12:00 A.M-1:00 A.M
Reshaping The Cookie Dough 4: The Longest Day of their Lives
A Buffy/Angel Story (with a twist)
By David Morris
Summary: The team at Angel-Slayer Inc. discovers the great evil that was prophesized by Leonard is powerful enough to bring about the end-times -- and it’s going to happen today. The apocalypse is coming and time is not on their side.
Rating: PG-13 (Strong language, Violence)
Disclaimer: Buffy, Angel, Willow, Giles and all the rest are property of Joss Whedon and all of the other brilliant writers who work for him at Mutant Enemy. I have no claim to them nor will they ever be my property. The character of Leonard Kopell is, has, and always will be my property.
Spoilers: Like the previous Buffy stories that I have written, this story is set in an alternative universe sometime after the series finale of Buffy and the Season 4 finale of Angel. It isn’t necessary to have read them to understand this story, but it certainly couldn’t hurt. Anything in either universe is fair game. And in this story, a lot of it is going to matter.
Note: This story is very different from the others in format. In the style of 24, the other brilliant show on television, each chapter will be devoted to one hour in the day the story takes place. Events won’t occur in real time, but the clock is running. And don’t worry, there will be no stories involving young girls on the run or presidential peccadilloes. Promise. With that in mind, here we go…
The Following Takes Place Between 12 AM and 1 AM on the Autumnal Equinox
Fred Burkle watched as the computer began to run its last set of calculations. It took only two minutes, but that was time enough to think of something Giles had said a few days ago.
For the last few weeks been going over prophecies, looking for the big bad that their new seer Leonard had seen them fighting. Their progress had been retarded slightly because Giles had been insisting on going through most of the old scrolls and texts they had by hand instead of letting the computers do it. Willow had told her to let Giles work at his own pace considering that he had only gotten out of the hospital three weeks ago. But after she received what must have been the tenth reminder in five days from Wesley that time was of the essence, she had gone to the main library to try and hurry Giles along.
In the course of their discussion Fred had asked Giles what he had against letting a computer do at least part of the work. Giles had gotten a strange look on his face -- as if he were remembering something painful. Then he had told Fred that he didn’t fully trust computers.
“I realize that we live in an electronic age where everything and everyone seems to be moving at the speed of light,” he had said, “but for all the great things that the computer does, it takes something away from the whole process of research. I realize that your laptop is capable of reaching more knowledge in a few minutes then that was in my old library. But--“ He had paused long enough to make Fred think he had lost his train of thought. “--it’s all gossamer.”
“There’s nothing delicate or flimsy about it,” Fred had said, surprised.
“ It’s all lights and colors. There’s nothing solid to it. I feel that if you can’t feel it or touch it or, God help me, smell it, its not really there. No matter what my eyes tell me, I don’t fully trust them.” He paused. “I realize that makes me something of a dinosaur but some old habits are worth holding on to. I’ll use the computer for some of the more obscure works but I’d prefer to do this in my own fashion.”
Fred had wanted to object but something about the request touched the physics major in her. She had agreed to take on a little more work to help them pick up the slack. And now, as she waited for the computer to spit out the last set of numbers, she couldn’t help but wonder if there was something to it. The computer was a vital instrument but some things needed a human touch. As important as these calculations were, it somehow seemed wrong not to be doing them by hand and working out the final answer rather than waiting for the…
Before she could finish the thought, the printer spat out the last pages. They were covered with equations and symbols but she looked at the bottom of the page and found what she needed.
It took her only a moment to realize that what they had feared had been borne out. She picked up the phone and dialed 5. Wesley picked it up after one ring.
“I’ve run the last set of numbers. It’s today.”
There was a moment of silence.
“I’ll call them all in.”
12:05:34 --- 12:05:35 --- 12:05:36 --- 12:05:37
Silver Knight Pub
“Today, after six months of speculation, Ohio Senator David Palmer officially announced that he will be running for the Democratic nomination for President. The first African-American to be elected to the Senate since the 1870’s, he is considered by D.C. insiders as one of the most trusted men in Washington.”
