Brave New World:
Take a look around you at the world we’ve come to know
Does it really seem much more than a crazy circus show.
But maybe from the madness something beautiful will grow.
In a brave new world
With just a handful of men.
We’ll start- we’ll start all over again - all over again - all over again - all over again.
“We need to scout the territory,” said Giles.
“You’re mad. No human wanders the streets,” objected Joyce.
“He has a point. All we’ve seen of the high school is hand drawn diagrams and the original blueprints. Even if the mayor gives us passes we should be familiar with the grounds and surrounding area, incase things go wrong.”
“How did things go with the mayor anyway. I was asleep before you got back yesterday.”
“We noticed and thank you.” Xander leered at his wife.
“Xander!” Joyce blushed then sobered. “I got you the appointment on the day before the night of the full moon. That way if your persuasive powers leave permanent marks on the bastard it’s less likely to be detected.”
“Wise decision. I do so hope I get to leave some permanent marks.” observed Giles.
“We do need to do a recon, Honey,” remarked Xander.
“You’re both crazy. What do you want to do, march out there in your battle armour and say, ‘Hi, I’m just looking around today no need to get up, nice mister demon.’ Stupid!”
“Can you supply us with civilian cloths?” asked Rupert.
“Like that would work. Xander, Honey, You could pass for someone who’s worked as a slave looks wise. No offence, I love you but truth is truth.”
“Go on,” said Xander.
“You’d still stick out like a sore thumb. You don’t walk right. You look up. You. You both carry yourselves like men.”
“The demons have enslaved many men?” objected Giles.
“That’s not what I mean. No ones broke you. You still believe in things. You still have hope. You still have fight left in you. It shows in how you move, how you speak. No one who’s been under the demons as long as the people in Sunnydale moves like that. Those few that can are all resistance and have learned to pretend.”
“Teach us how to move then.”
“It’s not that easy. It has to come from inside.”
“Beloved, we need to see the area we’ll be fighting in,” said Xander.
“God help me, I’ll try and teach you. This will probably get us all killed though. We’ll still need an excuse to be on the streets.”
“The tribute processional,” suggested Xander.
“That might work but it will have to be to one of the greater demons, or the minions will just steal the tribute and kill us.”
“Why not queen bitch herself. Tara?” suggested Giles.
“Ok, but you’ll have a bit more acting to learn. You ever seen a lobotomized eunuch?”
Giles shuffled along the street, barely lifting his feet, eyes focused on the ground four feet in front of him. He caught himself straightening and deepened his slouch at the same time he opened his mouth and forced a vacant expression onto his face. The torn and battered business suit he wore stank of sweat and other things less savory. Despite the warmth of the autumn day he wore a tuke pulled down so it almost covered his eyes.
A scream sounded to his right. He jerked around to look.
“Stop that,” hissed Joyce’s whisper. “Look down, it’s none of our business.” She was dressed in her tattered overcoat. The ragged legs of her jeans showing beneath it and a pair of running shoes held together with duct tape and string on her feet.
Giles grit his teeth and ripped his eyes away from the scene. A girl of maybe fourteen was being held to the ground by a creature that looked like a cross between a aardvark and a gorilla, while another creature that was almost man like, except its skin was scaled like a snakes and its teeth were sharp points, tore at her clothing.
“Keep moving,” Xander ordered needlessly. He wore a tattered filthy T-shirt and jeans. The patch over his eye was hidden by a filthy red bandana. His left foot was bare while his right was in a decrepit sandal. The imbalance gave him a limp.
“Shhh,” whispered Joyce.
They moved on, carrying the large roll of carpet towards the old high school. Few humans occupied the streets. Demons of all descriptions passed them. Once in a while a truck rolled by carrying demons towards their new assignments. At other times a scream would echo against the buildings and the demons would laugh.
When they reached the last street corner before the high school a corpse came into Giles field of view. It had been a man, tight skin stretched over protruding bone. The corpse was naked and the skin had split, maggots crawled in the wound. Giles prepared to step around it.
“You three?” demanded a harsh voice.
“Yes, My lord,” replied Joyce, her voice a mere whisper.
The source of the voice approached them. It was easily two metres tall, with muscular bowed legs ending in bird’s feet. Its torso was man like, but grey in colour with shaggy course hair. Giles risked a glance at its face. The head was like a human scull with a grossly distended lower jaw and fangs.
“Who do you serve and what is your business?” he addressed Giles.
“Honoured lord, If it pleases you, he is mute,” Joyce rushed to intervene.
“It pleases me not, female. Is this one also mute?” the demon waved a clawed hand at Xander.
“Yes, honoured lord. My great mistress rendered them both Mute, impotent and without reason.”
“Who is your Mistress? What is your business?”
“My Mistress is the most terrible and glorious lady Tara, favoured of Latitonum queen of the lower planes, glorious sovereign of.”
“Silence whore. I know the titles of Tara’s dark mistress. It was a sad day when a female gained control of the gate twixt this world and mine. Now answer me, what is your business?”
“We come to give this carpet in tribute at the capital most honoured and glorious one.”
“Female, I should kill you for speaking to me but I am constrained to let you pass. I am sullied by your presence. Go.”
The creature stepped to the corpse’s side. As Giles watched its tongue flicked out scooping the maggots from the wound. There was a chewing sound and something wet and slimy hit his cheek. It was all he could do to keep from brushing it away. They moved on, coming to the city block the high school occupied. A ten foot wire link fence surrounded the yard and demons of all descriptions, some armed with guns, moved purposefully inside the enclosure.
Oh Gods and Goddess all, no wonder none of the air strikes worked, thought Giles as they passed through a mystical barrier. The energy made him stager and it took his entire concentration to maintain his feet.
“Steady,” hissed Joyce.
“Giles?” whispered Xander.
