Thanks to Arlane and Rebecca Carefoot for betaing, and many, MANY people for coming up with song ideas.
She had no idea how she got to the edge of the cliff, but she recognized it as being in Sunnydale. There was nothing really resemebling the cliff anywhere in Sunnydale -- the makeout place had WAY too much grass, and this place was barren, and there were people working below. Fires from above lit up the night.
There was a low, moaning sound which she couldn't quite place; there were people she recognized -- Giles, Willow, Harmony, her mother -- working hard at building something. From the glare of the light she couldn't quite tell what it was, but it was definitely NOT good. And they were all trapped down there.
She somehow KNEW that she had to sing. Singing would solve all of the problems.
-- Xander was there beside her. Where he had come from, she had no idea, but there she was. He interrupted her as she was about to draw a breath. "You know what?" he said. "I'd rather let them stay in hell . . . "
--they were all glaring up at her from the pit. What was she supposed
to do? How was she supposed to handle this? How had it all come down to
* * *
She lay there for fifteen minutes, and eventually gave up on going back to sleep. She hadn't been able to any of the other three nights, there was no reason to think this would be any different.
One thing that had been different -- Xander had almost completed his statement this time.
Nothing. No sleep. Damn. Well, it just gave her extra time to prepare herself for school.
After a nice, long, relaxing soak, she felt like she was a human being again. She dressed and spent extra-long combing her hair and applying her makeup -- clattering so loud she was sure she could have woken the dead. Oops. Bad phrasing in this town. Anyway, there were no complaints.
She left home early, and got to school extra-early, walking in the front doors the moment they opened, a privilege usually taken advantage of by only a few, football players sneaking in an extra workout, science geeks working on extra-credit projects, and so on. Today, though, she was the first one in the building -- and in point of fact, except for the janitors, the ONLY one in the building, though Principal Snyder stumbled in ten seconds after she did, looking like he had a hangover without having gotten drunk first. He glared at her, but said nothing as he amde his way down the hall.
Anyway, if she wanted to catch Giles early, she had to get to the library early. She slipped down the deserted halls and crept through the weirdly open library doors into the room.
Giles was asleep, collapsed over the central table, over a book. Sweet -- but she needed help. She marched over to the table and tapped him on the shoulder.
He shifted a bit, but didn't stir.
She grabbed him and gently shook him; then, when that didn't work, she shook him a bit more roughly.
He mumbled something and finally, blearily, opened his eyes. "What -- what -- what's going on?" Then he looked up. It seemed to take him a few seconds to recognize her.
"What are YOU doing here?" the librarian said a bit snappishly.
"I need your help, of course," she said, puzzled. "What's with the attitude?"
"You DID just wake me up," he answered, "And in any event you haven't BEEN in this library ever since you and Xander broke up. So I feel a moment of surprise and shock is rather in order."
"Geeze, what IS it with the people in this town? I've heard of lazy winters but THIS is ridiculous!"
Giles prompted, still a touch irritably, "You DID come here for a reason, correct?" as he made a vain attempt to smooth out his hair. Please! Clear pores, nice bone structure, but Giles' hair on the best of days needed two hours with a hair stylist. A fingercombing just was NOT going to cover it.
Anyway. "Right. I've been having the same dream for four nights running, and it seems to involve almost everyone in Sunnydale in some kind of trance, and building things, and all I need to do is save them is sing, but Xander starts to make fun of me and I don't, and then I wake up. Everyone's down in this big pit, building something --and the pit's somewhere in Sunnydale, I know it, but it's nowhere in Sunnydale in real life. Am I making sense?"
"As much as you ever do," he answered. "What makes you think this dream requires my help?"
"Isn't it obvious?" He shook his head. "There's a kind of feel to it. Like there's something I HAVE to do or it'll all go wrong. Something urging me on. And the people in the pit -- are doing something evil. Not on purpose, you know, but it's WAY evil."
"I don't know of anything offhand," he answered, "But I'll do some research to see if I can come up with something. Fair enough?"
"You're not brushing me off, are you?" she demanded.
"No. if you're worried, I'll look it up for you. when can you meet me back here?"
"When are Buffy and all the rest NOT likely to be here?"
"6th period, today, I believe. Cordelia, you have, in the past --"
Sensing that the librarian was about to try to reconcile her with "The Scooby Gang" and wanting no part of it, she interrupted. "That's gym, for me. But I'm excused from that. I'm on this diet which absolutely prevents me from doing any kind of strenuous exercise. Of course, all I get to drink is bottled water, but still --"
Frustrated, Giles said, "Very well then. Sixth period it is. See you then."
Then he got up and stiffly limped into his office.
She turned and left the room. If the brainy guy was in on it -- well he'd figure it out.
Now if he'd only do something about all that tweed . . .
* * *
Cordelia actually had been of some help in the past -- but this was too much. For the girl to imagine that she was having dreams that were in any way prophetic was little short of ridiculous. Still, a promise was a promise, and given that he would spend a few hours looking for information to see if there was some off chance that Cordelia's dream could be revelant to something important due to occur.
He blinked a few times and shook his head again, trying to wake up.
