the big man's legs. It wasn't clear who it hurt the most as they both yelped. The man went to his knees, surprise and pain twisting his already unattractive features, and the almost a man started to hop about, clutching his foot in both hands.

Victor launched himself over the damaged equipment, intent on throttling Andrew to death, but Naomi was rising from the stage now, and it was such an easy shot she couldn't resist. Her fist connected with Victor's nose and he staggered back, tripping over the magical transmuter and landing amid its wreckage.

"Time to go." Naomi shook her bruised fist in the hopes it would lessen the pain - it didn't - and grabbed Andrew's arm, who went from hopping to hobbling towards the patio doors.

"Get them back!" Victor demanded angrily.

Iggy's eyes were open again and he was grinning in glee as he switched to a wacky Benny Hill style chase tune.

Victor's friend dutifully marched across the ballroom. He was a little pissed himself. He hadn't wanted to do the experiment on the girl, it had just felt wrong - she was so pretty - but he hadn't wanted his one chance at fitting in with normal humans turned into a pile of fizzling spare parts either.

Andrew and Naomi made it the patio doors as fast as possible and instead of running away, made for the closest patch of dense shrubbery, planning to hide for a while before making their getaway.

They watched as the big man came through the doors, looked left and right and then took the shortest route around to the front of the house to find them.

"Thanks," Naomi said quietly after a few moments.

"You're welcome. Sorry it took me so long. I'm not really any good at rescuing the girl," Andrew whispered.

"Well, you did really well at it tonight," Naomi promised, and then hesitantly added, "Sorry I called you a wanker."

"That's okay." There was a pause. "What is a wanker?"

Naomi blushed. "Um, ask Craig."


"So then he said that the best kind of love was all wild and passionate and dangerous and trust was less important than that," Buffy was saying as they walked up the dark road through the woods. "Kinda the whole 'If you feel a thing and I feel a thing that's all that matters', but in Spike-speak."

They were about halfway home now, but neither of them was rushing. Faith had made an offhand joke about Buffy's trust issues a mile back. Buffy was still explaining, or trying to.

"Well so far, I'm not disagreeing," Faith shrugged. "Wild, passionate and dangerous sounds pretty good to me."

"This was about a minute before he..." There was a pregnant pause, about nine months pregnant, and Faith got it then.

"Before he...!"

Buffy spoke quickly before she could finish, "Before he tried to do what he tried to do, yes. It didn't exactly sell me on the wild, passionate and dangerous angle."

"I can get that. Can't say I like you thinking I'm anything like him though," she admitted.

She remembered Xander, looking up at her in fear as she was grinding down on him, her hands around his throat... and she pulled away from Buffy's hand to run both of hers through her hair, tugging it hard as she tried to force the memory away.

"I would never, ever do that to you! I know you got no reason to believe me, but I swear, Buffy; I'd... I'd.. I don't know, jump off'a the roof, or drink a bottle of bleach first..."

"Faith, it's okay, I know you wouldn't." Buffy moved in front of her, making her stop, and put her hands on Faith's shoulders comfortingly. "That thought never even crossed my mind."

Faith really wanted to believe that, but... she looked deep into Buffy's eyes. "I done shit like that, B, you know that. I don't blame you if that's why you don't trust me. Shit, you really know how to pick us, girlfriend."

Buffy smiled. "That's true, but... Faith, what you did before you went to prison, that's... that wasn't you! I mean, it was you, obviously, but it wasn't the real you; it was the you who was scared and confused and alone and trying to act like she wasn't any of that. You let the Slayer - who, let's face it, is part demon anyway - take the wheel and you made some really bad decisions because of it, but, I remember the girl you were before the accident with Finch and I know the woman you were when you came back to Sunnydale six months ago and... that's who I'm with now. That's who..." Faith held her breath when Buffy hesitated, before repeating, with a self-conscious smile, "...I'm with now."

Faith slowly smiled and reached up to tuck some hair behind Buffy's ear. She wanted to kiss her, but didn't dare; she didn't want to reduce this conversation to another bicker-fest about doing it.

"You keep making me feel better like that, I'm not even gonna need therapy," she said instead.

