Little Crooked House III

A perfectly normal office. A perfectly harmless-looking office. It was the exact sort of office one did not expect to find while breaking into an office building in Sunnydale with a vampire for a cohort. In some small way it was reassuring that at least the elevator had vanished.

Xander managed to not babble by keeping his jaw clamped tightly shut. If he babbled now, he'd only be giving Spike more ammunition to use against him, later. He instead focused his attention on searching the room as best he could without actually touching anything.

He didn't see any books. He walked around to the other side of the desk, ignoring the way Spike was just standing in the middle of the office not doing anything. Still no book. Xander sighed.

"You know it might be in one of those drawers, on behind the cabinet doors. Might even be in the safe behind the fake Monet behind the desk." He nodded at the painting that was hung where, in a nicer office, there would have been a window.

Xander frowned. "Yeah? So why aren't you searching through any of them, nimrod?"

Spike flipped him off. "Why aren't you?"

"Because then I'd have to touchHow do you know it's a fake?" Xander looked at the painting again. It looked like all of those posters and postcards he'd ever seen which had "Monet" written sideways in the margin.

"You trying living with Angelus, and not learning the difference."

"OK, I'm sorry I asked. That was too much information, and now I'm getting images." Xander tried to put his hands over his head, so he could hide and make the bad things go away. But he still had the flashlight in his hand, and Spike was snickering at him. Xander settled for giving him the dirtiest dirty look he could manage. Then he jumped, and spun around. "What was that?"

There had been a thump from the other side of the second door.
Francine - harvest

Little Crooked House II

It wasn't the vampire's post I-told-you-so annoucement that they were "Up somebody-or-other's crick without a paddle in sight" that made him want to bean Spike over the head with the nearest blunt object (which happened to be the flashlight in Xander's left hand). It wasn't even that Spike was, in fact, right.

It was that he was so damned smug about it. Instead of helping Xander search the hallway into which they had stepped, for a floorplan, or a door marked "Get Your Ancient and Illegal Book of Spells Here," or a suspiciously grinning Rod Serling, he was just leaning against the wall. Nodding wisely, as Xander peered into the distance, and tried unsuccessfully to ignore him.

The little alcove that had held the vanished elevator was lit well enough, with a faint bluish glow from a round light in the ceiling. A corridor ran past it to the left and right, but each direction ended in absolute darkness, with no sign of even the low security lighting of the main level. Xander wasn't particularly keen on exploring by himself, especially when the dead guy was making with the gloom and doom proclamations, though he realized most of it was just an attempt to make him nervous. It was working, was the thing. And Spike could tell, and was snickering at him.

Screw that. Xander walked towards the nearest unmarked door, of the four he could see, then looked back at Spike. "You planning on tagging along?"

"Thought I'd let you have the first go, and when you don't come back out, then I'll know it wasn't the right one."

Xander gritted his teeth. He was *not* going to ask Spike politely to come with him because it was creepy. He wasn't. Instead, he steeled himself and, without looking back at Spike, turned the knob. The door swung inwards, revealing...a gaping hole of darkness. Great.

The faint light from the hall barely illuminated the doorway. Xander thought about switching on his flashlight, but... In a building where the elevators disappeared, what might might be around to come running, if he sent up the Bat-Signal? Instead, he moved slowly forward, hands out, sweeping like a blind man's cane -- hoping that what he came into contact with was either a conveniently-placed book with a map of how to find the stairs tucked into it, or -- and this was a longshot -- his pillow, because this was all a bad dream brought on by eating one too many peanut-butter-and-jellybean sandwiches at two in the morning.

His brief scream of surprise when his fingers brushed something warm to the touch, was, he hoped, more manly-sounding to vampire ears than to his own. Somethings, actually. Spindly and long, they felt like human fingers, reaching out in greeting. As he withdrew his hand, he brushed against more of them -- and was pricked by little rough spines that didn't belong on any human *he* wanted to shake hands with. They weren't fingers -- they were tentacles. Xander scurried backwards, out of the room and into the hallway, then turned to see a knowing smirk plastered across Spike's face.

