Heart of the Dead

Buffy swayed on the dance floor of the Bronze. She had her eyes closed, concentrating on having a good time despite the fact that the lead singer couldn't carry a tune in a bucket with handles. She glanced up on stage as the lead singer hit a really harsh note and shook her head. Leaving the dance floor in a huff, she joined Willow and Xander who had a seat in the corner. "It's hopeless." Buffy said. "I'll be to old to dance here before they can book a decent band."

"You're young." Xander said. "That gives them a lot of time to discover the next Hanson..haha..and until then we will have to live with it. It's not so bad."

Willow looked at Xander. "Hanson?"

Xander shrugged and glanced across the room. "Anyone seen Cordelia?"

"Last I heard she was on her way to a leg waxing." Willow sipped her latte. "I miss Oz."

"That's right!" Xander clapped his hands together. "He's spending his nights in shackles and chains. Tons of fun for a voyeur."

Willow smacked him on the shoulder. "Don't use words that you don't understand. Where's Angel, Buffy?"

Xander piped up. "I'll go with 'feeding on the neighborhood pets for $200.00, Alex' and the answer is where is Angel?"

Buffy smacked him on the other shoulder. "He had some stuff to do."

"Which includes pets?" Xander asked.

"Xander, do I wail on you about dating Cordy the Human Icicle? No." Buffy stood up and gathered her things. "We should probably get gone anyway. Maybe I can find something to slay if I look hard enough. And you guys are still staying at my house tonight? Mom's out of town."

"Of course." Xander smiled. "Free food and your mom has extended cable. I'm so there."

"You know what Giles said." Willow offered as they headed out the door. "All the vampires are in mourning over Christopher Crespin. Enjoy the break."

"I don't like breaks." Buffy whined. "With Dad's wedding around the corner I feel like really whipping some undead ass since I can't kill Sandy and her brood. I need to fight. Fighting's good."

"And usually when you look for trouble.." Xander stopped talking in mid sentence as a scream pierced the night.

"You find it." Willow finished.

"That's for me." Buffy smiled. "I'll see you guys later. You know where the spare key is."

Willow and Xander watched as she took off running down the road. "She scares me. I've never been more scared." Xander sighed.

"But on a positive note. I was with her mom today when she bought Ben and Jerry's in four, count em..four flavors. All ours. Shall we?"

"I am now more scared." Xander glanced at Willow and shook his head.


Buffy clutched her stake as she prowled around the cemetery. She had come to know every inch of it thanks to being attacked in it on a regular basis. She leaped up on top of a crypt so she could see further around in the darkness. Straining to hear, Buffy cocked her head to one side. Great, she thought, I'm too late. She was about to jump down when she heard another scream and turned to focus her attention on a young woman who was running toward her.

"Help me!" The girl sobbed.

Buffy jumped down and drew the stake back, ready to strike.The girl screamed again when she saw Buffy braced to poke a piece of wood through her. Up close, Buffy could see that she was a human but you could never be too cautious on the mouth of hell.

"What's going on?" Buffy asked.

"He's coming." The girl looked behind her. "Oh God, he was right behind me. RUN!"

"You go ahead." Buffy pushed the girl towards the gates of the cemetery. "You get home. Hurry!"

"You better come. He'll kill you." The girl continued to wait.

"I'll be right behind..." Buffy stopped talking when she heard footsteps approaching quickly. The girl screamed again and took off. "Yes, as loud as possible let him know we are right here."

Buffy spun around and crouched into a fighting stance. She could tell that someone was watching her. She raised and eyebrow and looked around. "It's impolite to stare." she called. When there was no answer she added. "I've got all night. I can wait."

"Are you scared?" a voice asked from the darkness.

"No." But Buffy jumped a little despite her resolve to look bad. "I generally don't fear things I can't see."

"You think you can handle me?" The voice belonged to a guy.

"Reverse that, do you think you can handle me? Take your time..you can't afford a wrong answer." Buffy said smugly.

