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Dark Night of the Soul

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Chapter Notes: Some dialogue taken from “Primeval” (s4) written by David Fury and “No Place Like Home” (S5) by Douglas Petrie.

 

~*~

Prologue

~*~

 

May 16, 2000. Washington, D.C., Senate subcommittee hearings.

 

“It was an experiment.” The sweating man looked askance at his superiors as he gave his final report and recommendations. “In a small town in California, the brave team of ‘Sub-Human Initiative Resource Development’ was fighting for their very lives as it all fell apart around them. The Initiative represented the Government’s interests in not only controlling the otherworldy menace, but in harnessing its power for our own military purposes. The considered opinion of this counsel is that this experiment has failed.”

 

Questions began to fly. “What about our partners? Are they on board with your recommendations? Hell, Don, this project has been in the making for over a half century and cost more money than any other single project and you’re saying it simply failed?”

 

Donald Griffin gulped before he continued from his prepared page. “Once the prototype took control of the complex, our soldiers suffered a forty percent casualty rate. It was only through the actions of the deserter Finn and a group of civilian insurrectionists that our losses were not total.” He silently prayed the group would be as successful as he was asserting now. “I trust the irony of that is not lost on any of us.”

 

The Senate subcommittee chair nearly snarled in frustration. “Dr. Walsh assured this very committee that everything was well in hand only last week. I have personally inspected the facility,” he blustered. If word got out about the project there would be hell to pay in the press but that would be the least of their worries.

 

Griffin drew in a deep breath and continued, “Maggie Walsh’s vision was brilliant but ultimately insupportable. The demons cannot be harnessed. The end result cannot be controlled.”

 

The co-chair seemed nearly as desperate as her counterpart. This project was the most top secret of any since the Manhattan Project and she was damned if she would miss her place in history because of a little glitch. “There must be a way to salvage something from this! Some of these Hostiles must be useful in one way or another. … Are any of them edible?”

 

Griffin wished with all his heart that he could promise some continuation of the project, but it had been made clear, with lots of pressure from higher up than a lowly Army one-star had clearance to know, that the decision had been made. This report was a mere formality. “It is therefore our recommendation that this project be terminated and all records concerning it expunged immediately. “ The collective gasps nearly drowned out the rest of his statement. “Our soldiers will be debriefed with a standard confidentiality clause and reassigned to other special operations. We will monitor the civilians and the usual measures are prepared should they try to go public. The facility itself will be filled in with concrete.”

 

