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Fan Fiction: They Also Serve
Chapter Fourteen: Adventures in Slaying
"A doctor can bury his mistakes but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines."
Xander stepped away from Giles' car and lifted his axe to a ready position. The door of Willy's bar hung crookedly on its hinges before him, spilling noise and light out into the street. The barman had claimed that the demons inside had gone a little crazy, and from the sound of things, he believed it. The few pedestrians brave enough to be out tonight were avoiding that section of sidewalk like good little Sunnydale citizens; none of them wanted to have to acknowlege the problem and get involved.
Giles drew his sword and tossed the sheath into the seat, then walked around the car to stand on the sidewalk next to Xander. "Frontal assault, do you think?" he asked, as he tested the blade's edge with a careful thumb. "Or shall we try something a bit more devious?"
Xander eyed the doorway, listening to the raucous sounds within. A frontal assault would certainly do the job; but while the Orbs gave him the equivalent of Slayer strength, he seriously doubted they gave him her speed and accuracy. Some of the demons would get by him in a melee fight. Besides, he was curious to see what Giles had come up with.
"Devious sounds interesting," he said, raising his eyebrows. "What did you have in mind?"
Giles sank carefully to one knee on the rough concrete surface. "Perhaps we can fight one sort of horror with another," he said, with a thoughtful expression. He touched the fingers of his free hand to a tiny gap between curb and sidewalk, where a few small weeds struggled to survive, and wrinkled his brow in concentration.
Before Xander could even ask what he meant, a soft green glow sprang up and the weeds under Giles' hand began to twitch and writhe. Xander remembered the flowering plants that had grown up around the older man that afternoon, and watched the shifting stems in fascination. What kind of plant would a Watcher categorize as a "horror"? Something exotic and toothy? Something poisonous? Something with a mind of its own?
He had to struggle not to laugh when the plants began lengthening into a tangle of recognizable vines. If the slightly hairy, rough-edged oval leaves weren't enough of a clue, the sharp, curved thorns made his skin prickle with sense memory. He had to agree with Giles on this one-- blackberry plants were nasty things. (Unless you were talking about the fruit, of course. Especially as syrup on a stack of warm pancakes...)
The vines grew at a tremendous pace, reaching the doorway in less than a minute. The noise inside continued unabated for another several seconds as they began pushing inward, but then startled cries began to reach Xander's ears.
Giles closed his eyes and clenched his jaw as beads of sweat began appearing on his forehead. He seemed to be unaware of anything but what he was doing, intensely focused on his contact with the Earth. A pair of vampires in full demon face stumbled out of the bar, swearing and tripping over the writhing green foliage, but he didn't move; he kept concentrating, pulling life out of the ground.
Xander stepped in front of the older man, ready to defend him, and met the vamps' growls with a stony glare. "Looking for trouble?" he challenged them, bracing himself for a fight.
"What the hell?" one of them exclaimed, glancing from him to the kneeling Watcher, and then to the vines. He'd been a slight man as a human, built more for speed than muscle, and it seemed that the instinct to run was still with him. "Forget this, I'm outta here," he said, then turned and bolted down the street, abandoning his companion.
"Smart guy, your friend," Xander said, smirking at the second vamp as he tightened his grip on the haft of the axe. "You sure you want to stick around?"
The vampire snorted and grinned back, exposing his fangs. "Hey, more for me," he said, and braced himself to lunge at Xander.
A strangled yell echoed from somewhere down the street, followed by an ominous silence. Xander and the vampire both looked instinctively for the source of the noise, and were startled to see a loop of wayward vine rising from the sidewalk. It was coiled in a circle at roughly neck-height, surrounding a dissipating puff of ash.
"No," Giles suddenly said, his voice rough with strain. "Death for you."
The vampire's face went slack with fear; if he could have paled any further, he probably would have. Xander decided to take advantage of the guy's momentarily paralysis and slashed his axe in a quick semi-circle. The vamp was dust before his head even hit the ground.
