"So, Ethan, what are we playing?" Aurelia asked. "And just to remind you, we're in a talk-or-bleed situation. Your call."
"Hit him." Giles said. Aurelia glared at him for an instant, then looked back at Ethan.
"I-I'd just like to point out that this wasn't my idea." Ethan said.
"Meaning….?" Aurelia asked.
"I'm subcontracting. It's Trick you want. I'm just helping him collect a tribute…. for a demon."
"He's lying. Hit him!" Giles said.
"I don't think he is, and shut up." Aurelia said.
"You're my Slayer, go knock his teeth down his thr…."
"Giles!" He turned away from her and continued pacing. "What demon?"
"I don't remember."
Aurelia punched him solidly in the nose and he stumbled back against the broken crate.
Giles jumped and swung his fist through the air. "Yes!" Aurelia gave Giles a glaring look and he lost his smile.
"Lurconis." Ethan said. "Demon named Lurconis. They wanted a way to get the tribute away from people."
"So you're just the diversion?" Aurelia asked.
"More than a diversion. Well, they said the tribute was big, so big that people would never let them take it. That people had to be out-of-it. And later on, when the candy wore off, they'd blame themselves."
"Hence, the irresponsible adults turned teenagers. Where's Trick?"
"I don't know exactly."
"Hit him again." Giles said.
Aurelia held up her fist and gave Ethan a threatening look. "No! I-I-I really don't know. Delivering the tribute."
"Which brings us to the big question, and believe me when I say a wrong answer will cost you more than a punch in the face." Behind Aurelia, Giles leapt up joyously with a huge smile on his face, anticipating a good fight. "What's the tribute?"
"I don't know." Aurelia pulled her fist back. "I don't know! Really! I don't know!"
Aurelia sighed and grabbed Ethan by his shirt. She hauled him back towards the shipping dock where her mother and Snyder were waiting. When they got there, Aurelia threw Ethan against a table. "Watch him." She ordered the room as she headed for a phone. Snyder crouched nearby, keeping an eye on Ethan. Aurelia dialed the library.
"Hello?" Willow said.
"Hey Willow, I've got something for you to look up."
"A demon named Lurconis."
"Lurconis. A demon. What's his deal?"
"See if it says anything about a tribute."
"A tribute? Like what?"
"I don't know. My source is all tapped out."
"She whupped you good, huh?" Snyder said, throwing two punches. "Yah! Wah! I can do that. I took Tae Kwon Do at the Y." He went into a series of kicks and punches, grunting with each one as he advanced toward Joyce, trying to impress her. She just rolled her eyes, looked away, and sighed, unimpressed. Snyder realized it didn't work and leaned against the wall as Joyce blew a bubble with her gum.
"Are you sure it's a demon?" Willow asked.
"It's definitely a demon. A big one." Aurelia said.
Ethan spotted a crowbar on the table and, being unguarded now, reached for it and began to advance toward Aurelia. Giles noticed his advance and pulled back the hammer on a Beretta and pointed it at Ethan's neck. "I wouldn't." He said. Ethan stopped cold in his tracks.
Aurelia turned around and swung the telephone receiver hard into Ethan's chin. He spun down to the floor, dropping the crowbar. Giles aimed the gun at the back of Ethan's head, execution style. Aurelia handed the phone to her mother. "Giles, give me the gun." She held out her hand. He just stared at her. "Giles…." He kept the gun aimed right where it is. "Now." After another moment, Giles reluctantly gave up his weapon. Aurelia stuffed it into the back of her pants.
Joyce held the phone out to her daughter. "Uh, it's, um, it's Willow. She wants you real bad."
Aurelia took the phone. "Uh-huh?"
"Ok, Oz just found it." Willow said. "The tribute to Lurconis is made every thirty years. I-it's a ritual feeding. A-and this one's late, so it's probably, you know, a big meal. Oh. And…. Oh. Lurconis eats babies."
Aurelia immediately hung up and started to go. "Come on." She took her mother's hand.
"Well, what about that man?" Joyce asked.
Aurelia turned to see Giles holding the crowbar over Ethan, who was still on the floor. "Uh, see if you guys can find something to tie him up with."
