The story in question? "This Wanton World." I have a 4-chapter story just waiting to be posted. And I'm going to start tonight.
A word of warning to anyone who read World: there are no easy solutions in this 'verse. Bad guys win all the time. Characters die. All your questions might not necessarily be answered by the ending. Oh, and not every installment is going to center around Buffy and/or Spike. In fact, what I've written/finished already doesn't have either one of them in it. It's Giles-centric. It does propel the story forward, but if you're reading for B/S, you're going to be disappointed. Not to say that it won't come in future installments, but it's not in this one.
So, I'm indulging my addiction by posting this. I hope one or two of you will come along for the ride.
TITLE: Casual Joys
RATING: NC17, for sex
DISCLAIMER: The characters are all Joss’. Chapter 1's title comes from The Doors' song, "Soul Kitchen."
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: The world thinks Buffy Summers is dead. Because of Jutta’s Ring, the world has lost sight of Ethan Rayne. Rupert Giles, however, has to go on living in this particular world…
Everywhere he turned, a warm body pressed into Giles, unwanted respite against the biting wind that whipped through the streets of London. Perfumes and colognes too many to name tickled his nose, and his eyes watered from the combined elements, blurring what was already a ghoulish tableau. He almost wished he hadn’t insisted on coming along. This was a disaster just waiting to happen.
Craning his neck, he searched the crowd for the rest of the team, but the pulsating throng frustrated his attempts. Faces he couldn’t recognize stared back at him, flushed with the fervor of celebration and too much drink, and he growled in irritation as he finally gave up, twisting to step back onto the walk to try and wend a path toward Leicester Square. Travers was going to hear about this, and if Wesley wasn’t formally trounced for such an idiotic plan, Giles was going to do it himself. He just might do it twice.
Soho was the last place he’d expected to spend New Year’s Eve, but when news of the attacks had crossed his desk, Giles had ignored his more solitary tendencies to seek Wesley out. “I’m coming with,” he’d said to the younger Watcher, and then left before any arguments could be voiced. Even when Travers had questioned his motivations for getting involved, Giles stood his ground, stating in irrefutable terms that such a threat required as much manpower as possible, and since he was both a man and had a modicum of power, it was best that he go along. He’d been left alone after that.
A slim hand shot out from one of the doorways, grabbing the hem of his leather jacket and forcing him to come to a stop. “You’re not leaving the party, are you?” its owner asked.
It was a woman only a few years younger than him that spoke. Ash-blonde hair was piled haphazardly atop her head, the loose tendrils framing a long, narrow face. Blue eyes glittering from the night’s intoxication met his, and even in the strobing neon from the club’s window next to her, he could see the tiny veins of blood shot through the whites. She might’ve been attractive if she hadn’t been so inebriated.
“Excuse me,” he said, and took her hand in his, trying to extricate her hold from his coat.
Her grip tightened. “Now is that any way to treat a lady?” She smiled when she spoke, though her eyes turned flinty. “You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t looking to have a good time, luv.”
“I’m looking for my friends, actually.”
Someone bumped into Giles from behind, and his hand went automatically to his pockets to check their contents. The woman chuckled, taking advantage of his distraction to pull him further into the doorway.
“Nobody wants your stake,” she said. Her laughter deepened at the surprise on his face. “You think I don’t recognize a Watcher when I see one? Though I have to say…” Her fingers floated up to ghost over the curve of his ear, making him twitch. “…the earring is a great touch.”
His hands gripped her upper arms, pinning her to the wall. “Who are you?” Giles demanded.
“A friend.” When he didn’t lessen his hold, she added, “You can call me Jane.”
He very much doubted that was her real name, but the fact that she’d pegged him for part of the Council either meant she was part of the night’s solution or part of its problem. The evidence of the pulse he could see hammering away in the hollow of her throat tipped the odds away from the latter, but that didn’t mean she wouldn’t still be trouble.
“I know where you’re trying to go,” she went on. “I know all about the attack the vampires are planning. If you’re nice to me, I might even help.” The tip of her tongue ran over her lips, inadvertently smearing her scarlet lipstick. “If you’re not nice, I’ll definitely help.”
Her blatant proposal chilled him more than the poor weather, so mocking and familiar that he had no choice but to shove her away. “Whoever told you this was meant to be fun,” he said, somehow keeping his voice steady though he felt anything but, “has no concept of what true evil really is.”
He didn’t wait to hear her response. Pushing through the crowd, Giles was suddenly grateful for the bitter wind sharpening his senses. He needed to be alert; now, it seemed even more likely that his fears about this night would be realized.