The lone committee member who had reservations about the entire project, especially given its initial origins in Hitler’s own back rooms, was relieved. His conscience had been at war with his oaths of silence for months as reports and videos had been reviewed by the committee. “Burn it down, gentlemen. Burn it down and salt the earth,” Griffin concluded. Senator Procter could but nod in agreement, even as his colleagues moaned in disappointment.

~~~

 

August 15, 2000. New York City, deep in the bowels of the United Nations

 

“Gentlemen, if you would all take your seats, we can begin.” The small man exuded power beyond his stature. “We all need to be on the same page here before things take on a life of their own, especially these early days. Some things, naturally, will take their own course organically, but proper steering is necessary at the first to prevent crashing on the shoals.”

 

“Fine, Karl, but this is Tuesday and if I’m not home at a reasonable hour, my little woman is going to have my hide,” a man in military attire joked. “I may command my men, but not Harriet!” The room filled with politicians, military, and intelligence personnel from various first world nations laughed at their comrade’s dilemma with him.

 

“Indeed.” Dr. Karl Hoffman former liaison to the United Nations Security Council from the ‘SubHuman Initiative Resource Development Project’ smiled thinly. “The sooner we begin, the sooner Colonel Graves can return to his happy home, as can we all.”

 

 

“So, have we a name for this little project?” The clipped tones that spoke of the finest education afforded a gentleman of proper birth rang out as the men began to take their seats.

 

“Who cares what we call it as long as it gets the job done?” Quentin Travers said irritably. “You bunch of girls’ blouses are as bad as the blasted Council of Watchers with your dithering about and kowtowing to a young chit not intended to even last past her secondary education!”

 

“A sentiment that no doubt led to your taking leave of that august entity,” quipped the man at his right side.

 

"Who says I've taken leave?" Travers sneered. "Rather, I've brought them to a place of sanity at long last."

 

As the room quieted, Dr. Hoffman began his prepared comments. “All of us here have spent years in hopes of finding a way to make certain that mankind stays at the top of the food chain. We have done this with no fanfare and little thanks, even from those aware of our efforts. We have buried countless comrades and protected a public that, frankly, is often as thick as sheep about the world they live in. Three months ago our best hope in harnessing the demonic population for some good use was put to an abrupt end.”

Multiple conversations broke out at that reminder.

“Yes, yes, we all agree that Maggie went a bit overboard with her little special project but the bulk of her work was spectacular to say the least of it. These…things…were finally being sorted. Those with uses were being prepared for those uses and the rest for extermination.” Nods all round greeted that pronouncement. “If the public had any idea of the danger they are in we wouldn’t have to sit in dark basements making plans to protect their welfare.”

 

“But it was universally agreed back in the 1960s that the public would be far too panicked by the truth. The studies all pointed to more social unrest and governmental collapse; more than if the Roswell information were released!”

 

“Yes, Armand, your government, my government, all of the governments represented here looked at that data and made a noble choice to fight the battle quietly for the public good.” Hoffman looked at Travers coolly. “Your little group of demon experts promised they had the situation under control and had done so from the dawn of time.”

 

“Not my group. Had I been allowed free reign, we wouldn’t be sitting here now,” Quentin huffed.

 

“Whatever. One little girl cannot contain it all. We’ve swept incident after incident under the rug. Sworn more of our finest soldiers to secrecy and sent them to their deaths than I wish to remember. There are only so many serial killers the public will believe, after all, and the world is too large for one teenage girl to police on her own. This one is not even mobile, remaining in one small Southern California town!” A few shouts burst out as former Watchers Council members argued the validity of the traditional methods of dealing with all things demonic.

 

After peace resumed, so did Dr. Hoffman. “We did this in the best interest of the public, of humanity itself. We have hidden the truth from the world to avoid panic. Well, maybe panic is just what is needed. A good healthy dose of reality!” He watched the shock slowly turn into interest at his statement. “We can guide the public to awareness and the public in turn will finally give us the mandate to do what is necessary.”

 

After the applause died down, Colonel McNamara, fresh from the slaughter of Sunnydale, brought up one ugly thought. “There will be casualties, lots of them. If we do this, we’ll have to let some incidents happen instead of stopping them and covering them up. People will die.”

 

“Hence the title of this project, gentlemen.” Dr. Hoffman had never looked more ghoulish than as he gave name to the plan already approved in all but formality. “Operation Acceptable Collateral Damage. It sounds harsh and will feel that way as well, but it is a fact of warfare and we all know it.”

 

“Any dissent or discussion?” He waited, looking from face to face. The proper amount of resolve was shown on each countenance and he was well pleased. “Very well, then. There is intelligence of a demon plot for a ritual that will require at least a dozen human sacrifices and bring about a plague of locusts if they succeed. It is to take place in Nigeria, according to our best Bundesnachrichtendienst contacts, and you all know German intelligence in that area cannot be bested. We already had an elite group ready to put short work to clearing the beasts out--the demons, that is; not the locusts. I have a call in to Rupert Murdoch to send one of his best to get the scoop and release those crucial first reports of something non-human at work. He has no idea that he’s being played, naturally. The man’s a buffoon.”

 

~~~

Chapter 1

 

September 28, 2000. Sunnydale, California

 

“We need to remind you that this video is not for the squeamish. We advise you to use discretion in deciding whether or not to view it.” The handsome reporter waited a breath before nodding for the replay of the film in question. “As you can see from this Fox exclusive video, the entire village was razed and survivors herded like cattle by what appear to be creatures not of this earth.” Shep Smith’s steady gaze looked out at his unseen audience, offering them a touchstone to sanity. “We have received assurances from a highly placed but unnamed source in President Clinton’s White House that, in spite of appearances, we aren’t dealing with extraterrestrials. Our source hints that the government is fully aware of just what those things are you see on your screens. We’ll let you know when we do. Stay tuned to Fox for your up-to-the-minute, fair and balanced reports when it matters most.”