Now then: Dreams of a pit, and of singing to save people . . .
* * *
Which was extremely odd, because he'd fallen asleep in his own bed, at home, and he was not prone to sleepwalking. As he raised his head he noticed that he was resting in on a sheet of paper written, sloppily, in his own hand.
"TONIGHT IS THE NIGHT," it read. And it was signed, "Hypnos." He'd suspected that Hypnos' time was near, but he never thought the magician would be arrogant enough to control HIS body. Well, no matter, he knew exactly what Hypnos wanted, and exactly his part in how to prepare for the event. From the clock on the wall -- 7:30 or so in the morning -- he had plenty of time to get it all together, until around midnight. Still, he had not been put into office to waste the taxpayers' time, so as soon as he yawned, stretched, and washed his hands, he placed two phone calls.
The first was to Deputy Mayor Finch, telling him to get a specific powder from a storage locker in the City Hall basement.
The second was to Mr. Trick. After all, there WAS a Slayer in town,
and even if she was likely to be as easily affected as everyone else --
well, best not to take chances, eh?
Buffy came into the library only a few minutes before the first bell rang, Willow and Oz trailing unsteadily behind her. Giles was hunched over a book, studying intently.
"Hey, Giles," Buffy said. "A little light reading?" She lifted up the book -- to his mild protests -- and let it drop back to the table. "Viktor's Interpretation of Mystical Dreams?" A sober look came over her face. "We're not entering prophecy territory again, are we?"
"Not to my knowledge; I'm just looking up something for -- erm -- a friend, who has been having dreams she thinks may be significant."
Willow perked up at that; she and Oz had been kind of leaning against one another, mostly for support. "Really, Giles?" she said, stifling a yawn. "She?"
The Watcher answered, "Nothing like that," with none of the usual embarassment. "Actually, it's Cordelia."
"Cordelia?" all three said in unison.
"I didn't think there was much to it, but I promised her I'd do a little work on it -- to ease her fears, if nothing else. Only now --"
"I don't like the way you just said now, Giles," Buffy said. "I hate it when you say now that way."
"To my knowledge, this is the first time I've actually said it that way," the librarian said.
Oz said, standing clear of Willow and rubbing his collarbone, "I think it was the not liking that was important. But, you know me, I could be wrong --"
"Here's the problem, Buffy," Giles said. "I still can't find conclusive proof one way or the other that Cordelia's dreams meant anything. But there are a couple of disturbing coincidences. In Cordelia's dream -- almost the entire population of Sunnydale was in a pit, they were all building something, and she had to sing to save them from the spell they were under."
"Hmmm," Buffy said mock-thoughtfully. "Cordy singing versus being under a spell. Cordy's singing versus being under a spell . . ." at Oz's puzzled look, she said, "That's right, you never heard her sing. Call you Mr. Lucky."
"Let's, let's just say," Giles said, "That calling her attempts at vocalization 'caterwauling' is an insult to felines everywhere. Now, there are records of vaguely similar occurrences in the past -- right before the vanishings of twenty or so of the best and brightest in the locales near the dreamer, but nothing on this scale. The trouble is is that there is absolutely nothing in here about song of any sort."
"Giles," Buffy said as Willow and Oz plopped heavily into chairs, "I told you once there were two things I didn't believe in, coincidence and leprechauns. Well, this is definitely one of them, and I don't see any small men with green hats running around --"
"It gets worse," Giles said.
"Why can't you ever say 'it gets better?'" Willow said, a bit more curtly than usual.
"Because it so rarely does," Giles snapped back.
"Okay, who put the nasty juice in your cups this morning?" Buffy asked.
"Sorry, Giles," Willow said. "I just haven't been sleeping well recently."
Giles head snapped upwards so sharply Buffy was afraid her Watcher would get whiplash. "That's even worse news, because neither have I -- and neither, I suspect, has Oz -- or even you, Buffy, though your Slayer strength appears to have you in better shape than the rest of us."
"That's not saying much," Oz moaned. "I feel like I've been running marathons every night instead of sleeping."
As sharply as he could, Giles said, "Could the three of you scope this out and see how other people have been sleeping?"
'Will do, boss man," Buffy said.
"And speaking of how people feel -- how is Xander doing?"
"Stomach flu in full bloom," Willow said. "Ick factor times twelve. No eating, no drinking, no nothing."
"We ALL know how that feels," Giles replied. "Let him know I hope he
feels better." Then, with a noticeable lack of bounce to their step, the
three students left the library to head to class.
* * *
Normally the lunchroom would have been reasonably animated, but today, whatever conversations there were were quiet and hushed. The lunch at the line was a cold cut sandwich -- not that the cheerleader would be eating that, anyway, with the diet she was on, but please! Where was the pride in workmanship?
She looked around for an empty table, and finally found one. Harmony sneered as she passed, but otherwise no one gave her any kind of hard time. Her reputation would be a long time in recovering from having been dumped by Xander Harris -- but it had taught her one thing, and that's that if you don't respect the opinions of the people insulting you, what they say can't hurt you in the least.