"Oh, I don't know, I don't think I'm that good." Buffy smirked at her.

"Funny." Faith smiled, and Buffy kissed her.

It only lasted a second or two, which was just as well seeing as her heart stopped as soon as Buffy's lips touched hers. She wondered if kissing Buffy would ever be less than a phenomenal thing, and she really hoped not.

"Thank you," she sighed.

"Thank you?" Buffy grinned.

"I, uh," Faith looked down at where the light of the half moon made the boots on Buffy's feet shine, embarrassed.

Buffy chuckled and touched her fingertips to Faith's down tucked chin. Looking up, Faith's heart stopped all over again as Buffy moved in for a slightly more lingering kiss.

"You're welcome," Buffy said softly as she pulled back again.

Thinking it was okay now Faith's hands went to Buffy's waist, holding her gently as she leaned in to kiss her. Buffy met her halfway; her hands going to Faith's shoulders.

Faith's heart restarted with a jolt when she realized this time Buffy wasn't pulling away, and then it started going triple time when there were suddenly two tongues in her mouth. She wasted no time in taking advantage of it, and God! Buffy's tongue felt so good against her own; so soft, so strong, so... eager.

"God, I love kissing you!" Buffy mumbled against her lips.

How something so simple, so vanilla when it came right down to it, could get her so aroused was beyond Faith. While running on a kinda low-level horny all the time, it usually took more than this to get her so worked up, but Buffy's mumbled words had her tingling all over, especially in the good places.

"Feel free to do it as much as you want," Faith mumbled back, before her tongue slipped into Buffy's hot, lime-and-alcohol-tasting mouth again.

"'Kay." Buffy's arms were around her neck now, hers around Buffy's waist, holding her close, their bodies flush together.

Some little annoying voice in the back of Faith's brain was telling her to stop now. To show Buffy she could be restrained and respectful and shit. Buffy had her issues, and gee did Faith know how that could screw you up, and she was pretty sure their conversation on this road, however sweet and understanding, wasn't gonna resolve them all just like that. She should stop now, walk Buffy home and maybe, hopefully, get a kiss just this hot before it was time to go to bed. It would show Buffy she really did care, that she really had listened, that she really didn't want her just for the physical stuff.

That's what she should do. Wasn't what she was going to do though.

Her hands slid down to Buffy's hot pants and she squeezed her ass cheeks as tenderly as it was possible to do in a move like that. As Buffy moaned softly and plunged her tongue so deep into her mouth that she felt it in her pussy - in a kinda symbolic way obviously - Faith's brain sang out the word 'Hallelujah!' over and over again.

"This okay?" Faith checked when they had to take a minute to catch their breath.

"Better than okay," Buffy assured her.

"Sure you don't wanna take this home and see what happens?"

"No." Buffy shook her head. "I'll have sobered up by the time we walk home."

Faith pulled away a little, not sure that she liked the sound of that, but damned if she knew why exactly.

"Are you saying I'm taking advantage of you?" she asked carefully. "'Cause for some strange reason I don't wanna do that, not tonight anyway."

Buffy smiled. "Not taking advantage per se. Just making the most of me not having the inhibitions we both wish I didn't have the rest of the time."

Faith didn't really follow the sentence, mostly because it was hard to follow anything but the thrill in her chest and the throb in her pants.

"Yeah, okay." She kissed her again, deciding to accept things at face value for now; positive Buffy would soon let her know if she went too far.

The way Buffy was pressing into her, almost rubbing against her, had Faith thinking all the way might not be too far tonight. Buffy's next words just encouraged that thought.

"Oh God, you're making me so hot." Buffy's hands slid under the back of her torn t-shirt, the chill of them fluttering over the overheated skin of her back made Faith moan.

Faith dropped her hands a little, spent a moment stroking the backs of Buffy's thighs, before sliding them up and into the legs of her hot pants. They were so tight that the pressure she had to apply to get under them meant she slid beneath Buffy's panties too. She thought she might explode just from the sensation of the rounded, naked flesh in her palms.

"Ohhhhh!" Buffy shuddered hard against her as the material was pulled tight between her legs and Faith guessed that if she was anything close to as aroused as she was, that had to feel too damn good.

