New Names, New Games
The clock struck two, and Giles raised his eyes from his research. Anya was ringing up a customer's purchase. Giles watched her. She gave change, okay. She handed over the bag with a smile, okay. She told the customer, "Please leave."
Giles sighed and returned to his research, making a mental note to refresh his employee on the proper exit platitudes.
Xander and Willow came in and headed straight for Giles.
"Good afternoon," Anya greeted brightly then, seeing who it was, said "Never mind."
"Hi, babe," Xander waved.
Anya surveyed the store embarrassedly. There were no customers. "Xander, don't use terms of endearment with me in public. People will think I'm a-"
Xander thrust a finger to his lips. .
"Oh, right. I'm sorry, Willow, I was going to say 'lesbian'."
Willow ignored her and dropped her armload of books on the research table. She took a chair, and Xander took a seat next to her, setting down his box. He peeled back the top.
Giles peered at the selection and picked out a jelly donut. "Thank you, uh, Xander."
"I came up empty," Willow tossed out. She took a glazed cruller from Xander's box and bit off half, chewed quickly then stuffed the other half in.
Xander said, "Wow, you must be hungry." He took a tiny bite of his powdered donut, checking his blouse for any crumbs.
I'm so hungry," Willow explained. She picked out a maple bar and set to work on it.
Giles took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes tiredly. "I think I have an answer."
Willow perked up. "You do?"
"Well, the shadow of an answer, really." He pulled a large book over and thumbed through some tagged pages. "Here," he pointed, handing it over to Willow.
She read the passage quickly. "Yeah, right. It says here that Jezebeth will put a spell of lies, that - let's see…" She read for another moment. "Her transmogrification spell is subject to reversal, if the original curse was placed by a family member. Oh, Giles," she said, putting the book down, "you don't think someone in one of our families did this?"
Giles shook his head. "A cursory reading suggests that. But I cross-referenced the original Latin-" he pulled up a smaller book as exhibit A, then dropped it. "The family reference refers to Jezebeth's family."
Willow frowned, puzzled.
"Jezebeth's spells change people to grotesque beings. Now, no matter how unsettling our transformations have been, I wouldn't call us grotesque."
Xander dabbed the corner of his mouth with a paper napkin. "I'll say," he agreed.
"I did some more research." Giles went on, "and found a list of Jezebeth's known demon family. Only one is known to perform this particular curse, changing people's sexes. He's a … rather, uh-grotesque customer." He looked through the pile of books until he found the one he wanted. "Ah yes, here it is."
He laid the book in front of Willow, and she saw an illustration of Surgat. There was a certain amount of artistic license taken by the artist, and the scale was uncertain, but the resemblance, unknown to them, was very close.
"I've learned of Surgat's practices, and this particular curse has been rendered before."
Willow put her knuckles to her mouth and bit one. "Good news? Say good news."
Willow exchanged a look with Xander, who dropped his powdered donut back into the box.
"Surgat's curse requires a retraction by the requestor. So far I haven't found a loophole."
Xander said, "How are we going to find out who requested the curse? It's impossible."
Willow slapped the table. "Whoever put the curse on us might be gone now, or never here to begin with. We'll never find him. Or her."
Giles held up a reassuring hand. "There may be a way to get the name from Surgat himself."
Willow looked doubtful.
"Wait now, I've learned that Surgat is an angry demon, who never lays a curse willingly. He must be coerced into it, by following a careful series of ceremonies. He delays, he does partial completions, needs to be summoned more than once. If the one requesting makes any mistake, forgets any part of the ceremony, it frees Surgat to attack that person."
Xander shook the donut box, moved it away from him. "Just our luck to have some anal retentive cursing us."
"There is always the hope that the curse is not finished yet, and there may be a mistake made that returns us to normal."
Willow smirked. "We're supposed to … just wait and see?"
"Of course not. But summoning Surgat to quiz him on his, uh, client list is something I'll have to be absolutely certain of, before I attempt a rising. Everything must be perfect down to the slightest detail. It is actually documented, things Surgat has done to those who fail."
"Yeah," Xander seconded, "what's the penalty for leaving a cross off a tee?"
"He's an Incubus," Giles said.
Willow nodded, then saw Xander's quizzical expression.
"He rapes humans."
The bell above the door jangled, and Buddy strode in.
Giles stood up. "I need to see Buffy alone in back. Don't leave, I have something to give you first."
A scruffy garland of whiskers stood out on Buddy's face, making his Johnny Depp appearance more rugged.
"Buffy, g-good afternoon."
In the training room Giles took on a severe frown. "A vampire bit a woman last night, a block away from the cemetery. You let it get away."
"I can't be everywhere. How do you know it was just born?"
"She reported he had dirt all over him, and wore a suit that tied in the back."
"So, she survived."
"Others came to her aid. Did you patrol last night?" Giles studied him carefully.
Buddy turned his back on Giles and threw a half-hearted kick to the heavy bag. "I may have clocked off a little early. A case of diarrhea can really get you down."