If this Jane was any indication, something very wrong was about to transpire, and the Council could ill afford any more losses to its ranks. The past few months had been wearing ones; ever since the new Slayer in Colombia had been called, they had been taking hits from every corner of the globe, most of them lethal. Even the Academy had suffered an unfortunate accident when one of the students had inadvertently destroyed a sacred mound and the Sidhe protecting it had rallied in vengeance. Almost a third of the student body had been hurt or killed before reparations could be made. The death toll was rising, and it already seemed that tonight would only be adding to it. Giles was determined to do everything in his power to put a stop to it, once and for all.
He and Wesley spotted each other at the same time. Carefully, Giles wove his way toward the Chinese restaurant in front of which Wesley stood, his fingers curled tightly around his stake just in case something should occur across that short distance. “We have a problem,” he announced when they stood face to face.
“I should say so.” Wesley’s bright blue eyes flickered in disdain over the crowd. “Do you see how these young women are dressed? They’re practically begging the vampires to attack them. We must avert the assaults from even starting, or I fear we’ll never be able to contain them.”
“It’s New Year’s Eve, you prat,” Giles said. “They’re celebrating. Why else do you think the vampires planned their primary attacks for tonight?”
“I assumed it had some mystical significance. According to my sources---.”
“We don’t have time to discuss the efficacy of your sources.” He pulled the younger Watcher out of the path of a pair of beefy young men singing drunkenly at the top of their lungs. “Some woman just accosted me.”
Wesley’s eyes widened and his mouth made a small o. “Did she…you didn’t…oh my.”
“Not like that. She knew I was a Watcher. She knows about the attacks tonight.”
For some reason, that eased the discomfort in his teammate’s face, as if he was infinitely more comfortable coping with the potential violence rather than a woman’s amorous advances. “She must be one of them, then,” he said. “You’re fortunate to have escaped with your life, Rupert. These vampires are said to be some of the most---.”
“She wasn’t a vampire.”
The import of that took a moment longer to sink into Wesley’s consciousness than it had Giles’.
“But…that can’t be,” he finally said. “No one but Council members are aware of tonight’s operation. Surely you misunderstood.”
The look Giles shot him was withering, and it took only a moment for Wesley to shrink beneath it. It was one of the few times that Rupert was grateful for his rather iconoclastic reputation among the younger Council members. Though he alone knew the truth about some of the more avant garde escapades of his past, the fear those events instilled was more often than not worth the pain that lingered. If they wanted to see him as a man to be reckoned with, so be it. Nine times out of ten, they’d be correct on that assumption anyway.
“We have to find Lydia,” Wesley said firmly. “If there’s a breach in our security measures, she’s the one at most risk.”
“Weren’t you supposed to meet with her prior to leaving the offices?” Giles asked.
“That was the original plan, but she called to say she’d be late. We made arrangements to meet here instead.” Glancing down at his watch, his brows drew together in a deep frown. “It’s well past the time we agreed to,” he said. “You don’t think---.”
“We don’t have time to think.” Setting off at a brisk clip, Giles maneuvered back into the crowd, aiming toward a narrow alley across the street with Wesley close on his heels. “Ring the offices,” he ordered. “Tell them to call in the other members of the team while they can still get out of the Square safely.”
“Do you really think we should abort the plan entirely?”
“But you said---.”
His abrupt stop at the curb made Wesley stumble, and Giles’ hand shot out to catch the other man’s elbow. “We’re going ahead as planned,” he said, his voice tight. “I’m just keeping our casualties to a minimum.”
Wesley gaped at him in shock. “But…that’s suicide---.”
“Try living on a Hellmouth.” He whirled on his heel and headed for the alley. “Now go do as I said.”
Jocelyn watched from high above the Square, peering down through the small open window at the revelers on the ground. The winds were rougher up here, but that only made the scents travel easier, filling the room so thickly with the aromas of blood and sweat and lust that the vampires behind her were practically drunk with anticipation. Imbeciles, she thought with disdain, but they were her imbeciles, ready to obey her every command regardless of their own hungers. The few that didn’t were killed, but those numbers grew less with every passing day. She was pleased with that.
“What time is it?” she asked to no one in particular.
The lanky vampire hovering at her side was the first to check his watch. “Ten-ten,” he replied. “Can we go down now?”
The plan didn’t call for joining the crowds until nearer to midnight. By then, people would be drunk enough to be pulled away from their friends with minimal fuss. The more victims they could gather prior to the ringing of the New Year, the greater the sacrifice would be, which in turn would increase the odds that the ritual would succeed. It would be even better if some of the women that got brought in were virgins, but she wasn’t holding her breath. As long as they were female, that was all that mattered.
On the other hand, the vampires behind her were growing antsy, eager to get on with the gathering. The festivities were already well underway on the ground; tourists had hit London for the holidays in record numbers this year, and the sheer number of bodies just waiting to be taken was staggering. Even if she lost one or two of her minions, it could very well be worth it if the others could bring back more women. Forty-five minutes couldn’t make that big of a difference in the overall scheme of things.
