Monday morning found the Slayer and her friend sitting on the library table an hour before they actually needed to be in the building for class.

“Are you sure that hunter said werewolf?” Giles inquired as he poked at the partially healed wound on Oz's shoulder.

Oz grimaced but didn't complain about the prodding.

“Yup,” Buffy confirmed. “He was all about telling us Oz is gonna be fuzzy next time the moon is full. He really needed to work on his people skills. That should be the kind of thing you have to work up to. You don't just blurt it out and then threaten to come after someone when they get all furry.”

She tapped her finger against her lip.

“That is totally the kinda thing you have to take someone out for chocolate ice cream first BEFORE you press the furry news.”

“You believe everything is made better by chocolate,” Giles commented absently as he mentally calculated where he should start investigating werewolves.

“So true,” Buffy confirmed with a perky smile.

Giles expertly replaced the bandage on the student so he could pull his t-shirt back over his head.

“Did you see a doctor about the bite?” the former Watcher questioned since the wound appeared well addressed.

“Nah, Aunt Maureen is a nurse,” he replied as he winced slightly while shifting his shirt back into place. “She keeps an industrial size first aid kit in the car.”

His aunt had done a great job cleaning and dressing his bite wound and Buffy's claw injury. Unfortunately, Oz didn't possess Slayer healing. While Buffy had only faint and fading scars from her injury, his still oozed a bit and caused pain when he moved.

“So can you fix the whole wolfy thing?” Buffy asked hopefully.

It was Giles' turn to grimace. He didn't know much about shape shifters so he would need to research the phenomena before he had any answers. The Brit hated to admit a failure in his knowledge but he promised to start digging through his books immediately. He was headed for the stacks when the swinging doors into the library opened.

Jenny bustled into the school room with a small box of discs in her one hand and a sticky note in the other. She seemed surprised that there was anyone in the library so early. Because of the strained relations between the two adults, the neo-pagan had planned to leave her little note for Giles before retreating to her own classroom. She had hoped to be early enough to avoid any confrontation.

“Um... good morning,” she greeted nervously. The computer teacher glanced longingly towards the exit but kept herself from fleeing. “I wasn't expecting anyone to be around.”

She waved her pink sticky note.

“I just wanted to leave a message.”

She glanced nervously between the teens and their mentor before directly addressing Buffy. She relaxed slightly when she noticed no overt hostility towards her. Even Giles, while not doing back-flips in joy, seemed accepting of her presence.

“Have you seen Angel lately?” she asked the Slayer.  Her inquiry rendered her little note obsolete.  She crumbled it and dropped it into the waste can.

Buffy shook her head and explained that he told them about his planned trip to see her friend the shaman. She admitted that she hadn't followed up with him since the visit and assumed he left town.

Jenny's lips pinched tightly in an obvious show of annoyance.

“He never arrived,” she explained. “Cooper emailed me this weekend asking if the vampire changed his mind about investigating his soul curse with him.”

Buffy shook her head. Since she hadn't seen the souled vampire in a while, she offered to swing by his apartment after school if one of her friends would go with her. With a nudge towards Oz, she informed Giles that she needed to get something from her locker. As she hurried past Ms. Calender, she whispered to the teacher that she should talk to Giles. She then reminded Giles about the forgive-athon. The librarian smiled softly at her and nodded before shooing her and Oz from the room.

In the hallway, Oz and Buffy were surprised to meet up with the other Scoobies. Willow and Xander had coaxed Anya, Cordy and Drusilla into coming to school early in hopes of sharing their weekend discovery with Giles. When Willow explained their reason for the early arrival, Buffy redirected them towards her locker. She didn't want anyone disrupting Rupert and Jenny and their chance at a reconciliation. When her friend's teased her about playing matchmaker, the teen just shrugged. She wanted Giles and Ms. Calendar to have a chance at being happy. For an older couple, they were sorta cute. They were running neck and neck in the cuteness contest with her mom and Officer Friendly.

Closing her locker, Buffy noticed the sorry state of her companions.

“You know, how come, if I'm the one who was roughing it this weekend, you guys look like it?” Buffy inquired although she fibbed a bit on the level of the roughness her weekend at the cabin actually entailed.  Besides the werewolf incident, the weekend had been nothing but pleasant. 

Anya jumped into the explanation about Drusilla's fit and their attempts to deal with her. Buffy immediately felt poorly for leaving the others with dealing with Drusilla. She apologized. Her friends waved off her concern. Appreciative of their easy acceptance, Buffy wrapped an arm around Dru's arm and gave it a gentle squeeze.

“I hope you are feeling a bit better now,” she offered.

