THE POWER OF THREE
Disclaimer: All of the materials borrowed from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel belong to Joss Whedon and to the entities and companies associated with their creation. I have borrowed them for creative and entertainment purposes only. No compensation has been or ever shall be received for the writing below. No copyright infringement is intended.
My Website: http://www.dragonwriter17.net/
Feedback: Yes, but only if it’s of the non-flamey variety: DragonWriter17@aol.com
Distribution: The Mystic Muse, Near Her Always (If you are interested in posting my story on your site, please contact me first for permission.)
Spoilers: The end of BtVS Season 4’s “Wild At Heart” and beyond.
Author’s Notes: I have kept to the BtVS/Angel canon in some ways, borrowing directly from aired episodes; however, I have also made significant changes: deleting certain storylines, moving some, changing others, as well as adding some completely original plots. If you haven’t read my backhistory story for Tara, “Out of Shadow into Light,” you need to because it is critical to Book 2.
Number of Chapters: 16
Chapter Summary: While Lindsey re-evaluates his place at Wolfram and Hart, Buffy and Willow and Tara face something much more sinister: a dorm prankster.
As a result of his demotion, Lindsey was in the process of cleaning out his office. He had already gathered his personal belongings and placed them in a couple of boxes. Now he was sorting his files into stacks according to their status. He sighed as he placed the last folder onto this desk. It was his Power of Three file. He looked at the folder intently, then sat down and pulled it towards him.
He opened the folder and browsed the documents. Then his eyes settled on the surveillance photos he had taken in Sunnydale. He picked up the photo of Buffy and Willow and Tara and brought it closer. He touched the image of the three women and frowned.
Lindsey closed his eyes as he remembered his latest nightmare: Holland waiting for him with guards, N’Faius yanking out his heart, himself crumpling to the floor with a silent scream.
He opened his eyes and then leaned back in his chair, running his hand through his hair.
“What have I gotten myself into?” he asked himself. “And how am I going to get myself out?”
He thought for the longest time, weighing the pros and cons. None of this options were appealing. After each line of self-debate was done, his eyes always returned to the picture of the Three. Finally, he sat up straight and gathered all of the parts to the Power of Three folder. He took up deep breath, stood up, and headed for the copy room.
* * *
As the entered the copy room, Lindsey glanced anxiously over his shoulder. An aide was in the room just finishing up a collating job. Lindsey smiled and nodded but didn’t speak, and shortly the aide was on her way.
Lindsey set his folder on the table beside the large state-of-the-art copy machine, took out a few sheets, and sent them through the feeder. While those papers were being duplicated, Lindsey sorted through the rest of the folder, deciding which documents were relevant and which were not. As he worked, he paused occasionally to cast a wary eye in the direction of the door. Nervous sweat began beading on his forehead. When he placed the last stack into the feeder, the machine started beeping.
He groaned in frustration. “What the hell...?”
He checked the indicator light. It was out of paper. He groaned again and then bent down to get a ream of paper from the storage area beneath the machine. He ripped open the package and yanked on the paper tray, grumbling angrily as he did so. He loaded the paper and then slapped the tray back into place. Then he pressed the start button.
When he turned back to the table, he discovered Lilah standing right there. Lindsey jumped, momentarily startled. Lilah grinned. Lindsey cleared his throat and tried to recover his poise. Lilah crossed her arms and leaned against the table.
“I understand you’ll be working with me,” she said with an amused glint in her eye. “For me, actually, I should say.”
“That’s right,” Lindsey replied stonily as he clenched his jaw tightly.
Lilah grinned again and then glanced at Lindsey’s folder on the table. She reached over and tucked her fingers under the corner of a page as if to flip through the documents, but Lindsey quickly shut the folder and pulled it away.
Lilah lifted a curious eyebrow but said nothing.
“Just closing out my files,” he explained.
“I see,” Lilah said, locking eyes with her new research assistant.
He met her stare and didn’t flinch. After an intense moment, Lilah merely smirked and sauntered for the door. After a few steps, she turned and looked back.
