The angel chronicles vol.., p.11
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       The Angel Chronicles, Vol. 3, p.11

           Nancy Holder
 
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  Seriously, don’t invite him in, Mom, she added, like a prayer.

  * * *

  Willow was on the portable phone with Buffy. She was in her PJs, and she was shutting down for the night.

  “I agree with Giles,” she told Buffy as she moved around her room. “You need to just try and not let him get to you. Angel’s only doing this to try to get you to do something stupid. I swear, men can be such jerks sometimes . . . dead or alive.” Firmly, she closed her laptop.

  On the other end, Buffy admitted, “I just hope Giles can find a ‘keep out’ spell soon. I know I’ll sleep easier when I can . . . sleep easier.”

  “I’m sure he will,” Willow said, sprinkling fish food into her new aquarium. She’d gotten it for Hanukkah. “He’s, like, Book Man. Until then, try and keep happy thoughts and . . .”

  Willow lost track of what she was saying as she noticed a brown parchment envelope on her colorful block quilt.

  “ ’And what?” Buffy prodded “Willow?”

  Willow slowly opened the envelope. There was a piece of fishing line inside; frowning, she started pulling it out, realizing just at that moment that there were no fish in her aquarium.

  Because they were all dead, and hanging from the strand of fishing line in her hand.

  * * *

  A short time later, Willow was at Buffy’s. Strings of garlic hung everywhere in Buffy’s room and, as the two sat together on Buffy’s bed in their pajamas, Willow kept a very tight grip on a very sharp stake.

  Her frightened gaze swept the room as she said, “Thanks for having me over, Buffy. Especially on a school night and all.”

  “No problem,” Buffy assured her. “Hey, sorry about your fish.”

  “It’s okay,” Willow said sadly. “We hadn’t really had time to bond yet.” She wrinkled up her face. “Although, for the first time, I’m glad my parents didn’t let me have a puppy.”

  The words hit home. Her eyes downcast, Buffy murmured, “It’s so weird. Every time something like this happens my first instinct is to run to Angel. I can’t believe it’s the same person. He’s completely different from the guy that I knew.”

  “Well, sort of, except . . .” Willow trailed off.

  Buffy looked at her. “Except what?”

  “You’re still the only thing he thinks about.”

  The two friends looked at each other.

  * * *

  Angelus watched from the shadows as Drusilla swept into the factory with a fluffy little white dog hidden behind her back. She lit up when she saw Spike, who was glowering in his wheelchair.

  She carried the whimpering pup over to him, announcing, “I brought something for you.”

  Spike didn’t even look at her.

  “Poor thing. She’s an orphan. Her owner died . . . without a fight.” Dru grinned and slipped her hand into the top of Spike’s black T-shirt, bending down beside him. “Do you like her? I brought her especially for you, to cheer you up.” She jerked on his T-shirt.

  “And I’ve named her Sunshine.” She spoke in the singsong voice mothers used with their little ones.

  Still hidden, Angelus chuckled to himself as Spike clenched his jaw, Roller Boy’s irritation obviously mounting.

  “Open wide,” Dru encouraged Spike. He turned his head. “Come on, love,” she cajoled him. “You need to eat something to keep your strength up. Now . . .” She waved the dog like an airplane headed for the hangar and made little growling noises. “Open up for Mummy . . .”

  “I won’t have you feeding me like a child, Dru!” he snapped, pushing his wheelchair away from her.

  That’s my cue, Angelus thought, sauntering from the shadows. “Why not?” he asked Spike. “She already bathes you, carries you around, and changes you like a child.” He smiled at Dru.

  Ouch. If looks could kill, I’d be dust, Angelus thought gleefully as Spike glared at him.

  “My Angel! Where have you been?” Dru demanded, her voice petulant and inviting. “The sun is almost up, and it can be so hurtful. We were worried.”

  “No, we weren’t,” Spike said darkly, levelly meeting Angelus’s gaze.

  “You must forgive Spike. He’s just a bit testy tonight. Doesn’t get out much anymore.” Dru looked pityingly at her white-haired boyfriend.

  Angelus leaned forward, determined to needle Spike as much as possible. It was almost too easy, but one took one’s pleasure where it appeared . . .