"Nice one, G-man," Xander said, grinning down at the kneeling mage. "And you were pretending I was the heavy hitter on this team?"
"I don't think I can manage that again," Giles said apologetically, shaking his head as he tried to catch his breath. "It takes a bit more effort than I'd anticipated to direct them individually."
An incoherent snarl of rage and a snapping, rustling sound distracted them both from that line of thought. "Oh, this looks like fun," Xander said, frowning as a large, muscular being with curled horns fought out through the vines. The doorway was choked to waist-height with the plants already, but the strong demon was pushing his way through with brute force. "It's one of those Fyarl guys like the one Ethan turned you into. Wasn't there some specialized way you had to kill them?"
"Silver," Giles frowned, as he concentrated on the vines again. "But I'd imagine removing the head works equally well."
Xander glanced down at the axe blade, then at the demon's tough skin, and sighed. "If he nicks my axe, Giles, you're getting me a new one."
"Buffy's axe, you mean," Giles said, distractedly.
"Semantics," Xander shrugged. Of all the weapons of Slayage he'd tried using, the axe tended to be his favorite; and of all the team's axes, this one fit him best. It wasn't like anyone else ever used it, right?
The demon approached him with a slightly manic glint in its eyes, still snarling at him. Xander heard a few words among the growled sounds, but nothing he could decipher. He stood still as it drove a few punches at him, grinning as the solid hits just bounced off his skin, then swung the axe at the surprised Fyarl's neck. He could get used to this invulnerability thing.
He was the one surprised, however, when it threw up an arm to block the blow and began making a hocking sound in the back of its throat. "Gross!" he commented, wrenching the axe blade out of the demon's forearm and staggering backward. "Please tell me it doesn't spit acid?"
"Rock hard mucous, actually," Giles informed him. "It paralyzes."
The demon screwed up its face and pursed its lips, and Xander hastily raised the axe again, using the blade as an impromptu shield between him and the demon's mouth. Something hit it with a wet smack, and he grimaced in disgust. "So much for the axe," he muttered. Somehow, he didn't think something described as "rock hard" would just scrape off. Well, might as well get one last use out of it before tossing it on the scrap heap.
He swung the axe at the demon again, and it blocked once more. This time he was ready for it and kicked out as the axe connected with its arm. He would have aimed for the groin, but he wasn't sure it would work on this demon; it didn't always. The knee shot usually did, though, whatever the species.
There was a crunching noise, and the Fyral bellowed in pain, reaching for its right knee with both hands. "Scoobies 3, Demons 0," Xander grunted, taking advantage of its distraction to swing the axe one final time and deprive the demon of its head.
It died fairly quickly after that, collapsing in two pieces on the ground. Xander dropped his ruined weapon on the body with a frown, then turned to look at the British man. "So. How's it going?"
Giles sighed. "I'd imagine the ones inside are quite uncomfortable by now," he said wearily, then lifted his hand from the vines and rose to his feet. Several inches of sidewalk had buckled and pulled away from the spot he'd touched, now bursting with a massive, concentrated outgrowth of plant life. Except for one or two random strands, like the one he'd used to snare the running vampire, the thick greenery all headed straight into the bar.
Xander edged around the twisted, thorny plants to the edge of the opened door and peered curiously inside. The sight that greeted him was like something out of a fairy tale. Sleeping Beauty, perhaps, at the part where the thornbushes spring up around the castle... or maybe that one about the princess whose mother wished for her hair to grow, and ended up filling rooms and rooms with it every night. He couldn't remember how that one ended.
"Wow," he said, with a low whistle. "If I hadn't seen it, I wouldn't believe it. This is... hey. I wonder if you can get trees to do this? Talk about creative carpentry."
Even stranger than the sight of a bar filled brimful with coiled plant life, though, was the effect it had had on the warring patrons. Embedded in the greenery like flies in amber were several cursing, twitching forms; they were whimpering and yelling in several languages, but none of them had managed to break free yet.