“Oh, Lindsey?” she said, in a cold but seductive voice. “When you report for duty, come ready to work. I expect all the men under me to be hard...workers, that is.”
With a final flash of a grin, Lilah was out the door. After a few seconds, Lindsey let out his breath. Then he turned back to the copy machine to gather his pages.
* * *
Outside, in the alcove across the hallway, Lilah waited. When she saw Lindsey leave the copy room and round the corner, she dashed across the hall and back into the copy room. She quickly scanned the buttons and panels on the machine. She growled when she didn’t see what she was looking for.
She opened the storage area below the machine and got out the manual. She flipped through it rapidly. Her eyes lit up. She pressed a sequence of buttons until she saw the menu item she needed.
“Print last scan(s)...Enter the number of scans,” the panel read.
Lilah entered 25 and pressed the big green start button. Within seconds, the copier was duplicating the last 25 unique scans it had made and saved. She started reading the pages as soon as they came out. A sweet smile of success spread across her face when she realized what Lindsey had been copying.
“Lindsey, Lindsey,” she whispered. “Such a naughty boy.”
She picked up her stack and left the copy room, chuckling happily to herself.
* * *
After the Three were finished with their classes for the day, Buffy and Willow returned to their dorm. Tara hadn’t joined them, choosing instead to stay in her own room that night. Although the other two had begged her and even promised her that she wouldn’t have to sleep on the gap, Tara had remained firm, reminding them of the term paper she had due the next day. After getting a kiss each from their favorite blonde witch, Buffy and Willow had relented and gone on their way.
When Buffy and Willow reached their room, they heard a commotion down the hallway. They set their book bags inside their door and then headed toward the loud voice. They found their neighbor Nikki throwing a fit.
“I can not believe this!” she complained angrily as she stood in the hallway looking into her room. “I can not fucking believe this!”
“Nikki, what’s wrong?” Buffy asked.
“That’s what’s wrong!” Nikki replied, pointing into her room.
When Buffy and Willow looked inside, they saw that every single piece of Nikki’s furniture had been stacked haphazardly on top of each other in the corner until there was a precariously-balanced pile from floor to ceiling. Buffy and Willow grinned at each other and suppressed the giggles that were threatening to emerge.
“Methinks that Hershel hath struck again,” Willow pronounced to the unhappy Nikki.
Buffy nodded in agreement. “Yep, he did the same thing to Stacey last semester.”
Nikki glared down the hallway toward what was presumably Hershel’s room. “Hershel!” she screamed as she stomped in that direction. “You are so fucking dead!”
Buffy and Willow turned to go back to their own room, now allowing themselves to giggle freely.
* * *
In their own room, Willow and Buffy picked up their book bags that they had left inside the door and set them under their desks. Buffy headed straight for the kitchenette.
“Want some tea?” she inquired.
“Yeah, that’s sounds—oh no!” Willow cried.
“What is it?” Buffy asked worriedly, joining the redhead at her desk.
“My new paper weight—the one I got at the estate sale—it broke,” she explained, pointing at it. The heavy glass object had cracked and split into several pieces.
“That’s what it gets for shocking me,” Buffy teased, giving Willow a nudge before returning to her tea-making.
Willow poked out her bottom lip in a mock pout.
“So what’d ya find out at the housing office?” Buffy asked as she filled the electric kettle and plugged it in.
“Oh, they said they didn’t have any bigger dorm rooms, but...” Willow dug in her bag and pulled out a pink sheet of paper. “I did pick up a list of off-campus housing, like apartments and duplexes, townhouses and condos.”
“I think we can mark off the townhouses and condos,” Buffy replied as she got out two cups and dropped a tea bag in each.
“Yeah, but between the three of us, we should be able to afford something decent, right?”
“I hope so, but with off-campus, there’s deposits and utilities, not to mention furniture.”
As the kettle began to whistle, Buffy unplugged it and poured the hot water into the cups she had prepared. She dunked the bags up and down as they steeped.