Which would mean that she'd respected Xander, and Buffy, and that group, to still be stung by their words and actions. Well, so be it. She still respected them enough to know that they'd provide some solution if her dreams were some kind of prophecy. So she still respected even Xander at some level? So be it. She WAS completely innocent in all of this anyway.
She carefullly sipped from her bottle of spring water and ate the apple as she watched the people pass by, truth be told, there wasn't a guy in the room who was worth giving a second glance, at least not today. Everyone but her and Buffy -- and Jonathan! -- seemed to be absolutely dragging, physically and mentally exhausted. Mrs. Landers, the sub in English while Mr. Lavoie recovered from the broken he arm he got when he fell out of bed, had spent five minutes trying to lead the class in a discussion of _The Merchant of Venice_ before anyone thought to remind her that they were actually reading _Julius Caesar_.
Before she'd gotten involved with Buffy and her merry gang of Ghostbusters she would have rationalized all of this away. For the last two months she'd been praying to have that blindness return, with no luck. It was like trying to go back to being a virgin!
--or so she'd been told. Anyway, with her damned monstervision at 20/20 she couldn't help but see these things. Just thank the gods someone else had to deal with them now. Find out if the dream's a prophecy and pass it along. She supposed she should also bring up this general decaffeinated state everyone was wandering around in, too.
She finished with the apple and started to get up when Buffy walked by.
"Hey, Cordy," she said.
"Buffy," she answered coolly, with a slight nod of her head.
"How are you feeling today?"
"Do you really care?"
"Believe it or not, yes, I do," Buffy said.
"Well, I DON'T believe. You only put up with me because of Xander. Well, newsflash: He betrayed me and we broke up. You can quit pretending you like me, okay?" Actually, she wasn't sure whether Buffy cared or not, but that wasn't the point.
Buffy sighed. "Alright then. Blame me for trying," and she walked over to where Willow and Oz were standing by the cafeteria door. Oz, now -- was he whipped or what? Gets the same shock, the same treatment, and he goes meekly back to Willow within a few weeks. Self-esteem classes, STAT!
And where was Xander?
-- NOT like she cared!
* * *
"Might want to watch what you're doing with that," the Mayor said calmly. "If a single speck of that gets in your body you'll fall asleep on me."
"That doesn't sound so bad," Finch said.
"Falling asleep on the job is very serious, you should know that," his Honor answered amiably. "I might have to give you the axe." Finch panicked. "Oh, relax! I'm only kidding. They don't need weapons, not with the teeth they have."
The Deputy Mayor gripped the bag even more tightly. Then, as he gently, carefully sprinkled it into the city's water supply, the mayor chanted something from a small book he'd been carrying. Normally the Mayor didn't take a personal hand in this -- deniability, and all -- but Hypnos was fussy, and the Mayor really only trusted himself to do it right. Then, abruptly, a few minutes later, his honor closed the book and started marching out. Finch, startled, almost dropped the bag, but recovered and hurried out the door after him.
"Well done," Mayor Wilkins said as if he meant it. "Just one thing. Until tomorrow, treat Sunnydale like you would any small Mexican village."
"Don't drink the water."
She walked into the library during sixth period and told Giles what she'd seen and felt during theday.
"Hmmmm," the librarian said. "That, unfortunately, added to what Buffy's told me, only goes to confirm my suspicions: You are, indeed, having a prophetic dream."
"Well, of course!" She said, shaking her head. "Hold on! You told Buffy?"
"Did you expect me not to?" he answered.
"Well, not until I was clear of all of it! Not until you'd figured out what was going on and told me how to avoid it."
He let out a deep breath. "Cordelia, it may not be that simple."
"That's the pattern! Someone notices a problem, you figue it out, Buffy Slays and the rest of us aren't even involved!"
"If you're the one having the dream, Cordelia, you WILL be involved, somehow, whether you want to be or not."
"Right now, that's a definite not."
"Just promise me this," Giles said. "Stay awake tonight. Forgo your 'beauty sleep" until we figure out what's going on." He pointed behind him. There were books aplenty lying around, all having to do with various deities, demons, and sorcerors of sleep. "The problem is," Giles explained, "That there are so many of them. We spend on the average one third of our lives in that state, so there is no wonder, but that makes our task all the harder. Fortunately, many are benign and a few of the rest are dead, dormant, or otherwise occupied. Which still leaves us a nice litany of several dozen."
She supposed it was the least she could do. "Done," she said. "After all, you are interpreting it for me."
"Interpreting. Right." Giles leaned over his books.
"One more thing," she said as she turned to leave. "Everyone seems tired and exhausted, and people have been sleepwalking, and everything. Does this help?"
"Actually, it probably does," Giles said, sounding a little surprised. She couldn't see why . . . she'd done a lot to help -- a lot more help than they'd ever been to her! What had contact with them ever gotten her? She wasn't nearly the person she'd used to be before she met them -- and while she didn't NEED anyone to establish who she was, she still hadn't redefined herself either. It was like . . . there was something missing, you know? Anyway.
"Well, there you go!" She said brightly, and left the library.