“All right,” she said, rising from her chair. Grabbing the long, elegant coat that hung on the wall, she slipped it on over her curvaceous form, mildly annoyed that it was cold enough outside to merit covering up the slinky dress she’d gotten just for the occasion. But if she went out in this weather without even the façade of protection, the humans would know something was up too quickly. Appearances had to be made.
“Everyone knows where to dump the bodies,” she announced as she headed to the door. “And the rules are still the same. No killing, no siring, and no fucking until after the ritual is over. You’ll have all the time in the world for that tomorrow, so if I see even one of you with your dick in anything but your pants tonight, I’ll cut it off myself. Understand?”
Nobody said a word, and Jocelyn tossed them her purest smile before being the first to go out the door. God, she loved being the queen bee. It was going to be even better once the ritual was done.
Lydia was late. Very late. So late that she was certain Wesley was going to be furious enough to have her transferred from field duty back to the library. She’d finally managed to get out of its musty interior when they’d become lovers, but that wouldn’t be enough to save her from disciplinary action this time. He was taking this assignment too seriously to tolerate incompetence, which was surely how he would perceive her tardiness.
She didn’t even have the information she’d gone after to offer as penance. The entire day had been orchestrated as the fruition of her work over the past few weeks, but the mage had never shown at their designated meeting place, leaving Lydia on the wrong side of London on one of the busiest nights of the year. She’d hoped to save time by skipping the rendezvous with Wesley at the Council offices and going straight to Leicester Square. Works on the Underground and then an accident at Earl’s Court, however, had conspired against her.
It was quarter after ten by the time she reached Charing Cross, but traffic was even thicker this close to the festivities. “I’ll get out here,” she told the cabbie, already digging around in her purse for her money.
“Looks like someone’s starting the party a little early,” he commented as he pulled to the curb.
“How do you mean?”
But as soon as she looked up, Lydia saw what he was referring to. Outside, brightly colored confetti floated on the air, spurred on by the growing winds, clinging to the taxi windows for brief seconds before being whipped away again. It almost made it look like it was snowing.
“Have fun,” the cabbie called when she got out.
She barely heard him. The din from laughter and holiday music made her ears hurt, and she bent her head against the wind as she rushed toward Leicester Square. If she hurried, she just might still catch Wesley at the restaurant
Giles knew Wesley didn’t understand. Frankly, he didn’t care. Wesley was part of the reason they were all currently in this predicament, and if any of them wished to get out of it alive, he would be smart and do exactly as Giles said, regardless of his confusion. The Council’s continued survival relied upon it.
He sometimes wondered why he bothered to protect those same men and women who’d kept the truth from him regarding Buffy Summers. After seeing through the charade of her death in Los Angeles, he’d returned to England expecting to finally find out the whole story on why the Council had been pursuing her and Ethan for so long. Instead, he was greeted with stone faces, curt nods of approval when he announced her demise, blank walls when he attempted to solicit additional information. Even the original files Travers had allowed him to peruse prior to the assignment disappeared, as if she had never even existed.
Though he’d made a few discreet inquiries, Giles came up with nothing and eventually abandoned his efforts. He couldn’t press too hard. If Ethan’s name was even mentioned, it would likely rouse questions about what had happened in Los Angeles, and Giles just wasn’t ready to jeopardize Buffy’s newfound freedom like that. He still wasn’t convinced that her allegations were true, but the more secrecy he encountered within the Council, the more inclined he was to believe her.
Then, the accidents started happening. That was more than enough to divert his attentions.
At the moment, he was focused on getting to the one place he believed could help him in their current situation. Stepping from the alley onto Charing Cross Road, Giles turned left, away from the festivities in Leicester Square. The shop he wanted was nestled between two used book stores, easily overlooked by most of the tourists that happened to walk by. It offered no souvenirs, no unexpected deals, nothing garish to attract their eye. It was a place for tradesmen, stuffed with the accoutrements they needed. It was the only place Giles could think of that might help.
He didn’t see it when it first started falling, but as the wind picked up, a gust of sparkly confetti blew past Giles, startling him just enough to halt in his paces. Glancing over his shoulder, he barely had time to blink before a fresh swirl was in his face, blinding him to anything more than a few feet away. He swiped at the confetti, but when his gloved hand came clean away from his cheeks, Giles frowned. He could’ve sworn that he’d felt some settle.
Carefully, Giles stepped out of the wind and closer to the nearest building, peeling his glove off at the same time. Watching the confetti tumble and eddy along, he stretched his hand out to catch a stray flake, drawing it back only when his skin was speckled in color. He had no time to examine it, though. Within seconds, the confetti grew transparent and faded into his skin.
“Oh, bloody hell,” he muttered.
He was too late.
To be continued in Chapter 2: Carnival Dogs…