“I mean, I can just imagine the look on Mom’s face when I ask for money for a king-sized bed,” Buffy added.
Buffy walked Willow’s cup of tea over to her and then returned to her own. She pulled the sugar bowl over and dumped several teaspoons of sugar into her tea. She stirred and then blew and then took a careful sip.
“Ugghh...eeoh...gyack!” Buffy cried after barely getting down her sip of tea.
“What is it?” Willow asked.
“Bleh...it’s salt!” Buffy answered.
She set down her cup and pulled the top off the sugar bowl. She moistened her index finger and touched it to the white crystals in the bowl. Then she put the tip of her finger in her mouth. She grimaced.
“Who would put salt in the sugar bowl?” Willow asked.
Buffy narrowed her eyes and growled, “Hershel.”
Willow snickered, then quickly stopped when Buffy directed her angry gaze at the redhead. Willow cleared her throat and put on a serious face, nodding agreeably. “Hershel bad.”
* * *
At the end of the work day, long after dark, Lindsey tucked a FedEx envelope into his briefcase, shut the case, and locked it. At the doorway, he looked back at his office once, then headed down the hallway. He glanced nervously over his shoulder as he entered the elevator.
When the elevator opened in the lobby, he went straight for the main entrance. He tried to stay calm and walk at a normal pace. His gut was telling him to run like hell, but he fought down his panic and moved at a leisurely pace, even waving to the security guards as he exited.
Once outside, he proceeded immediately down the sidewalk. He walked briskly several blocks away to a shopping forum wedged between two tall towers. On the street out front was a FedEx drop-off box. Lindsey marched to the box, set down his briefcase, and opened it. He pulled out the FedEx envelope and then closed his briefcase. He glanced briefly around him before slipping the envelope inside the drop-box.
Lindsey heaved a sigh of relief, picked up his briefcase, and turned to go. His progress was stopped by a large body dressed in black. He yelped slightly and stepped back.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to—” Lindsey stopped when he saw Angel before him.
“I think you and I need to have a little chat,” Angel said, grabbing Lindsey by the lapels and dragging him into the small alley between the shopping forum and the tower.
Lindsey grunted when Angel slammed him against the wall.
“I hear you were down in Sunnydale recently...on business,” Angel said grimly.
“Yes, but I—”
“I’m only gonna say this once, so listen up. If you or your firm tries anything against Buffy, you will regret it. You’ll have a war you wish you had never started.”
Angel roughly released Lindsey and then stormed away.
After a few seconds to catch his breath, Lindsey straightened his coat and tie and then walked out of the alley.
* * *
The next morning, Buffy and Willow gathered up their bath baskets and towels and headed across the hall. When they got to the bathroom, they were nearly run down by Gayle as she rushed out.
“Hershel!” Gayle screamed as she stomped down the hallway, completely oblivious to the long strip of toilet paper that was stuck to the bottom of her left house shoe.
Willow and Buffy gingerly pushed the bathroom door open and eased inside. They found the bathroom completely covered in toilet paper. It was hung from the light fixtures, wrapped around the sinks and toilets, draped across the shower stalls, and layered on the floor. From the number of empty cardboard rolls cluttering the floor, an entire case of toilet paper must have been consumed in the process.
“Boy, he’s really asking for it,” Willow said.
“No doubt,” Buffy agreed. “And if it keeps it up, he’s gonna get it.”
Deciding to hit the facilities on one of the other floors, Willow and Buffy exited the bathroom. As soon as they left, a small glowing cloud floated down from the ceiling, a soft snicker emerging from it.
* * *
After their morning classes, Buffy and Willow met Tara for lunch at the cafeteria. She was already seated and waved at her girlfriends when they entered. When they had filled their trays, Buffy and Willow joined Tara at her table.
“Hey,” Willow said in greeting. “How’d that term paper go?”
“Pretty good,” Tara replied with a smile. “It took almost all night, though.”