* * *
There had been a noticeable lack of vampires tonight; in four hours of patrolling Buffy had caught only a couple of newly risen undead at one of Sunnydale's many cemeteries. By itself, not so unusual, but added on to the sleepwalking, the tiredness, and Cordelia's dream, it was another factor in the equation.
Had Cordelia not explained her dream this morning, though, Giles doubted they would have caught on quite so quickly. Thank goodness Cordelia's alienation from Buffy and her friends didn't extend quite so far as to make the girl completely irresponsible.
Shortly, Willow and Oz straggled in, followed, surprisingly, by a weak- appearing Xander Harris.
Buffy grinned and then frowned. "You up for this, Xander?"
"Never let it be said," Xander answered, a bit unsteadily, "That when a crisis comes that Xander Harris isn't ready for action." He plopped into a chair. "Even if I am too weak to turn a page or do anything productive."
"He whined and moaned until we let him come," Willow translated. "Then he spent most of the ride whining and moaning in the back seat." Par for the course, this lacked Willow's usual good humor. Oz also looked more sullen than stone-faced, but they were both there ready to fight the good fight, as least insofar as they were capable of fighting it.
"Hey," Xander said, "Besides, who's the expert on sleep around here anyway?" Everyone stared at him. "Bum bum bum, bum bum bum bum, bum bum bum bum bum bum . . . Mr. Xand-Man, bring me a dream . . ."
"Xander," Giles said, "If we were awake to appreciate that that might almost have been funny."
"Wow, Giles complimenting my sense of humor. Now I KNOW there's a crisis in Sunnydale."
THAT nearly brought a smile to Giles' lips, though he fought not to show it. "Will you be able to stay awake with the rest of us . . . given your condition?"
"For the last forty-eight hours I've done nothing but sleep and . . . something too gross to be mentioned. I don't think I'm going to go to sleep for a week."
"That leaves you several steps above the rest of us," Buffy commented. "So, what's the progress on the research? And have you puzzled out the meaning of Cordy's dream?"
Giles gestured to a dozen books lying on the table and the counter. "I've managed to narrow it down to seven . . . five of whom are demons, one of whom is some kind of djinn, and the seventh of whom is an ancient Greek sorceror who masqueraded as a god of sleep. What we need to do in the next couple of hours is go over the histories of these seven with a proverbial fine-tooth comb. We have caffeine so that, should the events described in Cordelia's dream come to pass, we'll be awake." Giles was still feeling as tired and sore as he had this morning, but now that he was in the flow of "research mode," he no longer felt like he was in imminent danger of falling facefirst onto the library floor.
"And what if we need to be asleep?" Willow groused.
Buffy turned. "Lack of sleep does NOT agree with you, girl."
"In any event," Giles broke in. "We do have chaff to separate from wheat here, so if we could get to it . . .?"
They all nodded, Giles passed out books. "Okay, Buffy . . . you can look at Yazusi, Oz, you can read up on Ghoti, Willow, you can look at the djinn, Almaghestos, and I'll handle the remaining three demons."
Xander waved his arm weakly. "Oh, right, Xander. You read up on the
Greek sorceror . . . Hypnos."
* * *
He did wish he knew a bit more about what Hypnos wanted; the sorceror, unlike the demons, didn't want any kind of tribute in the form of sacrifices; he wanted the mayor's aid in building some kind of mysterious device . . . which meant enlisting the population of Sunnydale.
Given the number of sleepwalkers and exhausted employees he had, it was obvious that Hypnos had already been flexing his muscles . . . mystically speaking, of course. But he needed guarantees that everyone would STAY asleep long enough for his contraption to be completed. Thus, the powder.
The Mayor looked up at the clock. It was almost time. He said, interrupting the city comptroller, "Okay, Lou. Fascinating as that isn't, I think it's about time to bring this meeting to a close." Then, from memory, he recited the five magic words from the book necessary to complete the spell.
Instantly Lou, and everyone else, dropped off into a deep sleep. He looked over at his deputy, who, amazingly, had managed to follow his instructions and was still awake. Mental note to self: He thinks too much, such men are dangerous. Schedule his death? Something to be thought about.
"So now what?" Finch asked.
"Now? Now we watch and wait," Mayor Wilkins answered. He looked over at Lou's snoring figure. "You know something? I think that's the most intelligent thing I've ever heard come out of Lou's mouth."
Then Lou's head shot up, and the Deputy Mayor let out a yelp and jumped backwards. "Hello, Hypnos," His Honor said.
In a high-pitched voice that most definitely was not Lou's own, Lou said, "Mayor Wilkins. Well done." Then he, and everyone else, rose. "Follow me," came the sorcerors' voice.
Not really having any other option, the Mayor followed.
Angel was walking through the streets of Sunnydale and thinking. It had been under two weeks since Buffy had saved his life . . . since his encounter with the First.
How was he going to make amends, as Buffy had suggested? Obviously what he'd been doing before . . . before his demon had taken control hadn't nearly been enough. Cryptic boy was just doing bits and pieces. But what else was he to do? Despite the number of times he'd aided Buffy in combat, he really wasn't anything more than a competent fighter; even with his powers, he was no superhero.
