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In a half forgotten dream

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This story is No. 6 in the series "That the autumn leaves were turning". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Buffy and Willow go look for the missing Wombles which leads to more trouble than they were expecting...

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Literature > Childrens/Teen(Current Donor)vidiconFR18422,2790153,0517 Sep 121 Dec 12Yes

Chapter 4

Author’s Note:

Thanks very much to my Beta’s, Letomo and Cordyfan.

The following ways of notation may be found in this story. This is excluding whatever I need to represent chatting, texting and stuff like that.

Speech: “Who’s on first.”

Thought: *What’s on second.*

Vision: #I-don’t-know’s on third.#

The last chapter in this particular story. I hope that despite the occasionally gruesome subject matter it is still enjoyable.

In a half forgotten dream 

Chapter 4

Spike was swearing under his breath. Imprecations aimed at the man responsible, the men who served him, the very notion of what they were doing. George reached for his hand and he let her take it. It was trembling and despite the blood he'd recently drunk, cold.

George hesitated and then leaned in, putting an arm around his leather clad shoulders. “I'm here William. We're all here. We'll get the rotter.”

Spike laughed involuntarily. “Rotter? We have to work on your swearwords, Luv.”

George gave him a look. “We'll see how long you use bad language after Mum decides to take out the soap.

Spike grinned. “Ah, but I'm her lily white boy. Can't do no harm, can I!”

“You can if you use language like you do,” George retorted, then led the way to where Willow was sitting talking to Buffy.

The younger Slayers were hanging around near the doors and the middle of the room, keeping away from the beds near the walls.

“So, what was he trying to achieve here?” George asked, her voice carefully level.

Willow gestured at the sedated Wombles. “Breeding half-demons,” she replied curtly and with evident distaste.

George looked at the terribly distorted bellies of the female Wombles and at the screens that showed the Polgara. “Wombles are hardly warlike. Why did he want them?”

“Two reasons. Wombles are difficult to detect by supernatural means, they have their natural camouflage,” Willow swallowed.

“And the second part is the way they breed?” Spike asked softly.

Willow blinked. “How do you know about that?”

Spike rubbed the back of his head. “Well, Dru was a bit of a scientist and naturalist. When she wasn't stark raving mad.”

“Drusilla investigated the procreation of Wombles?” Buffy asked in disbelief.

Spike grinned. “Nice big words, Slayer. And yeah. Dru always had a curious streak.”

“Do we want to know how she investigated it?” Willow asked cautiously.

Spike chuckled. “Well, while I was killing vamps and demons for the Wombles she had to have someone for tea.”

George punched his arm. “William!”

“Ouch! Okay, over for tea, happy now?” Spike sighed. “I think it was a Womble girl called Adelaide. Very firm young lady. Told Dru a lot, and told her off quite a bit. She was quite cool about Dru being a vamp. And Dru was... well, Dru, but less so. Very eager to please, eager to make friends.”

“And Drusilla told you all about it?” Willow asked sceptically.

Spike grinned. “Well, she hoped it'd get me hard. Had to disappoint her, Womble orgies weren't my thing. Still aren't.”

“ORGIES?” George called out shocked. “Bacchanalia? Wombles?”  

Spike sniggered. “Wouldn't think it from looking at it, would you? It's quite interesting really. Not as interesting as Slayer orgies, but still.”

George spluttered and punched Spike again, her face flaming, too embarrassed even to speak. Spike laughed while rubbing his arm.

Willow scowled at him. “It's not like that and you know it. Wombles are a bit like bees. Not quite, but a bit. Some females are, well elected I suppose, by some instinctive method and become queens, or breeders. They mate with a number of selected males. They then store the semen somehow and can use it to fertilize their eggs. They usually bear four to eight pups each time, mostly from different fathers. Each clan has two or three mothers, to prevent too much inbreeding and they exchange females when possible.”

George had become more and more flustered during the explanation, her face flaming. “How can you discus all this so clinically?”

Willow shrugged. “Practice. I am a bit surprised though, you didn't seem this prudish when we first met.”

Spike put an arm around George's shoulders. “She was still a bit hyped then. Just don't tell her that the male who is chosen by most females becomes the Patriarch,” he waggled his eyebrows. “Oops.”

“WILLIAM!” George’s fist struck Spike’s shoulder again.

Spike groaned. “Blimey, she can't half hit!”

Buffy sniffed. “You deserve it for teasing her,” then her eyes widened in shock. “Wait, Great-Grand-Uncle BULGARIA?”

Spike grinned. “Knew that would get you, Luv,” then he sobered. “So, what can we do to help these Wombles?”

Willow sighed. “Well, they've been bearing half-breed pups almost since they were captured. Luckily most didn't survive or were too wild to use. The ones that did live are in there,” she waved at the door to the Polgara room. “He used the males to produce sperm to splice Polgara DNA in, and to impregnate Polgara females and other demons.”

