Xander allowed Nick to help him off the ground, giving him a grim look. "Am I that bad?" he asked.
"No, you're that untrained. Except for that one move." He looked the boy over. "How did you learn to do a spin kick?"
"Um, do you *really* want to know?"
Nick nodded. "Yes, that's why I asked." He noticed the classic signs of the Wall of Stubbornness starting and wondered how Philip had already corrupted Xander, they hadn't known each other for that long. "Remember, we deal with the strange stuff," he tried, hoping to stop the formation of the wall.
"Yeah, I guess." Xander took a deep breath and bent over, trying to stop the cramp in his side from getting worse. "Well, this one Halloween, I was kinda turned into a soldier." He looked up. "PFC Harris, well trained fighting machine with a big, loud gun." He shrugged as Nick made him stand up and look at him again. "It was a spell from that asshole yesterday." He grinned. "Either that or it was from when I was possessed by a hyena."
Nick shook his head and headed into the house, going to talk to his boss. "Did William find anything about multiple possessions in Xander's past?" he asked as he walked into the office. He stopped when he saw the other man in there. "How did you get in?" he asked William Sloan.
"Magic, Mr. Boyle," William said dryly. "And yes, I did. A Halloween spell that turned him into a soldier, and a possession by a hyena. Why?"
"The boy's got some innate skills and they show up at odd times," Nick told him, crossing his arms over his chest. "Why did you show up?"
"To brief Philip and Xander about the tower in Ireland." William stood up. "Shall we go talk to the boy?" He followed Nick into the back yard. "Doesn't that hurt?" he asked pleasantly, helping Xander to stand. "I heard you got injured yesterday."
"Minor bruising," Xander admitted, shaking his hand. "Are you the person that's been annoying Derek?" William smiled at the compliment. "Cool. Can you teach me? He keeps giving me these suspicious and dirty looks."
"Stick your tongue out at him," Philip advised as he walked out with a small tray. "Drinks?"
"Sure," Xander said, grabbing the lone soda. He saw the frown and held it out. "Did you want it?"
"No, I'm not sure you should have caffeine though," Philip told him, handing out the other drinks. "Did you get him a passport?"
"Yes, I did. I burned almost every favor I'd ever had, but the people who helped me understood about why they were doing it. They don't want this ....situation to continue either." William sat down on one of the benches spread throughout the gardens. "Come sit, boys."
Xander flopped down on the ground, sipping his soda. "Are you going to lecture us too?"
William looked down at him. "Only if you need it."
"Gee, can you go make Derek leave me alone then?"
William shook his head. "Probably not. If Strife couldn't, I probably can't. I'm not a God."
"Only in your wildest dreams," Nick put in smartly.
William laughed. "Oh, Mr. Boyle, it's good to see that some things never change. Don't worry, if I were to suddenly become powerful, I'd remember you fondly." He looked at Philip. "We've sent someone to look at the tower. There's a gate in front of it that won't open for any of my people. Fortunately, one of them was able to climb over the wall; they ran into a great many thorns, but they got in." He sipped his water. "All we found was a large room with a lot of books, and three rooms that looked like bedrooms."
"No kitchen?" Xander asked. Everyone looked at him. "Well, if someone had been *living* in it, wouldn't you expect some sort of cooking place and a bathroom?"
"Outhouse probably," Philip told him. "A fireplace to cook in?"
William shook his head. "Fireplaces, but none with any sort of pothook." He looked at Nick. "You might find this interesting, Mr. Boyle. There was a staircase that led up to a wall."
"A wall?" Nick asked.
"Flat surface. My person couldn't get through and couldn't find a hidden entrance anywhere." He looked at Philip again. "We also couldn't photograph any of the books, and only got one bedroom on film. They've written a report, which I'll give you for in-flight reading."
Xander raised a hand. "Why can't we just have Strife or Rain bring us over there?"
"Because someone would notice and the officials would definitely show up," Nick told him. "Ireland has their own version of Immigration, and the laws of life say that they'll show up as soon as you appear without a passport."