  “Well, maybe next time I’ll bring you with me, Spike.” Angelus matched his glare and raised it a few degrees of contempt. “Might be handy to have you along if I ever need a really good parking space.”

  Spike was starting to simmer. “Have you forgotten that you’re a bloody guest in my bloody home?”

  “And as a guest,” Angelus said with mock solicitousness, “if there’s anything I can do for you . . . Any responsibility I can assume while you’re spinning your wheels . . . Anything I’m not already doing, that is.” He leered at Dru.

  “That’s enough!” Spike shouted. He pushed Angelus out of his face.

  Angelus started laughing. He’s so easy. I can play him like a violin.

  “Awww,” Dru cooed. She kissed Spike on the cheek and put Sunshine in his lap. His gaze never left Angelus as she walked away, stroking her own cheek. “You two boys . . . fighting over me and all.” She chuckled and stopped by the dining table, trailing her fingers down the center of her bodice. “Makes a girl feel . . .”

  Then she trailed off, her words giving way to a frightened, childlike cry. Holding out her left hand, she began to breathe hard, as if she were in pain.

  “Dru? What is it, pet?” Spike asked, alert.

  She gazed into a place only she could see. “The air . . . it worries. Someone . . . an old enemy, is seeking help to destroy our happy home.”

  Moaning, near tears, she clutched one of the chairs for support. Otherwise she would have sunk to the floor.

  * * *

  The brass bells hanging over the door to the Dragon’s Cove magic store tinkled as Jenny Calendar entered and looked around. The store was filled with beads, sun-catchers, and bottles of murky liquids containing fetal pigs, curiosities, and monstrosities. Black candles burned, glowing scarlet, and spicy incense permeated the air.

  “Welcome,” the balding store clerk said. Looking and sounding vaguely Middle Eastern, he wore a white shirt and pants, an amulet, and strings of yellow beads around his neck. “How may I serve you today? Love potion? Perhaps a voodoo doll for that unfaithful—”

  Cutting him off, she said, “I need an orb of Thesulah.”

  Immediately he dropped his act. “Oh, you’re in the trade.” His accent disappeared, too. “Follow me. Sorry about the spiel, but around Valentine’s Day, I get a lot of tourists shopping for love potions and mystical revenge on past lovers.” He shrugged philosophically. “Sad fact is, Ouija boards and rabbits’ feet—that’s what pays the rent here.”

  He went behind a case of white china decanters filled with herbs, pulled back the curtain to a spacious pantry, and started searching the shelves. “So, how’d you hear about us?”

  Idly she examined a display of crystals and rune-stones. “My uncle, Enyos, told me about you.”

  He glanced at her as he picked up a mahogany container. “So you’re Janna, then. Sorry to hear about your uncle.”

  “Thank you.”

  “He was a good customer,” he added frankly. He set the box on the glass counter. “Well, here you go, one Thesulan orb.” With a flourish he took the lid off the container, revealing a small, crystal sphere nestled in a blanket of velvet. “Spirit vault for the Rituals of the Undead.”

  Jenny gave it a quick glance. It was exactly what she wanted. She handed him her credit card as he continued chattering. “I don’t get much call for those lately. Sold a couple as ‘new age’ paperweights last year.” He ran the card through the machine. “Yeah, I just love the ‘new agers.’ They helped send my youngest to college.”

  His t
one became a touch more businesslike as he wrote up the bill of sale. “By the way, you do know that the transliteration annals for the Ritual of the Undead were lost. Without the annals, the surviving text is gibberish.”

  She looked up from signing the receipt. “And without a translated text, the orbs of Thesulah are pretty much useless. I know.” She tore off his copy and handed it to him.

  “I only mention it because I have a strict policy of no refunds.”

  “It’s okay.” She put her copy in her purse and he replaced the lid for her. “I’m working on a computer program to translate the Romanian liturgy to English, based on a random sampling of the text.”

  He folded his hands on the counter. “Ahh. I don’t like computers. They give me the willies.”

  She picked the container up and cradled it against her chest. “Well, thank you.”

  She was almost out the door when he called after her, “By the way, not that it’s any of my business, really, but what are you planning to conjure up if you can decipher the text?”