"I think that when I am done killing you, I will stomp your corpse into a pulp."

"OH MY GOSH!" Buffy threw her hand over her forehead in a feigned panic attack and then shrugged. "If I had one dollar for every two bit demon who had said that to me...well, I'd be able to shop in Beverly Hill's everyday for the rest of my life."

"Are you the Slayer?" He asked.

"Who wants to know?"

"Your worst nightmare."

"Would he possess a name?"

"You can call me Army. Short for Armageddon...and I'm here." The boy leaped out at Buffy before she had time to think. He pushed her to the ground and she rolled away quickly before he had a chance to kick her in the face. She rolled to her feet and punched him in the face as hard as she could. He staggered back a few feet and tripped over a headstone. Buffy took the opportunity and tried to drive her stake into his chest. He caught her hands and slammed them down onto the headstone. She yelped out in pain and dropped her stake. Army intercepted the stake and tried to ram it through her chest. The headstone had cut Buffy's wrists and she had trouble fighting the boy off. He kept trying to stake her and for a moment Buffy though he just might win.

Army met her eyes and gave her a smirk. Buffy remembered that she was wearing the big silver necklace Angel had given her and she yanked it off. She slammed it into the side of his face. The boy stopped struggling and looked at her. His face didn't smoke like a demon would.

"That is the most pathetic thing I have ever seen in my life." Army snapped as he stood up. He held out a hand to help Buffy.

"What are you?" Buffy asked and sprang to her feet.

"I'm not a vampire." Army said. "I've looked for you for a few weeks."

"Why?" Buffy asked. She kept her guard up. Her ordeal with Crespin had taught her that.

"I have to prepare you." Army said matter of factly.

"For what?"

"You brainlessly unleashed a hell on earth."

"How?" Buffy yelled. "You can't stand there and accuse me of things. You don't even know me. You're just a kid."

"You, of all people, should know better than that. I happen to be nineteen. And a watcher in training. I'm assuming your present watcher, Giles, is as stupid as you are or this whole mess would have been prevented." Army crossed his arms and looked at Buffy.

"Who do you think you are? And what did you do to that poor girl to make her run out of here? I don't believe you."

"I'm innocent. I slayed the vampire who was attacking her. If you had been doing your job you would have done it yourself. It's a good thing I came along when I did." Army began to brush off his slacks.

"Why do you dress like an old guy?" Buffy said.

"What the hell are you doing attempting to slay in a micro mini and platforms?" Army continued to brush off his pants. "I dress practically. You dress like an overzealous Barbie doll."

"Excuse me? I know you didn't just insult my fashion sense. Why do you look like an amateur politician? Nobody our age wears slacks and ties...unless they are a bag boy." Buffy was furious.

"We are chosen people, Buffy. God! Even your name is pretentious. Who would name a Slayer Buffy?" Army straightened his tie.

"Army? Army!? Short for Armageddon? Please? You look like a nerd. You look more like an Albert or a Dilbert. Not an Army." Buffy gave him her best 'so there' look.

"Army is my nickname. I attack books and arm myself with knowledge. My real name is Lucas Arms."

"Figures. Lucas Pukas. Are you really a watcher junior? You certainly look like how I picture Giles a hundred years ago."

She studied him. If he had decent clothes he *might* be half cute. Half cute, not adorable. He had long blond curly hair that shot in several directions. Like that Brian Crackow guy on My So Called Life. He was not too thin and not too fat. Kinda muscular in a lanky way. His eyes were the greenest green Buffy had ever seen and she was about to ask him if he wore contacts when he began to speak again.

"I am a watcher in training. I'm next in line behind Giles. I saw your errors in a Pathenalin book that I translated. You dealt with a vampire with extraordinary powers. Then you interrupted fate. You interfered with a curse of ancient ruins and in doing so, you screwed up the procession of things." When Buffy only stared at him blankly, he added. "Should I use smaller words? Yes? You did a bad thing. You caused a demon dragon to get caught in a portal. You kept the dragon from fulfilling it's duty because you broke a sacred stone. Do you understand?"

