W7: Bounding to its Pinnacle
Destiny or chance
Bounding to its pinnacle
To be acknowledged
A heart reaching out
Offering tokens of trust
Seeking a return
Revelations lost and found
Speaking from the heart
Buffy sent the crushed soda can flying across the asphalt with one powerful kick. The alley behind Willy’s bar was darkened by shadows as the sun dipped low in the sky, but the Slayer found herself standing there despite the passing minutes. She had to psyche herself up before moving on to her next target.
Willy knew nothing. Apparently the Trio wasn’t enough of a problem to cause much gossip. Now Buffy was left with no other recourse, but to contact Spike. He obviously knew how to get in touch with Warren having arranged for creation of the Buffybot.
Considering everything that happened between them over the past few days, Buffy had hoped to avoid all contact with him. She’d even gone as far as hanging cloves of garlic across her bedroom windows. Not that Buffy was afraid of Spike; it was her own behavior that scared her. With a decisive flip of her lush golden hair, Buffy squared her shoulders and marched off in the direction of Spike’s crypt. No knocking required. She booted open the door, calling out his name when he wasn’t immediately there to complain about her forced entry.
Stepping up from the lower cavern, Spike was surprised that she would come to him so soon, a fact that he immediately hid behind a confident leer. “Couldn’t stay away, luv? Told you I was in your blood.”
Like a startled deer caught in the headlights of a moving car, Buffy watched as Spike strode across the short distance separating them. His hard torso was on display as he was dressed only in a pair of scruffy black jeans and his boots. “I’m not here for you, Spike. I need information.”
He leaned in close, curling his fingers into her silky hair and drinking in the scent of vanilla. Spike expected her reaction when Buffy placed a hand against his chest and pushed him away. Quirking an eyebrow up, he queried, “Red giving you problems so soon or is it lil sis again?”
“Back off,” Buffy warned him against getting too close when he deliberately moved into her space again. “Actually, it’s Angel’s problem and I’m making it mine.”
Emotion flared in Spike’s blue eyes at the sound of that name, his expression shifting to stone-hard anger as his jaw tightened and the lines of his cheekbones sharpened. “That so? The big poof has more problems than even you could take on in a lifetime. He back in town again?”
In a fight, Buffy used any and every weapon at her disposal. So she didn’t even think twice about telling Spike, “He will be. On his way right now, not that it’s any of your business.”
The inference that Angel was also coming to see her wasn’t lost on Spike. “Maybe I think it is.”
“Then you’re just dreaming,” Buffy snapped back. “I don’t have time to deal with you right now.”
Spike reached out and put his hand on her shoulder, running his thumb across her collar bone. “You can deal with me however you like. Just tell me what you want that I have.”
Slapping his hand away, Buffy reminded him, “Information.”
“Gonna cost you, luv.”
“Shut up with the pet names,” she demanded before adding, “I don’t have any cash.”
He loved to wind Buffy up. Spike shrugged, “A kiss will do.”
Fed up and suddenly subjected to the memory of the heated kisses they’d shared, amongst other things, Buffy curled up her fist. “How’s this?” She laid a punch right across his mouth before Spike even had time to react.
Crashing into the wall, Spike let out a growl, “Not exactly what I had in mind.”
She’d stalked forward looking to do it again, only this time he caught her arms pulling her against him. One kiss of brutal fury fed from their mutual anger. Then somewhere in the middle anger turned to passion and it was only when Buffy came up gasping for air that they broke apart, Spike looking triumphant.
Buffy felt like punching that grin from his face. She wanted to throw him down to the hard floor of the crypt and. . . and there was really no time for any of that. Instead, demanding, “Where can I find Warren’s hangout?”
It took a moment for Spike to switch gears. “Warren? Oh, you mean the King of the Geeks and his little goon squad.”
“Angel needs to find him pronto.”
Snorting with laughter, Spike grabbed the opportunity to poke a little fun at his old grandsire. “So that’s his problem. Curse finally getting to him. Figures he can use a little love’bot of his own.”
