Dedication: Thanks to everyone who helped out in the making of this part. To Stone Cold, who gleefully e-mailed me diabolical plans; to TJ, who used his increadible writing skills to create his part in this; to Windrider and Mediancat, who took time out to toss me great ideas; to John, who never fails to come up with outstanding situations; and also to Jeanie, who has made it her duty to point out all my spelling errors, thus making this much more readable. Thanks.
"There it is," Anya breathed reverently, "Sunnydale High School." Biohaz and Anya paused for a moment of awed silence at the sight of this building. It was like the holiest building in Jerusalem is to pilgrims, only in Buffy terms. MeK started snapping pictures with her disposable camera, careful to use a flash. The three entered the building cautiously, not certain if all the characters were still gathered at the Bronze. They reached the library without incident, however, and Anya and Biohaz paused for another minute of silence. MeK snapped more pictures. Biohaz managed to remember their purpose for being there, and both he and Anya headed for the book cage, where they began riffling through various stacks of books to find various tools of death. Under a copy of 'How to Perform Exorcisms in Five Easy Steps' Anya uncovered some spare bags, which they began to pack with vials of holy water, stakes, and crosses. They also filched three books on demons that looked particularly interesting, and six Watcher diaries. MeK wandered over to the computer terminal, and was delighted to note that a stack of fanfic stories had been left by the printer. Leafing through them, she noted the titles absently. "My Own Armageddon", "Blast From the Past", "Forever", "The Child", and assorted others. She had just reached the bottom of the pile when Anya and Biohaz returned, lugging several bags. Glancing at the title of the final fanfic, she was delighted to note that it was a copy of one of Anya's best recieved stories, "Necessary Alliances". "Anya! Look! Someone was reading NA!" MeK happily showed the evidence to the Archive Mistress, who shared her delight. Both froze at the sound of a snort from Biohaz, though. "What?" the Goddess demanded suspiciously. "Nothing." her high priest replied. "No, it was something. Out with it." For a moment, Biohaz seemed to be struggling not to say something, but then it just burst out. "NA was a *bad* story!" Communication levels seriously broke down after that. About ten minutes later, MeK let herself quietly out of the library, lugging one of the weapon bags. Not that she *needed* to be quiet. After all, she could've driven an army of elephants through the library while holding a Fourth of July celebration, and she still doubted that she would've been noticed. Anya and Biohaz didn't notice when she left. They'd just found Giles' prize collection of fencing foils. Sadly, they hadn't found Giles' prize collection of fencing pads and masks. * * * Turning off the barbecue grill, Stone Cold congratulated himself on an excellent solution to a problem. He'd have to go looking for the others soon, but he was sure that they fine. He made a mental note to thank Xander for forgetting to close his garage door. Stone Cold had been able to just walk right in and fire up the grill. He'd also found some left-over hamburger buns, which he'd put to good use. Wiping his mouth with a napkin, Stone Cold tossed the empty wire cage into a trash bin and began walking back towards the Bronze. * * * When Spike returned to the main room with a box full of railroad spikes and a brazier on his lap, he found the Slayer and her friend arguing as they tied their victim to one of the support poles. "Why not remove the gag?" Willow asked. "C'mon, Will," Buffy replied, "He's really gonna scream when we get started." "Your point being?" Spike could see the surprise on Buffy's face; she was almost as shocked as Spike by the venomous tone in Willow's voice. But Spike was more than a little afraid of the feral gleam in the redhead's eyes. Maybe he didn't want to watch this after all. Before Buffy could say anything to dissuade her, Willow ripped the gag from the prisoner's mouth. Almost immediately, the air was filled with pleas. "Wait! You don't have to do this. I promise I'll delete the story! I never had any intention of ever finishing it or posting it. And I'll keep my mouth shut at the next round table." The vampire, the Slayer, and the Slayerette glared pitilessly at the blubbering fool tied to the beam. Willow calmly relieved Spike of the brazier, setting it on the floor near the sacrifice and lighting the coals. "Round table?" Buffy asked, drawing a spike from the box. "A few of my friends and I get together every once in a while to talk about the show and the fics," TJ explained, his terror-filled eyes glued to the spike. "Unfortunately, we usually end up having a few pitchers of beer to fuel the discussion. That's where the idea came from. We were talking about the Golden Betas and were drunk enough to brainstorm over ideas for a specific category-- 'Most Controversial'. None of us actually intended to write any of them. And that idea wasn't the worst we came up with." "Do tell," Spike prompted, his demon suddenly extremely curious about what could be worse than what had already been revealed. "Oh, no," TJ prevaricated, "I'm already in enough trouble as it is. Since none of those ideas were never written down, no one will ever hear about them. Ever." "You expect us to believe that?" Willow asked incredulously, "You said you never intended to write that one, but you did." "Just the one scene," TJ confessed, "And only to see if I could make it believable. And I couldn't," he added hastily, "And even I thought the idea for a Joyce/Snyder Romance was too..." TJ closed his mouth with an audible snap at the