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

           Nancy Holder
 
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  Finally a smile flashed across Spike’s face. “I remember, sweet.” The smile faded. “But Sunnydale is cursed for us. Angel and the Slayer see to that.”

  “Ssh,” she breathed into his ear. “I’ve got good games for everyone.” Adoringly, she licked the scars on the side of his face. “You’ll see.” Then she left him, smiling radiantly, to survey the work on the flowers.

  Her face fell. She began to shake. “These flowers are wrong. They’re all wrong.” She moaned. “I can’t abide them!”

  She started ripping them out, losing control, her face contorting with rage and horror. As instantly as she had started, she stopped, bringing a trembling hand to her face.

  Spike looked tiredly at the two vamps. “Let’s try something different with the flowers, then,” he said, with the voice of someone who had gone through this kind of thing many times before.

  Then Drusilla’s mood changed yet again. Glowing with good-nature, she advanced on the table of presents with wide, girlish eyes.

  “Can I open one?” She grinned coquettishly through her lashes at her lover. “Can I? Can I?”

  Spike chuckled indulgently. “Just a peek, love. They’re for the party.”

  Bouncing on her heels with excitement, she opened the very box that Dalton had just brought. She looked inside with rapturous glee.

  “Do you like it baby?” Spike asked, obviously certain that she did. There was pride in his voice. He knew very well that he had pulled something off.

  “It reeks of death,” she said, immeasurably delighted. She went to Spike and knelt before him, stroking his knees and things. “This will be the best party ever.”

  “Why’s that?” he asked warmly.

  “Because,” she said rising and turning back to the box, “it will be the last.”

  With the flourish of a very strong and very mad vampire, she slammed the box shut.

  CHAPTER 2

  In the sunny kitchen of the Summers’ house on Revello Drive, Joyce was clearing the breakfast plates while Buffy looped on her stretchy wire bracelets. An open birthday card sat on the counter.

  It was the morning of Buffy’s seventeenth birthday. She felt refreshed and up. No bad dreams and a good night’s sleep. She was having a birthday just like any other high school kid with the misfortune to be born on a school day.

  “Mall trip for your birthday on Saturday,” her mom reminded her. “Don’t forget.”

  As if. Buffy gave her a look. “Space on a mom-sponsored shopping opportunity? Not likely.”

  “So,” Joyce said, “does seventeen feel any different than sixteen?”

  “It’s funny you should ask that,” Buffy replied cheerily. I feel great. “You know, I woke up feeling more mature, responsible, and level-headed.”

  Her mom knew she was up to something. “Really? It’s uncanny.”

  Buffy nodded. “I now possess the qualities one looks for in a licensed driver.” She was asking the big question, and her mom obviously got it.

  Her mom frowned slightly. “Buffy—”

  “You said we could talk about it again when I was seventeen,” Buffy pointed out.

  Joyce turned from the sink with a plate in her hands. “Do you really think you’re ready, Buffy?” she asked, echoing the question she had asked in Buffy’s nightmare.

  Then the plate slipped from her hands and shattered on the floor.

  Buffy stiffened in shock. She went numb from head to toe, as if she had been plunged in ice water.

  It was the dream . . . coming true . . .

  * * *

  I wonder if I should change my clothes tonight before Buffy’s party, Jenny Calendar thought idly, as she balanced her books, her purse, and a nice hot cup of herbal tea and carried them into her computer science classroom. She put her things down on the desk and starting organizing her papers for first period. We’ll cover Applets, she thought. These kids are ready for the big stuff . . .

  Behind her, someone said her name very slowly, in a thick Eastern European accent—“Jen-ny Calen-dar”—as if sounding it out for the first time.

  She jumped and whirled around.

  He had been reading her name off the blackboard. He was a tall man, wearing the clothes of the Old Country: a brown hat, a white shirt with a black lace tie, and a large silver pin on his vest.

  He was no stranger to her, but she was uncomfortable in his presence nonetheless: he was her superior in their clan, both by blood and obligation. He was her Uncle Enyos.

  And he looked extremely displeased with her.