Giles crossed his arms. "That's a well-worn excuse. I used it myself, in my youth." He walked around Buddy to look him in the face. "Was Spike there?"
Buddy began to shake his head, then rolled his eyes. "Yeah, yeah. He had some gin at his crypt, I was feeling down. I drank too much. Won't happen again."
"Buffy, while we are in the throes of this curse, we have to maintain discipline and safety, and-"
"And blah-blah, blah-blah-blah," Buddy finished, walking a circle and swinging his arms in a carefree manner.
A thought hit Giles, and for a moment, shock registered starkly on his womanly features. He almost blurted something which he thought better of, and managed to retain his composure.
"I have new identities for us all," he said. "For, you know, the four of us."
"Practical matter. Get stopped by police, they demand I.D., we can't claim to be ourselves."
He pulled an envelope from his apron pocket. "It's a birth certificate and social security card. You can go to the DMV and get a picture I.D. Do it today, please."
Buddy took the envelope and pulled out the birth certificate. "Buddy Lee Morrison?"
Giles said defensively, "I was forced to use names of locals who died young, born about the same time as … as you look to have been born."
"Buffy to Buddy," Buddy mused aloud. "I never realized how odd the name Buffy sounds. Buddy. Buddy Summers."
"Buddy Morrison," Giles corrected. "Buddy Lee Morrison."
"Fine," Buddy replied, "but tell me what names the others are getting?"
"Hmm. Oh." Giles touched his temple to aid recollection. "Xander is Kendra Hughes, and Willow is, um, Alexander Fimple. I assumed that Spike can-I think he has several false identities already."
Buddy laughed. "Alexander. We can call Willow Xander."
"Um, yes. I suppose."
"Tell me your new moniker, Giles. Wouldn't want to call you by your real name in public, blow the charade."
Giles said, "My fake name is Hermione Down."
Angel hit town in a car with blacked-out windows. The phone calls he had made to Buffy's mother were not reassuring, and since he had some free time he decided he would check things out for himself.
He parked under some trees next to a large culvert, covered up with a woolen army blanket, and ran into the sewer system. He knew his path intimately, and headed for The Bronze to reconnoiter before visiting Buffy's house.
The Bronze was medium busy, with the bargain crowd assembled for happy hour. Some businessmen were flirting around a woman, who slouched seductively against a post, sipping a cocktail and laughing.
Angel passed them and ordered vodka neat at the bar. He turned to see the woman who was accumulating the admiration of suits. She stared right back at him. Angel was surprised to see that she resembled Marilyn Monroe, right down to the hairstyle and makeup. She was unbelievably beautiful. She said something to the men around her that they didn't like, then she sauntered toward him, swinging her hips.
"Hello, tiger," she purred at him, depositing her glass on the bar. "Buy a girl a drink?"
She ran a forefinger down Angel's arm, and he almost felt something, a sense that she was family. It was too faint a tug to gain his conscious attention.
"Huh? Sure," he agreed, and signaled to the mixologist.
"Another Manhattan," she said, and the bartender nodded and got to work.
"I don't remember seeing you around here,"
"I haven't seen you around here either," she said.
"I've been gone a while."
"I've been here a while," she said. Her Manhattan came, and she sipped it. "Oh, that's good." She licked the rim of the glass and regarded Angel from sleepy eyes.
Angel couldn't help but grin. "I'm sorry, you look so much like Marilyn Monroe. You must get that a lot."
She nodded, "Yeah, I get it. You could, too."
Angel shook his head blankly. "Get what?"
Spike gritted her teeth. "Get it, get some, you stupid prig, it's called slang."
Angel stiffened. Marilyn Monroe's American accent had slipped.
"You sound like-no, it can't be."
"It's me, you cretin. Spike. Just havin' a bit o' fun, tempting you with the prime goods." She swept her eyes down in a survey of the goods, and ended the survey with a knowing flourish.
"I wasn't tempted!" Angel hissed, eyes darting around. The suits were watching them closely.
"You were. You were drooling over me, and if I didn't know I could break your spine at will, I think my bloody virtue would've been in danger."
Angel dropped his drink on the bar and scooped up Spike by her blouse. "The next words out of you better be an explanation of what the hell's going on."
The suits hurried over.
"Let the lady go," one of the beefier specimens commanded.
"Yeah, there are five of us, man."
The beefy man gripped Angel's arm, and Angel looked from him to Spike. He suddenly realized what this looked like. He released her, and patted her crinkled fabric.
The beefy one punched him in the nose, and the blow knocked Angel into the bar.
"Go cop a feel on someone else," the beefy suit snarled.
"It's true," Spike wailed. "He's a molesting raping pervert who gropes unsuspecting women. Get him, boys."
Angel stepped toward her, then he was in a fight with the five suits.
Spike walked away, toward the exit to the sewer. "Beat his arse, er, ass, boys. My favors go to the one who does the most damage."