All the Stops: Signsbybadgirl298©
Giles’ harsh breathing was the only sound in the old abandoned gas station. The other occupants maintained an eerie silence, all were afraid of what would happen next. They had fled Sunnydale only to be surrounded and forced off the road by the Knights of Byzantium. They had taken sanctuary in this little building, the only thing holding the knights at bay was a thin force field put up by Willow.
Buffy watched Ben, the intern from Sunnydale Hospital, tend to her Watcher. Well, he was more than her Watcher, he was her friend, her confidante. . .her father. Buffy squeezed his hand but Giles was too tired to give her his familiar “stiff upperlippyness”. Instead, he managed a weak smile and then grimaced in pain. His hand gripped hers, it would have been painful if she didn’t have superpowers. Her eyes strayed to Ben’s but his were blank, devoid of expression. “Well?” She asked.
“He’s hurt bad, Buffy.” Ben said quietly. “He’s going to need to go to a hospital. I’m going to flush the wound with some saline and give him some painkillers, but he needs to go. Right away.”
“I understand.” Buffy said, walking away. She turned and said as an afterthought “Thanks. I. . I realize this must seem strange, but. . .”
“It’s okay. I’ve lived in Sunnydale for a while. Strange comes with the territory.”
“Oh.” She turned away once more and pressed a hand to her chest, blowing out a long-held breath. He was out of the woods. Giles wasn’t going to die, at least not right away. “I can do this.” She muttered to herself, trying to psych herself up for battle. Somehow, she had to convince the “Knights Who Say Key” outside to let Giles go.
Buffy walked over to Dawn and slid a hand through her silken hair. It calmed her somehow, touching her sister grounded her to reality. It made her realize what’s important. “Is he. . .is he–“ Dawn began but then her face crumpled and she walked away from Buffy who let her go. Dawn probably needed some time to absorb everything.
Spike flicked a cigarette butt to the floor and crushed it with his boot heel. His gaze ripped holes in the back of Ben’s neck. How could she like this nancy boy? She was passing up the big bad for a pratt with an enormous chin who wears poofy blue pajamas? Just then, the boy turned and ogled Buffy from behind as she walked away from him. Bloody Hell! She’s in pain and he’s thinking about getting in her pants? He might be evil but at least he was sensitive.
Then, Spike watched Dawn walk to Ben’s side. She asked a question, her lower lip trembling. Bigchin mumbled something back to her and she burst into tears. Ben ran a hand through her hair. Why does everyone touch her hair? Then the impudent git brought her into a hug and rested his enormous chin on her head. Spike’s eyes narrowed. Buffy was one thing. After all, she was the taciturn Slayer. One girl in all the world chosen to protect it from demons. Spike, being somewhat optimistic, hoped that she would eventually see reason and give in to him. Take a walk on the big bad side of life. But touching Nibblet? She was his. Not that he really knew what that meant but no one would ever come between himself and Dawn. No discussions about that point. This Ben had to be stopped.
Before he even knew what he was doing, Spike was halfway across the floor. He curled his hand into his fist and punched Ben right under his eye. The man went to his knees, arms wound protectively around his face. Spike clutched his head, waiting for the onslaught of pain. . .but there wasn’t any. No pain at all, just a lingering sense of satisfaction. Ben must be a demon. Spike’s mouth curled into an superior smile.
Everyone had turned to stare at the fight. Well, it was more of a punch and then a sissy boy going down on his knees, Spike thought arrogantly.
Buffy was the first to react. “That didn’t hurt?”
“No. Not a flicker of pain.”
“He’s a demon!” She said, realization blooming.
“Damn right, he’s a demon. You’ve been trying for two weeks to have coffee with a. . .what would you say? A demon. You know. . .someone who’s beneath you.” Spike crowed. “Guess you do go slummin’, eh Summers?”
“Shut up, Spike.” Buffy said. She looked at the dazed Ben in askance as he tried to explain.
“B-but. . .I. . .I’m not a demon. . .I. . .I--” Ben clutched his head, as if he were trying to keep something under control.
“Save it, big chin.” Spike said, lighting a smoke. Momentarily, Ben’s face seemed to change, as if it became a woman.
Buffy’s eyes widened in horror. Good God! It was Glory! How did Glory get here! Where’s Ben. . .? What the hell? She looked at the others to see if they were all seeing the same thing she did. It appeared they had. Xander was reaching for a broad sword and Anya picked up the huge metal frying pan she’d beaned a few knights with. Buffy backed up, ready to run with Dawn when Glory wasn’t there anymore. She’d vanished. Had they all hallucinated together?
Buffy decided to address the Ben issue, since he was suddenly standing there once more. “Why are you really here? Are you working with those knights? Or Glory? So help me, if you–“
”Don’t threaten him, pet. Kill him.” Spike said. Nothing like eliminating the competition. “He’s Glory. A demon and a cross-dresser.”
