By Estepheia and Marcee
Part 26 - All the World's A Stage
"Hey, I'm all for going back to my beloved death-place and all," Spike said, "but landing somewhere with blue skies under the hot, bright, English sun is not really at the top of my list."
"Oh, come on, William," Angel said. "It's at the top of mine."
"That is a concern," Giles said.
"No it's not," Willow interrupted. She was lying on the couch eavesdropping on the conversation in the kitchen. Dawn was watching TV from the floor in front of her. "I actually still have a kind of remote link to Buffy," she said as she stood carefully and made her way into the kitchen. "I can kind of feel what's going on around her. Nothing very substantial or specific, but enough to know that it's daylight or dark. Tomorrow morning should work out perfectly, actually."
"Oh," Giles said as he poured himself a cup of tea. "Well, thank you, Willow." He smiled at the witch before turning his attention back to Spike, Cordelia and Angel.
"The next issue at hand is the lack of power. Willow is a very strong witch and it will be difficult to match the level of power she used the first time the portal was opened."
It was hard for Willow to hide her self-satisfaction.
"I can perform the ritual, but I do not have the magical strength that Willow possesses," Giles continued.
"What about Willow's friend, Tara? She can help, right?" Cordelia asked.
"Even still," Giles commented as he ran his finger down the length of the page in front of him. "I'm uneasy about the possibility that we will not be able to keep the portal open long enough for Spike to pass through unharmed."
"How bout our vengeance girl?" Spike suggested. "I'd wager she's got some powers left in her yet."
"Anya," Giles agreed. "With the three of us..."
"This just might work," Cordelia finished the sentence for him.
"Alright, so I go through. Get Xander out of his mess and then meet up with the Slayer?" Spike asked.
"Yes. We'll have to set up two separate liaisons at specific times and places in order for you to return to Sunnydale."
"Preferably at night or indoors," Spike added.
"Spike?" Angel blurted suddenly. He nodded towards the door. "We need to talk."
"Sure, Peaches, what's on your mind?"
Spike rolled his eyes, but stood and followed the other vampire out into the dining room. When they were out of earshot, Angel grabbed Spike's shirt and pulled him forward harshly so their faces were inches apart. "I don't know how you managed to fool Giles. He, of all people, should know better than to trust you. But you can't fool me," he whispered to Spike malevolently. "I know you. What's to stop you from wreaking havoc once you're in London? Do you really expect me to believe that you'll waste your precious time doing something that doesn't benefit you?"
"I don't care what you believe," Spike chuckled, refusing to be intimidated. "Nobody asked for your opinion, Angel."
"It doesn't matter what Giles says, William," Angel declared. "You're not going. Not until I'm convinced that you'll behave yourself."
Spike didn't try to free himself from the angry man's grip. Instead, he simply returned the accusing glare. "I don't have to prove myself to you."
"Oh yes you do." Angel tightened his grip on Spike's shirt.
"Sod off!" Spike snapped, losing his patience. He tried to brush the older vampire off but Angel shoved him backwards and pinned him against the wall, dislodging a photograph of the three Summers women.
Angel stared at the younger vampire, unwilling to believe that this might be the face of Buffy's rescuer. *If he betrays us or if he fails, Buffy will die in a time not her own, away from her friends. And she'll die by my hands.* That thought made his legs feel weak, but he managed to keep his face impassive. Barely. "It's up to you, Spike. Convince me you're on the level and you can go and play Dr. Who. Piss me off and you'll fit into an ashtray," Angel told him harshly. His voice was barely a whisper, but the anger in his tone was palpable.
"What do you want him to do? Swear on a Bible?"
Both turned to face Cordelia who was standing in the hallway. They stared at her with a mixture of surprise and confusion.
"For beings with such acute senses, you guys certainly don't notice much." She smiled.
"How long were you..." Angel started.
"Look, we all know Spike's a screw up," she said.
"Hey!" Spike interrupted.
"...and that incident with the hot pokers? We know he wouldn't receive a sparkling recommendation..."
The two vampires shared a look of mutual dislike.
"...but I trust Giles. If he says Spike will get the job done, then I'm all for it," she continued.
Angel released his grip. "But..." he said.
" Could you stop fighting for a minute, and spare a thought to the problem at hand? Cause if I wanted to hear some self-righteous egocentric crap I'd rather get it from Buffy."
"But..." Spike started.