“Well, it’s a good thing you weren’t over in Stevenson with us,” Buffy commented. “Hershel, the prankster, is up to his old tricks. He totally TP’ed our bathroom. Willow and I had to go to another wing and shower. It took forever.”
“We had to skip breakfast just to make it to class on time,” Willow added.
“I was wondering where you two were this morning,” Tara said. “I missed you last night.”
“We missed you too,” Willow said, giving Tara’s hand a squeeze. “Didn’t we, Buffy?”
Buffy didn’t hear Willow. Her eyes were focused on a hooded figure slipping quickly through the cafeteria and settling at a remote table.
“Didn’t we, Buffy?” Willow repeated, nudging Buffy with her elbow.
“Huh?” Buffy asked.
“Didn’t we miss Tara last night?” Willow prompted.
“Oh, yeah, absolutely,” Buffy answered with a sincere smile, meeting Tara’s eyes. Almost immediately, though, she looked back at the figure. Tara just grinned at Buffy’s distraction.
“What are you looking at?” Willow asked as she tried to look in the direction Buffy had been staring.
“Hershel,” Buffy replied. “I’m gonna go have a little chat,” she added in decidedly slayer-like tone before rising from her chair.
* * *
When Hershel saw Buffy approaching his table, he immediately tried to make a hasty departure. She grabbed him and put him right back in his seat.
“Hershel,” she said in an I’ve-got-you-now tone. “We need to talk.”
“Oh, sure, talk, I can do that,” Hershel replied, with a nervous chuckle. Then he leaned back in his chair and draped his arm behind it in an attempt to act nonchalant.
“I want the pranks to stop. Now.”
“Pranks? What pranks?”
“Oh, don’t act all innocent with me. The furniture stacking, the salt in the sugar bowl, the toilet-papering the bathroom...it’s all classic Hershel-annigans.”
Hershel grew serious and leaned forward in his chair. “Look, I don’t know who did all the pranks yesterday and today, but it wasn’t me. I swear.”
“And you expect me to what...just take your word for it?”
“I am telling you, I did not do this. I wasn’t even here. I was out of town...with the basketball team. I was doing a story for the school newspaper. I left yesterday around noon and didn’t get back till really late last night. I only just now got up.”
“Didn’t you hear the commotion this morning?”
Hershel shook his head. “I was over at my girlfriend’s room. That’s where I went when I got in last night. My roommate called me and gave me a heads-up, though. I’ve been avoiding the dorm since.”
“I think that’s a good idea, guilty or not,” Buffy warned. “Tempers are gettin’ pretty hot, so you’d better lay low.”
“Believe me, I intend to,” Hershel said.
* * *
Later that evening, Willow walked down the sidewalk to the gallery owned and operated by Joyce Summers. A large sign out front said “Closed for New Shipment Setup. Stay Tuned.” Willow went up to the door and knocked. Within seconds, Joyce opened the door to let Willow in.
“Hey, Willow,” Joyce said amiably.
“Hey, Mrs. Summers,” Willow answered.
“Glad you could make it,” Joyce said. “I appreciate the help.”
“Oh sure, any time.”
“Buffy and Tara are in the back room opening the crates for me.”
Joyce pointed towards the back of the building, and Willow headed in that direction. When Willow entered the back room, she saw Buffy and Tara surrounded by wooden crates of all sizes. Various items of artwork lined the side wall.
“Hey guys,” Willow called out to her two girlfriends. She quickly joined them and gave each one a kiss.
“So, what’d ya find out?” Buffy asked.
“His story checks out. Hershel was out of town with the basketball team, just like he said.”
“Huh,” Buffy replied, with a stumped expression on her face.
“Maybe someone’s trying to frame Hershel,” Tara offered.
“Yeah,” Willow said, chiming in. “Someone who has a grudge against him.”
“That could be half the dorm,” Buffy said as she moved to a new crate.
“Oh yeah,” Willow said with a deflated pout.
“I’m gonna open these next two,” Buffy said to Tara.