“Yeah, that counts for a lot.” Xander turned away from the television in surprise, not so much because of the remark as to the man who had said it.
“Robin, I would think that you of all people would be glad to see that Palmers running,” said Xander.
“Hey there isn’t a black person in the country who wouldn’t want to turn on the television and see someone black with their hand on the Bible who isn’t on trial.” Robin stopped and took a sip of his beer.
Robin gestured to Gunn.
“But…we’re realists,” said Gunn. “And the fact is that the country is run by a bunch of fat, old white men who have no intention of letting anybody other than other fat old white men run the country.”
“Geopolitical analysis from Charles Gunn and Robin Wood, political insiders extraordinaire,” said Xander in mock-seriousness. “Authors of There’s No Such Thing As The Right Way and…”
“You know these discussions make me glad I don’t vote,” said Faith who had been quietly drinking her beer while all this had been going on.
The boys turned to her. “Faith, I hate to break this to you but you’re a convicted felon” said Gunn.
“Gee thanks, I’d forgotten.”
“Convicted felons can’t vote,” said Robin. Faith was a smarter girl than most people gave her credit for but on some subjects she needed a little help.
“I know that.” she said, mock huffily. “It’s just that I would prefer a conversation about me not include the words ‘convicted’ and ‘felon‘. It’s not the kind of thing you want to spread around, all right?”
“Fair comment.” said Robin.
“Anyways,” said Faith, lifting her glass up, “answer the question.”
“I’ve forgotten what it was.” admitted Xander. Being around Faith still flustered him a little.
“Am I missing anything by not being able to vote?”
“I’d say, given the cut of today’s politicians, there is an argument against going to the polls.” Xander said.
“Amen,” said Gunn, swallowing the last of his beer.
“Could we talk about something else? Something normal?” asked Faith.
“This is a normal conversation. You don’t recognize it because there’s nothing demon related in it,” Xander replied.
“That’s the whole reason we’re at this fine establishment,” said Gunn. “To go somewhere where there are no vampires or demons or prophecies with the words ‘impending doom’ in them. In short, to get away from work.”
The split second after he said ‘work’, Gunn’s pager started to go off.
“All right; who couldn’t have seen that one coming?” asked Xander. Five seconds later his pager started going off. Then Faith’s. Then Robin’s.
“Okay, this is getting a little creepy,” Faith said.
“I’ll call the office, see what’s going down.” Xander said, taking out his cell phone and walking away from their table.
Faith turned to Robin. “So this is a boy’s night out, huh?”
“You were expecting lap dancers?” said Robin wryly.
The dark-haired Slayer made a provocative gesture. “What makes you think I wouldn’t have wanted one?”
“Now there’s an image that’s going to linger.”
“Seriously, this is your kind of thing. Why let me tag along?”
Robin shrugged. “You haven’t taken in any real time off in a month. I figure you could stand to decompress a little.”
“You’ve never seen me let off steam. That part of me isn’t one that I think you’d like very much,” Faith only half-jested.
“You don’t have to wear that face all the time.”
“Pretty sure that I gotta.”
“Be as flip as you want, you’re not going to make me run screaming from the room.”
“Are--Are you serious?”
Before Robin had a chance to answer that question, Xander turned to the three of them. His expression was serious which was somewhat alarming. It took quite a bit to wipe the happy off Xander’s face but this had.
“That was Giles. We need to get back to the office right away. Somebody pay for the drinks; I’m gonna bring the car around.”
“Whoa, whoa,” said Gunn. “That’s a lot of talking without any details.”
“Giles said they’re calling everybody in. No one in Angel-Slayer, Inc. is going to get any sleep tonight,” said Xander. “He didn’t tell me anything over the phone because he and Wesley and the others only want to have to tell this once.”
