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Author's Note: All conversation marked with ' ' instead of " " (except for those marked "' '", which indicate missed letters due to slang/dialect) are not spoken, just written on the message boards, projector, etc. Some dialogue was taken from the episode, but a few scenes have been cut out due to modifications of the plot- in other words, no B/R kissing! Enjoy.


Hush.


"So this is what it is. Talking about communication, talking about language. Not the same thing. It's about the way a child can recognise and produce phonemes that don't occur in its native language. It's about inspiration, not the idea but the moment before the idea when it's total, when it blossoms in your mind and connects to everything, before the coherent thought that gives it shape, that locks it in and cuts it off from the universal. When you can articulate it, it becomes smaller. It's about thoughts and experiences that we don't have a word for." Professor Walsh paused, then added, "a demonstration. Buffy Summers, come on down to the front here."

Buffy was surprised at being chosen, and came warily down as a result.

Professor Walsh continued. "A typical college girl, one assumes." She turned to Buffy. "Lie down on my desk," she commanded.

It was about at this moment, that Buffy realised she was dreaming, for as strange as Professor Walsh was, she was sure that she would never be asked to do this in the real world. At least, she was half sure. Nevertheless, she played along. "What?"

"Go ahead, you're perfectly safe," Walsh tried to assure her.

But failed. The slayer cautiously obliged, clasping the edge of the desk with her hands, using her upper body strength to lift herself up on to the flat wooden surface, before she rested herself on her elbows, prepared to jump off if this led to a scene which she might have to fight her way out of.

Walsh turned to her TA. "Riley, if you could oblige."

"A demonstration, right," the TA muttered.

"Be a good boy." Walsh cautioned him. She turned to the rest of the class. "A kiss is just a kiss as the saying goes. The rest comes from you."

The TA walked up to her, while Buffy was wishing for herself to wake up. This was not the sort of dream she wanted to be having, and Riley was the last person she wanted to dream about kissing.

Suddenly, Angel materialised in front of Riley, making her breathe a sigh of relief. She watched him come up to her, her body relaxing to the handsome sight of soulmate.

"I'm so glad you appeared," she said, "I was afraid this would turn into a nightmare."

Angel looked at her mysteriously, reminding her of the time when they first knew each other, before she discovered that he was a vampire, albeit a souled one. "Don't be so sure. When I kiss you, it'll make the sun go down."

Buffy did not wonder at the words, leaving that reflection till later. If this dream turned out to be what she thought it was; a prophetic slayer related one, she had to stay alert for every detail and follow it through, leaving the symbolism to defined by Giles and the slayerettes, as well as herself and her angel later.

The class watched as their lips touched. For a moment they were nervous, aware of the watching eyes of freshmen and professor upon them, then desire and passion conspired together so that they forgot and involved themselves wholeheartedly in the kiss.

When they came apart, true to her beloved's words, it was darkness all around, as the lecture room lights turned off, and night sky streamed through the windows which ringed the top of the room, below the ceiling.

Buffy sat up and slid down from the desk. As she stood upon the floor, a crossbow appeared in her hands, pointed directly at Riley; the only member of the class to remain. Professor Walsh, all the other students, had disappeared, leaving the three of them alone in the lecture hall. She glanced at him, noting the taser gun in his hands, the nozzle pointed at her, his finger on the trigger, poised as if about to fire, then he disappeared.

She turned back to Angel, who asked her, "do you hear that?"

Buffy was about to reply in the negative, when suddenly she did begin to hear something. A faint humming, almost chanting, echoing into the lecture hall, from outside in the corridors of the building.

She left the lecture hall, entered the corridor and walked towards the sound. Yes, it was definitely chanting. A little girl, no more than ten years old, blond hair and fair features, attired in a pink red dress, was standing in front of the entrance to the lecture halls, chanting a rhyme over and over in a singsong tone of voice. The tune resembled the melody to other nursery rhymes, like ring a ring of roses. In her hands she held a small, ornate wooden box, the kind used to carry an item of jewelry, or the once richly rare commodity of tea leaves.