Drusilla shrugged then returned to silently watching Oz. She leaned closer to him and whispered a question.

“Don't dogs and cats fight like, well, dogs and cats?”

Eyebrows pulled together, Oz actually seriously considered her question. He offered a soft smile before answering.

“I think dogs and cats can rub well together if given half a chance and the right environment.”

Drusilla looked between Buffy and Oz then smiled. She stepped to Oz's side and wrapped her arm around his uninjured side.

“Do you like lambs?” she inquired.

“In all their wooly goodness,” he replied without a trace of humor at her strange questions.

Pleased with his answer, Drusilla beamed. The first bell of the day rang and students started to file into the previously empty hallways. Her grip tightened on his arm. She asked Oz if he would kindly escort her to the library. With a promise that he had nothing he would rather do, the musician kindly led her away.

Shuffling into the library, the group caught a glimpse of the computer teacher and the librarian kissing. They broke apart to a collection of giggles. Giles immediately reacted with embarrassment but Ms. Calendar just patted him on the lapel of his jacket and winked at the crowd of students.

“You are all going to be late for first period,” she warned them before collecting her small box of discs from the circulation counter. She headed for the door but promised Rupert that she would see him for lunch. She swept from the library with a pep in her step that had been missing earlier.

Still recovering from the shame of being caught in a public display of affection, Giles sputtered through an inquiry about their invasion en masse.

Instead of explaining, Buffy opted to tease him.

“You know, Giles, if you keep this up, they are totally gonna take away your stiff British man card.”

“Yeah, G-man,” Xander joked. “You won't be allowed to wear tweed anymore.”

“I doubt the administration would approve of him coming to work in his skivvies,” Anya intoned.

Giles ignored the juvenile harassment and attempted to focus the teens on why they felt the need to invade his library.  At this point, they were all guaranteed to be late for class.

Willow explained their discovery over the weekend.

Disregarding the late bell and any possibility of anyone attending first period class, Giles excitedly directed everyone to the research table while he went to collect his notes on the Daughter.

 


 

Late in the evening on Tuesday, Buffy and Antonio walked companionably along the dimly lit pier. Their soft footfalls made light thuds on the wooden boardwalk.  Only a few late night patrons still wandered the off season attraction.  Most of the businesses that lined Sunnydale's attempt at a beach tourist trap were shutting down for the night. Tired workers locked doors and scurried through the darkness in hopes of avoiding any of the potential predators that lurked in abundance around the dark corners. None of them realized that one of the apex predators in the town was actually ensuring their immediate safety. Unnoticed by the clueless masses, Buffy's fingers twirled the stake she openly carried. Little shivers of warning skittered up her back which spurred her increased attention to the surroundings.

“Willow was so right,” Buffy gushed as her eyes carefully scanned the dim shadows. “That shrimp was the perfect blend of spicy bite and fishy goodness. And I don't think I can even begin to describe the yummy that was the chocolate cheesecake. I bet heaven has free samples on every corner.”

Her companion smiled fondly at the teen as he too scanned the darkness for any possible problems. The new police chief might not have enhanced Slayer senses but he had plied his profession long enough to have an eye for things of a suspicious nature. Although he did not hold a weapon bare in his hand, he did slip his left hand into his coat pocket when he noticed Buffy's blatant stake. His fingers flipped the top off his flask of holy water as his other hand moved to his waist where he carried his retracted ASP.

“I really think that...”

The teen froze and her conversation dropped as her warning shivers shifted to a gut wrenching pain.

“Buffy?”

“Nuts,” she grumbled as her now chosen duty pulled her towards a couple standing in the transition space where the comforting shine of a street lamp turned to darkness. She quickened her pace as the curvaceous form in the shadow walked her fingers playfully up the chest of the buff twenty-something male who had no idea how close he stood to destruction.

“Why do vamps always feel the need to ruin my perfectly perfect evenings with their fangy annoyance?” Buffy casually questioned as she stepped into the light beside the intended dinner.

“You need to go home... now,” she ordered the potential male victim as the soft snap of Tony's ASP extending punctuated her instruction.

“Uh... yeah... whoa...” the man stammered as he backed away from the pretty woman who suddenly shifted from a sultry beauty into a horrifying monster. The victim squeaked one last time before turning and rushing from the impending fight. He only fled about three steps before the area erupted into chaos. He screamed as two more vampires, one male and one female, stepped into the light. Their yellow eyes reflected eerily in the limited light from the overhead street lamp.

“Leaving so soon?” asked the taller of the two new arrivals who play pouted before running his tongue over his fangs for the victim to see. “But I thought you were staying for dinner.”