“Shut. Up. Spike,” she gritted her teeth and barely restrained the urge to go after him again. Reminders of the Buffybot and its primary protocol were not exactly in his favor.
Then his voice softened, those expressive blue eyes intent upon hers, “Doesn’t compare to the real thing, luv.”
Dawn opened the front door almost as soon as the doorbell rang. She’d heard the tires screeching to a halt outside and knew that it had to be Angel and the gang from LA. She took a quick glance at the tall black man and the petite brunette before focusing on Wesley Wyndam-Pryce.
“Wow! You’ve changed,” Dawn’s cupid-bowed mouth fell open as she stared at the stubble-jawed Englishman.
Wes blushed a little under her close stare, “Yes, haven’t we all? You’ve grown since I last saw you. Dawn, meet Winifred Burkle and Charles Gunn, friends and associates at Angel Investigations.”
“Hi, I’m Fred,” the Texan smiled big as she moved past Dawn into the house. “You’re Buffy’s sister, right?”
Nodding, Dawn concluded that Fred seemed friendly enough, though it was a little weird the way she emphasized Buffy’s name that way. “The others are all in the living room.”
“Any word from Buffy?” Angel’s voice sounded from the doorway causing Dawn to look back in that direction.
Wide eyes staring, she decided she liked him a lot better this way. “That’s so cool. You really are invisible.”
“Dawn,” the impatient undertone sounded.
So much for liking him, Dawn thought. “No, she’s not back yet.”
Wes moved into the foyer to greet Willow and Xander as they walked in from the adjacent living room. His eyes kept searching behind them, but he saw only one other person in the room, Anya. “Did Mister Giles accompany Buffy?”
It was Willow who finally answered him after she shared a surprised look with her friends. “Giles is in England. We thought you knew.”
“No,” Wes started to look even more worried. “I had hoped for his assistance in researching an artifact.”
“I can help,” Willow actually looked eager to do so. Using her computer skills again was just what she needed to keep her mind off of magic. “Before he left, Giles and I uploaded all of his books into PDF files on my laptop. We have a whole database.”
With a relieved nod, Wes thanked her. Then turning back toward the door told Angel, “I’ll get started while you discuss the situation with everyone.”
Wes followed Willow into the dining room where she had her laptop set up on one end of the table. Fred and Gunn were already settled in the living room with Dawn was about to follow when she heard Angel ask, “Dawn, could you invite me in?”
For a few seconds of gleeful pleasure, Dawn stood with her back to the door and a smirk tugging at the corners of her lips. It was probably a good thing that she could not see his reaction when she told him, “C’mon in, Angel. It’s not like you’ll be the only vampire with free access to the house.”
As soon as the words left her mouth, she regretted it. Though she could neither see nor hear him at the moment, Dawn felt Angel looming close. Spike wasn’t exactly his favorite person and though she hadn’t mentioned his name, she knew Angel would get it.
Dawn’s words only stirred concerns that Angel had long since pushed to the back of his mind. He was aware that Spike had helped them out during Glory’s defeat. On some level, he also knew Spike had stuck around during Buffy’s…absence. The fact that he was still in town and still involved, with or without a behavioral chip, worried him, but this was hardly the time or place for that lecture.
“Since Buffy’s not back, here’s what we’re going to do,” Angel told them without further delay. “The kidn—”
Anya interrupted, “Could you put on a hat? Xander, go get him a hat. It’s very disconcerting to hear you, but not see you.”
“It would also turn invisible,” Angel calmly pointed out. Then he tried again, “The kidnappers live here in Sun—”
“Invisible Vamp,” Xander muttered thinking he was really glad it was Angel and not Spike. Even chipped, Spike could manage to get into trouble. Still, he had to admit, “It’s kinda cool.”
Angel was a little less calm about it when he said, “Not from my perspective. Can we just focus on the problem? This is about Cordelia and my son being in the hands of three madmen.”
“But Buffy said that it was just Warren, Jonathan and Andrew,” commented Willow as she made her way back from the dining room where Wes was now set up with her computer. “They’re a little weird, but I don’t think they’re crazy. And why would they turn you invisible?”