"This giant cloud of testosterone is really not good for my complexion. Do vampires even have testosterone? Whatever." She rolled her eyes and headed back toward the kitchen. She turned back to the slack jawed vamps to add, "Now hug and shake hands or whatever it is you do and get your asses back in here."
They turned back toward each other, awkwardness evident. "Hmm," Angel expressed confusion.
"Look, what she said," Spike said. "Okay?"
Angel just nodded. "Just bring them back Spike." It was more of plea than an order.
"I wonder if there are any sculptures of someone I know," Anya said cheerfully.
Tara and Maeve exchanged worried glances. The ex-demon was trying so hard to be brave, useful and optimistic, it was getting kind of grating.
"Someone you know?" Tara asked patiently, but with an inward sigh.
"Yes, I know lots of famous demons. Many had sculptures created for them. I should have gotten a sculpture," she pouted. "But no, instead Hercules - I'm a god, worship me - decided he needed a few marble statues of himself. He took up all of Puget's time. Narcissistic bastard." Anya made a face. "I was even in France when Fred built the famous sculpture of Bernice."
"Yes, she was a demon. Nice girl. She ate people."
Maeve gasped. "She was a vampire?"
"No. She was a Carackphlar Demon. She didn't drain their blood or anything. She ate them whole," Anya said indifferently. "But she didn't eat important people. Mostly homeless people or drunks. She would sometimes even get tipsy after devouring an alcoholic," she laughed. "I remember this one time, after she ate a foul smelling sailor, she..."
"Anya," Tara interrupted her reverie.
"Right, that's not the point. I was explaining about Bernice. Well, Fred was trying to convince her to leave Paris. He promised he'd build a statue of her and send it over to the Americas where people would come and sacrifice themselves to her. He convinced her that New York Harbor would be an all-you-can-eat buffet."
"The S-statue of Liberty?" Tara questioned, appalled.
"Yea, can you believe it? Fred pretended it was a gift for the U.S.," Anya snickered. "When it was really just a bribe to get Bernice out of Paris."
"The Statue of Liberty?" Tara repeated incredulously.
"Yes. You know, `Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses ...blah blah... I'll eat them all and you'll never have to worry about them again.'"
"Oh," was all Tara could muster.
"So anyway, I'm going to see if there's anyone I know." Anya smiled and hurriedly turned the corner.
Moments later there was a shrill squeal.
"Anya!" Maeve ran toward the scream. "Anya, what happened?"
Anya was standing in the aisle with her hands over her eyes. "It's dead right? Or it's fake?" She was hyperventilating. Maeve bent down in front of Anya. "Are you okay?" she asked. "What is wrong? Are you hurt?" Anya was just shaking her head.
Tara looked at the display Anya was turned away from. It was a sculpture of a magician in a tuxedo holding a top hat with his left hand. In his right hand he was pulling something from the hat... "A bunny," Tara chuckled. "It's not real, Anya. It's okay." To Maeve, she said, "Rabbits. Anya's afraid of rabbits." Maeve simply nodded.
Tara walked further down the aisle as Maeve comforted the frightened ex-demon.
"Why would they put something so horrible in a museum?" Anya was mumbling. "Children might see it!"
She glared back at the offending wax figure.
"Hey guys?" Tara interrupted. She waved them over to where she was standing. "Do you hear that," the witch asked.
"Hear what?" Anya echoed.
"Shh, listen," Tara answered.
There was an indistinguishable murmur. As if many people were all whispering at once. They continued down the aisle slowly, listening as the murmuring grew louder. As they rounded another bend, they found themselves looking into the central room of the museum. It was a large circular room filled with dozens of displays, all roped off from the center of the room. There was a large sign reading "New museum additions". The room was filled with people. There were three large groups of middle school-aged children, a tour group of senior citizens and a few random couples wandering from exhibit to exhibit.
"Guess we're not alone," Anya muttered unhappily.
"What are we going to do?" Tara asked.
"We're not going to be able to check all of these figures for anatomical correctness, that's for sure."
"Anya!" Tara reprimanded.
"We'll just have to look around until we find something suitable for Spike to wear and then perhaps you can create a magical wall around the display so we can take it without anyone seeing," Anya said. "I'll be sure to leave a note letting them know the clothing will be returned in a few days."
"How will I put up a wall without people n-noticing?" Tara stuttered.
"Why do I always have to think of everything?" Anya asked. She sighed dramatically. "I suppose we will just have to create a distraction when the time comes."