“Ugh,” Spike grimaced. “Ugly bitches, wouldn’t want to come near them myself.”

“You'd better not, William Llewellyn Pratt,” George threatened.

“But to answer your question, for the Wombles we're waiting for Great-Grand Uncle Bulgaria and some of the other elders to show up. They need to help decide what must be done with the hybrids. And offer what support they can to their kids,” Willow sighed.

“And we have our own decision to make,” Buffy ran an ash and ichor covered hand over her face. “Willow has sent for Giles.”

“What did you find, Buffy?” George asked tensely. Willow and Buffy both seemed upset. And that was not a good sign.

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Hills above Sunnydale Bay, California

The Initiative had done its work well. They had dug numerous tunnel and support systems in locations that had been 'deemed of interest'. That meant that besides the facility under UC Sunnydale's campus, they had constructed one in the foothills above the town, for emergency use. Happily everybody who had known of the construction of the emergency base had since died, including most of the construction workers. A Hellmouth was a wonderful thing for secrecy. That meant that the Emergency complex had lain dormant, until the man who'd carefully planted the seeds of the notion that demons and the supernatural might be harnessed as weapons of war was the last person who knew how to find it, and get in. And its labs and armouries, holding pens and operating theatres were the reason the man was now here.

The exceptionally terminal closing of the Hellmouth had immediately caused the numbers of demons and the supernatural in the environs to drop. Most had already vacated before the great battle, but this time they hadn't returned. The Hellmouth was closed, the food supply gone, the easily accommodated police force had departed. Even the Slayers had left. Only a few minor demons skulked in the neighbourhood. Tourists came and left within hours, allowing peace and quiet to return.

By the access road to Sunnydale stood a simple, stark memorial to those who died in the collapse. Sometimes people would come and photograph the disaster site, or scientists to seek evidence of how and why Sunnydale fell.

And crackpots looking for proof of their varied theories gathered there in large numbers, bickering about if one A. Jenkins had been a mastermind operative of the CIA.

On the other side of Sunnydale from the monument, in front of one of the secret entrances to the Initiative, reachable only by taking smaller roads and paths, stood a man. He wore a suit of grey clothes and was staring out over the almost perfectly circular bay. The water was dark and murky with the still treacherous eddies and currents and the intermixing of the foreign matter at the bottom with the water. It might take a decade more before everything had settled down. People were already planning the new Sunnydale Marina. 'Considerate of the tragedy that occurred’, of course.  

The man smiled. People were tools to him, pawns to be manipulated to do his will, or threatened or bribed. It was amazing how often the bribery and just the notion of more money worked on the rich in this society. They were driven by avarice. He was sure that if some entrepreneur thought he could find a way to charge money to view the memorials for the war dead, and get away with it without being lynched, he would do so. It was quite refreshing how many people were willing to put possessions before ethics. What mattered the loyalty of an employee, the food in their children's mouths if you could increase the size of your own bonus?

Fu looked at the lapping waves and frowned. Sometimes he didn't understand what mankind had become. When he was young the poor were there, and they were, well, the poor. That didn't make them intrinsically worse than the rich, usually just lacking in opportunity. That was obvious from the fact that if they were provided the means, many of them managed to take the Bureaucratic Examinations and rise out of poverty.

Fu had ruled over the poor and the rich alike.  But even now there were some elderly men and women who had been in his employ for forty or fifty years, loyal and unquestioning. They might no longer be able to do the things he'd originally hired them to do, but they were still his people. The wily ones could lead. Leadership could be exercised from a wheelchair quite well. The ones who had been muscle, well there were always floors to sweep. Or guns to polish. Or alibis to provide. Sweet looking old grannies were an excellent alibi. The very notion that a loyal henchman should be removed from his organisation, just because he was no longer as economically profitable was abhorrent to Fu. And it explained why his people would fight for him even unto death. They knew he would appreciate it, would remember them, even if only in an abstract way. And that he would take care of their families. Whole villages in China owed him their allegiance. And he them.

But the people of this time were often different. They craved money and power and knew nothing of honour and responsibility, only of avarice and egotism. That however, made them so easy to manipulate. Honour could be manipulated, but the best men knew when honour's remit ran out. Avarice never stopped. Once a step was taken to gain money by less than honest means, well, why stop?    

So Fu Manchu orchestrated and manipulated and made deals. And men fell for it, allowed themselves to be deceived. Even the so-called Master vampires, even the great leaders of the mightiest demon clans. Most of them, like all good pawns, didn't even know that they were being moved around the board by his invisible hand. And that was how he felt it should be. The fewer people knew about him, and his continued existence, the better. Only those truly loyal to him knew about Fu Manchu. And that was how it should be. He turned back into the cave. There was work to be done to ensure his final victory.