The prey squealed again as a third vampire reached from the darkness towards the hopeful escapee. The clawed fingers barely brushed his elbow before a steel baton cracked down on the vampire's extended arm. The vampire released his victim with a grunt that was overshadowed by the short yip of pained surprise from the first vampire as she dusted under Buffy's stake.

Flowing easily from the first kill, Buffy spun to face her other opponents. She barely glanced at her companion as he freed a bottle of holy water from his pocket. The teen snap kicked the closest vampire under the chin. The vampire reeled back in time for Buffy to shift legs and send the remaining female vampire to the ground with another kick.

Meanwhile, Ricci flung his holy water at his opponent while faithfully reciting a prayer of protection to Saint Joseph. The vampire with the already broken arm, screamed as the water burned the flesh of his face and upper chest. When the injured vampire scrambled from the police chief, Tony placed himself between the vampires and their cowering dinner.

The ashes of Buffy's male opponent fluttered on the breeze as strangely joyful laughter drew everyone's attention.

Buffy's breath caught for a moment in her throat.

As his laughter quieted to a soft chuckle, the Fly stepped into the spotlight of the next street lamp. He was flanked by two of his children. Although the younger ones wore their game faces, Fridulhelm wore only a smug smirk.  Buffy barely noticed the younger vampires as she focused on the true danger.

“Hmm, Emperor Charles you are not,” the powerful vampire teased. He tilted his head ever so slightly as he stared at Tony. “Although you practically glow with righteous faith and fury, we have a bit more bite than the French or Ottomans.”

Ignoring the words of the new arrival, Tony prodded the man behind him to get off the ground and leave. The male crawled to his feet and fled in response to the authoritative tone Ricci used to issue the order.

Since the police chief failed to acknowledge the Fly's taunts, the old vampire turned his attention to the teen who had calmly dusted the second female while everyone else's attention was on the verbal exchange.

“I hope you are not disappointed with the quality of my current companions,” the Fly offered as he casually ambled towards Buffy. His dead eyes failed to reflect the warmth of friendship that seemed to fill his words. “These ones are not bargain basement kinds.”

“Tony,” Buffy called as she rolled her shoulders slightly and loosened her death grip on her stake. “You need to head to the car without me.”

Glancing between the teen and the three approaching demons, he denied her order. Tony replaced his empty flask with the wooden cross from his pocket. He stepped closer and shifted his weight into his own version of a ready stance.

“Tony... please,” Buffy pleaded as the trio of vampires joined them in their spotlight.  The teen loathed the idea that her potential step father might not survive the next couple minutes.  In fact, she wondered if she actually would retain a beating heart by the end of the evening.

“Oh no, Pure Heart, by all means allow him to stay. We could always use a gently aged aperitif before the main course.”

“Please don't die,” Buffy whispered to her companion before she charged at the main threat.

The Fly simply stepped aside from her attack. Startled at his speed of escape, the teen pivoted to face him once more. She jumped slightly at the appearance of the vampire who had moved between her and Friduhelm. She had never met this one previously. It was obvious because she would have remembered him. Despite the slight chill of early November, her newest opposition wore only a pair of shorts and sneakers. The lack of attire highlighted the bumpy, port-wine birthmarks that covered a large portion of his body. The hardened skin growths only rarely associated with the discolored pigments added extra ridges to the normal vampire bumps.

“You look more like a Toy than a Treasure,” the vampire arrogantly informed Buffy as she swiped at his chest with her stake. He snorted at her swing as he returned it with a jab towards her face. Deftly, Buffy avoided the hit and returned his foray with a three punch combination. Two jabs and an uppercut moved the vampire into prime position for dusting. The stake angled towards its target only to be stalled by the Fly's hand grasping her forearm.

“Ah, Ah, Ah,” chastised the elder vampire. “I may not mind you breaking my Toys but I refuse to allow you to deprive me of one of my favorites in my treasure collection.

Finding herself unable to immediately pull her arm free of the vampire's hold, Buffy shifted her weight and used a side kick to send the younger vampire out of immediate reach. She reached across her body and secured her own grip on the Fly's hand. With a twist of her hips and shift of her weight, the Fly left the ground as Buffy used a straight arm throw to toss him away from her body. His claws lost purchase as he was flung into the darkness.

Deciding that she better get rid of the easier vampire so that she could concentrate on the more deadly one, the former Slayer raced to engage the supposed vampire Treasure. She flung herself into battle with him while working to stem the bubble of panic gurgling in her gut.