“Shield. Stops anything moving quickly. Could prove useful,” he explained as he forced himself to take a deep breath. The air was thick, tainted with a sulphur stench.
They moved to the back of a line of down trodden humanity that carried various items to the front gate. A group of frog like demons took the tribute and inspected it. When the items passed inspection humans wearing clean coveralls carried the goods into the old school.
Xander examined the compound. This was his area. Giles was the mystic, he the warrior, a calling thrust upon him. He longed for earlier days. He remembered eating lunch with Buffy, Willow, Cordelia and Oz in the park across the street. The park was now a litter of temporary barracks for the newly arrived troops.
He thought of the Mayor’s defeat, that had bought them nearly two more years of peace. Two years for people to laugh love and live.
He thought of Faith and their brief interlude. Even that less than perfect memory was of life and humanity.
Anya touched his thoughts. A tear tried to form in his eye. In so many ways she had really been his first, not Faith. His first that was there long enough for him to understand what it really meant. He couldn’t help himself. His eye strayed to the gibbeted skeleton above the school’s main entrance. Above it in more forms of writing than he could guess was a single word. “Traitor.”
It’s worth the price so the next Xander can have his picnic in peace, he thought. Forcing his mind back to the present he took note of the machine gun instillations in the second story windows and the mine fields that were scattered around the grounds.
One of the humans farther ahead in the line fainted. She fell against the fence. There was an electric hum and the smell of scorching flesh. An apparently well fed human dressed in a clean overall walked up and pulled her corpse into the street with a insulated hook.
“One for the stew pot boys. We have meat tonight,” he said as a pair of other similarly attired men moved to his side. The two newcomers picked up the corpse and carried it off.
Bloody Hell! Thought Giles as he watched the men carry the body. He scanned the grounds. Spells crisscrossed the compound. It would take years to fully decipher them. He found several major threads that could only be powered by taping the hellmouth.
One was a detection spell, anyone coming into the compound without authorization would trigger a mystical alarm.
Another was a summoning. What it summoned Giles couldn’t guess but as the spell threads other end reached into Hell itself he didn’t really want to know.
He found the one for the shield around the compound’s perimeter. It was everything he’d hoped it would be. He examined it pluming its nature and logging it. He would decode it later at his leisure.
His questing touched another spell thread. This was unlike any other in the compound. It was green, alive. A gentle healing magic. He knew its source. Willow’s pure power lay hidden amongst the profane energies. It quested out seeking allies amongst the creatures and humans that entered the compound, drawing them to her.
Rupert smiled but quickly schooled his expression back to the slack jawed vacancy his part demanded. He scanned the building for other things of importance.
Gibbets hung on the outer wall but only the one containing Anya’s remains held a skeleton. The others were all set by windows. Obese humans occupied them. Slender tubes ran out the window and into the human’s mouths. As he watched one of the gibbets was lowered to the ground. Two demons, that looked like humanoid sharks, released the porcine man and dragged him to a stone table. The man’s muscles were so slack he couldn’t support his own weight. One of the demons lit a portable gas barbeque and set several tools to heat.
“Slaves,” announced Tara’s voice over the loud speaker. “Pay heed. This mortal swine was a member of your pathetic resistance. You are vermin. Cattle for us to do with as we please. Remember it or his fate will be yours.”
One of the shark like demons stepped forward and tied lengths of rope around each of the man’s arms and legs. The other demon picked up a large cleaver and with four practised strokes cut off the limbs. The human screamed until the first demon placed a hot steel plate against each of the stumps, cauterizing them.
Rupert gasped and cringed. His stomach fought to come up. He turned his gaze away. A kick from Joyce forced him to look back in time to avoid the scrutiny of the creature that walked on the other side of the fence, making sure all the humans watched the show.
The shark demon picked up a bucket of filthy water and threw it over the mutilated human. The man regained consciousness. The demon laughed, a hissing grating sound, loud enough to be heard by those in the line. Casually it moved to the man’s head and gouged out his eyes, eating the first while his captive watched before ripping out the second and setting it aside. Then a hot knife was used to slice out the tongue.
The man screamed throughout.
The demon picked up a pair of garden shears, with the blade heated red hot and layed its victim’s scrotum across the lower blade. Giles wasn’t sure if he could hear the hiss or if it was his imagination. The man screamed. The shears closed. Once more he passed out.
The two shark demons seemed to consult. One took the victim’s pulse. Another bucket of filthy water was employed and they slapped the obese man’s face. His head lolled and in the stillness that had fallen over the crowd his groans were audible.
The shark demon pulled a large nail from the barbeque. It glowed a luminous red. The second demon placed a piece of wood under the man’s penis and the first drove the nail through the penile head with a hammer. The human screamed and fainted. The demon by the barbeque pulled out two slender red-hot metal rods and inserted them in the insensible man’s ears, deafening him. They then returned him to the gibbet and hoisted him back up against the wall.
“You are ours to do with as we please, human vermin. You live or die at our whim. Resistance is futile. Remember this lesson. That is all,” Tara’s voice issued from the loud speaker.
Rupert felt shaky but forced himself to shuffle forward with the line.
Xander raged inwardly. He’d recognized the man as a neighbour from down the street. He couldn’t recall his name but he had always given little arrow bars at Halloween.
Joyce grit her teeth. She wanted to cry but knew she mustn’t, knew that later she wouldn’t be able to. She had cried her tears out years before, first when Buffy had died, second when she had finally had enough and escaped the slavery of the demons to fight with the resistance. She’d known Walter. A member of one of the smaller resistance cells. She’d met him in the sewers while he pulled a guard shift. A friendly man, despite all he’d seen.
Too much evil, she thought. The line shuffled forward and they deposited the rolled up carpet in front of the gate.
“Name?” demanded a human collaborator who held a check list.
“Franks. Marry Franks,” she replied.
“The man made a check mark on his list. “Move on.”