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CanaryWharf base

“What I don't understand is why we haven't met any organised opposition,” Giles told Emma as they made their way towards the location where Buffy and Willow had set up their HQ.

Emma nodded. “Even an incompetent leader would have offered some centralised resistance. It’s as if there’s no one in charge and everybody is frightened to take charge.”

“Most peculiar. I would say it was a trap, but unless there are hundreds more demons and vampires quite nearby, I see no way it can be,” Giles ran a frustrated hand through his hair.

“None of the Slayers have sensed anything? The Wiccans have detected nothing?” Emma asked, thoughtfully.

“No one,” Giles shook his head decisively. “Mind you, we haven't found the command centre yet. Some of the creatures we've encountered carried communication devices, but the central, ah, hub, is nowhere to be found.”

There was a scream and then twin giggles. Giles sighed. “Well, at least Bebe is coming out of her shell a bit.”

“That's so,” Emma grinned. “Soon she will be able to act upon that crush she has on you. Yet another Slayer to moon after you...”

Giles glared. “Oh, do stop it. It's embarrassing enough as it is.”

“I can't wait until one of your little admirers corners you in her adolescent enthusiasm, wearing nothing more than some flimsy lingerie. It's bound to happen sooner or later. I should ask Xander to make sure we get it on film,” Emma teased.

Giles let out a long-suffering sigh. He watched with clinical detachment as Bebe and Katie beat a vampire into submission and forced him to reveal the shortest route to the location Willow and Buffy were using.

Emma shuddered. “I'm sorry, I’ll never get used to seeing them do things like that, no matter how necessary and no matter how evil and unnatural these things are.”

Giles smiled. “I hope you never do. If you do...”

He gently tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear. “I think something wonderful and splendid would be lost.”

Then he blushed and quickly strode onwards. Emma looked after her, slowly raising her hand to her cheek where his fingers had touched it.

Timothy who had been walking behind them cleared his throat. “Was he just coming on to you, Miss Knight?”

Emma gave him an absentminded look. “Oh, do be a good chap and shut up, Timothy,” and followed Giles more slowly.

Timothy grinned.

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Giles stood in the Library and beamed. “Oh, this is wonderful! There are copies here of books that were destroyed in the bombing of the Old Council! Oh, splendid! The Codex Megara!” He reverently touched one of the books.

Buffy shook her head. “That’s not why we called you, Giles. There’s two things we need to discuss.”

Giles looked up from studying the old text. “What?” he asked warily.

“Fu’s probably not here. George heard a couple of vamps discuss it and it seems he’s in the Scotland or the States, working on some Master Plan,” Buffy reported.

Giles nodded. “That explains a good deal, actually. The lack of organized resistance for one. Though I would think he’d have an able second.”

Spike snorted and pointed his thumb at the lab. “Mr. Vivisection in the locker there is it. Seems like ol’ Fu wasn’t expecting an invasion and made Scuntner his Second in command two months ago, so that the experiments would proceed apace.”

“Ah. Well, maybe we’ll be able to get some information out of him later,” Giles said sagely.

Spike grinned. “Only had to mention the blender and he was quite talkative.”

“No, Spike. He may be scum, but he's still human,” Buffy scolded. “Which brings us to why we asked you to hurry here, Giles. Go back into the lab and check out he last bed.”

Giles sighed and gave the library one final, longing glance. Buffy took his arm and led him to the Lab, then pointed at one of the beds. It held a trembling shape, huddling under a blanket.

Giles pursed his lips. “One of Fu's victims? Other than help with hospitalization and counselling, what exactly is my role?”

“Look closer, Giles,” Willow said with a shudder.

Giles frowned but walked closer. As soon as the person on the bed saw him she cowered into the blanket and tried to get away from him. Giles backed off quickly, retreating to the library “Amy Madison?” he asked, stunned.

“Yeah. Not exactly an innocent victim,” Buffy pointed out.

Giles licked his lips. “Well, ah, I actually have no say in this matter. I'm merely an associate member of the Coven, not a fully fledged witch by any means.”

Willow closed her eyes. “Why did I know you were gonna say that? Okay, we take Amy, and bring her to the Coven. If they say they can't help her, or bring her back on the right path, we'll assist in her incarceration or execute her for her crimes.

Buffy put a comforting arm around Willow. “We can always hope, Willow. She may be ready to accept that her actions were wrong. She may be willing to learn, to reform.”

Willow nodded glumly. “We can certainly hope so.”

Emma in the meantime had been browsing the library and let out a low whistle. “Well, he has got an expensive taste. A lot of incunabula and manuscripts.”

Giles smiled. “Yes, yes indeed,” his fingers trailed across the fronts of several books, halted at one which he lifted down and opened. Then he blinked, blushed and put it back.

“Something interesting?” Willow asked, her eyes shining with curiosity.

“Uhm, no nothing, nothing at all, just err...” Giles tried to block the witch from getting to the book, but Buffy lifted him up and put him aside. Giles huffed. “Well, really!”