  She took off the lid and lifted the orb to the sunlight streaming through the window. “A present for a friend of mine.”

  “Really?” He was interested. “What are you going to give him?”

  In her hand, the orb began to glow. It cast a warm glow against her skin and gleamed in her eyes.

  Jenny answered simply, “His soul.”

  CHAPTER 2

  Xander caught up with Willow and Buffy as they joined the reluctant morning saunter toward Sunnydale High. He was wearing his wacky plaid pants, and he smiled brightly and said, “Well, good morning, ladies. And what did you two do last night?”

  “We had kind of a pajama-party-sleepover-with-weapons thing,” Willow informed him.

  “Oh,” he said rather wistfully. “And I don’t suppose either of you had the presence of mind to locate a camera to capture the moment?”

  Buffy smiled faintly. Willow was too on purpose to even register a reaction. “I have to go. I have a class to teach in about five minutes and I have to arrive early to glare disapprovingly at the stragglers.”

  Then her face fell as she spotted Jenny Calendar walking briskly across the lawn in her clunky black heels and wispy dress. “Oh, darn. She’s here. Five hours of lesson planning yesterday down the drain.”

  Willow trudged off. Buffy kept her attention focused on Miss Calendar as she murmured to Xander, “You know what? I’ll see you in class.” She moved away from him and intercepted Miss Calendar. “Hey.”

  “Hi.” Miss Calendar looked surprised, a little on guard, a little hopeful. “Is there something . . . did you want something?”

  Buffy took a breath. “Look, I know you feel badly about what happened and I just want to say . . .” She trailed off. I can’t do it, she thought. I can’t pretend I forgive her. “Good. Keep it up.”

  The hurt on Miss Calendar’s face made Buffy feel ashamed. So did her words. “Don’t worry. I will.”

  “Uh, wait. Um . . .” She pulled it together. And she said something that was true. Gazing steadily at the Gypsy, she said, “He misses you. He doesn’t say anything to me, but I know he does. I don’t want him to be lonely.” She paused. “I don’t want anyone to.”

  It was a moment. Their moment. Miss Calendar softened, relaxed. “Buffy, you know that if I have a chance to make this up—”

  “We’re good here.” As long as it’s not about her and me, I can deal. “Let’s just leave it.”

  * * *

  Giles was talking about some flyers with a couple of students. “Yes, so, could you hang those up? Thanks so much.” He brightened as Buffy approached.

  “Buffy, so how was your night?”

  “Sleepless,” she said honestly. “But no human fatalities.”

  “I found a ritual to revoke the invitation to vampires,” he announced.

  Cordelia stepped up with total relief. “Oh, thank goodness. I actually had to talk my grandmother into switching cars with me last night.”

  Giles blinked in astonishment at Cordelia, then continued on with his explanation. “The ritual is fairly basic, actually. It’s just the recitation of a few simple rhyming couplets, burning of moss herbs, sprinkling of holy water—”

  “All stuff I have in my house,” Buffy drawled.

  “Hanging of cross . . .” Giles went on.

  They walked.

  * * *

  Do they count if you hide them? Willow wondered, as she finished nailing a crucifix in place and covering it with her plaid bedroom curtains.

  She said to Buffy and Cordelia, “I’m going to have a hard time explaining this to my dad.”

  Buffy frowned slightly. “You really think it’ll bother him?”

  “Ira Rosenberg’s only daughter nailing crucifixes to her bedroom wall?” Willow nodded with weary affection. “I have to go over to Xander’s house just to watch ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ every year.”

  Buffy grimaced. “I see your point.”

  “Although it is worthwhile to see him do the Snoopy dance,” Willow allowed, this time with affection but no weariness.

  Cordelia, who was wandering around Willow’s room, piped up. “Willow, are you aware that there are no fish in your aquarium?”

  Willow whimpered. Buffy stepped in.

  “You know, Cordelia,” she said, “we’ve already done your car. Call it a night if you want.”

  “Right. Thanks. And you know I’d do the same for you if you had a social life.” She picked up her coat from Willow’s bed. There was an envelope beside it.