"I understand that I will kill you if you use that tone with me again. Nobody talks to me like that." Buffy stomped her foot, then said. "What is a portal?"

"OH GOOD LORD! I can not believe that you are the Slayer! A portal is an opening to a dimension in time. That dragon is hung here on earth. It couldn't get back to the other side because you and your watcher failed to do research. Curses have to run their course. You interfered so now YOU bear the curse. When that dragon gets it's strength back it will come after you."

"What do you mean? Why does it have to get it's strength up? I'm confused."

"That doesn't surprise me. The legend says that when a demon enters a new dimension it must rest for several weeks. You must be prepared or you will die. That's why I came here. I can't crack the dates alone. I don't know when it will rise but it will rise. I need you to bring me to your watcher."

Army stalked off toward the entrance of the cemetery and Buffy followed angrily. She had no choice but to take him to her house and call Giles. She ordered Army to follow her and within minutes they arrives on Revello Drive. Buffy could hear laughter as she opened the door. She motioned Army to come in but he paused.

"Who is here?" he asked.

"My friends. They know I'm the Slayer."

"Okay, number one...you aren't supposed to have friends. Number two, you aren't allowed to let people know that you are a Slayer. No wonder you're an awful Slayer. Your watcher obviously failed to coach you properly." Army stalked into the living room.

Buffy fought the urge to kick him in the head. She called out to Xander and Willow who were in the kitchen. When they joined her in the living room their arms were loaded with snacks. They looked Army up and down. Buffy cleared her throat. "This is Army. He thinks he's a watcher junior."

"A whopper junior? He thinks he's a hamburger? Buffy, you can't help him." Xander laughed.

"I said watcher. Not whopper. I've got to call Giles to come and see the latest freak of the hellmouth." Buffy walked into the foyer and snatched up the phone. She rolled her eyes as she heard Army strike up a conversation with Willow.

"Hello?" Giles said on the third ring.

"It's me. Get to my house quick." She slammed the phone down and joined the others.

"That's so funny.." Willow was laughing. "I thought I was the only one who noticed the Freudian connection to Jerry Springer. I totally agree."

"You are obviously the brain of this bunch." Army smiled at Willow.

Bufy cleared her throat and said. "Giles is on the way."

"Aren't I lucky?" Army sneered and then turned his attention back to Willow. They began an animated talk about different books and segued into physics. Buffy drowned them out and nudged Xander, who had found a wet bikini contest on cable. He ignored her a scooted closer to the television. Almost putting his nose to it. Buffy sighed as someone knocked at the door.

"I got it." She hurried out of the room and yanked the door open. Angel jumped a little and Buffy flung herself into his arms.

Looking a little shocked, Angel grinned and whispered, "I missed you too."

"Angel," Buffy sighed. "The devil is in my living room flirting with Willow."

"What?" He pushed past her and walked into the living room. He looked from Army back to Buffy and raised an eyebrow.

Army shot to his feet and grabbed a stake from Buffy's bag. "Move away, Buffy! You've invited a vampire into your home!"

"Down boy wonder." Buffy yelled at Army and stepped between him and Angel. "This is Angel. He's a good vampire and he is also my boyfriend."

"ARE YOU INSANE? Do you have a death wish? THAT is a vampire. You have your back turned to it and it could attack you!" Army glared at her.

Xander stood up and took the stake away from Army. "She likes to be attacked by that one. Now, do you mind? Jessica is about to gyrate and Wendy is wet and wild." He sat back down in front of the television.

Buffy glared at Army. "Army, if you're gonna hang with us...you better get used to doing things my way. I have friends who know what I am, I have a watcher who cuts me a little slack, I barely get by in school and my boyfriend is a vampire. Any questions?"

"I refuse to share space with a demon." Army fired back.

"Okay, don't let us keep you. Buh bye now." Buffy opened the door.