Buffy grinned. “We're all adults here, Giles. Nothing in this book is gonna shock us, ya old British prude!”

Willow had taken the book down and put it on a reading stand. She opened it and read a few lines. Then her eyes widened and she turned a few pages, read for half a minute and looked up, her ears burning. “Wow. Did you use any of this in your Ripper days, Giles?”

Giles blushed beet red. Emma lifted an eyebrow. “What exactly is 'this', Willow?”

Willow grinned, though a slight pink tinged her cheeks. “Very explicit sex spells. I'd only heard rumours of this book, it's called the Artes Magicae Amatoria, the-”

“Magical Arts of love. I see,” Emma smirked. “You have a good memory, don't you Rupert?  

Giles whimpered.

George cleared her throat. “Very well, we know that Fu isn't here and what we're going to do with Miss Madison. Shall we proceed with clearing this base of enemy personnel?”

Buffy grinned. “I suppose we can tease and torment Giles later. Willow, let's...” Buffy turned to her girlfriend. Willow was reading again, her mouth moving as she translated, her eyes wide and with a feverish gleam in them.

“Willow?” Buffy asked.

Willow looked up, grinning. “This is a really interesting book, Buffy. We really should get a copy...”

Buffy sighed, slamming the book firmly shut. “Defeat armies of evil first. Weird magical sex manuals later, Darling.”

Willow blushed. “Okay, let's go.”

Buffy blinked as Willow bustled off to organize her magic. “Okay, that went easier than I thought, and without innuendo. Should I be worried?”

“You called her darling,” Emma smiled. “I think she liked that.”

Buffy scratched her head. “Okay. If you say so. I'll ask her why later.”

There was a commotion in the lab, a roar of anguish and anger and a feeling of loss and anger swept through all of those in the library. There was a keen of pain and Buffy blanched and hurried out. “WILLOW!”

She stormed into the lab, seeing Willow on her knees, her arms clasped around her, trembling. Amy was lying on her bed, eyes closed. There were Wombles in the room, but they were barely recognizable as such.

Tomsk was a raging ball of fury, his hair standing out from his body, his huge sword clutched in both of his large paws. Next to him, leaning on a staff that Buffy recognized as one Willow used for certain rituals, was Wellington, looking coldly angry. Bungo was trembling with anger as well, sword in hand and at the throat of Scuntner. Orinoco was icily looking on. Alderney was crying. In the centre of the lab stood Madam Cholet and Great-Grand Uncle Bulgaria. Their grey and white fur was dank and dark and the light seemed to have gone out in their eyes as they clasped each other, the grief rolling off them in waves.

Buffy hurried towards Willow and knelt as well, hugging her. “Will? You alright?”

Willow shook her head. There were tears running down her cheeks. “The Grief of the Earth Mother. I never understood what that meant. Powerful enough to bring down armies.”

Buffy nodded, forcing back her own tears. “Yeah. We felt it too. What do we do, Will?”

Madam Cholet straightened and looked into Great-grand Uncle Bulgaria's eyes. “We will need to destroy any offspring, I fear. Their corruption is an affront to the Earth itself. No matter how painful it is that any child of any Womble dies. We shall take  our children home and heal them as best we may. And those responsible for this abomination must be destroyed. Utterly.”

Bulgaria nodded. “I think that these,” he gestured at the four younger Wombles, “ Will want to help you fight. I would like to talk about how we can deal with Fu Manchu permanently at a later time. But quite soon.”

“Destroy utterly. “Yeah. That was about what I had in mind,” Buffy nodded. “Including Fu. Bungo, we need that guy for questioning. But if Spike leaves anything, you can have it.”

Scuntner whimpered. Bungo nodded and stepped back, eyeing the scientist as if wondering how he might best torture him.

******

The united force was heading towards what Willow had determined from her hacking of the plans and Buffy from her threats to the 'science guy' to be the central command post. The place was surrounded by barracks housing Fu's elite human and inhuman henchmen, though most of them had already been killed by the invading Slayers.

Tomsk, Wellington, Bungo, Orinoco and Alderney strode along with them, their faces grim, their soft-padded paws gripping their weapons. Wombles were not violent creatures, only ever fighting in extremis, but in this situation they would have been willing to summon the Clans and march off to war.

The hidden doors were located and the elevator was found. A set of secret emergency stairs were found as well, leading from the lowest to the highest level of the base and then all the way up to the surface. Buffy shook her head. “I don’t get it. Why aren't these blocked? Why aren't there hordes of vampires here to fight us? What's going on here?”

“You think its trap?” Giles asked, gripping his sword. “That the forces we met so far were merely a distraction?”

