When Light Turns to Dark
Buffy lay sleeping before the hearth in the old mansion when the rattle of chains woke her. The sight of Angel chained, his body crouched down, coiled like a taut spring waiting for release, brought those unpleasant memories rushing back and she closed her eyes against the cruelties of reality.
"Just can't handle it, huh, Buff? Seeing me like this. C'mon, admit it, you like me this way," Angel heckled. "I know you want me, want to touch me, run your hands over me."
Buffy opened her eyes and met the cold, hard stare of the demon before her. "You're not Angel."
"Oh, but I am, darlin'," Angel whispered as he rose to his full height. "And all I need is a kiss from a young thing like yourself to turn me back into my old charming self. So, why don't you come over here and oblige me?"
Buffy searched the face of the demon before her, but found no sign of Angel in the fiendish features. "Why don't you tell me why you're here? We've got time. You're not going anywhere because the sun's coming up." Rising, Buffy took a few tentative steps towards Angel.
With a snarl, Angel flung himself against the chains. "I don't have time to play games. You don't want your friends interrupting us, do you?"
"Wishful thinking on your part. You'd better hope my friends don't come, because when they do we're going to send you back to where you came from."
"You and your friends will pay for this." Angel stepped back with a moan and stood for a moment on quivering limbs before sinking to the floor.
Buffy watched as his shoulders slumped forward and his head dropped until his chin nearly rested on his chest.
"Angel?" Buffy whispered.
Angel rolled his head back and gasped for breath. "Buffy!" he cried.
"Angel, hang on, we're doing everything we can," Buffy promised as she crouched down in front of him. "Giles and the gang are in research mode; we'll figure this out."
"You've got to get out of here. Keep away from me. This thing is powerful." Angel's body violently convulsed as he fought to hold the demon at bay.
"Help is coming. Please, just hang on."
Buffy watched as the spasms contorting Angel's body subsided into weak trembling. She could feel the sunlight pouring in through the far window. She moved closer to Angel's crouched form, unable to touch him for fear he was still in the demon's thrall.
"Angel," she tried tentatively. "Angel, I'm here."
Angel lifted his head and looked at Buffy, not quite able to meet her eyes.
"Buffy...it's me...," Angel answered weakly. "The demon seems to be gone...or sleeping." Buffy moved closer and knelt next to Angel, moving her hand towards his shoulder. Angel flinched. "No, don't touch me." He turned his face away slightly, so he couldn't see the pain in Buffy's eyes. "This demon is trying to pervert what I feel for you into something evil. I can't let it happen."
"But you won't," Buffy said, trying to look at his face. "Your soul is stronger. We'll beat this thing together. Angel, it's okay."
"No, it isn't. You don't understand..." Angel let his words trail off.
"Help me then," Buffy pushed gently.
"I'm burning, Buffy...from the inside." He glanced towards her and saw her brow wrinkle with confusion. "This demon made me want to feed...made me remember the way it felt...I came looking for you to feed on." Angel hung his head, ashamed at his confession. "I want you, Buffy, to possess you, to taste your blood, to revel in your death. Even now, the very scent of you is driving me crazy. I'm losing it, Buffy, and I'm scared."
Buffy placed her hand under Angel's chin and turned his face towards her. She saw a single blood red tear mark a path down his right cheek. "I love you, Angel." She moved next to him and drew him to her in what she hoped was a comforting embrace. She placed her chin on the top of his head, stroked his hair in a soothing motion and whispered, "Try to rest. Hopefully, those guys will find something, and soon." As she felt Angel slowly relax, she moved them into a position that would be more comfortable for a long wait.
"Hey, G-man, do ya think? Could we give this one a whirl?" Xander questioned from the back of the stacks, shattering the prolonged silence. Willow squeaked in surprise at the noisy intrusion. Oz barely glanced up.
Removing his glasses, Giles pinched the bridge of his nose. "Which one would 'this one' be?"
"This one here," Xander stated as he moved quickly to the table where Giles was seated. He dropped the tome indelicately before Giles and pointed to a passage on demon expulsion.
"Yes, well, we have read quite a few passages on demon expulsion rituals, haven't we?" Giles pointed out.