They shuffled forward.
Giles led them at a snail’s pace, allowing himself and Xander time to fully note everything their respective expertise’s allowed. More gibbets hung from the school’s second and third stories. Spells much like he had seen in the front encircled the building. Demons patrolled. Hell hounds on chains growled and strained towards them. Finally they had circled the school. Joyce moved to the front of the group and led them down a side street, away from her house. An hour later Xander pried up a manhole cover and they slipped into the storm sewers. Giles closed the lid behind them. Joyce clicked her tongue twice. A snap sounded down the passage. She clicked three times, waited five seconds, then twice. Shadowy figures appeared from the gloom carrying, Giles’ and Xander’s armour and equipment. The two men suited up and minutes later they were moving through the maze of passages towards the relative safety of Joyce’s home.
Giles took the proffered mug of whisky in a trembling hand. The undamaged side of Xander’s face was pale and Joyce looked drawn.
“Gods and Goddesses, the brutality,” whispered Giles.
“That was a particularly bad session.” Joyce took a seat beside Xander on her couch. He immediately put his arm around her drawing her close.
“I’ve never actually seen them leave the poor bastard alive before,” remarked Xander.
“That’s new. Willow warned us that Tara was going to start doing it to suspected resistance. First time I’ve seen it.”
“Even so. To imprison a person with no room to move and force feed them like that. Fattening them for slaughter. It is quite the most hellish thing I can think of,” observed Giles.
“We taught them that one,” said Joyce sadly.
“What?” asked Giles and Xander in unison.
“Eating people was something they always did. They didn’t start the gibbeting until about six months after the hellmouth opened. The story is they found a factory farm that produced veal. They saw the calves in those little stalls, heads anchored above a food trough. The demoniac commander questioned the workers and liked the idea.”
“What brave new world is this that has such creatures in it,” quoted Giles with disgust in his voice.
“Can we talk business?” asked Xander.
“Seems best,” agreed Joyce who nestled into his side trying to loose memory in the warmth of his presence.
“Yes,” agreed Giles. “The perimeter spells are impenetrable. I could spend the rest of my life decoding them and still not be finished. Infiltration is our only option.”
“Too true. The guns they’ve mounted would dice anyone attempting a frontal assault.” Xander picked up the mug of whisky he had set on the coffee table and downed a mouthful.
Joyce sipped at her mug. “Like I told you.”
“There is a way to use this to our advantage.” Giles put his empty mug on the table. He wanted so for the liquor to numb him to erase the images of what he’d seen. He longed for another drink then another then another until he could lie insensible as he had so often in the last few years.
Good thing the bottles empty, he thought.
“How?” asked Joyce.
“If we can force them to deploy their forces once we are behind the perimeter defence it will be relatively easy for me to activate the spell defences. That will keep them from recalling troops once we begin our internal attack.”
“Shouldn’t be any shortage of ammo or pick up weapons as we go through. Must be an ammo dump somewhere inside. A charge or two could take out half the building if we set it up right,” agreed Xander. He looked at Giles whose hands twitched.
“Thirsty?” asked Xander.
“As you Americans like to say, ‘like peanuts.’”
“I have - - -,” began Joyce.
Giles raised his hand to silence her. “It is a demon of another sort, Joyce. I cannot afford to indulge its whims at this time. Please do not place temptation before me.”
“I didn’t know or I wouldn’t have offered in the first place,” she apologized.
“I believe we all needed something after what we saw. Now let us return to our plans.”
Chapter 7 - DEVILS BARGAIN
Brave New World
Now our domination of the world is fading fast
and out of the confusion the chance has come at last
To build a better future from the ashes of the past
In a brave new world.
With just a hand full of men
We’ll start all over again.
Ethan glanced furtively down the hall. The summons sickened and terrified him. Unconsciously he straitened the lapels of his suit and glanced at his two collaborator guards.
“Rachel, stand straighter,” he ordered, after seeing how the taller of the two women slouched. They were both attractive, a petite oriental beauty and a tall woman of African heritage. Both were dressed in short skirts with blouses tied under their breasts and wore heals.
Lords of chaos, let them be enough to distract her, he thought as he came to the second of the internal check points in the old school. At the first he had simply stripped and been physically examined, leaving anything that might be a weapon behind.
A demon that looked like a walking compost heap wordlessly enveloped him. Ethan felt its substance crawl through his cloths and over every centimetre on his skin. It explored every orifice with its gelatinous mass, then slid past him leaving nothing of itself behind. He felt dirty and violated.
Next the demon examined the shorter woman, then the tall one. Each shuddered with disgust when it finished and the whites of their eyes stood out.
“Pass,” grunted the creature.
Ethan moved down the corridor. Two massive guards that resembled minotaurs except there teeth were needle sharp points flanked the library door. Each held a M-16 at the ready with a bandoleer of gas grenades across its chest.
“Mayor Ethan Rayne as summoned by her Highness the great and terrible Tara, keeper of the gate, defiler of justice, mistress of cruelty- - -“
”Pass, Lapdog,” growled one of the guards. Ethan stepped into the library come throne room.
Willow stole a look in his direction from her computer station, where she was compiling data on the sea battle.
“Mayor,” said Tara. She scanned Ethan then allowed her eyes to lustily trace the forms of his two guards.
“Mistress, How may I serve you?”
“My pet informs me that you are falling behind quota in the weapon’s manufacturing plant. This is unacceptable.”
“Great mistress, so many of my workers have been taken I do not have the people I need to maintain production.”
“I see your hands are clean. If this is so, why haven’t you operated a machine?”
“Mistress, my other duties - - -.”
“Are of no concern to me. Do you wish the governorship of Hawaii, or would you rather join the rest of your miserable kind as cattle when we are victorious?”
“I... I will push the workers harder, Mistress. I will see that quota is met.”
“See that you do.