Headlight's swung into view around the bend half a mile up the road, and Faith cursed out loud. Why now, when Buffy was all but humping her? Buffy gave a frustrated little laugh as Faith pulled her hands free from the clingy material. They had to hurry to the side or end up road kill.

Faith was surprised when Buffy caught her hand and pulled her even further off of the road into the complete darkness of the trees. She'd figured the fun was over because of the untimely interruption, but the blonde clearly didn't think so as she pushed her against a tall Pine and ran fingers over her face to find her mouth before kissing her again.

It really was that dark that she could barely make out more than an outline of Buffy even with how close they were, so she closed her eyes and let touch take over. She ran her fingers up Buffy's arms, over her shoulders and down over her collar bones to the flesh pushed upwards by the stiff bodice. She teased there for a while, hearing Buffy's already harsh breathing get heavier, and then tried to press beneath, but the cardboard insert, or whatever it was, really was totally unyielding.

She splayed her hands over the top of it. "Can you even feel this?"

"Not really. Can you feel this?"

Hands slid up the front of her t-shirt to cup her breasts and her head thunked back hard against the tree trunk. "Yes!"

She heard Buffy chuckle. "Good."

"No, not good," Faith groaned.

"Not good?" Buffy's hands slipped away.

"No, not that!" Faith said quickly. "That good good!" Great, now she sounded like a retard. "I just wanna get my hands on you too."

"Where your hands were earlier was pretty good good," Buffy whispered, before kissing her again.

Catching on quick, Faith emulated her earlier position, her hands inside Buffy's hot pants, the firm curve of her ass warming her palms as she squeezed and pulled Buffy harder against her.

"Oh yeah, like that," Buffy mumbled dreamily as her lips grazed Faith's in a multitude of tiny kisses. "See, this is what I mean."

"What is what you mean?"

"This! This heat. This all consuming hotness. This is what I'm scared of."

"Why scared?"

"I had strong feelings for Spike, but it was just heat. A lot of heat, but still just that. We were like wild animals together. He thought that was love, but it wasn't."

Faith really didn't like Buffy talking about Spike while they were this close, while they had their hands all over each other and were only steps away from being even closer, but she figured Buffy must have a point she was trying to get to and one that would probably enlighten her on a few things she should know.

"And?"

"I loved Angel with all my heart. I'd never known the feelings he gave me before, or since..."

Great, now she was bringing him into this too. Faith relaxed her grip and leant her head back against the tree.

"And?"

Buffy dropped her hands to Faith's hips, leaning her chin on her shoulder, cheek against her neck.

"They both ended in heartbreak and disillusion and burned up until there was nothing left."

"And?" Faith asked softly, really hoping the point was around the corner somewhere, and showed up before she felt depressed enough to feed herself to a passing bear.

"And neither of them come close to making me feel the way I do with you," Buffy replied, just as softly. "I want you all the time, I wanna get wild animal with you all the time, and it happened so quickly and we don't have the best history and you've made some questionable choices even since I fell for you and I want to forgive you and get naked with you and pretend the woods are alive with the sound of music, but I'm scared... I'm scared that it's all happening too quick and too soon and our fire is gonna burn up and consume the last piece of my heart I have left, because the feelings I have for you... these feelings, they're too strong, they're too wild and dangerous and passionate and that just can't end... good."

Faith pulled her hands free again and spun Buffy around so it was her back against the tree. She cupped her face, holding it gently and placed a small kiss on her lips.

"I am not going anywhere, Buffy. And the way I feel about you isn't going to change, except maybe to get better, if that's even possible. We've been through shit, we'll go through more I expect, but we'll do it together, okay? Let the fire try and consume us, we'll send its ass packing with its flame between its legs. We can be wild, we can do it like animals and we'll wear the scratches with pride, why the hell not? I get what you mean, this is all too damn real for me too, but I'm not gonna run from it, not again, and I'm not gonna let you either. So you better just deal with that and the sooner the fuckin' better for both of us, okay?"

She let her forehead rest against Buffy's staring resolutely into the only part of her she could see.

"Okay," Buffy whispered.

"Okay," Faith agreed and stepped back. "Now let's go home."