"Um…." Joyce reached behind her and pulled out a set of handcuffs, dangling them from her thumb and giving her daughter a sheepish but mischievous look.
"Never tell me." Aurelia grabbed the cuffs and headed over to Ethan.
Aurelia held an identification wristband left behind in one of the empty cribs in the maternity ward at Sunnydale Memorial. Joyce and Snyder were standing behind her and Giles was outside the room talking with the nurse on duty. Aurelia couldn't breathe she was so angry. Innocent babies stolen right out from under their mother's noses. It was a painful reminder of her life as Elizabeth when everything, including her child, was stolen from her.
"Something's gonna eat those babies?" Joyce asked.
"I think that is so wrong." Snyder said.
Giles came into the room. "She says she never saw who took them. Dozy cow."
"I know who took them." Aurelia growled.
"Well, then let's do something." Giles said. "Let's find the demon and, and…. kick the crap out of it."
"Is that what happens now?" Snyder asked.
"Yes, if we knew where they were." Aurelia said.
Giles suddenly remembered a passage from a book and quoted it. "'Lurconis dwells beneath the city, filth to filth.'"
"Ooo! I know this. Uh…. I knew this. Lurconis means…. glutton. And we'll find it, um…. in the sewers."
"The sewers?" Joyce went to Giles for a hug.
"Uh, good." Snyder said. "You go do that thing with the demon, and I'll stay here in case the babies, you know, uh…. find their way back."
"The babies must be so scared."
"You filthy little ponce." Giles stepped toward Snyder. "Are you afraid of a little demon?"
"If you want to splash around in the poo, you're the filthy one!" Snyder shoved Giles and Giles shoved him back.
Aurelia got between them. "Everybody just stop it! Ok, listen to me. I need help, ok? Giles, I need grownups." Snyder and Giles continued trying to stare each other down. "These children are going to die if we don't act now and think clearly. There is no room for mistakes." Snyder gave in and looked away.
Giles gave him one last stare and then stepped back over to Joyce. "Sorry."
"We'll behave." Joyce said.
"Good." Aurelia looked at Snyder. "Snyder, go home."
"I can do that." He scurried out.
"Giles, we're going to the sewers." Aurelia said. She turned to see him kiss her mother and cringed. "And please don't do that!"
Aurelia dropped down through a manhole and moved to start her attack. Behind her, Giles climbed down a few rungs of the ladder and dropped down the rest of the way. Robed vampires quickly moved to attack them. The first vampire swung wildly at Aurelia, but she ducked him and his momentum carried him past her. She kicked the second one and turned back to the first one and shoved him away from her. He smashed into the ladder.
Turning back to the second one, Aurelia delivered another roundhouse kick. The first one tried to kick her from behind, but she blocked him and kicked him in the side. Giles and Joyce ran over to the table with the babies and wheeled it away. The third vampire did a jumping roundhouse kick, which Aurelia easily ducked. The second lunged at her, but she jumped into the air between them and landed behind them. The third one threw a punch at her, which she quickly blocked. The second one swung at her and she ducked it and punched him in the face. She punched the third one in the face, did a half spin and hit the second one in the face with a backhand. He went staggering backward into Trick and Aurelia pulled out a stake.
Giles and Joyce got the babies to a safe distance, where Giles left them and went back to the fight. Trick shoved the second vampire off of him, who then went stumbling toward Giles. Giles clumsily kicked him in the face and he went flying right back into Trick. The first vampire tried to attack Aurelia again, but she cleanly staked him and he burst into ashes. She immediately took a step to her side, blocked the third one as he tried to grab her from behind, and staked him. He began to fall to his knees and exploded into ashes. The second vampire was up again and ready to attack. Aurelia kicked him and he flew backward onto the rim of the pool and rolled into the water.
Suddenly they all heard a deep rumbling. The vampire tried to get up out of the water as the rumbling got louder. He climbed onto a pedestal in the middle of the pool.
"What the hell's that?" Giles asked.
The vampire got to his knees just as a huge demon snake appeared through another tunnel by the water. It saw the vampire on the pedestal, engulfed him and retreated back into the tunnel.