"A distraction?" Maeve sounded worried.
Anya nodded, as if certain she had made the right decision and then strutted purposefully to the first exhibit.
"Samuel Morse invents the telegraph," Maeve read the display description. "Morse Code," she said. "I know Morse Code."
"You know Sam didn't really invent Morse Code," Anya explained. "Morse Code is really the language of the Samoy Clan. They communicate by clicking. I can't believe he took the credit." She shook her head.
"Oh neat," Tara said. "The Addams Family. I used to love that show when I was a kid."
"You know, Tara," Anya began.
"Don't tell me, Grandpa was a real vampire, right?" Tara asked.
"Oh god no!" Anya replied. "They would never let a real vampire on the set of a TV show."
"Then Morticia was really a witch?"
"No," Anya said. "I was just going to tell you that I dated the actor who played Thing."
"Oh, he was more than JUST a hand," she said, smiling slyly.
"I wish to go over this one more time before the girls return," Giles said.
"Okay," Cordelia started. She had been taking notes throughout the discussion and was ready for the review. "Tomorrow morning, you..." she directed her pen at Giles, "Tara and Anya will work your mojo and open up the portal."
"I'll dive in," Spike added.
"And then in precisely forty-eight hours, you will open another portal in the same space."
"I'll reach through and make the portal all glow-y so you can find it easier," Willow said.
"And me and Harris can jump right back into the future, right?"
"Yes," Cordelia answered. "Then Maeve should be able to reach through and take Buffy's hand..." she looked at Giles. "And then what? How will we know if it worked?"
"It will work," Willow assured her. "And we'll know."
"And the contingency plan?" Angel asked morbidly.
"If, by some chance, Spike is unable to make the determined meeting in forty-eight hours, we will open the portal again in another twenty-four hours," Giles answered. "That should be enough time to find Buffy and get to the location at which you were first dropped."
"Wherever that may be," Spike muttered.
"Guess you could always send us another letter if you need to," Cordy suggested.
"There's no guarantee it will be delivered on time, or at all," Giles cautioned.
"Don't worry, Rupert," Spike said. "I'll be on time."
"This looks right," Maeve exclaimed, thankfully interrupting Anya's dissertation on all the things a disembodied hand could actually do.
Maeve was standing before an exhibit entitled "Through the Looking Glass, Authors and Poets of the 19th Century".
The name under the first author was "Charles Lutwidge, a.k.a. Lewis Carroll".
"How boring," Anya said.
"He wrote the story `Alice in Wonderland'," Tara clarified for the others.
The ex-demon inspected the display more closely. "No one will mind if we take his clothes. Anything to make this exhibit more interesting would be a good thing. Tara, get read to put up a wall."
Maeve suddenly became extraordinarily antsy. "What are you going to do, Anya?" She glanced around at the room full of unsuspecting patrons.
"Xander always gets distracted when girls take their tops off," Anya suggested. "Perhaps I should?"
"No!" Tara and Maeve shouted in unison.
People turned at the sound of their outburst.
"Uh...uh....NO!" Tara shouted again, scrambling for an idea. Then she noticed one of the girls in the group next to them was wearing an N'Sync backpack. Lightbulb. "No," Tara repeated a third time, "Justin Timberlake doesn't want to sign autographs. He's only here to they can cast his face for the N'Sync exhibit."
Maeve had no idea what Tara was talking about but she was smart enough to notice the reaction of the children in the museum. "Oh, the in sync exhibit," Maeve repeated, unsurely. "The one they're setting up back there?" She pointed to a hallway in the back of the room. Suddenly, a throng of twelve-year-olds rushed toward the hallway. Teachers scurried after them, trying to keep order. In moments, the girls were left in the central chamber with just a few museum patrons.
"What about them?" Maeve whispered to Anya.
"I'll distract them," Anya said. "Tara, when I have their eyes diverted, put up some kind of magical barrier so they can't see us strip Mr. Carroll."
She began wandering over to area where the remaining people where gathered.
"Whatever you do, don't take your clothes off," Tara whispered after her.
Tara and Maeve waited nervously near the exhibit while Anya pranced over to the "Elvis" display. She stepped over the velvet rope and approached the hunka hunka burning love. Several of the remaining patrons turned to watch the spectacle.
"Attention everyone," she said and clapped her hands loudly. "Attention please."
People began to gather in front of the Elvis display.