Philip snickered. "They'd be brought by the Church. I know the priest in my town. He's a stickler for the rules." He sipped his tea. "You sure you want to go?" he asked Xander.
"Philip, we've already had this discussion. I have nothing here for me until this is all settled. I might as well come help you." He grinned. "Besides, I'd get to travel, and I like traveling. I learn a lot better by watching and doing than I do by lecturing."
William nodded. "It's a wise man that knows himself that well." He smiled at the boy. "I'm sure you'll do just fine and that Philip will take your education into hand." He looked at Philip as he started to cough. "Went down the wrong way, Father?"
"Yeah," Philip gasped, trying to breathe.
"You gonna live?" Xander asked.
Philip nodded, but he walked away to go choke in private.
Nick gave Philip's back a hard look, but it had eased by the time William and Xander looked at him. "What did you need from our house, beside Philip and Xander?"
"I was hoping that you had managed to find some sort of camera setup that would allow us to tape the rooms for posterity," William admitted. "Our own security head doesn't work that much with the ...gear you do."
Nick nodded. "I'll see what I can put together. Do you know why you weren't able to record anything?"
"No. We tried a video camera."
"Did you try a digital one?" Xander asked. Nick looked at him. "We've found out that you can tape vampires with a digital camera, no reflection needed." William's mouth opened. "It was that vampire from the other night, Spike, that showed us that trick. He taped Buffy during a fight to see what she was made of and it caught the vampire too. We found the disk when we were searching one of his lairs."
"Interesting," William said, looking at Nick again, who shrugged. "I'll send a note home about that, maybe they can try again."
"With the thorns?" Philip asked as he came back. "We might as well take them with us and let them try while we're there." He sat down beside Xander on the ground, and looked at his helper. "Did you want to go visit that vampiress before we left?"
Xander shrugged. "I'd like to know if she's had any visions," Xander admitted. "Dru's an interesting woman, but not someone I like to be around constantly. I don't know *how* Spike stands it. She's really crazy."
Nick coughed. "If you do, you need to let me know so I can go with you."
"I'll go," Philip offered. He and Nick stared each other down, and he won. "I'll go, just ta make sure of her interests in him," he said quietly. Nick wisely left the argument for later, William wasn't that smart.
"Father, I'm sure you can probably handle this, but do you really want to go up against a vampire?"
"I've met them before," Philip told him. He stood up and held out a hand. "Xander?" he asked when the young man looked at him. Xander allowed himself to be helped up and led inside. "Hate that," he muttered.
"I know," Xander soothed, patting him on the back with his free hand. "I hate it when people talk down to me too. They don't know everything, and he certainly doesn't know you or Dru. Who wanted to see you apparently. I found an email from Spike asking for another meeting tonight." Philip stopped walking and looked at him, leaning against one of the walls in the hallway. "I was going to tell *you*," Xander insisted. "Just not until this afternoon. I figure it wouldn't matter until then and Nick was going to be pummeling me all morning."
Philip relaxed and realized that he was still holding the boy's hand, so he let it go. "We'll go together. Where?"
"The same park. The email said that Dru's been having more visions. I was supposed to tell Strife and Methos too."
"And me," Derek said as he walked out of his office.
"No, the email didn't say you," Xander told him. "It mentioned Strife and Methos by name, and Philip by description, but not you." He looked the older man over. "I doubt you want to go visit Spike anyway. He's not really your sort of evil." He looked at Philip. "He did say it was a truce situation, that Dru was getting worse again because of the visions."
Philip nodded. "All right, we'll go. I want to see that letter first though." Xander nodded and pulled a wadded up piece of paper out of his pocket to hand it over.
Derek glared at the boy. "Xander, you do not make those sort of decisions in this house. That's my job, not yours."
