Fandom/Genre: Community, fusion with Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Pairings: Ensemble, Jeff & Shirley friendship, Britta/Troy established relationship, Dean/Jeff unrequited
Word Count: 15,404 words
Warnings: : Like the Buffy-verse, it gets dark for the Greendale Seven. Unlike it, there is no major character death.
Beta: The awesome blithers ♥
Also at: AO3
Art link: Art Masterlist (click for full size - and leave some feedback! ♥)
Summary: Greendale has a new night school program – and questions abound. Why are actual classes offered? Why is Troy enrolled in a class he never signed up for? Why does Jeff Winger want to join the Study Group? Will the Dean ever run out of ways to try to get close to him? It’s up to Shirley and her friends to find the answers before it’s too late.
Author's Note: Another story in the Buffy/Community fusion universe of Shirley the Vampire Slayer. It’s not necessary to read that one, if you haven’t. As long as you know the character breakdown you’ll be okay: Shirley=Buffy, Annie=Willow, Abed=Giles/Watcher, Jeff=Spike, Troy=Xander, Britta=Anya, Pierce=Cordelia. Other non-Study Group Community characters mostly appear as themselves. :)
The knock at the door jolted everyone, not just Shirley. Annie’s pen flew across the kitchen table, leaving a scribbly line on the map she had been sketching. She frowned at it, and reached for some correction fluid.
“Who the hell is that?” Shirley asked. ”It’d better not be Jeff or,” she made a staking motion in the air, “his study group application is denied.”
Abed rose calmly to answer the door. Peering out of the peep hole, he stated, “It’s Britta.”
She came barreling in as soon as the door was unlocked. “Boyfriends!” she said, throwing her hands up in the air. ”Makes me remember why I chose the life of a vengeance demon in the first place!”
“Oh, honey,” Shirley said. She’d had her own experience with a deceitful man – though he’d proven himself worthy again. “What did he do?”
“Well,” she said, sitting down on one of the chairs with a thump. “First he bailed on me for dessert...”
Pierce chose that moment to step out of the bathroom. “Troy deserted you? Did you drive him away? Typical.” He hiked up his pants in a way that made Shirley have to avert her eyes with a grimace. “You should stick with girls.”
“And what’s wrong with that?” Annie fumed.
Britta scowled at him as well. “I’ll drive you away so fast you’ll think I’m your chauffeur.” Pierce made a face back at her.
“Anyway...” Shirley prodded. “About Troy?”
“Yeah, he was so late I went ahead and ordered. Then he texts me when I’m already halfway through my fair-trade organic dark chocolate cheesecake,” she explained. ”It’s a good thing I’m a master of the dine-and-dash.”
“Britta!” Annie said.
“What? At those outrageous prices, you think they can’t afford it?”
Annie’s disapproving frown should have melted Britta to her chair, but instead, she just groaned, “Men!”
“It’s hardly the tragedy you’re making it out to be,” Annie huffed and went back to working on the map.
“On top of that, he wants me to record a show for him.” She got up and walked over to the TV. ”Can you do it, Abed? Because I can’t figure out how to program my VCR. Barefoot Jerry didn’t give me an instruction booklet in the trade.”
“He wants to record something? I think Hoarders is a rerun this week.”
“It is?” Pierce asked. “Damn it!”
Abed turned on the television, switched to the program guide, and began scrolling through the channels.
“No, it was Inspector Spacetime. You know how he plans things around it. Whatever he’s doing at the Air Conditioning Annex must be pretty important to blow me off and miss the show.”
Abed grew very still. He stopped scrolling, lowering the remote. “Britta.”
She turned to look at him. “What?”
“Inspector Spacetime airs on Saturday. You usually watch it with us.”
“Saturday, Sunday, weekday, whatever – I’m here all the time, I don’t pay attention to what day it is.”
“But he knows it isn’t on tonight.”
Britta’s face went whiter than usual. “He’s in trouble, isn’t he...?” She turned to Shirley. “Isn’t he?”
Shirley’s skin started to prickle. Then she pulled Alpha and Omega from her purse. “Not for long, sweetie.” She tossed one to Britta. “Not for long.”
“I couldn’t hack into their system – it must be on a separate server. Which might explain why we couldn’t see the class on Troy’s schedule before. But I was able to get these...” Annie laid the building specs for the AC Annex across the table. Shirley wanted to kick herself. With just a cursory glance, it was obviously a vampire stronghold. There were very few windows, only one entrance in and out to cut down on natural light, and more than one basement level.