He was just looking at the scenery. It was amazing sometimes how peaceful Sunnydale could look at night, considering the number of inhabitants with every intent of NOT keeping it that way. Much as he tried to convince himself that he wasn't drifting back towards the high school, towards the old, predictable pattern of his existence, towards . . . Buffy, he knew the truth without ever needing to say it.
Besides, Angel was largely a creature of habit.
He passed by a recent construction site on the spot of Sunnydale High's old science building. It was nice to see them finally making use of the place.
Headlights approached Angel as he walked along the road away from the entrance to the school. At first he barely paid the approaching car any attention . . . then he noticed it was veering awfully close to the sidewalk. Fascinated, repelled, he watched as it roared towards him, over the curb and into the low stone wall at the front of the school. He threw himself into the street as it skidded to a halt not five feet from where he was standing.
Getting up, he dusted himself off -- of course he was unhurt -- and ran over to see what had happened, and to help. "Is everybody okay . . ." he trailed off, noticing that something wasn't happening.
The car's inhabitants were NOT screaming and trying to escape. They were just sitting there. For half a second Angel feared the rost, but then he heard their slow, easy breathing. They were asleep!
How was that possible? Didn't matter. He reached in through the doors and grabbed the cellular phone, and dialed 911. After thirty seconds, there still was no answer. Just as Angel was about to try calling someone else . . . the car's inhabitants moved.
And they were still asleep. Though the man's right arm dangled, and the woman was bleeding from a nose that looked like it belonged on a hockey player, they forced their way out of the car and walked off in a line leading around a nearby tree somewhere behind the high school's main building.
From behind him, he heard a slight noise. Then another sleepwalker strode past him and walked off in the same direction as the couple. And it seemed like more and more were approaching.
Then Angel saw someone who was still awake . . . but stiffened when he got a good look at the face and recognized him as another vampire, about to try and grab a meal from one of the helpless somnambulists. "What Trick doesn't know . . ." the demon said.
It was a short fight. Angel grabbed the other vampire and threw him into the car, then reached behind him and broke a branch off the tree. The rookie was predictable and charged right into the stake. Angel brushed off the dust and thought.
Everyone's fallen asleep and is going somewhere . . . Buffy! Closest to the library, so check there first. He sprinted through the halls of the school and flung open the doors.
Just as their former presence in the room was beginning to register
on him, Xander stood up from behind the counter and almost gave him a heart
* * *
Willow and Oz, despite the three bottles of Jolt they'd consumed each, were almost as bad off as he was. Buffy, being the Slayer, just looked a little tired, and Giles --
"Hey, G-Man," he muttered. "You keep on the way you're going you're going to have more tea in your veins than blood."
"I realize that," the Watcher snapped irritably, and then began to apologize. Xander had heard a dozen sorries already in the last hour and a half, from Giles, Willow, and Oz, but he'd long ago figured out that it had nothing to do with him. Besides, he still owed Will and the wolf so many apologies for what he'd done to their relationship . . . if he felt better, he would have been antsy around them, but right now he didn't have the energy to spare for that.
"No biggie at all. Really." And he meant it. Really.
The progress had been mixed. Willow had caught on right away that the djinn Almaghestos wasn't who they were looking for . . . it wasn't the right time of year, he liked to be active only in the summer. Now there was a spirit with the right attitude. Buffy got Giles to agree that Yazusi, a Japanese sleep demon, wasn't very likely, because even though he had the power to control others while asleep -- and was actually known as the Dreamsinger -- he hadn't been seen outside Japan in over a thousand years. Finally, Giles had crossed two of the names off the list without bothering to explain why, and given his sour mood Xander wasn't about to ask him.
So Willow and Oz were intently studying Ghoti, Buffy and Giles were ganging up on some Native American spirit called the Raven of Night, and Xander was still reading about Hypnos. The happy couple was pointing things out and whispering, while the Slayer-Watcher combo was doing their own thing quietly.
He hoped like hell that Hypnos wasn't the bad guy they were facing, because he was one powerful SOB for someone who hadn't even woken up to take a crap in the last 2300 years. Hypnos got his jollies by controlling others as they slept, and speaking through them; in Rome in the 1700's he'd led one leading citizen of the city after another to walk off bridges in their sleep. A demon hunter, name of Vincienzo del Negro -- hey, like the b-ball star! -- had driven him out of town. How, wasn't clear, dammit. He felt it probably was Hypnos they were going up against, he just wished he had the confidence to say so for sure.
Willow and Oz stopped talking.
The book he was reading was nothing BUT the exploits and legends of Hypnos, and thank god it was written in modern English or he would have dropped off a long time ago.
Hold on . . . what was this? "Giles, Buffy, everyone . . . come over and take a look at this."
No one answered. Xander looked up and said, "Hey . . ." and then stopped in shock.
Everyone had fallen asleep over the books. He chuckled hollowly and said, "C'mon, guys, not funny . . .'" But no one was laughing.
Slowly, he stood up and shook Giles, who was closest to him. Nothing. Then he walked over to Buffy and, hesitantly, dumped a can of soda over her head. Normally this would have gotten him slapped and yelled at -- but it didn't work. Buffy just lay there, snoring away, with Diet Mountain Dew dribbling down her face onto the table.