Robin considered his words. “You think this has something to do with this apocalypse prophecy that we’ve been talking about for the last few weeks?”
“He wouldn’t say but I figure it’s a pretty safe bet.”
“Get the car.” In the space of a few seconds, Faith had gone from pleasure to business. Xander nodded and headed for the exit.
“Faith…” Robin tried to finish.
“Later. When the sky isn’t about to fall on us.”
Robin was surprised by the metaphor as well as the fact what she seemed willing to do.
Neither knew that they wouldn’t have much of a chance of following through.
12:18:45 --- 12:18:46 --- 12:18:47 --- 12:18:48
An alley in downtown L.A.
The two young girls were cornered by five vampires. They had been caught off guard. It seemed very likely that they were going to die. It wasn’t just that they were outnumbered, it was that the demons looked as if they would have been pretty formidable even if they weren’t undead. They looked as if they might have been down with the Crips and the Bloods -- pun not intended.
“I don’t know why you ladies cut through our corner” said the apparent leader of the group, a big-muscled, broad shouldered, leather clad biker type. “But I can’t tell you how glad I am that you humans are so stupid.” He turned to his companions, all of whom seemed cut from the same cloth, “Ain’t we boys?”
The others made loud noises which most likely equaled approval. Then they closed in on the girls menacingly.
One of the girls -- small, Oriental and apparently very frail -- piped up: “It’s ‘aren’t.”
The alpha vampire looked up bemused. “Excuse me?”
“The correct grammar is ‘Aren’t we boys,’” said the young girl in halting -- but firm -- English.
“Ain’t, aren’t. So what? What are you gonna do? Rap my knuckles?” The punk began to laugh heartily. Right until she picked up a pair of chopsticks from a nearby garbage can and drove it into his heart in one swift motion.
“Maybe. Maybe some place different.” she said before the vamp turned to dust.
In the past five months Cho-San had finally gotten a very good course on English from the other Watchers. She was still trying to master the play on words that Buffy and Faith managed, but she still didn’t quite have it down pat.
She had learned other skills from them, though.
It took a few seconds for the other vampires to recover from the dusting of their leader as well as the fact that these girls had game. Cho-San and Patrice had learned how to take advantage of these lapses -- as the other vampires found out very quickly. In a matter of seconds, the previously helpless girls armed themselves and laid a serious ass-kicking on their would-be killers. The vampires fought hard and desperately, as if they couldn’t believe how quickly this was happening. But in the space of two minutes, three of them had joined their leader as dust on the pavement. The two girls stood up to face the last one.
The last vampire, demonstrating a level of intelligence that far exceeded the average undead flunky, looked at the girls and then turned around and bolted. Perhaps a little stunned by their success, they hesitated for a second-- just long enough for it to almost reach the end of the alley. Indeed, he would have gotten away if an arrow hadn’t flown from above and pierced his heart. A comic look of surprise appeared on his face before it turned to dust.
Cho-San and Patrice looked up to the fire escape where the crossbow bolt had come from. “We can handle these things ourselves, thank you very much,” Patrice said haughtily.
Buffy emerged from the fire escape where she had been monitoring her two charges. “He would have gotten away.”
“We could have run him down.”
“No you couldn’t.”
“What makes you so sure?” Now Patrice was just being pissy.
“Because there’s no way I could have either.”
Patrice thought about pissing Buffy off, then decided to let the matter drop.
“In any case, the two of you did a pretty good job.”
“Pretty good?” said a voice from the shadows. Though it was trying to sound serious, there was still a certain amount of good humor in it. “They went from being hopelessly outmatched to Masters of the Universe in the space of three minutes. That’s a little more than ‘pretty good.’”
Under normal circumstances the two Slayers would have delivered a beating to the green-skinned demon that finally emerged into the light. Instead they smiled and Patrice gave him a high-five.
“Lorne,” said Buffy, “we’ve talked about being so loose.”
The demon raised an eyebrow (or at least what would be an eyebrow on a man) and said: ‘Excuse me, girls.” before taking Buffy aside.