Xander looked at him again. "Derek, I was told not to tell you because you were going to overreact." He tried to walk away, but Derek grabbed him. "Remove it or I'm going to let the hyena loose," he threatened. The hand moved but the coldness remained. "Thank you. You don't grab me. *No* one grabs me." He looked Derek over again. "I'll tell ya what, you want to meet Spike with us, come on. You can come and stand around and listen, but you won't touch him because he's the *only* one who can make Druscilla make sense. He's also the only reason that I knew that the demons are starting to mass in town." He smiled coldly. "It seems a few of them want him and he's willing to make a deal to get out of town, something he's done before." He turned and walked away, heading up to his room to finish packing his gear for that meeting. Even if he had to go alone, he would.
Philip handed the copy of the email over. "That's what it says," he said quietly. "Don't threaten him again, Derek, you won't like it." He walked away, going to talk to his student. He tapped on Xander's door, walking in at the grunt. He noticed the open bag of stuff and nodded at it. "We'll need it?"
"Depending on what we have to do to help her, yeah," Xander said as he tossed in a pair of padded handcuffs. "Buffy doesn't know this, but Giles had to go help her once before when the visions started to overwhelm her." He faced the older man. "She's always had visions, but Angelus made them more personal to her by breaking her mentally. But sometimes, the visions come in strings and she can't get out of them, no matter how disturbing they are to her. It's like she gets stuck in her mind, or somehow trapped in the visions." He sat down on the bed. "I helped Giles the last time, and I remember what we had to do then. I *don't* know the herbal stuff that he fed her though, which Giles said was really important because it released her from the visions."
"I've heard of the like," Philip admitted as he sat on the bed, on the other side of the bag. "It's been noted for those that have visions." He looked at the bag, taking in what had already been thrown in. "A tranquilizer might help some too. I've heard that they can get into rages when they're brought out."
"That's what Spike's for," Xander told him. "He's the *only* one who can control her. I wouldn't trust him in a fight, but in a situation like this, we're not at risk until she's out of it, unless she gets hurt."
Philip nodded. "All right. I'll go tell Derek. Next time," he said as he stood up, "tell me first."
"Sure. Like I said, I was going to this afternoon, after Nick quit beating up on me." He stood up and grabbed a small vial from his bedside drawer. It went into the bag also. "There, I've got everything, I think." He zipped up the bag. "Whenever you're ready."
William knocked on the door and handed Xander the email. "I've heard of this. Have you seen it before?"
"Giles and Spike made a deal to help her before. Buffy never knew, she would've thrown major fits in multiple keys." He nodded at the bag. "I've got everything but the herbal stuff that Giles mixed into the brandy for her."
William nodded. "Reasonable worry." He looked at Philip. "I'll be going with you and Mr. Boyle will be driving us. How soon did you want to go over there?"
"Few hours. We're supposed to meet at that same park and go to a neutral hotel room of their choosing." Xander sat down again. "I need to get redressed."
"We'll leave in an hour," William told him. "Stay away from Derek until then, please. We don't need him in the hospital." He walked out, Philip right behind him.
Xander pulled an old, but favorite T-shirt out of the drawer and dropped it onto the bed while he looked for his favorite jeans. He decided to shower first, it always made him feel calmer.
Spike smiled as he saw the boy's retinue. "Got backup this time?"
"Not my choice," Xander told him, shaking his hand. "Where is she?"
"Motel Six down the road a bit. Too small for an ambush, but they don't seem to pay much attention." He looked at the three men standing behind him. "Those who she called for?"
"Yes, we are," Methos told him. "Why were we called upon?"
"'Cause she keeps seein' you," Spike said with a shrug. He patted himself down, frowning when he couldn't find his cigarettes. Strife created a pack and tossed them over. "Ta, mate. Great of you." He nodded at their Range Rover. "Follow me?"
"Sure," Xander agreed. "Where's the rest of your minions?"
Spike grinned. "Taking over the hotel. No people in it, 'cept the guests, an' I warned them off those lot. Wouldn't want 'em as minions anyway. Tourists aren't scary enough." He walked away, going toward a little black sports car. "Follow me."
Xander led the way back into the Range Rover, letting Nick drive, for now. Things might be different later on. There was always the possibility of ambush. That's why he had the crossbow in his bag.