Spike looked thoughtful. “It's strange, yeah. But Fu isn't this wasteful of his troops. He'd have coordinated them better in the earlier battles. He'd have unleashed the hybrids, let them weaken us, then made concerted attacks and ambushes as we went in. Weakened the wiccans, then hit us group by group with overwhelming force and taken us out. He's a genius. And unless he's seriously suffering from Evil Overlord Syndrome, this is not the defence of a genius. That might be because he isn't here, and whoever is here, didn't follow Fu's orders. And that person is not gonna be a happy camper when Fu learns that. But that doesn't mean that Fu won't want our hides, too.”

“Oh, wonderful,” Buffy muttered. “I hate being right sometimes.”

“Good thing sometimes only happens rarely,” Willow deadpanned.

Buffy sighed and pouted at George. “See what I've got to put up with?”

George shrugged. “She's not my type, really. But I think the rest of the package is probably enough to counterbalance it.”

Buffy grinned and licked her lips. “Yeah, the package is pretty darn tasty,” she eyed Willow, her eyes gleaming. “Can't wait for the after battle party.”

Willow's eyes widened and she bit her lip uncertainly. “Shouldn't we, errr, open this door?”

Spike grinned. “Yeah, we ought to. Anyone want to abseil down the elevator shaft?”

There was chorus of 'Me! Me!'s’ from junior Slayers, while Buffy shook her head ruefully at so much youthful enthusiasm. Then she pointed at five slayers. “Heidi, you're in charge, Bebe's second.”

Willow in the meantime leaned through the doors and studied the shaft and then shook her head. “Not without a witch, there's runes on the walls, they'll have to be taken down.”

“Andrew?” George suggested hopefully.

“Naah, he's still wading through sewage to get the Labyrinth cleared. He's doing sterling work there,” Willow said with a twinkle in her eye. “I think it will take months, personally.”

“Timothy,” Giles and Emma chorused.

Timothy gulped. “What?”

Willow looked at the young wiccan and nodded cheerfully. “He'll do very well. Gear up, Timothy. We don't want you falling down the well. Lassie's all the way over the ocean.”

Timothy glared at everybody, but singled out Emma, Giles and Willow especially as Katie and Bebe helped him into abseiling gear. As it had been bought by a teenage slayer, it was pink, with appliqués of stars and rainbows. Spike commented how well it went with his green specs and Timothy glared at him too.

While the elevator assault group was getting ready, Willow had been scouting the staircase with her senses. Buffy stood by watchfully, Scythe at the ready.

Willow opened her eyes. “Okay, the stairs have multiple layers of traps and alarms, as I thought, more than the elevator shaft. I'll be going with that group and disarming them as we go,” she looked around. “We should leave now, even with the abseiling and everything it will take me longer to disarm these traps than it will take Timothy. There was a mechanical deadfall or two, but I blocked those from the lab, so we're safe there.”

Buffy leaned over and whispered into Willow's ear. Willow flushed and looked uncertain. “O-okay I suggest we leave now. Timothy?” 

Willow gestured and the young witch came over, trailing ropes.

Willow gave him some final instructions and then they stood ready to descend. Timothy decided to remove the protections immediately, stating that there might be an unforeseen circumstance where they needed to descend quickly.

Buffy okayed it and Spike winked at her over Timothy's head as the young man self-importantly dropped down the hole. The larger group headed for the head of the stairs.

“Nice one, Slayer. He stood up and pointed out the flaw in the plan. Planning to promote the poor guy?” Spike stuck a new toothpick in his mouth.

Buffy shrugged. “Willow picked him for a reason. If one of he newbies hadn't stood up I'd have suddenly had an epiphany. We do need to work on small unit tactics Did you ever learn anything like that while working as a spy?” she asked guilelessly.

Spike snorted. “Yer not ropin' me in to teach, Buffy. Nice try though.”

Buffy smiled. “I’ll just have George pout at you.”

Spike smirked. “George doesn't pout. Boys don't, remember?”

“Andrew does. Xander has been known to do it. I think I can find sufficient samples to convince her it's universal. And very, very effective...” Buffy teased.

“What's effective?” George asked, walking up.

“Nothing luv, the Slayer here was being facetious,” Spike told her.

George's eyes widened a little and her lower lip moves slightly. In a pout. “You weren't discussing my methods versus Buffy's again were you? I wasn't trained with modern weapons, you know that.”

Spike looked at the lip and the eyes and the sad and disappointed demeanour and swallowed. Then he closed his eyes and his shoulders slumped. “Heard every word, didn't yer?”

George nodded. “Every word,” then she looked at Buffy, flushed and headed to the head of the stairs. “Well, come on! Time to get to the bottom of this!”

Buffy grinned. “Ah, they grow up so fast.”

“Let's go then, my lovely,” Spike growled and strode up to George and then stomped down the stairs.

******

The stairs were quite long, going down what would amount to five or six flights of stairs, which they had expected from the depth of the elevator shaft. But it ran without openings, though it was clear that spaces had been left for doors, should further expansion be needed at a later date. Buffy was going to make sure there never would be an expansion.