“What is your name?” She gestured towards the oriental woman.
“Ji-Yeon, my lady.”
Tara heaved her bulk from her throne and moved to stand before the woman. “You appeal to me. You will join my entourage.”
“But... But Mistress. I... I have never been with. I... I’m married. I have a little boy.”
“A virgin. How pathetic. My pet will teach you what you need to know. As to your son. Mayor see that the child is cared for, so long as I am pleased with this little ones performance. As to your husband. He will not miss your ministrations in the least, after he is added to the males in my personal service. Ethan, see that he is brought to the alteration facility.”
“No, Please, mercy,” pleaded Ji-Yeon.
“Silence. Willow, Take this one aside. Teach her what she needs to know to fulfill her new role. I will be by soon to watch your instruction.
“Yes, Mistress,” Willow replied not quite hiding all the hate in her voice. She stood, the lurid tattoos and scars on her body making her look almost demonic. The oriental woman gasped.
“A great beauty, isn’t she,” said Tara. “Now, Mayor. About your petition. Your request is denied. My pet will stay with me until I tire of her. I will not release her into your service. Go now. I have matters of import to attend to.”
Ethan bowed and with sweat dripping off him backed out of the room.
Willow took Ji-Yeon’s hand and led her to the corner of her mattress.
“Please no,” pleaded the oriental.
Willow put her mouth next to the woman’s ear as if she was nibbling it. “Stop that! Is it such a price to pay for your son’s life?”
“I don’t like,” whispered the oriental as Willow took her hand and placed it on her intact breast.
“Do you think I do? Pretend! Give her what she wants. It’s your son’s only chance.”
“You aren’t a demon?” Ji-Yeon whispered into Willow’s ear before nibbling it.
Willow kissed and licked up the other woman’s neck ending by her ear. “No. I’m a slave. You’re a collaborator. I hate you for that but you’re human and your child is innocent.”
Ji-Yeon felt tears sting her eyes. She stared into the eyes of the strange mutilated woman before her. They were beautiful, and deep down held something she had lost. Hope. Despite all this stranger had obviously endured, she still had some spirit left. That spark leapt from Willow and kindled a small fire in Ji-Yeon’s heart. She kissed the stranger and while the act held no passion, it did hold warmth. Two people supporting each other in a desperate attempt to live another day.
“Good. You are learning Ji-Yeon. Teach her well, Willow. I hope you don’t mind sharing me once she’s trained. Rest assured, ‘I am, you know, yours’. These others mean no more to me than the ones I had while we were together in collage. The ones that amused me while you and your other friends played your little games.”
Willow hid her scowl against her new charge’s flesh.
Ethan forced himself to a steady pace as he walked from the old school.
“My God, she took Ji-Yeon,” said the tall woman.
“Be happy she didn’t take you,” he breathed.
“Mayor. How are you going to meet quota?”
“Pull workers off the farms and the smelters. Lengthen the work day for all remaining slaves. Lower the working age to three.”
“Sir, the workers are already dropping from exhaustion. The farms are understaffed, if we remove workers there won’t be enough to handle the harvest. We’ll starve this winter. The smelters are barely keeping quota as it is. Next quarter we’ll be short of metal and...”
“Be bloody quiet! I can’t bleeding afford to care about the next bloody quarter. I’m too smegging busy keeping me skin intact through this one.” He led the way into the old city hall. It was almost deserted. A single man in a collaborator’s coverall moved down the corridor, a bundle of papers in his arms. Ethan entered his office with the women in tow.
“Come here, lovey. I need relief,” he half snarled.
“My husband,” objected the woman.
“Could be in Tara’s service tomorrow, with one word from me,” he countered.
With a face filled with despair she untied her blouse and moved towards the Mayor.
Chapter 8 - SAD TRUTHS
The summer sun is fading as the year grows old
And darker days are drawing near
The winter winds will blow much colder
Now you’re not here.
I watch the birds fly south across the autumn sky
and one by one they disappear
I wish that I was flying with them
Now your not here.
Xander ran his hand along the line of Joyce’s back. The sun had heated the room to the point where covers were unnecessary.
“Hmm,” she nestled back into him. He held her. His right side felt the warmth of her body. His heart loved her. The mild burning in his eye socket eased as it always did when he touched her. I guess it makes sense in a way, considering the myth, he thought.
“I wish I could tell you,” he whispered to his sleeping love.
“I know,” she replied.
She rolled over and kissed him. “Shhh. We won’t get a chance to see if we could grow old together. That’s OK. We have right now and if we win, it’s worth the price.”
“Joyce, I love you.”
“I know.” She kissed him and reaching down took his penis in hand.
“I think I need a little longer before he’s willing to play again.”
“You are simply insatiable.”
“Advantage of being a woman. OK, let’s talk. You know you never told me about you and Cordelia.” She released his penis and ran her fingers across his chest.
“It’s not a story you want to hear.”
“Yes, Xander, I do. I want to know everything about my husband. Including why he got married and divorced in less than a year.”
“Cordy couldn’t handle my scars. That’s all.”
“Xander, I’m not jealous of her. The little fool chose to leave you, her loss. I want to hear the story though. You still call her name sometimes when you sleep.”
“It’s OK. But I think it’s an open wound. Silly, all things considered, but maybe you should close it. Just incase there is something after all this.” Joyce gestured vaguely towards the boarded over window.
“I really love you you know. You are so strong.”
“Look where I’m laying, it’s easy to be strong.” She caressed the skin of his good arm which was wrapped tight around her.
“When the hellmouth opened I was with Giles. He’d called me over to help research some demon Buffy was fighting. I think the name started with L. He sensed the energy shifts and tried to get to the high school. Damn obvious how that worked out. We were three blocks away when we saw the demons. You know how that was.”
“It was like there was a solid wall of them moving down the streets, killing everything in sight.” Joyce shuddered. Xander held her tighter. She snuggled into him. “Go on.”