"I'm thinking that's Lurconis." Aurelia said.
"Ordinarily, I like other people to do my fighting for me, but I just gotta see what you got." Trick said.
"Just tell me when it hurts." Aurelia started to advance on him, but Giles rushed past her and pushed her back. "Giles! No!"
Giles threw a solid left to Trick's face, but he wasn't fazed. He grabbed Giles by the shirt and threw him into the pool. Trick made a dash for it. Giles started to climb out of the water at the rim of the pool as the rumbling started again, quicker this time. Aurelia looked around frantically for a way to stop the demon. She saw a gas pipe above her and leapt up to grab it. It broke under her weight and gas began to hiss out of it. Giles was out of the water now and rolled over the rim of the pool and down to the floor. Aurelia angled the gas pipe into one of the torches and it burst into flames. She aimed it at Lurconis and the snake demon reared back and screamed in pain as she waved the pipe around until Lurconis was engulfed in flames. Aurelia pushed the gas pipe aside as the demon retreated back into its tunnel, screaming.
Above her, Trick smiled down through the open manhole. "You and me, girl. There's hard times ahead." He got up and made himself scarce.
"They can never just leave." Aurelia said. "They've always got to say something."
Joyce came out of the shadows and over to Aurelia. "Can we go home now?"
"Yes, we can go home. I've got the SATs tomorrow."
"Oh, blow them off. I'll write you a note."
"No. It's ok."
"Poor babies. Come on…." Joyce started to pick up the babies with Aurelia.
Giles and Aurelia walked toward the street after school. "It was just too much to deal with." Aurelia said. "It was like nothing made sense anymore. The things that I thought I understood were gone. I just felt…. so alone."
"Was that the math or the verbal?" Giles asked.
"Mostly the math. I don't understand the value people place on that subject! I've never really relied on the outcome of x plus y divided by z."
Giles chuckled slightly. "Well, if you scored low, then you can take them again."
"More SATs? Is there really a point? I could die before I even have to apply to college." The brakes of Joyce's Jeep squealed as she pulled to a stop at the curb as Giles and Aurelia took the steps down to the sidewalk.
"And then, you very possibly might not."
"Well, let's just keep hope alive."
Joyce got out, closed her door, and walked up onto the curb. "Hello." Giles said, smiling awkwardly.
"Hi." Joyce said.
"I say, your car seems to have had an adventure, doesn't it?"
"Uh, Buffy assures me that it happened battling evil, so I'm letting her pay for it on the installment plan."
"You know, the way things were going, be glad that's the worst that happened. At least I got to the two of you before you actually did something." She walked around to the passenger's side to get in.
After a moment, Joyce climbed in the driver's seat. "So, do you want me to drive you to Angel's?"
"Do you want to meet him?"
"Only if you think it's time."
"Ok. You can drive me there and I'll ask him." When they got to the mansion, Aurelia got out, knocked on the front door, and then walked in. Cassius was standing by the door to the atrium looking out at the sunlight. "Hi."
He turned. "Hey. How did the SATs go?"
"Please don't get me started." She cast a glance over her shoulder and then looked back at the man she'd loved for almost two thousand years. "My mother…. She's outside."
"Oh. You just came by to check on me."
"No! I was actually going to come spend some time with you, but…. Mom wanted to know if she could meet you and I said that I'd ask you."
"So, would you like to meet her?" When he hesitated, Aurelia nodded. "It's ok if you're not up for it."
"No, I am. Please. I'd love to meet her."
Aurelia smiled. "Ok!" She rushed out and got her mother out of the car. Joyce followed her in and closed the door. When she turned around, Aurelia was by Cassius's side, holding his hand. "Mom, I'd like to introduce you to the real Angel…. Cassius. Cassius, this is my mother Joyce."
"It's nice to meet you." Cassius said, shaking Joyce's hand gently.
"Would you like to come in and have a seat?" Cassius gestured to the couches.
"Of course." Joyce went ahead of the couple and sat down. Cassius and Aurelia exchanged glances and went to sit on the opposite couch.