As frantic and energized as he could be with a virus in his stomach, he passed the next five minutes doing everything short of lighting a fire under their feet to get them to wake up. Nothing.
Then, suddenly, they all stood upright. Just as Xander was about to breathe a sigh of relief . . . he noticed they were still asleep. In unison -- in PERFECT unison -- they all started walking to the door. Helplessly, he tried to stop them, but Buffy just shoved him to one side -- he tumbled back behind the counter -- and kept going.
But just as he thought things couldn't get any worse . . . he heard voices coming into the room, laughing and hoarsely cheerful. An inner voice told him not to stand up or call out; he peered around the corner . . . and saw four vampires just standing there. A black one wearing a gray suit punched some numbers into a cellular phone and said, jovially, "Mr. Mayor? Trick here. Yeah she's under. Got the Watcher and a couple of her friends too. Naah, the dork and the bitch ain't here, but word on the street is, he's too sick to do anything and she's not down with them anymore." A pause. "Means she's not their friend. Anyway, I'll be sure to keep these four safe and sound on the way over." An audible click. "Okay, boys, you heard the man. Much as I'd like to get rid of some of our troubles right now, I'm afraid it's just not in the cards. So let's just lay low . . . at the end of the night hizzoner's promised us all a couple of nice, juicy children, our choice. So, chop-chop, people!"
Xander waited until he couldn't hear anything, counted to fifty, then to fifty again, and stood up and looked over the counter.
And nearly had a heart attack when he saw Angel standing there.
She avoided getting undressed for bed as long as possible, but was finally forced into it. The phone line was clear, there was no question about that, but as of 11:30 or so there hadn't been any phone calls and her excuses weren't working any more. So as she got into the bed, in her nightclothes, she struggled to stay awake. By claiming a fear of the dark -- no great stretch in Sunnydale -- she managed to keep her lights on, and pointed towards the head of her bed so the nrightness was right in her face.
Was her singing the key to solving this problem? Well, then, if she had to, and the librarian said so, she'd sing.
But what to sing? Something light and fluffy? No; even she realized how silly it would be to try to bring down an evil demon thing by singing "Love Can Move Mountains," or anything similar. Besides, she hadn't really been in a light and fluffy mood for a while, anyway, not since Willow and Xander so cruelly betrayed her and the flock of sheep started making fun of her in public.
Right, then. Something to show her anger, her rage. Alanis Morrissette? God knew there was a woman in touch with her inner bitch. Natalie Imbruglia? A definite maybe, though Torn was a bit too, too, begging, and she begged no one.
It was funny, you know? All the men she'd dated,and he -- Xander -- was the only one she'd fallen in love with. Which only made the betrayal a million times worse, of course. He hadn't come within, within a hundred MILLION miles of her soul . . . hadn't known who she was or that she loved him until it was WAY too late.
Hold on -- that was it! So, to herself, she rehearsed, proudly, how she'd stand at the edge of the cliff and save everyone . . .
right up until the moment she fell asleep.
* * *
"What are you doing h-" Xander began; simultaneously, Angel said with a puzzled voice, "How are you still awake --" then they both stopped.
Angel spoke first after the brief silence. "You're here, you're awake, I'd say you know more about what's going on than I do. Care to fill me in?"
Xander, a bit surprised by Angel's deferential attitude, staggered over to a chair, sat down into it heavily, and began explaining everything, from Cordy's dream to the events of ten minutes ago. As an afterthought, he brought up Buffy's four vampire escorts. Angel asked him a few pointed questions and then explained what he'd seen. People with broken arms, busted noses, not waking up?
"Where were they all going?" Xander asked.
"Somewhere off behind the main building. I didn't see exactly where . . . I was a little preoccupied."
"With . . ." then Xander put two and two together and got a four he still wasn't all that fond of. "You weren't coming in here to get information," he said. "You were coming here to check up on Buffy. Weren't you?"
The vampire tensed. "Yes . . ."
Xander didn't have the energy to explode. "If I felt better right now, I might make some commentary on how I thought the two of you were trying to stay out of each other's lives as much as possible . . . but I really don't have the energy for an argument. And besides, this isn't the time, either."
Angel looked down at him, sadly. "I'm never going to stop loving her, you realize. Even if we do move on -- to other people -- that's never going to change. I'm sorry if that depresses you."
"Something you said . . . in the past, when you weren't really yourself. You said that it must just kill me that you got there first. And you were right, but not in the way you think. It never killed me that you slept with her first . . but that she loved you first." Xander shrugged. "You hurt me more with that line than with anything else you'd ever done, you know?"
A longer silence was broken when Angel said, "So, you thought you'd found something?"
Xander reached across the table for the book . . . and after an effort, brought it nearer. "Look at this . . . I think this is the dude we're up against. Look at what he tried to do in Christchurch not fifty years ago. This sounds EXACTLY like Cordy's dream." In New Zealand in 1951, Hypnos had been attempting to construct some kind of raised mystical pattern . . . no one survived who'd gotten a clear look at it, but from the reports if completed it would have kept everyone who WAS under his control at that time . . . permanently under his control, using some kind of soundwaves.