Tara nodded. “Good. This one’s about empty.” Tara motioned to Willow. “Help me finish this one?”
Willow smiled and helped Tara reach into the crate for another item.
Joyce came to the door and leaned against the jamb. She watched as Buffy used her Slayer strength to rip open the top of the crate without so much as a crowbar. Joyce just shook her head. It still amazed her to see what her daughter was capable of. On the one hand, she found it reassuring—knowing that Buffy could take care of herself. But on the other hand, it was frightening—knowing how dangerous Buffy’s calling was, what she faced on a daily basis.
Joyce turned to Willow and Tara. She watched as Buffy’s two girlfriends carefully unloaded the crate they were working on. Joyce closed her eyes. Buffy’s girlfriends, she thought. First of all, girlfriend. Big news there. Secondly, girlfriends, as in plural, as in more than one, at the same time. Once again, Joyce shook her head, lowering it as she continued to think deeply on the matter.
Joyce’s head immediately shot up when she heard Buffy cry out in pain. She instantly moved towards her daughter, but stopped when she saw that Willow and Tara were already there. Joyce merely watched quietly.
Buffy gripped her wrist tightly then shook her hand, grimacing in pain. Willow made Buffy sit down on a nearby crate while both Willow and Tara knelt beside her and looked at her bleeding hand.
“What is it?” Willow asked.
“Ow, ow, a splinter,” Buffy replied.
“I’ll get the first aid kit,” Tara said. “I saw one in the restroom.”
Tara darted to the restroom and then back. She opened the kit and got out some tweezers and some antiseptic pads.
“Do you want me to try and get it out for you?” Willow asked.
Buffy just nodded.
Willow turned to Tara. “Will you—?”
“Yes,” Tara said, knowing what Willow meant for her to do.
Tara stood and went behind Buffy. She began massaging Buffy’s shoulders. Buffy immediately began to relax.
“Buffy, this is gonna hurt, it’s a pretty big splinter and it’s jammed in there pretty deep, but just listen to Tara and connect with her, okay?” Willow instructed.
Buffy didn’t answer. She just murmured distractedly as Tara continued to massage her neck and shoulders.
Willow went right to work, using the tweezers to grasp the tip of the inch-long splinter and guide it from under Buffy’s skin. Occasionally, Buffy’s face creased in pain, but she stayed perfectly still. While Willow worked, Tara whispered a calming incantation and sent healing energy into Buffy.
Before Buffy knew it, the procedure was over. She sat up straight and gazed at her now-bandaged palm. Tara knelt beside Willow to examine her work. Buffy looked at the two women at her feet and smiled.
“Mmmm,” Buffy said huskily, “remind me to come to this clinic every time I get hurt.” Buffy pulled Tara to her and kissed her deeply before doing the same to Willow. “Thank you,” she told them both sincerely.
Tara blushed as her lips curved into her characteristic half-smile. Willow grinned and gave Buffy’s undamaged hand a squeeze.
Joyce felt a lump form in her throat as she watched this ordinary event take place. It was such a small thing—inconsequential, really, in the great scheme of things—and yet strangely powerful. In its wake, Joyce felt her concern about the girls’ relationship fade away. It was replaced by an assurance, a confidence, a simple knowing...that what these Three had was special and that nothing would ever tear them apart.
Joyce cleared her throat, drawing the attention of the Three. “Everything okay?” she asked.
“Oh, yeah, sure, just a splinter,” Buffy said, holding up her bandaged hand. “Willow and Tara took care of me.”
Joyce smiled. “I see,” she said.
“Don’t worry, I’m still good to go,” Buffy replied as she stood up.
“How about I order us some take-out and you can let some of that Slayer healing kick in before resuming your duties?”
Buffy’s eyes lit up at the mention of food. “Chinese?” she asked hopefully.
“Okay,” Joyce replied.
Buffy clapped her hands together with glee until a sharp pain reminded her of her injury. She revised her technique, bringing her hands together but not letting them touch.