"I just have one question, though," Xander continued, peering fruitlessly between the leaves in the direction of the office. It was reinforced, so the vines wouldn't have gotten in, but that begged the question of how they would. "How do we get to Willy? Hack our way through this mess? 'Cause I'm guessing that would kind of defeat the purpose."
Giles straightened his back and took a few steps toward the door. He looked tired, like Tara had when she'd come into the house earlier, but also determined. He gestured at the vines commandingly with his sword, as though they would part like the Red Sea had for Moses, and waited for a reaction. Something shifted inside, some piece of a table or chair clattering from a nest of leaves to rest on the floor, but there was no other noticeable movement. Giles frowned and tried it again, and then a third time, before sighing and lowering his sword-arm.
"Open sesame?" Xander joked, staring at the mass of vines. One of the stronger beings inside had begun to thrash and pull at the constriction; their chances of getting Willy out unscathed were dropping.
"Too much in one day," Giles said with a frown, and scrubbed a hand over his damp forehead. "I'll need to relearn my limitations, I suppose. Ah, do you remember exactly where the office is in relation to the outer wall?"
Xander frowned, reconstructing the interior of the bar in his mind. He'd certainly been in there often enough, usually for reasons unrelated to alcohol. If he remembered correctly, it was... "There." He pointed to one corner of the building.
"Do you suppose you might be able to break through to make an opening?"
Xander stared at Giles, nonplused. "Why didn't we just do that to start with, then?" All those vines, all that wasted energy... what if they needed Giles to do something on the way home?
Duh, he suddenly realized, his brain catching up to his mouth. You do what you always did before. And hello, if Giles hadn't 'tied up' the patrons, they would have heard the breaking-in and ambushed you on the way out. It's called the most effective distribution of resources.
"Never mind," Xander said, before Giles could answer the stupid question. He brushed his palms off on his jeans, then balled his hands into fists and moved toward the wall. Then, as he braced himself to deliver the first, testing blow, something else occurred to him. "Ten bucks says I get hired to fix this later," he said with a smirk.
The wall put up a decent resistance to his borrowed strength, but it wasn't enough to slow him down by much. It only took him a few seconds to make a hole big enough to look through, and he peered cautiously into the interior before doing anything else. "Willy? Are you in there?"
There were scrambling sounds from the other side of the wall. "Kid? What the hell are you doing to my bar? I asked for rescue, not demolition!" Willy sounded more upset than grateful.
Xander laughed. "You wanted the Slayer to come, originally," he reminded the barman. "That's as good as demolition, most days. Besides, I don't think you'll want to stick around here much after tonight." As he spoke, he began prying at the edges of the ragged hole, dropping pieces of the wall to the ground at his feet.
Willy grumbled a little, then sighed. "So there is something up," he said. "How did you guys find out about it before I did? None of my sources said anything about this."
"The Hellmouth's gone," Xander said, giving Willy an abbreviated explanation as he worked. "According to Buffy, some big shots in L.A. did a spell and it backfired. A lot of your customers were drawn here by that energy, you know, and with it suddenly missing they're going a little unhinged."
Willy spent the next couple of minutes pacing and swearing while Xander enlarged the hole. Phrases like "never thinking of the little guy" and "after all I've put up with on the Hellmouth" were heard amidst the more colorful language. By the time the hole was large enough to walk through, however, he'd managed to calm down again.
Giles frowned as Willy emerged, and checked his watch for the time. "Please make sure no one's broken through the vines yet," he said, raising an eyebrow at Xander, then stepped around Willy and into the dark office.
Xander frowned after him, puzzled, then nodded in understanding when he heard Giles pick up the phone. Willow and Tara would want to know.
"Vines?" Willy asked, also staring after the British man. "Did he just say vines? What's that supposed to mean?"
Xander grinned at him and tilted his head in the direction of the front door. "Remember how I said you wouldn't want to stick around?"
Willy stared in shock as he caught sight of the blackberry growth. "So that's what those sounds were," he said, in a voice faint with disbelief. "What the hell am I gonna tell my insurance?"
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