 

 

Buffy sat encircled in Riley’s arms and stared at the screen. Her boyfriend had barely let her out of his sight since they sent Dracula packing. She wished it was just relief that she was okay, but she feared it had more to do with his increasing insecurities after finding out Drac had had a taste of her. “Well, if Shep would ask me, I could tell him they’re Rasgool demons and they only wish they were smart enough to fly a paper airplane, let alone a flying saucer.”

 

“I can’t believe they let that reporter actually get out with the film!” Riley knew he was out of the official demon containment field, but things couldn’t have changed that much in the few months since his discharge. “Wonder how they’re going to put that cat back in the bag.”

 

“Rasgools are idiots,” Buffy continued. “How did they manage to pull this off? I know that’s a pretty isolated village from what they showed, but come on, Dawnie could take them!”

 

“Who am I taking and where?” Dawn Summers flopped on the end of the sofa, causing a surprising ripple considering her tiny frame. She made a grab for the popcorn bowl on her sister’s lap, earning a slap for her efforts. “HEY, you need to share! MOM!”

 

“And there she goes,” Buffy snarked in irritation. She leveled a glare at her sister. “If you want to be treated like an adult, start acting like it and not tattling every two minutes.” The effect was completely ruined by Buffy sticking her tongue out at her.

 

The TV had been muted for commercials and had only now begun its seemingly perpetual rerunning of the disturbing video. Riley had already picked up that Buffy was feeling guilty for the deaths on the screen. She was the Chosen One after all. “You can’t be everywhere at once, Buff. It’s not your fault.”

 

“Eww, gross!” Dawn buried her head in the cushion she had been clutching. “Tell me I did not just see a demon eat the head off some poor African kid!”

 

Joyce Summers walked in without hesitation and flicked off the TV with an annoyed look at her eldest. “Buffy, what were you thinking letting your little sister see something like that?! Just because you deal with it on a nightly basis is no reason to expose Dawn.”

 

“Mom,” Buffy protested, “I didn’t even know the brat was home until she bounced on the couch and started mooching popcorn.”

 

“Dawn, don’t you have homework to do?” Joyce didn’t need to speak twice and Dawn scooted up the stairs to her room, tossing a smirk Buffy’s way. Joyce pressed her fingers against her temples and tried to will the coming headache away.

 

“Now you are so going to get it!” Dawn sing-songed as she slammed her door.

 

Joyce took a deep breath and faced her daughter. “I’m sorry, Buffy. It wasn’t fair of me to expect you to bell your sister. If I can’t keep track of her, I can’t expect you to do any better.” She turned the TV back on and clicked the remote, looking for something other than reports on the ‘mysterious and horrible incident in Africa’ as it was being called. All the stations seemed to be reveling in the gore fest of the top story however and she shut it off again.

 

“It’s okay, Mom. Dawn could drive a saint to murder.” She smiled, but then noticed her mother’s pallid complexion. “Are you okay, Mom?”

 

Joyce let out a short sarcastic burst of laughter. “Is anyone? I’ve had to deal with knowing some of this stuff since you told me about being the Slayer, but now it’s right there in the open. I can’t pretend it’s just a vampire or two and the rest of the world is all right and safe, now can I?”

 

“Sorry, Mom.”

 

Joyce sighed deeply. “So…now everyone will know. Welcome to my sleepless nights.” She spoke softly, but with a tremor.

Buffy hadn’t realized her mother had been so distressed about the real world she patrolled nightly.

“Maybe not, Mrs. Summers. There are well placed people who make a living keeping a lid on things like this. A few days from now, they’ll find a way to explain it and everyone will move on with their regularly scheduled lives.”

 

“How will they explain two headed creatures with tentacles devouring those poor people?” Joyce raised her eyebrows as she struggled to see how it could be possible.

 

Riley shrugged and, looking a bit smug, replied, “Well, we usually give out a story about mutants and radiation leaks. That does the trick.”