"Ah, but anything about exactly how to get rid of our lusty demon babe?"
"Not exactly, no," Giles admitted.
"Take a gander," Xander preened.
"All right, then," Giles poured over the page Xander had presented to him. "Of course...yes...yes, I'd forgotten this," Giles mumbled as he rose from the table, his face still planted in the book. "Ah, yes, good work, Xander." With that, Giles disappeared into his office.
"Geez, you think I'd get a Scooby snack or something," Xander muttered under his breath as he flopped down into the seat Giles had just vacated.
"Willow, Oz," Giles called from the doorway of his office. "Here is a list of supplies I need you to obtain. Let us meet at Angel's place in, shall we say, one hour. Time is of the essence." Willow crossed over to Giles, retrieved the list and gave it a quick scan.
"Ok, Giles. See you in an hour."
"See ya," Oz added as the pair headed out the swinging doors.
"Xander," Giles called to the remaining Slayerette. "I need you to help me prepare a few things here."
"You got it, big guy. Where do I start?"
Buffy's leg had fallen asleep. She glanced down at the slumbering vampire, absently stroking his hair. She had spent the day alternating between watching him rest and watching the sun cut a fiery path across the sky. It was getting late and she worried that the gang hadn't found anything yet. She felt Angel begin to stir beneath her soothing ministrations. " Hey, sleepy head," she said softly.
"Hey," came the muted reply. "Anything yet?"
"Not yet," Buffy answered. "I'm sure they'll--" A commotion from just outside the door cut her off in mid sentence.
"Hey, Buffy," Willow greeted as she entered, followed by Xander and Oz, who were both carrying stuff from the local oogeda-boogeda store. "How is...everything?" She glanced nervously at Angel.
"Quiet, for now." Buffy smiled weakly, feeling unashamedly relieved to see her friends. She watched as Giles entered, carrying a very large package.
Buffy rose from her spot, leg still tingling from the reawakened circulation, and made her way over to her Watcher. "OK, Giles, spare me the blah-blah, what are we up against?"
"Willow, begin preparing for the ritual. Use this diagram. Be quick, but please be accurate." He handed her a few pages, then turned to Oz and Xander. "Please aid Willow however you can." Oz and Xander moved to the table and began helping Willow lay out the implements needed for the ritual.
Giles led Buffy back over to the wall where Angel sat, still chained, and began filling them in on everything they had uncovered. Angel kept his head down as he listened to the words of the man he had once tortured, a man from whom he had no right to expect aid.
Once Giles had answered all of Buffy's questions, he returned to Willow and examined the pentagram she had carefully drawn in powder on the mansion floor. At each of the lesser points was a representation of one of the Four Elements. He walked over to the table and retrieved a small piece of parchment and a pen. He carried these with him over to the package he'd brought in. Giles opened it and revealed a rather ancient looking sword.
"Whoa, that's a mighty big knife you carry," Xander commented, as he watched Giles lift the sword from its wrappings.
"It is the Sword of Babenu-Ra. Loosely translated, it means 'bright shining soul of Ra, the Egyptian sun god,'" Giles began. "It is believed that the sword was created by Ra and imbued with a portion of his soul. 'Only he who has turned from evil may wield the sword to banish the dark ones for all eternity.'"
"Works for me," Xander said, his glazed expression forestalling any further explanations.
Giles sighed and moved back to the pentagram and placed the sword to the right of the head point, still holding the parchment. "All is in order," Giles announced, after what seemed like an eternity. "Let us proceed."
Angel was unchained from the wall and led into the center of the pattern, his arms still shackled with Giles' manacles. Giles stationed himself at the head position of the pentagram. Xander and Buffy assumed the points on his right. Oz and Willow were at the points on his left. Sparing one last glance at Angel, kneeling before him in a pose of supplication, Giles began intoning the incantation of expulsion. The race against time had begun.
"Hear me, spirit, who hast unlawfully intruded into this Sanctuary, O Talabimacha, I bind your essence to this parchment and command you to depart in peace." Giles began inscribing the parchment with the demon's name. "Thou hast strayed from thy true course, and thy trespass has been discovered by the conflict and sorrow that have been its result." Giles traced a pattern in the air with his right hand and demanded, "I command thee to withdraw and depart, without further delay! Return now from whence thou came, and come not again unless summoned in due form!"