"Buffy!" Giles shouted, taking the porch steps two at a time. He grabbed her and gazed at her. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine. I'm okay." Buffy told him.

"No, what happened to your hands? Don't ever call me with a message like that. I thought you were dying." Giles glanced at her bloody wrists that Army had injured. "What happened?"

"He did it!" Buffy pointed at Army.

"Watcher Giles, I presume?" Army stepped forward. "She almost WAS dead. She can't fight. She can't hunt. Look at her clothes. She does not conform to the rules set upon us. She has no secret identity and she has...befriended a vampire on romantic terms. Sir, I am ashamed to call myself a watcher in the presence of this Slayer."

"A watcher?" Giles asked with raised eyebrows.

"GILES!" Buffy sounded annoyed. "He attacked me in the cemetery. He nearly broke both of my hands."

"If you were a good fighter and had one ounce of actual brain mass..." Army was saying.

Angel interrupted him. "You attacked her? You cut her hands."

Giles stepped between the two. "Angel, no. Son, if you are a watcher, then why would you attack a Slayer and why are you here?"

"Because Barbie over there," Army pointed at Buffy. "trapped a dragon in a portal of OUR time. You, watcher Giles, should have known this. Radcliffe would be very disturbed by your lack of ability."

"Excuse me!?" Buffy shouted. "You can insult me if you want to but I refuse to let you insult Giles. He's a good watcher and I am a good Slayer. We have won a zillion battles. YOU are still wet behind the ears." Buffy spun on her heel and stormed into the kitchen. Angel followed her and watched as she washed the blood off of her hands and checked the bruises.

"Are you okay?" he finally asked as he wrapped his arms around her.

"No. I'm mad as hell. I've been insulted more in one night by that geek more than I ever have. Who does he think he is?" Buffy stepped away and looked up at him. He even said I dress like a Barbie doll and have a stupid name."

"Ignore him. Giles will find out what he wants and get rid of him. AND, I happen to like the way you dress and I love Buffy." He kissed the top of her head.

Giles called her and the two of them walked back into the other room. Willow and Xander were sitting in the floor. Xander had turned off the t.v. and Giles was pacing. Army had reclined in a high back chair with his feet on the table. Buffy knocked them off and flopped down on the couch. Angel joined her.

"Arms has told me some very interesting things." Giles said and sat beside Angel on the couch. "I knew that things ended too abruptly. I was very unsettled about it."

Army gasped. "What you should feel unsettled about is the fact that you are sharing that sofa with a demon AND an air head."

"That's it." Buffy jumped up and leaped at Army. Giles and Angel both caught her in mid flight.

Army stayed calm and laughed at Buffy. "Do I need to fight you again, Barbie? You have met your match. You are careless, not conditioned properly and I could have killed you if I was a vampire."

"Buffy, is that true?" Giles raised an eyebrow at her.

"Well, he..uhm...he jumped me out of nowhere and before I could react I was on the ground..." Buffy stuttered.

"I took the stake away from her. Do you know how she decided to fight me back? She attacked me with her little cross necklace. Ouch!" Army narrowed his eyes at her.

"It would have worked if you were a demon. I haven't fought anything in a long time. Everything's been awful quiet. I would've won." Buffy glanced at everyone. "Eventually."

"You should use every lull in activity to further enhance your skills. You should be practicing, whittling stakes and working on weapons training or hunting sewers. You have to get a little dirty, Barbi. That comes with the territory." Army crossed his arms.

"God, I have fought things that you could only dream about." Buffy shouted. "I have faced my worst fears and won. I've faced every demon you can imagine. Witches, werewolves, hyenas, Bezoars, zombies, revenants and even the Master. I died. I died and still delivered a can of whip ass to that old man. So don't you ever..EVER...treat me like I don't know how to do MY job. Spend a few weeks on the hellmouth and THEN you can condescend."

"You fought all those things?" Army asked her.

"Yes. And even an unkillable Judge demon.

"Well good. Now combine all of those things and all their evilness and you should have an idea of what's coming to get you!"