“The invisibility was an accident,” Angel explained. “Their energy weapon overloaded and this is the result. Whatever scheme they’ve cooked up doesn’t matter. We’re going to stop them.”
Knowing the way that Warren treated women, Xander didn’t like the idea of Cordelia being anywhere near the bastard. The guy was a creep extraordinaire. As for the idea of Angel being a father, Xander was a little wigged out and uncertain what to think. After Buffy had given them the Cliff Notes version of her conversation with Angel, he’d seen the look in her eyes begging him not to ask too many questions, and so he’d let her run out of the house on her own.
“So what’s the plan?” Xander asked quite seriously.
Wondering if he was going to get it out on this third attempt, Angel explained that while Buffy was searching for the Trio’s official hideout, it might be possible to find some clues in their homes. “They all live here in Sunnydale, right?”
“Right,” Willow and Xander answered.
“So we’ll split up and head to each location.” Angel verified that they could find the places where each of the guys lived.
Xander figured it was easy, “Dollars to donuts they live with their parents. I’ll grab the phonebook.”
“Dawn, you’ll stay here with Wes,” instructed Angel as he started to divide them all into teams. “Stick to the phone. We’ll call if we find something and you relay the message to everyone else. As soon as Buffy arrives, send her to that location.”
Realizing that Angel was actually trusting her with some responsibility, Dawn promised, “I can do that.”
“Wes?” Angel wanted to know if they were making any progress, and his friend didn’t need to hear the query to understand what he wanted.
Glancing up from the computer, Wes confirmed, “I’ve found something. It’s very preliminary, though. This will take time to translate.”
“Keep at it.”
Xander and Anya were assigned to go to Andrew’s house. Considering the fact that Andrew’s brother Tucker had raised the Hellhounds that attacked the prom, there was no telling what they might find. They borrowed Wesley’s cell phone in order to call in a report.
Angel had Willow map out directions for Fred and Gunn to get to Jonathan’s house, which was apparently within walking distance. Xander planned to drop them off at the nearest crossroads before heading to the south side of town.
“Willow, you’re coming with me,” Angel told her. Warren’s parent’s house was the furthest away. “We’ll take my car.”
Gunn tossed the keys in the air in the direction of Angel’s voice. They were caught, appearing to be suspended in midair until they vanished after a few seconds. Angel asked Willow, “Do you drive?”
Nibbling on her lower lip, Willow mumbled her answer, “I’m not really comfortable driving right now. I wrecked a car a couple of days ago. Dawn got hurt.”
“Then I hope you don’t mind the passenger seat,” Angel took hold of her arm and was already heading out the door. They’d delayed things long enough. Buffy would get the information they needed or one of them would find it first. “Considering that this is Sunnydale, the locals shouldn’t be too shocked by an invisible driver.”
Connor’s crying settled down only as Cordelia picked him up. Holding him against her shoulder, she whispered to him, “Hang in there, little guy.”
She’d conned Andrew into learning how to make the baby’s formula. He was running back and forth around the kitchen completely distracted. Jonathan, however, was not quite so easy to maneuver away from his spot near the door.
Carefully putting Connor down again having moved his carrier to a safer location, Cordelia eyed a heavy frying pan lying in the sink. She edged toward it while making it appear that she was just there to check on Andrew’s progress with warming up the baby’s milk. By the time Jonathan got over here, she figured Andrew would be laid out cold on the floor.
Just as her hand moved along the edge of the sink, Warren appeared in the doorway behind Jonathan. “You won’t believe it.”
Cordelia snatched her hand away from the sink. Opportunity lost she waved Andrew out of the way and took over the task of getting Connor’s bottle ready. The baby was hungry and if they weren’t going to get out of here right now, he needed to eat. The trio congregated in the middle of the kitchen as she watched them from the corner of her eye.
“I’ve checked out the fried conduits,” Warren explained. “They triggered a response from the power source.”
Jonathan nodded, “I thought that might be it. Feedback from the energy build-up caused a mystical purge from the stone.”