  A brown parchment envelope.

  “Oh.” She picked it up and handed it to Willow. “This must be for you.”

  Willow and Buffy exchanged looks. Nervously, Willow opened the flap and pulled out the by now familiar stationery. She opened it. She tensed and looked hard at Buffy. “It’s for you,” she said meaningfully.

  Buffy opened it. It was another sketch by Angelus, this one a perfect likeness of her mother, asleep. Or not asleep . . .

  “Mom,” Buffy blurted.

  * * *

  Angelus was waiting at the side of the driveway when Buffy’s mother finally drove up. She wasn’t even out of the car when he approached, holding the door open through the opened window as she turned off the engine.

  “Mrs. Summers,” he said in a rush, pouring on the anguish, “I need to talk to you.”

  She was polite but wary. “You’re . . . Angel.”

  He beamed, shutting the door for her. She was carrying a bag of groceries, which he did not offer to carry. It would slow her down, just a little, if she needed slowing down.

  “Did Buffy tell you about us?”

  “She told me she wants you to leave her alone.” Her voice was firm, her look steady. A good mom. How nice.

  “I can’t,” he said, smiling. “I can’t do that.”

  Joyce did not smile back. “You’re scaring her.”

  “You have to help me,” he said in a rush. She brushed past him and he whirled around to keep up with her. “Joyce, I need to be with her. You can convince her. You have to convince her.” He talked fast, aiming for slightly incoherent. Whatever gets the job done.

  It was working. Her voice was less steady as she stopped and looked hard at him. She was getting scared.

  “Look, I’m telling you to leave her alone.”

  He pushed harder. “You have to talk to her for me, Joyce. Tell her I need her.”

  “Please. I just want to get inside.”

  She moved around him, practically about to break into a run. Angelus had to work not to chuckle.

  And then, as he caught up, he “accidentally” bumped her grocery bag. It tumbled out of her arms, oranges rolling like pool balls. “You don’t understand, Joyce.” He gathered up one or two. “I’ll die without Buffy. She’ll die without me.”

  She bent to retrieve her groceries, froze, and looked at him. “Are you threatening her?”

  “Please, why is she doing this to me?”


  Her fear was mounting. “I’m calling the police, now.”

  She got up quickly and took the porch steps quickly. Her shaking hands fumbled with her keys; she was trying hard to get the door open, but she was too freaked to do a good job of it. Joining her on the porch, Angelus smiled as he watched her awkwardness. It was time to deliver the final blow.

  “I haven’t been able to sleep since the night we made love,” he said sadly. Her head whipped toward him. Gotcha. “I need her. I know you understand.”

  She was stunned. Speechless for a beat. Then she got the door opened and darted inside, calling, “Just leave us alone.”

  Now I’ll go in for the kill—

  But as he tried to cross the threshold, his way was blocked by an invisible barrier. He gasped in surprise.

  Buffy and Willow were walking down the stairs. Willow had a spellbook open, and she was reciting an incantation in Latin.

  “His verbes, consenus rescissus est.”

  Buffy stared at him with pure hatred on her lovely face. “Sorry, Angel,” she said. “I’ve changed the locks.”

  She slammed the door in his face.

  * * *

  In the darkened school computer lab, Jenny sipped her herbal tea and typed another command, her gaze glued to the screen as she waited to see what happened next. She was startled when Giles appeared in the doorway with a gentle, “Hello.”

  “Oh, hi.” She cleared the screen as she smiled at him.

  He ventured into the room. “You’re working late.”

  “Special project,” she tossed off, crossing her legs, so very pleased to see him. She added softly, “I spoke to Buffy today.”

  That clearly pleased him. He came up to her and sat on the corner of her desk. “Yes?”

  She picked up a pencil for something to do, and murmured coyly, “She said you missed me.”

  “Well . . . she’s a meddlesome girl.” Which, for Giles, was as much as admitting that it was true.

  “Rupert,” she began, and he looked at her. It’s not time to be sidetracked, she reminded herself. “Okay, I don’t want to say anything if I’m wrong, but I may have some news. Now I need to finish up here.” She gestured to her keyboard. Then she called up her courage and asked, “Can I see you later?”

 
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