"Can't even shout, can't even cry, the gentlemen are coming by. Looking in windows, knocking on doors; they need to take seven, and they might take yours. Can't call to Mom can't say a word. You're gonna die screaming but you won't be heard."

The rhyme came to an end, and Buffy felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned round, expecting Angel, only to find a demon in a business suit. It's hideous, skeleton thin face grinned maniacally down at her, its long narrow nose and dark penetrating eyes all silently conspiring to rise the level of fear his being delivered.

It was then that she woke up.

 


"So," Professor Walsh said as the slayer opened her eyes, blinking as she adjusted her pupils to the daylight and the somewhat comforting sight of her lecture hall, "I'll see you all Monday for a final review session."

The bell rang and Buffy closed her books and got up, trying for all the world to look like she had not just slept through class.

"Man," Willow remarked as they walked out together, "that was an exciting class, huh?"

"Oh, yeah," Buffy tried to answer convincingly.

Willow continued. "And the last twenty minutes was a revelation. She just laid out everything we need to know for the final exam. I'd hate to have missed that."

Her best friend groaned as she realised the game was up. "Just tell me I didn't snore."

Willow shook her head. "Very discreet, minimal drool. So were you dreaming?"

Buffy nodded. "Yeah, it was kind of intense."

"Intense, really?" Riley asked, coming up from behind them. "'Cause you seemed so peaceful."

Buffy rapidly went to change the subject, not wanting anyone who wasn't a slayerette to overhear the details of her dream. "Of course it was only for a moment."

"Right," Riley replied, not in the least dissuaded. "So this dream, can you tell me about it? As a Psych Major I'm qualified to go 'hmmm.'"

"I don't really remember it," Buffy replied.

"Well, did I appear at all in this dream?" Riley asked, still not discouraged.

Buffy was about to reply with a lie, when she was saved the trouble as her soulmate appeared in front of her. "Hey."

"Hey," Angel replied. "You were dreaming?"

Buffy smiled at him. "Yeah."

"Was I in it?" He asked.

"There might have been a cameo," she replied, as he put his arm around her.

"Is that right?" Riley muttered, disappointed.

"Maybe more like a featured role," Buffy elaborated as she rested her head on Angel's shoulder.

"Tell me more," Angel beseeched as they moved away from Riley.

Buffy kept silent until they had exited the lecture halls, then began. "It was a prophetic dream. Had this weird monster in that I've never seen before."

"So are we making a call to Giles before we have lunch then?" Angel asked.

"'fraid so," she replied. "Have you got your sketch book?"

"Right here." Angel patted his laptop bag.

"Then let's go."


"Can't even shout, can't even cry, the gentlemen are coming by." Giles paused as he considered it in his mind. "And the girl was carrying a box."

"Yeah," Buffy replied. "You heard it before?"

"It sounds vaguely familiar," Giles said thoughtfully. "You're sure it's nothing you heard when you were a child?"

"Complete with scary demons?" Buffy countered.

"Right. Well it could definitely be one of your prophetic dreams or it could just be the eternal mystery that is your brain. But I'll check it out and let you know if I find something."

"Thanks, Giles," Buffy remarked before ending the call. She walked into the kitchen of the Mansion on Crawford Street to find Spike searching the cupboards. "Spike, have you heard of a group called the gentlemen?"

Spike paused and turned round. "Group of what?"

"The gentlemen."

Spike shrugged. "Dunno."

"You certain?" Buffy persisted.

"No." He paused. "We're out of Wheetabix."

Angel walked into the room, sketch book in hand. "We are out of Wheetabix. because you ate it all. Again."

Spike shrugged. "Get some more."

"I thought vampires, half human ones aside, were supposed to eat blood," Buffy remarked.

