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swing open the dread evil gate

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"It's all part of an ongoing demonic ritual, you know," said Giles with alarming casualness.

Buffy blinked. "What?"

"Yeah, G-Man," said Xander. "You're gonna have to run that one by us again."

The Watcher gestured to the rink before them. "This absurd spectacle," he said. "The whole event is part of an appeasement ritual to sate the old one who dwells beneath the arena. In ancient times there would have been blood rites, chanting, sacrifice...all to keep things running as they ought. But over the centuries, the rituals have been modified to suit more modern sensibilities."

Willow nodded like everything he'd just said had made perfect sense. "But it really hasn't changed that much, has it? I mean sure, we don't sacrifice goats or vestal virgins any more, and there's way less of the 'chanting and spooky robes' stuff but look around." She gestured at the Jumbotron where a group of boys in matching team jerseys were dancing with an enthusiasm that more than made up for their lack of skill.

Jenny laughed. "Yeah, it's pretty obvious when you know what you're looking at. You've still got devotees in ritual garb chanting, high levels of emotion, and - " She paused to cheer on the fight that had broken out on the ice. " - blood being spilled. It's just less blatant."

"And less gruesome," added Giles.

"And more fun!" exclaimed Willow. "I mean, unless ceremonial beheading is your idea of a good time. Which is a valid choice."

"Well sure," said Jenny, deadpan. "Would hate to yuck anyone's yum there."

Xander groaned and slid down in his seat. "Is there anything the Hellmouth can't ruin?"

"Trust me," said Buffy. "I learned long ago that the answer is 'no.' Everything can always get more horrifying here." She offered him the paper tray she had been holding. "Nacho?"

"As long as they aren't made with like, cursed cheese or demonic jalapenos or something equally awful," Xander sighed, taking a chip.

"Well - " Giles started.

Jenny moved her hand from his shoulder to cover his mouth instead. "Let the boy enjoy his totally-not-evil processed cheese food in peace, Rupert."

"Tasty tasty evil," Xander mumbled around a mouthful of nacho.