The door at the bottom was heavily armoured, a single slab of metal. Willow looked at the door for a bit, then cast her mind out to see how far Timothy and Heidi had gotten.

“The other group is waiting at the bottom of the shaft. Heidi is keeping them quiet but Katie keeps wanting to sing to hear the echo,” she reported.

Buffy nodded, and using Willow as a booster, sent her mental voice into Katie's in a thorough scold. The ebullient Slayer let out a mental ‘eep’ and became very quiet.

“Can you open these, Will?” she then asked, gesturing at the doors with the Scythe.

Willow nodded, happily. “Sure. Removing all the magical protections has weakened the wards here already. Bit of sloppy work there, working from top to bottom instead of the other way around. Just a sec.”

Willow set out her ingredients and her laptop, cast a few herbs into the air, muttered a few words, then blew some dust at the door. Then she tapped for a few minutes on her laptop. “Okay, when I press enter the door will open, and then the others will go through as well. Stand ready.”

Buffy nodded and took point, George and Spike immediately behind her. The door opened and they rushed through. The vampires on the other side were outnumbered and slaughtered within seconds. A group of Oni that hastened up were attacked from behind as the elevator doors opened. Tomsk and Bungo fought with bitter efficiency, their swords flashing, while Orinoco and Alderney gave support to Willow and Timothy.   

The level was large, but not as large as they feared. The furnishings and finish were luxurious, the décor clearly Chinese. There were great rooms, with guard posts in between all leading to a vast, subterranean throne room.

Spike shook his head. “Lay-out's based upon the Forbidden City. Always knew Ol' Fu was more than a bit megalomaniac,” he pointed at the door. “Personal quarters should be through there.”

“Shouldn't there be more guards?” George asked, eyeing the guard posts warily.

Spike shook his head. 'Think we got them all, luv. Shall we go in?”

Without waiting for an answer he kicked the huge lacquered doors. They flew open and slammed against the pillars beyond.

The private quarters were empty. There was no commander, no Fu Manchu, insane or otherwise. Slayer groups searched the complex again, from top to bottom, from the entrance to the elevator and the staircase to the regal quarters far below. Besides the corpses of demons, the piles of goo and the scatterings of vampire dust, they found nothing. There were rooms for scientists, but they were empty. A huge bedchamber with a vast canopied bed drew Spike's ire. A second library piqued Giles' interest.

Feeling oddly unfulfilled, Buffy ordered the evacuation of the base, including removal of all books, exhibits and art. The remains of the Slayers were carried out with full honours.

The moving squads would be busy for days, Buffy knew, and a full guard would have to be present to prevent them from being ambushed. Then they'd have to find a way to destroy the complex. She sighed as they reached the Building and went in. The entire group was despondent. They'd prepared for a massive fight, with a huge end-battle, and had gotten an anticlimax.

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The Building, an hour or so later

There was a woman waiting in the foyer of The Building, elegantly dressed and coifed. The Slayer on duty eyed her with distrust.

Buffy could feel the taint of her, the way she seemed to infect the entire area with her very presence. “Who're you?” She demanded, gripping the Scythe once more.

The woman turned round. She was tall and beautiful. Her eyes were a luminescent, hypnotic green, slightly slanted in a long, elegant face. Her hair was long and lay around her head like coiled snakes, thin strands of gold woven through them, a few tresses falling artfully around her face.

“Why don't you ask dear Spike,” she purred in a deep, throaty, almost sleepy voice. “He knows me quite well.”

Spike let out a short, bitter laugh. “Fah Lo Suee. I should have guessed. Betraying Daddy again, are we?”   

“Now, now Spike. You know how it is. He tries to conquer the world and I serve him like a good little daughter. Until he makes plans to use me to breed half-demons, that is,” the woman, apparently called Fah Lo Suee smiled sweetly.

“Who is this exactly, Spike?” Buffy asked, the Scythe loosely in her hand.

“Fah Lo Suee. That's a pet name, don’t know her real one. Supposedly means Scent of sweet perfume,” Spike snorted. “She's Fu's sweet and loving daughter.”

“And why is she here?” Buffy still had her eyes riveted upon the beautiful intruder.

Spike shrugged. “Don't know. She rarely does what you expect her too and she's got a bleeding mind of her own. Irritating woman.”

George poked him in the ribs and Spike winced but grinned.

Dawn, who'd been trailing the warrior group, stepped up. “Well, her name is a sham, at any rate. I don't think it has any real meaning in any of the Chinese dialects. Only thing I can think of at the top of my head, it's a form of old Mongolian, from the early days of the Qing Dynasty, and means Feather-light blade,” Dawn studied Fah's face, but there was no reaction. “But I might be wrong.”

Buffy shook her head. “No matter. What matters is that she's here and she must have a reason. Why are you here?”