“Shut up. Don’t call me ‘pet’. “ She yanked Ben to his feet. “Now explain to me how you’re connected to Glory.”
“Uh, luv? He IS Glory.” Spike pointed out again, trying to be patient.
“Spike I don’t have time for you.” Buffy threw Ben on the floor at Willow’s feet. “Will, can you do a glamour for me? I’ve just had a really good idea.”
“Sure, Buffy, I guess. What–“
”Make him look like Dawn.” Buffy ordered. “The knights know she’s The Key, so if we give them what they want. . .”
“Good idea. But it won’t last long. Just long enough to get us on route.”
“Fine with me, just do it.”
Willow quickly ran her hands over Ben’s body, leaving a faint trail of red sparkles. “The eye won’t see the real me. To look is to be.” Sparks flew from her fingertips and Ben turned into a Dawn clone.
“Where did you park?” Buffy asked Ben.
“What? I. . .
“Where?!” She said, taking a threatening pose.
“Good.” She turned to Xander. “Get everyone in his car! Will, you’re with me.” She grabbed Ben and pushed him towards the front door. Willow followed behind and made a hole in the energy barrier around the gas station.
As they appeared, the knights fell to their feet. Murmured whispers of “The Key” were heard all around them. Buffy tried to look tearful. “It’s obvious that I can’t. . .” She stopped, gulped convincingly and shed a few crocodile tears. “Win. There are too many of you. I. . .I can’t go on like this.” She pushed the faux Dawn forward. Ben started to speak but Willow waived her hand and he was silent. Buffy hugged him, blubbering into his pink jacket. “I’m so sorry, Dawnie. So sorry. I--” Then she walked away. “I hope you can forgive me, Dawnie” With that, she and Willow ran inside. . .and out the back door.
Ben stood looking at the knights dumbly. Then, he felt the change start to take place. Glory was coming, he could feel his body shifting. Becoming more feminine. Then that release of tension. All conscience was gone. He smirked and wished he could stay and watch the show. This wasn’t going to be pretty.
“How many more miles?” Dawn asked.
“That’s the third time you’ve asked in twenty minutes.” Buffy said, sighing.
“Yeah, well, things are a little crampy back here.” Unfortunately, Ben owned a mid-sized car. In the backseat, Spike, Willow, and Tara were seated. Dawn sat on Spike’s lap, much to Buffy’s disgust. Giles lay across the back seat. His head rested in Dawn’s lap. Xander was driving, Anya and Buffy were scrunched together in the passenger seat. They were going to L.A. Spike had his coat off and wrapped around him self, and consequently Dawn to protect him from the early morning rays.
“Are you sure you want to bring Angel into this?” Willow asked, aware of how painful that might be for her friend.
“I don’t have a choice, Will. We’re going up against a god who could take me apart without any effort. I need the big guns.”
Spike snorted. “Angel? A big gun? Not so big if you ask me-“
They were all desperate for some lightness. Willow gave him a crafty look. “Oh, reeeaalllly? Do tell.”
“As if.” Spike scoffed, raising his chin. “Poof couldn’t handle the likes of me.”
“Please stop the disturbing sex talk.” Giles interjected. “I’m bleeding here. I don’t need to be nauseous too.” The idea of Angel and Spike getting, er. . . friendly made him queasy.
“I totally agree.” Xander added. “I don’t want to even think about two deadboys going ‘bump in the night.’”
“Stop. I beg of you.” Giles bit out, holding his stomach.
Dawn patted his cheek. “It’s okay, Mr. Giles. We’re almost there.”
“I miss Pylea.” Cordelia said, mournfully.
“We’ve only been back a day.” Wesley said, bending over a book.
“Yes, but it grows on you. It’s not the same here.”
“Because you aren’t a queen?”
“Well, that could be the difference.” She made a face. “If only I didn’t have to comshuk with a Gross-a-slug.” “Groosalog.”
“Like it matters. Believe me, even the crown wasn’t worth ‘shucking’ anything that rhymes with ‘ewww’ and ‘slug.’” She leaned back on her chair. “I mean, I really haven’t gotten to the bottom of the demons mating with me thing. Are you sure I don’t look easy?”
“I don’t think I’m qualified.” Wesley said, getting out of it. He had no desire to discuss her attractiveness to demons. “I’m not a demon.” He caught a movement out of the corner of his eye. Ah. . .an opportunity to pass the buck. “Maybe you should ask Angel.”
The vampire in question yawned and poured himself a cup of blood from the fridge. He stretched his arms over his head yawned again with gusto. Cordelia came up behind him. “Sleep well?”