 

“Are people really that stupid?”

 

“Apparently,” Buffy laughed. “Everyone in Sunnydale always believes the weird stories to explain things here. PCP gangs, anyone?”

 

“Buffy, I’m going to lie down for a while before my book club starts to arrive. Will you please make sure Dawn gets over to the Perkins’ house to watch the kids so Kate can make the meeting?”

 

“Sure, Mom. You sure you’re okay?”

 

“As okay as anyone can be,” she smiled weakly. The headaches were becoming too much of an issue to hide much longer, but Buffy had enough to deal with in her life without having to fuss over what was likely just another indication of hormones waging war.

 

 

~~~

 

October 24, 2000. Sunnydale, California

 

 

Buffy had not yet faced a demon who could give her a run for her money in the art of ‘kick ass in stylish shoes’ until tonight. The permed blonde was throwing a hissy fit as she stomped across the warehouse floor towards the window through which Buffy and the formerly captive monk had just crashed. The floor cracked under her dainty feet and the support beams began to shatter, distracting the raging creature in red. “Oh, shit!”

 

As the ceiling fell, dropping massive chunks of concrete on the lone figure, she had begun to morph into a young man who looked up with horror in his eyes at his coming destruction. “Damn!”

 

Buffy helped the badly injured monk across the parking lot, trying not to worry about the building that seemed to be collapsing behind them, billowing out dust clouds in its death throes.

 

“Stop, please,” the man begged feebly.

 

“We have to keep going!”

 

“My journey is done, I believe.” Buffy tried to lift the monk, but he gasped and clung to the chain link fence refusing to move. “You have to protect the Key.”

 

“Fine,” Buffy agreed in annoyance, “We can protect the key together, just far, far from here.” She had no idea what kind of demon she had just fought, but it was only luck and a large window that saved her from having her ticket punched for the second time. ‘Some lucky contestant came close to getting to wear the happy Chosen crown.’

 

“Many more die if you don't keep it safe.” The monk was clearly not going to make it and Buffy feared the same for herself if the raving blonde with surprisingly good taste in Manolo Blahnik sandals reached them soon. “The Key is energy. It is a portal. It opens the door. For centuries, it had no form at all. My brethren, its only keepers. … Then the abomination found us. We had to hide the Key, gave it form, molded it flesh...made it human and sent it to you.”

 

Suddenly it all made sense. All the questions about Dawn, about her mother’s illness. “Dawn!”

 

“She is the Key.”

 

Buffy was filled with righteous anger. “You put that in my house?!”

 

“We knew the Slayer would protect it.”

 

Buffy’s mind flew over memory after memory of life with her pesky smaller sister. Her joy in being told she was going to have a baby sister to help care for. Her annoyance in not being the only special little girl in her daddy’s life. The year they all worried when Dawn had scarlet fever and nearly died. The way Dawnie had hero worshiped her, always wanting to do everything like Buffy, be just like her. How could they not be real? How could DAWN not be real? “My memories, my mom’s?”

 

“We built them.”

 

It was too much. Who gave them the right to play with her mind this way? To play with her mother’s mind, the minds of all her friends? “Then unbuild them. This is my life you’re…”she began angrily. “I didn’t ask for this. I don’t even know…what is she?”

 

 

“Human...now, human. And helpless. Please...she's an innocent in this. She needs you.”

 

Buffy’s voice was hauntingly sad and young as she asked to have it spelled out, “She’s not my sister?” Surely only a younger sister could be as annoying as Dawn and as endearing.

 

“She doesn’t know that.” The monk looked at Buffy once more a silent plea in his eyes as life left his body at last.

 

~~~

 

“I swear, Giles, she was ‘Tacky Whore Blonde #9’ from Clairol and the strength of at least six Chirago demons. Nice shoes though.”

 

They had been through the rubble searching for any sign of the demon that had killed the monk and turned Buffy’s world upside down. So far only Giles had been told of Dawn’s true nature--if the monk had not been lying, that is.

 

A flash of red was seen below a twisted bit of metal rebar and Buffy began to pull off concrete, hoping to find the demon’s body and not just a bit of fabric. “See!”