Giles handed the parchment to Oz, who began the ritual of binding. "I bind your essence with the purity of the earth," Oz recited, placing the parchment in the cup and raining sand over the demon's name. Oz turned and handed the parchment to Willow.
"I bind you with the purity of the air," Willow chanted. She blew the excess sand off of the paper, then turned it over to Xander.
"I bind you with the purity of the water," Xander intoned as he poured the holy water over the parchment in a ritualistic representation of Baptism. He shook the excess water from the paper and handed it carefully to Buffy, noting the anxiety in her eyes.
"I bind you with the purity of the fire," Buffy said, as she crushed the parchment in her hand and cast it into the brazier before her.
Buffy glanced at the far window. She watched as the sun began its descent below the horizon. She mentally urged her Watcher to hurry.
Giles picked up the sword in his right hand, pointed it at Angel and bellowed, "I am upon thee! Thou shalt not stand before me! Thou hast rejected the Light, and thou art accurséd unto the aeons! I spew thee out! I cast thee into the Abyss! I burn thy carcass to ashes, that no trace or remembrance of so vile a being may remain among men!"
Suddenly, Angel began laughing maniacally. Rising to his full height, he glared menacingly at Giles, who stood pointing the sword at him. "Giles, old friend. If I'd known you wanted to party, I'd have come more prepared. You remember the last time we partied, don't you? It was like the Agony and the Ecstasy. Your agony was my ecstasy."
Angel lifted his arms up over his head and shattered his fetters as if they were glass. In the blink of an eye, Angel knocked the sword from Giles' grip and sent it skittering along the floor. He grabbed Giles by the throat, raising him slightly off the ground. "Didn't anyone ever tell you it isn't polite to point?"
Tightening his grip on Giles' throat, Angel cast the Watcher from him into the table that held the remaining ritual supplies, rendering Giles unconscious.
"Angel--" Buffy started, foolishly trying to reach the man beneath the demon.
Angel laughed fiendishly. "Sorry, Buff, he's not here. Didn't even leave a forwarding address. Too bad."
Buffy blocked the flying right punch Angel sent in her direction, answering with a solid right of her own, connecting with his twisted features. Angel swayed back slightly, still laughing. Buffy moved in and threw a kick to Angel's midsection. Angel grabbed her ankle and twisted Buffy off balance, knocking her to the ground. He loomed over Buffy and snarled, "What's the matter, lover? Foreplay too rough?"
Oz and Xander were galvanized at once, each attacking from a different corner. Xander rushed in from the left. Angel smacked Xander with a backhand to the face, spinning him into a wall. Oz plunged into the fray, receiving a kick to the chest from Angel. Oz hit the floor, the air whooshing out of his body.
The distraction of the attack gave Buffy the split second she needed to flip to her feet. But she was too late. In the blink of an eye Angel had moved behind Willow. Her eyes were wide with fear as the vampire began nuzzling her neck.
"Willow, tsk, tsk. We've got to stop meeting like this. Seems like old times."
"Let her go," Buffy warned, moving into Slayer stance. She heard Willow softly chanting the spell they had learned during one of their just-in-case sessions. This certainly qualified as a just-in-case.
"Hmm, I think I'll keep her," Angel mocked. "Besides, I think the wolfman wants her."
Buffy glanced over her shoulder and saw Oz, his body half- changed, tense and ready to spring into action. "Back off, Oz. That's what this demon wants."
Oz growled in reply, his fury written clearly across his now hirsute, semi-human face. Buffy looked back at Angel; there was just a flicker of Angel's true face, a face that Buffy thought they would never see again, but it was gone so quickly that it may have been a trick of the changeable light.
Willow's chant continued, her voice increasing in volume and strength. "By the power of the stars, channel my strength to Angel. Give his soul the strength it needs. If I am weak then let Angel be strong. Give his soul my energy."