Xander leaned over Dru's limp body, checking her eyes. "We really need that herbal stuff," he told Spike. "I couldn't get Giles to answer the phone."
"Had some made up," Spike said, pointing at a small hotplate in the corner. "All ready, brandy's in the bag."
Xander got up, but Philip went to mix that for him. "Thanks." He finished tying Dru to the bed and stepped back to make sure she wouldn't thrash. "Where is she now?"
"She's been trapped in this castle," Spike said, settling beside his Dark Princess. "When did you get toys, Harris?"
"Last year," Xander said with a grin. "Strife, can you see where she is? We could talk her out of it last time." Strife shrugged. "Need me to move?" he asked.
Strife humphed and moved over to put a hand on her head. "She's in a garden in a castle's proper." He created a small window, showing what was going on. "No sound," he told Xander.
"Hey, it's even better than last time. Giles had to do some sort of funky trance thing and join her to get her out." He took the mug of doctored brandy and sat beside Dru, facing the window, and slowly fed it to her. "Druscilla, it's Xander, your favorite kitten," he said quietly. "You called for me to come rescue you." She shifted, trying to lift one hand up to his face. Spike undid that handcuff so she could, but then put it back once her hand had dropped. "Dru, we need you back," Xander told her quietly. "We need you to rejoin us, not stay at the castle." He watched as the her in the window turned to look at the castle. "Does anyone know that spot?"
"France," Philip told him. "Torn down."
Methos moved over so he could see better. "There's a gate about six hundred meters behind her. It goes into the woods."
"No, the gate leads to bad things, wicked things. Things too wicked even for Daddy," she slurred, not opening her eyes. The image in the window turned, then shook her head and walked on. "I have to go see the knights." They watched as she walked into the castle and down a hallway. She came to a large, oak door and pushed it open. Inside was a single chair with a large candelabra lit up behind it. She pointed at the chair. "Death has to sit there."
Methos moved closer to her. "I'm here, Druscilla. I will sit in the chair."
She purred and the room lit up, showing a small rack beside it with a skeleton already in residence. Then the view changed to that of a stack of books on a table. "That's for my Lord," she whispered.
Strife nodded. "I can do that," he agreed, touching her hand so their images appeared in the vision. "How's that?"
She giggled and her image ran toward the window, where she looked out onto the large maze. "That's where my kitten and his meant-to-be are. They have to fight."
"We'll be there," Xander told her, touching her on the side of the neck. "Why are we in the maze, Dru?"
She laughed. "Because you have to solve the puzzle book." Her image turned around and threw out her arms. "This is home!" she yelled. Then the picture faded and she was back in the garden again. She started to whimper and tried to move.
Xander sighed and fed her some more of the brandy. "Again, Dru." They watched as she went through it again, this time with less cohesion. She came back after that time and smiled at all them. "Back again?" Xander asked with a grin.
"My pretty kitten," she said, trying to move. She laughed when she felt the restraints. "Such a good kitten." She lunged up and licked his cheek. "Thank you, kitten. I didn't want to join the knights yet, they'll be coming soon enough to torment us."
"Yeah, thanks," Spike told them. "Now go, before I forget our truce."
"Just one thing," Strife said, holding up a finger. "I want to know what that was about."
She smiled at him. "My Lord, you know what it's about. It's about the puzzles. You'll have to fight with them, but everyone else will have one too." She pouted, until he kissed her.
"Thanks for the blessing and all," Spike said abruptly, standing up. "Out!"
Xander gathered up his stuff, including his favorite handcuffs, and left last, making sure everyone else got out. "Hey, Spike, anything else you needed?" he asked with a grin.
Spike looked him over. "Nah, not yet." He licked his lips. "When you gonna give up bein' a white hat and become her toy?"
Xander snickered. "Spike, if I do that, I'm going to make sure you're gone first. *If* I get Dru, I'm going to have her all to myself and I'm going to screw that insanity out of her." He smirked at the growl. "What? You thought she wanted me for some *other* reason?"