“Giles did a one-eighty and put the pedal down. He was like an Indy driver. We hit the highway at a hundred and thirty then sped up. All I can say is thank God that damn Audi died the year before. By the time we were half way to LA we had a dozen cops on our tail.
“By the time we reached Angel’s they’d all been called off to fight the demons. For all the good it did.
“We grabbed Angel and Cordy and motored. Cordy wanted to go back for Wesley but there was no way. Demons were already hitting LA by the time we were back on the freeway. It was completely blocked. Giles took us off road but we got stuck.
“Took us three days of walking to reach the first of the human lines. Well, you know Cordy and me, we always had a kinda thing. She was all broken up about Wesley. Me, at that point I didn’t know what was going on with Anya. We were all scared silly. Things happened. That was the new start for Cordy and me.”
“When we reached the human troops Giles spoke to the CO. . At first I’m sure he though we were all nuts, then his HQ contacted him. Seems the Watchers had contacted the government and the files from the Initiative were not as inactive as we thought. Next thing I know Cordy and I are lieutenants with an advisory status and Giles is a Major. Damn lucky too. We managed to stall them in the mountains because Giles knew the weakness of the types that hit us. They carted Angel off for questioning. Didn’t really trust deadman, can’t say I blame them.”
“Worked out for him in the end,” said Joyce.
“Sure did. Bastard has date of rank on me. Anyway they shipped Cordy and I off to another unit as advisers. Short of it, Cordy got knocked up. It was seven months later that we were in a trench on the Nevada border. Cordy always looked cute in camouflage, though she hated it.”
“No need for added commentary,” said Joyce.
“She could never hold a candle to you, my love.
“I’d begged the CO. to move her behind the lines but this was still early days for the war. The number of demon experts was too low to take any off the front. A company of Mitchlach demons attacked. We were using fire hoses to dissolve them. You know how vulnerable they are to water.
One of the bastards had captured a flame thrower. Cordy, six months pregnant, standing there with a fire hose. Melting the damned things.
“Grit had covered her eye guards, she didn’t see the flame thrower. I did. I leapt, knocked her out of the way and took the flames myself. She put me out but it was a little late.”
They rushed me to the medivac and they managed to keep me alive. When Cordy saw me it was too much. She demanded I resign my commission and we use my disability status to go to Australia. I couldn’t. She did.
“I’ve never even seen my son. She’s sent me a couple of pictures. She’s remarried. A Hydrologist. Little Xander calls him daddy. She hasn’t told him any different. In a way I don’t want her to.”
“What a selfish bitch,” said Joyce.
“Would you have raised Buffy in a war zone with a man you couldn’t bear to look at if you had a choice?”
Joyce held him closer hearing the sorrow in his voice. “You’re a lot more generous to her than I am.”
“Hay, I think someone wants to play now.”
“You.” Joyce kissed him and pushed him gently onto his back. His penis was still flaccid but there were the beginnings of an erection. She trailed kisses down his right side pausing to run her tongue over his nipple. He ran the fingers of his good hand through her hair.
“Hmm,” she looked up from where she was running her tongue around his navel while she ticked his scrotum.
“She could never have been half of what you are to me. You are the greatest love I have ever known.”
“What happened to the boy who always said the wrong thing with girls?” she asked.
“He saw too much and lived too long to ever be a boy again. A man needs a woman, not a girl. You’re everything to me.”
Joyce moved up his body and kissed him. Her hand stroked the left side of his face as lovingly as it ever stroked the right. She stared into his eye and saw the love there. Her body pressed against his. His erection grew between them. She lifted off him just enough to caress it.
His fingers played through her hair. His tongue licked the edge of the scar on her jaw. His left hand stroked over her back, the roughened scars abrasive yet stimulating. He rolled her onto her back then kissed down her body to her breasts, suckling each. He kissed and licked the skin around the scars on her chest.
Joyce sighed, his touch made her feel young. His loving caress made her forget the marks that her battles had brought.
Xander positioned himself and entered her. She was his and his alone. He moved slowly, savouring every second. The creases by her eyes intrigued him. So much living, so much learning. He kissed her eye lids. She opened her eyes and stared into his face. For a moment he faltered. He’d seen the image in the mirror and Joyce usually kept her eyes closed. He’d come to expect it.
He gazed into her face and saw only love, acceptance, respect. A tear gathered at the corner of his eye and she brushed it away with a finger tip.
“My husband, my love,” she whispered.
Xander’s heart filled. He continued to love her but more as an excuse to hold her than from a sense of passion. He wanted to be as close to her as he could and this was it. He lay his torso over hers and kissed her. Their tongues duelled.
They orgasmed together, a long slow release that filled them with warmth. What it lacked in physical intensity it more than made up for in emotion.
Xander lay on his love, holding her, staring into her face. He was swiftly growing soft but he didn’t care.
Joyce smiled at him then she laughed.
“What,” asked Xander confounded.
“I just thought. Could you have imagined Buffy’s reaction if we had gotten together back, well before?”
Xander let his jaw drop and made a choking sound followed by “Like mom ewwww.”
They both laughed, then sobered.
“She would have wanted us to keep living,” said Joyce.
“We have. This proves it.” Xander kissed her shifted to her side and held her close.
“I just wanted to say it.”
Chapter 9 – ALLIES
Like the sun through the trees you came to love me
Like a leaf on a breeze you blew away
Through autumns golden gown we use to kick our way
You always loved this time of year
Those fallen leaves lie undisturbed now
‘Cause you’re not here
‘Cause you’re not here
‘Cause you’re not here
Xander and Giles lay by the heating vent in Buffy’s old room listening.
Joyce dished a small portion of beans onto the cracked and chipped plates and passed them to the two men who sat side by side on her couch. Late morning sun crept in around the drawn curtains.