As Willow shouted the last line of the chant, Oz sprang forward, prepared to kill the vampire who dared to take what was his. Oz was thrown away from the pair by a blinding white light that threatened to burn everyone in the room with its intensity. Angel released Willow and she stumbled forward, falling to the ground in a state of exhaustion. Angel screamed in agony, his hands clutching his head as he struggled to wrest control of his body and soul away from the accursed demon.
As he fell to the ground, a river of black poured from Angel's eyes, ears and mouth, coalescing into the dark form that was the demon's true appearance. No light emerged from the figure who glared at Buffy, dark eyes raging with hate.
"Hey, lamestain," Buffy jeered, stake in hand, "your party pass just expired."
With a sharp shriek, the enraged she-demon flew at the Slayer. Buffy dropped and rolled away, just barely managing to dodge its first assault.
"If we're gonna dance, can I lead?" Buffy continued taunting.
The dark fiend screamed in rage, attacking Buffy from all sides. As she circled her adversary, Giles' warning echoed in her mind: avoid the touch of Talabimacha, for it meant death to all living things. The Slayer looked for an opening to land her stake, but it was all she could do to keep from coming in contact with the demon.
"The lusts of men shall destroy you all," the she-devil cackled.
Buffy glanced over where Giles had gotten to his feet, moving toward the sword. Angel had stumbled over and seized the weapon before Giles had a chance to retrieve it. Buffy stood frozen as she watched Angel lift the sword, his hard gaze fixed on Giles. Angel's right arm shook with strain as the power invested in the sword of Babenu-Ra began visibly burning the vampire's hand. The smoke that rose from his flesh was a graphic reminder that the sun trapped within the mystical blade was just as inimical to the vampire as to the she-demon.
"Angel, don't do this," Buffy pleaded.
Angel gave no indication that he had heard Buffy. He continued holding the blade as it began to burn as brightly as the sun. He raised the sword, preparing to strike.
"You are too late, Slayer. The time has come," the demon crowed at her apparent triumph.
"No," Angel corrected, "your time has come."
Angel raised Babenu-Ra over his left shoulder and hurled it from him, sending it flying toward the demon with lightning speed. Angel, Buffy and Giles stood transfixed as they watched the weapon hit its mark. The demon howled in agony as she clutched the sword in her chest. The light from the blade enveloped her in a fiery blaze. As the fire dissipated, the sword clattered to the floor, all traces of the demon gone.
Buffy looked from Angel to Giles and quipped, "Well, that was fun."
Giles heard them coming before they even entered the library.
"Hey, Giles," Buffy called out, once the group had passed through the doors. She smiled tiredly as she approached him, Xander and Willow in tow. It was good to see her smiling again. "Everyone checked out OK, but they decided to keep Oz overnight. Cracked ribs. They just wanna make sure his insides don't do a funny."
"Good, very good. Probably for the best." Giles pushed his glasses up before continuing. "And Angel?"
"Talk about battling your inner demons. He's gonna be OK. Just needs a good day's rest and a butcher-shop shake."
"What I want to know is how he was able to use the sword?" Xander asked the question lingering in everyone's mind.
"I suppose even the darkest soul still has its light corners," Giles offered begrudgingly.
Anxious to break the uncomfortable silence that had descended over the group, Buffy queried, "So, training later?"
"I think not, Buffy. I believe we could all use a night off." Giles looked at the tired faces of the Slayer and her friends.
"A night off from what, Mr. Giles?" Wesley queried from behind the group. Four pairs of eyes rolled at the same time. Wesley rounded the trio and stood next to Giles. "Remember, a Slayer must always be..."
"Yeah, know the drill. Giles will fill you in," Buffy said.
"It's what I live for," Giles replied sarcastically.
Stifling a laugh, Buffy turned to leave. "C'mon guys. Let's leave these two to do the catch-up thing. Later."
"Later, G," Xander echoed.
"Um, yeah, bye, Giles," Willow added.
"Thank you oh so much," Giles muttered under his breath.
As the trio headed toward the door, Giles overheard Buffy saying, "So Willow, explain this Chocolate Ritual again."
"Chocolate Ritual?" Xander asked, suddenly energetic. "Sounds like it includes major chocolate scarfage."
"Well, kind of," Willow started.
"I'm so there."
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