"Out!" Spike snarled, lunging for him, but the boy got away. "Bloody brat. Worse than that bleedin' thing that took the Pouf."
Dru held up a hand for him. "He'll come to us," she assured him. "You'll be here when he comes."
He stared at her for a second, then asked the question. "Yeah, but will I stay?"
Dru laughed. "No. You'll have to fight."
Spike slumped in on himself. "Gee, thanks. Great to know I'm needed."
She rolled over and landed on her feet so she could give him this incredibly sexy but helpless look. "You'll still be here with me," she promised him. "Just not with him." Then she tipped her head to the side so he could nibble on her. "Please, Spikey, I need it."
Spike lifted her up and nipped her on the neck, getting her hot. "Need it do you, pet?" he asked as he threw her onto the bed.
"Only you," she promised. She laid there while he ripped off her dress.
Xander walked into the castle with a smile on his face, and not even seeing Derek standing there glaring at them could wipe it away. "She's fine. We're all getting puzzles."
"What?" Derek asked.
Methos stopped to look at him. "She saw a castle in France, one which was destroyed during World War I. She saw us each having a puzzle to solve, each of ours having to do with what we were." He smiled. "Philip and Xander have the most challenging one, apparently some sort of physical maze. Mine had to do with my past, and Strife's had to do with..."
"Some research probably," William suggested.
Rain skipped down the stairs, smiling at her father. "Your mother yelled, she said you had to come do something about Ares' sulking." Her grin got more naughty. "It seems Joxer got him again."
Strife sighed and headed up to his room. "Let me get changed and I'll go check on him. What did Joxer do this time?"
"Something about a tv show and continually losing to everyone?"
Methos snorted. "Like a War God would lose."
"He used ta be ordered ta lose," Strife called down the stairs. "Why was he losin' this time, Rain?"
"Something about a cock ring that stole all his power and couldn't be taken off by anyone," she called back. "Then your mother cracked up laughing and rolled on my floor."
"Oh, man!" Strife yelled, and his flash of power nearly blinded those on the stairs.
Xander looked at Philip. "Are you good at mazes?"
"Passable, on paper," Philip admitted. "Never tried a real life one."
"They're not that hard," Derek said, starting to relax. "Did you bring her out?"
"Yes, and we filmed it," William told him, holding up the digital camera. "It's a very surreal but mostly straightforward." He handed over the camera. "Has that girl had any visions yet?"
"Two," Derek told him, starting for the lab. "The accounts are already in the system." He disappeared. Literally.
William opened his mouth, then looked at everyone else. "Did anyone else see him vanish?"
"Yup," Nick agreed, heading for the stairs. "I think it's time for a short vacation."
"Not a chance," Alex yelled from the second floor. She walked over to look over the railings at him. "What happened?"
"Derek just disappeared," Xander told her.
"Dominick did that earlier. Spot in the hallway?" Nick nodded. "Good. Come up and help me figure this out." He frowned but walked up to go help her, it was his job.
William looked at the visitors. "Xander, go finish packing. You too, Philip. We'll get you on the next flight out, after Xander gets his picture taken. I have everything upstairs." He headed up the stairs to help Alex and Nick. It was his job too.
Xander looked at Methos and Rain. "When are you guys leaving?"
"Two days," Methos told him.
"Where are you two going?" Rain asked.
"There's recently been a large tower that appeared out of thin air in Ireland," Philip told her with a smile. "I've been assigned ta go look at it by the Vatican."
She nodded. "I know of it. Watch out for the doorway at the top of the stairs." She tugged on Methos' arm. "Come on, tell me what's going on and we'll share stories of Joxer abuse." He shuddered as he was pulled along.
Xander looked at Philip. "I can be packed in an hour."
"Me too," Philip agreed. "But I want ta talk to her first." He ran after Rain, going to ask her questions.
Xander trudged up to his room. He was tired. Maybe a short nap and then packing. He flopped down and set his alarm clock, then headed into the land of nap.
TO BE CONTINUED...