"He was a handsome man with a promising career," she began. "It's a shame I had to curse him." She shook her head. "You know famous people are cursed all the time," she told them. "It's unfair, really. They're spotlighted, so when they make a mistake, everyone knows about it." She peeked into his sparkling sequence bell-bottoms. "Not anatomically correct." The crowd laughed.
Tara began to chant quietly. Maeve watched in silence.
"He should have been nicer to Priscilla," Anya explained. "But, like many men - not like my Xander - he ignored her and was constantly traveling. She was lonely. Then she began to suspect him of cheating. I told her I'd check into it for her. I know what you're thinking? I couldn't be older than twenty-one." She smiled. "But it's amazing what plastic surgery can do these days."
She paced the length of her stage as she lectured. Tara's wall was almost complete, it was still fluttering in and out of reality, but soon it would solidify.
"After they finally got divorced, it was easy to get her to start wishing." She smiled, remembering. "It was fun. She wished he would get so fat, no women would want him. Of course, she had no idea I was granting her wishes..."
Anya noticed the wall was up so decided to conclude her story. Tara had created a fake partition with the words, "This exhibit under construction" stenciled on the front. Perfect.
"And then she wished he'd drop dead and that's the end of the story," she said and hopped off the small stage. Several members of her make-shift audience clapped. Others just looked at her with a mixture of fear and puzzlement. But at least she had kept them occupied. *I like being the center of attention,* she noted. *I should do this more often.* Just then an older man in a security guard uniform approached the Elvis exhibit.
"Ma'am, I'm going to have to ask you to come with me. You're creating a disturbance," he told Anya.
Maeve and Tara hid behind their magic wall.
"But I was only entertaining the patrons," she told him. "This is a very boring facility. I was just trying to make it interesting."
"Please just come with me," he repeated. "I'll show you to the exit."
"I don't know why you're kicking me out. It's not like I'm doing anything bad like breaking your displays or stealing expensive items."
Tara began pulling the clothing off of the wax figure and stuffing it into her backpack.
"What about Anya?" Maeve asked.
"Hopefully she'll make enough of a scene that we can take the wall down without anyone noticing."
"What about the note?"
"Anya wanted to leave a note explaining that we will return the clothing."
Tara pulled out a pad and pencil and scribbled a quick note. "IOU Mr. Carroll's clothing."
"But I was just telling a story. Museums are old and dusty and boring. I think you should hire me to tell stories at each exhibit," Anya was explaining to the security man as he grabbed her arm in order to drag her back toward the lobby.
"Listen to me, Mister," she continued. "I have a store myself. I know what sells. This place could be raking in the money if only there were some form of entertainment."
Finally done, Tara took a quick glance around the wall and noted that the Anya-spectacle had escalated into a scuffle between her and the security man. Anya was trying to pull her arm away while swatting the older man with her tiny purse. "Let me go," she yelled. "Get your hands off me!"
Tara quickly dropped the wall revealing a naked anatomically incorrect author and hurried to retrieve her flailing friend. "Anya!" Tara said. "Anya!" She took her friend's arm to keep her from bashing the old man with her purse again. "Oh, officer, I'm so s-sorry," Tara said. "My friend Anya here is in a special program." She put emphasis on the word special. Then she whispered to the man, "She's somewhat delusional." He stepped back from the crazy woman. "She just needs her m-medication," Tara stuttered.
"She needs to leave," he told Tara.
"We'll take her back to the hospital," she told the man. "I'm so sorry this happened. It's her first field trip."
The man nodded knowingly. "Well, maybe you can try again when she's more...stable."
Everyone was awake after a not-so-great night's sleep. There was a nervous tension in the air. A `today's the day' vibe. Cordelia and Willow were busy clearing the dining room table. There were several pancakes and slices of French toast leftover. *Guess no one was really hungry this morning,* Willow thought. Tara was in the kitchen washing dishes when Dawn rushed in and dragged her, grabbing Willow and Cordy on the way, to the foot of the stairs.
Dawn stood grinning before the miniature audience she had created. "Presenting, Spike's new look!" Dawn announced throwing her arms up in the air as if she were a game show spokesmodel. Everyone glanced up, but the stairwell remained empty. "Come on, Spike," Dawn urged.
"Oh bugger," was heard from the top step.
The blonde vampire came plodding down the stairs with a pout. "I look like bloody Dr. Watson." He was wearing a starched white high collared shirt, a pair of tan trousers that fit him rather snugly and a long black jacket.