“Let me try a locator spell,” Annie said, “to make sure they’re keeping him in the building.” She waved her hands above the map, murmuring the words of a spell. A faint blue cross, barely visible, appeared in a small room of the second basement level. ”He’s there,” she said quietly.
“It’s so faint,” Britta said. “What does that mean?”
“Nothing,” Annie said, but her voice sounded falsely confident to Shirley’s ears. “His charm is there, and still active.”
“But is it still on him?” Abed asked.
Annie grimaced. “I don’t know. I’d have to refine the spell further to know for sure... and do we have time for that?”
“I wouldn’t count on it,” Shirley said grimly. “The quicker we get there, the better.”
They picked a spot across the quad from the Annex where they could easily see the doors, but out of sight. A man stood guard just inside. Without getting closer, there was no way to know whether he was human or vampire. How would they get past him?
A few minutes later, a young-looking man approached, coming down the sidewalk near their hiding place. He was dressed in what seemed to be the ‘uniform’ for the place: a button-down shirt and tie with slacks. “There’s our ticket inside,” she whispered to her companions. Jumping out, she twisted his arm behind his back, stake pressed between his ribs before he could even yelp.
“Now don’t shout for your friends, honey. If you make a sound, you’re dust.”
The young man’s eyes open wide, but he obeyed.
“You’re going to get me inside the Annex, I don’t care how.”
She pressed the stake in a little harder, and he whimpered. “I didn’t say you could talk... or whine. Will you help me?”
“Then I’m going to step away for a moment. To show my good faith. But believe me, I could run down a skinny thing like you before you could get two paces.”
When she stepped back, she could see a dot of blood on his shirt where she had pressed in the stake. That and the sweat drops forming on his forehead told her he wasn’t a vamp. Yet.
“Why are you going there?”
He stood there, unspeaking.
She rolled her eyes and gestured with the stake, which was wickedly sharpened to a point. “You can answer my direct questions.”
“I–I was called in for a tutoring session.” He rubbed at the point on his back where she had poked him.
“In the middle of the night.”
“Yes. The professors call the sessions whenever they want.” He straightened up and added, “It’s an honor.”
“I can just imagine,” she said, but he seemed to miss the sarcasm. He was either completely unaware that vampires were in charge of the AC program, or he had been compelled. Either way, it didn’t matter. “You’re bringing a guest with you tonight.”
“They won’t let you in with me,” he said with a shake of his head.
“Because of who I am?” she asked. If the Annex knew that, then Troy was in even greater danger.
The young man frowned. “Because they only let in students with proper ID.”
“Oh,” she said, relaxing only slightly. She looked at his build and coloring for a moment, sizing him up. ”I don’t think that will be a problem.”
Abed calmly started removing his cardigan and pulling his T-shirt over his head. Annie turned away with a blush, Britta wasn’t affected at all. “Pierce, if you would?” Shirley asked, pointing to their captive.
He grimaced. ”You’re the one with three boys.”
She stared him down, and with an unhappy shrug, he ordered the student to go behind the bushes to strip.
A few minutes later, Abed approached the entrance wearing the student’s clothing. They watched him pull the ID card from his pocket, ready to storm the door as soon as it opened.
Abed slid the card through the reader. He waited. He slid it through again. Nothing happened. Then he turned around and walked back to them.
“What happened?” she asked Abed.
“We’ve lost the element of surprise for one thing.” He looked at the card in his hand. ”The guard knew I wasn’t Brian here.” He gestured to the young man shivering in his magical bonds. “I’d be willing to bet my life – and his – that he knew who I was besides.”
Shirley’s heart dropped. They did know about the Slayer. “They probably suspected we’d be coming for him. But maybe not so soon.”
“Troy...” Britta whispered fiercely. She clenched her fists at her sides. “Don’t give up hope.”
Pierce pushed past her. ”My turn.”
“What are you going to do?”
He ignored her and went up to the entrance, waving at the guard. The group came closer to the entrance to listen, leaving the poor shaking student behind. She’d let him go when it was safe to do so, and she wanted to hear what Pierce was going to try.
“Hey, you!” he called to the guard through the glass. Shirley winced. The glass wasn’t that thick. “How much are they paying you?”
The intercom clicked on. “More than what you could pay, old man.”
“Old man?” He tugged his wallet out of his pants. “How many old men do you know that can throw around this kind of money?” He pulled several hundreds out and waved them in front of the glass.
Annie gasped. “Pierce...!” Shirley shook her head. Did he have a death wish?
Pierce went on, “If you let us in, you can have all of it. And we’ll let you escape, too.”
“I’m not interested in your money... But you still might be worth something.” The guard smiled, and his incisors extended. “I don’t usually like my vintage quite so aged…”
Pierce stumbled back, stuffing the money into his pants pockets. “Well, I tried...” he said when he reached them.