Fah shrugged. “I came to tell you in person that Father's use of the Elixir of Vitae over so many years has driven him as close to insanity as I care to see him. He's planning to gather the energy of what you did to the Sunnydale Hellmouth and use it to power a great ritual. I don't exactly know what, but doubt you would enjoy the results.”

Buffy sighed. “Apocalypse?”

Fah shrugged. “Probably not. Father wants to rule the world, not destroy it. Other worlds too, possibly. He's been getting more and more bigoted as well. He barely tolerates anyone non-Asiatic any more.”

“And you don't want him to conquer the world?” Giles took off his glasses and polished them.

“Not if my role in the new world order will be to bear hybrid demon-soldiers for his unstoppable armies, no,” Fah took out a slim cigarette case and took out a thin, long cigarette which she lit with a gem-studded lighter. “We've never been a warm, caring family, but that goes a bit far even for us.”

George wrinkled her nose at the stench of the cigarette. “And how do you know William?”

Fah smirked. “Spike and I go way back. Even to before he met Father, don't we Spike?”

Spike very carefully did not look at George. “We met… in Berlin not long after I was turned.”

Fah laughed throatily. “Oh, did we ever! That was an epic meeting. He met me almost through the wall,” she licked her lips. “Want to meet again, Spike?” she took a step forward and George interposed herself between Fah and the Vampire.

“Get away from him!” she snarled, fists clenched.

“Ooooh, Spike, did you get a replacement for Dru?” Fah smiled at George. “Has he shown you that thing he does with his tongue? Has he at least ‘spiked’ you firmly?”

George blushed, as did Buffy. Fah laughed again.

Spike put a hand on George's shoulder. “I'm not interested in her, Luv. Don't worry,” He looked at Fah, his face stern. “Are you done? Have you sown enough discord for one night? If so, then leave. If not, I'm sure I can find it in my heart to kill a murderess.”

Fah took a drag on her cigarette and blew out a perfect ring of smoke. “That's it? No hugs, no kisses? No intimate conversation? Not even a reference to a railroad sleeper? After all that passed between us?”

Spike just gestured at the door.

Fah pouted. “You're no fun anymore, Spike.”  

She sashayed towards the door, her dress clinging to every curve, stopping by Xander, to run a finger down his chest. “Hmmm, nice. Are you available? I can show you things you can never imagine. I have lots of experience...”

Xander smirked. “Are you a near-millennium old former vengeance demon who's had sex with countless of demons and humans in every conceivable position?”

Fah's brows rose in surprise and Xander's smirk became a grin. “Didn't think so. And since I don't love you, that removes any reason I might have to sleep with you. Don't let the doors hit your ass on the way out. I just fixed them.”

Dawn sniggered, a hand snaking around Xander's middle.

Fah blew a puff of smoke into her face and Dawn coughed. “Don't think that youth and enthusiasm make up for guile and experience, dear. You're nowhere near my league and if I want your 'Aarrgh-boy' I will have him,” she smiled, then winked at Spike.

“Well, at least we'll always have Berlin. And Paris, and London, and Bucharest and Istanbul, and Nanjing, and Berlin again. And when your little friend has shuffled of this mortal coil, you can have me, in Berlin, again,” she blew out another smoke ring and stepped out the door.

George growled. Buffy glared after the disappearing woman. “Okay, is there any reason why we let her go? Spike?”

Spike shook his head. “She wouldn't be here without massive back up. And she's currently opposed to Fu. And from experience I know that it's better to have her free and willing than captive and resisting.”

George growled again. Spike patted her hand. “Not what I meant, pet. If we capture her we may have information, but if we let her free, she will use her own organization to oppose Fu as well.”

Buffy sighed. “Okay. Having dealt with evil skank woman, I declare this battle officially over.”

Dawn threw her arms in the air. “PARTY!”

Buffy grinned, then picked up Willow. “Yup. Party.  Have fun kids.”

Willow squealed, wide eyed as Buffy strode up the stairs. “Why Buffy, you cavewoman, you!”

Buffy blushed, but her pace didn't falter.

Xander shook his head. “I still wish I had footage of that.”

Emma frowned and looked at Giles who smiled. “I'll explain later,” he offered his arm and gestured at the ballroom. “Shall we?”

Emma nodded. “You do give memorable after battle parties.”

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Willow was panting. She’d locked herself into the cupboard for a minute to get a little peace. Buffy, after a major battle, even one that ended in a disappointing meeting with an evil skank, was exceptionally affectionate. Not that Willow minded, not at all. But she had a plan and to execute it she needed a few seconds to do it. She reached into her bag and then frowned. She knew she’d put the book in there… Her hands closed upon a folded note. She read it. Her eyes narrowed. “Dawn!” She hissed.