"No, you look like Mr. Carroll," Anya replied.
"Who?" Spike asked.
"Lewis Carroll," Tara clarified. "You know, Alice in Wonderland."
"You dressed me up like a soddin' children's book writer?" Spike asked incredulously. "You'll pay for this..." he muttered.
Cordelia applauded, Angel suppressed a chuckle and Giles commented: "I think you look rather dashing." With that, the house erupted into laughter.
After all the chuckling finally had died down and everyone had made a suitably sarcastic comment, the group moved into the living room, which was now cleared of the majority of furniture. In the center of the room, a circle was created using stones and candles gleaned from the Magic Box after Anya, Tara and Maeve had returned home last night.
"Should we be expecting any more Fyarl demons?" Spike asked uncertainly.
"Be prepared for anything," Giles answered. He was sitting cross-legged in the center of the circle with Anya and Tara. A book was open between them.
There were weapons scattered throughout the living room. Angel was leaning on his broadsword, Cordelia had a sword as well and Maeve was armed with a stake and a silver dagger. Dawn and Willow were sitting on the coffee table that was now pushed up against the back wall.
Spike stood just outside the circle and watched the proceedings impatiently. His breakfast had consisted of three bags of blood from the hospital, making him feel alert and adventurous. He had only one complaint. He felt vulnerable without his duster.
Giles pulled a gold chain from his pocket. At the end, a round gold watch dangled. "This is for you, Spike. Please take good care of it." The vampire took the timepiece. "Forty-eight hours," the Watcher said.
"Forty-eight hours," Spike repeated.
"Remember to make a mental note of your exact location."
The blonde vampire nodded. "Don't worry, Rupert. I've got it."
"Ready?" Giles asked the witch and the ex-demon. Both nodded.
They clutched hands and lowered their heads. Giles began to whisper the words from the book in front of him. Tara and Anya soon joined in. The air in the room began to crackle. Willow closed her eyes and concentrated on the words. The whispers began to echo throughout the room. Suddenly, the familiar blue cloaked figures appeared hovering near the curtained window.
"Oh bloody hell, not again," Spike mumbled. Maeve and Angel stood at the ready.
Cordelia, who was standing near the front door, abruptly fell against the wall clutching her head. The Chronoths turned and glided toward her. Her eyes were closed, but it looked as if she might be communicating with the creatures.
"They must sense her connection to the Powers," Angel whispered. He was on his toes, ready to come to Cordelia's rescue, should it be necessary.
The pale figures floated in a huddle near Cordelia who finally opened her eyes. She reached out to touch one, but her hand passed through it without resistance. She closed her eyes again and whispered something inaudibly. The cloaked figures bowed their heads and floated back toward the window, where they remained...hovering about two feet from the floor.
"They just want to stay and watch. No demons," Cordelia smiled sheepishly.
"Great. Spectators," Spike mumbled.
Tara drew a chalk outline of the window on the floor beside her. Anya sprinkled powder onto the square. They joined hands again. When their hands met, there was a crackle of power, but the chalk outline remained just an outline.
"They need help," Willow murmured.
The Chronoths added their voices to the chant. Immediately, the outline began to glow, white light poured forth from the small square on the floor. Then the portal began to grow.
Spike looked into the opening abyss, pulled a cigarette out of his pocket and lit it. He took a long drag. Dawn rushed to him and hugged him tightly. "Please be careful!" she said into his jacket. "I will, pigeon," he answered and after a moment's hesitation stroked her hair.
"Promise me you'll come back," she pleaded.
"I promise," he said solemnly. "Now stand back." He took another puff and scanned the room.
"Maeve?" He nodded at the Slayer. They had already said their farewells, because if everything worked out as planned he'd never get another chance to talk to her again.
"Bon voyage," she replied with a sad smile.
He approached the edge of the circle warily.
" Wonder what the in-flight movie will be... " he murmured.
He stepped into the portal. In a flash of energy, he was gone and the portal closed behind him.
Oddly, there was a small pile of things in his wake. Dawn rushed over to put his cigarette out. She lifted up a white shirt.
"Guess it was a reproduction," Tara said. She picked up his shoes. "These too."
"What's this?" Dawn said. She was holding something tiny between her finger and her thumb. "It looks like a...a...microchip."
Continued in Part 27 - Pandemonium