"Let's not!" Buffy grabbed the front of her t-shirt and dragged her back again.

"Always gotta be in control!" Faith complained around Buffy's tongue, 'cept not really, obviously, plus there were hands on her ass now and her ass had missed this kinda attention.

"Get used to it," Buffy muttered, turning them again, pressing Faith into the tree so hard with her body, her back was gonna look like a bark rubbing.

Buffy was kissing her like there was no tomorrow, like there was no next minute even. This kiss right here was the embodiment of every dark, wild, dangerous emotion Buffy was afraid of and she was letting them all out of the box at once. All for her. It was Faith for once who could barely keep up, and damn did she like it more than she ever thought.

Buffy reluctantly dragged her mouth away, gasping to get some fresh air in her lungs, but there was now some minor but definite humping action going on in the darkness.

"Buffy," she breathed out, sliding her hands down the back of the hot pants and shifting her legs so the blonde had something more substantial to rock against.

"You want me right here, Faith?" Buffy whispered, warm breath caressing her ear and causing a ripple of electric excitement to stream through her.

"Yes."

"Standing up in the woods like this?"

"Yes."

"Ever fantasized about having your hand down the front of Wonder Woman's hot pants?"

"Not until tonight," Faith grinned. Her legs were trembling; that was new.

"Good answer." Buffy's tongue flicked around her ear as she spoke. "Very good answer."

"So that was..." Faith had been about to say 'permission', but Buffy was kissing her again, stealing her words, her breath, her... hand!

It was plucked from the back of the shorts and then Buffy was guiding it around to where she wanted it, breathing hard through her nose as her own excitement rose and rose.

Faith was light-headed. She felt sixteen again, watching Buffy dance across the Bronze, feeling her heart thud in her chest every time the blonde even almost smiled at her. Gazing at her in the library as she trained, in what she thought, hoped, was a cool, uninterested way while subtly rocking on her chair and imagining situations just like this... but never as good as this.

When Buffy seemed sure she was able to take it from there, she fumbled with the fly of Faith's tattered jeans.

Oxygen being an issue, and Faith suddenly needing more of it than usual, she stopped kissing for a minute, licking her lips and swallowing as she felt Buffy's small hand slide inside her costume.

"You're my first Zombie," Buffy chuckled. "This is a special night."

"Yeah," Faith nodded seriously, their noses grazing gently together. "Sure as hell is."


Dawn ran downhill through the underbrush. She'd meant to stay on the gravel drive, but with the big bat continuously flapping its leathery wings around her head, she'd quickly become disorientated.

The bat had flown off ahead of her a minute before, and while she was feeling far from calm yet, she did have the wits about her to figure that if she kept running down in roughly this direction she'd hit the road between Boudenver and the camp at some point.

That was as if she didn't die from all the running first, of course.

New fear struck her heart as she heard thrashing in the bushes and long grass behind her. She hoped it was just the noise she was making playing tricks on her in the pitch dark of the woods, but the louder it got, the harder it was to convince herself.

She looked over her shoulder as she ran harder and faster, but could see nothing but the trees looming out of the silvery mist that was forming at knee level.

'Great, because it wasn't spooky enough out here!' she thought, distressed.

The crashing of running feet seemed to be all around her now, and the woods were revolving like some psychedelic seventies horror movie and then there was a man with shoulder length black hair in an evening suit stepping out from behind a tree; and maybe he was a figment of her imagination like Dawn was hoping because as she tried to change direction and sprint past him, he was suddenly in front of her again, and again, and again.

Finally, dizzy now, her chest heaving, sweat dripping from her brow, she stumbled to a stop against a tree. Leaning on it heavily, she looked back and still saw nothing, although there definitely was something back there, coming towards her fast.

As she faced forward again, ready to run some more, she came face to face with her figment-man. He reached out and stroked her face, and should figments be that cold?

"You have played valiantly, my dear, and proven yourself a most worthy victory meal," he said softly. "And out here in the wilderness, Olwyn need never know. In fact, out here," he added, smiling coldly and showing off his fangs. "No one need ever know."

As he held her firmly by one arm and leaned in so close she could feel his chill lips her neck, Dawn screamed like she had never screamed before.


Act Four, Part A

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