“Really Mrs. Summers this is unnecessary,” objected Wesley. He was dressed in a battered suit and had a brand that looked like a eyeball pierced by a sword on his left cheek.
“Joyce, and if we give up all the amenities we become as bad as the things we fight. I have the food to spare, so don’t fret Wesley.” Joyce picked up her own plate.
“Joyce, you really should - - -“
”Dear heart, you’re being ungracious,” said the slender blond haired man who sat with his thigh pressed against Wesley’s.
Wesley smiled at the man and cupped his cheek in his palm. “My Stanley, always the one for manners.” He kissed the other man briefly on the lips.
“Thank you. Now that we have stopped being too polite for our own good, eat up you two, then fill me in on the cell status in LA,” said Joyce.
Stanley shovelled the food into his mouth then licked the plate clean. He smiled sheepishly at Joyce. “Sorry for the bad manners.”
“Practicality has to take precedence. No use in wasting good calories.”
“Most gracious of you. If you will give me a moment.”
“Of course. So Wesley, how have you been?” asked Joyce as the blond closed his eyes and began breathing deeply.
“Well enough. Stan and I had to move. Angel’s old place was found out. We have a nice little house in west Hollywood now. Good sewer access. Still has running water since the main line services an industrial complex some where farther up. Frances is growing like a weed.”
“How old is he now?”
“Thirteen. Crack shot actually, can hit a demon from three clicks away. Kept up with his reading and writing too, though he Hates math, except for trigonometry. He says that if it will help him aim a cannon, it’s worth knowing.”
“Sound’s like quite a lad.”
“He is. He still misses his parents, but Joyce, he’s just like a son to Stan and I, couldn’t love him more.”
“I am ready,” interrupted Stanley in an odd monotone.
“Begin,” said Joyce as she picked up a note pad and pen.
“Cell 14 Malabo sector, confirmed operations. Bombing munitions facility. Bombing rail transports. Successful depth charge attack, against Krakenon demon. Opened sea passage for supply drops. Confirmed kills 47, suspected kills 200, dead 16, captured 3, recruited 7.
“Cell 13,” the monotone droned on as Stanley recited the information. When he finished his memory trace broke and he smiled at Joyce.”
“Damn useful that trick,” said Joyce.
“Having a dad with a doctorate in psychology has to have some advantages. Always aced examines.” Stanley smiled but looked tired.
“You Ok, pooky?” asked Wesley.
“Always takes a lot out of me.”
“Is there anything that might help,” asked Joyce, already knowing what the answer would be.
“Now that you mention it.” Stanley bit his lower lip and stared suggestively at Wesley.
“Well... um... yes... Well...” sputtered the dark hared man as he always did.
Joyce and Stanley laughed.
“Gets you every time Wesley,” remarked Joyce.
“It just seems so improper to be so...” countered Wesley.
Joyce sobered. “Business before pleasure then you two can use my basement for your, ‘Nap’. How that helps clear your head I’ll never understand.”
“Serotonin and endorphin release, helps clear the fuzz from the memory trance.”
“If you say so. Personally I just think you like showing off.
“On to business. I need the LA cells to do a series of major raids two days from now. They should be enough to keep the demons from redeploying troops to other sectors.”
“Joyce, that will most likely get a lot of people killed,” objected Wesley.
“I know but it’s necessary.”
“Why?” asked Stan.
“The less you know, the less you can tell.”
“I don’t like this.” Wesley drummed his fingers against his thigh.
“Will you do it?” asked Joyce.
“You are my cell liaison. Unless Colonel Giles countermands you I am honour bound to obey. I just don’t see what could be worth the cost.”
“I believe it’s worth the price, Wess.”
“Then we will comply. A major series of strikes.”
“Good. Stan prepare to accept plans.”
“Stanley, the human computer, at your service.” The blond man began taking deep slow breaths. Wesley watched him, a dopy expression on his face.
“Wess. I want you to send Frances to the mountain companies. As far inland as you can manage.”
“Just do it. Because we’re old friends.”
“I am ready,” Stanley said in a monotone.
Joyce began reading deployment orders for the LA underground from her note pad. As she finished each page she tore it away and made a small stack on the table.
When she finished Stanley looked glassy eyed for several seconds then collapsed against Wesley who embraced him.
“I don’t know what this is about Joyce but I hope to God it works because the LA underground will be wiped out afterwards,” observed Wesley.
“I know it’s risky but we have no choice.”
“Humans ascendant.” Wesley punched his hand into the air.
“Humans ascendant.” Joyce copied the resistance salute.
“Dear heart,” whispered Stanley.
“Of course,” Wesley kissed his lover and they both stood Wesley helping to support the lanky blond. “Next time you see Xander tell him hello and give him a big kiss for me.”
“The second should make him uncomfortable,” said Joyce.
“That is exactly why I’d do it.” Wesley smiled and moved with his mate to the basement stairs.
“I wish you could have spoken to him. Both of you, it would have meant a lot,” said Joyce. Giles and Xander had joined her in her living room.
“Couldn’t take the risk. Even the strongest can break under the right circumstances. Though I must admit I am surprised. I never suspected that Wesley was, well...”
“An English driver,” quipped Xander. He sat on the couch with Joyce cuddled under his arm.
“I truly hate that expression!”
“He told me once that his first experience was in boarding school then he tried to pretend he liked women. Finally after the demons attacked he met Stanley and well, they fell in love. He finally admitted that he liked men,” explained Joyce.
“Always had him pegged,” said Xander.
“Now love. You know he had a crush on you when you were in high school didn’t you.”
“Me! What no! He was hot for Cordy back than. I mean really.”
“Oh he wanted to be hot for Cordy but he admitted he use to fantasized about you all the time.”
“You know Xander. Driving in England isn’t that difficult,” quipped Giles.
“Honey, let’s go up stairs,” said Xander.