“I know that you’re having a little anxiety about how to handle this whole Watcher gig,” Lorne started.
“I am not…” Buffy sputtered indignantly.
“Honey, it’s coming off you in waves,” said the demon with no doubt in his voice. When Buffy had simmered down, he continued: “I know you’re concerned about doing this right but you’ve been pounding on these girls like there’s no tomorrow. “
“For all we know there isn’t.”
Lorne sighed. “You’re not going to get on that horse again.”
“-- are unclear,” finished Lorne. “Something bad is coming, I’m agreeing with you there, but you can’t keep talking like every single training session is a rehearsal for Operation Desert Storm or you’ll wear everyone down to nothing. Including yourself,” he added almost as an afterthought.
Buffy was about to respond when suddenly Lorne’s pager began to go off. She had turned hers off so it wouldn’t start up and spook the vamps so she turned it back on, digital part first. On it was a simple message: “Back to A/S now. W.”
“We gotta get back to the office.”
“Thank you, because I’m not capable of answering my own pager,” said Lorne with a trace more sarcasm than usual.
She looked back up the alley. “Patrice, Cho-San, we’ve got to head back to base.” Without raising a fuss, the two junior Slayers fell in behind Buffy and Lorne.
No one spoke until they reached the car which, for obvious reasons, had been parked away from the alley. Then Buffy’s cell phone rang. Buffy looked the caller ID and sighed. “Lorne, I gotta take this. You drive. “ She ignored the collective sigh of relief from the others (she still wasn’t very competent behind the wheel) and got in the car.
“Dawn, what are you doing up so late?”
“Hey don’t yell at me. I was going to sleep. It’s just…”
Buffy waited impatiently for her sister’s explanation. “Yes?”
“I got this email labeled ‘URGENT’. “
“Was it from Mr. Spiro Orestes telling you that you have sixteen million dollars coming to you from his late wife?” Something told Buffy it wasn’t that simple.
“No, it was from someone at work. “ Dawn hesitated.
“What did it say?”
“ ‘Eli’s coming. Hide your heart.’”
Given everything that had happened over the past seven years, Buffy didn’t think that it was possible for her to feel scared about anything. The message, originally meant as a joke, sent a chill through her.
“Dawn, call Xander or Willow and tell them to pick you up. Tell them to get you to the building as fast as you can.”
Dawn seemed surprised. “But tomorrow’s a school day.”
“If I can I’ll come up with a letter for the principal.”
Dawn paused and thought about it. “Buffy.”
“Is this the bad thing that you’ve been trying to hide for the past couple of weeks?”
Buffy didn’t even think before responding: “I think so.”
There was silence. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
Dawn hung up. Buffy turned to Lorne. “Remember what you said about acting like there’s no tomorrow?”
“I was more right than I knew.” Buffy looked straight ahead, thinking of what was to come.
12:34:45 --- 12:34:46 ---12:34:47 --- 12:34:48
Main Library of Wolfram & Hart
Ever since Rupert Giles was a teenager, he had had to deal with things that no ordinary person should have to deal with. After a phase of rebellion, he had settled into the pattern that he maintained for much of his life. He tucked his fear and pain in a private place and dealt with them when he was by himself.
As he had grown into his life that was the world surrounding Buffy and her friends and came to realize that she was a bright vivacious rebel, he had had to add several other fears to his list. There was the fear that he would one day fail his charge. That was a fear that he had never seen coming. Then there was the fear that people that he cared about might die, though in the case of Jenny Calendar, he had lost whatever control he had. Then there was the fear of the end of the world-- a threat he had encountered on a monthly basis for the seven years that he was in Sunnydale. It was hard but he had managed to maintain his level of calm and not let fear overwhelm him.
Then he had come to Los Angeles. Two months later he stared death in the face.
The doctors never told him how close the bullet meant to end Buffy’s life had come to ending his own. He had tried to maintain his stalwart attitude, but something fundamental in him had changed.