  “You startled me,” she said, struggling to compose herself.

  “You look well.” There was an edge in his voice.

  “Yes, I’m fine.” He’s angry. I’m not surprised. I would be, too, if our places were switched. But then he would feel the same way I’ve come to feel.

  She walked briskly behind her desk. “I know I haven’t written as much lately. I’ve been busy.”

  His displeasure grew. “I cannot imagine what is so important to make you ignore your responsibility to your people.”

  He’s absolutely right. Nothing should be more important. Still, she tried to excuse herself. “I’ve been working, and—”

  “The elder woman has been reading signs,” he cut in. “Something is different.”

  “Nothing has changed,” Jenny said firmly. “The curse still holds.”

  “The elder woman is never wrong,” he countered. “She says his pain is lessening. She can feel it.”

  Oh, damn, Jenny thought. I don’t want to be a part of this any more.

  “There is . . .” She trailed off.

  Her uncle leaned forward. “There is . . . what?”

  “A girl,” she said, with difficulty. She felt like the worst of betrayers. Rupert, I’m sorry, she thought, hoping he would never learn the truth about who she was and why she was in Sunnydale.

  The old man’s eyes filled with fire. “Oh, what?” he cried with disbelief. “How could you let this happen?”

  “I promise you,” she said, “Angel still suffers. And he makes amends for his evil. He even saved my life.”

  “So you just forget?” His voice rose in anger. “That he destroyed the most beloved daughter of your tribe? That he killed every man, woman, and child that touched her life?”

  She looked down.

  His voice thundered. “Vengeance demands that his pain be eternal, as ours is. If this—this girl gives him one minute of happiness, it is one minute too much.”

  She sighed heavily. “I’m sorry. I thought—”

  “You thought what? You thought you are Jenny Calendar now? You are still Janna, of the Kalderash people. A Gypsy.”

  “I know,” she said, her features hardening, no longer defensive. He had no idea what it had been like here, bonding with Buffy and her friends. He would be shocked at how torn she felt. “Uncle, I know.”

  “Then prove it,” he returned. “Your time for watching is past. The girl and him—it ends now. Do what you must to take her from him.”

  She kept her chin raised, but her face softened with sympathy for Buffy, and for Angel as well. A great sadness washed over her at the unfairness of what she now saw as a misguided attempt to right an ancient wrong.

  “I will see to it.” And I will, even though nothing in me wants to.

  Not completely satisfied, but with nothing more to say, her uncle left.

  She stood behind her desk, suddenly realizing the absurdity her life had become: Jenny Calendar, hip young technopagan, was in actuality a Gypsy spy, who was about to do whatever she could to break the Slayer’s heart.

  * * *

  Buffy sat in the library with Giles, her stomach clenched with nerves. It was so hard to believe this was the same day she’d awakened to: the early morning so nice, and now everything so out of whack.

  The typical, average day of a Slayer, even on her birthday.

  “And then my mom broke the plate,” she continued, telling him about her morning.
It was just like my dream. Every gesture. Every word. It was so creepy.”

  Giles considered thoughtfully. “Yes. I’d imagine it would be fairly unnerving.”

  He sat on the study table with his pastel-striped coffee mug in his left hand as Xander and Willow came bursting into the room.

  “Hey,” Xander called, “it’s the woman of the hour.”

  Willow skipped over to Buffy to give her a big hug. “It’s happy birthday Buffy!”

  Willow must have sensed her mood, because she backed off and raised her eyebrows. “Not happy birthday Buffy?”

  Buffy glumly sat in her chair. Giles took over. “It’s just that . . . a part of the nightmare Buffy had the other night actually transpired.”

  Even hearing him say it gave Buffy a wiggins.

  “Which means Drusilla might still be alive,” Buffy added, raising the wiggins bar a couple of extra notches. She turned to Giles for support. “Giles, in my dream, I couldn’t stop her. She blindsided me. Angel was gone before I knew what happened.”

  Giles looked at her dead on. “Even if she is alive, we can still protect Angel. Dreams aren’t prophecies, Buffy. You dreamed the Master had risen, but you stopped it from happening.”