“Very. There’s nothing like sleeping in your own bed. I woke up a new vampire.” He could smell the mellow flavor of the rich liquid. To hell with Maxwell House. He took a sip.
“Do you want to sleep with me?” And promptly spit it out.
“Uh. . .you are. . .attractive. You and I are good friends. . .but you and I. . .we. . .sometimes people--“
”Calm down. That wasn’t an offer.” She rolled her eyes. “Like I’d choose you, oh-leather-panted-homicidal-one. I’m just asking if you had the urge to.”
“I don’t think that ‘hell no’ is a strong enough phrase.”
“I’d sleep with her.” A voice said, coming into the room. Spike grinned as his sire’s face broke into a feral scowl. Buffy shot a look in the younger vampire’s direction. “What, luv? You feel betrayed? I’m evil, remember? Not a priest like peaches over there.”
“I’m not a priest!” Angel said indignantly. “I just happen to like nuns.” He muttered.
Cordy smiled triumphantly. “See? I knew there was a problem with my attractiveness to demons.” Then she looked at Spike. “You are still dead, right?”
“Have been for almost a couple of centuries, luv.”
“Of course. Too cute to be alive.” She muttered. Angel scowled at her. “What? Hey, I’m a woman, okay? He’s a demon and that’s bad. . .but damn, he’s a hottie.”
Spike grinned, clearly pleased.
“Not that I’m not glad to see you, Buffy, but what’s up?”
“Hellgoddess. Mean in a non-PMS-ing kind a way. And I’d say she’s tracking us right now.”
“A Hell -what -ess?” Cordy said, stunned.
“Goddess.” Buffy confirmed. “Hates me. Trying to kill Dawn. We need lots of weapons. Maybe an army would be nice too. We’re looking at the apocalypse.”
“Again?!” Cordelia shook her head, looking at her hands. “I hate Sunnydale.” She looked at Wes. “Why is it always. . .watch out! I was the mayor, but hey! Now I’m a giant snake. Or be careful. . .some guy wants to make a new girlfriend out of pieces and parts. . .and guess who get’s to give her head to the cause? There should be a surgeon general’s warning under the Sunnydale welcome sign. Something like ‘weird shit happens here’. Or, moving here could shorten your life span and possibly cause birth defects. Or a McDonald’s type of sign.‘Population 9, 000. Make that 8,900. No, make that 7,800.”
Buffy was exhausted and cranky. “Focus people. Hellgoddess. Big trouble. On the way right now. Trying to kill my sister.”
“What is this goddess’ name?” Wesley enquired.
“Glory.” Wesley immediately went to his books. “No, you won’t find anything in there. We had to contact the Watchers’ Council and they only had some very limited information.” Buffy explained.
“Why don’t we just call up your boyfriend and ask him?” Spike requested nastily, crossing his arms over his chest.
“Oh yeah.” Buffy sounded dazed. “Ben had some sort of connection to Glory.”
“Isn’t his name Riley? The commando guy?” Angel asked, puzzled.
“No, that one took off after she found him getting suck jobs at the local blood bordello.” Spike snickered. “This was the next sucker. Picked him up at the crazy ward.” Angel grimaced at the term ‘suck jobs.’
“Working at the crazy ward.” Buffy shook her head. “I mean at the hospital.”
Spike nodded, humoring her. When she turned away, he twirled his index finger by his ear and mouthed. “Crazy ward.” Dawn giggled. “Not to mention, he’s a cross- dresser.”
“What are you talking about?” Buffy demanded.
Angel turned to her. “You’re standards have lowered considerably.”
Meanwhile, Spike had run out of patience. “I’ll save you a phone call, pet. He has more than a connection. Ben is Glory. Glory is Ben”
“ Ben is Glory?” Willow’s eyes widened.
Dawn nodded. “Ben is Glory.”
Buffy put her arm around her sister. “Oh, so Ben is Glory.” She appeared to think about it. “So, I guess we should try to figure out how Ben and Glory are connected.”
“Did you all do drugs while I was parking the car?” Spike asked. The Fang Gang was wondering the same thing. What were they talking about? “Ben is Glory. Glory is Ben.” They all nodded in agreement, some even parroting the ‘Ben is Glory’ phrase but then turned blank stares on him. “I get it. She had someone do some black mojo so no one would remember her presto change-o.” Muttering curses, he walked into the office and pulled out a large legal pad and a sharpy. He wrote: Ben is Glory. Glory is Ben. Then he stalked back into the lobby and held it up. He waited for the blank looks, then pointed to it again.
“Where are the others?” Angel asked, needing to change the subject before his head started to spin. He looked behind Buffy and Spike and saw only Willow, a blond girl, and a tall dark haired girl.