"Yeah, well sometimes I like to crumble up the Wheetabix. in the blood; give it a little texture," Spike revealed with a grin.

Buffy groaned. "Since the picture you just painted means I will never touch food of any kind again you'll just have to pick it up yourself."

"Sissy," Spike muttered as he walked out of the room.

The chosen one turned to Angel, who held out the sketch book before her, having finished his sketch of the demon, who seemed to bear a resemblance to the demon der Kinderstood. "Is this him?"

Buffy took the A4 pad for a closer inspection. "I think so. Freaked me right out." She handed it back.

Angel carefully tore the page out. "I'll fax this over to Giles, and then we better get back to the campus."


The afternoon was one like any other. Lectures were delivered, pupils listened- without falling asleep, at least in most cases, -assignments were given out, and delivered in.

Slayerettes completed the day in the manner which had become the norm ever since they began attending Sunnydale University. A patrol around the town, with chosen areas i.e. graveyards; checking for vampires and demons when darkness fell, then returning to their perspective homes.

Their Watcher paced the floor of his apartment, analysing the rhyme and the picture, until his wife arrived home from her last class, whereupon he quietly laid it down on the desk and proceeded to make their dinner.

No vampires bothered the Slayer's patrol and as the clock struck the first hour of the next day, she was asleep in the arms of her boyfriend.

As the night was quiet, the chimes of the clock tower could be heard as they sounded one o'clock. But all was not well. For in the clock tower a wooden box lay on a wooden table; the same wooden box which the slayer had seen in her dream.

A bony, ghostly pale, white hand reached out from the darkness and opened it.

Outside, the people of the town slept on, opening their mouths in their sleep, letting a pale mist escape from their bodies.

Pale mist drifted into the ornate wooden box, which was then closed by the same bony hand that had opened it.

A face emerged from the darkness. Shrunken, pale, ghostly skin, with deep set eyes, and bones outlined, it matched exactly the drawing by Angel.

Can't even shout, can't even cry.

The Gentlemen are coming by.


Morning came to Sunnydale, causing all citizens to wake from their sleep. As usual they opened their eyes, checked the time, sat up, and climbed out of bed.

The slayer opened her eyes and turned to her soulmate, to find his eyes upon her. She smiled in greeting, and then opened her mouth.

Only for nothing to come out.

Concerned, Angel tried to speak too. But when nothing came out of him either, they rapidly got up and rushed to get dress.

Within minutes they were in the car, Spike cowering in the back from the fatal glare of the sun, on their way to Oakpark Street.

They were among the first to arrive, walking into apartment 523B without so much as a knock. Spike was the first to enter, as he rushed out of the sunlight, dodging Giles as he came down from the bedroom.

Giles watched him sit down, then turned to hug Buffy in silent greeting. When they parted, the slayer walked to his desk and pointed to the faxed drawing, and then the notebook where he had copied the rhyme.

Understanding her query, Giles shook his head.

Wesley walked in, followed closely by Willow, Cordelia, Anya, and Tara, with Doyle bringing up the rear. He waved a hello at Giles then walked to the television set and switched it on.

"Big news item from Sunnydale California," the anchorman was heard to say as the picture came into life. "Apparently the entire town has been quarantined due to an epidemic of, as strange at this may sound, Laryngitis. It seems the town has been rendered unable to speak. There's no word yet what might have caused this, or what other effects might be seen from this epidemic. Local authorities has issued a statement, a written statement, I should say, blaming recent flu vaccinations. A few sceptics call it a city wide hoax. In the meanwhile Sunnydale has effectively shut down, all schools and businesses will be closed for the time being, and residents are advised to stay home and rest up. Centres For Disease Control have ordered the entire town quarantined. No one can go in or out until the syndrome is identified or the symptoms disappear. We'll bring you more on this as it develops."

The Scooby gang exchanged looks with each other as the words of the news report became understood. Then the slayer picked up the notebook on Giles' desk, and began to write.