It wasn’t just the fact that he was bedridden for a month or that he had been on crutches until a week ago. It was that something deep within him had shifted. The façade of calm that he maintained was now just that. Emotionally it was like all the fear he had told himself he had put away was out and pushing all his buttons. He was afraid -- of facing death again, of the possible death that might await any of the slayers he was watching, of the prophecies that were foretelling the end. But while he had been able to control these fears as recently as two months ago, now his fear was controlling him. He had come back to work he had been unable to send his slayers into dangerous situations. Which involved sending them out into the field or doing a great deal more than researching information.
He had managed to cover up the feelings under the guise that he was recuperating from a very serious trauma, and because there had not been a major crisis that had involved any of them. But his friends and colleagues who ran Angel-Slayer Inc. must have begun to notice that his convalescence had been over for almost a week and he still hadn’t taken any of his charges out into the field. Or that he had been less aggressive in their training than he had been when he was in Sunnydale. He knew what was coming but he didn’t know what to do.
And now it seemed he had run out of time. “I’m over here Wesley.”
The younger Watcher walked over to him. “They’ll be here in another ten minutes.”
“Do they know what this is about?”
“We thought it best that they all hear it at once.” Wesley put his hand on Giles’s shoulder. “Are you ready for this?”
“I don’t think that it’s possible for anyone to ever be ready for this. Anyone who says they are is a liar.”
“That’s not what I meant and you know it.” Wesley took a deep breath. “After…after my throat was slit, I withdrew into myself. I told myself it was because Angel and the others had turned their back on me. But…” He paused and seemed to be mentally gathering himself. “I thought that I had failed in every respect. And that because of my failure, I was unworthy of redeeming myself. Even after they forgave me I kept telling myself I didn’t deserve it. I’m still not sure I have.”
Giles took this in. “I understand what you’re trying to tell me and I am grateful, but—"
“I can function. I will be able to work. You don’t need to worry about me.”
“You misunderstand me. I don’t want you--“
“I appreciate the attempt to be cordial, but I know that’s not high on your priorities now.”
“You need to know whether I can function so I am not a hindrance today. You are concerned for me and I do appreciate that, but right now my emotional state is less important than whether we can get through this crisis.”
Wesley withdrew his hand -- but he did not deny what Giles had said.
“I was schooled, as were you, to perform under just these circumstances. My training has carried me through every crisis over the past seven years. It will carry me through now.”
Wesley took this in. “The last time we talked about this, you said the Watchers were barbaric and archaic. Now you think it can help you through today?”
“That’s not the training I was talking about and you know it.”
Wesley considered this. He seemed about to respond, when his beeper went off. He glanced at it “That’ll be Willow. We have to get ready. You’re sure you can do this?”
And even though he wasn’t, he turned to Wesley and said, “I have to be.” Then, to hold off further questions, he began walking towards the door, praying to a God that he wasn’t sure that he believed in that he would get through this.
12:48:17 --- 12:48:18 --- 12:48:19 --- 12:48:20
Boardroom of Angel-Slayer Inc.
Angel knew that he should have been in the office with this crisis brewing -- which was probably the reason he had gone to the training room. For the past two weeks the entire office had been on high alert with prophecies and foreshadowings of doom, and he knew that another rough beast was slouching toward Bethlehem. He had needed to get away from it all for a little while, and the training room was one of the few places in the building where he felt comfortable. He knew that some of the others had places of refuge: for Giles it was the libraries, for Fred it was the lab, and for Lorne it was the sauna. He hadn’t needed a sanctuary before, but the business of trying to find redemption wears on you after a while.
He had gone to the training room because he had the feeling that things were going to get real bad real soon. There wasn’t going to be much peace for any of them for a while.
When he had entered the boardroom Willow and Fred (who along with Giles and Wesley were the think tank of Angel-Slayer Inc.) were already there. Both were typing on computers whose large wall monitors that were used only for big deals. Angel figured that this qualified.