Abed turned to Annie. “Let’s try the dissolvire spell. It lacks finesse, but...” He shrugged.
Annie nodded and squatted down to unzip her backpack. She removed a large, ancient-looking text and several bottles.
“What will that do?” Shirley asked.
“If it works correctly, it will... well, let’s just say that the doors to the Annex will need some remodeling.”
“Annex go boom?”
Abed’s lips turned up in a small grin. ”Except not so much ‘boom’ as explode soundlessly. The spell will block the noise from outside ears.”
“I’m cool with that,” she said, stepping back to let them work.
They started drawing arcane symbols on the ground using different colored powders. Shirley turned her eyes away – these complicated spells gave her the heebie jeebies. As much as she was grateful for the help, she’d been raised to believe magic was of the Devil. These three years as Slayer (and many long talks with her pastor) had taught her that magic was neither good nor evil in itself, but a tool to be used for one or the other. Still, it was hard to shake the chills she got watching Annie or Abed prepare something powerful.
So she watched the guard. He spoke into a communicator on his wrist, a few short sentences, and then just watched them, unconcerned.
“Enjoy the show,” she told him, assuming he could hear. “You’ve never dealt with the Slayer and her Study Group before.”
He simply smirked, showing his teeth.
After several minutes, Annie and Abed stepped inside a circle they had drawn. ”You’ll want to get inside, too,” he directed the others. ”This will protect you from flying debris, sort of like a shield.”
Shirley nodded and stepped in, feeling a frisson of power as she did so. Pierce crossed the line at the same time. Britta...
Shirley whipped her head around. Britta was nowhere to be seen.
While Laybourne watched, his goons stripped Troy down to his underwear. Troy kept silent. He had to – he knew he was overmatched. So he said everything he wanted to say out loud in his mind instead. You think this’ll break me? I like being in just my underwear. Bet you think I’m afraid of butt stuff, too!
One of the goons hissed when he came into contact with the cross around Troy’s neck.
Laybourne grinned, almost amused. “Quaint,” he said.
He nodded to the other one to take it off. The other jumped back in pain the moment his fingers touched the metal.
“But effective, I see.” Laybourne walked forward, reaching for the cross slowly. Before he made contact with it, his fingers paused and wriggled, as if he were feeling the magical charge in the air around it. “Hmm. This is nice work.” He squatted beside where Troy was chained to the wall, and got as close to Troy’s face as he could magically tolerate, catching Troy’s eyes and holding them through sheer charisma alone. “Did you make this? Your girl? One of your witchy roommates? Is it the boy or the girl?”
Troy tried not to react in any way at all, but Laybourne smiled and stood up. “She’s talented. I’d love to have her on my team. I employ people of multiple talents on my staff.”
Troy gritted his teeth. But you clearly do your hair yourself.
“Let’s see how far its influence extends.” Laybourne walked over to a plain metal cabinet, the kind Troy had seen in offices all over campus. Laybourne opened it to reveal several wicked-looking weapons.
Troy swallowed. Those aren’t paper clips.
Laybourne drew out a thin, leather whip, then coiled it around his hand slowly. “Is it a general protection spell, or just one to protect you from vampires?”
It’ll be enough.
“You know we don’t have to do this, right? Our trainees are very happy in this program.” He suddenly slashed the air an inch from Troy’s knee.
Troy couldn’t stop a yelp from escaping.
“Despite my appearance, I am not a glutton. We only take as much blood as we need, and our daytime graduates are well-compensated.”
He slashed the air in front of Troy’s arm, this time only a half-inch away. Troy’s sound was more like an ‘eep.’
“And the really talented students, students like you, can choose whether they wish to live a full, comfortable, happy life – or enjoy a more eternal one.”
What kind of choice is that?
“You’re asking yourself, ‘what kind of choice is that?’”
Troy’s head jerked up. He could read minds?! He wished now he hadn’t thought anything about the butt stuff.
“Consider your job prospects in any other field, a boy with your ability. With our degree, you’d have time to enjoy the kind of life you want. With whomever you want. For as long as you want.”
Just then, the cross around his neck started to glow, a faint blue that would have barely registered except for the dimness of the room. Troy’s heart soared. His message had worked – they were looking for him. They knew something was wrong. He just had to hold out until they arrived...
Laybourne’s eyes glittered and the whip came sailing down again, and touched his skin directly below where the cross hung.
A drop of blood welled up. Troy bit his lip against the pain.