This had only been stopped when the Slayer at the time . . . who had died herself . . . stopped the symbol from being built by setting the entire area on fire. This killed not only her, but several dozen of the affected people. Since then, Hypnos had disappeared. Until now, obviously.
Angel said, "This feels right. Especially if what you told me about Cordelia's dream is accurate. Sound, construction, everyone under his spell . . ."
Reluctantly picking up the phone, Xander dialed Cordelia's number -- God knew it was burned into his brain by now -- but there was no answer at the other end. He looked up at Angel and shook his head.
"Well, then, if we have to stop it, we will." Xander nodded in agreement. "The first thing we should do is find out where all these people are going, and maybe then we can try to locate Cordelia." Xander stood up, a bit unsteady on his feet. Angel looked at him curiously. "Are you going to be up for this, Xander? You look like hell."
"Oh, I, do? Well . . . earlier tonight I looked like shit, so that's a definite improvement." Then, seriously, "Of course I'm up for it. Have you ever known me to not be there in a crisis?" Angel just glared at him. "Okay, maybe I caused some of those crises, but still --"
"Right, then. Try to look asleep." As they opened the library's front doors, Angel stopped and turned to look at him. "One more thing: Buffy said how you tried to help me on Christmas. So . . . thank you."
"I wasn't really doing it for you," Xander said.
"I know," the vampire answered. "Thank you anyway."
They both walked out to the main entrance to the school building and tried to blend into the sleepwalking crowd. Xander got nervous when they passed by a pair of female vampires, in black, but they made it by them with no real problems.
Then they rounded the corner of the school building and finally saw where everyone was going one, two, three at a time, they were all marching into the high school's football stadium.
Stopping, Xander was almost run over by the person behind him. Angel sighed and half-carried him over to the parking lot, where they concealed themselves behind a dumpster. Angel perched there while Xander practically collapsed onto the pavement . . . and then got the dry heaves. After thirty seconds, stomach muscles aching, he stopped. Looking up at Angel, he half-grinned. "Just when you thought you've got one of these things beat . . . "
Angel whispered, "Well, it makes sense to some extent . . . large, open space, invisible, really, to anyone standing outside . . ."
"It's Cordy's cliff!" Xander said. "In the dream, she was standing at the edge of a cliff and looking down. So maybe she was standing in the top row of the stadium?"
"Maybe," Angel said, sounding distracted. "Tell me something: Giles
said Cordelia was having the dreams because she was the key to stopping
Hypnos, right?" Xander said yes. "Then look over there and tell me we're
not in trouble." Following the direction of the vampire's pointing finger,
Xander saw Cordelia, asleep, marching towards the stadium.
Mr. Trick walked around the perimeter of the football field. Every once in a while one of them would look up at him and say, "That's right, vampire, look all you want, but don't touch." Same words, same tone, just different voices. The effect was damned eerie, and Trick, now, he KNEW eerie, and it wasn't noplace in Indiana.
At one point he stopped and asked of no one in particular, "Hey! Hypnos! Curiosity only. What's this thing do?"
The Slayer herself came walking up to him and said, "Nothing you need to worry about, my vampire friend . . . my spells don't affect the undead."
Trick began a protest and the Slayer broke in with, "She still has her Slaying abilities. Did you know that, vampire? These people have all the skills asleep that they did awake." Noticing the not esepcially subtle veiled threat, the vampire broke off and walked away. After a second, the Slayer nodded her head and went back to moving mounds of Earth. Trick walked up to the Mayor, who was sitting next to nervous nelly Deputy Mayor Allan Finch in the upper half of the stadium.
"Any problems?" The mayor asked.
"None I can see. The Slayer's as hard at work as everyone else, and no one else around seems inclined to get in the way of the sleepwalking army here. Reports are a few people peering out windows and that's about it."
"What about that other Slayer?"
"Out of town. Girl takes irresponsibility to a WHOLE new level."
"Well, then," Finch said, smiling nervously. "Maybe this time around things will go smoothly."
"Don't count your magical symbols before they're completed," Trick answered. "One thing I've learned about dear sweet old Sunnydale is that there's ALWAYS a possibilty of something going wrong."
"Well, yes," Mayor Wilkins answered. "But then, that's why you're here, isn't it, Trick?"
"Flunky to the stars, that's me." Then Trick changed his tone. "Pure curiosity, here: What's that symbol gonna do?"
"Don't really know for sure," the Mayor answered pleasantly. "I believe it's a method Hypnos is going to use to gain greater power over the sleepwalkers, but he didn't share any more than that. Why do you ask?"
"I don't think you have a need to know," Finch piped up.
"And I don't believe you have a need to live," Trick said irritably. "I just want to know if it's going to cause me any future grief, that's all." Finch cowered.
"Don't you think I'd tell you if it would?" Mayor Wilkins asked, leaning around Trick to look at the field. "Look at her," he said irrelevantly, pointing to the Slayer patting down a mound of dirt. "Doing the work of ten of them. What a wonder she'd be in the construction business."