Off to one side, Leonard was talking to Andrew. In the three months since he had reluctantly become a member of the team, Leonard still remained something of a closed book. Aside from telling them about his latest vision, he didn’t talk much to any of the others outside of Andrew, Robin, Xander and Gunn. He had made it pretty clear why in a weak moment when he referred to them as ‘the normal ones’. Even though he had been watching them in his mind for nearly four years, he still didn’t seem to like any of the ones with ‘superpowers,’ to use Xander’s phrase.
A few seconds later, Giles and Wesley entered the room.
“How soon until the rest of them get here?” asked Wesley.
Willow walked from the monitor to the GPS tracker a few feet away. “They’re all in the building except for Dawn. She had to take a cab, so she’s going to be a few more minutes.”
“Not to be a wet blanket but I think maybe we should start without her,” said Fred.
“She’s a member of the board, she’s earned the right to hear this,” Angel replied.
“I’m just thinking that since time is a factor we may need to go ahead.”
“Why is time such a factor?” Angel turned towards the door on his immediate right. Xander, Faith, Gunn and Robin had arrived. Xander gestured towards the heavens. “I mean it’s not like the universe is going to end tonight, is it?” When there was a long pause, Xander’s sarcastic tone disappeared. “Oh sweet mother Macree, not again.”
“Y’know, I know we’re the white hats and we have to deal with these kinds of things,” Gunn said, “but don’t we get any kind of break? It’s only been four months since we had to deal with -- how many apocalypses?” he asked Willow.
“At least three,” Willow answered. “And you should consider yourself lucky. Back in Sunnydale, it seemed like we were dealing with end-of-the-world scenarios every other week.”
“They say there’s no rest for the wicked,” Giles said, “but there isn’t much for the good either.”
“It’s no picnic whatever side you’re on,” said Faith, the tiniest bit perturbed.
Without thinking Angel turned to the door on his left. Somehow he knew that Buffy was on the other side a second before she and Lorne walked in along with two of the other slayers. .
“All right, we’re all here,” Buffy announced.
“Ah, Dawn isn’t,” Andrew pointed out.
Buffy pulled out her cell phone. “You hooked up?” she spoke into it.
“I’m here, I’m about five minutes away.” As with all cell phones issued by Wolfram & Hart, the reception was crystal clear.
“We can--” started Fred.
“We can’t,” said Giles. “We’ve been operating behind schedule for too long; we need to get started now.” He turned to Wesley. “Let’s go.”
Wesley looked straight ahead at the high command gathering his thoughts. Then he began. “As you’re all probably aware, when Leonard joined us three months ago he claimed that he had foreseen a great battle involving all of us. One which, if we fell, the darkness would overcome us. For the last three months, Rupert, Willow, Fred and myself have been going over the ancient texts and prophecies looking for any evidence that such a battle was looming.”
“To be honest, we were hoping that we wouldn’t find anything,” said Fred. “And we didn’t -- until four days ago.”
“On that day we obtained a collection of prophecies from a Hittite wise man named Molochi, an ancient oracle who accurately predicted many events thousands of years into the future,” said Giles. “Buried among them was a prophecy of destruction so total that no structure built would stand. All the gates of hell would be opened and all foul things would emerge. In his words, the stones would run red with blood.”
“Like we’ve never heard that before,” said Gunn calmly.
“And I take it that Ground Zero for this Armageddon is Los Angeles,” said Buffy, similarly calm.
“That’s correct,” Giles replied.
“When?” asked Leonard.
“ ‘A time when day and night are one.’” Fred said, quoting.
“An equinox,” said Angel.
“Wait a minute. Are you saying--” Robin started.
Wesley nodded grimly. “According to our calculations, sometime today, somewhere in Los Angeles, events that could lead to the end of the world will begin.”
12:59:57--- 12:59:58 --- 12:59:59 --- 1:00:00