 

Watcher and Slayer stood in gape-mouthed amazement at the sight of the bloodied, broken and very dead young man in a red dress and strappy sandals, one with a broken heel.

 

“Perhaps he was wearing a blonde wig,” Giles ventured.

 

“Not unless he had some serious silicon padding in that bra,” Buffy mused. “So, demon expert…wanna try buying a vowel here?”

 

~~~

 

“And so it is written,” concluded the reject from Monty Python’s Holy Grail.

 

It had been hard to miss the encampment of medieval warriors outside Sunnydale proper. Putting two and two together usually added up to one apocalypse and Buffy had easily decided that it was connected in some way to the dead crossdressing man and her false sister. She had been right, but not in any of the details.

 

The story of the hell god Glorificus of late transvestite fame, and the mystical Key that now had no urgent purpose save to drive Buffy crazy by stealing her clothing, had been startling, to say the least. When it was all sorted, the Knights of Byzantium, as they referred to themselves, had left town purposeless and Buffy was left with a ready-made sister and a lifetime of untrustworthy memories.

 

The raging hell god had literally stomped her own ruin when her less sturdy shell had taken the brunt of her snitty fit.

 

“And I get left with the Cracker Jack prize sister,” Buffy rolled her eyes. Still, the feelings she had for the brat were the same. Maybe this time the Powers had actually given her a gift after all.

 

~~~

 

November 6, 2000. Sunnydale, California

 

“Buffy, I’ve been trying to talk your mother into going to a doctor for those headaches of hers,” Kate Perkins confided. The lovely homemaker had been one of Joyce’s first and best friends since they moved to Revello Drive. First Buffy, then Dawn had been the family’s babysitter since before the youngest Perkins had even been born. If Kate thought it was important, then Buffy would pay attention, as the lady was one of the most level-headed people she had ever met, and the nicest.

 

“I made a chicken and rice dish for your dinner tonight,” Kate handed the warm casserole to Buffy. “Maybe you can convince Joyce to just take it easy when she gets home. She handed a plastic sack to Buffy as well. “There’s dinner rolls and dessert in there but they don’t need to be kept warm. Hope you still like chocolate death cake?”

 

“God, yes!” Buffy couldn’t resist a deep sniff at the contents of the goodie bag. “You really didn’t have to do this, Kate. I could have cooked up something.”

 

Kate Perkins snorted in amusement. “You forget, Buffy, I’ve been on the receiving end of more than one of your dinners.”

 

They both laughed at the memories. “Want some iced tea before you head home to the monsters?”

 

“Sure.” Kate followed Buffy into the kitchen and took a seat at the counter. “Are you still seeing that soldier fellow?” Buffy didn’t catch the unease that showed on the kind lady’s face.

 

“Yeah,” Buffy frowned. She and Riley weren’t going to make it. She knew that. It had been going downhill ever since he nearly died trying to keep the implant in that had made him feel he had a chance to be the Slayer’s equal in strength and speed. Buffy felt she had to be half the woman she really was just to please him half as much as he wanted. It was a no-win situation. She had tried to give him her heart, but had never been able to just let go enough, be herself enough, to offer what he needed.

 

“You look troubled,” Kate said sympathetically. Buffy remembered how Mrs. Perkins had been one of the few adults to seem to understand how broken she had been when Angel had left for Los Angeles. She had offered support and chocolate whenever Buffy needed a shoulder. “Anything I can help with?”

 

“No. Time I act like a grownup and just be honest with Riley. He’s a great guy, you know, just not MY great guy.”

 

“Ahhhh.” Kate nodded sagely. “I was worried that you were setting yourself up for another broken heart.” She looked visibly relieved to find that Buffy seemed heart whole this time. “There’s always Nicky,” she teased.

 

For the past year, the Perkinses had been trying to get Buffy interested in Mr. Perkins’ younger brother. After Xander had joined the same construction crew as Joe Perkins and met Nick, he had agreed the guy was a gem but stopped pushing when Buffy paired up with Riley. Nick was a great guy, and good looking too, in a California surfer sort of way. He was a faithful Big Brother, built houses for Habitat for Humanity and even volunteered at the local food bank. He was out of college and headed for his first big promotion at the local bank. Buffy wished she found him as attractive as she knew a ‘normal’ girl should.