Laybourne smiled in triumph. “It seems I was right.” Turning to one of the goons, he said calmly, “Send for one of the second-year students. A human should be able to remove the charm with no ill effects... and if not, well, no big loss.” He turned to the other. ”Let security know, we’ll be honored by the presence of the Slayer at our doorstep, and soon. Make sure all the possible entrances are covered. We wouldn’t want her to enter our domain before we’re ready to receive her in style.”
The two nodded deferentially, and left.
“And now...” The leather strap slithered through his fingers. “Let’s make sure we give her a proper welcome gift.”
“Where’s Britta?” Shirley asked in a frantic whisper. “Pierce! Did you see where she went?”
Pierce shook his head and pointed at Annie and Abed. ”I was watching them.”
Shirley growled. She jumped back across the line, gritting her teeth at the sensation, and stalked over to their captive. “Annie, unstop his mouth, please.” The young man suddenly gasped, and Shirley got down into his face. “Where did they take her?” she demanded. When he looked confused, she added, “The blonde girl!”
The confusion didn’t disappear. “They–they didn’t take her anywhere! She left and went over that way somewhere.” He jerked his head toward the south side of the building.
Shirley closed her eyes and took a deep, calming breath. “Thank you,” she told him and made a gesture toward Annie. The way his eyes drooped told her he was magically gagged again.
She rose calmly and walked back to the others. ”Of all the stupid, half-assed...”
The others didn’t have to be told that their plans were good and Britta’d. “Should we stop the spell?” Annie asked.
“I’ve got a mind to let you do it anyway, serve her right for running off without telling anyone.”
“Maybe the vamps somehow got to her? Sent her a message from Troy?” Annie asked.
“Maybe...” But she would wager all the money spent during her hard-drinking days that Britta had decided on some ‘brilliant’ plan that didn’t need their help.
“Probably not,” Abed said. ”You know Britta.”
The four of them sighed. Shirley could almost hear Troy saying ‘She’s the worst,’ in his affectionate way.
“Maybe she’s come up with something. Though I don’t know what she thinks she can do...”
An alarm bell blared, seemingly from all around them. They all flinched, covering their ears. Britta came running from the south side of the building, shouting and waving her hands. “Guys! Guys!” she said, panting from the run. “I broke open a window on the other side!”
“What? Really?” Shirley asked, surprised.
“Yeah! I knew those years living as a squatter in New York would pay off!” At everyone’s look, she added, “What? You think I could actually afford to pay rent there?”
“Is it big enough to get through?”
Britta’s excitement faded slightly. “Uh...”
From across the quad, a shrill security guard’s whistle sounded.
“Cheese it, the cops!” Pierce yelled and tore off as fast as he could.
Abed began kicking at the spell markings, and Annie jumped to do the same. “Hurry!” Abed shouted. ”See if you can get in!”
“Lead me to that window, girl, and quick!” she told Britta. They ran to the south side of the building, and Shirley immediately saw the broken window. The hole was about the size of her head, not nearly big enough. Maybe if she used her stakes, she could make it big enough for Britta to crawl through...
She took a sharp slab at the glass, and the wood just bounced back. ”What did you use to make this?” she shouted over the alarm noise.
“A rock!” Britta shouted back. “But it’s inside now!”
Shirley gritted her teeth and tried again, chipping a tiny bit off one of the jagged shards. “Jesus, give me strength.” She prayed just as hard that Abed and Annie could keep security from finding them somehow, someway.
A face loomed into the open hole in the glass, snarling. She jabbed at it as hard as she could, and the vampire screamed in pain. But she could see others behind him, and now there were whistles coming from another direction.
“We’re not getting in that way.” She turned to Britta and shouted, “Go! We’ll meet up later!” They pelted into the darkness in different directions. Shirley’s Slayer powers gave her speed as well as strength; she had to hope that Britta could escape Greendale security without that extra edge.
She purposely took the darkest route through the campus – that might make it harder for humans to find her, though if Greendale security had been infiltrated by vamps the same way as the Air Conditioning Annex...
A man appeared on the path in front of her, and she skidded to avoid him. Just in time, she made out his security guard uniform, and she pivoted to run in yet another direction.
Oh, crap. The vamps must have spoken to security already. Did they have Abed and Annie in custody? Or were they in Troy’s predicament now? And what about Pierce, did he make it out? Well, she couldn’t help any of them by being caught herself. She ran.
That made her hesitate. Was that... “Chang?”
“Yes, it’s me! I want to help!”
He had helped when the Twilighters struck a couple of months ago. “How?”
“I want the vamps gone from Greendale as much as you do, Slayer.” He came into the moonlight, letting her see that he was alone. ”I’ve had my eye on the Annex for quite a while now...”