When she had finished, she showed it to Giles. It read. 'Keep researching. I should be in town tonight.'

'Why?' Giles mouthed.


"Because there will chaos," an electronic, computer generated voice answered, though nowhere near Giles for him to hear it. Instead it addressed the members of the Initiative, controlled by Walsh, who used the technologies sent to her courtesy of the government who secretly funded this project known as the Initiative.

"You will help keep order. Dress as civilians. A military presence would only increase panic."

Xander, who received a page from the headquarters and decided to show himself at the underground laboratory before reporting to the slayers, so he could provide a report of how the Initiative decided to deal with this problem, began to write something on the piece of paper provided, but Riley was there before him. 'What is happening?'

"We are looking into it," Professor Walsh instructed the voice to reply. "Go. Help maintain order. We will find an answer."


The moment Buffy stepped outside in the night surrounding the town on the hellmouth, all she saw was chaos. Cars crashed into one another by panicking drives, water hydrants burst from vehicle impact, people wandering the street in an desperate motion to do anything but sit at home and worry, hoping they might find the solution to the problem upon the streets, hoping to find out if everyone they knew in the town was alive.

She split up two fights started by nothing more than misunderstood stares, passed a group which had collected around the vicar, who was reading from the Bible. A blackboard rested before him, showing the passage; Revelations, 15:1.

"'I saw another great and marvellous sign in the sky; seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them god's wrath is finished,'" the reverend's board quoted, causing Buffy to wonder once more about the significance of the number seven.

Turning a corner, she found Xander splitting up another fight. They hugged in greeting, before he took out his army id necklace to show her that he was working under orders from the Initiative. He shook his head when Buffy's expression conveyed a silent inquiry as to whether they knew anything more than them. Silently he pointed to a scene behind her.

Buffy turned round. A guy was selling message boards; ten dollars each. The glanced at each other and grimaced at the extortion.

All the same; they realised the need of them, and brought one.


Later, as the hour of one drew to a close, the figures taking up residence in the clock tower moved out into the neighbourhood. Their feet hovered above the ground, as though they travelled on a conveyor belt, attended by companions; crouching lunatics in staight-jackets, anxiously courting favour from their masters.

Looking in windows, knocking on doors, a group in the university, another about the town, looking for the seven angels. The former collective walked down a corridor in one of the dorms of a residence hall, taking in the numbers of every room.

Until they came to room one hundred and eighteen, to which one pointed with their bony forefinger, silently signifying the number to their colleagues for consideration. When they were all agreed they stopped and knocked on the door.

Inside, a male student woke up and crawled out of bed to answer it, unable to call out for the intrusion to go away.

When he opened the door, he had expected to see another student asking for something, someone he could order away with a silent glare at having his body temporarily deprived of much needed sleep.

Not skeleton thin face demon, whose flesh clung to his skull, whose dark eyes hung deep in his sockets, whose smile was a maniacal grin to inspire pure terror, attired in a business suit accompanied by two mummified lumbering beings in straight-jackets.

The latter grabbed him, dragging him back inside the dorm room before lying him on the bed. Demon in the Business Suit advanced forward, until he hovered over him. The straight-jackets drew back his night-shirt, revealing the bare expanse of skin beneath. Suit reached out with his scalpel to the chest.

Student let out a silent scream.


Back at the clock tower, hours later, two jars containing hearts were put upon the table. One demon surveyed the gifts with evil appreciation, before turning to congratulate his colleagues responsible with a round of applause. This clapping of hands, eerily as silent as the grave, soon became unanimous, as the demons celebrated their success so far, a good nights' work considering the mass panic which had conquered the town on the hellmouth.

They need to take seven.


Morning brought the arrival of newspapers to Giles' and Jenny' apartment. The Watcher picked them up from the doormat and read the front page's gruesome story about the removal of hearts.