 

“Nicky has started coaching Zane’s little league team on Saturdays. You should come with us; we’ll have a tail gate party get some fun in the sun.”

 

“Maybe later. Think I need to deal with Riley first, before I head out to break yet another heart,” she sighed. The dark thoughts chimed in, ‘Doomed. If I were interested and started dating Nick, he’d leave town and his whole family would be devastated!’

 

Kate laughed. “Okay. Just saying. I don’t want just anyone for my brother-in-law. Guess he’ll have to wait a few years for Dawn then.”

 

Buffy laughed with her. “Dawn should be so lucky!”

 

“Do I smell chocolate death cake?” The girl in question crashed into the kitchen with all the grace of a newborn colt. “OH! I have died and gone to heaven,” she started to paw through the plastic only to have Buffy swat her hand with the wooden spoon she had been using to stir the tea. “Hands off, this is for dinner.”

 

“Dawn, do you think you could watch Tammy and Jake tomorrow? Joe and I are going to take the two oldest to my sister’s in Compton. She just hasn’t got the nervous system for four under the age of twelve,” she giggled.

 

“Sure. I’m thinking of raising my rates though,” Dawn warned.

 

“Dawnie! Kate just brought dinner and you’re thinking of price gouging!”

 

“Well, I do give discounts for favorite customers,” Dawn blushed. “Hey, Buffy, did you figure out what to give to Tara for her birthday tomorrow? I’m thinking of mixing a cool tape for her with some of that New Age music she loves.”

 

“Not a clue! She’s still so shy around us that I’m not sure what she’d want.”

 

“Just give from the heart, Buffy, and that is all that matters,” Kate advised and, as usual, Buffy listened. “You say she’s shy; my guess is the best gift would be your friendship and acceptance.”

 

Dawn turned on the radio, trying to find the station playing the type of music she wanted to record to make her gift. She stopped as each station seemed to be playing an urgent news alert.

 

“God, Dawn! I’m trying to avoid the news. Nothing but endless yapping about the elections. I’ll get up and vote tomorrow, but I’m so sick of this already,” Buffy quipped. “I can’t wait for it to all be over. After tomorrow, we can all get on with it and forget about the great Bush vs. Gore throwdown of the century.”

 

Instead of turning the volume down or the radio off, Dawn increased the volume with a worried look on her face. “Um…this isn’t about the election, Buffy. Maybe you should listen.”

 

“There had to have been at least six of them,” some citizen was saying. “Their faces were terrible! My poor boy didn’t have a chance.”

 

“Once again, this just in,” the reporter intoned with great drama. “The savage murders of over a dozen young music fans outside the popular Toronto hot spot just gets more bizarre. Two eyewitnesses have come forward and detailed the horror they barely survived.”

 

“Sid had wanted to get there early ‘cause Lee’s Palace fills up fast on a Saturday. I had to go to the ladies, or I’d have been right there with my throat ripped out too. It was terrible! I started out the door and saw them; there were so many! They were ripping into all the kids out there behind the Cave, blood was everywhere. I know the papers said it was an animal attack, but those were not animals. They were monsters right out of a horror movie!”

 

The report interrupted again. “Still no official word on this development, but amateur video of the attack is being analyzed now and will likely be released as soon as it is authenticated.”

 

Kate had paled as the broken voice of the distraught girl had sobbed out her tale. “I need to get home,” she headed for the back door. “Dawn, will six be okay with you? We want to be on the road before it gets dark. Too many weird things happening lately.”

 

“Sure. I’ll be there right after dinner.” The door had already closed before her final word. “Wow, Kate’s upset. Guess we won’t have to keep your secret identity too much longer if this stuff keeps happening. Must have been vampires, huh?”

 

“Yeah,” Buffy mumbled. “Hey, Dawnie, why don’t you put this stuff in the oven to stay warm while I give Giles a call, ‘kay?”

 

 

End Notes:
This will likely be a long story.