"A regular human bulldozer," Trick said. "Look, your Honor. I think you're one of those people who doesn't even let his right wrist know what his right hand's doing. No, I don't think you'd tell me."
"Smart vampire," the Mayor said. "But in this case I really don't know anything more. You could always ask Hypnos . . ."
From the Mayor's tone Trick could tell that he was fully aware of the vampire's earlier attempts. So he just stopped talking, bowed formally, and walked back the stadium steps, where he quietly spread the word among his people:
Anything REALLY out of the ordinary happens, grab a snack and head for
the hills. One thing Trick had learned was when to cut his losses.
* * *
"That, that . . . Giles TOLD her not to fall asleep!" Xander bellowed. He was literally unable to say more, he was so furious. His rage at Cordelia was so intense right at that moment that he barely registered Angel's hand over his mouth until the vampire whispered to him.
"We might be in better shape if you DIDN'T go out of your way to tell the enemy where we were."He still couldn't talk, and he wasn't in shape to do anything more creative or violent, so he just sat there and ground his teeth together in between short, sharp breaths. Looking down at him, Angel admitted, "It's not like I don't basically share your opinion at the moment." Then, eyes darting back and forth, the vampire dashed out and grabbed Cordelia from the crowd, then carried her unresisting form back to where the duo was hiding.
Sardonically, Xander said, "You were saying something about not letting the enemy know where we were?"
"Calculated risk," Angel shot back. "Hypnos controls all of these people at once, but he doesn't LOOK through all of them at once, and I'd say he's probably more interested in what's going on inside his stadium right now than he is in those straggling in."
"So, now what do we do?" Xander grabbed the edge of the dumpster and forced himself to his feet. "They're in trouble in there!"
"And would you suggest we go charging in blindly? We need Cordelia to solve this, and right now she's not much good for solving anything. So, research boy . . ."
"You're right," Xander admitted. "And I'm hardly in shape to charge with Visa, much less a few thousand sleepwalkers."
As they began to make their way back to the library, Angel with the limp form of Cordelia slung across his shoulders, the vampire couldn't resist a shot: "You're admitting that I'm right?"
"I'm not about to make it a habit, okay?" Although outwardly he was griping, inside Xander was smiling. This was the same kind of banter he and Angel had used, way back before he'd turned into the evil murdering bastard Angelus.
It was a small comfort . . . but it was something to cling onto.
* * *
This jolted her awake very quickly; she'd been trained for a long time on what to do when an earthquake struck. Why, she'd been first in her class in disaster preparedness five tears running back in elementary school!
Only, as she quickly figured out from the passing scenery, this was no earthquake . .. someone was carrying her!
She began to scream, after which two things happened in rapid succession. First, a hand was placed over her mouth, and second, she was placed on her feet on the . . .
floors of Sunnydale High?
Breaking off screaming, she looked up . . . directly into Angel's eyes. Not at all intimidated, she said, "I don't care if you're one of the good guys again or not, you'd better have a damned good reason for this or . . ."
"Or what?" came an unexpectedly bitter voice from behind Angel. "You'll sue him? Sorry to break the news to you, Cordy, but all your daddy's high- priced lawyers don't mean jack where deadboy here's concerned. Which you'd know if you had more than a few puffs of cotton keeping your ears from slamming into each other." Her jaw dropped to hear Xander speaking to her like that, when HE'D betrayed her!"Sorry if you don't like the way I'm talking to you, Princess Paragon, but I haven't eaten solid food in two days, there's a horde of sleepwalkers building the key to Superman's Fortress of Solitude inside our football stadium, and you, who MIGHT just be the difference between whether we succeed or fail, you go falling merrily off to sleep --"
Fury growing with each nasty comment Xander made, she screamed back at him, "You're one to talk about not doing what you were told to dom falling asleep on Oz like that, falling ALL over Willow like that -- I may not be perfect but I'm a hell of a lot closer than you are!"
Then Angel's calm voice broke through. "Hold on a second."
Her ex added, like he hadn't heard. "Tomorrow maybe I'll feel all guilty again, but right now . . ."
She just had time to spit back, "You'd better start feeling guilty RIGHT now--"
Angel raised his voice. "Xander, SHUT UP." And Xander was quiet! "Cordelia, short version: Your dreams are beginning to come true, and everyone in the town has fallen asleep. Now then, Xander: Didn't you tell me you'd tried to wake everyone up when they fell asleep?"
It WAS tonight, and she had fallen asleep -- but Xander had no call in giving her a hard time for it. He said, "Yeah. Even dumped a soda on Buffy's head, but nothing happened."
"And I saw two people crash into the retaining wall, and they didn't wake up either."
"Your point?" Xander asked, impatiently. She was hardly paying attention . .. no wonder they seemed so annoyed. Even so, no way she could have known it was tonight! Okay, time to pull a Bill Clinton and compartmentalize. The guilt would have to wait until later.
"My point is . . . Cordelia woke up. You never fell asleep. Why?"
"Back to the library?"
"Back to the library. Cordelia, I think you can walk the rest of the
way . . ."