“Then why haven’t you done anything?”
“I’m a servant of the law. I can’t do anything without probable cause.”
“Chang, you’re a security guard, not the police,” she scoffed.
“Do you want my help or not? Let me finish!”
She closed her mouth.
“That Laybourne is a tricky bastard. But not unstoppable. Not by a servant of the light, outside the law... as the Slayer should be.”
“So...” She came closer. “...how will you help me?”
“I can make sure your friends are treated well in custody.” He stepped back into the darkness. “And that you stay free until your mission is complete.” Then he disappeared from view.
“Wait! Who is in custody? Chang!” But he was nowhere to be seen.
Her phone buzzed in her purse and she pulled it out. It was a text from Annie. ‘Security has Abed, he distracted them so I could escape. I think they got Pierce, too. What now?’
‘Regroup,’ she sent back. ‘Meet under the large pine tree beside the science lab in one hour.’
The pine tree was within sight of the Annex, but not too close. Annie did not have enough material for another dissolvire spell. So they were out of ideas, their group was down by two, and every moment Troy spent in that place was one minute closer to... well, Shirley didn’t want to think about what it might mean to lose one of her dearest friends to the vampires.
Of course, now that she was actually considering letting a vampire into the group... She had to decide first – were all vampires controlled by blood lust alone? Or was it possible for one to develop a sense of morality? Was it possible to save one?
Jesus was a friend to even the blackest of sinners. And murdering was definitely a sin – the blackest of black! Could a vampire repent and stop killing, something completely against their nature? It was a pity no vampires were mentioned in the Bible. If there were only a handy red-letter verse to give her inspiration... What would Jesus do? “Would He save you?” she whispered aloud.
“We have to save him,” Britta said beside her, misunderstanding Shirley’s spoken thought. As Shirley nodded, Britta clutched fiercely as Shirley’s sleeve. “Do you think they’ve turned him? Or killed him?” Britta asked.
“They’re probably holding him as bait,” she assured her, even though she was certain of no such thing. “He’d be of no use as a bargaining chip with the Slayer otherwise.”
Britta looked devastated.
“I’m sorry, honey.” She put an arm around her and hugged her.
Britta nodded into Shirley’s hair.
Annie joined in the hug. “We’ll do everything we can to get him out of there safe. You know that, right?”
Britta nodded again.
Another set of arms joined in the hug. “Those guys are toast.”
The three girls jumped apart in fright, taking attack positions. Shirley lowered the stakes in her hands when she saw who it was. “Jeffrey...” Shirley scolded.
“What?” He tried and failed to look innocent. “When I see three lovely ladies in pain, I want to help.”
Shirley simply rolled her eyes. ”You know how you can help? Find a way in there.”
“You can count on me, Madam Slayer.” He gave her a mock salute, then checked his watch. ”For the next... two and a half hours anyway.”
“If you can get us in there before sunrise, we could have ourselves a little morning barbecue out in the quad to celebrate.”
“You’ll have to pardon me if I skip that party,” he said with a smile, and was off into the night.
Shirley glanced over at Britta and Annie, curled up together at the base of the tree. She wanted to let them rest as long as possible. Only one of them needed to be awake to wait for dawn, and she was best equipped because of her Slayer calling, not to mention her years of staying up with sick children.
She turned her eyes toward the east. The sky was lightening, ever so slightly. No sign of Jeff anywhere, not even a text from him to make excuses. She hadn’t been expecting much, but she was surprised at the pang of disappointment she suddenly felt.
So she went back to watching the building. The Greendale campus security guard posted out front straightened up a few minutes later, readying his taser. But then he lowered it, relaxing. What was that about?
She soon discovered for herself – Dean Pelton was bustling up, literally. Why he had decided to visit the Annex in a Queen Victoria costume, Shirley had no idea. She stalked as close as she dared to listen.
“...but that’s what I’m telling you! Officer Chang is already on the scene, and he needs every able-bodied man until the police get here!”
“But my orders...”
“Your orders have changed.” He shooed him off with two opera-gloved hands. ”Go!”
Dean Pelton watched the man leave and then approached the door with tiny, mincing steps. He waved at the building’s guard with a lacy fan. “Hello? Hello there? It’s ‘Dean’ Victoria.”
The security guard looked Dean Pelton up and down once and then shook his head. He didn’t even seem surprised.
“I need to get in to see Vice Dean Laybourne. He sent for me. You can go and check...”
The guard stared at him for several long moments, while Dean Pelton stood there, primly. The guard spoke into his wrist communicator and then turned on his heel to walk out of sight.