While Buffy fought her opponents, Antonio found himself slowly backed into the shadows by the dark haired female. Repeatedly, he struck her with his extended steel baton. Bones creaked and cracked with each hit but did little to slow her advance. After the third strike that connected with her shoulder, the female hissed in frustration. On the next swing, she caught the weapon and yanked it from the policeman's hold. Metal clanged on the ground as Ricci found himself with his back against the huge pane of glass fronting a T-shirt shop. The vampire pressed herself against the policeman's chest. Her yellow eyes stared at the small cross hanging free against Antonio's collarbone. She froze for a moment before lifting her gaze slightly to meet his dark eyes. Her nose twitched as an unexpected thought filled her mind. She giggled. The amusement turned to a sharp cry of pain as she jumped backwards while clutching at her face. The smoking impression of a large cross marred her demonic face.

Tears immediately fell as her face shifted to her more attractive human guise.

“You are still a bastard after all these years, Amore Mio,” she accused the utterly shocked man.

“Nicola?” Tony whispered with equal parts horror and awe.

With the practiced ease from another lifetime, Nicola pushed her thick black hair behind her ears. She tenderly ghosted her expertly manicured fingertips over the painful burn charred onto face.

“You look like tuo padre,” the vampire stated as she noticed the crows feet around his dark eyes and the graying hair at his temples.

Ricci swallowed.

“You look the same.”

“Hmm,” the vampire agreed as she took a step forward to move back into her former husband's personal space. She glanced over her shoulder to where Buffy had just thrown Nicola's sire into the darkness.

“Tsk, Tsk, Tsk,” chided the beauty. “Your tastes have certainly changed, Amore Mio. A bit on the tender side, don't you think? You didn't like them that age even when you were her age.”

“It's not like that,” Antonio indignantly denied. “You were always the one with the wandering eyes, la Mia Bellezza.”

“And your work was always your mistress,” Nicola returned with the tired truth of their previous lives. The exchange reeked of repetition and pinched feelings that time had not erased.

Ricci clenched his teeth so tightly his jaw shot him a warning of sharp pain.

“Your bad habits killed our daughter,” he growled.

Nicola chuckled.

“Ah... that was a tragedy. I rose too late to taste her sweetness but my Sire promised she was a treat.”

Tears rimmed his eyes as Tony pulled his stake from his coat pocket.

“BITCH!” he yelled as he attempted to stake the demon who so glibly disregarded their only child. His novice attack slammed into Nicola's shoulder just above his intended target. The vampire shrieked as she tore the wood from her body. The bloody stake clattered to the ground to join the officer's Asp. Crying and clutching her injury, Nicola took a step back and then disappeared into the darkness.

Shaking from adrenaline and anguish, Ricci knelt to retrieve both his police baton and his stake. He breathed deeply as he struggled to overcome his distress. He never expected to see his ex-wife and he found himself in a strange fugue. A grunt of pain from Buffy yanked him from his whirling and disjointed thoughts.  The present and possible future called over the painful shade of his past. 

He climbed to his feet and cautiously approached the teen who skidded across the sidewalk on her butt. He stopped beside her after she kipped-upright.

“Think we could both go to the car now?" Buffy asked wearily after taking a deep breath.

“I vote yes but I somehow doubt your new friends are interested in dusting themselves.”

Buffy sighed as she glared at the Fly and his remaining Treasure.

“Want to be a pal and prove Officer Friendly wrong?” Buffy asked as she ready herself for yet another rush. “Self-dusties... you could be a trend setter.”

“I have been a bellwether for more than a millennia, Pure Heart. Happily, I avoided the castration part. How boring the years would be otherwise.”

The Fly sighed as if the years have been a hardship anyway. “Alas, I am not feeling the call of the dust so I guess we will have to settle for dinner and a show.”

With her police escort shadowing her movements, Buffy took two steps and jumped into an areal kick. The Fly simply stepped back from the attempt with a roll of his eyes. His contempt instantly shifted to concern though as Buffy used the flashy kick to cover the release of her stake. Perfectly on target, the wooden weapon sunk into the chest of the deformed vampire. His dust swirled as Buffy's feet touched the ground.

Friduhelm snarled in rage as he took the initiative and attacked the teen. Just like the last time the pair fought, Buffy found herself unable to match the old vampire blow for blow. For every two she blocked, one landed. She barely suppressed a pained cry as his knuckles slammed into the edge of her jaw. Lights exploded in her vision and nausea forced her to gag. As she worked to clear her head, Ricci attempted to cover for her. He swung his baton at the vampire who turned his head to stare at the policeman as he caught the Asp in his left hand. With a quick twist, the Fly yanked the weapon from Tony's grasp and snapped it with his hands before he shoved the man in the chest. Ricci flew ten feet back and landed on his hands and knees gasping as he tried to relearn how to breath.