  Angel said the same thing, she almost told Giles. In his apartment yesterday morning, when we . . . when I wanted to stay. When I was mostly hoping he’d pick me up and carry me over to his—

  Xander nodded, crossing his arms over his chest. “You ground his bones to make your bread.”

  Somewhat comforted by Xander’s firm, no-nonsense tone, Buffy relaxed a tiny bit. “That’s true. Except for the bread part. Okay, so, fine. We’re one step ahead.” She gazed levelly at her Watcher. “I want to stay that way.”

  “Absolutely.” Giles jumped into action. “Let me read up on Drusilla. See if she has any particular patterns. Why don’t you meet me here at seven? We’ll map out a strategy.”

  “What am I supposed to do until then?” she asked softly, feeling cast adrift.

  He gestured with his mug as he walked into his office. “Go to classes, do you homework, have supper.”

  “Right,” she murmured, standing and gathering up her white backpack and jacket. “Be that Buffy.” The normal girl with the mundane existence. The birthday girl whose thoughts would be on the upcoming trip to the mall and wondering if she was going to get her driver’s license after all.

  Not the Slayer, whose vampire boyfriend might even, at this moment, be dead.

  * * *

  As she left the library, Xander said dispiritedly, “Well, that’s not a perky birthday puppy.”

  Sounding just as bummed, Willow said, “So much for our surprise party. I bought little hats and everything.”

  “Mmm-hmm,” Xander replied, sharing her disappointment.

  “Oh, well. I’ll tell Cordelia.” Willow rolled her eyes in distaste.

  Standing in the doorway to his office, Giles said, “No, you won’t. We’re having a party tonight.”

  Xander raised his brows and stared at Giles the way he had stared at the broken pots and spears at the Sunny-dale Museum on their most recent field trip.

  “Looks like Mr. Caution Man, but the sound he makes is funny,” Xander riffed.

  “Buffy’s surprise party will go ahead as we’ve planned,” Giles insisted. “Except I won’t be wearing the little hat.”

  Willow scrunched up her face. “But Buffy and Angel—”

  “May well be in danger,” Giles cut in. “As they have been before, and I imagine, will be again. One thing I have learned in my tenure here on the Hellmouth is that there is never a good time to relax. But Buffy’s turning seventeen just this once, and she deserves a party.” So few Slayers make it to seventeen, he added mentally, but did not say.

  Xander was impressed. “You’re a great man of our time.”

  “And anyway, Angel’s coming,” Willow added, cheering up. “So she’ll be able to protect him and have cake.”

  “Precisely,” Giles concurred.

  Pleased, Xander and Willow went off to do the school thing.

  * * *

  It had been a long day, especially for a birthday. When you don’t have a lot of friends at school, not many people know it even is your birthday. Now the only special event on her birthday night would be her seven o’clock meeting with Giles.

  As she walked down the empty corridor, Miss Calender stepped from the shadows. “Buffy,” she said, as Buffy jumped, startled.

  Buffy smoothed back her hair. “Oh, my God. I didn’t see you there.”

  She liked Miss Calendar. She was smart and pretty, and it was obvious to one and all that she had the hots for Giles. Buffy was happy for him. Plus, Miss Calendar knew about the good-and-evil deal going down around Sunnydale, and not only was she cool with it, but she actually helped in a real way.

  “Sorry,” Miss Calendar apologized. “Giles wanted me to tell you that there’s been a change of plans. He wants to meet you someplace near his house.” She shrugged. “I guess he had to run home and get a book or something.”

  Buffy blinked. “’Cause heaven knows there aren’t enough books in the library.”

  Loyally, Miss Calendar replied, “He’s very thorough.”

  “Which is not to bag,” Buffy said quickly, not wanting to sound catty. After all, he was doing all this research to protect Angel. “It’s kind of manly in an obsessive-compulsive kind of way, don’t’ you think?”

  “Mmm-hmm. You know, my car’s here,” the teacher answered, effectively brushing the question away. “Why don’t I drive you?”