As soon as he was left alone, Dean Pelton opened up a highly decorated cinch purse and removed an ID card. He slid it through the reader.
To Shirley’s surprise, the door actually clicked open. Very carefully, the Dean opened the heavy door and side-stepped awkwardly through with his full hoopskirt.
To Shirley’s even greater surprise, Jeff Winger scrambled out from beneath.
“Well, what do you know...” she murmured.
The Dean held out a gloved hand to help him up, but Jeff refused. Then he turned directly where she was watching out of sight and gestured urgently.
Shirley jumped into action, shaking Annie and Britta awake. Annie shook her head vigorously, and scrambled to her feet. Britta clawed at Shirley like cat, and yelled, “No! This is my spot, you bum...!”
“Britta!” Shirley shook her again.
“Huh, what?” she said once she was mostly conscious.
“Jeff got us in the building. Hurry!”
“What? Really?” the girls said together.
“I’m as surprised as you. But I’m not looking a gift vamp in the teeth.” She shouldered her purse and sprinted toward the entrance.
Just as she reached the door, the guard returned. His look of shock quickly turned into a toothy snarl. Dean Pelton shrieked like he actually was Queen Victoria and leapt out of the way. Jeff pushed open the door for them and then went on the offensive, throwing a punch which knocked the guard back.
By then, the three women were inside. “Shame to ruin this beautiful decor,” Shirley commented. Two strides and a swift stab, and he was a guard-shaped smear on the wall.
She turned to Jeff. ”You came through,” she said, squeezing his arm lightly. “Thanks.”
“It’s what a member of the Study Group would do, right?” he asked as seriously as she’d ever heard him speak.
She hesitated, but only for a moment. “Right,” she agreed with a nod. She would think about what letting a vampire into the group would mean for all of them later – when Troy was safe. Turning to Annie, she asked, “Which way downstairs?”
Annie pointed. She’d spent time memorizing the layout earlier that night.
“Behind me,” Shirley told her group, all no-nonsense. “You, too, Queen Victoria!” she called over her shoulder.
“Dean Vic–never mind...” He scrambled to join them.
Annie directed from behind her, “Down this stairwell.”
Shirley opened the door with a yank, stakes at the ready. It was empty. “I don’t trust this...”
“I’ve got the rear, “ Jeff said.
Dean Pelton quickly moved to the middle of the pack with a titillated squeak.
“Then down we go.”
They moved down one level, as swiftly and quietly as a group of five could, especially with one in heels and a hoopskirt. Shirley peered through the window – but it was too dark to see. ”Jeffrey?”
He looked through, and then shook his head. ”Clear, as far as I can see.”
“That doesn’t mean they won’t come through that door anyway,” Britta said.
“Or the one above,” Annie pointed out.
“I’ll stay here, then,” Jeff offered. “You keep going.”
“Can I stay, too?” the Dean asked. Everyone turned to him with a look. “The heels are killing me, okay?”
No one believed that was the reason, but Shirley nodded her assent. He had been helpful, which so rarely happened. Might as well give him his Jeff-time.
Shirley, Annie and Britta went down one more level, the last one The lights were dark here as well. “This is it, right?” Shirley asked Annie.
“It’s where he was when I tried the locator spell.”
“Can you give us a little light?” Britta apologetically wiggled her fingers in the air.
“I’ll do one better.” Annie smiled. “I’ll make it as bright as the sun.”
That should give them an edge. “On my signal, then. 3...2...” She kicked open the door as she yelled, “1!”
The light was so blinding that Shirley was glad she was forewarned. As they burst into the hallway, the gang of vampires at the other end mostly cringed back. But not their leader, who must be Laybourne. He stood impassive, sunglasses over his eyes, though he hardly could have been prepared. “Slayer,” he greeted her solemnly.
“Just three? Don’t we rate the full crew?” He pouted sardonically.
“Three is all I’ll need,” she answered, and then twirled Alpha and Omega. “Plus two.”
Shirley burst into a full run, just as Laybourne’s minions surged around him to attack, wielding her stakes with accuracy borne of need. She had to find Troy and save him from this strange, sterile place. To either side, Annie threw magical fireballs while Britta dodged and kicked. Britta was quicker than she looked.
Time always ran together in the midst of battle. And that was a good thing, as she had no time to waste on worry – just plunge a stake in here, spin kick there, duck and roll and come up staking once again.
And then it was suddenly quiet in the hall. She pushed sweat-drenched curls out of her eyes and looked around. Annie was panting against the wall, and a goodly amount of vamp dust dirtied the once-spotless floors.