“The beam looked different than our test,” Andrew commented. “The light waves from the laser were dispersed into a wider spread than they should have been.”
Warren told them the worst of his findings, “The magical power source caused some kind of alteration in the weapon’s primary function. Watch this.”
He pointed the ray gun at Andrew who backed away, hands in the air. “Watch where you’re pointing that, dude. You’re not exactly Boba Fett.”
“Got the vampire, didn’t I?” Warren frowned at the insult to his shooting skills. “Move out of the way. I’m aiming at Mom’s begonias.”
Cordelia saw Warren turn the laser gun toward the small pot of flowers sitting in the middle of the kitchen table. After he charged the device, a beam of blue light flashed and an instant later there was nothing left behind.
“What’s so different about that?” Jonathan shrugged unimpressed. “It’s the same as before: total obliteration.”
Smirking at his own discovery, Warren walked to the table, put down the gun and reached forward. It appeared that he was holding nothing, but a moment later, he let his hands drop to his sides and a loud crash sounded as something hit the floor.
Warren laughed at their confusion. Grinning like a fool, he explaining the magnitude of his discovery, “We’ve got an invisibility ray.”
“Cool,” Jonathan gasped as he bent down to touch the evidence of the broken clay pot and the soft flower petals now invisible to his eyes.
“Cool,” Andrew’s response came at the same time. “That’s way better than just a Destructo Ray.”
In total agreement, Warren had to add, “Just think of what we can do now.”
Listening in, Cordelia clutched the edge of the kitchen counter, holding on tight until her hands hurt from the effort as she realized what this might mean. Their gun made things invisible. Did that happen after they shot Angel or before? A thread of hope curled up inside her. Angel might not be dead!
Please let it be true, the words repeated in her head.
She wasn’t the only one thinking about Angel. Jonathan glanced her way and then asked his buddies, “Warren, what if the overload fried those circuits before you hit the vampire?”
“I got him,” Warren sounded certain. “You saw it yourself. He felt that shot.”
Andrew thought back to the incident, remembering the pulse of the light and the way the vampire had hit the floor before he vanished. They’d assumed he was completely obliterated, but a laser should have a slightly different affect on a vampire. “I kinda expected him to burst into flames. There were no flames. There should have been dust.”
Picking Connor up from his carrier, Cordelia gave him his bottle as she walked over to stand next to her three captors. She didn’t know why the PTB would send her a vision that made her think Angel was about to die, but right now she didn’t care. If he was still alive… or undead… whatever.
Cordelia knew one thing for certain. “You three are so going to have your asses kicked,” she grinned confidently, “and not just by me.”
They stared at her for a few seconds before taking her threat to heart. In panic mode they jockeyed for position closer to the door, Warren grabbing the Invisibility Ray from the table.
“He knows we’re from Sunnydale.”
“He’ll bring the Slayer.”
Cordelia was almost enjoying their Keystone Cops maneuvers when Warren swung around and grabbed her arm. “Hey! Watch it. I’ve got the baby.”
“Back down to the lair,” Warren ordered everyone.
Jonathan figured they’d be headed out the door. “Now?”
“We’ve got to get our stuff. Who knows when it will be safe to come back,” Warren explained.
“I’ll grab the video games and you get the magazines,” suggested Andrew as he ran down the basement steps ahead of Jonathan.
Warren called down to them, “I meant the important stuff.”
“Oh, righhht. Got it. Autographed scripts and mint condition comic books only,” nodded Jonathan as he moved toward the safe holding their most precious possessions.
All of their plans and blueprints were already onboard the van in the garage, so it was just a matter of securing these last remaining items and verifying that it was safe to make their escape. “Andrew, check the perimeter.”
“Checking,” Andrew left Jonathan to his task and moved over to their makeshift periscope that popped up in the middle of Warren’s mother’s rose garden. “We’re clear on the west lawn. We’re clear to the north. Wait…no! The perimeter has been breached. There’s someone behind the oak tree.”
Warren and Jonathan both ran to the periscope trying to push Andrew out of the way. Being larger than the other two, Warren won the shoving match. “Oh, no. It’s her.”