 ****

Dawn was in the study of the apartment she basically shared with Xander. Though officially they still had separate quarters, most of the time they spent together in Xander’s place. Dawn grinned as he opened her book bag. She’d spotted Willow placing this tome in her back and had taken it upon herself to remove it and see what all the fuss was about. “Artes Magicae Amatoria, here we come,” she giggled. *Not that we need it or anything…*

She lifted the book. Her sensitive fingers realised that something was wrong before she did. Despite being bound in leather this was not the spell book. Flipping it open she gritted her teeth. “Star Wars Role-playing? ANDREW!”

********

Andrew sat in his bedroom, the front door chained and locked, the door to the bedroom locked as well. He was also under the blankets and using a flashlight. The wrath of Dawn was not to be averted, but he hoped to delay it, even if only a little. A major problem was that he could smell himself like this. Very well. And he did not smell pleasant. He opened the bag and took out the book, then frowned. It felt less heavy than the book he’d taken from Dawn’s book, somehow. He opened it. It was a standard apprentice’s grimoire. And he knew the handwriting of the marginal notes. “Timothy!”

********

Heidi was giggling as Timothy kissed her, the book held between them. It had been quite easy to get hold of it, really, once the difficult work of getting it away from Willow had been done. There was a cough.

The teens looked up to see Giles look at them in disapproval. “I will take that. It belongs in the library. The Restricted section, I think.”

Timothy was about to protest when he noticed the glint in Giles’ eye. He wasn’t wearing his glasses, either. With a gulp and trembling hands he extended it towards the older man. Giles took the book, flipped through it, shook his head and left. As he walked along the corridor he heard a cough. Looking over his shoulder he saw George, arms akimbo, eyes flinty.

“You shouldn’t be carrying that anywhere but the library,” she told him firmly. “And the Library is that way,” She jerked her head towards the hall.

“I… errr… was going to place it there tomorrow,” Giles stammered, suddenly flushing.

“You are going to put it there tonight. Annie always said that messing with the body, love and sex was asking for trouble. And no, that is not my timid nineteen-forties morality speaking. That is plain common sense. And you of all people should know that,” George looked pointedly at his arm.

Giles hand unconsciously went to the old tattoo and his eyes narrowed. “How do you know about that?”

George gave him a look. “You pulled my files. I just thought turnaround was fair play. I am a Senior Slayer, remember?” She pointedly looked at the book. “Well?”

Giles ran a hand over his face. “You’re right of course. Care to accompany me?”

“Yes,” George nodded curtly. She watched as Giles locked the book into the bookcage that held the most dangerous and rarest volumes of the Restricted Section, as he locked the door behind them and then left for her own quarters to sleep.

Neither saw the tracking spell that led Willow to the bookcage ten minutes later. 

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The armoured car that carried Geoffrey Scuntner was designed to hold some of the toughest creatures known to man: Slayers. Originally the Council had designed it to transport those Slayers they considered too dangerous, too disobedient, too independent. In short, it was to have been shipped to the US to bring the Slayers Buffy Anne Summers and Faith Lehane to stand trial. The current Council held different views, and Buffy and Faith had wanted to burn the vehicle. Then Giles had pointed out that there were numerous creatures that had to be safely transported, that were dangerous, and that required such massive security.

Willow had added some magic, to prevent those inside from using it. An anti-magic field, like the one that surrounded the cells constructed below the Scottish headquarters.

The two man guard of Watchers who drove the car, Slayers being exceptionally dangerous drivers, were not expecting trouble.

So when the small round brown thing hit the bullet-proof windshield and smashed through it in one resounding crash, they were too shocked to react. The thing, about the size of a basketball, bounced inside the cab, hitting the back wall, the dashboard, the driver and the guard. Each time it hit it let out a soft ‘ow’, or a genteel curse. Distracted by the bouncing thing, the driver was unable to avoid the strange blue and vaguely ovoid creature that stood in the middle of the road. The truck struck it head-on, causing the front to crumple like a tin can under the onslaught of a Slayer. It skidded and swerved as the damage threw off it’s steering and unable to keep the car on the road the driver moved it onto the sidewalk, cursing and swearing as he did so. The truck came to a halt just in front of a display window of a Boots.

Then a red, almost perfectly square demon, wearing a strange little green hat jumped onto the remains short, pug-like hood and struck the windshield with one red fist, shattering it completely. It grinned widely. It caught the bouncing thing and handed it to someone outside. A soft click announced that the rear door was opened by some creature unseen, though the driver had the impression of something small near the button that released the extra security interlocks. The guards were seized by the neck and the redblue demon squeezed. The last thing they saw was two immensely long orange tentacles winding their way from near the Boots to the rear of the truck. The last thing they heard was a horrible, painful sounding, desperate sobbing laughter.  

End note:

It’s surprisingly interesting thinking about Womble reproductive biology… Anyone care to hazard a guess at what happened right at the end there?

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed it.

 

 

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