“Did you get Laybourne?” Shirley had fought her way toward him, but never managed to reach him. Annie shook her head.
Shirley turned to Britta, but she was...
But so was Laybourne. And if Shirley’s years of Slaying had taught her anything, it was that there were no coincidences here above the Hellmouth.
“Let’s keep going,” she told Annie with a jerk of her head toward the end of the hall. ”I bet we’ll find more than just Troy down there.”
A shout came from the stairwell behind them, and Jeff and the Dean tumbled from the doorway. ”Reinforcements!” Jeff said, barring the entrance with his body. “More than I can handle!” The Dean placed his body against Jeff’s – to help him hold it shut, she was sure he would say.
From the far end of the hall, movement caught her eye, and she saw several more vampires stalking toward them. They were surrounded. ”I pray you can hang on a little longer, Troy,” she said grimly. Readying her weapons, she added a short prayer. Dear Lord, help me send as many of them as I can to your Judgment.
Troy took as shallow a breath as possible, waiting there in the dark. It hurt to breathe, but you had to keep breathing, right? Unless you were a vamp. And the whole point of this being tortured thing was the fact that he did not want to turn vamp. The program itself had almost converted him to transferring to an air conditioning degree, and now that he knew it was run by vamps, he felt cheated. If only Laybourne hadn’t tried to wow him or trick him... he might have joined of his own free will...
Ow. Even thinking hurt.
Troy had no idea how long he’d been held captive, no idea how much blood he had lost. The Vice Dean’s eyes had glittered as he watched the rivulets flow across Troy’s skin, but either Laybourne’s extreme self-control or the cross charm had protected him. No human minions had come to try to remove the charm, either. Did that mean his friends were out there, trying to get in? He had to hold on a little longer.
“Why air conditioning?” Troy had asked, trying to stave off another lash.
“Why not?” Laybourne responded. “A vampire’s life is long, and one must fill the time somehow.”
“And running an air conditioning program at a community college in Colorado seemed like the best plan?”
“Greendale offers a few amenities. Anonymity.” He smiled slowly. ”The Hellmouth.” He slid the whip cord across one of Troy’s bloody welts. “And vampires love the cold.”
Troy couldn’t remember much else after that. He might have passed out. When he came to, Laybourne was gone.
He didn’t know how long he had, but he didn’t have the energy to work out how to slip his manacles, not when it would bring on more pain.
He could hear Britta in his head, “Come on, Troy. Don’t give up, please. I can’t lose you now...”
“But Britta,” he whispered to the voice, “It hurts so much. Maybe I should just let him take me...”
“And let the Man win? I won’t allow that!”
Troy’s wrists flamed up, as the manacles jostled, and he cried out. ”Unnnnh, now even my... fever dreams hurt.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry, I was trying to see if I could pick the lock with a bobby pin, but it’s so slick with blood...”
He opened his eyes and squinted in the darkness. ”Britta, are you real?”
“I guess it depends on how you look at it. We finally got to something interesting in class the other day. Glasser’s Choice Theory...”
She was definitely real. “Stop with... the psychoblahblah...” Troy groaned.
“Sorry,” she whispered, “I’m just so happy you’re still alive...” She kissed his forehead gently. “And it’s fascinating.”
“I promise... to hear all about it... later...”
“Only if you really want to,” she said, and he could hear the smile in her voice.
His manacles jerked and he heard a snap.
Gritting his teeth against the pain, he asked, “Did you...?”
“Broke the pin inside.”
Even though Troy’s brain was fuzzy with pain, he had enough consciousness to remember the cabinet on the other side of the room. “Cabinet... on the wall... has weapons...”
He heard her footsteps as she crossed and the squeak of the door. ”Ugh, I can’t tell what anything is in this dark. I wish I had Annie’s trick with the light...”
“Will this do?” said a voice, and the lights came on blindingly bright.
Britta shrieked and stumbled back into the cabinet, by the sound of it. When his eyes adjusted, he saw Laybourne standing between them.
“Such a tender moment. I hated to interrupt.”
Britta reached in and drew out a long, sharp blade. Brandishing it in front of her, she yelled, “Let him go!”
“Or you’ll what?” he said, taking a slow step toward her. ”That sword’s not made of wood, and I’m certain you haven’t the strength to take off my head with it.”
The door opened behind Laybourne. ”I sure as hell do.” Shirley stood in the doorway, covered in vamp soot as if she had fought her way through hell to get there. “And you’ve got nowhere else to go.”
“That may be true...” With vampire speed, Laybourne was beside Troy’s battered body. “...but young Mr. Barnes is my hostage. I propose a truce. I promise to let him live, and your group leaves the Annex, never to return. If either of you care about him, you’ll take my offer.”