“Giles was hurt by a lance.” At their looks she made an impatient gesture. “Got chased by a medieval army. “ Angel’s eyes filled with questions. “We haven’t got time. We’ll have story hour another night. They took him to the emergency room at the hospital down the block.”
“What have you tried on Glory?” Angel queried, wondering what he had in his arsenal he could use against a god.
“Anything I can think of but it hasn’t had much effect. She’s wiped the floor with me quite a few times.” Buffy admitted. She gestured to Willow. “Willow, here, has been able to hurt her. Though, only a little bit.”
“Oh?” Wesley said, joining the conversation. “What did you use?”
The young witch shrugged dismissively, not wanting to reveal her dark sources. “Little bit of this and a whole lot of that.”
“Maybe we should look for other spells that may be of use.” Wesley suggested. “I have quite a few exceptional texts in the area of transmutation.”
“Sounds like a plan.” Willow said, crossing to his office.
Wesley looked up at the balcony where Fred was perched. She sat behind the railings, peeking out at him through the bars. “Would you like to help, Fred?” He asked the question gently.
“I-I guess that would be okay.” Fred came down the stairs cautiously.
“What’s her deal?” Buffy asked, eyeing Angel. “Knew you liked the quiet, shy type but this. . .” She drifted off.
“I didn’t know she was still wearing that starving peasant ensemble.” Cordy commented, looking at Fred’s rags.
Fred reached the bottom of the stairs to stand by Tara. “Hi.” She said, looking up from the floor briefly. “I’m Fred.”
“You’re a slave.” Tara commented, grinning madly.
The physicist’s face crumpled as she scampered over to Wes. She bounded into his office. It felt comfortable because of the lack of light and dark corners. It reminded her of her cave. Wesley and Willow followed.
Buffy looked at Angel. “If only I could figure out how Ben is helping Glory.” Angel just stared at her in amazement. Spike patiently held up the sign.
“I brought you something.” Buffy let the heavy book settle on Giles’ chest.
“Ow! Get that bloody heavy thing off me.” He looked around her shoulder. “Don’t you have a magazine or some flowers back there?” His lips twitched. “I am sick, you know.”
His Slayer gave him a small smile. “Well, it just so happens that this book contains the ritual that Glory will use.” She gave him a mock look of pity. “Wesley had it in his collection.” She picked imaginary lint from the hospital bedspread. “In fact, he got it as a present when he graduated from Stuffy University, or whatever you call Watcher’s college. Guess we know who’s the superior Watcher.”
“Wouldn’t bet on that.” Giles said calmly. “He probably still cries like a baby.”
She and Giles smiled at the shared memories of Wes’s fighting prowess. . .or lack of it. “Seriously though, I need you to take a look at this. Point out any weaknesses.”
“I’ll give it my full attention.” Giles looked at his watch. “The nurse told me that I’ll be discharged in three hours when the doctor comes for rounds. In the meantime, I’ll check up on this.”
“Thanks.” Then she played with the blanket again. “I need you to do something else for me.”
“Call Ethan Rayne and ask for his help.”
“We need him Giles.” Her eyes fastened on his. “ I need all the firepower I can get. Think about it. Willow was able to hurt her through magick. So, it follows that Ethan, being a dark mojo magick guy, would have access to some serious power.”
“He can’t be trusted.” Giles asserted. “Buffy, I’m not even sure he’d help if I did call.”
“I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
“You’re actually going to pay him?”
“No. If he attempts to double cross me or screws up. . .he’ll be staying in Sunnydale for good. And he won’t be above ground like you or I.”
Giles suppressed a shudder, it was obvious that Buffy had to let go of a little bit of her humanity to fight this foe. But he still had a few very human concerns.“I don’t want Willow involved with him.” Giles stated firmly. “God only knows what path he would lead her down.” He blew out a breath. “ In my youth. . .well, let’s just say, he influenced some of my more irresponsible decisions. He’ll open her up to dark things.”
“You’re being overprotective. Believe me, Willow can handle herself. She would never use her power for evil. Besides, you didn’t see the way she was when she was helping me fight Glory. She stopped her in her tracks, Giles. She made the air thicken up so she couldn’t pass.”
”Giles, its Dawn.” Buffy said simply.
Giles sighed and nodded his head once. “I’ll do it.” Buffy leaned over and hugged him carefully, drawing strength from his presence. She didn’t see the tight smile that crossed his face or the determination in his eyes as he spoke. “He’ll help us.”
Buffy sat opposite from Angel on a couch in his room. Dawn was asleep in one of the upstairs bedrooms, Spike camped out on the floor as a guard. Xander and Anya were in the kitchen, fighting about the coming apocalypse. Willow was trying to lull Tara into sleep in their room. Giles, Wesley, and Fred were in the office, researching the blood letting ritual. And Cordy and Gunn had run out for tacos.