  “Okay,” Buffy said.

  * * *

  They got in Miss Calendar’s classic VW Beetle. Buffy thought the old car was really cool. Once I get my driver’s license, maybe I could get a car, she thought. Right. With all that money I make at my after-school Slaying gig.

  The teacher started driving through narrow dark alleys and not really anywhere near Giles’s place. Buffy scanned their surroundings, fairly confused.

  “We’re going to the Bronze?” she queried.

  “I’m not sure.” Miss Calendar kept her eyes on the road. “Giles gave me an address. I’m just following his directions.”

  There was a loading dock just up ahead. A large white truck was parked there, and three suspicious-looking guys were loading a rectangular box.

  “This looks funky. Stop for a sec,” Buffy requested.

  Miss Calendar slowed, but didn’t immediately stop. “No, Buffy,” she said tentatively. “Maybe you should-n’t.”

  Buffy unlatched the door. “Sorry.” She shrugged. “Sacred duty, yada yada yada.”

  She opened the car door and stepped out as Miss Calendar, left behind, murmured, “What is this?”

  Buffy walked toward the truck. As she passed the driver’s side door, one of the possibly bad guys on the loading dock moved beneath an overhanging light. Buffy recognized him as the vampire Dalton, a timid little minion of Spike’s.

  Buffy shook her head and sighed. “Every time I see you, you’re stealing something.”

  Upon seeing her, Dalton growled.

  Buffy continued, “You really should speak to somebody about this klepto issue.”

  The truck engine roared to life. Buffy turned her head to see what was going on. Dalton took advantage to finish carrying his burden into the truckbed, just as the driver’s door opened and a vampire in a plaid shirt kicked at Buffy’s chest.

  She reached into the cab of the truck, grabbed the plaid shirt, and yanked him out. He fell to the ground; when he stood, she punched him so hard he did a backflip.

  She stood with her back toward the truck, close to the cab, and readied herself for his next move. Then another attacker reached down from the truckbed and hoisted her up by her shoulders, pinning back her arms as he flung her into the truck. This guy was dressed in forever plaid, too. She used his own momentum against him, pushing him backward against a pile of boxes against the wooden slats, then breaking his grip and
headbutting him.

  By then, the driver was on board—so to speak—and he came at her, swinging. They exchanged blows; she got in a few good ones and he finally fell, just as the one she had headbutted got back into the game and tried to attack her from behind. But she got to him first, and flung him on top of his good buddy, who was still down for the count.

  Inside the Bronze, Angel and the others hid, waiting to spring out and surprise Buffy. Impatiently, Angel murmured, “Where is she?” as the others peered over the pool table, which was laden with Cordelia’s chips and dips, some purple and lavender napkins and plates, and the pool balls nicely arranged in a star.

  “Ssh,” Willow said anxiously. “I think I hear her coming.”

  * * *

  At just that moment, Buffy punched one of the wooden boards that made up the truck’s walls, broke off a section, and staked the oncoming vamp. Good buddy number two grabbed her up, carried her to the wall of the building, and flung her against it. It hurt a lot as she slammed into it and tumbled to the ground.

  * * *

  Angel had just begun to realize that the strange sounds they were hearing was a fight when Buffy and a vampire in a plaid shirt crashed through the window and landed on the stage.

  Glass flew everywhere. Buffy and the vampire battled savagely as everyone rushed from their hiding places. Then she grabbed a drumstick from the Bronze’s house kit and staked the guy.

  Dustorama.

  There was a long stunned beat as everyone stared. Then Cordelia popped up from behind the cake and yelled, “Surprise!”

  Everyone turned and looked at her.

  It was Oz who drawled, “That pretty much sums it up.”

  Buffy jumped off the stage as Angel and Giles moved toward her. Angel said anxiously, “Buffy, are you okay?”

  Equally concerned, Giles spoke up. “Yes, what happened?”

  She gestured behind herself. “There were these vamps outside . . .” She looked around. “What’s going on?”

  A bit lamely, Giles said, “Surprise party.” He blew his noisemaker.

 
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