Shirley did not move from her place, strong and undeterred. “And what kind of life would he live? One like yours?”
“No!” Britta cried. She came to stand at Troy’s feet, defiant. The sword shook in her hands. “I’ve spent my whole life cursing douchebags and jerks – but now that I’ve finally found a decent guy, you are not going to take him away from me!” She took a swing at Laybourne’s head.
He easily stopped it with one hand, unflinching though it cut through his skin. Then he twisted it out of her hand and tossed it away like a toy. He shook his head, sad but mocking. “I did give you a chance...”
Lifting his hand above Troy’s mouth, Laybourne let his blood dribble in. Troy coughed and tried to spit it out – but he was so weak...
“And you had a chance, too,” Shirley growled, dropping her handbag to the floor. Springing into action, her booted foot knocked his hand back. Laybourne’s face transformed and his fangs sprang out. The fight was on.
Troy watched them struggle back and forth across the room. Shirley dove for the sword, and Laybourne kicked it aside. She flung one of her stakes, and he dodged it. It clattered to the floor. He toppled the weapons cabinet from the back to block Shirley from grabbing anything inside it.
As he lay there, the fighting escalating, he wondered what it would be like to be a vampire. Would he get used to blood? (Laybourne’s tasted terrible.) Would he have to limit his and Abed’s Inspector Spacetime marathons to the nighttime only? Could he even be friends with Abed at all anymore? Then again, if he lived forever, wouldn’t he sort of be like the Inspector, without the traveling through space part?
Throughout the turmoil in both the room and his mind, some corner of his consciousness noted Britta slowly crawling over to Shirley’s bag. She drew a stake from the inside, waited for the best possible moment...
“Now!” Shirley yelled, and Laybourne was just surprised enough to turn to face the danger–
–and instead was impaled on the stake Britta held.
His face held an expression of almost intellectual curiosity before it crumbled apart. And then he was just a pile of ash on the floor.
Britta hurried over to Troy, gently cradling his face in her hands. “Are you okay?”
He winced, but leaned into her touch anyway. ”I’m okay. Britta...?”
“Yes?” she asked, worried.
“I’ve said it before, but....” He smiled weakly. “You’re the best.”
Jeff looked around at all of them dubiously. “Is this really necessary?”
Abed nodded. “Yes.”
“And all of you went through this too?”
“Oh, absolutely.” “He insisted.” “I had to do it twice. “I wanted to do it twice.” Their words tumbled over each other to reassure him.
Shirley smiled. Of course, the group had never come together so formally, but she liked making Jeff squirm.
Jeff shrugged. “Well, okay, then.”
“Step forward,” Abed intoned. ”Place your hand on the seal and repeat after me.”
“I, Jeff Winger…”
“I, Jeff Winger...”
“Do solemnly swear to uphold the tenets of the Study Group. To honor, protect and support the Slayer and her companions. Though Blorgons–”
Abed quickly cleared his throat. “I mean, Creatures of Darkness, though they may try to stop me, I will ever fight for what is right.”
The sound of someone blowing their nose loudly broke the solemn silence. ”It’s just so beautiful,” the Dean said, wiping at his tears.
The seal, a carved wooden Greendale logo paperweight which Annie had repurposed for the occasion, glowed pink and then faded.
“That’s it. You’re officially in the group,” Abed told Jeff. “Shirley?”
She gestured inside the room, where she stood. “You may cross the threshold.”
Jeff took a tentative step, and found it unblocked, at last. Everyone clapped. Troy patted Jeff on the shoulder, Annie gave him a kiss on the cheek, and the Dean threw his arms around him in a big hug. “I’m so glad Laybourne didn’t have to turn me!”
The room went silent.
“What?” Jeff asked, looking down.
“Oh...” he said, unwrapping himself and taking a step back. “Didn’t I mention that he promised to make me a vampire if I expanded the night school?” His face got more uncomfortably apologetic as he explained. “I just wanted to get closer to Jeffrey...”
The entire group looked at him aghast. The ridges in Jeff’s forehead bulged in anger.
“Um, well, isn’t it fortunate that’s not necess... oh, well, I just remembered I have to...” He slipped off and fled toward his office.
Shirley shook her head as she watched him disappear, then turned to the group. “Shall we begin?”
Murmuring to each other (“You can sit here, Jeff, next to me.” “I like how you used the pledge from The Eyes of the Wind in season 6.” “How come he gets the best seat?”) the gang took their places, Britta helping Troy to his chair. Shirley smiled. Somehow, though she’d never noticed it before, their little group finally felt complete.