“Oh, look, it’s the sound of no hands clapping,” Tara quipped.
Everyone rolled their eyes, including Joyce, who took that as her cue to leave for the Chinese restaurant.
* * *
Shortly after Joyce left, Buffy excused herself and went to the restroom, taking the first aid kit with her. Tara sat on the crate that Buffy had vacated and pulled Willow into a straddling position on her lap.
“You did excellent work, as always, Dr. Rosenberg,” Tara teased, kissing Willow warmly on the lips.
“Why thank you, Nurse Maclay,” Willow replied, playing along, kissing Tara back.
Tara wrapped her arms around Willow’s waist and linked her fingers together, holding the redhead firmly in place. Willow rested one hand on Tara’s shoulder and used the other to trail her fingertips along Tara’s face, tracing the strong cheekbones. When she got to the blonde’s lips, Tara suddenly captured Willow’s index finger in her mouth. She suckled it for a moment, then caught it between her teeth and grinned wickedly before releasing it. Willow chuckled and planted a searing kiss on Tara’s mouth, which Tara eagerly returned.
When Buffy came back from the restroom and found her girlfriends making out, she grinned. Leave ’em alone for a minute and look what happens, she thought.
“Hey...what’s with the smooching without me?” Buffy chided.
Willow pulled out of her kiss with Tara and shifted so that she was sitting sideways in Tara’s lap. Tara looked up at Buffy.
“Sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves,” Tara said, only a little sheepishly.
“Yes, it was the fertility statue,” Willow explained with mock matter-of-fact-ness as she nodded her head at a nearby artifact. “It was a bad influence,” Willow insisted.
“Don’t even suggest that,” Buffy interjected. “The last time one of Mom’s gallery items started influencing things, Sunnydale became Zombie City.”
* * *
After calling it a night at Joyce’s gallery, Buffy and Willow and Tara returned to the campus and to Stevenson Dorm. They showered and fell into bed, exhausted. They were awakened early the next morning by a commotion in the hallway.
“You son of a bitch!” they heard a male voice shout.
“We’re gonna fucking kill you, man!” another male voiced shouted.
Then they heard the sounds of punches and a wall-slam and then kicks. The Three jumped out of bed and threw on their robes. When they yanked open their dorm room door, they found three male students violently kicking Hershel.
“No, please, stop! It wasn’t me, I swear!” Hershel cried between kicks.
Buffy immediately leapt into the fray. “Leave him alone!” she shouted as she knocked all three away from Hershel with one tackle.
The three boys got right back up, as did Buffy. Willow joined her, and the two women stood protectively in front of Hershel while Tara checked on the beaten young man. The angry look on the girls’ faces slowly changed to confusion as they took in the sight of the three attackers. Every inch of the boys’ skin that was showing was blue...completely blue. Even their hair had a bluish tint to it.
“What happened to you?” Willow asked.
“What the hell do you think happened?” the apparent leader of the trio replied. “That asshole put blue dye in the showerheads!”
He tried to move forward and go after Hershel again, but Buffy stopped him in his tracks and grabbed his wrist. He locked eyes with her, daring her to stay in his way. Soon his fury changed to pain as Buffy twisted his wrist nearly to the breaking point. The other two attackers took a step back.
“I am not going to let you hurt him anymore, so get lost, got it?” Buffy warned.
When she released the leader’s wrist, he held it gingerly in his other hand and then backed off. The three male students stared angrily for a moment more, then stalked away.
Buffy and Willow bent down to check on Hershel. Tara had his head in her lap, trying to soothe his pain. He held his arm protectively over his abdomen; he was sweating and breathing hard.
“I’m calling an ambulance,” Willow told Buffy before dashing inside their room.
“I-I-I didn’t...do it,” Hershel said to Buffy when she touched his arm.
“Yeah, we know,” Buffy replied.
“Who’s doing this?” Hershel asked plaintively.
“I don’t know, but
we’re gonna find out,” Buffy assured him.
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART THREE…