He breathed deeply, then growled, "You know, if somebody with superhuman hearing and sight wanted to move his superhuman ass away from the wall and help out here, we might be able to find this thing and get gone a little faster."

"If somebody with an electric torch in his hand had the brains to turn it on, he wouldn't need my superhuman ass, would he?" Spike retorted.

Xander looked down at his flashlight, and once again considered how effective a bludgeon it would make. "I was trying not to draw attention to us, in case there's somebody here. Or, in this case, some *thing*."

"Congratulations on the subtle sneaking technique, then, imitating the mating call of the terrified Girl Scout, to throw them off the trail."

"Well, you'd freak too, if you'd touched what I touched." Xander wiped his hand roughly on his pants leg, though there didn't seem to be anything ooky remaining on it. "There's some kind of spider-squid-demon thingy in there."

Spike snorted, then pushed himself away from the wall and stalked into the room, leaving Xander to stare after him for a moment, before reluctantly switching on his mag-lite and following.

He'd just swept the beam across the tail end of Spike's leather jacket, when he caught sight of one of those spiny tentacles, and found himself making a quieter version of the Girl Scout call. Then suddenly, there was light.

Spike stood against the far wall, maybe twenty feet away from him, next to a panel of lightswitches, and another door. Smirking, still. Or again. He pointed mockingly to the many-tentacled thing.

"Yeah, I gibber and quake at the thought of throwing down with the man-eating aloe vera plant."

It was sitting on the corner of a desk, in what appeared to be a very large, neatly

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Little Crooked House I

Xander looked around. The building interior was lit with only security lighting, dark enough to hide two trespassers but light enough to prevent anyone with excellent night sight from crowing about it.

"So, where's this office supposed to be?" Spike demanded, sounding as if he didn't care if the security guard woke up early from Willow's spell. She'd promised them it would remain in force until they left the building, but Xander was still worried. Her spells weren't perfect, and even one as simple as this, when cast from a distance, could go wrong.

Besides, he was stuck breaking and entering with *Spike*. How could nothing go wrong?

"Thirteenth floor," Xander answered.

Spike stopped dead. XAnder turned, bewildered.


"Thirteenth floor? Are you mad?"

Xander stared in total confusion at the vampire. Then it hit him, and he laughed. "Don't tell me -- you're superstitious?" He kept laughing as Spike glared.

"Right, laugh all you want. But, come here. Look." Spike grabbed Xander by the shirt, and dragged him over to the elevators. He pointed at the directory.

Xander looked, but didn't see anything. "What am I looking for? A sign that says 'vampires must use stairs'?"

"Funny. Do you see anything that says 'floor thirteen'?"

"Um. No. But Giles *said* it was on the thirteenth floor." He leaned forward and pressed the 'up' arrow. "We'll just go up and see."

Spike grumbled something that sounded insulting, but Xander ignored it. He'd been playing out-wit the vampire all evening, and he was getting tired of it. Mostly because whenever Spike seemed about to lose, he resorted to calling Xander things in languages he couldn't understand. Like British English. Spike shoved his hands into his pockets and acted like he wasn't about to go *anywhere*, but when the elevator doors opened, he got on with Xander.

Xander grinned, and hit the '13' button triumphantly. "Ye of Little Faith."

"Ye of Little Brain. Don't you ever watch films like Being John Malkovich? Twilight Zone? Outer Limits?"

Xander couldn't believe the sincerity with which Spike was complaining. "Spike, relax. We're just gonna go find this office, ransack it a little, locate the book, and leave."

The doors pinged open and Xander looked out.

Everything looked perfectly normal.

"Why aren't you getting off the elevator, then?" Spike asked.

"Right. Getting off, now." He could hear Spike smirking, as they exited the elevator. Xander heard the doors close, and began looking for a floor directory. He glanced behind him. "Spike?"

"No. *Don't* say it."

"Spike, the elevator's gone."

"Can I say I told you so, now?"