He journeyed to the desk while reading the article. His eyes fell on the faxed copy of Angel's drawing, and image together with the combination of the newspaper article triggered a sudden recognition.

Giles left the broadsheet and faxed sketch on his desk before walking to his book shelves where he took out a old book of fairy tales.

 


A beeping sound disturbed what had long since become an eerie silence in the living room of 1902 Crawford Street, where the chosen warriors ending sleeping during the night, wanting to be on the alert just in case any demon decided to take advantage of the chaos on the street and attack their neighbourhood. Realising it was their pagers, Buffy and Angel took them from where they had been resting on the coffee table, bringing them to rest before their eyes, in order to read the answer left by the sender.

'Room 112,' the message read.


The entire Scooby gang assembled at the lecture hall for Introduction to Mythology; Giles' campus headquarters; the first time they had used this location for a meeting of the slayerettes.

Buffy and Angel, along with Spike, were the last to arrive. Upon their entrance friends and family rose from their seats to greet the arrivals, relieved that they had made it here without any visible harm coming to them.

Joyce leapt up from her seat to hug her daughter when they had entered, and the slayer gratefully returned the motion, just as thankful to see that she was alive.

Danse Macabre by Saint-Saëns began playing on the speaker system, bringing the slayer and her mother out of their embrace. They made their way to the chairs, and sat down for the presentation.

Giles switched the projector on, then laid on the first acetate sheet above the clear plastic which covered the viewing reflecting light. A few hand signals ensued, as the Scoobies tried to explain without speech why the drawing and words were intelligible, until he realised it was upside down, whereupon he set it right.

'Who are the gentlemen?' The first sheet read.

'They are fairy tale monsters,' answered the second, with a picture.

'What do they want?' The third asked, as Giles held up a finger in emphasis.

'Hearts,' answered the fourth.

The slayerettes nodded in understanding. Anya and Spike reached into the popcorn bags she had brought and graciously allowed him to share, and continued to eat.

'They come to a town,' the fifth continued, with appropriate illustration.

'They steal all the voices no one can scream,' read the sixth.

'Then,' the seventh said for dramatic emphasis, with a picture of a Gentleman.

The eighth and ninth contained no words. Just detailed sketches of the Gentlemen stealing hearts, complete with coloured blood.

Willow and Buffy exchanged disturbed looks with Tara, Oz, Angel and Joyce. Xander began to write something on his message board. Anya and Spike ate more popcorn.

The slide show continued. 'They need seven, they have at least two,' read the tenth, with drawings of the seven hearts.

Xander finished writing and snapped his fingers to gain the Watcher's attention as he held up his message board. It asked, 'How do we kill them?!'

Buffy held up her stake in answer, mining a stabbing motion with the wooden weapon to emphasise her point.

The eleventh slide however, had a disagreement with that choice of weapon. 'In the tales no sword can kill them,' it said, with a picture of a Gentleman stabbed with three swords, but still alive.

'But the princess screamed once... and they all died,' said the twelfth.

Willow held up a c.d. and mined dying.

Giles shook his head and laid on the thirteenth slide. 'Only a real human voice,' it said, with a picture of a Gentleman dancing to an old fashioned record player.

Buffy wrote something on her message board, then held it up for Giles to see. 'How do I get my voice back?' it read.

Giles held out his hands and shook his head in an expression of helplessness. Then he put up a fourteenth slide. 'Buffy will patrol tonight' it read, with a picture of her, complete with crossbow and stake. Then he picked up a book and gestured to the others that research was their task.

The slayer held up a hand while she wrote another message. 'What should I do if I run into the Initiative?' it asked.

Giles grabbed a spare acetate sheet and wrote a reply. 'What we discussed. Our contact with them must proceed as planned.'

The music came to an end. The watcher switched off the projector while the Scooby gang rose up from their chairs and walked down towards the desk.

Buffy picked up the slide with a picture of two Gentlemen upon it, and looked at them.

As a hunter would its prey.