“ENOUGH!” shouted the Fly as he flung his arms outward and closed his eyes for a moment. Ill intent swirled with personal energy as the vampire opened his eyes and pushed his rioting powers forward.

Moaning, Buff dropped to her knees as crushing levels of despair slammed into her like an emotional tsunami. She whimpered and clutched at her chest. Her hysterical sobs were echoed in her companion's cries as he too sunk to the ground under the crushing emotional weight.

The raging vampire stalked towards the collapsed teen. His previously alluring movements were replaced with deliberate malice. When he reached the blond, the Fly grabbed her chin. He forced the teen's head up so that he could stare down at her tear-filled eyes. If she survived the confrontation, Buffy was guaranteed to retain a collection of bruises from his harsh hold. His claws tightened further as he berated her for killing one of his precious treasures. With brute strength, the vampire lifted Buffy to her feet by the hold on her chin.

“I had such plans for you, girl, but now I think I will just beat you until you are unable to move any longer. As you lay there, I will rip each of your fingers and toes from your body and feed them to your pitiful friend over there. Him, I will tear limb from limb and beat you for days with the rotting severed parts. I will tear your scalp from your head and mangle your limbs until they are unable to heal properly. I shall visit all manner or depravity upon you and then when you no longer even have the will to plead for death I shall make you one of my treasure so that I may take joy in your suffering for eternity.”

“You will never know peace,” the Fly promised as he dropped Buffy back to her knees before backhanding her across the face. He stepped back slightly in preperation to knee the teen in the face.

A pale hand grabbed the crazed vampire by the back of his neck and yanked him away from the dazed teen.

“You talk too much... You're a bloody bore,” Spike informed the smaller vampire before he turned and rammed his face into a lamp post.

Taking advantage of his surprise attack, he repeated the blow before dropping the vampire and turning to run.

“Come on Pet. Best we motor,” Spike advised the still dazed teen as he yanked her off the ground and dragged her towards the other confused human. By the time that the Fly pulled himself upright and turned to retaliate, the trio was just stumbling around the corner and out of sight.

“Et tu Brute,” Friduhelm muttered as he firmly pressed the bridge of his nose to ensured the broken cartilage did not heal in a deformed manner. Although he was originally born a scant few years after Julius Caesar was murdered, the Fly had a flare for the dynamic. At many different times and places, the vampire had pursued prey and pleasure in many theaters. Shakespeare was a favorite. He always did have a love for dramatic irony. It appealed to his twisted desires to see others flounder in pain and especially hopelessness while he remained superior in his knowledge of the true situations. He pursed his lips and shook his head in disgust. “Scurry, scurry, Little Mice. The cat now knows your true measure. Your Grandfather will be so disappointed in you, Little William. Oh what fun.”

The defection of his nephew many times removed filled him with a joyful bit of anticipation which quelled his rage at the death of his children. It was a dramatic and unexpected bit of action. The Fly had new paths on which to dance. Creepy laughter filtered into the otherwise silent darkness. He truly looked forward to the fun.


As his adrenaline rush subsided, Spike noticed that he was dragging the police officer. Antonio's feet just could not keep up with the speed of the vampire's escape. On his other side, Buffy stumbled. Only his arm slung around her waist kept the teen from falling on her knees. Finding themselves in a residential area rather well removed from the pier, William opted to stop. He dropped his temporary charges.

Tony collapsed with a pained moan. Buffy bent and leaned her elbows on her knees as she concentrated on breathing. She took mental stock of her body. She gave it up as futile and just decided that everything hurt. Looking up, the teen watched her highly agitated hero stomping back and forth like a caged tiger in a much too small habitat.

“Stupidest thing I ever bloody well done,” the vampire muttered to himself as he circled his self imposed cage once again. “Dumb, dumb, dumb” he repeated as he yanked a crumpled pack of cigarettes from his duster pocket. He paused his pacing circuit to light the cigarette. With his lighter and pack back in his pocket, Spike returned to his nervous stomping.

“You didn't just watch this time,” Buffy quietly stated as she straightened. She offered him a tentative smile. “That didn't suck.”

Spike rolled his eyes as he tossed away his only partially finished cigarette. The pacing resumed.

“Thank you.”

Stilled once again, he simply nodded.

“Glad to see the white hat seems to fit you well,” Buffy teased.

“Bite your tongue... or better yet, allow me to do it.”

A momentary shocked expression flashed across Spike's face as he realized what he just said.

“Cack.”

With that, William turned tail and ran. Buffy just watched him in confusion before she remembered that she really should be worrying about Officer Friendly more than the disappearing vampire.

 





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