“Mission accomplished.” Joyce smiled and took his hand.
“Have fun proving yourself, Xander.” Giles opened a dog eared copy of a novel he’d found in the basement.
Wesley and Stanley moved through the sewers. Above the sun was setting but they were in impenetrable darkness. The light intensification goggles they wore cast the world in shades of green.
“How close to the egress point?” Wesley rubbed the back of his head where the goggles strap chafed him.
“The map says another hundred metres.”
Wesley pulled a child’s walkie talky from the pocket of his jacket and pressed the code key twice. Waited the count of fifteen then pressed it twice again.
“The small radio clicked twice. Paused for three seconds clicked once paused for six seconds then clicked twice.”
“All clear above,” whispered Wesley.
The two men moved along the sewer.
They crossed a side passage. Each glanced in and saw nothing. In the filthy water at the passage’s bottom something stirred. It had existed since before the ancestors of man had stood erect. Born of the union of a hell beast and a crocodile its hide and head resembled the ladder while it was as at home on four legs as two. Long claws extended from his forelimbs and it was hungry.
Stanley heard a click from behind and spun. “Wess!” he shouted and pulled a nine millimetre from his pocket. The beast charged despite the shots that flew towards it.
The first two lead bullets did nothing.
The next two magnesium tipped hollow points made it stagger but it kept coming.
It roared in pain as the two consecrated silver bullets struck it.
It practically ignored the two Teflon cop killers that followed those.
The final bullet flew out hitting the beast. The explosive charge detonated staggering the demon.
Stan pulled the trigger but the clip was empty.
Wesley’s gun spoke as the creature lunged forward. It staggered with the shots, then lay still in the trickle of filthy water on the tunnel’s base.
“Are you hurt, Love?” asked Wesley.
“No but we better- - -.”
The sound of running feet sounded up the passage. Light exploded in the distance and both men pulled off their goggles.
“They heard us.” Wesley slipped a fresh clip into his gun.
“We can’t lead them to the others!” said Stanley.
“A company of demons of mixed types were racing towards them.
“Grenades,” snapped Wesley.
“We’ll bring the roof in on ourselves.”
“Go. Run, I’ll hold them. Get the instructions to the others.”
“Go. I Love you. Go.”
The demons were closer and now shouted in delight at having spotted their prey.
“I love you too.” Stan hastily kissed Wesley then raced up the passage.
Wesley stood his ground as the demons drew near. A shot rang past his head and he emptied his clip at the approaching beasts. He dumped the clip and loaded his third and final one. The monsters continued to charge despite the fact that several now lay dying on the ground. Wess slammed his hand against a device in his breast pocket. A microphone over his heart activated, constantly resetting a small clock.
He emptied his final clip.
“Clear,” sounded a voice he loved and knew he would never hear again.
A bullet tore into his shoulder. Wesley screamed in agony dropping to his knees. His right arm wouldn’t move. The demons drew nearer. He fumbled in his pocket with his left hand and pulled out a small, round hand grenade. His pulse hammered in his ears. Bracing it between his knees he pulled the pin.
Another shot tore into his belly. It burned like fire. His vision blurred. He grasped the grenade and threw it. The demons dove to get clear. It exploded splattering several of them against the walls and crippling others.
Wesley looked up through the clearing smoke. Six demons still stood having been shielded by their companions bodies. The passage behind them was collapsed from the blast. They snarled. Blades popped out of one of their forearms and he threw them. They drove into Wesley’s scull.
Wesley felt his body die. His heart, too stubborn to admit defeat, beat for a few more seconds. He felt a floating sensation and stared down at the tableau from the passage’s ceiling. The demons crowded around him, kicking his corpse. His heart stopped.
“One one-thousand,” he thought.
“Two one thousand,” a glowing light appeared in front of him.
“Three one thousand,” he floated towards the light feeling a strange euphoria.
“Four one thousand,” A figure appeared in the light.
“Nanny Sue,” he said.
“Come, you’ve done all you can, Wess.”
“Five one thousand,” an explosion tore through the sewer tearing the demons to pieces as Wesley followed the gray haired lady into the light.
Stan sat silently in the back of the jeep. The other resistance members gave him his space. Tears tricked down his cheeks and he could only pray he would die in the upcoming battles. Living with out his love was more than he could face.
“Denice,” he opened. “A fourteen year old girl with a dirty face dressed in rages and holding a rifle looked at him.
“Tomorrow night you and Franklin are to go to San Barnardino. I will have papers for you to carry.”
“Try not to get pregnant on the trip. You’re both too young for that.”
“Sir, I... We...”
“Be good to each other.” Stanley closed his eyes and fell back into the pit of his own despair.
Chapter 10 - LOST AND FOUND?
Like the sun through the trees you came to love me.
Like a leaf on a breeze you blew away
A gentle rain falls softly on my weary eyes
As if to hide a lonely tear
My life will be forever autumn
‘Cause you’re not here
‘Cause you’re not here
‘Cause you’re not here
Willow skipped along the woodland trail. She paused to kick a pile of leaves and spun around. Her smile was beauty itself and his heart melted to see it. Leaves clung to her jeans and blue sweater like odd pieces of jewelry.
She ran to him and threw herself into his arms, laughing. He kissed her. She responded enthusiastically.
“I love you, Willow,” he breathed and it held every ounce of truth his soul had.
“Me to. I mean.. I love you, Rupert. This vacation was just what I needed. I’d always heard how pretty Maine was in the fall but it’s hard to believe until you see it.” She grabbed the straps of the day-pack he wore and ran her hands up and down them.
“We all deserved a break after that last fight.”
“I just hope Buffy and Xander don’t go getting all suspicious. Us both being gone at the same time. Both contact numbers in Maine.”
“Frankly, my love, let them suspect. I want to tell the world you’re mine. If I were you I’d worry more about Buffy keeping your notes up to date.”