While the slayerettes researched, Buffy and Angel walked out into the town, their warrior senses alive and active to their surroundings, as they used them to hunt out which area of town the demons might be stalking.

They soon came upon the Gentlemen, hovering along the lamp lit road, intent on their own gruesome hunt for hearts. Moving into attack, they were caught off-guard by the straight-jacket lackeys who set upon them from behind.

Rapidly catching up, Buffy and Angel recovered and began to fight back, throwing punches and kicks, back-flipping up whenever they fell to the ground, until they had one of them in their sights, whereupon they closed their hands around them and snapped their necks.

The final lackey saw its comrades go down and ran-off. Buffy and Angel glanced at one another, and then gave chase.

It ran all the way to the clock tower, its pursuers' close behind. As it stopped to try and bar them from entering, Buffy and Angel set upon it, using it as a battering ram and to break their fall as they burst through the window.

Inside, another battle was being raged; Lackey verses Initiative member. But the chosen warriors of the Powers That Be had no time to notice him as they jumped up from the ground and continued with their fights.

Only when their respective lackeys were knocked down, did they turn and come face to face with each other, crossbow and taser raised.

Buffy glanced at Riley with pretend surprise, noting the real reaction of shock at finding her with a crossbow in her hands, her battle attire a complete contrast to her everyday college girl wear. Then the lackeys intervened and the fights began again.


Some moments later one of the lackeys broke away to run up the stairs to the next level of the clock tower.

Buffy glanced at Angel and Riley, making sure the former was all right, then followed the lackey upstairs.

When she had reached the landing, she took in her surroundings, and noticed that their were a collection of jars on a table near the clockworks. Seven jars to be precise. And five were full.

They did not have much time, she realised.

Several lackeys came up to her, trying to capture her. Buffy shot a cross bolt at one, then tossed her weapon and began to kick at the others.

Angel and Riley dealt with their lackeys in time to glance at each other in surprise also, before rushing upstairs to help the slayer.

The former flew straight into the fight, helping Buffy out.

Riley stood and watched them, wondering who and what they were. Then a lackey made a grab for him, and he entered the fray.

Some Gentlemen came into the room, followed by more lackeys. They selected the strongest fighter; the slayer, and began to overwhelm her.

Buffy felt herself being grabbed, and then dragged to the Gentlemen, who were holding scalpels. She let herself be dragged towards them, hoping to get a closer look at the objects on the table.

She was right. The ornate wooden box from dream was also there. Abruptly she fought off her attackers, until they brought her to the table whereupon she banged on the wooden surface to make a noise.

Angel threw off the last lackey fighting him and turned to her, as did Riley. Both rushed forward to the table.

Buffy gestured with her eyes and mouthed the word 'box' as she struggled to get free.

Riley looked at the table, raised his weapon and then brought it down.

The smash of glass announced that he had hit the wrong thing.

Angel meanwhile had read Buffy's lips and opened the box.

The mist swirled out of the it, a part falling into the slayer's open mouth. She broke from the now frightened lackeys, dropping on her knees to the floor.

The Princess screamed.

Gentlemen heads exploded.


Sunnydale citizens recovered their voices. Life reverted to its normal patterns. Students attended lectures, Professors taught, and workers worked.

Warriors met in the lecture hall for Art History.

Angel, who had been talking with his soulmate the slayer, fell into silence as a third entered the room.

Buffy turned and saw Riley. Quietly she watched him come up towards her.

"Hi," Riley said cautiously.

"Hi," Buffy returned.

"I'll be waiting by the door," Angel remarked.

Riley held off until Angel had left them. Then he turned to Buffy, nervously taking her in, silently wondering if what he had seen the night before really happened. "Well, I guess we have to talk."

"I guess we do," Buffy replied, careful to keep her reply as direct and abrupt as he.

They stood facing each other, hands folded.

Waiting.

The End.
To Be Continued In

Doomed.