murderous expression on Buffy's face. "And just whose idea was *that*?" Buffy asked, her voice deadly. "She's never written anything," TJ replied, gulping, "And I don't think she ever intends to." Spike sat back in his chair. He was beginning to enjoy this little performance. "I promise I'll write only PG happily ever after stuff," TJ vowed. The two girls were understandably skeptical. "I'm working on a revision of 'Full Disclosure'," TJ offered hopefully. "That's the one where we tell my mom about the whole Slayer gig?" Buffy asked. Spike shook his head in disgust. He couldn't believe that the girls were actually willing to listen to this guy trying to weasel his way out of this. "Uh huh," TJ confirmed, "Wouldn't you like that Buffy? No more having to sneak out of the house. No more lectures on acting responsibly and staying out of trouble. No more lying." TJ could say that Buffy was beginning to waver and he turned his attention to Willow. "How about I do a story where you overcome your fear of performing in public?" he suggested, "You and Oz put together your own band, become rich and famous, get married and live an idyllic life? Even find a way to stay in control during the full moon?" Spike looked back and forth between the two teens. They were actually thinking of letting this guy go! This was not fair. They come in here with this creep, get him all primed to watch a little gruesome torture, and then decide to forgive the sap. Spike had started thinking about vamping the shmuck after they were through with him. Anyone with a mind that twisted might come in handy after this cease-fire ended. "Will?" Buffy asked. "Well," she replied hesitantly, "I think we did get our point across about that other thing." Buffy and Willow released the ropes binding TJ to the beam. But Buffy wasn't quite finished yet. She grabbed him by the throat, squeezing. "And the slash piece disappears," she demanded, "Agreed?" "It's gone," he promised, "It never happened." Buffy released him. Regaining his balance, the corner of his mouth twitched slightly. "And no, Spike," he said, turning to the crippled vampire, "I won't send you a copy to leave out for Angelus to find. And there's *no* way I'd ever even think of adding Cordelia and making it a threesome." When Buffy and Willow turned on Spike, TJ took the opening and bolted for the door. He was long gone before the girls' outrage faded enough to realize that that last comment had been a ploy to escape. Buffy looked down at the bruised and unconscious vampire, regretting the pummeling they'd just given him. "C'mon Willow," she sighed, "Let's get out of here and see if we can catch up with the others. There's still those other fic authors to 'critique' tonight." The two teens spared one last look at the battered Spike before jogging out of the warehouse. Hopefully, they'd catch up to TJ again before the night was over. That last ruse of his deserved a little payback. * * * Glancing in the rearview mirror, Joel finally relaxed. Apparently Cordelia had finally given up on catching him. No matter how recklessly she drove, she was facing an unlicensed driver with his life on the line who was driving a stolen CIA fleet sedan. She couldn't win, and so she'd turned around on that last one-way street and had headed back to the Bronze. Now that his life-span had a certainty of at least another minute, Joel realized that he had a slight problem on his hands. While it was still two hours and forty-five minutes before the gate opened around Robyn, if that gate opened without him Cordelia would have ample time to track him down. Mulling over this dilemma, he glanced over at the sidewalk. He then brought the car to a screeching halt and slapped himself just to make sure that he wasn't hallucinating. Windrider was skipping down the sidewalk arm in arm with Drusilla. With his free hand, Windrider was holding the strings of three bright red balloons. With her free hand, Drusilla was carrying an ice-cream cone. Joel knew he should shut his mouth, which had fallen so far open at the shock of seeing this that he was now a danger to low-flying birds. But what he was seeing was just *too* incredible. Windrider caught sight of him, and ran over to the car. Five minutes later, Joel found himself giving Dru a lift home. But getting the vampiress back to her warehouse was easier said than done. Dru had yet to master the fine art of direction giving, and he had to eventually just pull the car over completely so that he and Windrider could devote their full attention to her. Three pads of paper later, he was pretty certain that they'd just received prophesies detailing the return of Angel's soul, a pop test in physics, a stock-market crash, the location of Jimmy Hoffa, the final gross income of 'Titanic', and the next time Spike would get the word 'wanker' past the censors, but nothing resembling directions. With a sigh, Joel pulled out yet another pad of paper and asked patiently: "Okay, Dru, one more time. *How* do you get to the warehouse from the graveyard?" * * * With John leading the way, the group tore out of the Bronze and into the night. Or rather, Robyn, Jeanie, and Kirbyclause tore out into the night. Mediancat tripped over a chair, and had only reached the door by the time Xander and Giles finished extinguishing the flames. "I've got this one!" Xander yelled to Giles, and chased after the furiously retreating writer. "What's the matter? Chicken, man?" Xander called after him, but Mediancat was in no mood to be baited. Xander laughed and redoubled his efforts. Mediancat, after all, was an overweight unathletic wimp in his late 20's, practically a geezer! He caught him as he rounded a corner to one of the many alleys that surrounded the Bronze. "I've got a lot to settle with you, bucko," he said as the man backed slowly towards the