“She isn’t that bad a student, usually.” Willow kissed him. She pulled away with a mischievous glint in her eye.
“You know, I bet it would be very easy to get lost in these woods. Go a little off the trail and no one would see you.” she lightly bit her lower lip.
“Willow.” Rupert grinned then lunged at her. She shrieked and ran into the woods. He chased her. She ducked under branches and he leapt over logs, both of them laughing like maniacs. He finally caught her in a small clearing shielded from prying eyes by saplings. She laughed and he pulled her close smothering her lips with his own. She melted into him her body pressed tight against his.
He broke the kiss. “This will be more comfortable.” Shucking his day-pack he pulled out the picnic blanket and spread it over the grass and wild flowers that covered the meadow floor.
Willow slipped out of her running shoes and stepped onto the blanked. She winked at him flirtatiously and began to walk it flat as he struggled with the laces on his hiking boots.
“He joined her enfolding her in his embrace. There lips met. She fumbled with the buttons on his shirt as he traced the lines of her slender firm body. He stoked her breasts through her sweater and felt the nipples harden.
“No bra?” he commented.
“Planning makes perfect.” She kissed a trail down the centre of his chest before un-clipping his pants and dropping his fly.
“Willow, my Willow. Rupert bent and untucked her shirt then with a single smooth motion pulled it off over her head and tossed it to the coroner of the blanket.
“Owww, that breeze is chilly,” said Willow, as the cool air caressed her skin like another lover’s hands.
“I’ll have to endeavour to keep you warm.” Rupert cupped her chin in his hand and helped her to her feet. He kissed her as his pants fell around his knees. He paused long enough to toss his shirt to join her sweater and pull her tight against him, skin to skin. Her nipples pressed against his chest. The cool fresh air was like an aphrodisiac making him want her more than he ever believed possible. The leaves rustled and birds sang. Sunlight pored down upon them from a blue sky and nothing felt more natural than to love her.
“Rupert,” she whispered and licked his nipples. The moisture and coolness made him gasp. Keeling he returned the favour as he unclipped her jeans and pulled them down. Her panties swiftly followed joining his pants in a single toss onto the cloths pile.
Willow stood naked before him. Lean, young, beautiful. She smiled and gave him a look that said all she felt. That look always made him feel ten feet tall.
Slipping a finger up her thigh he stoked her sex. She gasped and the finger came away damp.
Rupert kissed her and let his hands roam freely.
“Rupert,” breathed Willow then she knelt facing him and pulled down his briefs. A moment later he was a naked as she was.
“Willow, My Willow. My woodland sprite, beauty incarnate. Gods and Goddesses all, I love you.” he kissed her and as they kissed she lay him back on the blanket. Her hands played over his chest, tweaking his nipples as she straddled him.
“Rupert, be mine forever?” she asked as she positioned him at her opening.
“Forever, my love,” he smiled secretly.
“In a few minutes.”
She lowered herself onto him with an agonizing slowness. Wetting his finger he played it over her clitoris while his other hand roamed over her body. He gently stroked her nipples then took one into his mouth and swirled his tongue around it.
“Oh Goddess,” breathed Willow. “Awwwwww, Rupert, My Rupert.”
She fell limp against him. Rupert held her and stared at the sky above. His mind was empty of thought but he knew it was the finest moment of his life. A minute later Willow rose up. He was still solid within her. Her hair was mussed and she smiled at him with love in her eyes.
“Let’s see about breaking some of that British control,” she remarked and her hips moved.
“Is that a challenge?” he asked.
“A promise.” She lowered her mouth to his nipple and gently nibbled it.
“Ugggg,” he breathed as she straightened and slowly pumped her hips. His passion built.
“Willow, My Willow, Oh Gods, Haaaaaaaa.” His orgasm exploded from him. His head went light. He stared into her face, framed by the clear, blue sky, and his last lingering doubt was gone.
Willow climbed off him and lay at his side. He just held her close for a long time.
“Willow, Love. Let me up.”
She shifted so he could move. Rising he retrieved the day pack and unzipped a side pocket.
“You’re not the only one that came prepared. You spoke of forever. I can’t promise you that, but I can give you the rest of my life. Willow Rosenberg, will you become my wife? I love you more than I ever thought possible.”
She stared at the gold band with its small diamond, her face a mask of disbelief.
“Please,” asked Rupert, when she made no move to take it.
“Rupert, I thought you’d never ask.” Tears welled in her eyes as she took the ring and slipped it on. She threw her arms around him and he held her close, feeling like his life had just begun.
Rupert awoke from the dream memory. He lay on the air-mattress in Joyce’s basement.
“Soon love. Soon, for better or worse.”
“For richer or poorer,” whispered a voice on the edge of his perception.
“Willow.” Giles scanned the room. There was an energy disturbance by his bed.
“Rupert, I have an idea for saving some of the people.”
“What? Get back to yourself. If they catch you like this.”
“They think I’m sleeping. Now listen. I’ve diverted one of the demons’ captured ships. They use human crew. This is what you need to do.”
“I knew you were on a suicide mission but this is insane?” objected Joyce. She wore the tattered remains of a house coat and sat on her couch.
“We have no choice. I wouldn’t even tell you but Willow’s plan might work,” said Giles.
“I’m calling this off. There has to be another way.”
“Joyce, Honey. If there was another way, don’t you think we would have tried it?” Xander sat beside her, his hands cupped in his lap.
“Oh God! Giles honestly. Are things really this desperate?”
“Six months and estimates say they will have the continental United States. Six months after that, all of North and South America. A year after that, the world. The larger the front the faster we fall.”
“God! OK, I’m in. God forgive me, I’m in. I’ll tell those who survive the engagements to gather at the docks.”
“It’s the only way,” said Xander.
“I know, I still feel dirty.”
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