dumpster, then, when that didn't work any more, tried to back through it. "Scared?" Xander asked in a deceptively pleasant voice. "You should be. I've been reading your stories. Let's see..." "Some of them aren't even ARCHIVED yet," Mediancat gasped. "Yeah, Willow's really good, isn't she? Anyway, let's see. In one story you had me turn into a babbling fool controlled by his hormones- wait, that's right. Never mind that. You've killed me off, had me go berserk and tie up my friends, gotten me booked for assault and battery--" "I haven't even submitted those two!" "That's my Will! And then you did something so truly disgusting I shudder every time I think about it." Xander gave a rather convincing shudder. Mediancat was still trying to scrabble backwards, and somehow he tripped over his own feet and fell onto his posterior. Distracted, Xander looked up for a moment. "Where was I? Oh yeah, something so disgusting, blah blah blah. YOU HAD ME MARRY CORDELIA!!!!" With that cry of utter rage and horror, he jumped on top of the terrified fanfic writer and started to strangle him. "So what do you think of 'Breathing' NOW, huh? Huh?" Mediancat collapsed into unconsciousness. "Oh, man, you're no fun..." With a martyred sigh, Xander got up and dragged Mediancat back into the Bronze. * * * Several blocks away, the other survivors of the Bronze incident stopped to catch their breath. After a few minutes they could speak again. Kirbyclause turned his nose up in disgust. "That was a most unnecessary display of uncouth odiferousness." "What?" asked John and Robyn. After a few seconds of quick paging through her pocket dictionary, Jeanie said: "I think he means that he didn't like John farting." "Who did?" Robyn asked sarcastically. With a quick glare at the writer, John looked over at Kirby. "Don't you have some rodents to care for?" Kirby slapped his forehead and said, "Of course, in the portentousness of the moment, the electro-chemicals in my synopsis have functioned execrably!" The others looked over at Jeanie again, who was flipping through her dictionary frantically. After a few minutes she translated. "He forgot the mice." "Ah!" the other two said, understanding. Checking her watch, Robyn said, "Okay, Kirby, why don't you go look for the mice and whoever you can find--" John interrupted her, "I think I saw the damn rats with Stone Cold last, and if you find him or anyone else, or in two-and-a-half hours regardless, go and wait in the movie theater for us. The latest showing of 'Titanic' should just be getting out, and no one will attack you in that crowd. And just hope that it's just the characters who have a grudge against us and not the whole town." Ignoring the sudden yells from Robyn and Jeanie of "Don't jinx it! Don't jinx it! Knock on wood!" Kirbyclause nodded and left, busy formulating verbal assaults to use against Stone Cold. "Alright, Flatulent One," said Jeanie suspiciously, "Why the school?" John shrugged lightly. "You never know what might be lying around in there." he said, and then set off at a jog for the school, ignoring the questions from the other two. Twenty minutes later, after a short jog and some lock picking, they were in the hallway outside the computer room. As John worked on the door lock, Jeanie and Robyn held a muttered argument. "I'm sure I heard the sound of a sword fight back there!" "Yeah, right. And how do you know the sound of a sword fight?" "When I visited Kendra in Scotland, I saw one." "She is *not* from Scotland. She's from Jamaica." "Scotland." "Jamaica." "Scotland." "Jamaica." Fortunately for John's sanity, he got the door open, and the three tiptoed into the computer room. The room was dark and unoccupied, but it still seemed to resonate with the presence of Jenny Calender, and the sound of her voice seemed to whisper in the corners. While Robyn and Jeanie held a moment of silence for her memory, John reached between the file cabinet and the desk and came up with an unlabeled yellow disk. The disk that held the key to restoring Angel's soul. "And what are we going to do with that?" Robyn asked, looking at it with no small amount of concern. With a smug grin, John let the girls in on his plan. "Well, right now Angelus is a powerful, intelligent adversary of Buffy, the Slayer. Thus, as the major villain, he's at least as powerful and clever as she is." "Like Professor Moriarti to Sherlock Holmes." Robyn chimed in. "Yes, of course." With a roll of his eyes, John continued. "If his soul is returned, though, he turns back into her moody love interest. He then loses his ruthlessness, his sense of humor, and his IQ will probably drop a good 30-40 points as well. Plus, maybe Buffy will call off this whole 'hunt-us-down-and-kill-us-slowly' thing so she can go and make goo-goo eyes with her undead boyfrie--OW!" Jeanie pulled back her fist from where she'd punched John's arm. "That was being incredibly unromantic!" "Jeanie, he does have a point, though." Robyn said reluctantly. John gave a smirk of triumph. "Besides," she continued, "anyone who'd call themselves 'the Flatulent Skunk' ins't exactly bucking for sexiest man of the year." "Hey!" said John, scowling. Not bothering to conceal her smirk, Jeanie said, "C'mon, let's boot this sucker up." * * * Violator's arms were getting tired, but he couldn't let Angelus know that. So he went back to taunting the vampire. "You know, Angelus, Joss is going to give you back your soul soon." Angelus glared. "And we all know just how horribly guilty Angel is going to be." He glared harder "I bet he's going to do a *lot* of applogising." If looks could kill, they'd be scraping Violator off the cement with a shovel. "And maybe even some crying!" he pointed out brightly. Angelus made a mental note to kill all of the other fanficers horribly, just for the half-hour he'd had to spend with this sadist.